Technology and the fragility of human dignity

Ian Bogost has written a lovely little essay for the Atlantic, musing on the ends of technology and their impact on human dignity.  His conclusion is fundamentally pessimistic, that humanity is perhaps blindly and inexorably headed towards a state where people work for their machines rather than the other way around.

Is that baby monitor fair?

A brief article in the Journal of the American Medical Association raises a significant issue related to app-enabled baby monitors.  Bonafide et al. draw attention to the increasing popularity of wearables for infants that supposedly monitor their health status and report it to parents via their smartphones.

Is honesty always the best policy in design?

Noted industrial designer Dieter Rams insisted that good design is honest.  He formulated this idea in the sixth of his Ten Principles of good design:

It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

The Netherlands reverts to counting paper ballots by hand

A piece by Sewell Chan in the New York Times notes that Dutch authorities have pulled the plug on computerized ballots and ballot counting for their next national election.

The move was prompted by concerns over the integrity of the election in the face of hacking concerns. In particular, allegations of tampering in the recent US election have caused the Dutch government to re-examine their setup, which was found wanting:

Chacun à son goût

Katherin Schwab has written an interesting piece on FastCompany about a new utensil called the Goûte.  It is basically a wand with a tear-drop shaped end.  Users dip the thick end into viscous foods like yogurt, swirl to get the food to stick, and then put it in their mouths to eat.

What makes a car authentic?

Mike Hanlon posted an interesting article centered on the upcoming auction of a 1952, Type 1 Volkswagen Beetle. This particular Beetle is distinguished by the fact that it has had only one owner since it was made and has been in storage for forty years.  Thus, it is in good shape with just the sort of wear that would be expected from a few years' normal usage.

It is expected to fetch between €55,000 to €80,000 ($60,000 to $85,000), considerably more than it cost the original owner.

Ad blockers and the social contract

Mark Scott notes that use of ad blocking software is on the rise world-wide.  The software attempts to prevent advertising on a web site from loading and displaying on a viewer's computer. 

Recent research suggests that 11% of Internet users globally employ one kind of this software or another.  That represents a 30% increase over its prevalence from a year ago.

AI, you and your work

The adoption of computers has profoundly impacted work.  It gave rise to a new class of laborer, e.g., the "knowlege worker". It  also replaced certain kinds of work, e.g., through automation.  Trade-offs of this type are a normal result of technological changes.

Currently, artificial intelligence is assuming a greater role in work.  Three recent article illustrate this trend and the sorts of trade-offs that come with it.

Cities of cars?

There has been much dicussion of self-driving cars and their pros and cons.  How will they handle impending accidents?  Who will own them?  How will they affect traffic?

More efficiency, more consumption?

Developers of technology pursue efficiency relentlessly.  This is done for a variety of reasons: Efficiency is readily quantified and lends itself to comparison between designs; a preference for efficiency seems simply rational (who wouldn't prefer a more efficient car over a less efficient one?); increases in efficiency increase sustainability.

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