Categories
Mental Health Society Technology

I don’t want this to be the future

Bookmarked HUMAN_FALLBACK | Laura Preston (n+1)

I WAS ONE OF ABOUT SIXTY operators. Most of us were poets and writers with MFAs, but there were also PhDs in performance studies and comparative literature, as well as a number of opera singers, another demographic evidently well suited for chatbot impersonation—or, I suppose, for impersonating a chatbot that’s impersonating a person.

Let alone the present.

Each day when we reported for work one of them would hail us with a camp counselor’s greeting. “Top of the morning, my lovely Brendas!” they would say. Below their message, a garden of reaction emojis would bloom.

I am tired of the exploitation and undervaluation of emotional labor.

In the same way that algorithms tell us what they think we want, and do so with such tenacity that the imagined wants become actual, these buildings seemed intent on shaping a tenant’s aspirations. They seemed to tell the tenant they should not care about regional particularities or the idea of a neighborhood. The tenant should not even desire a home in the traditional sense, with hand-me-down furniture, hand-built improvements, and layers of multigenerational memory. This tenant was a renter for life, whose workplace was their primary address, and who would nevertheless be unable to afford property for as long as they lived.

See also: Neutralizing reality to sell

Brenda, they claimed, said the same thing to everyone, which meant that she was incapable of bias. And yet she was awfully good at repelling certain people: people without smartphones or reliable internet, people unaccustomed to texting, people who couldn’t read or write in English, and people who needed to figure out if they could access a property before showing up for a tour. Brenda deflected them all with polite violence. She was not a concierge but a bouncer, one made all the more sinister for her congeniality and sparkle.

 

See also:

OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less Than $2 Per Hour to Make ChatGPT Less Toxic (TIME)

But the working conditions of data labelers reveal a darker part of that picture: that for all its glamor, AI often relies on hidden human labor in the Global South that can often be damaging and exploitative.

The work’s traumatic nature eventually led Sama to cancel all its work for OpenAI in February 2022, eight months earlier than planned.

An OpenAI spokesperson said in a statement that the company did not issue any productivity targets, and that Sama was responsible for managing the payment and mental health provisions for employees.

🙄 Of course they’re not responsible for the work they hired out.

Conditions for vendors are so much worse than employees, so of course that’s the direction companies want to move: cheaper labor that they aren’t liable for. Ethics has no part in corporatism.

“They’re impressive, but ChatGPT and other generative models are not magic – they rely on massive supply chains of human labor and scraped data, much of which is unattributed and used without consent,” Andrew Strait, an AI ethicist, recently wrote on Twitter. “These are serious, foundational problems that I do not see OpenAI addressing.”

Categories
Future Building

Embracing authoritarianism to keep power and quash change

Liked 44 thoughts about the future by Ben WerdmullerBen Werdmuller (werd.io)

Two. I think the (re-)rise of authoritarianism and the increasing importance of the climate crisis are linked. It’s not an accident that Bolsonaro was in favor of felling the Amazon or that Trump had such a strong fossil fuels agenda. If a wealthy industry feels like it might be politically under threat, it’s going to do everything it can to change the politics and create a context where it is protected.

Eleven. In a world based on profiling, probabilistic prediction models, corpus-based decision-making, and near-ubiquitous surveillance, only people who don’t conform to the models anticipated by the people who built and designed the systems and therefore aren’t tracked as closely can really be free.

Emphasis mine.

Categories
Business Technology Work

They don’t only take our labor.

Replied to This is a rant about beds at work by Meg Conley (homeculture by Meg Conley)

Last week, Twitter installed bedrooms for employees. They’re expected to be “hardcore” and being hardcore means working too late to go home. And then waking up and working some more. The rooms look like an answer to the alternative history question, “What if IKEA showrooms existed behind a 2022 Iron Curtain?” But they’re really just a reaction to the relative freedom of remote work and an empowered labor force. It’s just another lever to pull when seeking maximum extraction for maximum profit.

They steal our lives too.

My husband works in tech and in 2019 spent two months basically living in the office for a product launch. He’d already been working 60-80 hour weeks remotely, but then he had to add a commute — the opposite direction from my work. We only have one car so often I’d have to walk home — only 45 minutes but sometimes you’re wiped at the end of the day and just want to fucking sit down, not climb a giant hill.

But suddenly making his partner responsible for *everything* to keep our household going was a cost his work could extract from my body, though I wasn’t the one working for them.

His boss said he’d pay for us to go out to dinner when it was done. As if one meal makes up for months of missed dinners. There’s a photo of me with the fancy drink I got — I look exhausted, can barely smile. My husband was so wiped he forgot to expense it. And we don’t even have kids.

I have multiple friends who have nearly been driven to quit by the tech sector’s on-call schedule.

Because it’s a good-paying job, it’s hard to complain about the expectation to work long hours, knowing how many others have it so much worse. But even though we’re not in Silicon Valley, Seattle has a price bubble of its own. With shitty ramblers from the seventies starting at a million bucks, even tech workers can’t afford a home now without two salaries.

I wish white collar workers could recognize that while they’re rich compared to the poor, they’re not rich compared to the *rich*. If you have to work, you’re not really rich. Workers of all classes could build some solidarity together. There’s a lot of manipulative class warfare turning people who should be allies against each other, when workers are not the root of the exploitation problem: owners are.

Categories
Art and Design Society

A Magic Wand

Replied to We’re on the cusp of another revolution by Ray (alongtheray.com)

💬 Replied to Will “good enough” AI beat human artists? — Tracy Durnell → “I’d say AI is not good enough yet for most use cases, but it will get

I love this way of thinking about the new AI art tools: magic. I am excited to see how people without art training use them, plus how artists will use renderings as tools (to iterate ideas quickly, to storyboard, to create mood / conceptual art, etc.). There’s a lot of good that can come from tools like this, and they seem like fun!

I’m just wary of the impact of tools like this in our corporatist society that values people only for the paid work they produce, and doesn’t support providing a social safety net. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become much more sympathetic to the Luddites, whose skilled labor had given them a good lifestyle since they were paid by the piece and could work as much or little as they wanted; mechanized looms stole their power and lifestyle by replacing skilled work with drudge work in poor conditions for low pay. Mechanized weaving made cloth more affordable and more widely available, so I can’t say it was a bad tool, but we’re still suffering the social fallout from the way mechanization was used and who controlled it. I still hope as a society we can work through some of these issues and grow into a culture where a cool new tool doesn’t spell possible financial disaster for a whole profession.

Categories
Society The Internet

Listened to Cory Doctorow interview

Listened Cory Doctorow on The Wondrous World of the Early Internet & How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism from currentaffairs.simplecast.com

43:3044:11

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Cory Doctorow on The Wondrous World of the Early Internet & How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism
JULY 31ST, 2022 | 44:11 | E161

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EPISODE NOTES
Pioneering blogger and science fiction writer Cory Doctorow has been an activist for online freedom since the early days of the history of the internet. He has long been one of the major voices opposing restrictive copyright and corporate domination, and a visionary defending a pluralistic online world where eccentricity and individuality are allowed to flourish. In books like Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright and the Future of the Future (which, like all of his books, is available in full for free), Doctorow has shown what an internet created by the people, unconstrained by intellectual property law, Digital Rights Management, and monopolistic corporate gatekeeping, could be like.

In this conversation, Doctorow joins to discuss the importance of a democratic internet, and his recent book How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism, which argues that many people misidentify the main problem with what is called “surveillance capitalism,” assuming that the problem is that corporations are amassing to manipulate us the power through intrusive collection of Big Data. In fact, Doctorow argues, the problem is less about a particular thing these corporations can do to us and more about the fact that monopolistic tech companies are in control in the first place. This has important implications, because it means that we cannot just regulate what companies do with our data, we have to fundamentally redistribute power over the internet. In this conversation, we talk about how Wikipedia provides an alternative vision for a participatory internet where the rules are set by users and there is oversight over governance. We do not need better and more benevolent Zuckerbergs. We need what Doctorow calls the pluralistic internet.

“Hegemonic internet” today versus pluralistic internet

Internet start aligned with cessation of antitrust enforcement – 1982 AT&T

(Cough, current news: Penguin – Simon & Schuster merger court case)

Today we keep talking about how to make “the lord of the manor” better rather than how to get rid of them

What is the failure mode? <– way to evaluate platforms and systems

Cultural flattening? (versus quirkiness of early internet)

Formalism of internet e.g. TikTok duet format = imposed by platform

Expansive opportunity of ebook format — can be 3 or 1000 pages — Wikipedia has built-in

Formal adventurism / playfulness e.g. “slow TV”

Used to have consentual formalism — community defined rather than platform/ corporate

–> more editorial freedom, less creative freedom

Can you give meaningful consent if you can’t leave a platform (because there’s nowhere else to be with other people)?

Control of platforms is more important issue than collecting our data because they can control our discourse, the information we receive (e.g. Google Answers) and what we can use (e.g. iOS app store)

Band together against monopoly across industries — tech not the only area, though a place to start

Categories
Society The Internet

Adversarial Interoperability

For a really competitive, innovative, dynamic marketplace, you need adversarial interoperability: that’s when you create a new product or service that plugs into the existing ones without the permission of the companies that make them.
EFF