This week, I have been mostly reading:
- The Exploited Labor Behind Artificial Intelligence — Adrienne Williams, Milagros Miceli and Timnit Gebru in Noema :
Tech companies that have branded themselves “AI first” depend on heavily surveilled gig workers like data labelers, delivery drivers and content moderators. Startups are even hiring people to impersonate AI systems like chatbots, due to the pressure by venture capitalists to incorporate so-called AI into their products. In fact, London-based venture capital firm MMC Ventures surveyed 2,830 AI startups in the EU and found that 40% of them didn’t use AI in a meaningful way. Far from the sophisticated, sentient machines portrayed in media and pop culture, so-called AI systems are fueled by millions of underpaid workers around the world, performing repetitive tasks under precarious labor conditions. And unlike the “AI researchers” paid six-figure salaries in Silicon Valley corporations, these exploited workers are often recruited out of impoverished populations and paid as little as $1.46/hour after tax. Yet despite this, labor exploitation is not central to the discourse surrounding the ethical development and deployment of AI systems. In this article, we give examples of the labor exploitation driving so-called AI systems and argue that supporting transnational worker organizing efforts should be a priority in discussions pertaining to AI ethics.
- Central banks hunt in packs. Here’s why ours ought to be wary — Stephen Hail in the Conversation:
Central banks hunt in packs – partly because they face the same problems, partly because they are advised by the same sort of economists, and partly because they are, in the words of The Kinks, dedicated followers of fashion. […] Small increases in interest rates can actually push prices up. Interest rates are a cost to businesses (and to landlords) and can be passed on in prices. And while pushing up rates reduces the disposable income of those with mortgages to repay (putting downward pressure on spending and prices) it raises the spending power of people such as myself, with savings in term deposits, boosting our ability to spend and push up prices. Higher interest rates are often thought to discourage business investment, but there is little evidence they do. Investments are driven more by expected sales than the cost of finance. What would bring inflation down would be a series of interest rate hikes so big it crashed property and share market prices, or so big it pushed people out of work and brought on a recession. So the central bank pack ought to tread carefully. If inflation is driven by fossil fuel prices, supply chain disruptions, wars and (looking ahead) climate change, then showing restraint, and addressing the causes of these issues or waiting for them to pass might be a better response than pushing up rates, albeit not one in the central bank tool box.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal — by Zach Weinersmith:
- How the Pentagon Uses a Secretive Program to Wage Proxy Wars — Nick Turse and Alice Speri at the Intercept:
While The Intercept and other outlets have previously reported on the Pentagon’s use of the secretive 127e authority in multiple African countries, a new document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act offers the first official confirmation that at least 14 127e programs were also active in the greater Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region as recently as 2020. In total, between 2017 and 2020, U.S. commandos conducted at least 23 separate 127e programs across the world. […] The documents and interviews provide the most detailed picture yet of an obscure funding authority that allows American commandos to conduct counterterrorism operations “by, with, and through” foreign and irregular partner forces around the world. Basic information about these missions — where they are conducted, their frequency and targets, and the foreign forces the U.S. relies on to carry them out — are unknown even to most members of relevant congressional committees and key State Department personnel.
- A Telex from Bankstown — Vanessa Berry:
To the north side of Bankstown station the rows of shops are under a cloak of rain, with a grey sky above. It has been a few years since I’ve last been over this way, and through the gloom of the rain I look for some of the details I remember: a ghost sign for curtains and home linens, ‘Optical House’, and the inscrutable facade of the Telstra Museum. As long as I’ve known it to be there I’ve wondered what is inside, the building’s plain appearance only heightening its mystery. […] Never have I been in a room with so many telephones. Immediately it is clear this is a comprehensive and loved collection of telecommunications objects, arranged by type and category, in aisles signposted ‘telephone exchanges, public telephones’, or ‘morse code, teleprinters’. Soon I’m examining a row of public telephones, pointing out to the guide the ones I remember: ah, the gold phone, phone of my teenage years.
- Doonesbury — by Gary Trudeau:
- Democrats Love Saying That AR-15s Should Only Be Used On Foreigners — Caitlin Johnstone:
Obviously American weapons of war kill far more people overseas than they do domestically, and those killings are done in wars of aggression for power and profit which are sold to the public with lies and propaganda, so they’ve got no higher moral standing than the killings of any mass shooter. But because the Democratic Party exists only to kill leftward movement in the United States and ensure the continual functioning of a globe-spanning empire, gun violence is seen at its highest echelons not as a moral issue which should be opposed everywhere but as a wedge issue which should be exploited for campaign donations. We saw this illustrated in a notorious 2017 tweet from now-US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeig which said, “I did not carry an assault weapon around a foreign country so I could come home and see them used to massacre my countrymen.” Silly Republicans! Assault weapons are for killing foreign kids! Another classic came from Instagram progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019: “Weapons of war, specifically designed to kill human beings en masse, should not be available for purchase.” Cool beans, AOC. Leave the killing en masse to the American stormtroopers exterminating brown-skinned poor people for resource control.
- Meet the Ex-CIA Agents Deciding Facebook’s Content Policy — Alan MacLeod at MintPress News:
It is an uncomfortable job for anyone trying to draw the line between “harmful content and protecting freedom of speech. It’s a balance”, Aaron says. In this official Facebook video, Aaron identifies himself as the manager of “the team that writes the rules for Facebook”, determining “what is acceptable and what is not.” Thus, he and his team effectively decide what content the platform’s 2.9 billion active users see and what they don’t see. […] Aaron is CIA. Or at least he was until July 2019, when he left his job as a senior analytic manager at the agency to become senior product policy manager for misinformation at Meta, the company that owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. In his 15-year career, Aaron Berman rose to become a highly influential part of the CIA. For years, he prepared and edited the president of the United States’ daily brief, “wr[iting] and overs[eeing] intelligence analysis to enable the President and senior U.S. officials to make decisions on the most critical national security issues,” especially on “the impact of influence operations on social movements, security, and democracy,” his LinkedIn profile reads. None of this is mentioned in the Facebook video. Berman’s case is far from unique, however. Studying Meta’s reports, as well as employment websites and databases, MintPress has found that Facebook has recruited dozens of individuals from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as many more from other agencies like the FBI and Department of Defense (DoD). These hires are primarily in highly politically sensitive sectors such as trust, security and content moderation, to the point where some might feel it becomes difficult to see where the U.S. national security state ends and Facebook begins.
- Three Illuminating Quotes About The War In Ukraine — Caitlin Johnstone:
Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, and Chris Hedges have lent their expertise to the subject of the war in Ukraine with some recent comments that help bring some much-needed clarity to an often confusing and always contentious issue.
- Doonesbury — by Gary Trudeau: