54 Chapters
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Medium 9781523095865

8 A Vision for a More Humane Tech

Wadhwa, Vivek; Salkever, Alex Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Imagine that your smartphone had a pause button that would stop all buzzing and notifications for multiples of fifteen minutes and clear your home screen to leave nothing on it except for a clock—and that you could block all incoming messages by pushing a single button on the phone. You might say that your phone already does that with its Do Not Disturb (DND) mode, but DND requires quite a bit of management in its present state, and when the DND period ends, you get a rush of notifications, followed by newly arriving notifications. What if you could program the phone to send you notifications only on the hour, in regular batches?

In fact, someone has already invented a phone like that. It’s named “Siempo,” and it was designed by a team from the ground up to encourage more conscious, thoughtful use of applications and technology, and to return to users control over their lives. Siempo calls the device the “phone for humans.”1 Siempo was launched on Kickstarter in March 2017, and it raised only a fraction of its goal of $500,000. Sadly, the market did not fully validate what Siempo was offering.

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2 Gunpowder Technology, 1490–1800

Jeremy Black Indiana University Press ePub

Edward Gibbon was to claim that gunpowder “effected a new revolution in the art of war and the history of mankind,”1 a view that was common in the eighteenth century and indeed both earlier and later.2 More recently, the widely repeated thesis of the early modern Military Revolution3 has focused renewed attention on the issue of gunpowder technology. Improved firepower and changing fortification design, it is argued, greatly influenced developments across much of the world and, more specifically, the West’s relationship with the rest of the world. In other work, I have questioned the thesis,4 but here, first, I want to draw attention to the changes that stemmed from the use of gunpowder.

Gunpowder weaponry developed first in China. We cannot be sure when it was invented, but a formula for the manufacture of gunpowder was possibly discovered in the ninth century, and effective metal-barreled weapons were produced in the twelfth century. Guns were differentiated into cannon and handguns by the fourteenth.

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2. Madden Men: Masculinity, Race, and the Marketing of a Video Game Franchise

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Thomas P. Oates

IN AUGUST 2012, AS THE RELEASE OF EA SPORTSMADDEN NFL 13 video game approached, a months-long marketing blitz peaked with a series of advertisements featuring actor Paul Rudd and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis. In the campaign, the two are presented as close, lifelong friends, whose bond is cemented by periodic Madden NFL marathons. The ads are clearly presented with tongue firmly in cheek. The friendship between Rudd and Lewis is offered as a whimsical premise. Rudd is a recognizable film and television actor, best known for roles playing middle-class white professionals. While appearing to be reasonably fit, he would never be mistaken for an NFL player, and though his movies are frequently about masculine themes (see, for example, I Love You, Man; The 40-Year Old Virgin; and Forgetting Sarah Marshall), he has never played the role of an action hero. Lewis, meanwhile, is black, was raised in poverty by a single mother in Lakeland, Florida, and was a major NFL star at the time, and hence a visible representative of hegemonic masculinity. The joke turns on the premise that despite the seemingly unbridgeable gaps separating affluence from poverty, white from black, icons of masculinity from the average guy, Rudd and Lewis are improbably buddies. Their friendship goes back to the cradle, as Rudd explains in the first ad in the series: “Oh, man, Ray and I have known each other our whole lives. We grew up together. Best friends!” The rest of the campaign shows the two friends playing the video game, engaging in verbal dueling, boasting, and performing other acts that characterize a certain kind of friendly masculine competition.

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4 If Change Is Always the Answer, What Are the Questions?

Wadhwa, Vivek; Salkever, Alex Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

A key difference between today’s and past transformations is that technological evolution has become much faster than the existing regulatory, legal, and political framework’s ability to assimilate and respond to it. To rephrase an earlier point, it’s a Moore’s Law world; we just live in it.

Disruptive technology isn’t entirely new. Back in the days of the robber barons, the ruthless capitalists of the early United States built railroads without seeking political permission. And, more recently, in the personal-computer revolution, company employees brought their own computers to work without telling their I.T. departments. What is new is the degree of regulatory and systemic disruption that the savviest companies in this technology revolution are causing by taking advantage of the technology triad of data connectivity, cheap handheld computers, and powerful software to grab customers and build momentum before anyone can tell them to stop what they are doing.

In 2010, Uber had no market share in providing rides to the U.S. Congress and their staffs. By 2014, despite the service’s continuing illegality in many of the constituencies of these political leaders, Uber’s market share among Congress was a stunning 60 percent.1 Talk about regulatory capture. Companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and Skype play a bottom-up game to make it nearly impossible for legacy-entrenched interests and players to dislodge or outlaw newer ways of doing things.

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13 When Your Scale Talks to Your Refrigerator: The Internet of Things

Wadhwa, Vivek; Salkever, Alex Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Your refrigerator will talk to your toothbrush, your gym shoes, your car, and your bathroom scale. They will all have a direct line to your smartphone and tell your digital doctor whether you have been eating right, exercising, brushing your teeth, or driving too fast. I have no idea what they will think of us or gossip about; but I know that many more of our electronic devices will soon be sharing information about us—with each other and with the companies that make or support them.

The Internet of Things (I.o.T.) is a fancy name for the increasing array of sensors embedded in our commonly used appliances and electronic devices, our vehicles, our homes, our offices, and our public places. Those sensors will be connected to each other via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or mobile-phone technology.

Using wireless chips that are getting smaller and cheaper, the sensors and tiny co-located computers will upload collected data via the Internet to central storage facilities managed by technology companies. Their software will warn you if your front door is open, if you haven’t eaten enough vegetables this week, or if you have been brushing your teeth too hard on the left side of your mouth.

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3. Neoliberal Masculinity: The Government of Play and Masculinity in E-Sports

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Gerald Voorhees

We’re at a point where only about forty people in the U.S. can make a living playing video games. I’d like to get it to a hundred. I think we’re a year or two away from that.

SUNDANCE DIGIOVANNI, quoted in Richard Nieva,
“Video Gaming on the Pro Tour for Glory but Little
Gold,” New York Times, November 28, 2012

While scholars have begun to investigate the professionalization of gaming, I take it on only to the extent that it is an exemplary site for thinking about the sportification of digital games, a broader sociocultural phenomenon that emerges at the juncture of neoliberal rationality and distinct – often competing – constructions of masculinity circulating in contemporary Western culture. Indeed, the sportification of digital games has led to the creation of national leagues, international tournaments, and corporate-sponsored teams of professional cyberathletes, but it is not rooted in these institutions or in the professionalization of players; rather, they are both effects of the hegemony of the sportive mentality. The games are objective things defined by protocological affordances and constrains, but their status as sport and the practices constituting the process of sportification are a result of the meaning attributed to them by player and fan communities.1 In this chapter I examine the cultural implications of the figuration of digital games as sports, often called e-sports, focusing on the production of an intelligible subject position at the nexus of neoliberalism and masculinity.

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5 A New Sphere: Air Power, 1903–2013

Jeremy Black Indiana University Press ePub

Development in aircraft design and construction is rapid in these days.

British Ministerial Committee on Disarmament dealing with Air Defence, 1934

Air power is a key area of discussion when considering military technology. It provides examples of dramatic changes in capability and also links past and present with consideration of the future of warfare. Moreover, the nature, impact, and limitations of air power and warfare have been the subject of extensive analysis.1 Manned heavier-than-air flight, first officially achieved by the American Wright brothers in 1903, was a key instance of the enhancement of fighting capability through totally new technology. Flight, or at least the use of the air, had had an earlier role in warfare with balloons, which were used by the French for reconnaissance in the 1790s, but its capability was now transformed. Imaginative literature, such as that of the novelist H. G. Wells, had prepared commentators for the impact of powered, controlled flight. Science fiction possibly gave some inspiration as to how airships could be used, as in John Carter of Mars (1912). In 1908, Count Zeppelin’s LZ-4 airship had flown over 240 miles in 12 hours, leading to a marked revival of interest in airships, and in Britain in 1909 there was a scare about a possible attack by German airships.

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Eleven The Japanese Situation—and a Japanese Dimension

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER ELEVEN

THE JAPANESE SITUATION—AND A JAPANESE DIMENSION

“THE EMPIRE OF THE eight islands” in fact numbered some three thousand islands, totaling some 149,000 square miles, and extended over nearly thirty degrees of latitude. Alone of these just four islands, Kyushu, Shikoku, Honshu, and Hokkaido, formed the core of the Japanese heartland and possessed real political, demographic, and cultural significance. To the core area were three additions secured as a result of success in war. Formosa and the Pescadores, their 14,000 square miles lying across the sea routes to the southwest of the home islands, had been incorporated into the Empire in 1895. On Sakhalin the occupation of the southern 15,000 square miles of the island provided Japan with its only land border, though on the Asian mainland the 85,000 square miles of Korea had been brought within the Empire in 1910.

Such, formally, was an empire that was equivalent in size to Texas or, in European terms, to Britain, the Low Countries, and Germany combined, though to the Empire’s islands and territories must be added Japan’s other possessions. On the mainland Japan held the Liaotung peninsula, the Kwantung Leased Territories after 1905, and involvement in the First World War on the side of Germany’s enemies had brought it into possession of three island groups in the western Pacific—the Marianas, Carolines, and Marshalls—as mandated territories from the League of Nations. On the mainland Japan after 1931 acquired various Chinese territories which it had constituted under four puppet regimes. The first and most important of these was Manchoutikuo, literally the Empire of the Manchus, in the 460,000 square miles (with some 45 million people) of the four northeast provinces that together made up Manchuria. The second of these regimes was the Mongolian Federated Autonomous Government, which had been formed under Japanese auspices in eastern Inner Mongolia on 22 November 1937. In China itself the Japanese had installed the Central Government of the Republic of China at Nanking in April 1940, but the provinces of Hopei, Shantung, Shansi, and Kaifeng were placed under the nominal control of the North China Advisory Authority, formed as successor to the Provisional Government of the Chinese Republic, which the Rikugun had inaugurated on 14 December 1937.1

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9 A Personal Epilogue

Wadhwa, Vivek; Salkever, Alex Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Almost immediately after we pitched this book to our publishers, criticism broke out about the business practices, ethics, and values of the big technology companies. In August 2017, sociologist Jean Twenge published her book iGen, which examines how teenagers are growing up with technology dominating their lives while being completely unprepared for adulthood.1 Her September 2017 article in The Atlantic, discussed in chapter 6, sparked a firestorm of commentary and criticism. Former New Republic editor Franklin Foer published World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech in September 2017, a polemic that criticizes Google, Facebook, and other tech giants for what he regards as soulless monopolism that seeks to understand every facet of our identities and influence every decision of our lives for profit.2 In a blog post titled “Hard questions: Is spending time on social media bad for us?” Facebook’s director of research, David Ginsberg, finally acknowledged that perhaps the social network was not so good for its users.3 (The eye-popping irony of the post was that the prescription to solve the problem was even more in-depth Facebook participation!)

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7 Into the Future

Jeremy Black Indiana University Press ePub

The year 2000 will be “now” soon, if we ever make it. . . . But maybe the planet will have exploded by then, or been devastated by uranium fires and throw-outs, and a little napalm and laser beams gone wild, on the side.

Janwillem van de Wetering, The Japanese Corpse, 1977

The future recedes continually, at least for humans, unless it is ended for us by destroying the Earth or human life on it. The elusive character of the future means that modernity, the condition of the present seen as looking toward the future and making it possible, also changes. Thus, any discussion of current warfare in terms of modernity and modernization risks rapid anachronism.

This indeterminacy and unpredictability at the present time is linked to another characteristic: the manner in which views of future circumstances so often prove mistaken. That, however, is not simply a case of assuming technological capabilities that do not in the event arise. Instead, there is the abiding need to relate these capabilities to world developments that may provide opportunities, needs, and resources for such capabilities or, conversely, may thwart their development or application. As a result, we are returned anew to the issue of context. Any discussion of future warfare involves consideration of the wars to come, and the latter entails an understanding of possible variations in tasking. This is a matter both of tasking from and for civil society and also tasking by and for the military.

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8. Exploiting Nationalism and Banal Cosmopolitanism: EA’s FIFA World Cup 2010

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Andrew Baerg

SPORT AND ITS REPRESENTATION IN MEDIA HAVE LONG BEEN A site for the communication and perpetuation of national identity. International mediated sporting events such as the Olympics and World Cup have tended to become sites allowing for the expression of myths about collective, national identities. As such, it might be expected that this tight relationship between sport and the nation-state would continue in the comparatively new medium of the sports video game, especially one representing a competition between nations.

This chapter addresses this argument by performing a textual analysis of Electronic Arts’ soccer video game 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa (hereafter FIFA WC10) in order to learn how it positions its users. By working through and applying cosmopolitan theory and then applying this theory to the text, the chapter argues that FIFA WC10 departs from a traditionally national orientation to the mediation of world soccer toward a cosmopolitan mediation of the sport. As such, rather than position players as national subjects, FIFA WC10’s various gameplay options position its users as global, cosmopolitan subjects.

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10 The Drones Are Coming

Wadhwa, Vivek; Salkever, Alex Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

You have probably had to pop out to the grocery store to pick up something you needed for a dinner party. Or maybe you’ve dashed to the pharmacy to get a prescription refill before you took a long trip. By the early 2020s, small drones will do that, and a whole lot more, for you.

Companies such as Amazon and Google have long been planning drone-delivery services, but the first authorized commercial delivery in the United States happened in July 2016, when a 7-Eleven delivered Slurpees, a chicken sandwich, donuts, hot coffee, and candy to a customer in Reno, Nevada.1 In the United Kingdom, an enterprising Domino’s franchisee had made headlines by using a drone copter for deliveries in June 2013. Hundreds of companies delivering by drone are starting up all over the world. Venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins estimates that there were 4.3 million shipments of drones in 2015 and that the market is growing by 167 percent per year.2

Not since the automobile has a transportation technology spurred such enthusiastic entrepreneurial activity. The barrier to entry into the business of building drones is exceptionally low. Commodity kits compete with commercial models, and Arduino circuit boards and open-source software make it easy for motivated coders and hackers to tailor drones to exacting functions in arcane and lucrative fields. Just a decade after the military began using drones in earnest as remote-controlled killing machines, the same technology is available to everyone (but not to hunt down terrorists).

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5 The Amazing and Scary Rise of Artificial Intelligence

Wadhwa, Vivek; Salkever, Alex Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Many of us with iPhones talk to Siri, the iPhone’s artificially intelligent assistant. Siri can answer many basic questions asked verbally in plain English. She (or, optionally, he) can, for example, tell you today’s date; when the next San Francisco Giant’s baseball game will take place; and where the nearest pizza restaurant is located. But, though Siri appears clever, she has obvious weaknesses. Unless you tell her the name of your mother or indicate the relationship specifically in Apple’s contact app, Siri will have no idea who your mother is, and so can’t respond to your request to call your mother. That’s hardly intelligent for someone who reads, and could potentially comprehend, every e-mail I send, every phone call I make, and every text I send. Siri also cannot tell you the best route to take in order to arrive home faster and avoid traffic.

That’s OK. Siri is undeniably useful despite her limitations. No longer do I need to tap into a keyboard to find the nearest service station or to recall what date Mother’s Day falls on. And Siri can remember all the pizza restaurants in Oakland, recall the winning and losing pitcher in any of last night’s baseball games, and tell me when the next episode of my favorite TV show will air.

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Twelve The Japanese Situation—and an American Dimension

H. P. Willmott Indiana University Press ePub

CHAPTER TWELVE

THE JAPANESE SITUATION—AND AN AMERICAN DIMENSION

IN 1940 CERTAIN individuals in the higher reaches of the Imperial Japanese Army, the Rikugun, reasoned that there was an overwhelming need to undertake a thorough study of the reality of total war. This was to be undertaken by an organization especially created in October 1940 for the task, the Soryokusen kenkyujo (Institute of Total War Studies). Thirty individuals, representing the nation’s “brightest and best,” and all aged between 31 and 37 years, were drawn from the army, navy, various government ministries and agencies, and prestigious business firms and the press. These people were allocated fictional posts in the government and the service high commands, and were constituted as a shadow cabinet. They were afforded the privilege of unlimited access to the latest information and national statistics, and in summer 1941 completed a massive and detailed report that made lavish use of confidential state papers, which was submitted to the cabinet.

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1 A Bitter Taste of Dystopia

Wadhwa, Vivek; Salkever, Alex Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The 2016 presidential campaign made everybody angry. Liberal Bernie Sanders supporters were angry at allegedly racist Republicans and a political system they perceived as being for sale, a big beneficiary being Hillary Clinton. Conservative Donald Trump supporters were furious at the decay and decline of America, and at how politicians on both sides of the aisle had abandoned them and left a trail of broken promises. Hillary Clinton supporters fumed at how the mainstream media had failed to hold Trump accountable for lewd behavior verging on sexual assault—and worse.

The same rage against the system showed up in Britain, where a majority of citizens primarily living outside of prosperous London voted to take England out of the European Union. In Germany, a right-wing party espousing a virulent brand of xenophobia gained critical seats in the Bundestag. And around the world in prosperous countries, anger simmered, stoked by a sense of loss and by raging income inequality. In the United States, real incomes have been falling for decades. Yet in the shining towers of finance and on kombucha-decked tech campuses for glittering growth engines such as Google and Apple, the gilded class of technology employees and Wall Street types continue to enjoy tremendous economic gains.

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