The other night I selected-all in a file on Google Docs and turned the entire text bright red. This was my signal to my editor Leo that I’d made the final round of edits on the last outstanding chapter I owed him. And this, in turn, means that after eight years and eleven months, I’m finally done with the project I started in this blog post. I’ve finished my book.
It is, in too many ways to count, a different book from the one I set out to write. I owe most of this to Leo, actually. Do you know the scene in Inception where Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy, as intruders in the virtual world of another man’s mind, are under assault by the ghostly brigades of their subject’s “militarized subconscious”? Gordon-Levitt’s character is standing at the door of a warehouse, plinking away ineffectually at the encroaching horde with an assault rifle, when Hardy shoulders him aside. With the words, “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,” he hoists a massive South African grenade launcher, lobs a round onto the opposite rooftop, and blows things up reeeeal good.
That was Leo. I came to him with a book about cities and technology — a book that had been dangling out in public for six years at that point, a book I’d already published a quarter of — and two chapters into our work on it, he pulled a Hardy on me, in the biggest possible way. “I don’t think you’re writing a book about cities anymore,” he told me, over stand-up espressos beneath the awning of the Algerian Coffee Stores, as drizzle dampened the greasy Soho asphalt. “I think you’re writing a book about Everyday Life.”
I could hear the capital letters, and knew immediately (as my bowels turned to ice) that he was invoking the whole tradition of thought that starts in Michel de Certeau and Henri Lefebvre. Which is to say that he wasn’t simply asking me to paint on a bigger canvas, though he was definitely doing that. He was demanding that I take myself and my work seriously, and understand that what I was writing might someday find its place on a shelf alongside people who had actually contributed to Western thought and culture. (In Lefebvre’s case, rather explosively, given his influence on the events of May ’68.)
It put the zap on my head so hard that I didn’t get any further work done on the book for a good six months.
I don’t know what it’s like for you. I won’t presume to say I understand anyone else’s interiority, or process, or approach to their work. I imagine that there are some creators who are safely armored by a transcendent belief in their own talent, who glide through pitches and contracts and reviews lubricated by a sense of inevitability and rightness. I’m not one of those people.
So in a way, what Leo did to me was cruel. But it also led directly to a change of title, a change of scope, and a much bigger and more ambitious book. What had started out as a rather constrained proposition turned into a sprawling survey of some of the major ways in which networked information technologies shape the choices arrayed before us. I should be clear that it probably misses as much as it gets right; I have a sustained history of focusing too much on the wrong aspects of a technology, or at least not the aspects that turn out to be most salient to our understanding of it, and I’m not sure it’s any different here.
I’m also a little gutted to have written a book that’s so obviously and prominently about information technology. As I’d originally envisioned it, this was supposed to be a decisive pivot away from all of that, and toward the thing I care more deeply about, which is the life of cities. But as Nurri always reminds me, there are any number of writers in the world who have deeper or more original insight into cities. It just isn’t what people seem to want from me. After awhile, if you’re smart, you listen to what the world tells you about what it wants from you, with intense gratitude that it appears to want anything at all.
So: Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, now available for pre-order.
In its ten chapters, I take up some of the recent and emerging technical developments that now condition the way we experience the everyday, just about everywhere on Earth. I start with the smartphone, ready-to-hand as it is, and continue on to augmented reality; the so-called internet of things; 3D printing, CNC milling and other digital fabrication technologies; cryptocurrency and the technology underlying it, the blockchain; and finally the constellation of practices and ideas that is dedicated to the eclipse of human discretion, and includes machine learning, the automation of work and artificial intelligence. I spend some time considering the ways in which these discrete techniques are brought together in particular ensembles and commercial value propositions — and by whom, and particularly toward what ends — and finish up by asking if there’s a space for tactics or even resistance available to us in any of this. All in all, I think it’s turned out rather well.
Most writers say something along these lines, but it’s really true and I really do mean it: though I take full responsibility for whatever infelicities and misapprehensions remain, just about all the good in this book arises from the conversations I’ve had with you. It’s not — and I’m not — Lefebvre, but that’s OK. It’s not half-bad. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being grateful.
I’m rather fond of the title, by the way. It’s ambitious, a title to conjure with. It has a certain amount of what the Rastafarians used to call Dread. I don’t know if the book I’ve written really deserves a title like that, but I guess you’ll let me know, won’t you?
Thanks to those of you who came along for the ride — especially those who’ve stuck with me all the way from that first blog post, when I was promising you a self-published book called The City Is Here For You To Use, and it was 90% a reaction to the incompetence of my first publisher. Thanks doubly to the 859 of you (!) who ponied up to pre-order that book, most of you in the weeks immediately following the project’s announcement, and who had to wait until the last quarter of 2013 to get your hands on anything resembling the thing you’d ordered. Thanks, eternal thanks, to Leo Hollis, for kicking out the jams. And thanks always to Nurri for sticking with me through all the chicanes and blind alleys of this endless, endless project. Let’s see what happens now.
Just want to give you a real quick heads-up on a talk I’m pretty jazzed about: on November 21st, I’ll be speaking at an event called “What Shapes The City?,” at the architecture school of the University of Toronto.
What’s got me so amped for this? Well, did you happen to notice who I’m speaking with? Oh, this is going to be gooooood. [chortles, rubs hands] See you there!
This here’s the bibliography I put together for the last chapter of my Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, forthcoming from Verso. I think it will probably give you a decent idea what I’m on about in this section of the book.
UPDATE: Dang, I just noticed that my copy-and-paste out of Scrivener failed to pick up three further citations. They are:
Powell, Alison. “Algorithms, accountability, and political emotion: On the cultural assumptions underpinning sentiment analysis,” London School of Economics Impact of Social Sciences blog, July 20th, 2016.
Shteyngart, Gary. Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel, New York: Random House, 2010.
Yaskawa Electric Corporation. “YASKAWA BUSHIDO PROJECT: Industrial robot vs sword master,” June 4th, 2015.
1 Keynes, John Maynard. “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,” The Nation and Athenaeum, Vol 48 Issues 2 & 3, October 11th & 18th, 1930.
2 Economic Report of the President, February 2016. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 2016.
3 O’Reilly, Tim. “Managing the Bots That Are Managing the Business,” MIT Sloan Management Review, May 31st, 2016.
4 McEleny, Charlotte. “McCann Japan hires first artificially intelligent creative director,” The Drum, March 29th, 2016.
5 Bostrom describes a quiverfull of these as “decision trees, logistic regression models, support vector machines, naive Bayes, [and] k-nearest neighbor regression, among others.” Bostrom, Nick. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014.
6 Mick, Jason. “Foxconn Billionaire Hints at Robotic Apple Factory, Criticizes Dead Employees,” DailyTech, June 30th, 2014.
7 An advertisement for Columbia/Okura palletizing robots touts, even ahead of their “surprising affordability,” the fact that they “eliminate costly stacking-related injuries.”
8 International Labor Organization. “Global Wage Report, 2014/2015,” December 5th, 2014.
9 Chamayou, Grégoire. Drone Theory, London: Penguin, 2015; Singer, P.W. Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century, New York: Penguin Press, 2009.
10 United States Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Motor Vehicle Crash Deaths,” July 6th, 2016.
11 United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Critical Reasons for Crashes Investigated in the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey,” February 2015. See also Bryant Walker Smith’s comprehensive review of causation statistics.
12 United States Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Economic and Societal Impact Of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2010 (Revised),” May 2015.
13 Grossman, Lt. Col. Dave. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill In War and Society, London: Little, Brown, 1995.
14 The reality of the US remote assassination program is comprehensively detailed in The Intercept, “The Drone Papers,” October 15th, 2015.
15 Gonzales, Daniel and Sarah Harting, “Designing Unmanned Systems With Greater Autonomy,” Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2014; United Nations General Assembly. “Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions: Lethal Autonomous Robotics and the protection of life,” April 9th, 2013. For a poignant, if chilling, depiction of an autonomous combat system nearing the threshold of self-awareness, see Watts, Peter. “Malak,” rifters.com, 2010.
16 American Civil Liberties Union, “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” June 2014. See also Else, Daniel H. “The ‘1033 Program,’ Department of Defense Support to Law Enforcement,” Congressional Research Service, August 28th, 2014.
17 Williams, Alex and Nick Srnicek, “#ACCELERATE MANIFESTO for an Accelerationist Politics,” Critical Legal Thinking, May 14th, 2013.
18 Novara Media. “Fully Automated Luxury Communism,” podcast, June 2015.
19 Yeoman, Ian and Michelle Mars. “Robots, Men and Sex Tourism,” Futures Vol. 44, May 2012: pp. 365-371.
20 Firestone, Shulamith. The Dialectic of Sex, New York: Bantam Books, 1971.
21 Solanas, Valerie. SCUM Manifesto, New York: Olympia Press, 1968.
22 Kitchin, Rob. The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures & their Consequences, London: Sage Publications, 2014.
23 Rosenberg, Daniel. ”Data Before The Fact,” in Gitelman, Lisa, ed., “Raw Data” Is An Oxymoron, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.
24 Readers who would like to pursue these questions in greater depth are directed to the excellent Critical Algorithm Studies reading list maintained by Tarleton Gillespie and Nick Seaver of Microsoft Research’s Social Media Collective.
25 A more rigorous and detailed, though still accessible, history of artificial intelligence research can be found in Bostrom 2014 op. cit.
27 Barr, Alistair. “Google Mistakenly Tags Black People as ‘Gorillas,’ Showing Limits of Algorithms,” The Wall Street Journal, July 1st, 2015.
28 Khosla, Aditya et al. “Novel dataset for Fine-Grained Image Categorization,” First Workshop on Fine-Grained Visual Categorization, IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, 2011.
29 ImageNet. “Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge 2012.”
30 Stavens, David M. “Learning to Drive: Perception for Autonomous Cars,” Ph.D dissertation, Stanford University Department of Computer Science, May 2011.
31 Bui, Quoctrung. “Map: The Most Common* Job In Every State,” National Public Radio, February 5th, 2015.
32 Musk, Elon. “Master Plan, Part Deux,” July 20th, 2016.
34 Pew Research Center. “Digital Life in 2025: AI, Robotics and the Future of Jobs,” August 6th, 2014.
35 In fairness, while nobody invokes the Bui map directly, several of Pew’s respondents did point out that truck driver is the number-one occupation for men in the United States, and that alongside taxi drivers, current holders of the job would be among the first to be entirely displaced by automation. The Gartner research firm takes a still harder line, predicting that one in three workers will be displaced by robotics or artificial intelligence by 2025. See Thibodeau, Patrick. “One in three jobs will be taken by software or robots by 2025,” ComputerWorld, October 6th, 2014.
36 Frey, Carl Benedikt and Michael A. Osborne. “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs To Computerisation?,” Oxford Martin Program on the Impacts of Future Technology, September 17th, 2013.
37 Frey, Carl Benedikt et al. “Technology At Work v2.0: The Future Isn’t What It Used To Be,” Citi Global Perspective & Solutions, January 2016.
38 World Economic Forum, “The Future of Jobs Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” January 18th, 2016.
39 Elliott, Larry. “Robots threaten 15m UK jobs, says Bank of England’s chief economist,” The Guardian, November 12th, 2015.
40 Kasperkevic, Jana. “McDonald’s CEO: robots won’t replace workers despite tech opportunities,” The Guardian, May 26th, 2016.
41 Machkovech, Sam. “McDonald’s ex-CEO: $15/hr minimum wage will unleash the robot rebellion,” Ars Technica, May 25th, 2016.
42 Soper, Spencer. “Inside Amazon’s Warehouse,” Lehigh Valley Morning Call, September 18th, 2011. For a comparable and equally disturbing look at the conditions Amazon’s white-collar workers contend with, see Kantor, Jodi and David Streitfeld, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” The New York Times, August 25th, 2015.
43 Kosner, Anthony Wing. “Google Cabs And Uber Bots Will Challenge Jobs ‘Below The API’,” Forbes, February 4th, 2015.
44 Silverman, Stuart. “Target’s Cashier Game – Is It Really a Game?,” LevelsPro, November 29th, 2011.
45 Frucci, Adam. “Target Makes Cashiering More Tolerable By Turning It Into a Game,” Gizmodo, December 8th, 2009.
47 Yano, Kazuo et al. “Measurement of Human Behavior: Creating a Society for Discovering Opportunities,” Hitachi Review Vol. 58, No. 4, 2009, p. 139.
48 Hitachi Ltd. “Business Microscope Identifies Key Factors Affecting Call Center Performance,” July 17th, 2012.
49 Lohr, Steve. “Unblinking Eyes Track Employees,” The New York Times, June 21st, 2014.
50 Deleuze, Gilles. “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” October Vol. 59. (Winter, 1992), pp. 3-7.
51 Poole, Steven. “Why the cult of hard work is counter-productive,” The New Statesman, December 11th, 2013.
52 Streitfeld, David. “Data-Crunching Is Coming to Help Your Boss Manage Your Time,” The New York Times, August 17th, 2015.
53 Ganeva, Tana. “Biometrics at Pizza Hut and KFC? How Face Recognition and Digital Fingerprinting Are Creeping Into the U.S. Workplace,” AlterNet, September 26th, 2011.
54 Downie, James. “Japanese railway company scanning employees’ smiles,” Foreign Policy, July 7th, 2009.
55 Payne, Brian, Colin Sloman and Himanshu Tambe, “IQ plus EQ: How technology will unlock the emotional intelligence of the workforce of the future,” Accenture Strategy, January 7th, 2016. See also Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling, Oakland: University of California Press, 1983.
56 BetterWorks Systems, Inc. Website, 2016.
57 Burt, Ronald S. “Structural Holes and Good Ideas,” American Journal of Sociology, Vol 110 Number 2, 2004, pp. 349-399.
58 Bicknell, David. “Sloppy human error still prime cause of data breaches,” Government Computing, June 2nd, 2016.
59 Baker, Dean. “The Job-Killing Robot Myth,” Center for Economic Policy Research, May 6th, 2015.
60 Blunden, Mark. “Enfield Council uses robotic ‘supercomputer’ instead of humans to deliver frontline services,” Evening Standard, June 16th, 2016.
61 Hongo, Jun. “Fully Automated Lettuce Factory to Open in Japan,” The Wall Street Journal, August 21st, 2015.
62 Tankersley, Jim. “Robots are hurting middle class workers, and education won’t solve the problem, Larry Summers says,” The Washington Post, March 3rd, 2015.
63 Dyer-Witheford, Nick. Cyber-Marx: Cycles and Circuits of Struggle in High-technology Capitalism, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999. See also Summers, Lawrence H. “The Inequality Puzzle,” Democracy, Summer 2014 No. 33.
64 Graeber, David. “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs,” STRIKE!, August 17th, 2013.
65 Van Trier, Walter. “Who Framed ‘Social Dividend’?,” USBIG Discussion Paper No. 26, March 2002. See also Danaher, John. “Libertarianism and the Basic Income (Part One),” Philosophical Disquisitions, December 17th, 2013; Gordon, Noah. “The Conservative Case for A Guaranteed Basic Income,” The Atlantic, August 2014.
67 Grice, Will. “Finland plans to give every citizen 800 euros a month and scrap benefits,” The Independent, December 6th, 2015; Hamilton, Tracy Brown. “The Netherlands’ Upcoming Money-for-Nothing Experiment,” The Atlantic, June 21st, 2016.
69 Siegel, Jenifer Z. and Molly J. Crockett. “How serotonin shapes moral judgement and behavior,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, September 2013; 1299(1): pp. 42–51.
70 Danaher, John. “Will life be worth living in a world without work? Technological Unemployment and the Meaning of Life,” Science and Engineering Ethics, forthcoming.
71 Arendt 1958 op. cit.
72 Zeeberg, Amos. “Alienation Is Killing Americans and Japanese,” Nautilus, June 1st, 2016.
73 United Nations General Assembly, op cit.
74 Greenfield, Adam. “Against the smart city,” New York: Do projects, 2013.
75 I have often remarked on this propensity in the past, in just about so many words, not least in my 2013 pamphlet cited above. I point it out again here because it keeps happening, equally word-for-word. Some reflexes are apparently immune to mockery.
76 See image.
77 Kelley, Richard et al. “Context-Based Bayesian Intent Recognition,” IEEE Transactions on Autonomous Mental Development, Volume 4 Number 3, September 2012.
78 Socher, Richard et al. “Recursive Deep Models for Semantic Compositionality Over a Sentiment Treebank,” Proceedings of the 2013 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing, pp. 1631–1642, Stroudsburg, PA, October 2013.
79 Sullivan, Bob. “Police sold on Snaptrends, software that claims to stop crime before it starts,” bobsullivan.net, September 4th, 2014.
81 Mirani, Leo. “Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet,” Quartz, February 9th, 2015.
82 Huet, Ellen. “Server And Protect: Predictive Policing Firm PredPol Promises To Map Crime Before It Happens,” Forbes, February 11th, 2015.
84 Mitchell, Robert L. “Predictive policing gets personal,” ComputerWorld, October 24th, 2013.
85 Stanley, Jay. “Chicago Police ‘Heat List’ Renews Old Fears About Government Flagging and Tagging,” American Civil Liberties Union, February 25th, 2014.
86 McCarthy, Garry F., Superintendent of Police, City of Chicago. “Custom Notifications In Chicago — Pilot Program,” Chicago Police Department Directive D13-09, July 7th, 2013.
87 Callahan, Yesha. “Chicago’s Controversial New Police Program Prompts Fears Of Racial Profiling,” Clutch, February 2014.
88 On January 6th, 2014, the Chicago Police Department Office of Legal Affairs denied Freedom of Information Act request 14-0023, which had sought information pertaining to the Heat List program, on grounds that its disclosure would “endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel or any other person.”
89 The problem of police misconduct is so pervasive and of such long standing in the city that the Chicago Tribune website maintains a standing category dedicated to it. (Not all of the articles linked concern the Chicago police, but the great majority do.) A representative article is Sweeney, Annie. “Chicago doesn’t discipline rogue cops, scholar testifies in bar beating trial,” Chicago Tribune, October 24th, 2012.
90 Ackerman, Spencer. “The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’,” The Guardian, February 24th, 2015.
– “Homan Square revealed: how Chicago police ‘disappeared’ 7,000 people,” The Guardian, October 19th, 2015.
91 Clark, Matthew and Gregory Malandrucco. “City of Silence,” Vice, December 1st, 2014.
94 Berg, Nate. “Predicting crime, LAPD-style,” The Guardian, June 25th, 2014.
95 Brantingham, Paul J. and Patricia L. Brantingham. “Notes on the geometry of crime,” In P.J. Brantingham and P.L. Brantingham eds., Environmental Criminology, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1981. See also Eck, John E. and David Weisburd. “Crime Places In Crime Theory,” In J. Eck, J. and D. Weisburd eds., Crime And Place. Crime Prevention Studies No. 4., Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press, 1995 and Hodgkinson, Sarah and Nick Tilley. “Travel-to-Crime: Homing In On The Victim,” International Review of Victimology Vol. 14, pp. 281–298, 2007.
96 Stroud, Matt. “The minority report: Chicago’s new police computer predicts crimes, but is it racist?,” The Verge, February 19th, 2014.
97 Davey, Monica. “Chicago Police Try to Predict Who May Shoot or Be Shot,” The New York Times, May 23rd, 2016; Robinson, David. “Chicago police have tripled their use of a secret, computerized ‘heat list,’” EqualFuture, May 26th, 2016.
98 Davey 2016 op. cit.
99 Ferguson, Andrew Guthrie. “Policing Predictive Policing,” Washington University Law Review, Vol. 94, 2017.
100 My account here is indebted to the reporting a team of journalists with the FiveThirtyEight blog conducted in collaboration with the Marshall Project.
101 Visher, Christy A. “Transitions From Prison To Community: Understanding Individual Pathways,” The Urban Institute, Justice Policy Center, Washington, DC., 2003.
102 Langan, Patrick A. and David J. Levin. “Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1994.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002.
103 Barry-Jester, Anna Maria, Ben Casselman and Dana Goldstein.“The New Science of Sentencing,” The Marshall Project, August 4th, 2015.
104 Hardt, Moritz. ”How big data is unfair: Understanding sources of unfairness in data-driven decision-making,” Medium, September 26th, 2014.
105 Angwin, Julia et al. “Machine Bias,” Pro Publica, May 23rd, 2016.
106 Carson. E. Ann. Prisoners in 2014, Washington DC: US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, September 2015.
107 Humes, Karen R., Nicholas A. Jones and Roberto R. Ramirez. “Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010,” US Census Bureau, March 2011.
108 Palamar, Joseph J., et al. “Powder cocaine and crack use in the United States: An examination of risk for arrest and socioeconomic disparities in use,” Drug & Alcohol Dependence, Vol 149, April 1st, 2015, pp 108-116.
109 Tett, Gillian. “Mapping crime – or stirring hate?”, The Financial Times, August 22nd, 2014.
A line in Tett’s FT coverage of the CPD’s precrime initiative is also inadvertently revealing: ”Thus the police can be in the right spot, at the right time, even when resources are being cut due to fiscal austerity.” This is, again, one of those bizarre, almost non sequitur introjections of a neoliberal justificatory logic that seem to crop up so often in discussions of information technology. Apparently it didn’t interest Tett to ask if it might not be cheaper or more effective to avoid eliminating those policing resources in the first place.
110 State of Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, Contract 071B3200096, January 11th, 2011. See Change Notice Number 8, effective January 26th, 2016.
111 Anderson, Ben. “Preemption, precaution, preparedness: Anticipatory action and future geographies,” Progress in Human Geography 34.6 (2010): pp. 777-798.
112 Donohue, John J. III and Steven D. Levitt. “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Volume CXVI, Issue 2, May 2001.
113 Rosenberg, Daniel. “Data before the Fact,” in Gitelman, Lisa, ed. “Raw Data” Is An Oxymoron, Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2013. See also Poovey, Mary. A History of The Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge In The Sciences of Wealth and Society, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.
114 Eno, Brian and Peter Schmidt. Oblique Strategies: Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas, London: Opal Ltd., January 1975.
115 Ricanek Jr., Karl and Chris Boehnen. “Facial Analytics: From Big Data to Law Enforcement,” Computer Volume 45, Number 9, September 2012.
116 Arthur, Charles. “Quividi defends Tesco face scanners after claims over customers’ privacy,” The Guardian, November 4th, 2013.
117 Sethuram, Amrutha et al. “Facial Landmarking: Comparing Automatic Landmarking Methods with Applications in Soft Biometrics,” Computer Vision – ECCV 2012, October 7th, 2012.
118 Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, New York and London: Routledge, 1990.
119 Khryashchev, Vladimir et al. “Gender Recognition via Face Area Analysis,” Proceedings of the World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science 2012 Volume 1, October 24, 2012.
120 Greenfield, Adam. Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing, Berkeley: New Riders, 2006.
121 Venkatesh, Sudhir Alladi. Off The Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.
122 Tonkiss, Fran. “Informality and its discontents,” in Angélil, Marc and Rainer Hehl, eds., Informalize!: Essays on the Political Economy of Urban Form. Berlin: Ruby Press, 2012.
123 The Digital Matatus Project. “Digital Matatus: Collaborative Mapping For Public Transit Everywhere,” 2015.
124 Williams, Sarah. Personal communication, November 11th, 2013.
125 Scott, James C. Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
126 Wa Mungai, Mbugua. Nairobi’s Matatu Men: Portrait Of A Subculture, Nairobi: Goethe-Institut Kenya, 2013.
127 Walker, Shaun. “Face recognition app taking Russia by storm may bring end to public anonymity,” The Guardian, May 17th, 2016.
128 Rothrock, Kevin. “The Russian Art of Meta-Stalking,” Global Voices Advox, April 7th, 2016.
129 Russon, Mary-Ann. “Russian trolls outing porn stars and prostitutes with neural network facial recognition app,” International Business Times, April 27th, 2016.
130 Lin, Weiyao, et al. “Group event detection for video surveillance,” 2009 IEEE International Symposium on Circuits and Systems, May 24th, 2009.
131 Hu, Nan, James Decraene and Wentong Cai. “Effective crowd control through adaptive evolution of agent-based simulation models,” Proceedings of the 2012 Winter Simulation Conference, December 9th, 2012. 10.1109/WSC.2012.6465040
Park, Andrew J. et al. “A Decision Support System for Crowd Control Using Agent-Based Modeling and Simulation,” 2015 IEEE International Conference on Data Mining Workshop, November 14th, 2015. http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/ICDMW.2015.249
132 Torrens, Paul. Personal conversation, April 14th, 2008. See also http://www.geosimulation.org/riots.html
133 Greenfield 2013 op. cit.
134 Difallah, Djellel Eddine, Philippe Cudré-Mauroux and Sean A. McKenna. “Scalable Anomaly Detection for Smart City Infrastructure Networks,” IEEE Internet Computing, Volume 17 Number 6, November-December 2013.
135 Knight, Will. “Baidu Uses Map Searches To Predict When Crowds Will Get Out Of Control,” MIT Technology Review, March 24th, 2016.
136 Schneier, Bruce. “Technologies of Surveillance,” March 5th, 2013.
137 Canetti, Elias. Crowds and Power, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984.
138 Pasquale, Frank. The Black Box Society: The Secret Algorithms Behind Money and Information, Cambridge, MA: The Harvard University Press, 2015.
139 Though even here there is increasing pressure to use algorithmic guidelines in the selection of applicants, or at least in crafting the terms they will differentially be offered. See McGrath, Maggie. “The Invisible Force Behind College Admissions,” Forbes, July 30th, 2014.
140 Dwoskin, Elizabeth. “Lending Startups Look at Borrowers’ Phone Usage to Assess Creditworthiness,” The Wall Street Journal, November 30th, 2015.
141 Traub, Amy. “Discredited: How Employment Credit Checks Keep Qualified Workers Out Of A Job,” Demos, March 4th, 2013.
142 Dwoskin 2015 op.cit. See also Andrews, Lori. I Know Who You Are And I Saw What You Did, New York: Free Press, 2011.
143 This is Marilyn Strathern’s rather more accessible gloss of Goodhart’s original statement, “Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.” Strathern, Marilyn. “‘Improving ratings’: audit in the British University system,” European Review Volume 5 Issue 3, July 1997, pp 305-321. See also Simon, David, Kia Corthron, Ed Burns and Chris Collins, The Wire, Season 4 Episode 9: “Know Your Place,” first aired 12 November 2006.
144 United States Federal Trade Commission. “Your Equal Credit Opportunity Rights,” January 2013.
145 O’Neil, Cathy. “Summers’ Lending Club makes money by bypassing the Equal Credit Opportunity Act,” Mathbabe, August 29th, 2013.
146 Lobosco, Katie. “Facebook friends could change your credit score,” CNN Money, August 27th, 2013.
148 Goodman, Bryce and Seth Flaxman. “EU regulations on algorithmic decision-making and a “right to explanation,” 2016 ICML Workshop on Human Interpretability in Machine Learning, New York.
149 Kroll, Alice and Ernest A. Testa. “Predictive Modeling for Life Underwriting,” Predictive Modeling for Life Insurance Seminar, May 19th, 2010.
150 Recall Karl Rove: “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” Suskind, Ron. “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush,” The New York Times, October 17th, 2004.
151 Tabarrok, Alex. “The Rise of Opaque Intelligence,” Marginal Revolution, February 20th, 2015.
152 Stafford-Fraser, Quentin. Facebook comment, June 2016.
153 Mannon, Travis. “Facebook Outreach Tool Ignores Black Lives Matter,” The Intercept, June 9th, 2016.
155 Murphy, David. “Amazon Algorithm Price War Leads to $23.6-Million-Dollar Book Listing,” PC, April 23rd, 2011.
156 United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission. “Findings Regarding The Market Events of May 6, 2010,” September 30th, 2010.
157 United States Securities and Exchange Commission.“SEC Approves New Stock-by-Stock Circuit Breaker Rules,” Press Release 2010-98, June 10th, 2010.
158 Tesla Motors, Inc. “Your Autopilot Has Arrived.” October 14th, 2015.
159 Davies, Alex. “The Model D is Tesla’s Most Powerful Car Ever, Plus Autopilot,” Wired, October 10th, 2014.
160 Lavrinc, Damon. “Tesla Auto-Steer Will Let Drivers Go From SF To Seattle Hands-Free,” Jalopnik, March 19th, 2015.
161 Fingas, Roger. “‘Apple Car’ rollout reportedly delayed until 2021, owing to obstacles in ‘Project Titan,’” AppleInsider, July 21st, 2016.
162 Yadron, Danny and Dan Tynan. “Tesla driver dies in first fatal crash while using autopilot mode,” The Guardian, July 1st, 2016.
163 Musk, Elon. Tweet, April 17th, 2016.
164 Tesla Motors, Inc. “A Tragic Loss,” June 30th, 2016.
165 Tesla Motors, Inc. “Misfortune,” July 6th, 2016.
166 Lambert, Fred. “Google Deep Learning Founder says Tesla’s Autopilot system is ‘irresponsible’,” Electrek, May 30th, 2016.
167 Bourré, August C. Comment, Speedbird blog, May 28th, 2014.
168 Morris, David Z. “Trains and self-driving cars, headed for a (political) collision,” Fortune, November 2nd, 2014.
169 Americans For Prosperity Florida. “Economic Freedom Scorecard: 2016 Legislative Session,” May 3rd, 2016.
170 Hawkins, Jeff. Keynote speech, “Why Can’t a Computer Be More Like a Brain? How a New Theory of Neocortex Will Lead to Truly Intelligent Machines,” O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2007, San Diego, CA, March 27th, 2007.
171 The Next Rembrandt project. Website, undated.
172 Silver, David, et al. “Mastering the game of Go with deep neural networks and tree search,” Nature, Volume 529, Issue 7587, pp. 484–489, January 28th, 2016.
173 An, Younggil and David Ormerod. Relentless: Lee Sedol vs Gu Li, Go Game Guru, 2016.
174 Nature Video, “The computer that mastered Go,” January 27th, 2016.
175 Ormerod, David. “AlphaGo shows its true strength in 3rd victory against Lee Sedol,” Go Game Guru, March 12th, 2016.
176 See Machii’s official website.
177 Metz, Cade. “The Sadness and Beauty of Watching Google’s AI Play Go.” Wired, March 11th, 2016.
178 Liss, Jo. Tweet, December 8th, 2015. The tweets that follow are a cogent argument as well.
179 Levesque, Hector J., Ernest Davis and Leora Morgenstern. “The Winograd Schema Challenge,” Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conference on Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, 2012.
180 Salthouse, Timothy A. “When does age-related cognitive decline begin?,” Neurobiology of Aging, April 2009, Volume 30, Issue 4, pp. 507–514.
I got taken to task the other day regarding my preference for the jargony-seeming construction “commoning” over the more usual “commons.” (The specific wording: “You say you hate bullshit, but ‘commoning’ seems like just so much bafflegab to me.”)
This brilliant 2010 interview with key thinker/doers Massimo de Angelis and Stavros Stavrides ought to go some distance toward explaining that preference; it’s lost none of its luster with the intervening years, despite everything that’s happened in the world over that period.
In the effort to define a space for living that is neither market nor state, De Angelis and Stavrides make it clear that the act of seizing and occupying it is the easy part. All the glamor and all the grandeur attend that first nervy moment when wirecutters meet chainlink. But precisely who gets saddled with the obligation of continuously remaking that space? Who’s left with the physical work of maintenance, the emotional labor of negotiation? It’s a process, not a reified thing, and that in turn seems to demand the gerund form, with its implication that this is something unfolding in time: commoning.
Yeah? No? Works for me.
The following is a short but rather chewy interview with me, conducted by Karol Piekarski for Medialab Katowice. I hope you enjoy it.
KP: It seems you’ve become quite pessimistic about the prospects of the public in the networked society (your weekly Dispatch, number 27), pointing out to the fact that for some reason we are not so willing to use creatively available data processing technologies. What if we look at this problem from a broader perspective? It took hundreds years for the basic literacy (writing and reading) to spread around the society. Although we may feel that invention of the World Wide Web was ages ago, in fact it’s just a beginning of the “new medium.” Maybe we “simply” need time to learn how to use, as a society, digital technologies?
AG: Well, I think we need to consider how rapidly we as consumers and users of technical systems can develop the critical literacy you’re talking about, versus the headway that those who are not concerned with such matters can make in the meantime.
I don’t even mean necessarily that the designers of emerging interactive products and services are consciously acting out of any set of values I might disagree with. I simply mean that portable, modular code can be recombined by some third party into really pernicious systems, readily and rapidly, either out of ignorance or what I would regard as malicious intent. By the time we figure out how to use these systems wisely, or come to a collective determination that we reject their use, the damage will have been done.
And even that’s assuming that we are more or less static, as subjects and users. The truth is that we are acted on by these technologies, as individuals and as societies both.
So the relative power of a particular kind of personality type or learning style may come into the ascendance, and reinforce the conditions of its own vitality, while making it very difficult for anyone else to even sustain themselves. For example, introverts have never had it easy, but now, in our world of continuous mandatory self-performance, they run the risk of being more marginalized and overlooked than ever. We know that success under the new dispensation requires more than the occasional schmoozing that might have seen you through in the past. It requires not merely that you make yourself continuously available, not merely that you have the energy — the psychic and the financial wherewithal — to socialize and network, but that you are seen to socialize and network and to be the kind of person who enjoys doing so. And that’s in large part a consequence of the way we’ve chosen to integrate always-on social networking technologies into our everyday lives.
Consider that I recently read an admiring description of “what a great 21st century mathematician looks like”: someone who is “part of a network, always communicating, always connecting what he is doing with what other people are doing.” And, you know, that’s great. But let’s be clear that success in such a world selects for a certain kind of highly social, highly outgoing personality type.
You could argue, with some justice, that the world has always selected for some personality types over others — that there’s nothing fundamentally new here, it’s just that the place where our culture has decided the grandeur ought to live is shifting. But I’ve always thought that the point of our work was to imagine futures that were more just and equitable, not merely a new and different unequal distribution of power.
KP: Smart cities vs. smart citizens, government or corporation vs. people – we still tend to build these clear oppositions. Do you think that juxtaposing “centralized” against “distributed” can really help explain the mechanisms of power in the networked society? Or maybe we need a bit more sophisticated approach to understand what is actually going on (thinking here about the “society of control” or the work of Alexander Galloway)?
AG: It strikes me that there are a few different concerns bundled up in this question, and that we might benefit from unpacking them and considering them separately.
First, there’s the question of what we mean when we refer to something as a network. The dominant political tenor of the early mass Internet was a kind of structural determinism we associate with folks like John Perry Barlow. The idea was that the network principle of structuration itself, as supposedly immanent in the distributed topology of the World Wide Web, wasn’t merely inherently morally superior to organizational schemes based on hierarchy and coercion, but was practically superior, too. It would therefore “naturally” underwrite a spontaneous mass restructuring of society along horizontal or rhizomatic lines.
We know now, of course, that that didn’t happen, and it’s reasonable to ask why that is. Alex’s great contribution, in Protocol, was to remind us that the Internet as we know it has never been anything but a monstrous hybrid. Its functioning depends on the interaction of two very different ways of organizing the transmission and reception of information: a highly centralized and hierarchical addressing scheme called the Domain Name System, and a radically distributed messaging protocol we call TCP/IP. Only one of these “routes around failure” in the rhizomatic way so beloved of the early net theorists, while the other remains radically vulnerable to (say) State efforts to interdict the free flow of information. So, far from spontaneously giving rise to some antiauthoritarian, horizontalist utopia, while it’s fair to say that the Internet does tend to destabilize certain existing power relations, just as often it reproduces the selfsame dynamics of power that existed beforehand.
And that leads to our closely-related second question, which is how we should consider the relationship between structure and agency. The fundamental mistake that network determinists very often make is to treat people like Internet switches, or the consensing bees Thomas Seeley depicts so beautifully in his book Honeybee Democracy. They assume that, given a certain topology of organization and the logics of informational flow that attend it, certain macro-scale political outcomes will necessarily follow.
I think there is a broadly observable trend toward networked structures showing up in places we might not historically have expected them to — in the large-scale capitalist commercial enterprise, for example. But just because an organization’s practical, day-to-day decision-making is nominally organized horizontally doesn’t mean the workers who use it on the job carry that logic into the other spheres of their life. And it certainly doesn’t mean that those workers can’t be fired just like people who work for more consciously and avowedly hierarchical organizations. Ask all the liberated, Holocratic non-managers Tony Hsieh just let go from Zappos where they think power lies.
So we’re forced to conclude one of two things: either the apparent structure of power in organizations like this isn’t the actual structure of power — which is certainly possible — or people have much more latitude to bend nominally flat network topologies toward all the usual, all-too-human ends of power than the determinists would have us believe. You can’t have it both ways.
Finally, there’s the question of how we model the relationship between openness and power. We know by now that it’s a terrible error to assume that there’s a necessary connection between radical openness and a liberatory or emancipatory politics. If anything, you could be forgiven for concluding just the opposite: that there’s been a fair amount of what Marcuse would call repressive desublimation, Gamergate being the preeminent case in point.
In fact, we have to ask if openness and mobility and the apparent freedom to act aren’t qualities that can easily be leveraged by parties acting in ways that are contrary to our own understanding of our interests. This is what I take Deleuze to be arguing in the “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” and it’s at the heart of governmentality theory.
So if neither distributed organizational topologies nor horizontal decision-making nor radical transparency and openness necessarily buy you equity and justice, it’s appropriate to ask: what would? And the only answer I have is that you have to fight directly for equity and for justice. You have to believe in and want those things first, and the tools that support them will follow, will be discovered or invented. But you can’t first build the tool and suppose that progressive values and organizing logics will flow outward from it — certainly not in any straightforward or uncomplicated way.
I should point out that this is something I’ve had to learn the hard way my ownself.
KP: Living in a globalised world, we tend to universalise the discourse around digital technologies, especially their relationship to society. It’s visible in your work that you try to put more attention to those less privileged in order to figure out whether any of our networked/digital solutions could actually make their life better. Poland is an interesting example: behind the western world, but way ahead the most economically deprived countries. You’ve spent some time in Poland recently, if you were to advise Polish government, universities or companies, what you would suggest to spend the money on in terms of innovation and development?
AG: I guess I would start by asking what ends and goals you’re trying to work toward. You know I completely reject the point of view that says Poland or anyone else necessarily needs to do what everyone else is doing, needs to accept anyone else’s definitions of “advanced” or “innovative” or “highly developed.”
It’s a phrase which has sadly taken on a fairly bourgeois coloration, but I still think there’s something to be said for “quality of life.” And I don’t think there’s any inherent correlation — and I should be very clear: neither a direct nor an inverse correlation — between economic development in the abstract and quality of life. Tokyo is certainly one of the safest, most “advanced,” most efficient and highly-developed cities on the planet, but the regnant xenophobia and gender politics you find there make it a place I can’t imagine wanting to return to, except as a visitor. The “quality of life” there mostly resolves to a continually refined, absolutely state-of-the-art consumerism. By contrast, most everyone can think of places that are maybe a little run-down, maybe even a little sketchy at times, but where more of your time is your own, you aren’t quite as hemmed in by the pressures of conforming to some model of appearance and self-presentation, and in general life is more spacious. So the first part of my advice to Poles would be to weigh with the most exceeding care what already works about the way you live, and not be in any particular hurry to overwrite it with modes of being someone living a million miles away who’s never once set foot in your culture assures you is the new hotness.
The flipside of this, of course, is not clinging to things that clearly aren’t working, just because they’re the ways in which things have always been done. Racism, sexism and homophobia — like ageism and ableism and hierarchical orderings in general — sure are traditional, just about everywhere. But that doesn’t for one hot second mean I think they’re worth respecting and holding onto. And this goes for organizational and technical matters as well. The bottom line is that you’ve got to keep your eye firmly fixed on what kind of frame for living you’re trying to bring into being, and absolutely refuse to let yourself get distracted, whether by notional hipness and the fetishism of emergent technology, or by appeals to stability and tradition for their own sake.
Hey hey — just a very quick heads-up that I’ll be giving a talk at the Bartlett School of Architecture here in London on the 25th of November, in which I plan to
commemorate the 45th anniversary of Mishima Yukio’s ritual suicide share my latest thinking around the idea of “commoning systems.”
Come along for the ride, and who knows, by the end of the night I might even have some other Bartlett-related news to share with you. Things ought to kick off right around 18.30, and I think we’re planning on going out for drinks after — stay tuned for the exact location and registration details. Hope to see you there!
A quick note, prompted by my having logged into Facebook the other day for the first time in a few months and finding a pile of messages I hadn’t known were waiting for me.
This is just a reminder that I cannot be reached via Twitter or Facebook, at least in anything resembling real time; I just don’t see those messages. As ever, e-mail is the best way to get in touch with me if you need to.
Or, if you’re more interested in simply keeping a channel open, do feel free to sign up for my weekly e-mail dispatches, which go out every Sunday. See you around!
Happy new year, everyone! I wish you the very best 2015 imaginable — a year that is safe from fear, strife and want, generous to a fault, and above all that finds you surrounded by love and support.
So, listen: I decided to try my hand at one of those newsletters all the kool kids are doing nowadays. Should you be so inclined, you can sign up here. And don’t worry that I’ll forget about posting here; however this newsletter thing works out, you may be sure that I’ll continue to do so. In the meantime, I thought you might dig this piece I had in the Guardian last week.
Lots more soon. Until then, be well.
This two-by-two matrix describes the basic strategies available for organizing the financial support of proposed undertakings in the built environment. Each will have implications for the likelihood that necessary levels of funding can be maintained over the medium to long term; for the scalability and repeatability of the proposed intervention; for the absolute level of financing achievable (as well as for the timeframe in which this financing can be assembled); and for perceptions of the proposition’s legitimacy.
“Venture capital” should here be understood to include all speculative operations with private financing, i.e. the ordinary practice of commercial real-estate development, while combined approaches (so-called “public-private partnerships”) are occasionally possible. Virtually all contemporary investment in the built environment takes place in the upper two quadrants of this matrix.
Adam Greenfield on TwitterMy Tweets
- Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, now available for pre-order 9 December 2016
- “What Shapes The City?”: Upcoming talk at University of Toronto, November 21st 28 October 2016
- Can you smell what I’m cooking? 6 August 2016
- On the Master Bullshit Matrix 16 April 2016
- A brief note on “commoning” 2 April 2016
Being discussed now
- AG on “What Shapes The City?”: Upcoming talk at University of Toronto, November 21st
- August on “What Shapes The City?”: Upcoming talk at University of Toronto, November 21st
- Ravenswood Design on On the ground running: Lessons from experience design
- DNH603 2016 on On the ground running: Lessons from experience design
- inhab.it on Flowers for cyberpunk