“Humanity has been contemptuously used by vast digital empires.”
Thus begins Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger’s “Declaration of Digital Independence,” a new manifesto of sorts advocating for the decentralization of “Big Social Media.” He is asking for digital dissenters to sign it — and strike.
In a separate blog post, Sanger calls for a two-day #SocialMediaStrike from Thursday, the 4th of July, through Friday, in the name of privacy protection and as part of “an effort to pressure the networks into restoring control of personal data to users.”
“We will not use social media on those days, except to post notices that we are on strike,” Sanger writes, before detailing his predictions for how the strike will go.
“Feeds will be flooded with strike notices,” Sanger writes. Those who post about matters besides the strike will be considered scabs, he says, and strikers will call them out.
The blog post and call to arms have generated some traction on Reddit, but a tweet about it from Sanger has garnered just 149 retweets. Plus, a Change.org petition that’s been up for six days has a goal of only 1,500 signatures, which it has not yet reached.
Besides a vague push for decentralization, the goals Sanger lays out for the #SocialMediaStrike are unclear, and Facebook and Instagram are only mentioned in an FAQ post. Twitter is not mentioned anywhere.
In terms of concrete goals, Sanger mentions the choice of having end-to-end encryption, for social media to be “interoperable” with posts to one platform appearing on another, and for a universal set of protocols.
“In this way, social media would work the way websites, email, text messages, and blog hosting and readers work: as neutral service providers,” Sanger writes, although these platforms have also been critiqued for withholding data and privacy issues as well.
In industry and medicine, robots routinely build, break down, and inspect things; they also assist in surgery and dispense prescription drugs in pharmacies. Neither they nor “social” robots—which are designed to engage with people and to elicit an emotional connection—behave like The Jetsons’ maid, Rosie, or other beloved droids of fiction. Even so, expect social robots to become more sophisticated and prevalent in the next few years. The field seems to have reached a tipping point, with bots having more excellent interactive capabilities and performing more useful tasks than ever before.
Like most robots, social robots use artificial intelligence to decide how to act on information received through cameras and other sensors. The ability to respond in ways that seem lifelike has been informed by research into such issues as how perceptions form, what constitutes social and emotional intelligence, and how people can deduce others’ thoughts and feelings. Advances in AI have enabled designers to translate such psychological and neuroscientific insights into algorithms that allow robots to recognize voices, faces, and emotions; interpret speech and gestures; respond appropriately to complex verbal and nonverbal cues; make eye contact; speak conversationally; and adapt to people’s needs by learning from feedback, rewards and criticisms.
In consequence, social robots are filling an ever-expanding variety of roles. A 47-inch humanoid called Pepper (from SoftBank Robotics), for instance, recognizes faces and basic human emotions and engages in conversations via a touch screen in its “chest.” About 15,000 Peppers worldwide perform such services as hotel check-ins, airport customer service, shopping assistance, and fast-food checkout. Temi (from Temi USA) and Lomo (Segway Robotics) are the next generations of personal assistants—like Amazon Echo and Google Home but mobile, providing a new level of functionality. Lomo, for instance, is not only a companion but can also transform on command into a scooter for transport.
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