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Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

VIDEO: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

In education, politics, society, technology on October 19, 2015 at 02:19

From: The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, The Documentary Network, http://documentary.net

Watch the film at http://documentary.net/video/internets-boy-story-aaron-swartz/

The film follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. From Swartz’s help in the development of the basic internet protocol RSS to his co-founding of Reddit, his fingerprints are all over the internet.

But it was Swartz’s groundbreaking work in social justice and political organizing combined with his aggressive approach to information access that ensnared him in a two-year legal nightmare. It was a battle that ended with the taking of his own life at the age of 26. Aaron’s story touched a nerve with people far beyond the online communities in which he was a celebrity. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.

Film by Brian Knappenberger – Luminant Media

Reposted with permission from: The Documentary Network

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Here’s to being here by Lars Mensel

In philosophy, photography, society, technology on March 24, 2015 at 19:41

From: Here’s to being here by Lars Mensel, The European, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

The staggering number of smartphone images is of course due to the omnipresence of camera-enabled phones. A popular saying among photographers goes: “The best camera is the one you have with you”, and so the increased number of photos and videos is simply true to the fact that people can easily reach for a camera whenever the opportunity presents itself. It is also due to the emergence of what writer Craig Mod has dubbed “networked lenses” – smartphone cameras that allow for instantaneous sharing with the world. They have enabled a willingness on many peoples’ parts to always keep cameras rolling. In the New Yorker, Nick Paumgarten wrote about how this trend is changing our experience of reality. “Life is footage”, he remarks.

Which brings us back to the smoke-filled cabin of Welch’s flight. What does it mean that his first impulse was to start documenting? As the examples show, constantly filming and taking photos is a development many people have noticed and discussed. But the reactions have been all too predictable: They are often a call to be more mindful in the face of technological progress, to consciously make room for the analogue world in a digital time

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Reposted with permission from: The European

Innovation is a Social Issue by Martin Eiermann and Christoper Steiner

In economy, education, industrial processes, infrastructure, politics, technology on March 25, 2014 at 03:34

From: Algorithms and the Future of Work: Innovation is a Social Issue by Martin Eiermann and Christoper Steiner, The European Magazine, http://www.theeuropean-magazine.com

The European: You’re talking about a momentous shift in the labor market: The vast majority of workers fall into the category of mid-level employees. Unemployment is already high in the wake of the crisis – and if you’re correct in your predictions, we are looking at a technological shift with tremendous social consequences.
Steiner: Economists go back and forth on this question. Some argue that unemployment will remain high because of these trends, but others point out that people had very similar worries during the industrial revolution. The steam engine revolutionized production, but you still needed as many workers as before. The biggest trend for me is about stratification: The people who can handle algorithms and market themselves will do very well. They will displace people with less expertise and experience.

The European: Does that worry you?
Steiner: I’m more curious than worried. If you look at the top 500 American companies, corporate profits are near an all-time high, yet unemployment levels are higher than average as well. Many companies have not hired back the workers they laid off but have instead managed to increase productivity through software and automation. This isn’t just a future trend, it’s already happening.

Read the interview

Reposted with permission from: The European

Silicon Valley Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov

In government, information science, internet, politics, technology on January 20, 2014 at 17:47

From: Silicon Valley Solutionism by Evgeny Morozov, Literal Magazine, http://www.literalmagazine.com

… We have tried NGOs, we have tried political parties, we have tried building nationalist movements, everything in the case of Belarus has been tried and failed, and here comes this new technology: you can use text messages to mobilize people, you can use blogs to discuss things you cannot discuss in the traditional media, you can rely on the power of cell phones to capture police brutality. I mean, there was a lot of excitement around 2005 and 2006, which partly, again, derives from the political climate in Eastern Europe at the time. You had the revolution in Serbia, then you had a few years later the revolution in Ukraine, then you had the revolution before that in Georgia. Something was brewing in Eastern Europe, and we had a lot of hope, and I invested a lot of hope in technology.

And then, I think, my other cynical Eastern European part took over. I have to add that I also spent four years in Bulgaria. This is where I was educated. And Bulgaria is known, as the rest of the Balkans, for its cynicism. And my cynical Bulgarian side, I think, took over at some point in 2006 and 2007 and I became skeptical of the very tools and platforms we were using, in part because I saw that they were actually making very little difference to the situation on the ground, to the people who were on the ground using those tools. But I also noticed that certain governments themselves were actually actively deploying those tools to spy on the population, to engage in propaganda by paying and training bloggers to spread the kind of truth that the government wanted to spread by engaging in new forms of censorships or cyber attacks. I basically saw the other side of this digitalization. And I saw that if you leave things as they are, and we engage in this very happy, cheerful celebration of the power of the Internet, we would miss the real story, and the real story, unfortunately, was that certain governments were getting empowered as well.

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Reposted with permission from: Literal Magazine

Featured: Conviviality by Paul Walton

In Book Reviews, Featured, history, politics, psychology, review, society, sociology, technology, writers on December 26, 2013 at 14:41

Paul Walton is a journalist, editor and autodidact from Nanaimo most interested in literature and depth psychology.

Enjoy the essay and feel free to comment.

Featured: Ivan Illich: Tools For Conviviality by Paul Walton

Forty years after the publication of that cantankersome and challenging book by Ivan Illich, Tools For Conviviality has never been more inaccessible and never more vital.

There are many misunderstandings and misconceptions about Illich, and even after an interview series on the CBC in the late 1980s (later to be published as Ivan Ilich in Conversation by David Cayley, published by House of Anansi, 1992) anyone could be forgiven for remembering Illich, who died in 2002, as a man of the mind, a thinker, a philosophe, even a genius. This last perhaps comes closest if we recall the word djinn, a “tutelary spirit,” as the OED puts it. Tools For Conviviality might be termed in educational jargon “gifted,” well beyond its years, but it is more like a happy child who longs to share its joy.

This look at Tools For Conviviality began on a computer and taking a cue from Illich in the Cayley interviews migrated to a yellow pad and black pen. Writing by hand highlights a duality arising from Tools For Conviviality, The qualities of pen and paper include intimacy, a private moment of reflection and, if done well, humility. We can use tools on a human scale or be dehumanized by them. Composing on a computer makes demands very different from script, from posture to adjusting the eye to the glow of the electric monitor. The computer is also tentative, with constant attention to the save function and usurping what Illich later relished in In the Vineyard of the Text, about the 12th century abbot Hugh of St. Victor, who tasted the words during peripatetic readings in his garden.

Tools For Conviviality is arguably as close to a political prescription or ideology as Illich ever got. To Cayley he admitted that the essence of the book, the idea of inverting tools as abused by post-industrial interests, didn’t happen as he expected in 1973 — a dramatic Wall Street-style crash — but began to occur ways he did not anticipate. By 1988, he told Cayley, he was seeing more people recovering misused tools, i.e. resuming mastery over them for their own purposes.

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Every Day We Put the State on Trial by Ai Weiwei

In art, Asia, culture, government, human rights, internet, technology on October 21, 2013 at 05:01

From: Every Day We Put the State on Trial by Ai Weiwei, Policy Innovations, http://www.policyinnovations.org

For ages, artists have asked difficult questions about the human condition. It is their privilege to pursue such questions without needing to yield practical results. As individuals, and as a society, we can never really say we know everything. Society allows artists to explore what we don’t know in ways that are distinct from the approaches of science, religion, and philosophy. As a result, art bears a unique responsibility in the search for truth.
Art is a social practice that helps people to locate their truth. The truth itself, or the so-called truth presented by the media, has limitations. Manipulation of the truth does not lead to a lack of truth—it’s worse than no truth. Manipulated truths help the powerful, or advance the positions of the people who publicize them. So the arts and journalistic media play completely different roles.
I think it is important for artists to see themselves as privileged, and to bear some responsibility, because their job is about communication and expression. These are the core values of life, of being individuals. Most people don’t realize that they have to fight for this, but for us artists it’s necessary.

With 140 Chinese characters on Twitter, you can write a short story or novel. It’s not like in English, where you only have room for one question or piece of information. So we’re very privileged. But at the same time, I have been censored countless times for blogging on Sina Weibo, sharing my opinions, and publishing the names and stories of children killed during the Sichuan earthquake. The authorities delete my sentences. When they find that I’m writing too much, they shut off my IP. So I have to use another one and write under another user name. Sometimes in one month I have to use a hundred different IP addresses. Still, whatever I do, they’ll try to recognize me from the way I talk and the name I take—variations on my name like “Ai Weiwei,” “Ai Wei,” “Ai” and so on.

Read the essay

Reposted with permission from: Policy Innovations

The Death of Romance in the Shadow of the Colossus by Jesse Miksic

In anthropology, art, history, mythology, technology, visual arts on October 13, 2013 at 18:05

From: The Death of Romance in the Shadow of the Colossus by Jesse Miksic, Berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

Myths have no life of their own. They wait for us to give them flesh. If one man in the world answers their call, they give us their strength in all its fullness. We must preserve this myth, and ensure that its slumber is not mortal so that its resurrection is possible. (Albert Camus, Prometheus in the Underworld, 1947)

We are drowning in myths.

Of course, I don’t mean myths like primitive folk stories transcribed in anthropology textbooks, transmitted in a way that no shaman could have foreseen. Those myths are under glass, specimens preserved for our edification and amusement. Some commentators – like the great Claude Levi-Strauss – didn’t bother acknowledging any other definition of the term.

I’m talking about myths in a more general sense… myths as stories that tie our random, noisy, contingent lives into meaningful narratives. These myths may serve as articles of faith, or as aspirations codified into archetypes, or as warnings to those who would repeat our half-remembered mistakes. I’m talking about myths as the semantic sinew connecting our individual identities with our groaning, patchwork collective consciousness.

This is an essay about how a particular video game – an acclaimed 2005 adventure game called Shadow of the Colossus – unmistakably echoes Romanticism (specifically, German Romanticism and its related movements). Quite a bit of second-hand research has gone into this analysis, and I’m ecstatic about the results, but the whole mess would have very little meaning if I wasn’t talking about something bigger than a particular reading of a particular game, according to this particular player at this particular moment.

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Reposted with permission from: Berfrois

Your Body, Their Property by Osagie K. Obasogie

In biology, ethics, law, medicine, science, technology on October 5, 2013 at 01:19

From: Your Body, Their Property by Osagie K. Obasogie, Boston Review, http://www.bostonreview.net

An important example of this can be seen in the litigation surrounding John Moore’s spleen. Moore was a Seattle businessman who suffered from hairy cell leukemia, a rare cancer that caused his spleen to grow to fourteen times its normal size. Moore first traveled to UCLA Medical Center in 1976 for treatment, where Dr. David Golde told him that he should have his spleen removed. Moore complied and returned to UCLA for follow-up examinations with Golde for several years after the surgery. During the visits he routinely gave blood, skin, and other biological materials. Moore was told that these return visits and sample withdrawals were a necessary part of his ongoing treatment. What he was not told, however, was that Golde and the university were cashing in.

Researchers quickly realized that Moore’s cells were unique. The scientists took portions of Moore’s spleen to distill a specialized cell line—affectionately called “Mo”—and found that the cells could be useful in treating various diseases. Golde, researcher Shirley Quan, and UCLA were assigned a patent for the cell line in 1984. At the time, analysts estimated that the market for treatments stemming from Moore’s spleen was worth roughly $3 billion. Golde worked with a private company and received stock options worth millions, and UCLA also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in outside funding. Moore, whose spleen made all of this possible, received no compensation.

Moore sued the researchers and UCLA, claiming not only that they deceived him for their own financial benefit, but also that he was entitled to a portion of the revenues stemming from the Mo cell line because his property—his spleen and other biological materials—was taken from him and commercialized without his consent. In 1990 the California Supreme Court found that Golde and UCLA did not fulfill their disclosure obligations. Yet Moore was not owed a penny since the Court found that he no longer had a property interest in his own spleen once it was removed and used for research.

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Reposted with permission from: Boston Review

After the Social Media Hype: Dealing with Information Overload by Geert Lovink

In information, internet, philosophy, psychology, society, technology on September 9, 2013 at 16:01

From: After the Social Media Hype: Dealing with Information Overload by Geert Lovink, e-flux, http://www.e-flux.com

The question on the table is—following Foucault—how to minimize domination and shape new technologies of the self. Why has the internet industry bred its own monsters of centralization and control (Google, Facebook, Amazon) while promising the opposite? What bothers us is our own survival. Which techniques are effective in reducing the social noise and permanent data floods that scream for attention? What kind of online platforms facilitate lasting forms of organization? We’re not merely talking here about filters that delete spam and “kill” your ex. As the state of internet discourse shows, it is all about training and repetition (as Aristotle already emphasized). There is no ultimate solution. We will need to constantly train ourselves to focus, while remaining open to new currents that question the very foundations of our direction. This is not merely a question of distributing our concentration. When do we welcome the Other, and when should it be jammed? When do we stop searching and start making? There are times when our real-time communication weaponry should be fired up for mobilization and temporary spectre dominance, until the evening sets in and it is time to chill out and open other doors of perception. But when do these times ever arrive?

As Peter Sloterdijk already noticed in his You Must Change Your Life (2009), training is key. The “anthropotechnic approach,” as Sloterdijk calls it, is different from the rational IT world of engineers in that in it is cyclical, not linear. It is not about concepts and debugging. Instead, it is about workouts. Self-improvement will have to come from inside, in the gym. If we want to survive as individuals while maintaining a relationship of sorts with (potentially addictive) gadgets and online platforms, we will have to get into fitness mode—and stay there. In extreme cases, visiting a Social Media Anonymous group might be helpful, but what average users need is merely a minor trigger to instigate the process of forgetting the gadget world.

Some may view the idea of improvement through repetition as conservative and anti-innovative. In an environment where paradigm shifts happen overnight, planned obsolescence—not durability—is the rule. But Sloterdijk’s emphasis on exercises and repetition, combined with Richard Sennett’s argument (in The Craftman [2009]) in favor of skills, help us to focus on tools (such as the diary) that we can use to set goals in the morning and reflect in the evening on the improvements that we made during the day. However, the disruptive nature of real-time news and social media needs to find a place in this model. In the meantime, Sloterdijk remains ambivalent about the use of information technology. It is clearly not on his mind. In his recently published dairy covering the years 2008–2011 (called Zeilen und Tage and running to 637 pages), I counted precisely one entry that deals explicitly with the internet. In this short entry, he describes the internet as a universal bazaar and Hype Park Gemüsekiste. The same could be said of Slavoj Zizek, who admits that he is not the world’s hippest philosopher.2 Even though both use laptops and internet intensely, information technology has not (yet?) been an object of inquiry in their work.

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Reposted with permission from: e-flux

What’s Wrong with Technological Fixes? with Evgeny Morozov

In information, internet, interview, philosophy, psychology, society, technology on July 18, 2013 at 17:07

From: What’s Wrong with Technological Fixes? Terry Winograd Interviews Evgeny Morozov, Boston Review, http://www.bostonreview.net

Morozov characterizes this impulse to fix everything as “solutionism,” and offers two broad challenges to the solutionist sensibility. First, solutionists often turn public problems into more bite-sized private ones. Instead of addressing obesity by regulating the content of food, for example, they offer apps that will ‘nudge’ people into better personal choices. Second, solutionists overlook the positive value in the ‘vices’ they seek to ‘cure.’ According to Morozov, some of life’s good things come from ignorance rather than knowledge; opacity rather than transparency; ambivalence rather than certainty; vagueness rather than precision; hypocrisy rather than sincerity; messy pondering of imponderables rather than crisp efficiency. As these challenges reveal, Morozov’s critique is, in the end, animated by a sensible picture of human life that suggests a more modest view of technology than solutionists have proposed.

TW: A key element of many solutionist approaches is a focus on devices and techniques to shape the actions of individuals. For example you quote Tim Chang, head of a major venture fund investing in “Quantified Self” apps that allow users to track their vital statistics: “the only way we’ll fix our horribly broken healthcare system is by getting consumers to think about health and not healthcare.” In addition to the turn to “consumer,” I would imagine there are underlying assumptions here you don’t share about the framing of the problem. Is that right?

EM: One of the arguments I make in the book is that it’s impossible to understand the appeal or impact of technologies for self-tracking outside of the specific domain where they are introduced. So if we want to understand how the many tools advocated by the Quantified Self crowd would affect, say, health, we need to know something about how the notions of health and disease have changed in the last five decades and what role not only science but also the pharmaceutical industry has played in this process. I’ve read a bit in sociology and anthropology of health and medicine and one unmissable trend there is the growing concern with what academics call “biomedicalization”—which is like the good old medicalization, with its imperialistic tendencies to redescribe all experiences and concerns in the language of modern medicine, but now boosted by the techno-scientific apparatus of biological sciences.

If you follow the arguments of some prominent voices in this field—say anthropologists like Joe Dumit—you’ll see that they draw an interesting connection between this constant search for new symptoms and the financial interests of Big Pharma, who, of course, wants to sell us more and more drugs to treat more and more diseases. So this is the context in which I think we should view the proliferation of various devices for self-tracking. And seen in this light, the picture isn’t very pretty. So part of what I’m arguing in the book is that it’s wrong to just celebrate these new ways of self-tracking—the fact that we can now build sensors into our t-shirts to monitor our health—without having some deeper views on how we think about health and disease. I’m actually not interested in advancing one view of health over another in this book; all I’m trying to do is to point out that most debates about self-tracking technologies—at least those we hear in the public arena—sidestep these issues and just present these tools as ways for us to know more about ourselves, etc. That’s why solutionists have such an easy time: they do not complicate their stories, framing all of their innovations as giant steps towards progress and Enlightenment.

Read the interview

Reposted with permission from: Boston Review

Edward Snowden on Why He Stood Up to the NSA with Amy Goodman

In government, human rights, information, interview, news, politics, privacy, technology, video on July 12, 2013 at 18:39

From: Edward Snowden on Why He Stood Up to the NSA: Mass Spying “Not Something I’m Willing to Live Under” with Amy Goodman, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, Democracy Now!, http://www.democracynow.org

GLENN GREENWALD: Was there a specific point in time that you can point to when you crossed the line from contemplation to decision making and commitment to do this?

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I grew up with the understanding that the world I lived in was one where people enjoyed a sort of freedom to communicate with each other in privacy, without it being monitored, without it being measured or analyzed or sort of judged by these shadowy figures or systems, any time they mention anything that travels across public lines. I think a lot of people of my generation, anybody who grew up with the Internet, that was their understanding. As we’ve seen the Internet and government’s relation to the Internet evolve over time, we’ve seen that sort of open debate, that free market of ideas, sort of lose its domain and be shrunk.

GLENN GREENWALD: But what is it about that set of developments that makes them sufficiently menacing or threatening to you that you are willing to risk what you’ve risked in order to fight them?

EDWARD SNOWDEN: I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talked to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. And that’s not—that’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under. So, I think anyone who opposes that sort of world has an obligation to act in a way they can. Now, I’ve watched and waited and tried to do my job in the most policy-driven way I could, which is to wait and allow other people, you know, wait and allow our leadership, our figures, to sort of correct the excesses of government when we go too far. But as I’ve watched, I’ve seen that’s not occurring, and in fact we’re compounding the excesses of prior governments and making it worse and more invasive. And no one is really standing to stop it.

Watch to video & read the full transcript

Reposted according to copyright notice from: Democracy Now! website

On Privacy by Jill Priluck

In government, history, information, law, North America, politics, privacy, technology on July 3, 2013 at 18:09

From: On Privacy by Jill Priluck, N + 1, http://nplusonemag.com

No one law or right governs privacy in the United States. The word privacy doesn’t appear in the Constitution, and some skeptics even refer to it as a “so-called” right. But there is a basis for American privacy law, and a good place to start is the fourth item in the Bill of Rights, now known as the Fourth Amendment. “The right of the people,” the Fourth Amendment states, “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

This right dates to the struggle against government abuse in the colonial era, when it was common practice for British officials to search homes and shops for smuggled goods. In 1761, Boston merchants questioned the legality of this practice—and the vague permits, or writs, that authorized it—arguing that it violated the colonists’ “natural” rights. So fierce was the sentiment against these searches that when Advocate General and Cape Cod native James Otis was ordered by his superiors to defend them, he resigned and represented the Boston merchants for free. Otis called the writs “a power that places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer.” A man’s home was “his castle,” he argued, “and whilst he is quiet, he is well guarded as a prince in his castle.” Otis lost the case, and the British magistrate deemed the writs legal, but Otis won a reputation as a patriot. Among the spectators who saw his argument was a 25-year-old John Adams, later the architect of the Fourth Amendment.

In the centuries since, American privacy law has developed on the basis of much more than the Fourth Amendment, and has gone on to cover reproductive and sexual rights and even the distribution of commercial media, such as newspaper photographs and advertisements. At the same time, the concept of Fourth Amendment “privacy” has gradually expanded. The definition of “home”—and “papers and effects”—has broadened as courts have defined the reasonableness of searches and seizures, the meaning of “probable cause,” and what constitutes a “search” or “seizure” in the first place.

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Reposted with permission from: N + 1

Forget 1984 and Conspiracy Stories by Federico Pistono

In information, internet, politics, privacy, society, technology on June 17, 2013 at 19:53

From: Forget 1984 and Conspiracy Stories, This is the Real Thing by Federico Pistono, IEET, http://ieet.org

Imagine… A world where whistleblowers who expose the government’s overwhelming deceit, corruption, illegality, and brutality are put in solitary confinement for 1,000 days—and tortured—without a trial, by that same powerful government. A world where legal boundaries for the power establishments are becoming thinner and thinner, where people can be put in indefinite detention without a trial; and immensely powerful governments can get away with obscene acts of torture, with little to no consequences at all. A world where corporations and governments track our every move without us even knowing.

Such a dystopic future would put Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World to shame. But it is in fact the world we live in today, whether we realise it or not.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, and thousands of other tech companies are offering their services ‘free of charge’, but not for free. You are the product. Specifically, your information is; and as technology advances, this information will become more and more personal. Given the rate of change in technology, it’s very likely that in 15 years we will have ubiquitous computing, smart objects and sensors connected to the Internet that collect and report everything they see and hear, maybe even neural implants that access some of our thoughts.

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Reposted with permission from: IEET

A Graceful Exit: Taking Charge at the End of Life by Claudia Rowe

In ethics, medicine, philosophy, sociology, technology on June 4, 2013 at 01:02

From: A Graceful Exit: Taking Charge at the End of Life. How can we break the silence about what happens when we’re dying? by Claudia Rowe, YES! Magazine, http://www.yesmagazine.org

Despite our myriad technological advances, the final stages of life in America still exist as a twilight purgatory where too many people simply suffer and wait, having lost all power to have any effect on the world or their place in it. No wonder we’re loathe to confront this. The Patient Self-Determination Act, passed in 1990, guarantees us the right to take some control over our final days by creating advance directives like the one my mother made me sign, yet fewer than 50 percent of patients have done so. This amazes me.

“We have a death taboo in our country,” says Barbara Coombs Lee, whose advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, pushed Washington and Oregon to pass laws allowing doctors to prescribe life-ending medication for the terminally ill. “Americans act as if death is optional. It’s all tied into a romance with technology, against accepting ourselves as mortal.”

It’s hardly surprising that medical personnel would drive this reexamination of our final days. Coombs Lee, who spent 25 years as a nurse and physician’s assistant, considers her current advocacy work a form of atonement for the misery she visited on terminal patients in the past—forcing IV tubes into collapsed veins, cracking ribs open for heart resuscitation.

“I had one elderly patient who I resuscitated in the I.C.U., and he was livid,” she says. “He shook his fist at me, ‘Barbara, don’t you ever do that again!’ We made a deal that the next time it happened we would just keep him comfortable and let him go, and that’s what we did.”

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Reposted with permission from: YES! Magazine

Any Sufficiently Advanced Civilization… by Rachel Armstrong

In civilisation, ecology, nature, technology on May 27, 2013 at 18:26

From: Any Sufficiently Advanced Civilization is Indistinguishable from Nature by Rachel Armstrong, IEET, http://www.ieet.org/

In Western cultures, nature is a cosmological, primal ordering force and a terrestrial condition that exists in the absence of human beings. Both meanings are freely implied in everyday conversation. We distinguish ourselves from the natural world by manipulating our environment through technology. In What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly proposes that technology behaves as a form of meta-nature, which has greater potential for cultural change than the evolutionary powers of the organic world alone.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” [1]

 

With the advent of ‘living technologies’ [2], which possess some of the properties of living systems but are not ‘truly’ alive, a new understanding of our relationship to the natural and designed world is imminent. This change in perspective is encapsulated in Koert Van Mensvoort’s term ‘next nature’, which implies thinking ‘ecologically’, rather than ‘mechanically’. The implications of next nature are profound, and will shape our appreciation of humanity and influence the world around us.

Alan Turing noted in his essay on morphogenesis that mathematical abstraction couldn’t capture the richness of the natural world [6]. Life is a complex system that is governed by a variety of unique processes that machines simply do not possess. Life responds to its environment, constantly changes with time and is made up of functional components that enables life the ability to self-regulate [7]. Complexity challenges the epistemological basis on which modern science and industry are grounded.

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Reposted with permission from: IEET

Voices of Opposition Against CISPA

In government, media, news, privacy, technology on April 22, 2013 at 02:31

From: Voices of Opposition Against CISPA, Electronic Frontier Foundation, http://www.eff.org

Here is a list of organizations and influential people that expressed concerns about the dangerous civil liberties implications of the bill. Though each organization or person may differ in their terminology, they all reach the same conclusion—CISPA is not a “sharing of information bill only.” It is an expansive bill that enables spying on users and allows for unaccountable companies and government agencies that can skirt privacy laws.

American Library Association in ALA CISPA Information Page

“This bill would trump all current privacy laws including the forty-eight state library record confidentiality laws as well as the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Wiretap Act, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the Privacy Act.

Mozilla in a statement to Forbes:

“While we wholeheartedly support a more secure Internet, CISPA has a broad and alarming reach that goes far beyond Internet security. The bill infringes on our privacy, includes vague definitions of cybersecurity, and grants immunities to companies and government that are too broad around information misuse. We hope the Senate takes the time to fully and openly consider these issues with stakeholder input before moving forward with this legislation.”

Free Press in Free Press Action Fund Joins Stop Cyber Spying Week to Protest CISPA

“As it stands, CISPA could lead all too easily to governmental and corporate violations of our privacy and attacks on our right to speak freely via the Internet. While there is a need to protect vital national interests, we can’t do it at the expense of our freedoms.”

Find out more at the EFF website

 

Moral Enhancement by Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson

In anthropology, ecology, ethics, nature, philosophy, psychology, society, technology on March 16, 2013 at 15:44

From: Moral Enhancement by Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson, Philosophy Now, http://philosophynow.org

For the vast majority of our 150,000 years or so on the planet, we lived in small, close-knit groups, working hard with primitive tools to scratch sufficient food and shelter from the land. Sometimes we competed with other small groups for limited resources. Thanks to evolution, we are supremely well adapted to that world, not only physically, but psychologically, socially and through our moral dispositions.

But this is no longer the world in which we live. The rapid advances of science and technology have radically altered our circumstances over just a few centuries. The population has increased a thousand times since the agricultural revolution eight thousand years ago. Human societies consist of millions of people. Where our ancestors’ tools shaped the few acres on which they lived, the technologies we use today have effects across the world, and across time, with the hangovers of climate change and nuclear disaster stretching far into the future. The pace of scientific change is exponential. But has our moral psychology kept up?

With great power comes great responsibility. However, evolutionary pressures have not developed for us a psychology that enables us to cope with the moral problems our new power creates. Our political and economic systems only exacerbate this. Industrialisation and mechanisation have enabled us to exploit natural resources so efficiently that we have over-stressed two-thirds of the most important eco-systems.

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Reposted with permission from: Philosophy Now

Will the elderly be taken care of by robots? by Dick Pelletier

In science, society, technology on January 27, 2013 at 03:47

From: Will the elderly be taken care of by robots? by Dick Pelletier, IEET, http://ieet.org/

Two-legged robotic systems will also advance as we wind through the next two decades. Willow Garage, a Menlo Park, CA maker of robot hardware and software just released a test version of their personal robot platform, the PR2, designed to help senior citizens in their daily lives.

The machine follows the elderly around their homes, providing a number of essential services, which include enabling Internet access, medicine reminders, opening doors, grabbing the morning paper; and retrieving objects from drawers such as clothes, pill bottles, and other living necessities.

Today, this system sells for a whopping $400,000, but as technologies advance in the coming years, by as early as 2020, units like these could be reasonably priced and covered by insurance companies. In addition, tomorrow’s improved heavier-duty versions will even carry handicapped patients upstairs and help with bathing procedures.

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Reposted with permission from: IEET

Property Rights in Space by Rand Simberg

In economics, ethics, politics, research, science, science fiction, space, technology, transportation on January 5, 2013 at 05:42

From: Property Rights in Space by Rand Simberg, The New Atlantis, http://www.thenewatlantis.com

Space contains valuable resources. These provide a compelling reason for entrepreneurs, investors, and governments to pursue space exploration and settlement. Asteroids are known to be rich in valuable elements like neodymium, scandium, yttrium, iridium, platinum, and palladium, most of which are rare on Earth. Because of the high price that these minerals command, harvesting them from space could possibly justify even very costly mining expeditions. This is the hope of Planetary Resources, a company recently formed and funded by Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt with the intent of mining asteroids. Similarly, Microsoft billionaire Naveen Jain has founded the company Moon Express, with plans to use robots to start mining the Moon — as early as next year, it claims. Meanwhile, Texas-based Shackleton Energy Company plans to mine ice in Shackleton Crater at the lunar south pole to provide propellant for planetary missions, and is raising funds for the venture now.

The basic technology for space travel necessary for off-planet development has of course existed for several decades; the United States did, after all, put a man on the Moon in 1969. And recent advances in spacefaring technology, like the SpaceX Falcon Heavy launcher, promise to reduce the cost of transporting people and goods to and from outer space. This new rocket will deliver about fifty metric tons of payload to low-Earth orbit at a price of $120 million, allowing material to be shipped to space for about a thousand dollars per pound — far less than the tens of thousands of dollars per pound that technologies like NASA’s retired space shuttle cost to ferry cargo. And if SpaceX or some other company can achieve the goal of partial or full reusability, the price of launching goods into orbit will likely drop much further, especially if market forces bring more competitors into the field.

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis

Sloterdijk’s Moment by David Beer

In books, civilisation, culture, media, philosophy, science, technology, theory, writers on December 16, 2012 at 16:44

From: Sloterdijk’s Moment by David Beer, berfrois, http://www.berfrois.com

Bubbles: Spheres I
by Peter Sloterdijk, translated by Wieland Hoban,
Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 663 pp.

This weighty text is the first part of what is seen as Sloterdijk’s defining and most important intellectual contribution. In this particular text the focus is upon small-scale microsphereology. Volumes two and three build upon this foundational text through a focus upon the macrospherology of globes and the plural spherology of foam (see Couture, 2009). The book itself highlights a genuine openness, resourcefulness and creativity in Sloterdijk’s thinking. He pulls together wide-ranging points of reference in his writing, many of which are unexpected and revealing. His use of art in particular opens up a visual imagination that sits alongside a set of knowing encounters with a number of important philosophical figures. Soterdijk carves a way through the tangential possibilities of bubbles by drawing upon this type of intellectual eclecticism. Actually this is something of an understatement, this book runs-riot as it lurches across the major issues of our time. These issues include globalisation on a small scale, the understanding of the divergence of nature into culture, how history shapes the now, how the individual becomes isolated into social connections, and so on. There is a rhythm at work here, with long takes interspersed with short cuts. There are slowly argued explorations of all-sorts of references juxtaposed with sudden, and sometimes disoientating, blasts of philosophical proclamation.

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Reposted with permission from: berfrois

The Asian Super Grid by John A. Mathews

In Asia, economics, government, politics, technology on November 25, 2012 at 20:30

From: The Asian Super Grid by John A. Mathews, Japan Focus, http://www.japanfocus.org

The integration of East Asia is a topic of perennial interest – whether it be monetary integration (much discussed in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis), trade integration (promoted via ever-expanding FTA areas) or even political integration. But what is not widely discussed (as yet) is actually the best hope for effective integration – and that is energy integration, via an Asian super grid linking the enhanced electric power systems of China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and perhaps Russia.

Just such an Asian Super Grid has been proposed – by the charismatic Softbank CEO Son Masayoshi, driver of Japan’s post-Fukushima shift to a renewable energy pathway. The first steps towards the Asian Super Grid (ASG) were taken in October, when SB Renewables, Son’s new subsidiary specializing in renewable energy, announced an agreement with a company in Mongolia, Newcom, to develop a site in the Gobi desert for a giant wind farm that would feed renewable power into the grid. (See ‘Softbank plans to develop wind power in Mongolia with Newcom’, by Chisake Watanabe, Bloomberg, Oct 24 2012)

By the end of 2012, it is anticipated that SB Renewables and Newcom will have identified the site for the first wind farm in the Gobi desert through a joint venture, Clean Energy Asia established in March 2012. The proposed wind farm would be rated at 300 MW (the equivalent of a thermal power plant), and could be operational as early as 2014. Feasibility studies for three other sites have already been commissioned, with power capacity of 7 GW – or the equivalent of seven nuclear power stations.

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Reposted with permission from: Japan Focus

U.S. Grants License for Laser-Powered Uranium Enrichment by Sharon Weinberger

In news, North America, research, science, technology on November 19, 2012 at 22:50

From: U.S. Grants License for Laser-Powered Uranium Enrichment by Sharon Weinberger, Scientific American, https://www.scientificamerican.com

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this week granted a licence to allow construction of a plant that uses a controversial uranium enrichment process — one that critics fear could pose a serious nuclear-proliferation risk. The plant, which would be built through a partnership between General Electric (GE) and Hitachi in Wilmington, North Carolina, could be used to enrich uranium to make fuel for nuclear reactors quickly and cheaply using a process that involves a laser.

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Reposted with permission from: Scientific American

Interstellar Hard Drive by Giles Turnbull

In astronomy, information science, science, technology on October 29, 2012 at 22:28

From: Interstellar Hard Drive by Giles Turnbull, The Morning News, http://www.themorningnews.org

All your precious data, everything you’ve created and every memory you’ve captured and stored, is etched on a hard disk somewhere on Earth. Back it up all you want—it won’t matter if the planet goes. The search for storage beyond the cloud.

The whole concept of putting physical data storage in space is flawed. Why not send the data itself. Pure data. Data is as data does.

“You could try bouncing a laser beam off something large,” muses Lucy. “Maybe Jupiter.”

But Jupiter, orbital conditions permitting, is 32 to 48 light minutes away. At the most, bouncing your data up there and back again would only back it up for just under a couple of hours. There doesn’t seem to be much point.

Surely we can manipulate light to our advantage somehow?

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Reposted with permission from: The Morning News

Utopia’s second coming by Antony Funnell with Craig Bremner and Erik Olin Wright

In audio, government, history, philosophy, politics, society, technology, theory on October 27, 2012 at 20:01

From: Utopia’s second coming by Antony Funnell with Craig Bremner and Erik Olin Wright,  ABC Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au

Excerpt from Thomas Moore documentary: In 1535 Thomas Moore is brought to trial. He is an embarrassment to the King, a living opposition to state policies. Henry must make an example of Moore.

Antony Funnell: Poor old Thomas Moore. He was a man of religion, of principle and of literature. But he lost his head, of course, for not doing the King’s bidding. Now, if you ask me, what he should have got the chop for, in my humble opinion, was for giving the world one of its great and enduring frustrations; the idea of Utopia.

Craig Bremner: Utopia is not about an ideal location, it’s about the location of ideas. And what I mean by that is that we’ve become transfixed by the description that Utopia is somewhere and can be, in a sense, attained, missing the point that it is both presented…the very, very first version, the book that Thomas Moore wrote, presented as both an ideal location, but also a location that we don’t necessarily want. And its real function is the ideas that it brings back to the here and now.

Nicole Pohl: What we have seen, certainly after 2008, with the economic collapse and now with the economic crisis, across the Western world at least, people are picking up on the study of Utopia again and are trying to imagine different forms of society’s blueprints that are precisely not either socialism or communism or capitalism.

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Reposted with permission from: ABC Radio National

How Your Cell Phone Hurts Your Relationships by Helen Lee Lin

In internet, psychology, research, science, sociology, technology on October 4, 2012 at 06:34

From: How Your Cell Phone Hurts Your Relationships by Helen Lee Lin, Scientific American, http://www.scientificamerican.com

Most of us are no stranger to this scenario:  A group of friends sits down to a meal together, laughing, swapping stories, and catching up on the news – but not necessarily with the people in front of them!  Nowadays, it’s not unusual to have one’s phone handy on the table, easily within reach for looking up movie times, checking e-mails, showing off photos, or taking a call or two.  It’s a rare person who doesn’t give in to a quick glance at the phone every now and then.  Today’s multifunctional phones have become an indispensable lifeline to the rest of the world.

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Reposted with permission from: Scientific American

The Brave New Battlefield by Shane Harris

In government, history, nature, North America, politics, science, science fiction, society, technology, war on October 3, 2012 at 06:42

From: The Brave New Battlefield by Shane Harris, Defining Ideas, A Hoover Institution Journal, http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas

While there is a tremendous amount of money and thought going towards the construction of new drones, comparatively less attention is being paid to managing the consequences of autonomous warfare. The proliferation of drones raises profound questions of morality, hints at the possibility of a new arms race, and may even imperil the survival of the human species. Many of the most important policy judgments about how to adapt the machines to a human world are being based on the assumption that a drone-filled future is not just desirable, but inevitable.

This dilemma is not restricted to the battlefield. Civilian society will eventually be deposited in this automated future, and by the time we’ve arrived, we probably won’t understand how we got there, and how the machines gained so much influence over our lives.

In any case, it is not an overstatement to say that the people building and flying these unmanned machines are wrestling now with the very fundamentals of what it means to be human. And while senior military officials and policymakers swear up and down that humans will always have at least a foot in the loop, and that the military would never deploy robots that can select and attack targets on their own, the evidence suggests otherwise.

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Reposted with permission from: Defining Ideas, A Hoover Institution Journal

India’s Gargantuan Biometric Database Raises Big Questions by Rebecca Bowe

In Asia, ethics, government, news, politics, privacy, technology on October 2, 2012 at 07:18

From: India’s Gargantuan Biometric Database Raises Big Questions by Rebecca Bowe, Electronic Frontier Foundation, https://www.eff.org

The government of India has amassed a database of 200 million Indian residents’ digital fingerprints, iris scans, facial photographs, names, addresses and birthdates. Yet this vast collection of private information is only a drop in the bucket compared to the volume of data it ultimately intends to gather. The Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), the agency that administers Aadhaar — India’s Unique Identity (UID) program — has a goal of capturing and storing this personal and biometric information for each and every one of India’s 1.2 billion residents. Everyone who enrolls is issued a 12-digit unique ID number and an ID card linked to the data.

Once it’s complete, the Aadhaar system will require so much data storage capacity that it is projected to be 10 times the size of Facebook. And while it’s optional to enroll, the program is envisioned as the basis for new mobile apps that would facilitate everything from banking transactions to the purchase of goods and services, which could make it hard for individuals to opt out without getting left behind.

India’s is the largest biometric ID scheme in the world, and the masssive undertaking raises serious questions about widespread data sharing, a lack of legal protections for users’ data, and concerns about whether adequate technical safeguards are in place to keep individuals’ information safe and secure.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: EFF website

Why Do We Use Spatial Metaphors to Talk about the Web? by PJ Rey

In internet, research, society, technology, theory on October 2, 2012 at 06:54

From: Why Do We Use Spatial Metaphors to Talk about the Web? by PJ Rey, The Society Pages, http://thesocietypages.org

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately. I even wrote an essay awhile back for The New Inquiry. But, honestly, none of the answers I come up seem complete. I’m posting this as a means of seeking help developing an explanation and to see if anyone knows of people who are taking on this question.

I think question is important because it relates to our “digital dualist” tendency to view the Web as separate from “real life.”

So far, I see three, potentially compatible, explanations:

1. Capitalism’s infinite need for expansion. Couching digital information in a language of space and territory, makes it easily integrated into the existing systems of property ownership and commodification. Digital information is equated to something we already know how to buy and sell: land. It provides a new target for imperialistic ambitions.

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Reposted with permission from: The Society Pages

On Never Being Alone Again by Zygmunt Bauman

In civilisation, community, Europe, government, North America, privacy, society, sociology, technology, war on September 28, 2012 at 04:52

From: On Never Being Alone Again by Zygmunt Bauman, Social Europe Journal, http://www.social-europe.eu

Two apparently unconnected items of news appeared on the same day, 19 June – though one can be forgiven overlooking their appearance… As any news, they arrived floating in an “information tsunami” – just two tiny drops in a flood of news meant/hoped to do the job of enlightening and clarifying while serving that of obscuring and befuddling.

One item, authored by Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker, informed of the spectacular rise in the number of drones reduced to the size of a dragonfly, or of a hummingbird comfortably perching on windowsills; both designed, in the juicy expression of Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, “to hide in plain sight”. The second, penned down by Brian Shelter, proclaimed the internet to be “the place where anonymity dies”. The two messages spoke in unison, they both augured/portended the end of invisibility and autonomy, the two defining attributes of privacy – even if each of the two items was composed independently of the other and without awareness of the other’s existence.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from The Social Europe website

Is There an End to DR Congo’s Suffering? by César Chelala

In Africa, ethics, government, news, politics, society, technology, war on September 17, 2012 at 01:07

Is There an End to DR Congo’s Suffering? by César Chelala, Common Dreams, https://www.commondreams.org

DR Congo. A relative holds a war-wounded patient’s hand in a Goma hospital. (Photo: © ICRC / Phil Moore)

The rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), which has spread to the South Kivu province, has caused the humanitarian situation in the country to deteriorate significantly, warned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Human Rights Watch. The conflict in the DR Congo has already caused almost 6 million victims and caused enormous environmental damages.

Behind the war in Congo are what are called “conflict minerals,” such as coltan. Coltan is the name for Columbite-tantalite, a black mineral found in great quantities in Congo, from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted. Coltan is a crucial element in creating devices that store energy, and which are used in a wide array of small electronic devices such as cell phones, laptop computers and prosthetic devices for humans. Once coltan is processed, then it is sold to big companies which use it to make their products. Although it is mined in several countries, Congo has large amounts of this mineral.

The prime exploiters of coltan in the Congo are Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, whose proxy militias are responsible for thousands of rapes and killings, part of a history of exploitation of natural resources such as coltan, cassiterite, wolframite and gold. In addition, the Congo has 30% of the world’s diamond reserves. To exploit more freely those resources, militias from those countries have conducted for years campaigns of intimidation, and brutal rapes and killings, leaving afterwards a terrorized local population.

Although Rwanda and Uganda possess little or no coltan, their exports escalated exponentially during the Congo war. For example, recorded coltan production in Rwanda increased from 50 tons in 1995 to 1,300 tons in 2001, when coltan was the biggest single export earner. Much of that increase was due to the fraudulent re-export of Congolese coltan. The Tantalum-Niobium International Study Centre in Belgium has asked international buyers to avoid buying Congolese coltan on ethical grounds. Because international dealers are under pressure not to buy from the DRC, however, they circumvent this prohibition by having Congolese coltan re-exported as Rwanda’s.

“The consequences of illegal exploitation have been twofold: (a) a massive availability of financial resources for the Rwandan Patriotic Army, and the individual enrichment of top Ugandan military commanders and civilians; (b) the emergence of illegal networks headed by either top military officers or businessmen,” noted a UN report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources.

The DRC has half of Africa’s forests and water resources. However, because of uncontrolled mining, the land in the DRC is being eroded and there is significant pollution of lakes and rivers.

To make matters even more troublesome, this war-ravaged country has a new emerging rebel group, known as March 23 or M23 Movement. While the government forces are being backed by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, rebel forces are backed by Uganda and Rwanda. All sides take advantage of the chaos reigning in the country to plunder its considerable natural resources. The conflict has resulted not only in the loss of millions of lives, but also on increased levels of disease and malnutrition, creating one of the worst health emergencies to unfold in Africa in recent times.

The M23 forces answer to Gen. Bosco “the Terminator” Ntaganda, who is a fugitive wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. He has been accused of rape, murder and child-soldier recruitment. Although his forces are trying to show that they can administer territory better than the central government in Kinshasa, many are skeptical of those claims. More significantly, there is widespread fear that the M23 forces will reignite a wider regional conflict.

Rwanda, which has been a key player in these events, has been charged by the UN and by Human Rights Watch of backing M23, and provoking an increase in tension between Rwanda and the DR Congo. Rwandan President Paul Kagame did not attend a recent regional meeting aimed at finding a solution to the continuous unrest in eastern Congo.

Without a concerted international effort aimed at curbing Rwanda’s support for rebel forces operating in eastern Congo, notably the M23 movement, there won’t be a solution to the DR Congo’s problems. It is time to stop the bloodletting of a country made poor by its own riches.

César Chelala

 César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).

Reposted with permission from: Common Dreams

 

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