SIFT through the infodemic accompanying the spread of the Corona virus. I must say I haven’t encountered much in the way of conspiracy theories in Dutch language sites, but have seen it pointed to in English. Hone your crap detection skills. The Infodemic blog explains a few useful micro-skills that all take just seconds, to keep your infohygiene up. It’s a “wash your hands well” for the web.

clean hands
Image by Arlington County, license CC BY SA

Cory Doctorow formulates something that I think can go onto every list of principles organisations I work with formulate for smart cities, as well as the many data ethics discussions I sit in on.

Don’t track people, help people track the environment to feed their decisions. This flipping of perpective fits with what I posted yesterday about Peter Bihr’s approach to smart cities. It also fits with my main irritation at the state of debate about self driving cars, where all is centered on the car itself. Self driving cars will need to tap into a myriad of sensor streams from lamp posts, road pavement, and whatnot.

Cory’s approach provides agency, the standard smart city approaches tend to take it away.

Bookmarked Imagining a “smart city” that treats you as a sensor, not a thing to be sensed | Cory Doctorow’s

the idea of an Internet of Things that treats people “as sensors, not things to be sensed” — a world where your devices never share your data with anyone else to get recommendations or advice, but rather, where all the inanimate objects stream data about how busy they are and whether they’re in good repair, and your device taps into those streams and makes private recommendations, without relaying anything about you or your choices to anyone else.

As I’ve often written, the most important thing about technology isn’t what it does, but who it does it to, and who it does it for. The sizzle-reels for “smart cities” always feature a control room where wise technocrats monitor the city and everyone in it — all I’m asking is that we all get a seat in that control room.

A blog is not a commitment to frequency or volume says Fiona Voss, it’s a place to have the ability to share whenever that urge may strike you.

Why make it a blog, and not just a web page? Because if you have one thing you want to share with the world right now, chances are, eventually you’ll have another one, even if it takes a year or two. And next time, if you’ve already gone through the whole process of getting a blog online, it will be that much easier to publish your second post, and you’ll have a nice index of both your posts without any extra work. (Also, if you’re only posting once a year or so, it’s really handy for your readers if you have an RSS feed they can subscribe to.)

H/T Frank Meeuwsen

Liked A blog is not a commitment

A while ago I came across Emily Nakashima’s blog Honkathon, and there were two things that made an impression on me. The first was her post about sunset testing. The second was her posting frequency. Six posts in six years. I was impressed.
I’m not kidding……

It seems sharing play-lists is no longer an innocent behaviour, nor is playing YouTube with the sound on in the presence of automated speech recognition like Google’s, Amazon’s and Apple’s cloud connected microphones in your living room. “CommanderSongs can be spread through Internet (e.g., YouTube) and radio.

The easiest mitigation of course is not having such microphones in your home in the first place. Another is running your own ASR with your 95% standard commands localized in the device. Edge first like Candle proposes, not cloud first.

Bookmarked CommanderSong: A Systematic Approach for Practical Adversarial Voice Recognition (

The popularity of ASR (automatic speech recognition) systems, like Google Voice, Cortana, brings in security concerns, as demonstrated by recent attacks.
The impacts of such threats, however, are less clear, since they are either
less stealthy (producing noise-like voice commands) or requiring the physical
presence of an attack device (using ultrasound). In this paper, we demonstrate
that not only are more practical and surreptitious attacks feasible but they
can even be automatically constructed. Specifically, we find that the voice
commands can be stealthily embedded into songs, which, when played, can
effectively control the target system through ASR without being noticed. For
this purpose, we developed novel techniques that address a key technical
challenge: integrating the commands into a song in a way that can be
effectively recognized by ASR through the air, in the presence of background
noise, while not being detected by a human listener. Our research shows that
this can be done automatically against real world ASR applications. We also
demonstrate that such CommanderSongs can be spread through Internet (e.g.,
YouTube) and radio, potentially affecting millions of ASR users. We further
present a new mitigation technique that controls this threat.

The Guardian writes about how left wing economics seems to be landing on their own economic narrative and proposition. Mostly until now leftwing economic policies aim(ed) at shaving off some of the rough edges of the rightwing ones. Making them rear-guard skirmishes almost by definition.

Last Monday in a conversation on government and markets, I remarked it baffles me that most discussions seem to pretend there’s only government task / public ownership on one end, and (unregulated) free market on the other end. As if there isn’t an entire spectrum in between of structures, legal entities and tools that deal with ownership, control, (immoral) externalising of costs, and influence in very different ways. Aral Balkan’s recent proposal is an example of such alternatives. That false dichotomy is a ruse it seems to put any suggestion of change into a default defensive position. Which is where left wing economic politics has been for decades.

Our economic structures, as any structure humans come up with, are tools, not a force of nature, and as such can be done away with when we find we want different tools. Now definitely seems to be such a time, in the light of global challenges and many people feeling disempowered in the face of those challenges. A search for novel agency is on.

The Guardian posits that this emerging leftwing economic approach is new. The article quotes Joe Guinan and Martin O’Neill saying “If we want to live in democratic societies, then we need to … allow communities to shape their local economies …. It is no longer good enough to see the economy as some kind of separate technocratic domain in which the central values of a democratic society somehow do not apply.

This is hardly new as economics, maybe as leftwing position. Karl Polanyi (died 1964) posited much the same thing, that economic structures need to serve communities, and warned that for most of the 20th century “Instead of the economy being embedded in social relations, social relations are embedded in the economic system.” Leading an article in Renewable Matters from a year before this Guardian article to ask “What if Karl Polanyi was right?

Read The new left economics: how a network of thinkers is transforming capitalism (the Guardian)

Christine Berry, a young British freelance academic, is one of the network’s central figures. “We’re stripping economics back to basics,” she says. “We want economics to ask: ‘Who owns these resources? Who has power in this company?’ Conventional economic discourse obfuscates these questions, to the benefit of those with power.”

The new leftwing economics wants to see the redistribution of economic power, so that it is held by everyone – just as political power is held by everyone in a healthy democracy. This redistribution of power could involve employees taking ownership of part of every company; or local politicians reshaping their city’s economy to favour local, ethical businesses over large corporations; or national politicians making co-operatives a capitalist norm.