jm + dystopia   9

Austerity is an Algorithm
Fucking hell, things sound grim Down Under:
Things changed in December 2016, when the government announced that the system had undergone full automation. Humans would no longer investigate anomalies in earnings. Instead, debt notices would be automatically generated when inconsistencies were detected. The government’s rationale for automating the process was telling. “Our aim is to ensure that people get what they are entitled to—no more and no less,” read the press release. “And to crack down hard when people deliberately defraud the system.”

The result was a disaster. I’ve had friends who’ve received an innocuous email urging them to check their MyGov account—an online portal available to Australian citizens with an internet connection to access a variety of government services—only to log in and find they’re hundreds or thousands of dollars in arrears, supposedly because they didn’t accurately report their income. Some received threats from private debt collectors, who told them their wages would be seized if they didn’t submit to a payment plan.

Those who wanted to contest their debts had to lodge a formal complaint, and were subjected to hours of Mozart’s Divertimento in F Major before they could talk to a case worker. Others tried taking their concerns directly to the Centrelink agency on Twitter, where they were directed to calling Lifeline, a 24-hour hotline for crisis support and suicide prevention.

At the end of 2015, my friend Chloe received a notice claiming she owed $20,000 to the government. She was told that she had reported her income incorrectly while on Youth Allowance, which provides financial assistance to certain categories of young people.

The figure was shocking and, like others in her position, she grew suspicious. She decided to contest the debt: she contacted all of her previous employers so she could gather pay slips, and scanned them into the MyGov app. “I gave them all of my information to prove that there was no way I owed them $20,000,” she says.

The bean counters were unmoved. They maintained that Chloe had reported her after-tax income instead of her before-tax income. As a result, they increased the amount she owed to $30,000. She agreed to a payment plan, which will see her pay off the debt in fortnightly installments of $50 over the course of two decades. “I even looked into bankruptcy because I was so stressed by it,” she says. “All I could think about was the Centrelink debt, and once they upped it to 30k, I was so ashamed and sad and miserable,” she says.
austerity  algorithms  automation  dystopia  australia  government  debt-collectors  robo-debt  dole  benefit  grim-meathook-future 
10 days ago by jm
He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He's Worried About An Information Apocalypse.
“In the next two, three, four years we’re going to have to plan for hobbyist propagandists who can make a fortune by creating highly realistic, photo realistic simulations,” Justin Hendrix, the executive director of NYC Media Lab, told BuzzFeed News. “And should those attempts work, and people come to suspect that there's no underlying reality to media artifacts of any kind, then we're in a really difficult place. It'll only take a couple of big hoaxes to really convince the public that nothing’s real.”
fake-news  reality  news  ai  propaganda  future  black-mirror  media  hoaxes  dystopia 
9 weeks ago by jm
I Just Love This Juicero Story So Much
When we signed up to pump money into this juice company, it was because we thought drinking the juice would be a lot harder and more expensive. That was the selling point, because Silicon Valley is a stupid libertarian dystopia where investor-class vampires are the consumers and a regular person’s money is what they go shopping for. Easily opened bags of juice do not give these awful nightmare trash parasites a good bargain on the disposable income of credulous wellness-fad suckers; therefore easily opened bags of juice are a worse investment than bags of juice that are harder to open.
juicero  juicebros  techbros  silicon-valley  funny  dystopia  fruit  bags  juice 
april 2017 by jm
Machine Bias: There’s Software Used Across the Country to Predict Future Criminals. And it’s Biased Against Blacks. - ProPublica
holy crap, this is dystopian:
The first time Paul Zilly heard of his score — and realized how much was riding on it — was during his sentencing hearing on Feb. 15, 2013, in court in Barron County, Wisconsin. Zilly had been convicted of stealing a push lawnmower and some tools. The prosecutor recommended a year in county jail and follow-up supervision that could help Zilly with “staying on the right path.” His lawyer agreed to a plea deal.
But Judge James Babler had seen Zilly’s scores. Northpointe’s software had rated Zilly as a high risk for future violent crime and a medium risk for general recidivism. “When I look at the risk assessment,” Babler said in court, “it is about as bad as it could be.”
Then Babler overturned the plea deal that had been agreed on by the prosecution and defense and imposed two years in state prison and three years of supervision.
dystopia  law  policing  risk  risk-assessment  northpointe  racism  fortune-telling  crime 
may 2016 by jm
In China, Your Credit Score Is Now Affected By Your Political Opinions – And Your Friends’ Political Opinions
China just introduced a universal credit score, where everybody is measured as a number between 350 and 950. But this credit score isn’t just affected by how well you manage credit – it also reflects how well your political opinions are in line with Chinese official opinions, and whether your friends’ are, too.


Measuring using online mass surveillance, naturally. This may be the most dystopian thing I've heard in a while....
via:raycorrigan  dystopia  china  privacy  mass-surveillance  politics  credit  credit-score  loans  opinions 
october 2015 by jm
Coining "Dysguria"
“dysaguria” is the perfect noun, and “dysagurian” is the perfect adjective, to describe the eponymous company in Dave Eggers’ The Circle. It’s not in the same league as Orwell, or Huxley, or Bradbury, or Burgess. But it does raise very important questions about what could possibly go wrong if one company controlled all the world’s information. In the novel, the company operates according to the motto “all that happens must be known”; and one of its bosses, Eamon Bailey, encourages everywoman employee Mae Holland to live an always-on (clear, transparent) life according the maxims “secrets are lies”, “sharing is caring”, and “privacy is theft”. Eggers’s debts to dystopian fiction are apparent. But, whereas writers like Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury, and Burgess were concerned with totalitarian states, Eggers is concerned with a totalitarian company. However, the noun “dystopia” and the adjective “dystopian” – perfect though they are for the terror of military/security authoritarianism in 1984, or Brave new World, or Farenheit 451, or A Clockwork Orange – do not to my mind encapsulate the nightmare of industrial/corporate tyranny in The Circle. On the other hand, “dysaguria” as a noun and “dysagurian” as an adjective, in my view really do capture the essence of that “frightening company”.
dysaguria  dystopia  future  sf  authoritarianism  surveillance  the-circle  google  facebook 
february 2015 by jm
Smash the Engine
Jacobin Magazine on the revolutionary political allegory in "Snowpiercer":

'If Snowpiercer had merely told the tale of an oppressed working class rising up to seize power from an evil overlord, it would already have been an improvement over most of the political messages in mainstream cinema. There are all sorts of nice touches in its portrayal of a declining capitalism that can maintain its ideological legitimacy even when it literally has no more bullets in its guns. But the story Bong tells goes beyond that. It’s about the limitations of a revolution which merely takes over the existing social machinery rather than attempting to transcend it. '
dystopia  revolution  snowpiercer  movies  marxism  sf  politics 
january 2015 by jm
Uber Optics
That the company's consistent, nearly frozen posture of disingenuous smirking means that the most perceptible "Uber problem" is almost always how it frames things, rather than how it actually operates, whether it's systematically sabotaging of competitors or using its quarter-billion-dollar war chest to relentlessly cut fares and driver pay to unsustainable levels in order to undercut existing transit systems, is remarkable in its way, though. If your company's trying to conquer the world, in the end, being a dick might be the best PR strategy of all.
uber  dicks  dystopia  grim-meathook-future  teachers  california  free-markets  optics  pr  economy  america 
october 2014 by jm

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