The Weekest Links : guns, data, money

Hi guys, sorry I'm late. Things have been hectic here in Lisbon this week, we got the IMF coming to town and everybody's preparing either for a continued celebration of Austerity or for a renewed demonstration of how much they've had enough of poverty and unemployment. Plus the sun is shining, the tourists continue to pour into downtown and all this is sufficient to get a girl distracted and prevent her from flexing the blogging muscle. Here I am though, and this week we'll be looking at some pretty important stuff. I got my southern European tan going on, the streets are busy with laughter, and I predict a crazy hot Lisbon Summer. Watch out world rulers. It's one thing to oppress your people during winter time, when it's gray and depressing all around. It's a completely different ball game when the sky is blue, the weather's great, and everybody's checking each other's curves out. Things might get sweaty.

Ready, set, go. Here is

The week of  the 29th of April to the 7th of May, 2013

The Gatlin Gun ( via Wikipedia )

Cody Wilson and his group Defense Distributed have been all over the news this week, mostly for the wrong reasons. Their first ABS plastic handgun is out, Wilson has been taped shooting it, and the Liberator is now an undeletable part of the tech and weapons industry's historical record. Remember that part in Fight Club when Brad Pitt first meets Ed Norton on the plane and tells him he's got a kind of sick desperation in his laugh? Well, Cody Wilson's got the same thing. A sort of hopeless cynicism disguised as wannabe digital politics cool. He is, though, definitely right about how Pandora's box was already opened with the whole 3D printing business, the handgun was just a matter of time, and we might as well get it from this Foucault-quoting, Assange-emulating Texas law student than from some NRA corporate lobby, although the two may at some point become indistinguishable. 

What's frightening about Wilson and his groupies is what history is gonna do to them, like what it did to the Gatlin Gun. No one remembers Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling, no one cares about how in his later years he had turned to inventing bicycle and toilet improvements, but everyone knows what a machine gun is. From Austin, Texas to Damascus, Syria, the good doctor's gift to the world has not been lost on humanity. So let's fast-forward this century a bit and look back at our twenty-teens' amazed and worried selves, endlessly debating how the Liberator is going to change things. Things must look really pathetic from that perspective. It's obvious how this changes everything: more people will have guns. Now, instead of pointing you to the various great articles that have been written about Defense Distributed's landmark shot, Forbes and The Verge have done a nice job, here is the Wikipedia link to the Gatlin Gun, for the sake of a little perspective. Those who know the past and all that.

Data for Development ( via the BBC )

In other news, bus routes in Abidjan have been redrawn using data from 2.5 billion call records from mobile phones. Take that for improving life through technology, Cody. This thing in the Ivory Coast was sponsored by Orange, the telecommunications giant, through a project called Data for Development. They're all about open data now, and providing global research teams with anonymized datasets from their subsidiary in the African country, to "help address society development questions in novel ways". You bet. Researchers have concluded that there were a few bus lines missing, some were malfunctioning, the city's authorities jumped right in on the open data-driven governance train and voilá, as they say down there, change has come.

What's also interesting about this experiment is that the datasets didn't include any GPS data, because most people in Abidjan and in the rest of the African continent still don't own Androids. Imagine if, in places where most people do own cell computers, city management and - god forbid - city politics were wired down to the sensor level, feedback loops between people's problems and their daily data resonating throughout the land. Have a look at Orange, they clearly know where the money is.

Who Owns the Future? - a review ( via The New Republic )

I'll be straight with you, I haven't read this yet (like I said, things are hectic). But as soon as I finish typing this up I'm gonna get comfy and read what this beautifully composed piece of web at The New Republic has to say about Mr. Lanier. Who Owns the Future? is Jaron Lanier's latest book, he has spoken to James Bridle about it, and basically he's the only guy in town talking about how Free Culture is actually shrinking the digital economy and screwing up everybody except Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and all the other big players. In a computer network, the biggest computers can outcompute everyone else and turn the whole thing to their advantage - like in that thing called the global financial markets. 

Lanier is saying that that's what we got nowadays with the internet. We're being sold in packs and herds to advertisers, our social labor is unpaid, and unemployment awaits us all in the end because the robots are gonna take over. Well, he doesn't say that last part, but he is pretty gloomy about the economic prospects of artists and other type of creative and productive workers in the digital economy.  

Check the man out, not only is he smart and eloquent, but he can play weird instruments too. Not bad for a Microsoft guy. Digital economy, digital culture, digital politics: here we go.


That's it folks. You take care now and I'll see you next week, right here on stress.

Alice Politics