Tag Archives: Hi-Tech

Was machen wir morgen?

Mitten in Hamburg auf dem Containerterminal lässt sich die Zukunft der Arbeit besichtigen.

Ein Aprilmorgen, der Himmel milchig blau, Sonnenglitzern auf dem Wasser, da setzt sich die Zukunft in Bewegung. Ein Automated Guided Vehicle, AGV 87, fährt ruckelnd an, ein rollendes Tablett auf mannshohen Rädern, 34 Tonnen. Das Ding sieht aus wie ein Lastwagen ohne Fahrerhaus. Und ohne Fahrer. In einer sanften Kurve zieht der ferngesteuerte Untersatz über den Asphalt und nähert sich einem silbergrauen Blechkasten, der Ladestation. AGV 87 bremst, steht. Eine Klappe öffnet sich am Blechkasten, und ein Ladearm, dick wie ein Zaunpfahl, schiebt sich tief in die elektrischen Eingeweide des Rollwagens, dann fließt Energie. Die Batterie des Wagens wird aufgeladen, 90 Minuten lang. Ohne Tankwart, wie von Geisterhand.

Dann setzt sich AGV 87 wieder in Bewegung, energiegeladen für 18 Stunden, reiht sich ein ins Hin und Her der 91 fahrbaren Containertransporter, die an unsichtbaren Fäden Güter und Waren über den Terminal bewegen, computergesteuert, überwacht von 19.000 Transpondern im Boden. Alles, was Menschen brauchen, wird hier umgeschlagen. Aber es braucht keine Menschen mehr für den Umschlag.

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Posted by on October 2, 2018 in Reportages


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Common Cyborg

I’m nervous at night when I take off my leg. I wait until the last moment before sleep to un-tech because I am a woman who lives alone and has been stalked, so I don’t feel safe in my home on crutches. How would I run? How would I fight back? Instead of taking Klonopin, I read the Economist. The tone is detached. There is war, but always elsewhere.


When I tell people I am a cyborg, they often ask if I have read Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’. Of course I have read it. And I disagree with it. The manifesto, published in 1985, promised a cyberfeminist resistance. The resistance would be networked and coded by women and for women to change the course of history and derange sexism beyond recognition. Technology would un-gender us. Instead, it has been so effective at erasing disabled women1 that even now, in conversation with many feminists, I am no longer surprised that disability does not figure into their notions of bodies and embodiment. Haraway’s manifesto lays claim to cyborgs (‘we are all cyborgs’) and defines the cyborg unilaterally through metaphor. To Haraway, the cyborg is a matter of fiction, a struggle over life and death, a modern war orgy, a map, a condensed image, a creature without gender. The manifesto coopts cyborg identity while eliminating reference to disabled people on which the notion of the cyborg is premised. Disabled people who use tech to live are cyborgs. Our lives are not metaphors.

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Posted by on September 26, 2018 in Reportages


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There is a leftwing way to challenge big tech for our data. Here it is

For all its supposed complexity, our digital future does have a logic shaping its basic foundations. It’s mostly an interplay of two conflicting dynamics: one of data extractivism – propelled primarily by big tech’s dependence on new sources of data; and one of data distributism – propelled by all those opposed to big tech’s rapid ascendance.

The latest example of the former dynamic comes from the Wall Street Journal, which has uncovered Facebook’s efforts to cajole banks into sharing their customers’ data, including account balances and card transactions (Facebook says it’s not “actively” seeking such data).

With this move, Facebook wants to ensure that its services are used to perform tasks as trivial as contacting the bank’s support desk or making payments. And the longer we stay on the site to access our data, the more new data it collects. On Facebook, all roads lead to data extractivism.

Supporters of data distributism have no unifying ideology. However, they are firmly united in opposing the status quo, whereby technology platforms serve as self-appointed custodians of the world’s data.

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Posted by on September 12, 2018 in Uncategorized


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Der Traum vom Tech-Staat

In Zeiten der Digitalisierung fühlt sich vieles wie eine Attacke der Zukunft auf das Jetzt an. Überall scheint der Zeitgenosse von Science-Fiction umstellt; Visionen, die ihn in ein Morgen beamen, von dem er gar nicht wusste, dass er es sich so sehnlich erträumte. Ein Sinnbild dieser erstaunlichen Exzentrik schuf zuletzt Silicon Valleys Chef-Innovator Elon Musk. In einem sensationellen Vorspiel auf künftige Marsflüge jagte er eine SpaceX-Rakete, mit einem Tesla Roadster bestückt, in den Orbit. Seither kreist – im Live-Stream übertragen – ein «Raumfahrer» in einer Mischung aus «Back to the future» und «Per Anhalter durch die Galaxis» um den Erdball. Welch schöne neue Aussicht: schwerelos im luftleeren Raum – «all watched over by machines of loving grace».

Auch jenseits solch jungenhafter Himmelsstürmerei werden wir kontinuierlich mit einem futuristischen Möglichkeitssinn konfrontiert. In unheimlichen Allianzen aus Big Tech und Big Government – einer Melange aus Konzernen, Thinktanks und staatlichen Einrichtungen – tun sich immer wieder «unerhörte» Utopien auf; gespickt mit digitalen Verheissungen verweisen sie auf eine «smarte» Gesellschaft im automatisierten Wohlfühlmodus.

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Posted by on September 12, 2018 in Reportages, South America


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There Is No Such Thing as a Smart City

The term “smart city” is interesting yet not important, because nobody defines it. “Smart” is a snazzy political label used by a modern alliance of leftist urbanites and tech industrialists. To deem yourself “smart” is to make the NIMBYites and market-force people look stupid.

Smart-city devotees all over this world will agree that London is particularly smart. Why? London is a huge, ungainly beast whose cartwheeling urban life is in cranky, irrational disarray. London is a god-awful urban mess, but London does have some of the best international smart-city conferences.

London also has a large urban-management bureaucracy who emit the proper smart-city buzzwords and have even invented some themselves. The language of Smart City is always Global Business English, no matter what town you’re in.

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Posted by on August 3, 2018 in Reportages


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Margrethe Vestager: the EU commissioner who’s taming the Tech Giants

On the last day of November 2017, the snow fell in Brussels. By the evening, a crust of white had settled on the crown of Godfrey of Bouillon, the 11th-century crusader whose statue dominates the Place Royale. Not far away, people filed into a concert hall at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, renowned for hosting great conductor-composers such as Stravinsky and Rachmaninov. However, they were not there to listen to music; they had come to hear Margrethe Vestager, the EU commissioner who has been called the “most powerful woman in Europe” and whose mission is to hold to account the world’s biggest technology companies.

Since 2014, the arts centre has hosted an annual series of debates about the future of the EU. These have been notable both for reflecting the sense of crisis on the continent – the themes have been “Reinventing Europe”, “Now or Never”, “Last Chance” and “The End of Europe?” – and for the quality of the speakers, one of whom was Emmanuel Macron, who appeared in 2014 and 2016, while he was France’s economy minister. Vestager, who is 49, shared the stage with Macron both times.

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Posted by on August 2, 2018 in Reportages


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Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over

A decade ago I bought my first smartphone, a clunky little BlackBerry 8830 that came in a sleek black leather sheath. I loved that phone. I loved the way it effortlessly slid in and out of its case, loved the soft purr it emitted when an email came in, loved the silent whoosh of its trackball as I played Brick Breaker on the subway and the feel of its baby keys clicking under my fat thumbs. It was the world in my hands, and when I had to turn it off, I felt anxious and alone.

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Posted by on July 17, 2018 in Reportages


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How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe: A Special Investigation

Things didn’t end well between George Carlo and Tom Wheeler; the last time the two met face-to-face, Wheeler had security guards escort Carlo off the premises. As president of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), Wheeler was the wireless industry’s point man in Washington. Carlo was the scientist handpicked by Wheeler to defuse a public-relations crisis that threatened to strangle his infant industry in its crib. This was back in 1993, when there were only six cell-phone subscriptions for every 100 adults in the United States. But industry executives were looking forward to a booming future.

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Posted by on April 14, 2018 in Reportages


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How a new technology is changing the lives of people who cannot speak

Last November, Joe Morris, a 31-year-old film-maker from London, noticed a sore spot on his tongue. He figured he’d bitten himself in his sleep and thought nothing more about it until halfway through the winter holidays, when he realised the sore was still with him. He Googled “cut on tongue won’t heal” and, after sifting through pages of medical information on oral cancer, he decided to call his doctor.

The cut was nothing, Joe was sure: he was a non-smoker with no family history of cancer. But he’d make an appointment, just in case.
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I’m sure it’s nothing, the doctor said. You’re not a smoker, and you’re 31 years old. But see a specialist, just in case.

I’m sure it’s nothing, the specialist said, you don’t check any of the boxes, but we’ll do a biopsy, just in case.

When the biopsy results came back positive for cancerous cells, the specialist said that the lab must have made a mistake. The second time Joe’s biopsy results came back positive, the specialist was startled. Now Joe was transferred to Guy’s hospital, which has one of the best oral cancer teams in Britain.

The oncologists at Guy’s reassured Joe again: the cancerous spot was small, and cancer of the tongue typically starts on the surface and grows inward. This tiny sore could likely be nipped out without much damage to the rest of his tongue. They’d take an MRI to make sure there wasn’t any serious inward growth, and then schedule the surgery.

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Posted by on April 7, 2018 in Reportages


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Billion-dollar debts control the future of tech industry

There’s no understanding the future of technology without understanding the future of its funders. And they have changed dramatically over the last three decades. First it was the military. Then the venture capitalists. Today, another chapter begins: massive funds, with billions to spend and often linked to governments, are technology’s new masters.

The undisputed leader is Japan’s SoftBank, which counts Uber, WeWork, Alibaba and Nvidia among its investments. Its companies make awe-inspiring robot dogs (Boston Dynamics) and offer dog walking as a service (Wag) for real canines. SoftBank’s model is simple: build stable, cash-generating businesses, such as mobile network operators; use them as collateral to borrow more funds – an investor presentation from last year put SoftBank’s “interest-bearing debt” at $125bn – and buy promising tech companies.

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Posted by on April 5, 2018 in Uncategorized