The State of Us – Audio Version
Two stories about the collision between Big Tech and the nation state.
Welcome to New World Same Humans, a weekly newsletter on trends, technology, and society by David Mattin.
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This week two stories caught my eye.
Both, in their own way, offer a window on to the high-energy collision between the state and powerful technology platforms.
So this week, a note on that collision. Our journey starts with a doorbell in Oxford.
Links in this week’s instalment
2. Meanwhile, on Friday a new Face Pay system launched across over 240 metro stations in Moscow.
3. It’s telling that in stories about the Moscow metro this week, journalists seeking a comparison with the Global North reached for Amazon One, a biometric payment system that allows users to pay with their palm print.
4. See the way China has moved definitively in recent months to seize control of Jack Ma’s vast Ant Group.
5. Back in Algorithms with Chinese Characteristics I compared the AI-fuelled, data-driven surveillance-and-control system that Amazon is building around its own workers to the technostate that China is building arounds its citizens.
6. This week’s Ring doorbell story is a reminder – along with the recent launch of the Astro in-home robot – that Amazon isn’t just building a surveillance system around its own workers: it’s building one around us all.
7. There’s never been a corporation driven by such ambition to know everything about us: the streets we live on, what’s happening inside our houses, and even what’s going on, moment to moment, inside our bodies.
8. In this week’s New Week Same Humans I wrote about the European Parliament vote to constrain the use of facial recognition systems.
Thanks for listening this week.
We humans are intractably social creatures; we must live together. Out of that truth emerges the need for the state. And since its beginnings, this newsletter has been obsessed by the implications that a connected world has for the nature of state power.
That’s no surprise: this story is a classic case of new world, same humans. And that’s why NWSH will continue to track the collision between the state and Big Tech in the years ahead.
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I’ll be back as usual on Wednesday; until then, be well.