Pluralistic: 17 Nov 2020

Today's links

Cross-Media Sci-Fi with Amber Benson and John Rogers (permalink)

Today in the Attack Surface Lectures – the 8 panels I ran with Tor Books and 8 indie bookstores to coincide with the release of the third Little Brother book in Oct: John Rogers and Amber Benson on Cross-Media SF, hosted by Brookline Booksmith.

If you'd prefer to watch without commercial surveillance, there's a mirror of this video on the Internet Archive:

and here's an MP3 of just the audio:

I'm releasing an episode every day; yesterday's was Politics and Protest with Ron Deibert and Eva Galperin:

You can also get the audio every day through my podcast feed (search for "Cory Doctorow Podcast" or use the RSS):

Here's a master post with all the episodes as they're added:

Storage Wars (permalink)

Here's what K-shaped recovery looks like: New Yorkers, out of money and options, move into smaller quarters with their families, putting their treasures into storage, only to discover they can't afford the storage fees – and now they're facing a wave of storage evictions.

The evictions are driven by a second wave of storage-rentals, as middle class people lose their homes or evacuate NYC and go shopping for storage space; self-storage owners want their nonpaying customers out so they can grab some of this business.

The storage eviction process has some formal requirements that make it hard for the company owners to just throw people's stuff out or auction it off, so they're offering deals to their tenants-in-arrears, like waiving some back rent in exchange for immediate departure.

Though the law puts limits on throwing away or auctioning off lockers, there's little regulation otherwise: locker companies are free to hike rents, levy late-payment surchages, etc, almost without limit.

In its coverage, The City gets at the human cost of this: widows who want to retrieve their wedding photos before their locker contents are auctioned off for pennies are told they have to come up with $940 in fees and penalties first.

Today, these lockers are full of the worldly goods of people in shelters, people in housing precarity. Tomorrow, they'll house the possessions of the formerly affluent, who are sliding down the same slope.

If you are or know someone facing a locker eviction, try Legal Aid’s Access to Benefits Helpline (888-663-6880), or visit your borough's Human Resources Administration to apply for an emergency storage grant.

(Image: Self Storage, CC BY-SA)

Embedded machine learning (permalink)

One of the machine learning researchers I follow closely is Pete Warden, who writes extensively about the hardware side of ML, something we hear very little about beyond vague accounts of the power-consumption and carbon footprints of cloud-based GPUs.

Last month, Warden presented a talk predicting that there would be " tens or hundreds of billions of [embedded ML] devices over the next few years."

In a followup, Warden explains: the rise of Tinyml (a machine learning framework for low-powered, embedded processors) and the trends in hardware point to a near-future scenario where a $0.50 CPU replicates today's high-power, networked based speech recognition systems.

All powered by a coin battery that lasts a year. That brings standalone voice interfaces to all kinds of appliances (he also predicts "sensor applications for logistics, agriculture, and health" based on low-powered, standalone embedded processors.

The infrastructure for these systems is coming from multiple quarters. Take Mcunet, which "designs compact neural networks that deliver unprecedented speed and accuracy for deep learning on IoT devices, despite limited memory and CPU."

At the heart of Mcunet is Tinynas, which allows developers to tailor the size of their neural nets to the capabilities of small, low-powered processors, pruning away instructions for rarely invoked processes.

Early results are promising. Previous ML image classifiers of this scale capped out at 54% accuracy; with Mcunet, an MIT team brought that up to 70.7% – in a field where 1% accuracy bumps are considered impressive.

All of this is in service to a better version of machine learning, one where the classifier lives on your device and doesn't transmit observations to a vendor: surveillance-free decision-support.

(Image: Cryteria, CC BY, modified)

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Schneier: Why didn’t anti-virus apps defend us against Sony’s rootkit?,1294,69601,00.html

#15yrsago Sony still advising public to install rootkits

#15yrsago 5000 music cylinders digitized and posted

#10yrsago Understanding COICA, America’s horrific proposed net-censorship bill

#10yrsago Is Batman’s evidence admissible in court?

#5yrsago The Internet will always suck

#5yrsago Hello From the Magic Tavern: hilarious, addictive improv podcast

#5yrsago 500 phrases from scientific publications that are correlated with bullshit

#5yrsago There is no record of US mass surveillance ever preventing a large terror attack

#5yrsago How Hamilton, ON’s violent “accountability” councilor intimidated a journalist out of City Hall

#5yrsago The final Pratchett: The Shepherd’s Crown

#1yrago Supercut of British voters insulting Boris Johnson on the campaign trail

#1yrago China is still harvesting organs from prisoners and covering it up

#1yrago Extinction Rebellion floats a drowned house down the Thames

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: The Wolf in the Living Room (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 535 words (84752 total).

Currently reading: The Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 23)

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When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla