- Amazon's new employee chat app blocks "fairness," "grievance" and "diversity": "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?"
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2002, 2012, 2017, 2021
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
Amazon's new employee chat app blocks "fairness," "grievance" and "diversity" (permalink)
Amazon has an Orwell problem. Back in 2009, Amazon surprised Kindle owners by reaching into their devices over the network and deleting their copies of Nineteen Eight-Four, along with their annotations. Amazingly, this was just a garden-variety screw-up and not a piece of self-critical theater to demonstrate the risks of connected devices that allowed their manufacturers to override their owners.
The company's love affair with Orwell never ended, and they never figured out that old George wrote those books as warnings, not suggestions.
Take the company's forthcoming employee chat app Shout Outs, which will "gamify" performing grueling, low-waged work by rewarding workers with virtual stars when they "add direct business value." Leaked minutes from a high-level Nov 2021 meeting to plan this app record that Dave Clark, Amazon's head of worldwide consumer business, believes that "some people are insane star collectors."
The minutes of this meeting were leaked to The Intercept's Ken Klippenstein, whose reporting reveals that the chat app has a long list of blocked words that cannot be electronically uttered by Amazon workers, in the name of promoting a "positive community."
Included on the list:
I don’t care
This is concerning
This is dumb
A cursory glance at this list makes it clear that Amazon is very anxious about its workers discussing their working conditions ("restrooms" is a particularly telling inclusion, given the company's notorious work-station pee bottles).
But controlling its workers' vocabulary won't be enough. After a pitched battle, employees at Amazon's Staten Island JFK8 warehouse have had their union certified:
The union drive was led by Chris Smalls, the former Amazon warehouse team lead who blew the whistle on unsafe working conditions in the warehouse at the start of the covid lockdown and was fired and subjected to racist smears in retaliation.
Amazon has since doubled down on its duty to murder warehouse workers, for example, when it prohibited Illinois workers from seeking shelter last December as a deadly tornado bore down on them.
Given the depth of workers' grievances and the thickness of Amazon's margins, the idea that imposing Newspeak via a chat app will neutralize worker power is laughable.
Hey look at this (permalink)
- What If? 2: Additional Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Randall Munroe) https://bookshop.org/books/what-if-2-additional-serious-scientific-answers-to-absurd-hypothetical-questions/9780525537113 (h/t Kottke)
This day in history (permalink)
#20yrsago WiFi, Blogging and conferences — the end of the one-way “conversation?” https://web.archive.org/web/20020406182532/http://www.edventure.com/conversation/article.cfm?Counter=8648145
#10yrsago Richard Clark: the President should create customs inspections for data leaving American cyberspace https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/opinion/how-china-steals-our-secrets.html
#5yrsago How optimistic disaster stories can save us from dystopia https://www.wired.com/2017/04/cory-doctorow-walkaway/
#5yrsago The old Register of Copyrights snuck a $25M fake line-item into the budget https://www.techdirt.com/2017/04/05/another-major-scandal-copyright-office-25-million-fake-budget-line-item/
#5yrsago IoT vendor objects to “rude” review, renders complainer’s device inoperable https://www.bleepingcomputer.com/news/technology/iot-vendor-bricks-customer-product-following-negative-reviews/
#5yrsago Trump administration wants to force visitors to US to reveal social media passwords and answer questions about political beliefs https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/04/trump-extreme-vetting-visitors-to-us-share-contacts-passwords
#1yrago How Facebook will benefit from its massive breach https://pluralistic.net/2021/04/05/zucks-oily-rags/#into-the-breach
Today's top sources:
- Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. Yesterday's progress: 500 words (79677 words total).
A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE
A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED
A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED
Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.
Latest podcast: The Byzantine Premium
- Surveillance Capitalism, Borders, and the Police (San Diego DSA), Apr 14
Seize the Means of Computation, Emerging Technologies For the Enterprise, Apr 19-20
UK Competition and Markets Authority Data Technology and Analytics conference, Jun 15-16
- Initiative for Public Digital Infrastructure Podcast
The Bitcoin Podcast:
Dangerous Visions: False Dawns and Wandergrounds – Dystopia, Then and Now
- "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1562/_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer.html.
- Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022
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