Beyond Technological Singularity-the Posthuman Condition (Ethical Technology)

In the transmodern context, transhumanism appears as a new paradigm, with a centripetal tendency, which proposes the reinventing of man by overcoming the current biological limitations with the help of new technologies, so called human amelioration. In our work, we want to discuss in a speculative manner the possibility of the existence of the posthuman individual in the biological and moral (self) transcendence of the self. We will discuss a series of technologies capable of irreversibly modifying the human condition by placing humanity first in a transhuman or posthuman condition: technologies of virtualization of the social space that allow the transcendence of the spatial limitation of the human condition as a localized being within the finite limits, by opening up to communication and beingness in a non-topological space, the possibility of downloading the consciousness into electronic storage media, which would allow it to be in a non-biological space, that is, independent of its own corporeality and the supposed technologies of indefinite extension of life, which removes the human being from the the physical horizon of temporality and finitude. In defining the boundaries of the human condition, we have appealed to the work of the philosopher Abhinavagupta (975-1025), who was one of the greatest philosophers, aestheticians and mystics of the Shia school of Kashmir. The revaluation of the Kashmiri philosophy in the postmodern context allows us to rethink the human being’s boundaries, whose overcoming allows for a transcendence of the human condition. The boundaries identified based on the work of the Kashmirian philosopher are: limitation in temporality, limitation in the capacity for knowledge, limitation in fullness (limitation in scope - spatiality), limitation in causality, limitation in creative power. The overcoming of these ontological boundaries leads, in our opinion, to the emergence of an anthropological singularity, a concept built after the technological singularity, and implicitly of physical singularity.

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Congress Held 10 hours of Hearings on Facebook. What’s Next? (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

After grilling Mark Zuckerberg for ten hours this past week, the big question facing Congress is, “What’s next?” The wide-ranging hearings covered everything from “fake news” to election integrity to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that spurred the hearings in the first place. Zuckerberg’s testimony did not give us much new information, but did underline what we already knew going in: Facebook’s surveillance-based, advertising-powered business model creates real problems for its users’ privacy rights.

But some of those problems can be fixed. As Congress considers what to do next, here are some of our suggestions.

DO Ask For Independent Audits

Facebook mentioned cooperating with FTC audits, but we’re not clear on whether or not Facebook is allowing independent auditors to inspect the data. If we allow Facebook to control the outside world’s visibility into its data collection practices, we can never be exactly sure if Facebook is actually complying with its own assertions. Facebook, along with other large tech companies that handle massive amounts of user data, should allow truly independent researchers to regularly audit their systems. Users should not have to take the company’s word on how their data is being collected, stored, and used.

DON’T Allow Big Tech To Tell Congress How To Regulate

Several times during his testimony, Mr. Zuckerberg called for privacy regulations both for ISPs and for platforms. While we agree privacy protections are important for both of these types of businesses, they shouldn’t be conflated. The rules we need for ISPs may be significantly different from those needed for platforms. In any event, Congress shouldn’t allow the tech giants to write their own rules given their strong incentives to favor the needs of shareholders over those of the public.

For example, it will be interesting to see how Facebook implements the EU’s General Data Privacy Protections (GDPR) for their non-European users. But if Congress tries to implement something similar here, we should all be watching to make sure Big Tech doesn’t gut the most important provisions.

DO Watch Out For Unintended Effects On Speech

Several Senators and Representatives asked questions about how Facebook decided to remove content from their platform, accusing Facebook of bias and political censorship. Facebook has also been in the news recently for removing accounts and pages linked to Russian bots attempting to undermine American political discourse.

Creating a more transparent and neutral platform may sound like a worthy goal, but if Congress is going to write legislation, it should ensure that transparency and user control provisions don’t accidentally undermine online speech. For example, any disclosure laws must take care to protect user anonymity.

Additionally, the right to control your data should not turn into an unfettered right to control what others say about you—as so-called "right to be forgotten" approaches can often become. If true facts, especially facts that could have public importance, have been published by a third party, requiring their removal may mean impinging on others’ rights to free speech and access to information. A free and open Internet must be built on respect for the rights of all users.

DO Consider The Impact On Future Social Media Platforms

Tech giants come and go, and that is a good thing. In the mid-1990s, for example, it was hard to imagine a world where Microsoft was not the dominant force in the tech world. In the early 2000s, AOL email addresses and Instant Messenger were ubiquitous. Today, social media is dominated by a few platforms, but they too can be deposed. We need to make sure new regulations don’t forestall that possibility. If Congress decides to “do something” to address the problems it sees with Facebook, it’s worth considering how legislative proposals might help or hinder potential competitors.

For example, without Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, Facebook could not have moved out of Mark Zuckerberg’s dorm room in 2004. Conversely, heavy-handed requirements, particularly requirements tied to specific kinds of technology (i.e. tech mandates) could stifle competition and innovation. Used without care, they could actually give even more power to today’s tech giants by ensuring that no new competitor could ever get started

As a massive global company, Facebook has the resources to comply with anything Congress throws at it. But smaller competitors may not.

DON’T Treat Social Media The Same As Traditional Media

The foundation of a functional democracy is the ability to communicate freely with one other and our elected officials. Like television and radio before it, social media is now a crucial vehicle for that civic discussion. However, the rules that govern traditional media cannot be the same rules that govern social media. While that may seem obvious to some, Sen. Ted Cruz has already called for the fairness doctrine to incorrectly apply to digital communications platforms.

Additionally, Congress should not be taken in by the assertion that AI filters on social media platforms will magically fix all discourse problems. Overbroad censorship is inevitable, and marginalized groups will be the ones most affected. The ability of the public to freely communicate with each other, without government interference, was so important to our founding fathers that not only did they put the right to free speech and a free press at the top of the list of Constitutional amendments, they also included, in the Constitution itself, an independent agency to facilitate ordinary communication: the US Postal Service. We have to be able to talk to each other, and Congress should be careful to protect that essential cornerstone of democracy.

DO Talk to Technologists, Engineers, and Internet Lawyers

We’ve seen lots of jokes about the Senate hearings sounding like tech support talking to your grandparents about how to fix their Facebook. It’s not a surprise that many Senators don’t know the technical ways that Facebook works – and that’s actually okay. Participating in a large and complicated branch of government requires a different set of skills than running a technology company, and those skills don’t necessarily overlap with writing or understanding code. The country’s lawmakers didn’t have to be mechanics to legislate basic vehicle safety, nor did they have to be indigent widows to create the Social Security Administration.

What they do have to do is talk to some experts. Congress should be looking to a wide variety of technologists, engineers and lawyers with deep experience in tech law and policy for advice on any proposals. As Rep. Chaffetz put it in a very different context, time to bring in the nerds.

Bottom Line

Congress needs to get this right. Balancing our right to privacy with our rights to communicate and innovate may be hard, but it’s a task worth doing right.

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Large ISPs that Orchestrated the Repeal of the Open Internet Order Ask California’s Legislature to Stand Down and Just Let Them Win Already (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

The fight to protect Internet freedom is coming to California this month as the Senate Energy and Utilities Committee (April 17) and Senate Judiciary Committee (April 24) have scheduled hearings and votes on Senator Wiener’s S.B. 822, comprehensive legislation that would utilize the tools available to the state of California to promote net neutrality. As these critical dates approach the large ISPs have filed their opposition (see attached) and it is worth looking at what they say in the context of what they have been doing in D.C. and in the courts. It is also important to see what they are not saying to California Senators.

Parties that Decimated Federal Law are Decrying States Acting in Response

While opponents of S.B. 822 profess to prefer a federal solution, they have never really supported network neutrality at the federal level either. In fact, they spent more than $26 million to support the FCC’s effort to repeal network neutrality and are likely spending millions in California right now to sustain their victory. The money spent helps explain how the FCC reached a decision opposed by roughly 8 out of 10 Americans across the political spectrum.

The ultimate resolution to protecting network neutrality across the country is going to include restoring the 2015 Open Internet Order’s protections. That can happen in three ways: the FCC loses in court, the FCC reverses course, or, most likely, Congress passes a new law. Each of these scenarios are very likely years in the making and, in a matter of weeks, the so-called “Restoring Internet Freedom Order” will take effect. That leaves a very long gap of time for companies like Comcast and AT&T to strike exclusive deals with dominant Internet companies like Facebook to begin prioritizing their services and ensure no future small Internet competitors can compete and replace them (it was not that long ago when Facebook supported AT&T’s antitrust violating merger with T-Mobile).

ISPs Oppose Net Neutrality Because They Want It to Be Legal for Them to Charge More for Access Under Paid Prioritization

The large ISPs pretend they support network neutrality by proclaiming their support for a law banning blocking and throttling. What they consistently leave out in all of their letters is their desire to legalize paid prioritization, the ability for them to pick winners and losers determined by how much they can pay the ISP. This is an especially serious problem when considering the high-speed access market gives more than half of all Americans one choice. Notably, Comcast abandoned its pledge to not engage in paid prioritization the moment the FCC began its process to repeal network neutrality protections and no major ISP has ever fully committed to not begin sorting out the Internet by who can pay them more. They are already relying on their allies in Congress to promote their goal to charge more for Internet access simply because they have the leverage to demand more money.

Making paid prioritization legal gives Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon full control on deciding which Internet products and services get preferential treatment and that has enormous value. In fact, a recent study by Adobe found that close to half of Internet users simply switch to a different service if it is slow loading with up to 85 percent switching if it is a video service that is slow loading. The power to harm online services by slowing them down for other services willing to pay extra is the central danger to a free and open Internet particularly as large ISPs now are vertically integrated with content companies. There is such an extraordinary temptation to self-deal and favor their own content to the detriment of alternatives that it is the central antitrust claim by the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against AT&T’s merger by Time Warner. As they aptly stated, AT&T with control over shows like HBO has “the incentive and ability to use…that control as a weapon to hinder competition.” This is also why zero-rating is a problem (also addressed by SB 822) in the context of companies like AT&T exempting their product (DirecTV) from its own data caps and distorting the market.

The Biggest Myth ISPs perpetrate on Sacramento is There is No Network Neutrality Problem and Repealing Network Neutrality is a Return to the Status Quo

The worst talking point goes to US Telecom, which is effectively AT&T and Verizon, saying we have never had a network neutrality problem. The history of net neutrality is full of violations by ISPs. It is almost humorous that a very old talking point by companies like AT&T used more than ten years ago finds new life at the state level. It is as if the Republican-led FCC that sanctioned Comcast for throttling Bit-Torrent was a figment of our imagination or AT&T itself blocking Skype, Google Voice, or FaceTime (let alone zero-rating its own product DirecTV, which the FCC expressed concerns about until Chairman Ajit Pai was sworn into office).

What the FCC did in 2017 will likely go down as the worst Internet policy decision in history and that is because it was such a radical departure. Despite the fact that the ISP market is more concentrated than ever and that even the Trump Administration’s Department of Justice worries about ISPs exerting power to harm competition this FCC concluded that it was proper for it to absolve itself of responsibility. There is nothing normal about that decision when compared to the previous decades of FCCs that regularly promoted network neutrality and took action against ISPs that violate it. And after years of litigation and losing against ISPs under its efforts to promote network neutrality under Title I of the Communications Act, it is completely insincere to argue that returning ISPs to Title I status is going back to FCC regulation as intended.

If all of this nonsense large ISPs like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are pushing at your elected state officials in Sacramento has you upset, then you need to take action and make sure your voice is heard as SB 822 comes to a vote.

Take Action

Tell California's State Senators to Stand up for Net Neutrality

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