• "En janvier Open AI a subrepticement fait disparaitre de ses conditions d’utilisation l’interdiction de son usage à des fins militaires. "
    Entendu dans l’émission Signes des temps de ce jour

    Nos cerveaux sont devenus l’ultime champ de bataille” impact du choc technologique sur le nouvel ordre mondial

    Marc Weitzmann reçoit la chercheuse et essayiste Asma Mhalla alors que parait Technopolitique : comment la technologie fait de nous des soldats aux éditions du Seuil.

    #big_tech #big_state #techno_industrie #complexe_militaro_industriel comme on disait jadis

  • Underage Workers Are Training AI

    Companies that provide #Big_Tech with AI data-labeling services are inadvertently hiring young teens to work on their platforms, often exposing them to traumatic content.

    Like most kids his age, 15-year-old Hassan spent a lot of time online. Before the pandemic, he liked playing football with local kids in his hometown of Burewala in the Punjab region of Pakistan. But Covid lockdowns made him something of a recluse, attached to his mobile phone. “I just got out of my room when I had to eat something,” says Hassan, now 18, who asked to be identified under a pseudonym because he was afraid of legal action. But unlike most teenagers, he wasn’t scrolling TikTok or gaming. From his childhood bedroom, the high schooler was working in the global artificial intelligence supply chain, uploading and labeling data to train algorithms for some of the world’s largest AI companies.

    The raw data used to train machine-learning algorithms is first labeled by humans, and human verification is also needed to evaluate their accuracy. This data-labeling ranges from the simple—identifying images of street lamps, say, or comparing similar ecommerce products—to the deeply complex, such as content moderation, where workers classify harmful content within data scraped from all corners of the internet. These tasks are often outsourced to gig workers, via online crowdsourcing platforms such as #Toloka, which was where Hassan started his career.

    A friend put him on to the site, which promised work anytime, from anywhere. He found that an hour’s labor would earn him around $1 to $2, he says, more than the national minimum wage, which was about $0.26 at the time. His mother is a homemaker, and his dad is a mechanical laborer. “You can say I belong to a poor family,” he says. When the pandemic hit, he needed work more than ever. Confined to his home, online and restless, he did some digging, and found that Toloka was just the tip of the iceberg.

    “AI is presented as a magical box that can do everything,” says Saiph Savage, director of Northeastern University’s Civic AI Lab. “People just simply don’t know that there are human workers behind the scenes.”

    At least some of those human workers are children. Platforms require that workers be over 18, but Hassan simply entered a relative’s details and used a corresponding payment method to bypass the checks—and he wasn’t alone in doing so. WIRED spoke to three other workers in Pakistan and Kenya who said they had also joined platforms as minors, and found evidence that the practice is widespread.

    “When I was still in secondary school, so many teens discussed online jobs and how they joined using their parents’ ID,” says one worker who joined Appen at 16 in Kenya, who asked to remain anonymous. After school, he and his friends would log on to complete annotation tasks late into the night, often for eight hours or more.

    Appen declined to give an attributable comment.

    “If we suspect a user has violated the User Agreement, Toloka will perform an identity check and request a photo ID and a photo of the user holding the ID,” Geo Dzhikaev, head of Toloka operations, says.

    Driven by a global rush into AI, the global data labeling and collection industry is expected to grow to over $17.1 billion by 2030, according to Grand View Research, a market research and consulting company. Crowdsourcing platforms such as Toloka, Appen, Clickworker, Teemwork.AI, and OneForma connect millions of remote gig workers in the global south to tech companies located in Silicon Valley. Platforms post micro-tasks from their tech clients, which have included Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Salesforce, Google, Nvidia, Boeing, and Adobe. Many platforms also partner with Microsoft’s own data services platform, the Universal Human Relevance System (UHRS).

    These workers are predominantly based in East Africa, Venezuela, Pakistan, India, and the Philippines—though there are even workers in refugee camps, who label, evaluate, and generate data. Workers are paid per task, with remuneration ranging from a cent to a few dollars—although the upper end is considered something of a rare gem, workers say. “The nature of the work often feels like digital servitude—but it’s a necessity for earning a livelihood,” says Hassan, who also now works for Clickworker and Appen.

    Sometimes, workers are asked to upload audio, images, and videos, which contribute to the data sets used to train AI. Workers typically don’t know exactly how their submissions will be processed, but these can be pretty personal: On Clickworker’s worker jobs tab, one task states: “Show us you baby/child! Help to teach AI by taking 5 photos of your baby/child!” for €2 ($2.15). The next says: “Let your minor (aged 13-17) take part in an interesting selfie project!”

    Some tasks involve content moderation—helping AI distinguish between innocent content and that which contains violence, hate speech, or adult imagery. Hassan shared screen recordings of tasks available the day he spoke with WIRED. One UHRS task asked him to identify “fuck,” “c**t,” “dick,” and “bitch” from a body of text. For Toloka, he was shown pages upon pages of partially naked bodies, including sexualized images, lingerie ads, an exposed sculpture, and even a nude body from a Renaissance-style painting. The task? Decipher the adult from the benign, to help the algorithm distinguish between salacious and permissible torsos.

    Hassan recalls moderating content while under 18 on UHRS that, he says, continues to weigh on his mental health. He says the content was explicit: accounts of rape incidents, lifted from articles quoting court records; hate speech from social media posts; descriptions of murders from articles; sexualized images of minors; naked images of adult women; adult videos of women and girls from YouTube and TikTok.

    Many of the remote workers in Pakistan are underage, Hassan says. He conducted a survey of 96 respondents on a Telegram group chat with almost 10,000 UHRS workers, on behalf of WIRED. About a fifth said they were under 18.

    Awais, 20, from Lahore, who spoke on condition that his first name not be published, began working for UHRS via Clickworker at 16, after he promised his girlfriend a birthday trip to the turquoise lakes and snow-capped mountains of Pakistan’s northern region. His parents couldn’t help him with the money, so he turned to data work, joining using a friend’s ID card. “It was easy,” he says.

    He worked on the site daily, primarily completing Microsoft’s “Generic Scenario Testing Extension” task. This involved testing homepage and search engine accuracy. In other words, did selecting “car deals” on the MSN homepage bring up photos of cars? Did searching “cat” on Bing show feline images? He was earning $1 to $3 each day, but he found the work both monotonous and infuriating. At times he found himself working 10 hours for $1, because he had to do unpaid training to access certain tasks. Even when he passed the training, there might be no task to complete; or if he breached the time limit, they would suspend his account, he says. Then seemingly out of nowhere, he got banned from performing his most lucrative task—something workers say happens regularly. Bans can occur for a host of reasons, such as giving incorrect answers, answering too fast, or giving answers that deviate from the average pattern of other workers. He’d earned $70 in total. It was almost enough to take his high school sweetheart on the trip, so Awais logged off for good.

    Clickworker did not respond to requests for comment. Microsoft declined to comment.

    “In some instances, once a user finishes the training, the quota of responses has already been met for that project and the task is no longer available,” Dzhikaev said. “However, should other similar tasks become available, they will be able to participate without further training.”

    Researchers say they’ve found evidence of underage workers in the AI industry elsewhere in the world. Julian Posada, assistant professor of American Studies at Yale University, who studies human labor and data production in the AI industry, says that he’s met workers in Venezuela who joined platforms as minors.

    Bypassing age checks can be pretty simple. The most lenient platforms, like Clickworker and Toloka, simply ask workers to state they are over 18; the most secure, such as Remotasks, employ face recognition technology to match workers to their photo ID. But even that is fallible, says Posada, citing one worker who says he simply held the phone to his grandmother’s face to pass the checks. The sharing of a single account within family units is another way minors access the work, says Posada. He found that in some Venezuelan homes, when parents cook or run errands, children log on to complete tasks. He says that one family of six he met, with children as young as 13, all claimed to share one account. They ran their home like a factory, Posada says, so that two family members were at the computers working on data labeling at any given point. “Their backs would hurt because they have been sitting for so long. So they would take a break, and then the kids would fill in,” he says.

    The physical distances between the workers training AI and the tech giants at the other end of the supply chain—“the deterritorialization of the internet,” Posada calls it—creates a situation where whole workforces are essentially invisible, governed by a different set of rules, or by none.

    The lack of worker oversight can even prevent clients from knowing if workers are keeping their income. One Clickworker user in India, who requested anonymity to avoid being banned from the site, told WIRED he “employs” 17 UHRS workers in one office, providing them with a computer, mobile, and internet, in exchange for half their income. While his workers are aged between 18 and 20, due to Clickworker’s lack of age certification requirements, he knows of teenagers using the platform.

    In the more shadowy corners of the crowdsourcing industry, the use of child workers is overt.

    Captcha (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) solving services, where crowdsourcing platforms pay humans to solve captchas, are a less understood part in the AI ecosystem. Captchas are designed to distinguish a bot from a human—the most notable example being Google’s reCaptcha, which asks users to identify objects in images to enter a website. The exact purpose of services that pay people to solve them remains a mystery to academics, says Posada. “But what I can confirm is that many companies, including Google’s reCaptcha, use these services to train AI models,” he says. “Thus, these workers indirectly contribute to AI advancements.”

    There are at least 152 active services, mostly based in China, with more than half a million people working in the underground reCaptcha market, according to a 2019 study by researchers from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou.

    “Stable job for everyone. Everywhere,” one service, Kolotibablo, states on its website. The company has a promotional website dedicated to showcasing its worker testimonials, which includes images of young children from across the world. In one, a smiling Indonesian boy shows his 11th birthday cake to the camera. “I am very happy to be able to increase my savings for the future,” writes another, no older than 7 or 8. A 14-year-old girl in a long Hello Kitty dress shares a photo of her workstation: a laptop on a pink, Barbie-themed desk.

    Not every worker WIRED interviewed felt frustrated with the platforms. At 17, most of Younis Hamdeen’s friends were waiting tables. But the Pakistani teen opted to join UHRS via Appen instead, using the platform for three or four hours a day, alongside high school, earning up to $100 a month. Comparing products listed on Amazon was the most profitable task he encountered. “I love working for this platform,” Hamdeen, now 18, says, because he is paid in US dollars—which is rare in Pakistan—and so benefits from favorable exchange rates.

    But the fact that the pay for this work is incredibly low compared to the wages of in-house employees of the tech companies, and that the benefits of the work flow one way—from the global south to the global north, leads to uncomfortable parallels. “We do have to consider the type of colonialism that is being promoted with this type of work,” says the Civic AI Lab’s Savage.

    Hassan recently got accepted to a bachelor’s program in medical lab technology. The apps remain his sole income, working an 8 am to 6 pm shift, followed by 2 am to 6 am. However, his earnings have fallen to just $100 per month, as demand for tasks has outstripped supply, as more workers have joined since the pandemic.

    He laments that UHRS tasks can pay as little as 1 cent. Even on higher-paid jobs, such as occasional social media tasks on Appen, the amount of time he needs to spend doing unpaid research means he needs to work five or six hours to complete an hour of real-time work, all to earn $2, he says.

    “It’s digital slavery,” says Hassan.


    #enfants #AI #intelligence_artificielle #IA #travail #travail_des_enfants #esclavage_moderne #esclavage_digital #informatique

    signalé aussi par @monolecte

  • Twitter pourrait bientôt avoir un nouveau rival, soutenu par Jack Dorsey en personne, 27 avril 2023

    Jusqu’à présent, #BlueSky est l’entreprise la mieux financée de ce secteur naissant, et #Jay_Graber considère son nouveau statut d’outsider comme un atout. Le vainqueur de la compétition de plus en plus fébrile visant à établir une norme pour le mouvement open source et décentralisé déterminera le terrain de jeu sur lequel la prochaine génération d’entreprises de réseaux sociaux sera en concurrence.

    « Les systèmes qui peuvent garantir ces libertés à long terme sont ceux qui vont probablement s’imposer sur la durée », explique Jay Graber. « Les utilisateurs auront la possibilité de choisir, les créateurs pourront rester en contact avec leur public et les développeurs auront la liberté de construire. »

    Jay Graber est née à Tulsa en 1991 d’un père professeur de mathématiques et d’une mère acupunctrice. « Ma famille faisait partie de celles qui ont tout perdu », déclare Jay Graber en parlant de sa mère. Lorsqu’elle a appris à lire, son livre de préféré était Robin des Bois. « J’ai toujours aimé travailler avec de petits groupes de personnes », explique-t-elle.


    Quant au réseau BlueSky, qui a été conçu pour ressembler à Twitter afin de montrer la facilité avec laquelle le réseau social d’Elon Musk pourrait être intégré, 35 000 des 1,2 million de personnes inscrites sur la liste d’attente utilisent désormais l’application. « Vous devez créer quelque chose qu’un large public peut utiliser si vous avez pour mission d’essayer de changer la façon dont la technologie fonctionne avec les gens », explique Paul Frazee.

    Selon Jay Graber, l’enjeu va bien au-delà de la simple possibilité de se connecter à ses amis avec moins d’interférence de la part de la #Big_Tech. « Des forces nous tirent dans des directions extrêmes en tant que société », dit-elle. « Il y a des forces qui vont dans le sens d’une centralisation et d’une consolidation accrues de la société, mais aussi des forces qui vont dans le sens d’une décentralisation et d’une fragmentation accrues, et des technologies qui donnent plus d’autonomie aux individus. Ces deux phénomènes se produisent en même temps. Je pense que l’une ou l’autre de ces tendances, poussée à l’extrême, pourrait être inefficace ou nuisible. Nous devrons donc trouver un équilibre entre la bonne gouvernance et la souveraineté individuelle. »


  • https://www.alternatives-economiques.fr/stopper-elon-musk/00105194

    Y a-t-il encore une limite à la puissance des multimilliardaires ? Le rachat de Twitter pour 44 milliards de dollars par l’homme le plus riche du monde illustre les possibilités offertes par une accumulation extrême de richesse.

    A la tête d’une fortune oscillant entre 200 et 300 milliards de dollars, composée très majoritairement d’actions Tesla dont le cours s’est envolé, Elon Musk a un patrimoine équivalent au produit intérieur brut (PIB) du Portugal. Et il s’achète une entreprise valant deux fois le budget du ministère de l’Intérieur français.

    Musk a dorénavant la haute main sur une plate-forme où échangent plus de 400 millions de personnes. Un réseau possédant un fort impact sur le débat public, car prisé au sein des milieux politiques, économiques et médiatiques. Une semaine après son rachat, l’entrepreneur, fidèle à son goût de la disruption, a licencié 3 500 personnes, soit la moitié des salariés de l’entreprise. Et il commence à mettre en place ses réformes.

    « En devenant l’actionnaire majoritaire, Elon Musk n’a pas vraiment de contre-pouvoir. C’est pareil au sein du groupe Meta qui possède Facebook, Instagram et WhatsApp. La plupart des réseaux sociaux sont des entreprises avec une gouvernance très centralisée et opaque », pointe Anne Bellon, politiste à l’université technologique de Compiègne.

    Quelles sont les motivations de ce rachat ? « Il y a une dimension idéologique à ne pas sous-estimer. Elon Musk a une vision absolutiste de la liberté d’expression, stipulant que plus de liberté signifie moins d’intervention », complète Anne Bellon. Soit une modération des contenus réduite au minimum légal.

    Musk reproche à l’ancienne direction de Twitter une intervention excessive et des biais anticonservateurs. Et il regrette les suspensions de comptes opérées sur le réseau, comme celle concernant Donald Trump. A l’instar de l’ancien Président dont le compte a déjà été rétabli, plusieurs personnes précédemment bannies pourraient faire leur retour. La conséquence de cette politique devrait être une brutalisation accrue du débat au travers d’une plus grande diffusion de contenus jugés problématiques, parce que haineux ou relayant de fausses informations.
    DSA, rempart européen ?

    Le multimilliardaire l’a cependant assuré : il respectera la loi. Si la législation américaine comporte très peu de contraintes en la matière, la réglementation européenne est plus stricte et la Commission le répète : sur le Vieux Continent, Twitter devra la respecter. Bruxelles s’érige en rempart, en mettant en avant son nouvel outil pour réguler les contenus des plates-formes numériques : le Digital Services Act (DSA).

    Une partie de ce dispositif européen pourrait entraver les ambitions de l’américain. Le DSA oblige en effet les grandes plates-formes à prendre en compte les « risques systémiques », qui englobent aussi bien le harcèlement sexiste que les « effets négatifs » sur les élections ou la sécurité publique.

    Il les contraint ainsi à suivre finement ce qui se passe sur leur réseau et à ne pas se contenter de supprimer quelques messages clairement illégaux (pédopornographie, apologie du terrorisme, etc.). Mais avec le licenciement de la moitié de ses salariés, la capacité de modération humaine de Twitter est réduite à peau de chagrin.

    « Elon Musk a une croyance très forte dans la technologie et va sûrement renforcer le rôle des outils algorithmiques dans la modération, pense Anne Bellon. Une telle évolution rendrait les décisions de modération plus opaques, réduisant ainsi leur possible contestation. »

    Elle exigerait aussi des régulateurs qu’ils montent en compétence pour entrer dans la boîte noire de la technologie de la plate-forme. Les grands projets d’Elon Musk pour Twitter concernent cependant principalement les Etats-Unis. Le reste du monde semble être secondaire dans ses plans, même s’il représente l’immense majorité de l’activité de l’entreprise.
    Reprise chaotique

    Au-delà de l’aspect idéologique, y a-t-il une logique économique au projet d’Elon Musk ?

    « Ce rachat peut paraître paradoxal, car Twitter a toujours eu du mal à trouver un modèle économique et affiche une fragilité en décalage avec la portée de ce réseau, qui voit intervenir des personnes d’influence mondiale, qu’elles soient chefs d’Etat ou dirigeants de grandes firmes », pointe Julien Nocetti, chercheur au centre Geode (Géopolitique de la datasphère).

    Le réseau à l’oiseau bleu a certes un impact fort sur les termes du débat public, mais il ne pointe qu’à la 16e place des réseaux sociaux les plus utilisés au monde et ses comptes oscillent selon les années entre le rouge et le vert.

    Elon Musk l’a d’ailleurs affirmé mi-novembre : « La perspective d’une banqueroute n’est pas à exclure. » Quatre jours après son rachat, 875 000 utilisateurs avaient désactivé leur compte – le double du rythme habituel –, selon la société Bot Sentinel. De leur côté, General Motors, Dyson, Disney, Coca-Cola ou encore Stellantis ont tour à tour suspendu leur campagne publicitaire sur le réseau.

    « Les annonceurs peuvent jouer un rôle de contre-pouvoir car ils préfèrent ne pas voir leurs messages à côté de contenus jugés problématiques. Une faillite n’est effectivement pas impossible », estime Annabelle Gawer, professeure d’économie numérique à l’université du Surrey.

    Un risque aggravé par la saignée opérée dans les effectifs, à laquelle s’ajoutent a minima plusieurs centaines de départs sur les salariés ­restants. Ceux-ci quittent le navire à cause des méthodes autoritaires du nouveau patron qui leur demande de se donner « à fond, inconditionnellement » et de « travailler de longues heures à haute intensité ».

    Le milliardaire affiche cependant comme ambition de trouver un nouveau modèle économique au réseau, qui repose aujourd’hui quasi exclusivement sur les revenus publicitaires. C’est pourquoi il a lancé mi-­novembre un abonnement à 8 dollars par mois pour obtenir une certification de compte, ouvrant la voie à une meilleure visibilité des contenus.

    Cette option était jusqu’alors proposée gracieusement aux personnalités ou entreprises dont l’identité avait été vérifiée. Véritable aubaine pour les trolls, l’offre a rapidement été suspendue après l’imposture de nombreux utilisateurs usurpant l’identité d’entreprises ou de personnalités publiques. Malgré ce fiasco initial, l’offre devait faire son retour fin novembre, « corrigée des bugs ». Ouvrant ainsi la voie à un modèle partiellement payant.

    Tesla, présentée aujourd’hui comme une success story, a frôlé la faillite plusieurs fois à la fin des années 2010

    Ce n’est pas la première fois qu’Elon Musk fait emprunter un chemin périlleux à une entreprise qu’il dirige. Tesla, présentée aujourd’hui comme une success story, a frôlé la faillite plusieurs fois à la fin des années 2010, enchaînant notamment retards de livraison et difficultés d’approvisionnement.

    Le fabricant de voitures électriques haut de gamme a d’ailleurs été accusé d’avoir supprimé un test de sécurité pour accélérer la production ou d’avoir minimisé d’autres problèmes pour éviter des rappels de véhicules qui auraient pu être destructeurs pour ses finances. La méthode Musk est connue.

    A plus long terme, le rêve du nouveau patron de Twitter est d’en faire une « app universelle ». Sur le mode du WeChat chinois, une application qui concentre un maximum d’usages : tweeter, commander un taxi, un repas, prendre un ­rendez-vous médical, etc.

    « La X App de Musk est un écosystème technologique total, en l’occurrence totalement fermé sur lui-même, où tous les services numériques seraient disponibles et interconnectés, concentrant ainsi l’ensemble des usages. Un effet système sans couture qui organiserait l’enfermement algorithmique et permettrait une captation sans discontinuité des données. Le socle techno­logique primaire de la X App serait donc basé sur l’architecture existante de Twitter », détaille l’enseignante à Sciences Po Asma Mhalla, dans un article du Grand Continent.

    Avec le réseau à l’oiseau bleu, Elon Musk attrape aussi un puissant outil informationnel pour s’immiscer encore davantage sur la scène géopolitique. Le milliardaire a en effet déjà « offert » – moyennant le concours financier de l’Etat américain – aux autorités ukrainiennes un accès à sa constellation de satellites Starlink, la plus grande au monde, permettant une connexion à Internet via l’espace en évitant ainsi les infrastructures terrestres mises à mal par les combats.
    Aussi puissants que des États

    De sa proposition de plan de paix pour cette guerre à celle formulée pour régler le conflit entre la Chine et Taiwan, de quoi se mêle-t-il ? Est-ce simplement l’expression d’un mégalomane voulant trouver des solutions à tout, au mépris de sa connaissance des situations ? Ou plutôt la preuve que les géants de la tech sont en train de devenir des puissances géostratégiques ? L’un n’empêche pas l’autre.

    « Les entreprises techno­logiques prennent de plus en plus position sur les sujets internationaux, de manière très visible pour Elon Musk ou plus discrètement comme Microsoft ou Google pour l’Ukraine », détaille Julien Nocetti, également chercheur à l’Institut français des relations internationales (Ifri).

    « La puissance des plus grandes plates-formes numériques équivaut à celle de certains Etats, en termes de ressources financières mais pas que, résume Annabelle Gawer. Ce sont des régulateurs privés qui autorisent ou non des entreprises et des individus à opérer sur leurs réseaux qui sont devenus des infrastructures essentielles. » L’Union européenne ne s’y est pas trompée et a envoyé cette année un ambassadeur permanent à la Silicon Valley pour échanger directement avec ces « big tech ».

    Elon Musk et ses entreprises sont aussi les produits du gouvernement américain et l’expression de son soft power

    Elon Musk est-il le symbole de cette nouvelle puissance qui échapperait aux Etats ? C’est plus ­complexe, car les big tech entretiennent un lien étroit avec la puissance publique, en l’occurrence américaine. SpaceX, l’entreprise de lancement de satellites fondée en 2002 par le futur boss de Twitter, s’est développée grâce aux fonds de la Nasa, via le contrat de ravitaillement de ses stations.

    Situation similaire pour Tesla : l’entreprise a bénéficié pendant des années de subventions à hauteur de plusieurs milliards de dollars. « Sans le soutien politique de Washington, Tesla n’aurait jamais pu construire son usine à Shanghai », observe Julien Nocetti. Une usine stratégique, car elle permet à Tesla de servir le marché chinois, le second par la taille après celui des Etats-Unis. Une Tesla sur quatre y est vendue.

    En somme, Elon Musk et ses entreprises sont aussi les produits du gouvernement américain et l’expression de son soft power. Certes, le multimilliardaire appelle à voter ouvertement pour les républicains. Certes, il entretient des relations tendues avec l’administration démocrate de Joe Biden. Pour autant, cette dernière ne lui a pas coupé ses financements et a même soutenu financièrement SpaceX, qui opère Starlink, dans son aide à l’Ukraine. Pour Asma Mhalla, « à l’instar des bien moins bruyants Microsoft, Palantir ou Google, Elon Musk participe, à sa mesure, à façonner le rôle des Etats-Unis dans la géopolitique mondiale ».

    Les éclats d’un Elon Musk ne sont ainsi que le reflet d’une économie qui voit les big tech peser de plus en plus lourd dans un monde conflictuel. L’Europe peut-elle encore se limiter à brandir ses normes pour seule réponse ?

    #big_tech #capitalisme_de_plateforme #Elon_Musk #twitter #modération sur les #réseaux_sociaux #hégémonie #fabrique_de_l'opinion

  • La #justice américaine ouvre une procédure contre #Google pour abus de position dominante

    C’est la plus importante action judiciaire en plus de vingt ans menée par le gouvernement fédéral des Etats-Unis à l’encontre de l’un des géants de la « Big Tech » américaine (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple). Le département de la justice américain va engager des poursuites contre Google pour atteinte au droit de la concurrence dans le but de préserver son monopole dans le domaine de la recherche et des annonces publicitaires en ligne, a annoncé mardi 20 octobre à l’Agence France-Presse une source judiciaire proche du dossier.


    • #Naomi_Klein: How #big_tech plans to profit from the pandemic

      Public schools, universities, hospitals and transit are facing existential questions about their futures. If tech companies win their ferocious lobbying campaign for remote learning, telehealth, 5G and driverless vehicles – their Screen New Deal – there simply won’t be any money left over for urgent public priorities, never mind the Green New Deal that our planet urgently needs. On the contrary: the price tag for all the shiny gadgets will be mass teacher layoffs and hospital closures.


      #stratégie_du_choc #technologie #surveillance

    • Online Education and the Struggle over Disposable Time

      During COVID-19 times, the ‘social distancing’ catchphrase has invaded every aspect of our lives. Public space has been fragmented into individualized, quarantined units, transforming social relations into aggregates of their interactions. Unlike other pandemics of yesteryears, COVID-19 has given a tremendous push to technology to secure social distancing. In the field of education, the phenomenon of online education was already slowly gaining space especially as complementary to traditional classroom education and as a mechanism of distance learning.

      Today, the ideology of social distancing has brought online education in the centre of educational systems. It has acquired legitimacy and the capacity to take over the whole system of education. In countries such as India, where COVID-19 has been used by the state as an opportunity to revamp various sectors, including health and medicine, a reconception of education is underway. Online education serves as the organizing force in this regard.
      Education as Commodity and the Question of its Production

      Popular debates on technology and online education generally revolve around the idea of education as a commodity to be put to consumption in the classical sense of the word. It is, of course, a commodity with a use-value, much in parlance with material commodities like food items, daily wear etc. Such commodified education naturally must meet the parameters of consumer satisfaction. Therefore, much discussion on the recent COVID 19-triggered tech-intensive online teaching harps on students’ differential access to internet connectivity and bandwidth, the problems of long-distance assessments without the characteristic ‘fairness’ metrics associated with offline exams etc. In short, anything connected to the students’ overall satisfaction with their purchase of this immaterial commodity.

      What these debates however miss are the fundamental processes that go into the production of education, and the complex dynamics of the teacher-student relationship underpinning such production. By neglecting its sphere of production, we miss out on a very important aspect of this commodity – one that would help us understand online education, and the role of technology better, and also identify spaces of critique of education, as understood in the current socio-economic system.

      Notwithstanding the similarities, education is unlike any other commodity, not just in the material or physical sense, but mainly in the organization of its consumption and production. Material objects such as pens, cars etc. have an immediate use-value for buyers, consumed beyond the sphere of production. Education on the other hand, produces students as workers for their future entry into the labour market; its consumption or use-value lies in generating new, educated and skilled labour power for further use in the processes of production. Through a network of local and international educational institutions placed at different orders of hierarchy and status, education reinforces and reproduces the existing and (unequal) social relations by producing a heterogeneous group of future workers with differential skills, and by extension, differential wages. Hence, from the students’ perspective, education is consumptive production.

      Education as knowledge production is unique in placing this consumer – the student – in the production sphere itself. In other words, education as a commodity is a co-production of teachers and students, and is generated through continuous dialogue and interaction between them. It is not a fixed commodity, but one that is processual, and evolves within the dialectic of the educated-educator relationship. This dialectic constitutes a predicament for education in the current system. On one hand, there is the tendency to establish standardized syllabi and programs in response to the needs of a globalized labour market, making the practice of teaching and learning very mechanical; on the other, there is an equally strong opposition from the co-producers against attempts to kill their cooperative agency and creativity.

      Classroom settings and face to face instruction allow the dialectic of education to be productive in their dialogicity, with teachers innovating ideas and methods in dynamic and synchronous concord with students. With both instructors and learners present in the same physical space, learning – despite constraints of fixed syllabi and evaluation metrics – evolves through collective thinking and with a view to the intellectual needs and abilities of the participants. There are challenges thrown in with big class sizes and formal disciplinary settings leading to alienation typical of a hierarchized industrial scenario – an intensified lack of interest and commitment from both learners and teachers. However, since education in such settings is still based on direct relationships between students and teachers, there is always a possibility to overcome the alienating institutional mediation. There is a relative autonomy operating in this dialogic relationship, which allows innovation in ideas and knowledge production.
      Technology and the Informatization of Education

      Online education, on the other hand, despite and because of deploying the best of technologies, fails to simulate the same environment. Educational production is now distributed over multiple zones, with producers confined to their virtual cubicles. Without a shared space, education is reduced to instruction and information, discretized and reintegrated by the mediating pre-programmed machines. The dialogical relationship is now between the machine and the producers, not between the co-producers. The teacher is deprived of her role of the facilitator in this dialogue. She is just an instructor in this new environment. Her instructions are received by the machine, which mediatizes them and delivers them to students in a manner that it is programmed to deliver. This overhauls the whole dialectic of education, which is now hierarchized. Alienation in this process is quite stark, since the relations of production of education are completely transformed, which cannot be overcome by the deployment of any kind of technology.

      Technology, in fact, plays a big role in this alienation of labour that happens through the informatization of education. In the effort to replicate the classroom experience sans the direct relationship of affectivity between teachers and students, there is an overaccumulation of technologies and educational products, bringing in the surveillance techniques for remote disciplining of students and teachers.

      One only needs to look at the number of new gadgets and software for online education to understand the extent to which technology tries to overcome its artificiality. The market is flooded with AI-driven ‘smart content’ materials, customized lessons, digitized textbooks, easy to navigate chapter summaries, flashcards, automatically-graded exams, cameras for remote surveillance etc. The process of alienation is evermore intensified, since human living labour of both teachers and students are objectified in the development of these technologies. Their vivacity is reduced to an appendage to the artificiality of the machine.

      What is interesting is that while technology deskills the producers by taking over their powers of imagination and judgement, it also forces them to reskill themselves. With evermore new technologies hitting the online teaching platforms every day, both students and teachers are forced to continuously update themselves in their technical knowhow to assist these machines. This has led to generational and occupational redundancies in education too by promoting lean production methods and Taylorising techniques in education.
      The Struggle over Disposable Time

      What happens to education as a commodity in this alienated and Taylorized production process? Education internalizes the segmented social relations that characterize capitalism. This introduces dualism in its institutionalization, which gets further systematized and globalized in the wake of the ongoing technicization of education. On the one hand, we have mass production of education as a set of discrete information and instruction to train the majority of the working population in the drudgery of assisting the machines. This is facilitated by online education technologies. On the other hand, we have elite institutions monopolizing the rights to innovate and research (secured by various legal and institutional mechanisms like patenting, funding etc.), for which the more intensive conventional teaching methods must continue. This duality of education enhanced by online educational technologies has been developing for the last few decades to keep pace with the human resource requirements of other industrial and service sectors. Hence, online education itself has emerged as a fast-growing industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has given its production and dissemination a new intensity, urgency and definite possibility.

      With the growing dominance of online education, and discretized learning/teaching methods, there is also a proportionate increase in disposable time for both teachers and students. In the absence of direct and personalized contact during lectures, instruction intensifies; knowledge in the form of discretized information is produced in less time than in traditional classroom set-ups due to the absence of students’ queries and interventions. But what will be the utility of this disposable time? The system controls this disposable time by retrenchment, and by increasing workload and diversifying work profiles for the existing educational or knowledge workers.

      However, from the workers’ perspective, the disposable time has a different meaning, one that allows the co-producers to overcome drudgery and alienation by reclaiming the time-space for innovation and creativity. It is in this time-space that workers recognize knowledge as a result of their co-production, and re-appropriate it, going beyond being passive feeders-receivers of information assisting the machine. Dialogues between the students and the teachers are reestablished through more interpersonal interactions. This leads to a process of conscientization, in which the co-producers move beyond the classroom norms and fixed syllabi, and collectively build an understanding of phenomena and concepts, drawing on their own realities and experience.

      The disposable time enables workers to reclaim their common space and self-organize knowledge production, while reducing technology to mere means in this process, not as a mediator, organizer and controller of production and producers. It is only through such collaborative activities in these fractured times, that teachers and students together can assert their autonomy as knowledge producers and consumers.


  • Pour Alex Karp, CEO de Palantir, la Silicon Valley ne doit pas être politique

    Chez les Big Tech, l’heure est plutôt aux remises en question. Pas pour Alex Karp, le PDG de la sulfureuse entreprise Palantir. Dans une tribune au Washington Post, il affirme que les patrons de la Silicon Valley n’ont pas à s’opposer aux ordres du gouvernement, même si ceux-ci sont jugés immoraux par les salariés.

  • With Greed and Cynicism, #Big_Tech is Fueling Inequalities in America

    Let’s put this in perspective. In 2017, Amazon collected $5.6 billion in profit, but paid zero federal taxes, thanks to multiples tax schemes. Even better, since 2008, Amazon paid $1.4 billion in taxes when Walmart paid $64 billion. Not only Amazon does not have enough with an effective tax rate of 11 percent for the last five years, but it wants more from American cities widely known for their crumbling infrastructure. New Jersey is ready to cough up $7 billion in tax advantage (think about it next time you drive west of New York City).

    From a pure accounting perspective, this is the equivalent to having taxpayers subsidizing Amazon’s shareholders. Compared to that, the Robber Barons are like Mother Theresa.

    En français le sujet est abordé dans cette émission de Arte à partir de la cinquième minute,

    Les patrons des #GAFAM : rois du monde ? – Le Topo – Tous les internets – ARTE - YouTube