Category Archives: Information Technology

Big Data is awesome, as long as the government stays out

By David Chávez Salazar

The term Big Data refers to the collection and analysis of huge and complex datasets through advanced digital technology. This concept promises to substantially change the way we live, by converting data into tools for efficiency, productivity and innovation.

According to former Minister for Universities and Science, David Willets, the UK is well placed for taking on the task. On the one hand, the country has 25 of the world´s 500 most powerful computers; on the other, it has a comparative advantage in Information Technology thanks to two distinctive strengths: good skills in maths and computer science, and some of the world´s best data-sets in fields as diverse as demographics, agriculture, healthcare and meteorology. Read more

Raid Encryption: This Should Be The New Normal

Thomas Knapp

“When government agents raid Uber’s offices,” Business Insider reports, “the company springs into action with an immediate response: it shuts everything down and encrypts all its computers.” That claim comes from documents filed by former Uber forensic investigator Samuel Ward Spangenberg, who’s suing the company for age discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and defamation. Read more

The Joy of Digital Technology: A Personal History

The Joy of Digital Technology:
A Personal History
Richard Blake
(12th February 2016)

I bought my first computer in February 1984. I had used the mainframe system at my university as a word processor, but found it baffling, and there was a print queue of at least a day. For most of my time as an undergraduate, and for eighteen months after, I found it most convenient to write with a fountain pen on lined paper. For business letters and presentation drafts, I had a manual portable typewriter. In 1983, I “acquired” a manual desktop machine from an abandoned office building. Read more

Ian B on the Abolition of Cash Transactions

Ian B

Note: This posting began life as a comment on the similar article by Robert Henderson. SIG

The abolition of cash transactions is a very worrying near future scenario and one that should be of great concern to libertarians, or anyone who wants monetary privacy. The problem is that for most purchases, electronic really is very quick and easy and naturally advantageous. The days of pay packets bulging with twenty pound notes are sadly already long gone. I argued a long time ago among friends and those who could not get away from me that the obligation to accept one’s wages into a bank account is fundamentally unjust- since the money is being paid not to oneself, but to a third party- but it fell on largely deaf ears. But then I think monthly pay is a ludicrous injustice too, but most people don’t give a damn about that either. Read more

The UK Government Plans to up their Spying Game

Daniel Harding

Under new plans announced by David Cameron and co., the UK government is planning on ‘improving’ their spying game, with plans to ban all forms of media which are encrypted and cannot be viewed by state security organisations such as GCHQ (see here). In an effort to protect us from scary people, popular mobile phone apps such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Facetime, and SnapChat could all be banned from the UK as they have protected their customers consistently, and have even increased efforts to avoid snooping since Edward Snowden revealed what the NSA were doing in the US. Read more

To Paul Krugman: Thou Art the Man

by Kevin Carson
To Paul Krugman: Thou Art the Man

Note by Sean Gabb: Kevin has a point of view on these issues that I respect but do not wholly share. Even granting he is a scumbag statist, Bill Gates is one of the greatest benefactors of mankind alive. Thanks to his vision in the early 1980s, nearly everyone nowadays has a computer, and most of us use the standardised operating and applications software he has provided. He has provided us with the weapons to equalise the relationship between state and people. To say that this would still have happened in some other way doesn’t get round the fact that it has happened as it has. Speaking personally, he has enabled me to transform myself from an unknown hard copy scribbler into the person of such significance or notoriety as I now possess and have always wanted to possess.

I also like Amazon. It has given me a marketplace for my books that would not otherwise exist.

For the record, I also like Google. There are other search engines, and these may do the same job. But Google has spent years providing me with old books free at the point of use. Thanks to Google, I can read anything published in any language I know between the invention of printing and just after the Great War.

Oh, and I like Createspace and Lulu and YouTube and the Cloud and WordPress and PayPal and E-Bay, and all the other manifestations of corporate capitalism that have enriched my life. If I think Twitter is a waste of time, and regret the time I have spent on FaceBook, I am still massively in credit from the IT revolution as it has so far taken place. So are we all.

It is entirely legitimate to complain about the ethical failings of these companies, and to argue for a system in which the same ends would be achieved by more libertarian means. But we are where we are, and we should all be grateful for the good things we have had from them.

Libertarian utopias, as they are generally conceived, will be better than the world in which we now live. At the same time, we are not living in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia; and our criticisms of actually existing capitalism need to be tempered by an appreciation of the benefits we enjoy. SIG

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