A year ago I found out, from one of my direct reports, that I had apparently resigned. I had just been fired from Google in one of the most disrespectful ways I could imagine. Thanks to organizing done by former and current Google employees and many others, Google did not succeed in smearing my work or reputation, although they tried. My firing made headlines because of the worker organizing that has been building up in the tech world, often due to the labor of people who are already marginalized, many of whose names we do not know. Since I was fired last December, there have been many developments in tech worker organizing and whistleblowing.
If America has stood for anything, it's surely forward-looking optimism. In New York, Chicago, Detroit and other shining cities, its soaring skyscrapers pointed to the future. But has the bubble burst in the 21st century? "We don't see ourselves striding toward a better tomorrow," columnist Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times last month, citing research that found 71% of Americans believe that this country is on the wrong track. "We see ourselves tiptoeing around catastrophe. That was true even before Covid. That was true even before Trump."
From military-grade drones to sensor systems and experimental technology, the EU and its members have spent hundreds of millions of euros over the past decade on technologies to track down and keep at bay the refugees on its borders. Poland's border with Belarus is becoming the latest frontline for this technology, with the country approving last month a €350m (£300m) wall with advanced cameras and motion sensors. The Guardian has mapped out the result of the EU's investment: a digital wall on the harsh sea, forest and mountain frontiers, and a technological playground for military and tech companies repurposing products for new markets. The EU is central to the push towards using technology on its borders, whether it has been bought by the EU's border force, Frontex, or financed for member states through EU sources, such as its internal security fund or Horizon 2020, a project to drive innovation. In 2018, the EU predicted that the European security market would grow to €128bn (£108bn) by 2020.
Black boxes rattle along miles of conveyor belt, carrying everything from toys to painkillers amid a cacophony of alarms and the faint hum of Christmas songs. "I'm looking around here at anything that might not be right, but it's actually running very smoothly," says David Tindal, the general manager of the Swindon fulfilment centre. "The team has been fantastic. We spend the whole year preparing for this peak time, like a good football club preparing for the cup final." Known internally as BRS2 – using a naming system based on the nearest big airport (in this case, Bristol) – the warehouse is a vision in gleaming concrete, steel and glass landed on the Wiltshire countryside.
The US has rejected calls for a binding agreement regulating or banning the use of "killer robots", instead proposing a "code of conduct" at the United Nations. Speaking at a meeting in Geneva focused on finding common ground on the use of such so-called lethal autonomous weapons, a US official balked at the idea of regulating their use through a "legally-binding instrument". The meeting saw government experts preparing for high-level talks at a review conference on the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons from 13 to 17 December. "In our view, the best way to make progress ... would be through the development of a non-binding code of conduct," US official Josh Dorosin told the meeting. The United Nations has been hosting diplomatic talks in Geneva since 2017 aimed at reaching an agreement on how to address the use of killer robots.
Tomb Raider recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, which means 25 years of articles about how Lara Croft transcended video games to become a global icon even your gran has heard of. As a female games critic, I am personally asked to explain her enduring popularity 25 times an hour, to the point where I have boiled my answer down to this: for many of us, she symbolises a moment in the history of gaming where we saw ourselves represented for the first time. Not as a princess trapped in a castle, but as an enigmatic, acrobatic embodiment of fierceness. Naturally, the adolescent boys of the 90s also regarded her with the same distanced respect, right? Anyway, here's what nobody says they remember fondly about Tomb Raider: the food.
A US company that gathered photos of people from Facebook and other social media sites for use in facial recognition by its clients is facing a £17m fine after the Information Commissioner's Office found it had committed "serious breaches" of data protection law. Clearview AI, which describes itself as the "world's largest facial network", allows its customers to compare facial data against a database of over 10bn images harvested from the internet. The database is "likely to include the data of a substantial number of people from the UK and may have been gathered without people's knowledge from publicly available information online, including social media platforms", the ICO said. Clearview's technology had been offered on a "free trial basis" to UK law enforcement agencies, the data regulator added. It said Clearview had broken data protection law by failing to process the information of people in the UK in a way they were likely to expect or that was fair.
Ministers and public bodies must reveal the architecture behind algorithms that influence exam results, housing benefit allocations and pothole repairs, under new transparency standards. The UK government has published a transparency standard for algorithms, the series of instructions that a computer follows to complete a task or produce a single outcome. Algorithms have become the focus of increasing controversy, whether through their role in deciding A-level results last year or making decisions about benefit claims. Under the new approach, government departments and public sector bodies will be required to explain where an algorithm was used, why it was used and whether it achieved its aim. There will also be an obligation to reveal the architecture behind the algorithm. It will be tested by several government departments and public sector bodies in the coming months before being reviewed again and formally launched next year.
Ever since Garry Kasparov lost his second chess match against IBM's Deep Blue in 1997, the writing has been on the wall for humanity. Or so some like to think. Advances in artificial intelligence will lead – by some estimates, in only a few decades – to the development of superintelligent, sentient machines. Movies from The Terminator to The Matrix have portrayed this prospect as rather undesirable. But is this anything more than yet another sci-fi "Project Fear"?
It is June 2018, and I am sitting at a table in a needlessly fancy restaurant in LA with a bunch of teenagers. Well, some of them must be over 21 as they are able to order alcohol, but most are sticking to Coke or sparkling water with their overpriced steaks. These are some of the up-and-coming stars of Twitch, the livestreaming platform that now broadcasts about 2bn hours per month from more than 9m channels, most of which involve people filming themselves and chatting while playing video games. Later, there will be a lavish party in a similarly extravagant club, where the streamers with the most views and subscribers will be treated like celebrities in the VIP area. And, well, they are celebrities.