Ted Chiang: Elon Musk's fear of runaway AI is a projection of his repressed terror of runaway corporations

Why do billionaires like Elon Musk make terrified pronouncements about the imminent rise of self-aware, murderous AIs that use us to reproduce themselves, controlling us instead of serving us? Read the rest

The copay assumes the 99% treat healthcare like spiteful buffet gorgers

The basis for the health-insurance copay is that the 99% need to be disincentivized from "abusing" their health-care and going to the doctor for frivolous ailments (if this was really a thing, we'd have sliding-scale copays that charged rich people astounding sums to see the doctor, to ensure that everyone's incentives were properly aligned). Read the rest

Trump's spy agencies say AI vendors will sell them needle-detection tools for infinite haystacks

When the 9/11 commission reported back on the intelligence failures that led to the attacks 16 years ago, they identified a key problem: America's spy agencies had collected so much useless, indiscriminate information (haystacks) that they couldn't find the useful, salient facts (needles) buried there. Read the rest

How DRM and EULAs make us into "digital serfs"

Washington and Lee law professor Joshua Fairfield is the author of a recent book called Owned: Property, Privacy, and the New Digital Serfdom, which takes up the argument that DRM and license agreements mean that we have no real property rights anymore, just a kind of feudal tenancy in which distant aristocrats (corporations) dictate how we may and may not use the things we "buy," backed by the power of the state to fine or jail us if we fail to arrange our affairs to the company's shareholders. Read the rest

Across America, employers are using noncompetes to claim ownership of employees' skills

Noncompete agreements have historically been the provision of highly-placed execs and critical "knowledge workers" (and even then, fast-growing economies like California have banned them in the interests of encouraging competition and growth) but now employers are routinely making the "agreements" a condition of unskilled waged labor, from making sandwiches to digging holes for $10/hour. Read the rest

Giving companies more money (loans, tax-breaks) only increases investor payouts, not expansion

Before the deregulation bonanza of the 1980s, corporations were expected to use debt and the public markets as the capital of last resort: they would pay "normal" dividends, then use the left over money to increase pay and fund expansion; but after the birth of "shareholder management," companies have acted like homeowners before the financial crisis: borrowing heavily to pay investors, at the expense of expansion and wages -- but unlike homeowners, corporate management gets to duck the bill when it comes due. Read the rest

After the precariat, the unnecessariat: the humans who are superfluous to corporations

The heroin epidemic in America has a death-toll comparable to the AIDS epidemic at its peak, but this time, there's no movement coalescing to argue for the lives of the economically sidelined, financially ruined dying thousands -- while the AIDS epidemic affected a real community of mutual support, the heroin epidemic specifically strikes down people whose communities are already gone. Read the rest