Technologists are creating increasingly more sophisticated digital technologies capable of monitoring us.
The most mature technology is that of RFID tags.Now as small as grains of rice, RFID tags typically track the location and movement of items through an assembly line, warehouse, store, or library. The tags can also be attached to personal possessions such as clothing, passports, or cash. RFID tags can be and are implanted in animals in order to track them in the wild. This is not now done to humans, although people may be carrying items with RFIDs and be tracked without realizing it.
Other location tracking uses the Global Positioning System(GPS) of satellites. It allows mobile devices to know where on earth they are located, and also allows location tracking on those devices, and hence to monitor the whereabouts of a person carrying the phone. A chilling example of this occurred in a political protest in Ukraine in January 2014, when individuals who were in the barricaded city centre of Kiev received text messages saying ‘Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance’.
My blog post of February 11 shared the account of four people who, despite COVID, have preserved and in some cases enhanced family connections and communication through the use of teleconferencing technologies. This essay will look at the present and future of distance collaboration for work.
It has not been easy, especially for couples who both have jobs and who have school-age children at home. There have been severe stresses in maintaining concentration and balancing work time; periods helping children with schoolwork; and time for chores, exercise, play, and being alone.
Contributed by Ron Baecker, an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, co-author of The COVID-19 Solutions Guide and author of Computers and Society: Modern Perspectives (OUP, 2019).
My family is widely separated. I live in Canada. My brother-in-law, niece, nephew, and their families are in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; my cousins, their children, and their families are in Argentina, Spain, England, and on both coasts of the USA. Typically, I visit my niece and nephew once or twice a year; I manage a trip to Buenos Aires or Bilbao, Spain, about every 3 years. But not recently. I therefore Facetime with either my nephew or my niece almost every week. We also are about to have our fourth global family Zoom. This started out to celebrate individual birthdays, with great spirit and feeling of bringing the family closer together. The next event will celebrate 3 birthdays — ages 78, 41, and 9 — and a recent birth in the family in London. The 9-year-old birthday event will see us participating in a day-long scavenger hunt. What fun!
Ron Baecker is an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto and author of Computers and Society: Modern Perspectives (OUP, 2019).Gary Feldman, MD, FAAP, FABMG,is a retired physician who was the Public Health Officer of Ventura County and Riverside County in California for 14 years.They are two of theco-authors of The COVID-19 Solutions Guide.
The COVID-19 Solutions Guide, published in mid-June, described the effects of the first wave of the virus on senior care in North America as follows:
“As of early June, over one-third of the known COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been to residents and staff living and working in nursing and long-term care homes. As of early May, a shocking 82% of the known virus deaths in Canada have been to those in long-term care. A Canadian Forces report commissioned by the province on Ontario, released in late May, reported numerous incidents of poor infection control, residents being denied food or being fed improperly, residents being treated roughly, and staffing problems. A flurry of lawsuits is expected. In Ontario, a $50 million suit was filed on May 1, 2020, alleging that one of Canada’s largest operators of senior residences and long-term care facilities lacked “proper sanitation protocols and adequate testing to prevent the spread of COVID-19”. In the United States, nursing homes have sought emergency protection from lawsuits alleging improper care.”
Contributed by Ron Baecker, who is an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, co-author of The COVID-19 Solutions Guide and author of Computers and Society: Modern Perspectives (OUP, 2019).
The Second Edition of The COVID-19 Solutions Guide will be published and available this Friday.
We had not anticipated writing a second edition so soon. Yet events this fall suggested that it was important that we do so. Our goal is to make current the story we tell about the pandemic, the problems it is causing, and the solutions we recommend. What we describe below has happened in part because of the unwise actions of politicians with little understanding or respect for science, and a willingness to sacrifice human life for political ends. Another cause has been the poor judgment of young people, whose natural desire for partying and close physical contact has contributed to a substantial extension of the first wave of the virus. Also, some clergy have placed their insistence on congregate worship above public health advice, adding to the viral spread.
A forecasting model is a prediction of how the world will evolve, of what will happen in the future with respect to some phenomena (such as the motion of objects, the financial health of a business) or the spread of an epidemic.
Contributed by Ronald Baecker, who is an Emeritus Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, co-author of The COVID-19 Solutions Guide and author of Computers and Society: Modern Perspectives (OUP, 2019).
Readers of my blog will recall what I describe as digital dreams and digital nightmares.
Our world has been enriched by digital technologies used for collaboration, learning, health, politics, and commerce. Digital pioneers imagined giving humanity greater control over the universe; augmenting knowledge and creativity; replacing difficult and dangerous physical labour with robot efforts; improving our life span with computationally supported medicine; supporting free speech with enhanced internet reason and dialogue; and developing innovative, convenient, and ideally safe products and services. Online apps and resources are proving very valuable, even essential, in the era of COVID-19.
For most of human history, dyads and groups were only able to work and play together if they were collocated. All of this changed in the 19th century, when the first remote collaboration and entertainment technologies — the telegraph, the telephone, and the radio — were developed and widely commercialized. These were joined in the 20th century by television. By the middle part of the century, medical images were being transmitted over phone lines; soon thereafter, 2-way television was being used for remote medical consultations.
Nosedive was the first episode of the third season of the British science fiction television anthology Black Mirror. In this episode, everyone has a mobile phone which, when pointed at another person, reveals his or her name and rating. Everyone has a rating, which ranges from 0 to 5. The following happens continually as you are walking down a street or along the corridor of a building. You give a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ to each person you pass, based on your instantaneous impression of that person and the nature of the encounter, no matter how trivial or quick the encounter is. A ‘thumps up’ raises that person’s rating a tiny bit; a ‘thumbs down’ lowers it. The other person concurrently rates you. Ratings determine one’s status in life, and the ability to get perks such as housing and travel. Therefore, people are on a never-ending, stressful, and soul-destroying quest to raise their online ratings for real-life rewards. Heroine Lacie desires a better apartment; she has a meltdown as she deals with unsurmountable pressure in the context of her childhood best friend’s wedding.