Cyberpunk’s first full week of 2017. Finland tries to set a precedent, robots get jobs in Japan, and workers fall off the map. Let’s see how much closer we’ve marched towards dystopia this Last Week in Cyberpunk.
Finland Flirts With Universal Income
As our collective push into the future makes it clear that automation will removes scores of people from the global labor force only a handful of governments have taken seriously the need to ensure that all those unemployed aren’t casually pushed into extreme poverty, both for their sake and for the solvency of domestic and global economies. Beginning this month, Kela, which manages Finland’s social security and other entitlement programs, will give out a basic monthly income to 2,000 unemployed Finns of €560. This will be given in place of existing unemployment benefits. Those behind the program hope this will have a positive effect on Finland’s unemployment rate, which rose just about 8% in November 2016, by raising the quality of living for those out of work. For many of Finland’s unemployed, work simply won’t return due to the expansion of automation which has removed many manufacturing and entry level jobs across industries. Depending on the success of the program for these 2,000 Finns, Kela hopes to expand basic monthly income to low-wage earners such as part-time workers and freelancers in 2018.
Watson Replaces 34 Japanese Employees at Insurance Firm
In a bid to save 140 million a year, and boost productivity by 30%, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is letting 34 employees go by March of this year. In their place will be an artificial intelligence network based on IBM’s Watson. Automation through AI is popular in Japan; next month Japanese citizens will be serviced by AI civil servants, and according to a report from 2015 almost 50% of jobs in the country will be replaced by AI and/or robots by 2035. And this trend has real consequences as seen in other parts of the world where automation pushes humans out of jobs and eventually out of the workforce entirely.
New York Times Disappears From Apple’s App Store in China
It seems tech companies are making good on their promise to tailor services to China’s strict censorship laws in order to reach the more than 1.25 billion consumer base that lives there. The New York Times has reportedly had their app removed from the Apple app store in China. Apple representative Fred Sainz admits that the request came directly from the government, claiming the app violates certain regulations, but claims the app may return if and when it adheres to those rules. the NYT claims they have been subjected to censorship and harassment by the Chinese government since they published a series of scathing articles back in 2012, some of which include charges of kelptocratic practices by the former Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and his family back in 2012.
Bitcoin Surges Past $1,000 for the First Time in Three Years, And it Probably Doesn’t Matter
Many are considering converting their traditional investments to Bitcoin since news broke that the cryptocurrency is now valued at $1033, allowing some to claim that Bitcoin as a whole is worth $16 billion. Experts are quick to point out that as India and Venezuela administer demonetization and remove large notes out of circulation that Bitcoin has seen an increase in investment from those countries. But with transactions rate as low as seven per second, the buying power of Bitcoin hasn’t changed at all and won’t until a serious overhual changes its implementation and reach.
Ransomware Sets Victims Free if They Have the Courage to Read
Fear the day your hard drive is encrypted and you’re pressured to pay cash to have your digital life handed back to you? If you’re lucky, you’ll only ever get infected by the latest version of Koloova. The “ransomware hunter” Micheal Gillespie came across this repurposed version of the Koloova ransomware. It does encrypt the victim’s hard drive, but rather than extort money from them the ransom it asks is in time spent reading. The ransom screen gives the victim a short window in which they are expected to read “Stay Safe While Browsing” on the Google Security Blog and “Jigsaw Ransomware Decrypted: Will Delete Your Files Until you pay the Ransom” on Bleepingcomputer to get the encryption key that prevents their hard drives from being wiped. Though inconvenient, the incentive to get educated about basic opsec may be just the thing some people need.
Adam Harvey’s Functional Camo Hides You From Facial Recognition
Tech artist Adam Harvey is looking to build on his Stealth Ware project by fooling facial recognition in a new way. Unlike previous projects that looked for ways to hide faces and bodies from detection technology, Harvey’s Hyperface project uses complex patterns on fabric, much like camouflage, that gives facial recognition software multiple hits, overwhelming the monitoring system and significantly decreasing the wearer’s chances of being detected. Hyperface even turns the “ground” (environment all around the monitored subject’s face) against facial recognition when the pattern enters the picture, generating even more hits from the background and foreground surrounding the subject. The efficacy of this method has not yet been revealed, though Harvey plans to unveil more details on January 16th.
A Familiar Replicant in Blade Runner Sequel
Rumors circulating around Blade Runner 2049 seem to suggest that a replicant from the original may be returning. Whether it’s Rachael, Roy or Pris that appears in the movie, we know from big-budget affairs like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and tv shows like Westworld, de-aging can be done masterfully with CGI, meaning the door is open to any actor from the original to return.
Duncan Jones Goes Neo Noir in First Image From Mute
Mute stars Alexander Skarsgård as the main character in 2052 Berlin. The speechless Skarsgård sets out to find his girlfriend Naadirah in Berlin’s neon-stripped underworld while hunted by two dodgy surgeons. Jones has compared his future Berlin to a mix between Casablanca and Blade Runner, and has said the movie is a spiritual sequel to Moon. Netflix is distributing Mute and members to the service will be able to see it for themselves later this year.
The Man in the High Castle Gets a Third Season
Seems not long ago we returned to a different reality with actual Nazis running the USA, and Amazon isn’t ready to let us go. The series based on the Phillip K. Dick novel is set for a third season.
Luther Creator Takes the Police Procedural to the End of the World
Neil Cross, the creator of the hard-boiled BBC detective drama Luther, starring Idris Elba, is taking the London crime beat to the near future with Hard Sun. Detectives Robert Hicks and Elaine Renko are tasked with keeping order and investigating crimes in a world staring at a clock that ticks closer to doomsday. No word yet as to when we’ll see more of the show, but it’s being put together by the BBC and Hulu.
Real World Crypto Comes to a Close, Awards Industry Standouts
The Real World Cryptography Conference came to a close this Friday. Cryptography researchers and developers met at the Data Sciences Institute Cybersecurity Center at Columbia University for a series of lectures and presentations, but many had also showed up with the hopes of winning the Levchin Prize. Named for Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm and co-founder of Paypal, started the prize to award substantive contributors to actual cryptography. This year’s winner was Joan Daemen who, along with his partners at the Keccak team, developed AES block chipper and the SHA 3 hash function. Not far behind was Moxie Marlinspike and Trevor Perrin, developers of the Signal protocol found in messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Yugoslavian PC Mag Comes Back to Life, Brings Dated Cover Girls to the Internet
In what’s very likely going to be the best find of the year, covers of Računari have been released online, giving a generation and a half of PC users a look at what it took to sell computers in the former nation of Yugoslavia. While the magazine itself was geared towards the tech-inclined at the time, meaning mostly engineers and not mass consumption, the pinup covers are so out of date and out of context that they deserve to be gawked at in wonder. Računari ran from the early 1980s all the way to the late ’90s, and those in Eastern Europe who seem to remember the publication can recall the cover style staying with the magazine all the way to its discontinuation. For those interested enough, a former reader has uploaded a batch of the magazines to Archive.org.
Looks like we covered all the cyberpunk news this week. Disagree? Let us know on social media or in the comments below.