This last week in cyberpunk we got a much-needed wake-up call from a reporter being fed fake docs, wondered just how much sunlight we’re getting, and heard the first sounds of a legend going back on tour (it’s Gary Numan).
Rachel Maddow to News Media: Vet Your Sources
With several Russian investigations in Congress, the FBI, and through the prosecutor team pieced together by special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, American news media has kept the public abreast of the most minute changes brought to them through official channels and anonymous sources. During the course of this fascination with the Russia story, and by extension all stories Trump, Vice has retracted a story, three staffers resigned from their positions after CNN retracted an article of its own, and an NSA contractor was arrested after handing over classified information to The Intercept. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, known for her news-stories-as lectures style, opened up her Thursday night program with a warning to fellow journalists: beware bad sourcing.
Maddow opened her broadcast saying that the show had been contacted by an anonymous source that produced what appeared to be NSA documents that supposedly detailed clear evidence of collusion between the Russian government and a named member of Trump’s presidential campaign. Maddow went on to break down the evidence that shows the documents sent to the show were forgeries, complete with typos, violating NSA practices of naming Americans in reports, and details from microdots to a crease in the middle of a page. Those last details, Maddow suggests, show that what this source provided was an altered copy of the documents provided to the Intercept, and it was sent to her on the same day.
“Somebody for some reason appears to be shopping a fairly convincing fake NSA document that purports to directly implicate somebody from the Trump campaign in working with the Russians on their attack on the election,” said Maddow. “It is a forgery. Whether or not the Trump campaign did it, one way to stab in the heart aggressive American reporting on that subject is to lay traps for American journalists who are reporting on it, trick news organizations into reporting what appears to be evidence of what happened, and then after the fact blow that reporting up.”
It remains to be seen if there’s any coordinated effort to distribute falsified documents in an effort to sway reporting, and by extension harm trust in journalists, or if these are independent actors operating under their own prerogatives.
Kaspersky is Willing to Hand Source Code to DOD
After the Senate proposed the Department of Defense should forgo the use of any software produced by Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Labs, CEO Eugene Kaspersky said that his company will be willing to show the US government its source code. This comes at a time when fears of Russian efforts in cyber-espionage are at their highest. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is just one member of Congress who states there’s a consensus the cybersecurity firm can’t be trusted by the US government. The FBI has also gone on record stating they have reason to believe that Kaspersky has long been a facilitator of Russia’s efforts to infiltrate the US and other countries.
While Kaspersky has aided the Russian government in investigatory roles, as it has for other countries, Eugene Kaspersky denies any long-standing role with their government and states that the firm refuses to engage in any spying efforts on anyone’s behalf. But they’re receiving support from Russian Communications Minister Nikolay Nikiforov, who said any sanctions placed against Kaspersky will result in immediate retaliation from the Russian government.
Eugene Kaspersky has offered to testify before Congress in order to put the whole matter to rest. Congress has yet to reply.
The Third Thumb: The Extra Digit You Were Missing
Dan Clode released his Third Thumb prosthetic earlier this week. This robotic digit sticks out next to the pinky of the wearer, allowing for increased grabbing potential and function. There’s a great deal of functionality that can come with this 3-D printed prosthetic that allows for great customization.
Afghan Girls Blocked From Robotics Competition by State Department
A team of young Afghan engineers was barred from traveling to Washington DC this month where they were hoping to unveil their robot against 163 other teams at the FIRST Global Challenge. These six young women made several trips from their hometown of Herat, where a recent terrorist attack last June claimed the lives of 90 people, to go through the visa process at the US embassy in Kabul 500 miles away. After a second round of interviews, they were informed their 7-day visa to DC was not approved.
Roya Mahboob of Citadel, the first woman CEO in Afghanistan’s tech sector, helped the girls get organized for the competition. Initially they were excited at their progress, citing the rarity of women and girls able to work and study technology in the country, but upon hearing that they were barred from FIRST Global Challenge the girls were “crying all day.”
While the young women weren’t able to attend, their robot did make it to DC and was able to compete. They had to settle for spectating via Skype.
Sci-Hub Sued by American Chemical Society
After a legal judgment determined publisher Elsevier was owed $15 million in damages for pirated academic papers, Sci-Hub, the “Pirate Bay for Scientists,” has been the latest file-sharing target. Now the American Chemistry Society (ACS), the largest scientific society in the world, has filed a suit against Sci-Hub in the state of Virginia. Glenn Ruskin, Director of External Affairs and Communications for ACS, argued that Sci-Hub didn’t just steal content but that their “conspirators most recently created ‘spoofed’ websites that mirror the look and feel of the Society’s own scientific publishing website” to lure them towards free research.
Alexandra Elbakyan, a neuroscientist from Kazakhstan, now living in Russia, has stated that her intention with Sci-Hub was to make all scientific research free by taking it away from an academic publishing industry that puts up pay walls between students and growing fields of study, that even includes researchers of those very papers. Elbakyan receives copies of papers from researchers and students have provided her with login credentials to several journal sites to bypass paywalls to create her library of 58 million peer-reviewed papers, and it’s steadily growing.
ACS seeks to have Sci-Hub’s site and mirrors blocked in the US and their published journals and papers taken down, damages paid, legal fees covered, and donations to Sci-Hub ceased. Ruskin insists that this isn’t a case of greed on behalf of ACS, which awards some $20 million in research grants, but a return to the accepted method of research distribution.
In her first tweet in over a year, Elbakyan linked to a list of corrections to Sci-Hub’s Wiki page. By Wikipedia’s rules, she is asked not to edit her own page and claims to have respected that rule. In the article, Elbakyan reaffirms Sci-Hubs commitment to bringing academics together in an exchange of information without publishers telling them where their research should go.
Germany to Fine Hate Speech on Social Media to End “Internet Law of the Jungle”
Members of the German parliament agreed that up to €50 million in fines could be levied against social media networks, and €5 million against their German executives, if they fail to police themselves and remove hateful content. Since WW2 Germany has developed punishing anti-defamation laws that include prison sentences for Holocaust denial and inciting hatred against minorities. Until now, that did not include Germans interacting online.
The way the law is constructed would give social media networks like Facebook and Twitter 24 hours to remove cases of blatant hate speech and those who generate it and a seven-day period to investigate instances that may border their definition and come to a decision as to whether said user ought to remain or be removed from the network.
While parliament has received support from groups like the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who’ve stated that the law is good but would like more enforcement from the government, Facebook challenges the law. A spokesman for the social network claims that Facebook is already doing all it can with respect coming from any of the 29 million German users and no legislation can get them to operate any faster than they already do. For legislation to work, the spokesperson said companies like Facebook ought to be consulted more.
Facebook has removed an approximate 3,500 posts a week from German users over the last couple of months.
Bitcoin and Ethereum Heist Costs South Korean Exchange $1 Million
Bithumb, a South Korean exchange of Bitcoin and Ethereum was hacked last week. With more than 31,000 accounts compromised, over a $1 million in crypto was stolen. This is in addition to personal information like names, phone numbers, and email addresses that were compromised.
A representative for Bitthumb says that an employee’s personal computer was hacked and not the exchange’s network. They maintain that no passwords were stolen but rather accounts were accessed due to the use of “disposable passwords” by users.
Bithumb is the 4th largest exchange for Bitcoin in South Korea and the largest exchange for Ethereum.
AT&T: No One’s “Forced” to Pay Inflated Prices
In response to allegations from Democratic Senators Edward Markey (Mass.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), and Al Franken (Minn.) that their contracts force customers to agree to certain clauses in order to qualify for internet, telephone, or TV service, AT&T Executive VP Tim McKone wrote that “Customers accept their contracts with AT&T freely and voluntarily; no one ‘forces’ them to obtain AT&T wireless service, DirecTV programming, or other products and services.”
AT&T’s glib response fails to address that many of its customers live in regions where there is little or no competition for broadband and wireless service, meaning customers are obligated to agree with their arbitration if they’re to receive service of any kind.
“Broadband Bruce” Goes Around Canadian Government, Provides Internet to Maskwacis Community
Like many First Nations communities in Canada, Maskwacis lack basic telecom infrastructure and mobile support all but avoids their communities. It makes it expensive to get online, if not entirely impossible. Maskwacis man Bruce Buffalo set out to bridge that digital divide on his own.
In true DIY spirit, Bruce toiled for more than a year with no support from the Canadian government or the Maswacis band for internet coverage for the reserve. Instead, he relied on donations from the internet, those in the community, local businesses, and his own pockets to help him expand coverage.
Gemini Man Eyes 2019 Release
We are now just a little over two years away from watching Will Smith punch Will Smith in the face. It’s been announced that Ang Lee’s clone thriller Gemini Man is set for release in early October 2019. Smith is cast in dual lead roles, an aging NSA agent ready to leave the government behind and a younger clone that is out to kill the original.
Fleeting Strangers, One Part Film, One Part Art Installation
Class struggle, assimilation, and release unite four realities in Fleeting Strangers, a film and art project from Yuan Keru. The story follows the Cyborg, the Survivor, the Administrators, and the Test Item and will premiere in an art installation that will immerse the audience in worlds the utilize the physical space around them as they slowly meld into one cohesive narrative about a shared, dark future. The art installation will be in Shanghai, China. Details are available at the link above. The official synopsis is:
Fleeting Strangers virtualizes 4 parallel worlds, and tells 4 soft sci-fi stories that happen at different times each in different ways. The leading characters in these 4 stories represent the Test Item, the Administrators, the Survivor, and the Cyborg respectively. They are gradually infringed, deprived, assimilated in the development of science and the manipulation of the system. They lost their loved ones, freedom and ideals, like beasts sealed in the darkness of the world or on the edge of the universe. Between the dawn and dark of their fleeting lives, they also struggled, trying to break through the cage of class and destiny and search for the barren homeland and self-salvation, nonetheless because of such contradiction, confusion, vulnerability and restraint for their awareness of being unable to act, they ultimately failed to escape the characters they have been set up. This frustration and disillusionment is precisely a self-projection to the cities developing extreme exploitation, the states of lives in constant anxiety and fear, and the fates of numerous ups and downs.
The 4 stories will be projected on 4 screens in the exhibition hall at the same time, and the narrative focus will shift around the 4 screens; as an ensemble composed of 4 different instruments, they consitute a form of montage in the space, generating a viewing experience of watching 4 movies simultaneously. In the end, the 4 stories will span over the breaks of time and dimensions of space, and reconnect according to the complex logic and emotions inside, as revelation and conclusion to each other. Gradually they merge into one complete cycle of the novel, rendering a tragic sense of fatalism.
Amelia 2.0, a Glimpse into our Transhuman Future?
In Amelia 2.0, from director Adam Orton life, extension finds a way through Wesley Enterprises. When disease claims Amelia’s life, she’s given a second chance in a new body. But has this scientific breakthrough conquered death or created an entirely new being? The official synopsis is:
When the husband of a dying woman is approached by a corporation pioneering a new program to extend life through robotics, they get caught in a public debate over human’s relationship with technology.
The movie stars Angela Billman, Ben Whitehair, Eddie Jemison, Kamar de los Reyes, Kate Vernon, Debra Wilson, with Chris Ellis and Ed Begley, Jr. There is a tentative release date for sometime in 2017.
Cyberpunk Short Films
Abe Shows Us the What Happens When a Robot Just Wants to be Loved
Forget about T-800s and rogue AIs, “Abe” shows us why killer robots outfitted for war aren’t half as frightening as to a machine that desperately wants to be loved. Abe is the product of Rob McLellan and Zero G Productions.
Helio Will Make You Reach for the Light
All things need light to live in Teddy Cecil’s short “Helio.” In a future where life consists of mining underground, most will do anything for their recommended daily dose of light. The death of an underground figure may point to a source that can illuminate everything. The official synopsis is:
On the eve of a rebel uprising in a dystopian underground society, one miner finds the key to freedom and attempts to escape before the hostile government kills him first. HELIO is a short, visceral film centered on a post-apocalyptic underground society where miners work for light to survive. But when a dying rebel thrusts the unexpected onto an unassuming worker’s lap, all hell breaks loose. What begins as one man’s race to escape the hostile government quickly escalates into a city-wide uprising of the people.
Strange Beasts Shows the Potential of Augmented Reality
Magali Barbé’s “Strange Beasts” takes a look at simple design principles for augmented reality, how they’ll be applied for entertainment, and why a universal approach may not be in the best interest of users. The official synopsis is:
“Strange Beasts” is an augmented reality game. It allows you to create and grow your own virtual pet. How far can it go?
Automata Goes Live Action
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Penny Arcade announced a series pilot based on the webcomic Automata. Doug Jones (Hellboy) stars as robotic, private eye Carl Swangee. Along with his human partner Sam Regal, Carl moves through the back alleys of an alternate New York where robots regulated and despised. The official synopsis is:
Set in an alternate Prohibition-era America, this live action science-fiction noir series based on characters from the popular web-comic by Penny Arcade invites you in to experience a world unlike anything you have seen. In this fictional 1930s, it is not liquor that is outlawed but instead the continued production of highly sentient robots known as automatons. They live among us as an underclass of social outcasts, victims of human prejudice and strict laws that govern their existence. Automata follows New York private detective Sam Regal (Basil Harris, NBC’s Grimm, TNT’s Leverage) and his automaton partner Carl Swangee (Doug Jones, CBS’s Star Trek:Discovery, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) as they work together to solve the crime and understand each other in this dystopian America.
You can check out the webcomic here, if you’re interested.
Forgotten City, New Cyberpunk Adventure Game
One-man studio Silver Spook Games, the one man being Christian Miller of Neofeud, has announced it’s new cyberpunk adventure game Forgotten City, but there’s still need for developers to help see the project to completion.To give potential patrons an idea of what can be, Silver Spook Games has released a demo. The official synopsis is:
Settlers of a new space colony got off to a rocky start, but eventually built up a happy, thriving metropolis… Then the machines took over.
Noria, a young engineer, lost everything the day the automated police forces went haywire. Now, on this failed new homeworld, she needs to survive the hostile environment, dodge the malevolent machines lurking everywhere, and manage her own painful memories of lost family and broken hopes.
Kodansha Brings Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle to the West
Continuing with their mission to bring classic mangas to English readers, publisher Kodansha Comics announced earlier this week that they’re translating Battle Angel Alita: Mars Chronicle. Mars Chronicle serves as a sequel to Battle Angel Alita: Last Order and the final chapter in the Battle Angel Alita/Gunnm story. It follows Alita/Gally in the aftermath of the events of Last Order as she returns to Mars to learn about her past, a large portion of the story is told in flashbacks to here childhood on Mars, finally telling the story of Alita’s origin. There are currently four volumes out in Japan and the series is ongoing. The first volume to be available in the US will be released in February 2018.
Gary Numan Preps for Tour, Announces Album Release
On the heels of announcing a new tour, Gary Numan has released the first single, “I am Ruin,” from the forthcoming album Savage (Songs from a Broken World) which will be available September 15.
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