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    Algorithms take in data on the location, time and date of previously committed crimes and this data is superimposed to create hotspots on a map for police officers to patrol.

    This is an example of extremely technical approach to a social problem that will only result in further dehumanization of the police force. It will basically precarise the police force and shatter any remaining ties it has with the communities. People will see the police force as a bunch of robots and the force will see the people as naughty meat.

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      It’s too bad this company does nothing to capture actual criminals in our government.

      Instead, they act as a tool of criminals to be used against the rest of society. Those who wield it rarely point such a weapon at themselves, these people are mass murderers (of Americans too).

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        Doesn’t the company just sell a product which other group use to capture criminals? Palantir is not a law enforcement organization, AFAIK.

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          That depends on how much their algorithms decide who to focus on based on what LEO’s or spy agencies input. Algorithms plus systems built with Palantir’s interpretation of what’s required by their customers.

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            My point is more that (AFAIK) anyone can license the product, it’s not limited to government agencies. Of course, the input data is another story. But if Palantir was an open source product like, say, Hadoop or Spark, would it be the focus of so much concern? I don’t actually understand if Palantir is doing something nefarious or they are just a target because they provide the tools.

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              I think it’s because they’re supplying nefarious organizations with tools they can use to do more nefarious things than they’re currently doing. It’s the combo of evil customers with specific kinds of products. I doubt the reaction would come from selling such tools to Fortune 500 for marketing or if selling to government with services of limited impact such as constructing better bathrooms. Although, some manage to be scumbags even on the little things.

              http://chicago.suntimes.com/columnists/stossel-what-a-2-million-bathroom-says-about-government-waste/

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                Well, they also supply Coke with the tools to sell you more Coke. Or they did, before Coke dropped them for being ineffective.

                https://www.buzzfeed.com/williamalden/inside-palantir-silicon-valleys-most-secretive-company

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                  There’s always incompetence disguised as operating in stealth mode. Another item that might be fit for my obfuscation essay. Securing a company’s financials and IPO by obfuscating the results the clients are getting. Can’t hide what Coke et will publicly say about that, though.

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        This sort of article isn’t a good fit here–maybe try HN?

        There’s no technical content, nothing really educational that would help in the daily practice of development, and the article itself straddles the queer line of being both a vague “these are evil spooooky intelligence company” and being nearly free advertising for Palantir.

        Please don’t submit this stuff.

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          There’s no technical content

          This article is all about the negative applications of modern day technology and how it’s used. If anything we need more of these sorts of articles. How else can we have discussions about the ethics of the applications of technology?

          If you don’t want to have such discussions, no one is forcing you to participate in them. There’s a “hide” button for exactly that reason.

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            If you don’t want to have such discussions, no one is forcing you to participate in them. There’s a “hide” button for exactly that reason.

            That can justify posting anything to lobste.rs. Don’t like posts on My Little Pony? Just hide them since nobody is forcing you to participate. That does not mean any content is correct for lobste.rs.

            This particular question of content related to moral/ethical usage of technology has come up multiple times, with you in particular. I believe @angersock’s perspective is that purely discussing the moral and ethical usage of technology is not content appropriate for lobste.rs, while your perspective is that it is. I am not sure how to resolve this, to be honest, but I think it’s worth acknowledging the source of disagreement.

            In particular:

            How else can we have discussions about the ethics of the applications of technology?

            Just because something is worth discussing does not mean lobste.rs is the correct venue for it. I have not seen any evidence that people on lobste.rs don’t think the moral/ethical usage of technology is an interesting and important topic, just that they believe lobste.rs is a community that should focus more heavily on the technical part rather than the morals.

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              A couple of people keep repeating this self-enforced angersock rule like gospel, but I don’t understand where it came from. It looks increasingly like an arbitrary personal preference by a vocal minority. Technology has always had ethical implications and these should be discussed. If not here, where else? I am certainly not going to go to HN for that…

              When I link to articles on fairphone’s blog is that also off-topic? They are usually touching on ethical issues, yet nobody shouts at me for submitting such links. Same for many talks from conferences like CCC.

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                I am certainly not going to go to HN for that…

                Lobste.rs started as a technically focused community. If enough fluff pieces get the same standing here as on HN, the discussion here will be just like on HN. Incidentally, unlike many here, I don’t have a problem with HN discussion quality, but one should realize that topics you discuss define the audience that will end up participating.

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                  A couple of people keep repeating the self-reinforcing “but but but we need to talk about the morality, man!” argument, but I don’t understand where it comes from, etc.

                  I’ll try to make this painfully clear for anybody who hasn’t already taken a side:

                  Think pieces about technology and culture and ethics are everywhere on the internet. There are entire industries whose sole business is muckraking and masturbating about technology. Some forums regularly navel-gaze on these things. It’s not like we can’t get that content elsewhere.

                  Discussions about ethics and politics fall very quickly towards relying on and normalizing news and anecdata. Neither of these tend to encourage good discussion, since it ends up with people either complaining about the inaccuracy of news (or, worse, taking it at face value) or slapfighting over whose anecdote is most anecdotal. This rarely results in things that help improve our abilities as practitioners of engineering or software.

                  The people who demand politics and “ethics” tend to correlate highly with people willfully ignorant of or outright hostile to the people with whom they have policy differences. These people cannot and will not agree to disagree, they will petition mods behind closed doors to remove what they view as “problematic” users, they will not argue in good faith without resorting to nebulous arguments, they will not acknowledge science or statistics that raise inconvenient questions. They will attempt to blacklist users with whom they disagree, they will use conversations out of context via screencap in order to summon mobs, they will reflexively downvote even reasonable submissions and comments because they view the posters as stupid conservatives (or even subhuman, but their knowledge of history has a blind spot here), or whatever else. And if challenged on this, they are obstinate and self-righteous and just generally quite unpleasant.

                  (And lest you get the wrong idea, this problem is not limited to one side. There are folks that spiral off into long tirades about the evil progressives, the massive socjus conspiracy, and all sorts of other garbage. Culling one group of users or the other is not going to fix it.)

                  That’s all fine, and we as a community can happily include such delightful people, if we stick to straightforward discussions about technology. There are users whose politics I do not share but whose expertise I am quite happy to learn from. I am happy to overlook that in favor of learning and civil discussion. The second we veer into policy (“because we need to raise awareness”, “because what about the consequences maaaan”, etc.) we are forced to deal with all of messy bullshit of politics and ethics and partisanship and privilege and the whole damned thing. And it is never something that goes well. It never enriches our lives as users. It brings out the worst in us.

                  Finally, none of these arguments matter. Statistically, a reader or thread member here is unlikely to be working at the Open AI foundation. They are unlikely to be working in a role where they could, say, change the exploitative behavior of GOOG or FB. They are unlikely to be willing to change jobs or forgo paying rent to stand up for their beliefs in any meaningful gesture. Most of the big discussions on ethics become moot once you accept that capitalism and the free market are going to enable consumers to do whatever seems like a good idea–and if you don’t accept that, at least partially, you probably don’t have a computer or network connection to post here and gripe about it.

                  We’re generally quiet and polite technologists, happy with and supported by the status quo, so let’s not go cluttering up the place and introducing unpleasantness in our desire to pretend otherwise.

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                    It’s not like we can’t get that content elsewhere.

                    It actually is the case that we can’t get that content elsewhere.

                    The most important audience for this content is those who work at these companies, many of whom visit websites like Lobsters, Hacker News, Slashdot, etc. And on most of these websites, where it is most important to have this discussion, apologists such as yourself appear out of nowhere to police the conversation and shut it down.

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                      HN and Slashdot and Reddit frequently have conversations about this sort of stuff, and do so without getting shut down (at least if you follow the hivemind on which side you talk about).

                      It’s disingenuous to act like that is not the case. It’s also disingenuous to act like other sources, like NPR, TED, BBC, New Yorker, and a myriad of other sources are a) not covering this material thoroughly and b) users here are not informed by those or other sources.

                      I appreciate that your activism needs an audience where it will be most effective and the relative refuge of lobsters for technical folks makes it an attractive target, but please do not be surprised or mystified that this kind of disruption isn’t being embraced unquestioningly.

                      If you feel that there really and truly isn’t a place doing this meaningful discussion, by all means, make one.

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                        It bemuses me to no end that the people who use the word “politics” to shut down this conversation (such as yourself) are exactly the ones who turn the conversation into a game of politics in the first place.

                        Look at the comments you and @apy have written, and compare them for substance to other comments in this thread, like for example this one by @mordae.

                        A world of difference.

                        It’s also disingenuous to act like other sources, like NPR, TED, BBC, New Yorker, […]

                        Since this entire conversation you’ve started is off-topic, I will pick only NPR as an example, but the same applies to every other source you’ve quoted (especially TED): I distinctly remember listening to NPR’s coverage of the Senate Torture Report while in my car, and I remember NPR brushing the entire thing aside as if it were no big deal. NPR is part of the MSM, and the MSM is a single entity (literally). The critiques of government in it are absurdly mild because the MSM is the government’s mouthpiece.

                        So: kindly stop being an apologist for atrocities everywhere you go, and kindly stop derailing the entire conversation into off-topic bullshit land.

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                          So: kindly stop being an apologist for atrocities everywhere you go

                          Is that really a fair characterization of @angersock’s comments?

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                            Is that really a fair characterization of @angersock’s comments?

                            Yes. Previous examples include being an apologist for the 9/11 attacks and for drone bombings of civilians.

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                              I’m unsure how those examples are of apologism of those things, since in those examples you provide I was pretty explicitly sketching out how things were off-topic (and not defending the things themselves, though apparently your bar for “supporting” a thing is “failing to loudly decry as terrible as often and as loudly as possible everywhere one can”.

                              Anyways, I thought you weren’t going to spend one more second on this?

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                                I’m unsure how those examples are of apologism of those things, since in of those examples you provide I was pretty explicitly sketching out how things were off-topic

                                Recent academic research is not off-topic. The impact of technology on society and its relevance to the security, privacy, culture, and law tags are also not off-topic.

                                But all of your comments so far (like this one here) have been either off-topic or trollish.

                                Your job appears to be to prevent people from thinking about these subjects or discussing them under the pretense of policing on-topic content as being off-topic.

                                Therefore you are an apologist for atrocities, although admittedly a very good one.

                                Anyways, I thought you weren’t going to spend one more second on this?

                                And for about a year I made good on that. It’s interesting to see that you’re still here, still thought-policing Lobsters as usual.

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                                  I did a quick dictionary search for “apologist” because your usage doesn’t seem to match my understanding. The definition I found is:

                                  one who speaks or writes in defense of someone or something

                                  The links to comments by @angersock you posted do not appear to defend anything but rather argue that they are not appropriate for lobste.rs. Whether or not content is appropriate for lobste.rs is a valid discussion, IMO, but muddying the waters by claiming that makes someone an apologist seems an unfair accusation.

                                  I believe it would be correct to say @angersock is an apologist if he, for instance, said that drone strikes were a good thing, and <here’s why>. @angersock even goes as far as to say:

                                  This is a political and policy article and as outrageous as it is it doesn’t have anything to do with technology.

                                  I interpret “outrageous” here to mean that if the contents of the article are true he finds them loathsome but that doesn’t mean the content is appropriate for here.

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                                    I interpret “outrageous” here to mean that if the contents of the article are true he finds them loathsome but that doesn’t mean the content is appropriate for here.

                                    I look at people’s actions, and the consequences of those actions, more than I do at their words.

                                    The consequences of shutting down all on-topic discussion about the negative impacts of technology, as well as new research that reveals, through technology, important facts about our reality, is that those negative aspects of reality not only continue, but grow.

                                    It is in that sense that he is an apologist. Just as the definition says, he defends atrocities by thought-policing all discussion about them.

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                                      Why can’t the disagreement be about about if something is on-topic or not rather than the other side being an actively bad person?

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                                        Why can’t the disagreement be about about if something is on-topic or not rather than the other side being an actively bad person?

                                        It can, and it was. That conversation ended up devolving into nowhere. A clear pattern has emerged demonstrating a lack of good faith. I have no interest in repeating the same exercise.

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                      You didn’t answer my question on other links I have posted. Off topic or not?

                      I don’t understand why you can’t just ignore links you don’t like.

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                        Given the long comment thread and no “parent” button in lobste.rs, I can’t tell if “You” is directed at me or someone else. But assuming it’s directed at me:

                        I don’t know if those links you have posted are off-topic or not, I don’t read every link on lobste.rs.

                        My comment, also, was not about defining what is off-topic or not and it, especially, was not about defining on-topic content in terms of links I like. My comment was actually the opposite and about framing the discussion in terms of what lobste.rs considers on and off-topic. And my attempt also seems to have been a failure.

                        To change your question to “I don’t understand why you can’t just ignore links you consider off-topic”. The reason one cannot do that (or at least @angersock can’t, if I can try to speak for him) is because one perspective as that the on/off topic filter is supposed to happen at the point of submission, not the point of reading, in order to keep the total content of lobste.rs high quality, where high quality includes “on-topic”. This perspective is that lobste.rs is not meant to service all the needs of the readers but a specific niche of technology.

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                    This particular question of content related to moral/ethical usage of technology has come up multiple times, with you in particular. I believe @angersock’s perspective is that purely discussing the moral and ethical usage of technology is not content appropriate for lobste.rs, while your perspective is that it is. I am not sure how to resolve this, to be honest, but I think it’s worth acknowledging the source of disagreement.

                    I’m frankly getting tired of this debate. I am one of the proponents that sees this as fit for lobste.rs and a sizable group agrees.

                    If people think this article is bad, they should write about it (and angersock did), but keep the framing of “is this appropriate here?” (or worse: “this isn’t HN!”) to themselves.

                    Seeing that every of these articles has at least one sub-thread rehashing all this is really annoying.

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                      If people think this article is bad, they should write about it (and angersock did), but keep the framing of “is this appropriate here?” (or worse: “this isn’t HN!”) to themselves.

                      To be blunt, no I will not keep this to myself. The reason this keeps cropping up is we don’t want this site to turn into yet another “technical news/etc…” site devolved into yet another, digg, reddit, slashdot, hacker news, etc…

                      If you look at the scoring, its split down the middle so I do not believe your viewpoint is the one that should prevail and I will mark them down as off topic every time. All I want is ONE site to not devolve into pointless political debate and all that entails and attracts. One can’t escape politics, but we can at least confine it.

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                        I will mark them down as off topic every time.

                        Please do not downvote other users just because they have a viewpoint you disagree with–only use the off-topic flag if they are truly off-topic in a thread.

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                          Them in this case referred to stories, sorry for the confusion in word choice.

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                          One can’t escape politics, but we can at least confine it.

                          Or discuss it. I enjoy the political debates here a little more than at other places, and I absolutely don’t see politics as a bad thing - I think it isn’t debated enough in technical communities.

                          I had rather preferred a good dissection why this is a bad article (and @angersocks initial post does kick that off), without the usual meta-debate.

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                            If we have to go down this route, then make a politics tag I can ignore.

                            The thing is I agree with everything you’re saying regarding politics, but disagree in kind that we need yet another technical focused site to yet again start hashing out politics. I feel we have enough sites that people keep leaving in large part due to the whole eternal september effect.

                            Essentially, I’d rather not have lobsters go down the same well trod road of political discussion which seems to just breed a very insidious and nasty form of online “debate” that in the end just causes people to shut down and stop contributing.

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                          If you have an idea for how to come to a conclusion on these then please contribute it. Given it’s one of the more polarizing things in lobste.rs I’ve seen, I doubt it will go away on its own any time soon.

                          but keep the framing of “is this appropriate here?” (or worse: “this isn’t HN!”) to themselves.

                          This means that all the content is appropriate for here, though, which kind of defeats the purpose? If we all keep the thing the disagreement is about to ourselves then we won’t have disagreements. Sure.

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                          That can justify posting anything to lobste.rs. Don’t like posts on My Little Pony?

                          That’s a ridiculous strawman, having exactly zero to do with the argument being made.

                          My Little Pony has no technical content, whereas discussions about privacy and security and how technology affects them (e.g. snowden leaks, etc.) are completely appropriate for this site and make regular appearances.

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                          Ethics in technology are important of course. But online discussions about ethics in technology are almost always tedious and useless.

                          People make noise about Google/Uber/Palantir etc being shitty companies. People agree with each other that they are shitty companies. Nobody employed by those companies quits their job or lifts a finger because they like making $250k+ writing piles of JavaScript that don’t work. Repeat next week.

                          If we could have discussions about ethics that went beyond that then I would welcome them, but I expect (like everywhere else on the internet) we would have the same simple conversation over and over and it gets quite boring.

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                            And yet, it seems like the alternatives to discussing ethics online aren’t great, either. Discussing ethics with one’s acquaintances only does so much to better the world, for instance.

                            Is there some other means of inquiry into morals that you, as an engineer (or just a lobste.rs reader) would find more interesting?

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                        This reads like marketing.