Sue Halpern is a regular contributor to The New York Review and a Scholar-in-Residence at Middlebury. Her latest book is A Dog Walks into a Nursing Home.
 (December 2016)

IN THE REVIEW

They Have, Right Now, Another You

Peter Thiel speaking at the Republican National Convention, Cleveland, July 2016. Thiel, the first outside investor in Facebook and a cofounder of PayPal, is a founder of Palantir, a Silicon Valley firm funded by the CIA, whose algorithms allow for rapid analysis of voluminous data that it makes available to intelligence agencies and numerous police forces as well as to corporations and financial institutions.

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

by Cathy O’Neil

Virtual Competition: The Promise and Perils of the Algorithm-Driven Economy

by Ariel Ezrachi and Maurice E. Stucke
It would be naive to think that there is a firewall between commercial surveillance and government surveillance. There is not. Many of us have been concerned about digital overreach by our governments, especially after the Snowden revelations. But the consumerist impulse that feeds the promiscuous divulgence of personal information similarly threatens our rights as individuals and our collective welfare.

Our Driverless Future

Saul Steinberg: Car, 1953

Driverless: Intelligent Cars and the Road Ahead

by Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman
For generations of Americans, driving and the open road promised a kind of freedom: the ability to light out for the territory, even if the territory was only the mall one town over. Autonomous vehicles also come with the promise of freedom, the freedom of getting places without having to pay attention to the open (or, more likely, clogged) road, and with it, the freedom to sleep, work, read e-mail, text, play, have sex, drink a beer, watch a movie, or do nothing at all.

US Cyber Weapons: Our ‘Demon Pinball’

The disguised speaker representing sources inside the NSA and CIA who spoke to Alex Gibney for his documentary film Zero Days

Zero Days

a documentary film directed by Alex Gibney
Ninety-four minutes into Zero Days, Alex Gibney’s documentary about the American government’s expanding and largely invisible embrace of offensive cyber weaponry, the image of retired general James Cartwright appears on the screen. From 2007 to 2011 Cartwright was vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a favorite of President Obama. But when he appears in Gibney’s film, it’s not as an advocate, it’s as a potential enemy of the state, accused of leaking classified information.

‘Going Dark’

Cyberphobia: Identity, Trust, Security and the Internet

by Edward Lucas

The Future of Foreign Intelligence: Privacy and Surveillance in a Digital Age

by Laura K. Donohue
In mid-October 2014, about a year into his tenure as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Comey gave a speech at the Brookings Institution warning of the dangers ahead as tech companies increasingly encrypted their products. “What it means is this,” he said. “Those charged with protecting …

NYR DAILY

The Americans We Need

Over the last few years, we’ve spent considerable time in refugee enclaves across the nation. They are among the most admirable—and the most American—communities we’ve ever visited. Which is to say, President Trump’s ban on refugees is clearly racist and probably unconstitutional but it’s also just plain stupid, at least if the goal is to build a strong, safe, working nation.

Facebook, Twitter & Trump

Facebook's main campus, Menlo Park, California, 2013

What is missing from post-election analyses is a recognition of the outsized influence the Internet has had in this election, influence that may be less susceptible to fixing than, say, tweaking polling methods or replacing political consultants. Out of four million election-related tweets created between September 16 and October 21, one in five were generated by bots. About 39 percent—4,645,254 of Donald Trump’s 11,972,303 Twitter followers—were bots, compared to 524,141 of Hillary Clinton’s 10,696,761, or just 5 percent.

NSA Surveillance: What the Government Can’t See

In a July 2 report on the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of non-US citizens, the bipartisan Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board mostly found that the program is working as it was supposed to. But three days later, The Washington Post revealed the program is monitoring American citizens, and that the documents scooped up include baby pictures, love letters, messages between attorneys and their clients.

Over the High-Tech Rainbow

Apple's Senior Vice President of marketing Phil Schiller demonstrating features of Siri, Cuptertino, California, October 4, 2011 in Cupertino, California.

The day after the iPhone 4S was launched, Apple’s founder and resident seer, Steve Jobs, died. One of the most popular Jobs quotes circulating in the days after his death was one that he attributed to hockey great Wayne Gretzky: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” After three days of record iPhone 4S sales, there’s no better example of playing to where the puck is going to be than Siri. There are other “personal assistant” smart phone apps available. Indeed, before Apple removed it from its App Store, Siri was one of them. But who knew that consumers wanted Siri baked into their phone, and into Apple’s servers, which stores all previous “conversations,” so that Siri gets more and more familiar with its “boss” all the time? Steve Jobs, obviously. Playing to where the puck is going to be is, of course, a proxy for anticipating and then apprehending the future. At a conference at the MIT Media Lab last week sponsored by Technology Review, engineers, scientists, academics, entrepreneurs, investors, students, and corporate spokespeople were engaged in the journal’s annual attempt both to anticipate where the puck will land and, at the same time, push it there.