2x64: Nobrac

Stuart Langridge, Jono Bacon, and Jeremy Garcia present Bad Voltage, in which is discussed the prodigal’s opinions of what we got up to while he was prodigaling, the Wurzels get a second look-in, and:

  • [00:01:40] People who have fled Wuhan, site of the largest outbreak of coronavirus, are [reputedly](https://twitter.com/balajis/status/1224240957031419904) being "digitally" quarantined; cut off from WeChat, which renders them unable to pay for rather a lot of things such as hotels, petrol, and so on, and the Chinese computerised ID system. Relatedly, Uber in Australia are [suspending](https://www.smh.com.au/national/uber-flags-suspension-of-drivers-passengers-exposed-to-coronavirus-20200130-p53w9v.html) drivers and passengers as risk of spreading the virus. Is this sort of "digital quarantine" an acceptable response to contagious medical crises? We have some surprisingly nuanced and undecided thoughts on the matter
  • [00:24:04] Microsoft have [pledged to be carbon negative](https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-51133811) by 2030, meaning that they remove more carbon from the atmosphere than they create, to the point where by 2050 they've removed more carbon than the company have _ever_ put into the atmosphere. Is this... plausible? Is it a good idea? Will others follow where MS lead? And do we believe them?
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I would like to pick up on a few points

  • Digital Censorship: Are the Chinese authorities alleged to be blocking use while you have left an area and re allowing it once you return, or blocking use if you leave and you don’t get it back? Do we think the distinction is important?

  • Micro$oft, I don’t feel I can ever be a fan of the company but they have cleaned their act up and no-longer warrant the distaste I once had. The best option they have to remove carbon dioxide is slow but locking it up in trees is probably the best approach. I feel wary about Microsoft forests but charitable donations to keep out rain forests going and plant new ones sounds like good idea to me.

  • Politics: the ‘capitalism’, ‘socialism’ topic was touched upon. Religion and politics are two subjects normally avoided but we handled religion pretty well I think so would be happy to open this up if people want. This would be a separate thread and while I would be happy to discuss any ideas we need to show mutual respect. The moderators including myself will shut the thread down and delete it if we don’t play nice.

The problem I have with the various “carbon pledges” is how easy it is to redefine the problem away. There’s no proof that they will, but as a huge company, they also shouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt that they won’t spin off all of their energy-hungry centers to contracting companies or reach their goals by spending a few bucks to buy offsets. For a direct example, they’re probably not going to nose into their employees’ lives, because the employees probably wouldn’t be considered part of the company’s burden, even if someone decides to drive a coal-fired locomotive to commute into the city.

The “digital quarantines” are obviously troublesome, but since that has always been possible and can’t be made impossible, the only solution is how we (fail to) prevent cops from persecuting people: You need a foundational law to prevent it and (here’s the part where we go wrong) hold people accountable for that law and hold those supervisors accountable for enforcement. This is why, even though it sounds worse than a government flips that kind of switch (because we expect “consent of the governed” to be respected), it’s more dangerous when a private company does it, because they aren’t legally accountable to anybody. I mean, we saw all those articles in the last couple of years about journalists who tried to cut the Big Five tech companies (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft) out of their lives and what that looked like, so we have some sense of what it would look like if Amazon unpersoned someone, from shopping people rely on to accessing AWS-hosted sites to whatever else they do.

The funny thing is how this all reminds me of, back in the '80s, one of the persistent conspiracy theories was that “the Rockerfellers” (no idea why it was always centered on them) were putting chips in everybody to force us into a cashless society and to punish anybody they didn’t like by turning off their chips. I never really understood that narrative, because having everybody you don’t trust all off the grid seems…ill-advised, and that logic seems to apply here, too. Rather than using the geofence to enforce the quarantine by arresting people who violate it, it seems remarkably myopic to force them into underground economies where it’s harder to check the spread of the virus.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t mind Bad Voltage 2000, but I almost wonder if it would come off better as current stories recontextualized as if they were twenty years old…

I would be interested in hearing a show covering events from 20 years ago as if they were current.

What I would find entertaining would be that @sil @jonobacon and @jeremy would do a show channeling their 20 year younger selves covering current events. It could be called Young Voltage! :smile:

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I think you missed one major point in the Microsoft discussion. Unlike a number of their biggest competitors, Microsoft are, and always have been, primarily a software company. Yes, they do have some hardware divisions (particularly peripherals and Xbox) but they mostly do software, which makes it massively easier to make a carbon pledge compared to someone like, say, Apple who make a tonne of hardware that gets shipped all over the world.

Whilst I don’t see any reason to doubt the sincerity of the move, it’s also fairly shrewd to make the sort of promise that it would be hard for your competitors to make.

That’s a good point, and one I hadn’t thought of. Clever move.

I’d be an arrogant shouty zealot (plus ça change, eh?), Jono would go on about metal, and Jeremy… would be exactly precisely the same as today.

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First off, get with the conspiracy theory zeitgeist, grandad; it’s not the Rockefellers, it’s the Trilateral Commission. And the Bilderberg Group. And admittedly the Rockefellers. :slight_smile:

I didn’t read the prevailing goal of such proposals as to give power to the Omniscient Council of Vagueness to remove you from the economy if they decided they didn’t like your haircut (although certainly there were accusations of that sort of thing). The idea was, if you stop cash, then you make it really difficult to do drugs transactions (and this was the 80s, the era of Nancy Reagan and Just Say No). It’s been proposed again recently; make cash only legal tender for transactions up to something small like £20. If someone shows up to the bank with a suitcase full of bills then they’ll be asked where they got it from. It’s much harder to launder money in that environment.

If the term was still current at the time, my family would’ve been “working class,” so we couldn’t afford Bilderbergers in our conspiracies…

But yes, the intent is certainly different and I don’t want to imply that the Chinese are trying to implement whatever the tinfoil hats were rambling about forty years ago. But I can’t help imagining that cutting off access to digital money is going to force “escapees” into using cash and barter, which is not only more difficult to track, but also more likely to spread the disease they’re trying to stop.

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