In Episode 64 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes the maddening and telling irony that while we’re all supposed to be ga-ga with triumphalism over NASA’s latest Mars probe, it has received practicailly no attention that Afro-Brazilian peasant communities are being forcibly removed from their traditional lands to make way for a US-backed expansion of the Alcântara Satellite Launch Center in impoverished Maranhão state. This juxtaposition of news stories is paradigmatic of the whole global struggle—sustainable, Earth-rooted cultures against a hypertrophing technosphere that is now colonizing the very heavens. Meanwhile, there are already so many satellites in orbit that near-Earth space is experiencing a fast-growing “space junk” problem. And economic austerity down here on terra firma is compounding the agonizing impacts of the pandemic. Whatever useful knowledge may be gleaned from the Mars probe, accounts don’t note that Halliburton is drawing up plans for mining operations on Mars. We recall Gil Scott Heron’s wry reaction to the 1969 Moon landing (“Whitey on the Moon“), and say with Marvin Gaye: “Spend it on the have-nots!” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image adapted from NASA photo)
The world is breathing a collective sigh of relief after General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy officially contacted the team of president-elect Joe Biden, marking the Trump administration’s belated initiation of the transition process. But along with the news of Murphy’s capitulation come reports that the US has deployed heavy bombers to the Middle East, and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a secret meeting in Saudi Arabia with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Simultaneously, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have conveniently claimed responsibility for a missile attack on a Saudi oil facility in the port of Jeddah. And this all comes just days after the disconcerting news that Trump had gathered his cabinet and advisors for a White House conclave weighing the options for military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. With his attempted judicial coup failing, Trump’s Plan B could be postponement (read: cancellation) of the presidential transition under pretext of a world crisis of his own making. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Saudi activists and dissidents are disputing official accounts alleging that a tribesman who refused government orders to surrender his home to make way for a new mega-project was killed in a shoot-out with security forces. Authorities say Abdul Rahim Ahmad al-Hwaiti, from Tabuk province on the Red Sea, was a “wanted terrorist” who opened fire on State Security agents who arrived at his home. But the incident came two days after al-Hwaiti posted a video statement saying he and other local residents were being pressured by the government to give up their properties and accept relocation. Al-Hwaiti, a member of the powerful al-Huwaitat tribe, accused the government of a policy of “forced displacement.” The project at issue is the NEOM, a planned “special economic zone” for high-tech industry, to cover an area bigger than Belgium, where robots will outnumber human residents. (Image via NeoScribe)
As nations across the globe remain under lockdown, more sweeping powers are being assumed by governments in the name of containing the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing demands for relief from poor barrios running out of resources under his lockdown orders, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to shoot protesters in the streets. Police have opened fire on lockdown violators in Nigeria, Ghana and Peru. In Tunisia, remote-controlled wheeled robots have been deployed to accost lockdown violators. States of emergency, including broad powers to restrict movements and control the media, have been declared from the Philippines to Serbia. Amnesty International warns that the restrictive measures could become a “new normal.” (Photo: Pulse, Ghana)
Amnesty International called upon countries to ban fully autonomous weapons systems on the first day of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Group of Governmental Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems meeting. Amnesty states that technology related to advanced weapons systems is outpacing international law. Future technologies may be able to replicate human responses, including "the ability to analyse the intentions behind people's actions, to assess and respond to often dynamic and unpredictable situations, or make complex decisions about the proportionality or necessity of an attack." A complete ban on fully autonomous weapons is necessary in order to avoid possible "dystopian" futures. Human interaction should be required by law to be involved in the identification, selection, and engagement of targets in advanced weapons. (Photo: Future of Life Institute)
US forces in Afghanistan have dropped more munitions in the first three months of 2018 than during the same time period in 2011—a time widely considered the height of the war. The spike in bombing comes after years of drawing down US troops across the country's remote rural areas—and therefore relies increasingly on technical rather than human intelligence. Figures released by US Air Forces Central Command indicate 1,186 "munitions expended by aircraft" in January, February and March this year. In 2011, during those same months, the military documented 1,083 weapons released from both manned and unmanned aircraft. The increase in "kinetic air operations" is part of a strategy to degrade the Taliban’s finances by targeting drug labs, which the insurgents are believed to tax. (Photo: USAF)
In Episode Six of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reads and discusses selections from CS Lewis' classic work The Abolition of Man, and explores its relevance in light of the contemporary dilemmas posed by biotech and artificial intelligence. Conservative Christian moralist Lewis paradoxically developed a quasi-anarchist critique of technological society, with ideas closely mirroring those of his contemporary George Orwell—despite the fact that the two were on opposite sides of the political divide. But Lewis went beyond even Orwell's dark vision in foreseeing an actual end to humanity itself, as it has been understood for millennia, and its replacement by a conditioned post-humanity stripped of all dignity and reason. Recent technological "advances" have made this possible more literally and completely than Lewis could have imagined. Listen on SoundCloud. (Image: Earth First! Newswire)
Israel is preparing to deploy fully autonomous Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) along the border with the Gaza Strip—mounted with machine-guns that can be remotely fired.
As human rights groups call for restrictions on use of killer robots in actual warfare, we have seen the first lethal use of such a device in domestic policing.