I read that a 100-year-old sturgeon was fished out of the Detroit River. I personalized it. I’m not 100 years old, but I feel more like a sturgeon every day.
I had a dream a while back about turning into a sturgeon. I dreamed I went swimming and magically turned into a sturgeon. Before I could learn how not to get caught, some human acquaintances fished me out, dragged me to a fire and cooked me. That’s why I call them acquaintances. Friends wouldn’t cook me. My last thought as I died being cooked in the dream was, “Good. I’ve been a fish 15 minutes and already hate it so much I want it to end.”
In other personalizable news, the King County Council has been debating banning police use of facial recognition technology.
I’ve discussed this frequently. Whenever facial recognition technology gets good, all privacy will be gone. Right now, the main thing keeping authorities from relying on the technology to track you 24/7 is the fact that it doesn’t work well.
As you may be aware, law enforcement agencies are especially eager to track minorities. But facial recognition technology is like Kodachrome: It’s been developed by people with mainly white people on their minds. So to the facial recognition software, the principal targets of profiling tend to all look alike.
Of course, an arrest is an arrest, so mistaken identifications are not necessarily a huge concern for the police themselves, but governments like to keep the number of lawsuits to a minimum.
Keeping the police from using the technology for now won’t save us. In three or four years, the accuracy will probably improve, and there will be much more pressure to use it. But in the meantime, businesses are not being prevented from using facial recognition, and there are openings for entrepreneurs to create shared databases to facilitate tracking between companies. Capitalism will do the tracking, even if King County doesn’t want to.
The USPS has been in the news lately for monitoring social media activity in a program called Internet Covert Operations Program — or iCOP. Supposedly, they’re just looking for threats to postal operations, but they’re certainly not above sharing. At the same time, we’re told that at least 70% of police departments across the country are doing the same sort of monitoring. It makes me reluctant to share my location with any businesses online.
I’m afraid that businesses are seeing the explosion in the use of video conferencing as an opportunity to train us to accept the idea that online interactions should always be by video. Oh, there won’t be a human being at their end most of the time — there’ll be a cartoon avatar that mouths the words of the voicemail — but they will want you to present yourself in person so they can record you, your voice and your face. For their records.
I know when it comes to that point, I’ll cave. I already routinely accept any and all cookies. Resistance is futile. Yes, I agree to your 30-page Terms of Agreement. Yes, I am not a robot. I know only you get to be the robot. I have to be the human. Yes, you can access my Facebook information; everyone else can.
Speaking of police, I have no personal opinion whether employees of cafes should be allowed to refuse service to police officers or whether such an act should be grounds for firing the employee. I think it should be up to the owner of the cafe.
I do think the punishment should fit the crime. Telling two cops they have to go elsewhere for coffee? In Wallingford, a neighborhood lined with cafes? How about suspension with pay? You know, the customary “punishment” for police misbehavior.
The president of the Seattle Police Guild, Mike Solan, called the incident at the Wallingford Chocolati Cafe “another punch in the gut.” Such drama. “Another,” he says, like he’s keeping a list.
What we seem to have here is scapegoating in both directions. The Chocolati employee wants to blame all cops for the bad ones. Solan wants to take out anger about police defunding on an unfriendly coffee-and-hot-chocolate server.
How cruel is it to be denied coffee or hot chocolate in Wallingford and have to go down the street?
The police should join the Atlantic Sturgeon and be considered a protected class. (There’s your weekly irony.)
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more of the May 12-18, 2021 issue.