Archive for May 2012
I’ve been sitting on this blog for a while but EFF’s excellent post on Apple’s “crystal prisons” finally made me get off my butt and publish it. It’s based on a more detailed analysis I did for a paper that I can provide upon request.
Should users of Apple’s iOS devices have access to an app that condemns marriage equality? How about an app that lets users create their own joke drivers licenses? Or an app that gives them access to content published by WikiLeaks, or another that advocates for a single-payer health care system in America?
Regardless of one’s opinion of the appropriateness, usefulness or political views represented in these apps, the fact is that whether they are available to iOS users is at the moment up to Apple and Apple alone—and that’s precisely the problem.
Since launching the revolutionary iPhone in the summer of 2007, Apple Inc. has become one of the leading manufacturers of mobile communication devices in the world, having sold more than 314 million iOS-based devices (including the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad) to date. Apple’s dominant position in this market includes its App Store, which as of this writing boasts more than 585,000 apps and has surpassed 25 billion downloads. Apple’s iOS ecosystem has become a critical entry points unto the Internet, which is one of the most important platforms for political action and personal expression available today.
Unlike the Internet, however, the App Store is a relatively closed ecosystem. To gain access to the App Store, developers must have their apps approved by Apple. The company’s app review and approval policies have been criticized for being opaque and arbitrary, and have resulted in the rejection of both explicitly and implicitly political apps—including the apps listed at the top of this blog, as well as many others. Read the rest of this entry »
There is a story in the New Yorker this week about geoengineering research that could help avert the worst effects of climate change. Scientists around the world are looking into ways to alter the composition of the atmosphere in order to reflect sunlight back into space, extract existing CO2 from the atmosphere, or other schemes to offset the expected rise in temperature through the rest of the century and beyond. Some of the schemes — such as pumping sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to deflect the sun’s rays — are based on relatively well established science. Other ideas seem, well, more fanciful:
There have been proposals to send mirrors, sunshades, and parasols into space. Recently, the scientific entrepreneur Nathan Myhrvold, whose company Intellectual Ventures has invested in several geoengineering ideas, said that we could cool the earth by stirring the seas. He has proposed deploying a million plastic tubes, each about a hundred metres long, to roil the water, which would help it trap more CO2.
. . .
The Harvard physicist Russell Seitz wants to create what amounts to a giant oceanic bubble bath: bubbles trap air, which brightens them enough to reflect sunlight away from the surface of the earth. Another tactic would require maintaining a fine spray of seawater—the world’s biggest fountain—which would mix with salt to help clouds block sunlight.
The part of me that always seeks to maximize my sources of amusement would LOVE to live in a planet surrounded by mirrors, shades and parasols, with giant bubble baths, fountains and drink-stirrers sprouting from the oceans. But my enthusiasm for these geoengineering schemes is tempered by the fact that, as Trinity College engineering professor Hugh Hunt says, “If we have to use these tools, it means something on this planet has gone seriously wrong.’’