Welcome to the future Marty! 🕴

Edition #015

Back to the Future Part II (1989)

Welcome to the future Marty! How was your ride in the time machine? I think you've got some catching up to do from the web/world of the early 2000's that you've just come from and are describing here.

Let’s fill you in on what has happened. Platform Monopolies are in full swing, and the internet is now a corporate-owned web — with a myriad of apps that are surveilling our every touch and click.

Palantir has terrifying racist policing algorithms, the NSA is plugged into everything and has a dragnet filling a complex database for US 'homeland security', social media/Facebook campaigns can be used by 'Doublespeak'-ing authoritarian childhood-traumatized leaders to win elections, and Crypto AG is a CIA owned company that has been selling back-doored cryptography tools to national governments for many decades.

Oh and you might want to Google 'Edward Snowden' and go back and read some of the great the Guardian articles published about it.

We're building an artificial intelligence-powered dystopia, one click at a time, says technosociologist Zeynep Tufecki. In an eye-opening talk, she details how the same algorithms companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon use to get you to click on ads are also used to organize your access to political and social information. And the machines aren't even the real threat. What we need to understand is how the powerful might use AI to control us -- and what we can do in response.

ℹ️ Reopenings are driving surges in coronavirus cases, particularly in the United States, which has broken daily-case records five times in nine days. More than 59,460 new cases were announced across the country on Thursday. The New York Times is still providing free access to the most important news and useful guidance on the coronavirus outbreak to help us understand the pandemic. Here are the latest updates and maps of the outbreak.

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Product & Design Resources

Bookmark our ever-growing website with 1400+ design tools and resources.


UX Roadmaps: Definition and Components

Sarah Gibbons | Nielsen Norman Group

Google explains how YouTube search works

Matt Southern | SEJ

On designing and building toggle switches

Sara Soueidan

Inclusive components


How we launched docs.github.com

Sarah Schneider | The GitHub Blog

Personas – A Simple Introduction

Rikke Friis Dam, Teo Yu Siang | Interaction Design Foundation

Fail like a scientist

Anne-Laure Le Cunff | Ness Labs

Growing the Evergreens

Maggie Appleton

Animals use social distancing to avoid disease

Dana M. Hawley, Julia C. Buck | Scientific American August 2020 Issue


Bite-sized, visual learning.


What else going on

Illustration: Aïda Amer / Axios

  • Facebook faces trust crisis as ad boycott grows.

    • The political and social pressure on Facebook is ramping up, but the tech giant doesn't show any signs of seriously changing its policies in response to the mounting pressure, as most politicians and marketers seem to benefit too much from Facebook advertising to really give it up long-term.

  • China recently passed a sweeping security law that will cast new digital surveillance over Hongkongers. Tech companies are reacting quickly. Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google, Zoom, and Telegram say they’re pausing cooperation with government requests for user data. Apple says it’s assessing the new law. 

  • Uber announced it’s acquiring Postmates, the SF based food delivery startup, for $2.65B in an all stock deal.

  • California may pass a second privacy law similar to the CCPA by year’s end.

  • Apple released the public beta of iOS 14 to everyone.

    • After a couple weeks of developer-only testing, Apple has made available a public beta version of iOS 14, the software that will power iPhones starting this fall.

  • Amie a new productivity app from ex-N26 product manager Dennis Müller, has picked up $1.3 million in pre-seed funding to “kickstart” development and hiring.

  • TikTok said Monday night that it would pull its social video platform out of the Google and Apple app stores in Hong Kong amid a restrictive new law that went into effect last week.

  • Hamilton gives Disney+ a holiday weekend bump in the US.

    • With theaters closed until 2021, "Hamilton" is the biggest litmus test for whether Broadway will ever be able to successfully transition some of its iconic hits. The debut of Hamilton on Disney+ gave the streaming app a 74% boost in downloads.

  • Sony invested $250 million for a stake in Fortnite parent Epic Games. 

  • Twitter is working on a potential subscription platform.

    • The company posted a job listing saying it was launching a subscription platform under the code name “Gryphon.” 


What's next: This week's schedule

So what happens now?

Orwell sought to awaken British and U.S. societies to the totalitarian dangers that threatened democracy even after the Nazi defeat. In letters before and after his novel’s completion, Orwell urged “constant criticism,” warning that any “immunity” to totalitarianism must not be taken for granted: “Totalitarianism, if not fought against, could triumph anywhere.”

Since 1984’s publication, we have assumed with Orwell that the dangers of mass surveillance and social control could only originate in the state. We were wrong. This error has left us unprotected from an equally pernicious but profoundly different threat to freedom and democracy.

In 2019, social media companies deploy vast armies of human and algorithmic moderators that surveil their users 24/7, flagging those that commit thoughtcrimes and deleting their violations from existence. Those that commit too many thoughtcrimes are banished to “unperson” status by these same private companies, without any intervention or even in contradiction with the will of the state and without any right to appeal.

Check out The Atlas of Surveillance, a database of the surveillance technologies deployed by law enforcement in communities across the United States. This includes drones, body-worn camera, automated license plate readers, facial recognition, and more. This research was compiled by more than 500 students and volunteers and incorporates datasets from a variety of public and non-profit sources.

In the end, as we rush towards an ever more Orwellian world of surveillance and censorship, perhaps we might all take the time to reread 1984 in order to better understand the world we are rushing towards.

— That’s it for this edition. Over a thousand IDFA films and projects are free and available to watch in their online collection, here’s how you get started. See you next week.

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