Why The U.S. Is Terrified That Huawei Controls The World’s 5G Network

With 29 billion connected devices by 2022, one security expert claims, “Whoever gets to dominate 5G infrastructure will become the owner of the next generation of the world’s telecoms infrastructure.” That company is Huawei. ⁃ TN Editor

US lobbying against Chinese firm Huawei, one of the biggest phone makers and telecommunications kit providers in the world, hit a new level this week during the phone industry’s big annual conference.

Around 100,000 technology vendors, carriers, and device makers head to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona every year both to strike deals and to showcase emerging technologies. This year, the conversation was dominated almost exclusively by 5G, as carriers look to introduce next-generation, superfast mobile networks.

The conference was heavily sponsored by Huawei, as the firm made its big pitch about its 5G capabilities.

But looming in the background were the months of negative press about whether Huawei’s equipment might provide a backdoor that would allow the Chinese government to spy on people.

The firm’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, is awaiting Canada’s decision on whether to extradite her to the US, afteralleged sanctions violations. And the company was also indicted by the US for alleged theft of trade secrets.

Rotating chairman Guo Ping took to the stage on Tuesday morning to talk up Huawei’s 5G business to a cavernous auditorium filled with telecoms executives and journalists.

His speech took an unexpected turn about halfway through, when he fired a shot at the US government, turning claims that Huawei spies on behalf of China back on America.

“PRISM, PRISM on the wall, who is the most trustworthy of them all?” Guo said onstage, in reference to the PRISM surveillance system used by America’s intelligence agency. “Huawei has a strong track record in security in three decades. Three billion people around the world. The US security accusations of our 5G has no evidence, nothing.”

Behind him, a slide appeared in his presentation with the statement: “Huawei has not and will never plant backdoors.” There was even some muted laughter from the audience.

Elsewhere around the conference centre, Huawei’s logo adorned lanyards of thousands of attendees, while ads for its Mate X foldable phone greeted visitors as they entered the building.

Just five hours after Guo’s swipe, US government officials held a small press conference to make their position on Huawei clear. Up until that point, there had been no visible sign of the US government delegation, which had quietly turned up to Mobile World Congress to lobby its European allies not to use Huawei’s equipment in their networks.

Reading from a printed statement, with no microphone or slides, top US cyber official Robert Strayer said: “The United States is asking other governments and the private sector to consider the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese information technology companies.”

When pressed by reporters, Strayer refused to say whether the US had proof that Huawei might have built backdoors into its telecommunications equipment.

And asked if the US might simply be worried about leaning too heavily on a foreign tech company, Strayer said: “Really I think the question is this: Do you want to have a system that is potentially compromised by the Chinese government or would you rather go with a more secure alternative?”

The US will be hoping that Strayer’s comments, and its behind-the-scenes lobbying, will land more effectively with its allies than Huawei’s attack on the big stage at MWC.

Huawei upped the ante in its fight with the US over its telecommunication devices on Thursday local time, announcing that it filed a lawsuit against the US government, which has banned its federal agents from using the equipment, citing privacy concerns.

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Analysis: The Benefits Of Technocracy In China

This is an excellent and scholarly article on Technocracy in China. Note that it was Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-founder of the Trilateral Commission, who brought China and its premier, Deng Xiaoping, out of its dark ages in 1978. This is where China’s Technocracy sprung forth. ⁃ TN Editor
 

Since the Reform and Opening initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978, any casual observer of China’s leaders might note how many of them were educated as engineers. Indeed, at the highest level, former presidents Jiang Zemin (1993–2003) and Hu Jintao (2003–2013) as well as Xi Jinping (2013–present) all studied engineering, although Xi subsequently did academic work in management and law. And an engineering influence exists not only at the very top. A high proportion of government officials at city, provincial, and national levels have had some form of technical education. For example, of the 20 government ministries that form the State Council, more than half are headed by persons who have engineering degrees or engineering work experience. As a result, foreign analysts have suggested for some time that China functions as a kind of technocracy—a nation run by people who are in power because of their technical expertise—and have often criticized it as such. This assessment reflects a common Western view that technocratic governance is inherently anti-democratic and even dehumanizing.

But what does technocracy mean today, especially in China? Given China’s remarkable emergence in recent decades as a vibrant player on the world economic and political stage, might technocracy in the Chinese context have some positive characteristics?

To understand technocracy in China, one must first have a sense of historical context and above all an understanding of the cultural impact of a series of devastating military humiliations—the Opium Wars of the 1840s and 1860s, in which, in the name of free trade, China was forced to allow the importation of opium and the Summer Palace was sacked; an 1895 war in which Russia captured the Liaodong Peninsula and Japan took Taiwan, the Penghu Islands, and eventually Korea; and the 1899 Boxer Uprising against Christian missionaries, to which Great Britain, France, the United States, Japan, and Russia all responded by looting and raping in Tianjin, Beijing, and elsewhere. In reaction to these defeats, Chinese intellectuals turned the Qing Dynasty thinker Wei Yuan’s injunction “to learn from the West to defeat the West” into a social movement motto. Early Republic of China attempts to learn from the West actually involved the conscious importation of technocratic ideas by the Nanjing government. A number of Chinese who studied in the United States during the 1920s returned home influenced by American technocratic ideals of such figures as Thorsten Veblen and Howard Scott. One example is Luo Longji, who studied at Columbia University from 1922–1923 and returned to China to publish a number of articles arguing for what he called “expert politics,” his term for technocracy. Luo subsequently founded the China Democratic League, which remains one of the eight non-Communist political parties represented in the National People’s Congress.

Initially, however, all attempts to learn from the West had to struggle against internal political disorder (the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and a resulting long-term civil war) and renewed invasion by Japan (from 1931 to 1945, through which China endured the brunt of the World War II Pacific Theater). When Mao Zedong and the Communists won the civil war and on October 1, 1949, declared the People’s Republic, political consolidation and technical development vied with each other for priority.

For the next quarter century, until Mao’s death in 1976, the purity of redness often trumped technical engineering competence. The disaster of the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961) was caused by ignoring technological expertise, especially about agriculture, and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) closed many universities in the name of learning from the peasants. The Reform and Opening that began two years after Mao’s death naturally became an opportunity to rehabilitate expertise, both engineering and economic. In policies influenced by the successful development pathways pursued by technocratic regimes in Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan, the new paramount leader, Deng, moved engineers into critical government positions. Hu Yaobang, as Party Chairman (1981–1982) and General Secretary of the Communist Party (1982–1987), further proposed that all leading government personnel be trained technical specialists. The technocratic practice of scientific management, which Vladimir Lenin had declared as exploitative under capitalism but beneficial under socialism, offered a bridge between engineering and economics.

The Varieties of Technocracy

Before discussing what technocracy has come to mean in China today, I want to first step back to briefly explore how the term has come to be understood in the Western intellectual tradition. In one of the few empirical studies of technocracy, political scientist Robert Putnam defines technocrats as persons “who exercise power by virtue of their technical knowledge” and describes the “technocratic mentality” in terms of five key characteristics:

  • Confidence that social problems can be solved by scientific or technological means.
  • Skepticism or hostility toward politicians and political institutions.
  • Little sympathy for the openness and equality of democracy.
  • A preference for pragmatic over ideological or moral assessments of policy alternatives.
  • Strong commitment to technological progress in the form of material productivity, without concern for questions of distributive or social justice.

Putnam’s 1977 study further distinguishes between two types of technocrats: those with engineering technical knowledge versus those with economic technical knowledge—noting that the two groups diverge with regard to characteristics three, four, and five. Economic technocrats were more likely than engineering technocrats to grant importance to politics and equality and to be more interested in issues of social justice.

In a recent revisiting of the comparison, Richard Olson’s Scientism and Technocracy in the Twentieth Century: The Legacy of Scientific Management (2016) suggests that subsequent decades have witnessed something of a reversal. Engineering education has called increasing attention to social contexts that take politics and social justice seriously, while economics has become more quantitative and less concerned with social issues.

Neither author notes, however, the significant roles played in all modern societies by what could be called limited or sectoral technocracies. Technical knowledge is a basis for power that democratic societies willingly grant: for example, by delegating authority to the military, physicians, and civil engineers. At the same time, such societies may bitterly contest technocratic authority with regard to evolutionary biologists, agricultural researchers, and climate scientists.

Such distinctions help make clear what is really at stake in concerns about technocracy. In short, governance by technical experts and governance employing such principles as those of scientific management are not the same. When exercising political power, technical elites such as engineers and economists may also use the authority of their expertise to advance positions or policies that are not simply technical. In doing so they can easily ride roughshod over the interests of those they are supposed to serve, and in the process use their expertise to preserve their own political interests.

In Western developed countries, technocracy has thus been subject to multiple criticisms. Marxists attack technocracy for helping capitalism control workers. Humanists claim technocracy turns humans into machines. Libertarians criticize technocracy as encroaching on individual freedom. Historicists and relativists criticize scientific principles and technological methods for not adapting to human society.

Yet advanced techno-scientific society depends crucially on some level of technocratic governance. City mayors cannot provide safe water systems without asking engineers to design them. Governors cannot promote regional disease prevention and healthcare without medical and public health professionals; they cannot reduce environmental pollution without technical experts to monitor air and water quality. Heads of government would not even know about the ozone hole and global climate change without scientific advisers. The progressive deployment of technocratic elites in the practices of governance, even when under the supervision of non-technocratic elites, is a critical feature of all social orders today.

Maybe the fact that some form of technocracy is one of the basic characteristics of contemporary politics is a reason it is so often criticized. There is certainly some sense in which contemporary politics is characterized by a kind of universal resentment against the unintended consequences of a techno-scientific world that, along with all of its benefits, seems to be depriving us of traditional solaces and stabilities.

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emotions

Why You Should Be Worried About Machines Reading Your Emotions

Reading emotions is akin to phrenology, or reading the bumps on your head to predict mental traits. Both are based on simplistic and faulty assumptions which could falsely scar an individual for life. ⁃ TN Editor

Could a program detect potential terrorists by reading their facial expressions and behavior? This was the hypothesis put to the test by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in 2003, as it began testing a new surveillance program called the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques program, or Spot for short.

While developing the program, they consulted Paul Ekman, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. Decades earlier, Ekman had developed a method to identify minute facial expressions and map them on to corresponding emotions. This method was used to train “behavior detection officers” to scan faces for signs of deception.

But when the program was rolled out in 2007, it was beset with problems. Officers were referring passengers for interrogation more or less at random, and the small number of arrests that came about were on charges unrelated to terrorism. Even more concerning was the fact that the program was allegedly used to justify racial profiling.

Ekman tried to distance himself from Spot, claiming his method was being misapplied. But others suggested that the program’s failure was due to an outdated scientific theory that underpinned Ekman’s method; namely, that emotions can be deduced objectively through analysis of the face.

In recent years, technology companies have started using Ekman’s method to train algorithms to detect emotion from facial expressions. Some developers claim that automatic emotion detection systems will not only be better than humans at discovering true emotions by analyzing the face, but that these algorithms will become attuned to our innermost feelings, vastly improving interaction with our devices.

But many experts studying the science of emotion are concerned that these algorithms will fail once again, making high-stakes decisions about our lives based on faulty science.

Emotion detection technology requires two techniques: computer vision, to precisely identify facial expressions, and machine learning algorithms to analyze and interpret the emotional content of those facial features.

Typically, the second step employs a technique called supervised learning, a process by which an algorithm is trained to recognize things it has seen before. The basic idea is that if you show the algorithm thousands and thousands of images of happy faces with the label “happy” when it sees a new picture of a happy face, it will, again, identify it as “happy”.

A graduate student, Rana el Kaliouby, was one of the first people to start experimenting with this approach. In 2001, after moving from Egypt to Cambridge University to undertake a PhD in computer science, she found that she was spending more time with her computer than with other people. She figured that if she could teach the computer to recognize and react to her emotional state, her time spent far away from family and friends would be less lonely.

Kaliouby dedicated the rest of her doctoral studies to work on this problem, eventually developing a device that assisted children with Asperger syndrome read and respond to facial expressions. She called it the “emotional hearing aid”.

In 2006, Kaliouby joined the Affective Computing lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where together with the lab’s director, Rosalind Picard, she continued to improve and refine the technology. Then, in 2009, they co-founded a startup called Affectiva, the first business to market “artificial emotional intelligence”.

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