Black Mirror Season 4 Episode 1 ‘USS Callister’ Shows How Technology Enables Creeps

Black Mirror Season 4 Episode 1 'USS Callister' Shows How Technology Enables Creeps

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Black Mirror season 4 is available on Netflix
  • “USS Callister” is the first episode of new season
  • Charlie Brooker co-wrote, stars Jesse Plemons

Spoilers ahead for Black Mirror season four episode one, “USS Callister”. If you haven’t seen the episode, turn away and come back later.

At its surface, “USS Callister” – the first episode of anthology sci-fi series Black Mirror’s fourth season, out since Friday on Netflix worldwide – seems like a parody of Star Trek. It’s how the poster, stills, trailer, and the title have been set up, but that’s merely because marketing any episode of Black Mirror is a challenge, given its reliance on twists. (It’s also why Netflix prohibited us critics from revealing much about it.) The one in “USS Callister” appears less than 10 minutes into the episode, when it’s revealed that it’s all just a locally-stored Trek-themed fork of a popular virtual reality game.

From that moment on, the Trek inspiration turns merely into elaborate dressing, from the clothes to the sets, which hews as closely as possible to Gene Roddenberry’s vision with the 60s original series, without getting the CBS lawyers off their cushy seats. The real target of the episode are the power fantasies of human beings, and how can they can go very quickly from harmless to beyond creepy with advances in technology. Black Mirror has always been fascinated with digital consciousness – first with “White Christmas”, then “San Junipero”and now this – though it gets a much heavier focus on “USS Callister”.

Out in the real world, Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) is the brains behind the online multiplayer VR creation, but he’s always been the ignored nice guy. He doesn’t get the credit unlike the public-facing Walton (Jimmi Simpson) – the CEO calls himself the “shiny front-end”, and refers to Daly as the back-end – he’s laughed at by his colleagues at the company, and he doesn’t get the reception he expects from the receptionist. Black Mirror makes it easy to sympathise with him, and view him as someone who can’t catch a break, but then turns that image on its head over the next hour.

black mirror season 4 uss callister nanette Black Mirror season 4 USS Callister

Annoyed and incensed by how he’s treated, Daly has created a modded version of the game, and he’s slowly introduced digital clones of his co-workers by stealing their DNA from the office, and using high-end tech to recreate them in the virtual reality. New employee Nanette (Cristin Miloti), who admires Daly professionally, is pulled in after he overhears her dismissing the idea of liking him in personal capacity. There, he expects her to be nice to him and forces her to comply when she refuses, like he’s already done with everyone else. In short, he’s the God.

But unlike, say, in a game of The Sims, his actions are far from harmless. The digital clones can think and feel pain like their counterparts outside, so when Daly demands a kiss from every female crew member at the end of each playthrough, or torments someone by creating a clone of their son and killing him in front of them repeatedly, that carries a lot more weight than starving a Sims baby to death. Black Mirror has always tried to warn us about the unanticipated dangers of new technology, and “USS Callister” posits how it can enable harmless creeps – Daly doesn’t seem bold enough to be a criminal – from acting out their fantasies.

That doesn’t make his actions any less criminal, though whether the laws in “USS Callister” have caught up to the available technologies is entirely unknown. Is Daly as bad as someone who would torture people in real life? Since the in-game versions of his co-workers have consciousness too, should Daly pay the same price as a criminal would in our world? And should a citizen be allowed to own a device that can help you digitally clone someone in the first place? Those are all questions raised by the episode, which has been directed by Toby Haynes (Doctor Who, Sherlock).

But Charlie Brooker, the creator of Black Mirror and co-writer on “USS Callister”, is more interested in creating an empowering story. Nanette is the true protagonist here, as it becomes clear, but the episode hides that by introducing us to the world from Daly’s eyes. We’ve all experienced situations where we’ve wanted to have control over someone, and that makes seeing Daly go through with that all the more harrowing, because there’s a bit of him in all of us.

black mirror season 4 uss callister deck Black Mirror season 4 USS Callister

“USS Callister” also ends up being accidentally timely, what with a woman having to escape from the clutches of a man who views her as an object serving as an allegory for the ongoing #MeToo social movement that erupted across the globe in the wake of sexual assault allegations levelled against major Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. In the episode, the video game versions of Callister employees are stuck in a universe where Weinstein is the only movie producer, so they have to work within those restrictions or face retribution.

While her other co-workers have chosen to give in, Nanette comes up with a strategy to free themselves from Daly’s control, which involves blackmailing her own self out in the real world. By doing so, she actually makes the original version of her self commit a crime – breaking and entering – who remains completely oblivious to how she’s helping a few digital souls escape their tormentor. We aren’t told how this impacts real-Nanette when Daly is inevitably found dead, but clone-Nanette ends up in a procedurally-generated world with infinite possibilities.

Black Mirror also gets in a dig about online gaming, with the first encounter for the digital clones being a conceited gamer – cheekily voiced by Aaron Paul’s distinctive voice – who threatens to blow them up for not serving his purpose. As an exasperated Nanette instructs her crew to warp away, he proclaims himself as ‘the king of space’, the words sounding hollow as you look at the vast virtual emptiness. The world will never be perfect, “USS Callister” argues, but you’ve always got to fight to make it better.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Amazon Adopts Kubernetes Open Source Technology as Competition Heats Up

Amazon Adopts Kubernetes Open Source Technology as Competition Heats Up

Amazon.com on Wednesday announced its adoption of Kubernetes, a popular open-source technology, in a sign of increased competition in the cloud computing business, which Amazon Web Services has long dominated.

Kubernetes has emerged as a standard among companies as they build more applications on public clouds, the big computer data centers that are displacing traditional customer-owned computer systems.

Earlier this year companies including Microsoft Corp, Oracle Corp, and IBM Corp announced their support for Kubernetes, which was originally developed by a team at Google.

AWS Chief Executive Andy Jassy made the Kubernetes announcement at Re:Invent, AWS’s annual conference in Las Vegas which this year attracted more than 40,000 attendees. Amazon also announced a marketing deal with the US National Football League and a flurry of other AWS features, including machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms.

One of Kubernetes’ key advantages is its ability to run an application on any public cloud, including Microsoft’s Azure and Alphabet’s Google Cloud Platform, making it easier to migrate from one cloud vendor to another.

Amazon had previously offered a service of its own that was similar to Kubernetes, but the Google technology has established itself as the standard for such so-called “container” technologies and AWS ultimately had little choice but to support it, analysts said.

“This is an example of AWS looking outside of their own world in response to customer need,” said Joe Beda, one of the creators of Kubernetes and the chief technology officer of Heptio, a Seattle startup that builds software around Kubernetes technology.

Microsoft, Google gain ground
AWS pioneered the cloud computing business in 2006 with a service touted as a quick and easy way for smaller business to get affordable, high-powered computing services. It soon began to catch on among larger companies and continue to grow very rapidly, hitting $4.6 billion in revenue on 42 percent year-over-year growth in the most recent quarter.

But the market has begun to change. Although AWS’s share of the worldwide cloud infrastructure market has increased from 43.8 percent in the first half of 2015 to 45.4 percent in the first half of this year, two of its key rivals have also gained share, according to IDC, the market research firm.

Google Cloud Platform’s slice has grown from 1.7 percent in 2015 to 3.1 percent earlier this year, and more notably, Microsoft Azure’s share has increased from 5.6 percent to 10.3 percent in that time span.

“Amazon is still the clear market leader, but the cloud infrastructure market is massive and there’s room for many players,” said Amit Agarwal, chief product officer of Datadog, a New York startup that lets companies monitor their operations on public clouds.

Under the new deal with the National Football League, AWS will be one of the league’s “official technology providers,” allowing AWS to market its connection to the league and advertise during football broadcasts that it is powering the games’ “Next Gen Stats.”

The price of the deal was not disclosed.

“We’re working with some of the NFL broadcasters to investigate what are the great use cases for how to embed (this partnership) for the fan experience,” Ariel Kelman, AWS vice president of worldwide marketing, told Reuters.

The idea is to market AWS to decision-makers without IT backgrounds, such as the chief executive and chief financial officers, Kelman said.

“Before they didn’t have to do that because they were the only guys in town,” Brett Moss, a senior vice president at Ensono, a Chicago IT services provider, said of the marketing effort. “Not anymore.”

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

The Corporate Partnership Bringing Education And Technology To Rural Ghana

Many girls in rural Africa lack access to education due to factors like gender inequality and familial poverty. But for the past 10 years, a social entrepreneur and former educator in Ghana has been working to change that.

After observing the difficulty many young girls have while trying to access education and stay in school – as well as the lack of innovation in the educational system – social entrepreneur and Ghana native Kafui Prebbie believed he could improve education through technology – so he did.

Prebbie founded TECHAide, a technology company working to digitally deliver educational content to those typically unable to access education in Ghana.

TECHAide provides affordable hotspots, servers, mobile devices, interactive educational software and community computer labs to deliver educational lessons, videos and other content that can be leveraged in rural communities that traditionally lack these resources.

Recently, Prebbie launched the company’s newest product – ASANKA – a mobile hotspot and content delivery system named with a dual meaning: Community Bowl, a Ghanaian reference, and an acronym for All Subjects and New Knowledge Access.

Founded 10 years ago, Prebbie shares the company has reached more than 100,000 students in Ghana. And while TECHAide’s reach validates need, Prebbie wanted to take his technology to a new level – leveraging personal mobile devices to bring education to even more young students across Ghana, a goal that required the help of a strong corporate partner.

Source:-forbes

India’s Crackdown on Chinese Technology Companies Gathering Pace

India’s Crackdown on Chinese Technology Companies Gathering Pace

HIGHLIGHTS

  • UCWeb was earlier reported to be leaking data from India to China
  • UC Browser has over 100 million monthly active users in India
  • The matter is being looked into by government before it takes any action

India is intensifying a crackdown on Chinese technology companies with a government official saying security testing of China’s UC Browser is being done to see if it’s leaking data.

Testing on the popular browser made by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s UCWeb is under way and the government is awaiting a report before deciding on any action, Ajay Prakash Sawhney, secretary in the Ministry of Information Technology, said on Wednesday. UC Browser has over 100 million monthly active users in India and claims over 50 percent of the mobile browser market in the country.

The IT Ministry said earlier this month that it was focusing on “securing Indian cyberspace” and its digital infrastructure. It directed over two dozen smartphone companies to provide detailed written responses by Monday on their “safety and security practices, architecture, frameworks, guidelines and standards.” The companies included prominent Chinese device makers such as Xiaomi, Lenovo, Oppo, Vivo and Gionee as well as global brands Apple and Samsung and Indian companies.

While the government hasn’t singled out Chinese phone companies, it noted in the directive that mobile devices have achieved 75 percent penetration in the Indian market and “there’s a need to ensure the safety and security of the devices.”

Brands such as Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo and Lenovo have improved their market share, accounting for over half of the smartphone shipments to India for the second successive quarter ending in June, according to data from researcher IDC. Xiaomi, which is fast closing the gap with the country’s leading brand Samsung, plans to open 100 brick and mortar stores in the next two years to further its market share.

Samsung, Apple, Micromax, Oppo and Vivo did not respond to emails seeking comment on the government’s directive. Xiaomi declined to comment.

Border standoff
The security audit comes amid a tense standoff between the armies of India and China over territory in the tiny mountain kingdom of Bhutan.

India’s sudden directive has puzzled phone makers. “Let’s not play hide and seek. If the government wants that Indian data should not go out, it should say so decisively,” Pankaj Mohindroo, national president of the Indian Cellular Association, said in a phone interview.

The government could be seeking to locate data hosting servers in India, create a national firewall for the apps and create a standard for a secure smartphone, he said.

It’s not just the growing market share of Chinese brands that worries the government, but also that the bulk of components are directly imported from China. “Over 95 percent of the components come from China or are made by Chinese-owned companies in Taiwan or elsewhere, nothing is made in India other than chargers, batteries and headsets,” said Sudhir Hasija, chairman of Karbonn Mobiles Pvt, a domestic budget phone maker.

“There’s a feeling that China collects data through their chip sets from users,” said Hasija. “This is the worry of the whole world and this is also the worry of the Indian government.”

India’s imports of electronics could rise to about $300 billion (roughly Rs. 19,22,538 crores) by 2020 with demand increasing to $400 billion (roughly Rs. 25,63,383 crores), according to a June forecast by The Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India, an industry body.

“This could be the first step to getting technology companies to set up servers within India,” said Ravinder Zutshi, a former deputy managing director of Samsung India and the ex-chief of the country’s leading consumer electronics manufacturers’ body. “This could be the government’s way of ensuring that there’s no data leaking outside the country’s borders,” Delhi-based Zutshi said by in a phone conversation.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]