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Normal Intrusions: Globalising AI Surveillance

Binoy KLampmark

They all do it: corporations, regimes, authorities. They all have the same reasons: efficiency, serviceability, profitability, all under the umbrella term of “security”. Call it surveillance, or call it monitoring the global citizenry; it all comes down to the same thing. You are being watched for your own good, and such instances should be regarded as a norm.

Given the weaknesses of international law and the general hiccupping that accompanies efforts to formulate a global right to privacy, few such restrictions, or problems, preoccupy those in surveillance. The entire business is burgeoning, a viral complex that does not risk any abatement.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has released an unnerving report confirming that fact, though irritatingly using an index in doing so.  Its focus is Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. A definition of sorts is offered for AI, being “an integrated system that incorporates information acquisition objectives, logical reasoning principles, and self-correction capacities.”

When stated like that, the whole matter seems benign.  Machine learning, for instance, “analyses a large amount of information in order to discern a pattern to explain the current data and predict future uses.”

There are several perturbing highlights supplied by the report’s author, Steven Feldstein.  The relationship between military expenditure and states’ use of AI surveillance systems is noted, with “forty of the world’s top fifty military spending countries (based on cumulative military expenditures) also [using] AI surveillance technology.” 

Across 176 countries, data gathered since 2017 shows that AI surveillance technologies are not merely good domestic fare but a thriving export business.

The ideological bent of the regime in question is no bar to the use of such surveillance. Liberal democracies are noted as major users, with 51 percent of “advanced democracies” doing so.  That number, interestingly enough, is less than “closed autocratic states” (37 percent); “electoral autocratic/competitive autocratic states” (41 percent) and “electoral democracies/illiberal democracies” (41 percent). 

The political taxonomist risks drowning in minutiae on this point, but the chilling reality stands out: all states are addicted to diets of AI surveillance technologies.

Feldstein makes the fairly truistic point that “autocratic and semi-autocratic” states so happen to abuse AI surveillance more “than governments in liberal democracies” but the comparisons tend to breakdown in the global race for technological superiority. 

Russia, China and Saudi Arabia are singled out as “exploiting AI technology for mass surveillance purposes” but all states seek the Holy Grail of mass, preferably warrantless surveillance. Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 did more than anything else to scupper the quaint notion that those who profess safeguards and freedoms are necessarily aware about the runaway trends of their security establishment.

The corporation-state nexus is indispensable to global surveillance, a symbiotic relationship that resists regulation and principle.  This has the added effect of destroying any credible distinction between a state supposedly more compliant with human rights standards, and those that are not. 

The common thread, as ever, is the technology company. As Feldstein notes, in addition to China, “companies based in liberal democracies – for example, Germany, France, Israel, Japan, South Korea, the UK, the United States – are actively selling sophisticated equipment to unsavoury regimes.”

These trends are far from new.  In 1995, Privacy International published a report with the unmistakable title Big Brother Incorporated, an overview of surveillance technology that has come to be aptly known as the Repression Trade.  “Much of this technology is used to track the activities of dissidents, human rights activists, journalists, student leaders, minorities, trade union leaders, and political opponents.”

Corporations with no particular allegiance except to profit and shareholders, such as British computer firm ICL (International Computers Limited) were identified as key designers behind the South African automated Passbook system, Apartheid’s stand out signature.  In the 1980s, the Israeli company Tadiran, well in keeping with a rich tradition of the Repression Trade, supplied the murderous Guatemalan policy with computerised death lists in their “pacification” efforts.

The current galloping power in the field of AI surveillance technology is China, underpinned by the clout-heavy Belt and Road Initiative rosily described by its fans as a Chinese Marshall Plan.  Where there are market incentives, there are purchasing prospects for AI technology. 

Technology linked to Chinese companies are found in at least sixty-three countries worldwide.  Huawei alone is responsible for providing AI surveillance technology to at least fifty countries.”

Chinese technology, it is speculated, may well boost surveillance capabilities within certain African markets, given the “aggressiveness of Chinese companies”.

Other powers also participate in what has become a field of aggressive competitors.  Japan’s NEC is its own colossus, supplying technology to some 14 countries. IBM keeps up the pressure as a notable American player, doing so to 11 countries. That particular entity made something of a splash in May, with a report revealing sales of biometric surveillance systems to the United Arab Emirates security and spy agencies stirring discussion in May this year.

Another recipient of IBM surveillance technology is the Philippines, a country more than keen to arm its police forces with the means to monitor, and more than occasionally murder, its citizens.  (The Davao City death squads are a bloody case in point.)

Issues with the report were bound to arise.

A humble admission is made that the sampling method may be questionable in terms of generating a full picture of the industry. 

Given the opacity of government surveillance use, it is nearly impossible to pin down by specific year which AI platforms or systems are currently in use.”  Nor does the index “distinguish between AI surveillance used for legitimate purposes and unlawful digital surveillance.”

A murky field, indeed.

For all the grimness of Feldstein’s findings, he is also aware of the seductive element that various platforms have offered.  Rampant, amoral AI surveillance might well be a hideous by-product of technology, but the field teems with promise in “deep learning; cloud computing and online data gathering”, “improved performance of complex algorithms; and market-driven incentives for new uses of AI technology.” 

This shows, in a sense, the Janus-faced nature in critiquing such an enterprise; such praise tends to come with the territory, given Feldstein’s own background as former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau of the US State Department.

Feldstein leaves room to issue a warning.  “As these technologies become more embedded in governance and politics, the window for change will narrow.”  The window, in many instances, has not so much narrowed as closed, as it did decades ago.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: [email protected]

 

 

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MASTER OF UNIVE
MASTER OF UNIVE
Sep 30, 2019 3:03 AM

Western governments have been monitoring all civilian populations for as long as I have been alive.
Interloping on privacy is their last bastion of knowledge. Breaching privacy is entirely another matter.

Systems Theory & Information Theory guide what is, and is not possible. Cybernetic control of population is, and always will be, hit & miss technology.

The human mind is the last bastion for humankind.

Quantum computing & cybernetic interface with the human mind might turn out to be a dangerous interface when it manifests but so far the human mind blows the doors off of quantum computing at the levels humankind has still been unable to achieve to date.

Doom & gloom scenario of dystopia & cybernetic apocalypse is not realistic given various checks & balances that would obviously follow control & energy source, as well as proprietary ownership.

AI & Mass surveillance is also sanctioned via sovereign legislation for information laws. Mass Marketing & Retail, Commercial use and application of the technology is, and will be, problematic.

Accuracy of algorithm for meta-analytics of Retail advertising & Commercial advertising is also presently very weakly applicable or even correlated to actual marketing sales data recorded.

What exactly does AI threaten or measure if surveillance does not cover a private mind or thoughts of populations?

AI & robotics/cybernetics is merely multiaxis-CNC & ASCII Code binary solid state digital programming.

I don’t really think human beings have anything to worry about given the basic programming.

Robotics will never become advanced enough to anthropomorphise human like ability off onto machine.

Computing cannot even remotely parallel the human capability of a human brain.

Finding free lunch out of Robotics & Cybernetics is not possible.

That has always been Engineering fantasy for everyone involved in Engineering since time began & the wheel was invented by a woman.

MOU

Doctortrinate
Doctortrinate
Sep 30, 2019 1:52 AM

the suppression of expression….but as long as the Self Knows not to express itself through their surpressed thoughts and ideas , then there’s no way they can contain you – if you dont realise that, then they have the upper hand, and can feed from it, so allows them the Power because it lives life through them….and prevents individual development.

Where to?
Where to?
Sep 29, 2019 9:48 AM

“[Assange] said disclosures by the security contractor Edward Snowden about the scale of mass surveillance by the US and UK security services had exposed how governments and corporations seek to “know more and more about us” while “we know less and less about them”

He compared the Church to Government spying agencies:

“”Knowledge has always flowed upwards, to bishops and kings not down to serfs and slaves. The principle remains the same in the present era. ”

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/jan/02/julian-assange-surveillance-thought-for-the-day-wkileaks-pj-harvey

Where to?
Where to?
Sep 29, 2019 8:43 AM

Surveillance is data collection, but AI surveillance is:

The more you express yourself, the more we own you

Wilmers31
Wilmers31
Sep 29, 2019 7:22 AM

‘Security’ is a euphemism for war preparation.

5G surveillance on every lamppost, transmitting and receiving, seems unstoppable. I am so glad my life span is no longer measured in decades.

Where to?
Where to?
Sep 29, 2019 9:10 AM
Reply to  Wilmers31

“‘Security’ is a euphemism for war preparation”

and mass surveillance is a war definitely won against the populace.

nottheonly1
nottheonly1
Sep 28, 2019 3:05 PM

This issue by far exceedes both the ability and willingness to accept the truth about it. AI is part of human evolution and at such, outside of human control. As some are aware of the age old question “Who is doing the thinking?” when one thinks, they equally might be aware that with all promoted ‘individualism’, the real trickt part is the understanding that there is no single thought event.

Any thought anybody has is connected to all the other thoughts at the same time. It is connected to the ‘collective’ of human consciousness. This collective human consciousness in turn is next to impossible to manipulate. And ‘collective consciousness’ is different from ‘collective opinion’. The fact that a large part of the human population is living in the dark ages – mentally – does not cause the remaining parts to follow suit.

Collective human consciousness is so much larger than the ‘smartest’ individual could ever imagine. It withdraws itself the actual grip of the individual mind. It is far too complex and without factoring into the equation all other aspects of human evolution, it is also impossible to foretell, where this latest man-made manipulation will lead the collective.

One thing can be said with certainty: those who are at the spear head of AI and total surveillance, like bio-metry and facial recognition, are not part of the general population. Of no general population. Wherever they are and work on the project to control every human being on earth – minus the ‘leaders’ (to some degree), they don’t have to answer to the collective. Simply put: nobody is surveilling the surveillors. The entirety of the industrial AI surveillance complex is removed from public scrutiny – albeit it is the collective that has to fear the strongest repercussions.

Because this AI supported total surveillance is always ‘pre-emptive’. That is its main goal: the predictabilty of a certain behavior, the prediction of a dissenting act, or ultimately the thoughts that lead up to any such action. It is easy to read one’s mind, if one is able to ‘read’ one’s circumstances, to possess surveillance data one one’s behavior throughout the day. Writing comments on a computer connected to the internet is the easiest giveaway for those data collectors. There are already programs that will spit out recommendations based on the data the spooks enter. Like all your comments from the last ten years fed into the analyzer, will reveal what you are thinking. Not ‘why’, but ‘how’. The spooks are only interested in the ‘how’.

AI is simply aiding them. Anybody that has kept a record (and if only on one’s inner brain ROM) about one’s first experiences with AI aided customer service call centers knows how they have changed over the years. Early versions were like marble operated abacuses. Or a network of relais similar to the first computer. All based on ‘IF -> THEN’. “If you would like to speak to a representative, please dial -0-”
The journey followed a number of IF-THEN’s to arrive at the responsible party – without having had to use a human being to take that call until then. A switchboard without a human being connecting telephone lines. People are now used to these call centers being run by AI – able to compute via speech recognition and through algorithms what you want and route you to the place where your problem is solved.

It must be clear to the most callous mind, that there is a negative feedback loop involved in all of this AI surveillance/prediction complex. This negative feedback loop is best described in Pastor Niemöller’s poem “First they came for…”. I am sure you know it by now. It shows that, in the beginning, danger is only perceived by those who are explicitly targeted. All others do not ‘believe’ to be in danger, since they do not belong to those parts of the population that are in the cross hairs of the totalitarian regime.

For the longest time, powerful interests have done all they could to bring about a change in human collective consciousness. To remove empathy and compassion from human traits. To promote the ‘dog eats dog’ society. To remove any and all relation to the ‘collective’. This is an important part for the manipulators behind AI surveillance. The need to assert the collective that these technologies are only serving to keep the masses ‘safe’. They are only for those they come for first. “If you got nothing to hide…” It will be too late, when the masses awake to the reality of a dystopia in which there is no more ‘being human’ possible – as machines will evaluate human behavior and equate it to a predefined set of responses. IF-THEN will have shifted into the highest gear and people will be picked up either in full day light, or at night in the fog. The masses will to the last moment (have to) believe that it won’t be them who will be picked up.

At that point in time, facial recognition is so refined and prevalent, that nobody will be able to live incognito anymore – but the rich. They can sit at home and send someone shopping. This is a class issue as much as it is a human rights issue. There can be no freedom parallel to warrantless and permanent surveillance. Nobody will ever be free in their homes, or at their computers. Not while going shopping, nor doing anything else for that matter. Every aspect of a human existence will be surveilled, monitored and recorded. The human condition will be de-humanized and replaced with algorithms. Emotions will turn into lifeless feedback that can be triggered at will. Consumption can be precisely guided and those corporations who pay the most, will have the most control over their consumers. In the end, the corporate state will have gained control over all aspects of every consumer/voter/member of society.

At what point is a human being no longer a human being? Or, at what point is Homo Sapiens stripped of the Sapiens part in order to be fully compatible to the artificial consumption machine that is already destroying the basis on which Homo Sapiens was only able to arrive on the stage? Is it not like humanity is chosing the same path as a collective, as the collective ant colony in the rain forest, that has grown out of balance and is brought back to sustainable levels for the rain forest by growing a mushroom out of the individual ants’ head? Pandorra’s box was a kid’s surprise present in comparison. And since I am old enough to shrug it all off by saying that it won’t affect me to the worst extend, it will control my children and grandchildren and that is more than enough reason to explain the unwanted consequences of the dark forces’ program to control everything.

Rhys Jaggar
Rhys Jaggar
Sep 28, 2019 11:39 AM

What you will actually find is that corporate parasites use Full Spectrum Dominance surveillance on people whose work thry wish to steal ehilst informing those people how useless they are.

It is the most laughable lie on the planet that you can be completely useless yet worth wasting money spying on.

I was spied on by self-righteous women who said lying was the biggest crime around. Either they were lying to me about being useless or they needed sacking for wasting shareholders’ money putting me under 24/7 surveillance.

The woman was completely unfit to bring up children, infantilised her husband and was surprised that her son retreated into a quiet passive mode.

She was by no means the only one. KPMG, McKinsey, MI6, MI5, even the Wellcome Trust were all at it. As were highly overpaid parasites high up in Russell Group Universities. London Medicine is full of perverted peeepshow addicts, many of whom engage in Mind Control. Do not get me talking about GSK….

Ambition nowadays is all about embracing spying for the means of coercive control. Any form of excellence is entirely irrelevant….

Where to?
Where to?
Sep 29, 2019 1:05 PM
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar

“It is the most laughable lie on the planet that you can be completely useless yet worth wasting money spying on. ”

“Ambition nowadays is all about embracing spying for the means of coercive control. Any form of excellence is entirely irrelevant….”

coercive control

Thank you for expressing sentiments shared by thinking people.
Sadly, the way out is a bit hard to see.

MASTER OF UNIVE
MASTER OF UNIVE
Sep 30, 2019 3:11 AM
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar

Information is power.

Eat information every day so that you grow up big & strong like me, kid.

MOU

vexarb
vexarb
Sep 28, 2019 10:29 AM

@AxisOfOil: ” haven’t seen a lot of plowshares lately. I’ll look around some more tomorrow.”

That’s the spirit! The Kingdom works like tiny mustard seeds which one can hardly see on the ground but burst into big beautiful golden flowers.

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 28, 2019 9:55 AM

Most of the comments have vaporized at my end. Weird. To add to the Claude Shannon reference……..https://youtu.be/Eb8_3BUHcuw?t=3717

Nick
Nick
Sep 28, 2019 9:05 AM

Too much emphasis on China here. It’s true that “forty of the world’s top fifty military spending countries (based on cumulative military expenditures) also [using] AI surveillance technology.” But it’s also true that one of those 50 countries spends more on the military than the other 49 put together – and that one ain’t China.

Antonym
Antonym
Sep 28, 2019 9:35 AM
Reply to  Nick

Where else can you pay by showing your face?

Antonym
Antonym
Sep 28, 2019 4:40 AM

A computer follows its program: “Befehl ist Befehl!”. The programmer can built in exceptions. So for example all faces of the highest CPC members can be excluded from facial recognition. Or deliberately mixed up with similar faces to obscure their location. Or billionaires or criminals paying a lot can get that too. As usual it will be used and misused.

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 27, 2019 10:43 PM
RobG
RobG
Sep 27, 2019 11:10 PM
Reply to  axisofoil

I really get bored with this stuff. Sam Harris does not really mention algorithms at all, and the way a Turing Machine (aka, digital computer) actually works, and its limitations.

What people like Harris say is total and absolute crap (in a scientific sense).

But hey, if you enjoy such bullshit, I say wallow in it.

(and you’re still ignoring that niggly little problem of what is human consciousness and how you can express it mathematically in an algorithm).

Beam me up, Scotty…

ugotit
ugotit
Sep 28, 2019 5:13 AM
Reply to  RobG

I have asked Scotty, an ex MINDTRAPOOOGLE employee, to offer his famous course:
A Laboratory for the Design and Construction of Algorithms that support the parallel Bio-processing which collectively some call human consciousness. This is a hands on course with laboratory allows you to practice extracting in real time algorithms from bio interacting systems. Scotty used to work for MINDTRAPOOOGLE.. you can sign up for the course here.

George Mc
George Mc
Sep 28, 2019 9:24 AM
Reply to  RobG

On Harris:

https://www.thenation.com/article/same-old-new-atheism-sam-harris/

An excerpt:

“Despite their disdain for public piety, the New Atheists provided little in their critique to disturb the architects and proselytizers of American empire: indeed, Hitchens and Harris asserted a fervent rationale for it. Since 9/11, both men have made careers of posing as heroic outsiders while serving the interests of the powerful. “

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 29, 2019 12:51 AM
Reply to  George Mc

I don’t care if Lucifer himself tells me where I lost my keys, the information is welcome. We always get back to form over substance. What ever happened to truth is where you find it? It isn’t always in your favorite toy box.

RobG
RobG
Sep 27, 2019 10:17 PM

I really have to yawn when we get to AI thesedays, because most people have no understanding of it. I’ll try to briefly explain: ‘artificial intelligence’, AI, is entirely associated with the digital computer, and the idea that you can somehow mimic thought/consciousness via an algorithm (hence the ‘artificial’ bit). This full works stuff is known as ‘strong AI’. However, there are two reasons why it seems highly unlikely that a digital computer will be able to ‘think’: firstly, we don’t know what ‘thought’ is; it can’t be explained mathematically and so can’t be expressed by an algorithm; secondly, the digital computer is a deterministic device, and you are perhaps taking a large leap of faith to state that Nature is also deterministic (ie, that all of creation is governed by rules which, one day, can be explained by us humans).

RobG
RobG
Sep 27, 2019 10:27 PM
Reply to  RobG

Now, if you’ve understood what I’ve said above (that AI – artificial intelligence – is complete rollocks), you might also understand that this is all about manipulating/screwing the public, just like all the transgender rollocks and all the climate change rollocks, and on and on and on.

All you really need to understand is that we are ruled by complete and total psychopaths.

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 27, 2019 10:51 PM
Reply to  RobG

Psychopaths with AI……….hmmm

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 27, 2019 11:33 PM
Reply to  RobG

So….you are God? Also, I don’t know why your message is coming directly to my e mail and my responses are not being posted, but so be it. I don’t agree with you for many reasons, I think you miss the point entirely. Also, you did not have time to listen to Harris before responding with your own personal algorithm. Your point. Are you a preacher by trade. Baptist?

RobG
RobG
Sep 27, 2019 11:47 PM
Reply to  axisofoil

I listened to the entire 15 minutes or so from Harris.

It’s great that you disagree with me. Debate is good. Bring it on.

I do agree with you with regard to the comment section of this site. As I think I’ve said before, my own comments are sometimes in moderation before showing up, and notification of replies to my comments often don’t arrive until days afterwards.

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 28, 2019 12:19 AM
Reply to  RobG

I don’t like Harris, but his narrow focus on this topic is almost flawless. Just my opinion. He got my attention. I happen to believe that a time may come when AI, might do the right thing and consider us a virus. If it learns from us it will surely be psychopathic if it finds its own mind. Things are moving far to quickly in this area and it might be wise to consider all possible ramifications. It is too late to unplug now. We are totally dependent. Even if the inevitable problem occurs from a human source. It will come. Terrorism is only taking a nap. It has a willing accomplice in AI. It will use it. This is the good scenario.

RobG
RobG
Sep 28, 2019 1:34 AM
Reply to  axisofoil

axisofoil, I always find this a fascinating debate. Who knows what the future might bring? I of course will say that the future won’t include ‘smart’ robots/computers (and I really do hope that people will read what I’ve said about this above).

But really the main thing is to say: “peace and love”.

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 28, 2019 2:20 AM
Reply to  RobG

How do you define ‘smart’?

vexarb
vexarb
Sep 28, 2019 9:03 AM
Reply to  RobG

@RobG: “But really the main thing is to say: “peace and love”.”

Amen (Hebrew for I believe).

According to Dante, the lower Circles of Inferno are reserved for the more sophisticated sinners: for the Sinners of Perverted Intelligence. AI sharpers are a new group of suitable candidates for the Lower Circles, where they will join TBLiar and Shrub Bush with their perverted Christianity; and Lord and Lady MaClinton with their perverted “Right to Protect”; and a lot of other psychopaths with twisted intelligence .

“Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever”. — Coventry Patmore

nottheonly1
nottheonly1
Sep 28, 2019 1:54 PM
Reply to  RobG

you might also understand that this is all about

manipulating/screwing the public, just like all the transgender rollocks and all the climate change rollocks, and on and on and on.

But really the main thing is to say: “peace and love”.

The best example of cognitive dissonance in a very long time.
Or is it based on an algorithm to create such comments? In any way, the second part is worth zero with the first sentence preceding it. In other words, one is a lie and the other one is the truth.

Where there is hate, no space for love exists.

vexarb
vexarb
Sep 28, 2019 8:41 AM
Reply to  axisofoil

AOL, I think your reply to RobG is hasty and unfair. And I cut short your video Link because, IMO, Harris spoke like a 19th century Yankee Medicine Man selling snake oil from his bandwagon.

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 28, 2019 9:34 AM
Reply to  vexarb

I can appreciate that you say “I think” ….as to weather I was hasty and unfair, but your next statement is as if it is written is stone. It isn’t. I said I don’t like Harris, and it is for the very reason you indicate. Not in this case. This particular talk he gave, is in my opinion one of the best, most concise and logical discussions I have heard on this topic. Do you have one better?

vexarb
vexarb
Sep 28, 2019 8:34 AM
Reply to  RobG

RobG: “All you really need to understand is that we are ruled by complete and total psychopaths.”

And all you really need to do is to _really_ get rid of the psychopaths.

AI is just a tool — a sophisticated tool envisaged by an 18th century Logician, the Calculemus machine of Leibnitz — but still only a tool. Whether used for good or ill depends on us.

Prophet Isaiah (700s BC) urges The People to “Beat their Swords into Plowshares”

“From one cross a craftsman can make two gallows” — German proverb, ca.1900

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 28, 2019 9:01 AM
Reply to  vexarb

Who is AOL?
Try this……………https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3EQqjn-ELs

vexarb
vexarb
Sep 28, 2019 9:41 AM
Reply to  axisofoil

Sorry, AOO (not AOL), but I cut short Elon Musk because he talks a Svengali trying to hypnotize the listeners. Here is a real AI prophet saying the same thing short and simple:

“One day the only humans on Earth will be the ones that computers keep as pets” — Claude Shannon, 1916-2001.

That intelligence is increasing is an unstoppable evolutionary phenomenon; the important question is not whether intelligence be animal intelligence, human intelligence or artificial intelligence but whether it be directed to good or bad purpose. This applies to even the lowest grade of intelligence: MI.

axisofoil
axisofoil
Sep 28, 2019 9:42 AM
Reply to  vexarb

I really hope that RobG can get rid of all the psychopaths. That would be nice. Meanwhile they are growing in number, contagious, and have AI tools at their disposal. This doesn’t look too promising to me. Also, haven’t seen a lot of plowshares lately. I’ll look around some more tomorrow.