Our successor to This Week in the Guardian, This Week in the New Normal is our weekly chart of the progress of autocracy, authoritarianism and economic restructuring around the world.
1.Google Health researching surveillance and AI
This week it was reported that Google Health (which is apparently a thing) has hired Bakul Patel, former head of digital health for the US Food & Drug Administration, to oversee their “unified digital health and regulatory strategy”…whatever that means.
Patel left the FDA only last month, after spending his term as director launching:
a center of excellence to oversee digital health products such as smartphone apps, wearable devices and software-based treatments, which he was tapped to lead. He also helped develop the FDA’s framework for reviewing artificial intelligence products and an action plan detailing a multipronged approach to advance oversight on aritificial-intelligence- and machine-learning-based medical software.
You’d be forgiven for reading that as “Patel spent his term at the FDA writing rules and creating loopholes that favour Google’s future patents, and is being rewarded with a cushy job and big fat corporate pay-off”…and that’s probably true.
But it might also be worse than that.
Patel’s plans for the company seem to be fairly ambitious, and could basically be described as the public health version of pre-crime:
Patel said his goal is to use digital information and technology to identify and predict the onset of disease before symptoms appear,
The article goes on to detail all the ways Google are developing to monitor you…sorry, “your health”. From tracking devices on fitness watches to microphones which listen to your heart.
From consumer-facing products like sleep tracking tech with its Nest Hub smart home devices and Fitbit wearables to clinical initiatives like its Care Studio EHR search tool and its health AI work, Google has intensified its focus on health tech and expanded its reach into the healthcare market.
If you’re one of the dozen or so people who still trust Google, here’s a poetically timed reminder of your naivete – Just four days ago it was reported that Google is being sued for the illegal use of NHS medical records.
The company is accused of accessing the records of over 1.6 million people and using confidential data for research without ever seeking the consent of the patients themselves.
A reminder that corruption is like an iceberg, you only ever see the smallest part sticking above the surface. It’s probably much worse than it looks, it almost always is.
…I honestly still think the most troubling part of this story is that Google Health even exists at all.
We’re really on our way to maybe four or five companies that do literally everything.
2. CBDCs march on
The push toward widespread use of central bank digital currency (CBDC) has been accelerating under cover of Covid for two years, and doesn’t look like slowing down.
We already know that at least 100 of the 196 nations on Earth are either piloting a CBDC or in the planning stages of doing so.
This week it was reported that SWIFT – the premier international payments system – is researching interoperability between different nations’ CBDCs:
Yesterday SWIFT, the organization responsible for messaging most cross border payments, has started a new set of CBDC interoperability experiments partnering with Cap Gemini.
Up until now the lack of interoperability has been one of the bigger stumbling blocks on the path to entirely digital money, with experts concerned that…
without interoperability, individual central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) could create new domestic silos, fragmenting the global payment landscape.
If SWIFT and Cap Gemini solve the interoperability issue, expect the CBDC move to continue apace.
I’ve typed out so many near-identical paragraphs detailing all the ways a CBDC endangers individual liberty that it’s honestly getting dull having to keep explaining why this is a bad thing. They’re just bad OK? Read the old articles for the details.
I would also recommend James Corbett’s latest, CBDCs: A Country-By-Country Guide , for a great rundown on the current situation.
3. Youtube’s censorship level is over 9000
Just like everything else for the last decade, Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine is being used to push the idea that censorship is OK sometimes, and that free speech is dangerous if the wrong people have it.
Under the guise of “supporting Ukraine”, YouTube announced they have deleted over 9000 accounts and over 70,000 videos pertaining to the war in Ukraine.
In a sign of just how far this debate has swung to the tyrannical side, The Guardian article doesn’t even mention the idea of “free speech”, or use the word “censorship”.
No, it’s just a fact of life now apparently: People who say the wrong things should not be allowed to speak.
BONUS: Hypocrite of the week…
Always a very competitive category, but this week it must go to Justin Trudeau for the simple beauty of this doublethink…
We cannot allow falsehoods and disinformation about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to continue spreading in Canada. That’s why we asked the CRTC to review Russia Today’s presence on Canadian airwaves. Today, in a move consistent with what many allies are doing, they banned it.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 17, 2022
Putin’s decision to expel Canadian media from Moscow is an attempt to silence them from reporting the facts, and it is unacceptable. Journalists must be able to work safely – free from censorship, intimidation, and interference. That is something Canada will always stand up for.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 18, 2022
It’s not all bad…
In Australia, a local council has voted to sue the State Government of Western Australia over its vaccine mandates. Port Hedland Council passed resolutions on Friday opposing the hardline law on vaccination and employment.
In other vaccine mandate news, the New York Police Department may be putting theirs on hold indefinitely. The New York Post reports that NYPD sources claiming “no action” is planned for those who request a religious exemption to the vax, but are denied it.
NYPD officials claim that over 91% of their officers are vaccinated, but if uptake were really that high this would be an unusual move. One of many clues suggesting vaccination rates have been over-reported.
The DHS’s planned “Disinformation Governance Board” has been put on pause after only 3 weeks of operation following the surprise resignation of director Nina Jankowicz. The Washington Post claims the resignation was the result of “targeted online attacks”…Which is pretty hilarious.
Hopefully, that’s a real win and not just a manoeuvre, but we’ll see.
Since the monkeypox narrative is simply ludicrous, let’s have a little meme fun…
But the prize for best response goes to…
monkeypox?! seriously, go fuck yourself.
— matt nathanson (@mattnathanson) May 22, 2022
All told a pretty hectic week for the new normal crowd, and we didn’t even mention VICE reporting “The Depp-Heard trial has played right into the hands of far-right extremists” or rejuvenation of the “Domestic Terrorism” narrative as a path to more social control.