Tag: information

Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Entropy: Internet and Synthetic Biology Pioneer Randy Rettberg’s Story on How Information Was Forged

Our first encounter with Randy Rettberg was somewhat surreal. Not that the others weren’t—the sui generis atmosphere is always present—but that first meeting was set in a scenario so far from our everyday reality that it felt like we’d been thrown into a science fiction novel. It happened in 2022 and we were a bit disoriented after ten hours of transatlantic travel and two hours riding Bentleys to the British countryside. It was July, and we had left the cold and dry wind of our almost never rigorous Brazilian winter to find a pleasant summer sun that gently bathed the English lands. The people there were in a good mood and smiling. Someone told us that it was an atypical moment, that life was not so bright most of the time. We got lucky. At least the weather made us feel a little bit at home, but only that. (read more...)

Governing with Big Data: The Indian Unique Identification Project and Information Determinism

The relationship between surveillance, big data and state power has been vociferously debated in both academic and popular press over the past several months (Boellerstoff 2013 and Crawford et al. 2014 among others). But what of instances where states leverage big data without an explicit surveillance focus? What kinds of questions should we be asking when big data appears in a project that doesn’t focus on, say, “security” (which we associate directly with surveillance) but on “welfare” or “development”? In this post, I explore this theme in the context of the ongoing Indian Unique Identification (UID) project (also known as “Aadhaar” or Foundation). The state-backed UID project wants to issue biometric-based identity numbers to all Indian residents, arguing that an ability to uniquely identity individuals is critical to the efficient administration of public welfare schemes. The biometric dataset that the UID is putting together towards its goal is already the largest of its kind in the world. Speaking of Big Data (read more...)