We’re only three months into 2018 and it’s already difficult picking things for February 2018 list. I did my best, enjoy!
#1. Strippers in Las Vegas accepting Bitcoin via QR code
I take personal pride in this story. A week before the article in the Telegraph/Bitcoin.com was posted, I was joking to a friend that my next painting would be of a cyborg stripper with a QR code on the small of the back. One week later, that friend sent me this article.
The story’s pretty straightforward: a cryptocurrency strip club opened in Vegas. The strippers have QR codes temporarily tattooed on their bodies and the QR codes are used to take Bitcoin payments. Customers can pay normally, but they’ll get a 20% discount if they use Bitcoin.
This isn’t a necessarily bad thing, and as one of the strippers in the Telegraph article pointed out, it protects their payments via the encryption. Still, the cyberpunk aesthetic isn’t exactly subtle, to say the least.
#2. Trump administration looking into privatizing the International Space Station
For those who believe they’re living in a cyberpunk future, the Trump administration has been overly willing to oblige on dystopian tropes.
In early February the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration wants to end direct federal funding for the International Space Station after 2024, and would like to see it funded by the private sector.
Whether this will be carried out or not is up to debate, and as much as this blog is literally centered around dystopian imagery, we don’t want to exaggerate too much. Nonetheless, having a fully privatized International Space Station is certainly very movie-like.
#3. Nanobots killing cancer in mice
This isn’t necessarily bad news at all. Just the opposite: one of the most promising things about the future, something people have been fantasizing about for years, is the development of nanobots (especially for medical purposes).
In February 2018, Nature published this article, written by the researchers that led the project, and I suggest reading this so you can get a feel for the research directly.
This news is very heartening, and I hope it stays that way. I hope nanotech only ever gets used for medical purposes or whatever else helps humans. I’m not going to bet on it though.
#4. Wanhua Chemical joins the American Chemistry Council
Wanhua Chemical is a state-owned chemical company in China. The American Chemistry Council is a lobbying group for chemical companies, and it’s pretty infamous too–though less so than ALEC. The American Chemistry Council gets a lot of dark money, or undisclosed amounts of money from undisclosed sources, and is very active in using it.
Thanks to the Intercept, a great source for this kind of news, we now know that Wanhua Chemical has become another foreign company entering into the fray of massive political spending and lobbying efforts.
#4. TSA expands facial recognition programs
There was a time when the Transportation Security Administration itself would have seemed dystopian: everyone facing pat-downs and going through metal detectors at one point seemed creepy and invasive. Note: I cannot personally relate to this time, as I was either very young or hadn’t been bored–take that sentence with a grain of salt.
We got used to it. The TSA doesn’t want to lag behind the rest of the world, and they’ve been looking into facial recognition for some time. But in late February 2018, the TSA officially unveiled a pilot program for facial recognition-based security checks. It’s voluntary for now, but I personally doubt that will be voluntary for too long. If you’re interested in reading more, this (admittedly clickbaity) article from Quartz talks a little more about the Trump administration’s influence on this and also gives more of an analysis on how this will impact minorities (it almost certainly will, of course).
Header image: A few days after I told a friend about how I was interested in the growing use of facial recognition in law enforcement, she left for a trip and sent me this picture from LAX. We’ll never be able to keep up with these things.