Anti-abortion activists are collecting the data they’ll need for prosecutions post-Roe
Although news reports at the time framed this tracking as a new tactic, it goes back decades. One 1993 article from the Buffalo News mentions several accounts from clinic staffers and clients of harassing phone calls from anti-abortion activists that appear to be the result of license plate tracking. That same year, a Florida training session for activists organized by the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue offered instruction on using people’s license plates to identify the names, addresses, and phone numbers of clients and clinic workers. An Operation Rescue–trained volunteer, standing outside of a clinic in Melbourne, Florida, that year, told ABC News that the group used the database to “follow up on [clients and] send literature to their home” to make them “fully aware of what … the main purpose and focus of this place is.”
There are more examples: In 1996, a police officer in Canada was charged after using police computers to track the license plates of clinic clients. In 1999, the abortion clinic targeted by Operation Rescue in Florida sued anti-abortion activists, charging that they were using license plate tracking to harass clients and doctors. The suit was eventually dismissed after lawyers for the clinic failed to pile paperwork needed for the case to proceed. And Derenda Hancock, a clinic defender who works outside the Jackson Women’s Health “Pink House” clinic in Jackson, Mississippi (the clinic at the center of the pending Supreme Court case and the last one operating in the state), says cameras are common there—there used to be a regular livestreamer—and that footage taken outside the clinic can appear on a website dedicated to tracking abortion-providing doctors.
Anti-abortion activists have long denied that this data is being used to harass or contact people seeking abortions; they say it is used to track doctors and assess whether the activism is stopping people from returning to the clinic to have an abortion. Neither Texas Right to Life nor Operation Rescue—which has been renamed Operation Save America—responded to requests for comment.
But it certainly could be used that way, and Wessler, from the ACLU, says the potential for this footage to target and harm people who have abortions is exacerbated by the use of facial recognition technology. There are two possible scenarios on that front, he says: law enforcement agencies in abortion-banning states could use facial recognition databases to scan clinic footage for residents, or private groups and organizations could use the technology themselves.
The ACLU recently settled a case against the facial recognition company ClearviewAI, banning it from selling its services to many businesses. But recently the New York Times reported on PimEyes, an accurate and affordable facial recognition service that pretty much anyone can pay to use.
Texas and Oklahoma now have laws that allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs or helps with an abortion. Wessler says that in a world where federal statutes offer no protection from such lawsuits, it’s easy to see how, with a post-Roe tweak to the laws, people seeking abortions could be sued as well. That possibility, paired with clinic surveillance, could produce an enormous chilling effect “where you have this nightmare of huge damages lawsuits being filed against people who are barely able to afford the gas to travel to a state where they can legally get an abortion,” he says.
Mobley worries that if states are able to criminalize abortion, clinics like hers will become subject to even more intense scrutiny as activists who now live in states with no operating abortion-providing clinics seek to target the next nearest locations. She recently visited the Jackson clinic. What she saw there worried her. Would the Mississippi activists bring their body cams and bullhorns to her?
That’s not an “if,” says Hancock; it’s a “when.” One protester made that clear to her outside the clinic recently: “I said, you know, so what are you doing when it’s done? When we’re done here? And he literally said, ‘Well, we’ll go to other states and get those closed down.’” Without Roe, she says, there are no completely “safe” states for abortion access. “It’s just a matter of how long they last.”
The emergent industrial metaverse
Annika Hauptvogel, head of technology and innovation management at Siemens, describes the industrial metaverse as “immersive, making users feel as if they’re in a real environment; collaborative in real time; open enough for different applications to seamlessly interact; and trusted by the individuals and businesses that participate”—far more than simply a digital world.
The industrial metaverse will revolutionize the way work is done, but it will also unlock significant new value for business and societies. By allowing businesses to model, prototype, and test dozens, hundreds, or millions of design iterations in real time and in an immersive, physics-based environment before committing physical and human resources to a project, industrial metaverse tools will usher in a new era of solving real-world problems digitally.
“The real world is very messy, noisy, and sometimes hard to really understand,” says Danny Lange, senior vice president of artificial intelligence at Unity Technologies, a leading platform for creating and growing real-time 3-D content. “The idea of the industrial metaverse is to create a cleaner connection between the real world and the virtual world, because the virtual world is so much easier and cheaper to work with.”
While real-life applications of the consumer metaverse are still developing, industrial metaverse use cases are purpose-driven, well aligned with real-world problems and business imperatives. The resource efficiencies enabled by industrial metaverse solutions may increase business competitiveness while also continually driving progress toward the sustainability, resilience, decarbonization, and dematerialization goals that are essential to human flourishing.
This report explores what it will take to create the industrial metaverse, its potential impacts on business and society, the challenges ahead, and innovative use cases that will shape the future. Its key findings are as follows:
• The industrial metaverse will bring together the digital and real worlds. It will enable a constant exchange of information, data, and decisions and empower industries to solve extraordinarily complex real-world problems digitally, changing how organizations operate and unlocking significant societal benefits.
• The digital twin is a core metaverse building block. These virtual models simulate real-world objects in detail. The next generation of digital twins will be photorealistic, physics-based, AI-enabled, and linked in metaverse ecosystems.
• The industrial metaverse will transform every industry. Currently existing digital twins illustrate the power and potential of the industrial metaverse to revolutionize design and engineering, testing, operations, and training.
The Download: China’s retro AI photos, and experts’ AI fears
Across social media, a number of creators are generating nostalgic photographs of China with the help of AI. Even though these images get some details wrong, they are realistic enough to trick and impress many of their followers.
The pictures look sophisticated in terms of definition, sharpness, saturation, and color tone. Their realism is partly down to a recent major update of image-making artificial-intelligence program Midjourney that was released in mid-March, which is better not only at generating human hands but also at simulating various photography styles.
It’s still relatively easy, even for untrained eyes, to tell that the photos are generated by an AI. But for some creators, their experiments are more about trying to recall a specific era in time than trying to trick their audience. Read the full story.
Zeyi’s story is from China Report, his weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on tech in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.
Read more of our reporting on AI-generated images:
+ These new tools let you see for yourself how biased AI image models are. Bias and stereotyping are still huge problems for systems like DALL-E 2 and Stable Diffusion, despite companies’ attempts to fix it. Read the full story.
Evolutionary organizations reimagine the future
The global technology consultancy Thoughtworks describes organizations that can respond to marketplace changes with continuous adaptation as “evolutionary organizations.” It argues that, instead of focusing only on technology change, organizations should focus on building capabilities that support ongoing reinvention. While many organizations recognize the benefit of adopting agile approaches in their technology capabilities and architectures, they have not extended these structures and ways of thinking throughout the operating model, which would allow their impact to extend beyond that of a single transformation project.
Global spending on digital transformation is growing at a brisk pace: 16.4% per year according to IDC. The firm’s 2021 “Worldwide Digital Transformation Spending Guide” forecasts that annual transformation expenditures will reach $2.8 trillion in 2025, more than double the spending in 2020.1 At the same time, research from Boston Consulting Group shows that 7 out of 10 digital transformation initiatives fall short of their objectives. Organizations that succeed, however, achieve almost double the earnings growth of those that fail and more than double the growth in the total value of their enterprises.2 Understanding how to make these transitions successful, then, should be of key interest to all business leaders.
This MIT Technology Review Insights report is based on a survey of 275 corporate leaders, supplemented by interviews with seven experts in digital transformation. Its key findings include the following:
• Digital transformation is not solely a technology issue. Adopting new technology for its own sake does not set the organization up to continue to adapt to changing circumstances. Among survey respondents, however, transformation is still synonymous with tech, with 70% planning to adopt a new technology in the next year, but only 41% pursuing changes to their business model.
• The business environment is changing faster than many organizations think. Most survey respondents (81%) believe their organization is more adaptable than average and nearly all (89%) say that they’re keeping up with or ahead of their competitors—suggesting a wide gap between the rapidly evolving reality and executives’ perceptions of their preparedness.
• All organizations must build capabilities for continuous reinvention. The only way to keep up is for organizations to continuously change and evolve, but most traditional businesses lack the strategic flexibility necessary to do this. Nearly half of business leaders outside the C-suite (44%), for example, say organizational structure, silos, or hierarchy are the biggest obstacle to transformation at their firm.
• Focusing on customer value and empowering employees are keys to organizational evolution. The most successful transformations prioritize creating customer value and enhancing customer and employee experience. Meeting evolving customer needs is the constant source of value in a world where everything is changing, but many traditional organizations fail to take this long view, with only 15% of respondents most concerned about failing to meet customer expectations if they fail to transform.
• Rapid experimentation requires the ability to fail and recover quickly. Organizations agree that iterative, experimental processes are essential to finding the right solutions, with 81% saying they have adopted agile practices. Fewer are confident, however, in their ability to execute decisions quickly (76%)—or to shut down initiatives that aren’t working (60%).