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<nettime> Demonstration at Home of Google Developer. Google Bus Blocked
nettime's marginal protester on Thu, 23 Jan 2014 09:59:14 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Demonstration at Home of Google Developer. Google Bus Blocked in Berkeley.

On the issue of protesting Google in SF:


At 7am this morning, a group of people went to the home of Anthony
Levandowski, a Google X developer. His house is a pompous, minimally
decorated two story palace with stone lions guarding the door. After
ringing his doorbell to alert him of the protest, a banner was held in
front of his house that read "Google's Future Stops Here" and fliers
about him were distributed around the neighborhood. The fliers detailed
his work with the defense industry and his plans to develop luxury
condos in Berkeley. The flier is attached below.

At one point, his neighbor emerged from her house. She said she knew
about his collaboration with the military but insisted he was a "nice
person." We see no contradiction here. It is very likely that this
person, who develops war robots for the military and builds surveillance
infrastructure, is a pleasant neighbor. But so what?

After previous actions against the Google buses, many critics insisted
that the individual Google employees are not to blame. Taking this
deeply to heart, we chose to block Anthony Levandowski's personal
commute. We also respectfully disagree with this criticism: We don't see
one action as better than the other. All of Google's employees should be
prevented from getting to work. All surveillance infrastructure should
be destroyed. No luxury condos should be built. No one should be displaced.

After fliering his neighborhood and blocking his driveway for
approximately 45 minutes, the group went down and blocked a google bus
at Ashby BART. This blockade lasted about 30 minutes and dispersed when
BPD arrived. Several conversations took place with Google employees.

Luckily, the defections have already begun. Yesterday, an actually-nice
person employed by Google leaked the talking points the company sent to
its employees should they attend an upcoming SF City Council meeting or
in the event of a bus disruption. These talking points paint Google
employees as positive contributors to the neighborhoods they live in. It
makes no mention to the displacement they cause, the police presence
they bring with them and the large class of people working to support
their out-of-touch and extravagant lifestyles: the tech support.

We will not be held hostage by Google's threat to release massive
amounts of carbon should the bus service be stopped. Our problem is with
Google, its pervasive surveillance capabilities utilized by the NSA, the
technologies it is developing, and the gentrification its employees are
causing in every city they inhabit. But our problem does not stop with
Google. All of you other tech companies, all of you other developers and
everyone else building the new surveillance state--We're coming for you



Google’s Self-Driving Car
Built for the Defense Industry

Hands-free driving, cars that park themselves, an unmanned car driven by
a search-engine company? We’ve seen that movie. It ends with robots
harvesting our bodies for energy.
- Dodge car commercial, 2011

My fiancée is a dancer in her soul. I’m a robot.
- Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski is currently a lead engineer in the effort to create
the Google self-driving car. The project has progressed rapidly and
there are already states, including California, that have legalized
these autonomous vehicles.

He was also one of the architects of google streetview—the real-world
mapping project that sent cars out to document and photograph every
block along every street. These cars also recorded ip addresses (which
identify computer networks) and mac addresses (which identify specific
pieces of hardware). This massive surveillance project was occasionally
met with opposition: The cars have been blockaded, vandalized and, in
one case, attacked by a 70 year-old man with an axe.

“Don’t be evil” is Google’s motto and, fittingly, they have a utopian
vision for our digital future. Missing in their utopia is the workers in
the Foxconn factories, where nets were recently installed to prevent the
frequent suicides brought on by conditions there. Absent from their
vision are the families paid pennies a day to recycle tiny amounts of
precious metals from from vast electronic waste dumps. Even at the
Googleplex (the google office park in Mountain View), similar divisions
exist. Red badge employees—who clean the bathrooms, pull espresso shots,
cook gourmet meals and wipe crumbs from the ping pong tables—are given
none of the perks and privileges of techie White Badge employees.

It is not naivete that drives the heads of Google and people like
Anthony Levandowski to go forward with their plans to create technology
that only reinforces the domination that exists in society. Google
actively collaborates with the defense industry, an industry more and
more focussed on quelling social dissent.

Google has just acquired Boston Dynamics, a military contractor that has
created a dozen war robots. The most disturbing of them is the WildCat,
a boar-like robot that can run 30 miles an hour and quickly right itself
after an accident. This war robot was sponsored by the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the same organization that invented
the internet itself.

The self-driven car has been another pet project of the DARPA for many
years. It sponsored a recurring Grand Challenge for people designing
self-driving vehicles, hoping someone would crack open the new
technology. Anthony Levandowski was one of the wonder kids who flocked
to these competitions, looking for a federal handout and fame. Now, with
Google handing him more money than he could ever dream of, Levandowski
is working long hours bringing this dream of the military into reality.

Anthony Levandowski is currently trying to create his own
cyber-capitalist utopia in the great city of Berkeley. After growing up
in affluent Marin suburb, he began his career in the city in 1998 when
he started attending UC Berkeley. Before that he had already started a
small tech company that allowed Petco to sell its products on the web
via credit card purchase.

As he pursued his masters in science degree, Levandowski started a
company that created computer tablets designed to display blueprints at
construction sites. The reasoning behind their venture was that updating
and then printing new blueprints took a few days and slowed construction
time. With this new product, construction companies could create
condominiums, malls, and subdivisions with the least possible delay and
the maximum profit. In praise of his prodigious business acumen, the
administration-run UC Berkeley News decided to run an article on him in
2003, championing his ability to make money and enable the housing
bubble that was just starting to expand.

Fast forward to the present and Levandowski has bought a house for his
wife and children near College and Ashby. In addition to this cozy
two-story affair, Levandowski has also purchased a property on the
corner of Dwight and Fulton, just one block from Shattuck Avenue. At
this location, he has hired the Nautilus Group to construct a proposed
77-unit apartment building call Garden Village complete with rooftop
gardens, 24-hour surveillance, private security, and a fleet of electric
vehicles parked in an underground garage. The residents will have the
luxury of renting these cars whenever they want to cruise out to the
beach for a dip.

The Nautilus Group is composed of designers and builders who have
created military installations, malls, and hospitals. Levandowski is now
making his contribution to the further sterilization and gentrification
of Downtown Berkeley and Shattuck Avenue.

The proposed project is a testament to the arrogance, disconnection, and
luxury of the ruling class. Growing their own vegetables in a rooftop
garden and selling them to other wealthy people allows them, somehow, to
pretend that the planet is not being ravaged by the same economy they
depend on for their wealth, comfort, and safety.
The residents of Garden Village will inhabit a micro-world in which
their movements are constantly watched and overseen by security
personnel. These wealthy students or well-paid professionals will live
in small boxes connected by walkways. Seven of these units will be
dedicated to housing low-income renters. Low-income units are not
included because Levandowski or Nautilus desired this feature, but
because Berkeley city law mandated it. No doubt that the surveillance
and security in the development plan is directed at these residents as
much it is at anybody else.
Development and surveillance go hand in hand. Implicit in Levandowski’s
Garden Village is the omnipresence of surveillance in our urban
environments. These aims are explicit in other programs, like Oakland’s
Domain Awareness Center and the nationwide “TrapWire” surveillance
program. Surveillance and control are central to the technological
future proposed by Google and other pro-tech futurists.

Berkeley has long suffered under the grip of the Berkeley Police
Department and the UC system. The university administration and the
police have quelled rebellion, harassed the homeless and facilitated
development for decades. In the 60’s and 70’s, thousands of people were
swept up in various rebellions, starting with the Free Speech Movement
and extending to the communes and armed groups of later years. Back
then, the university was a shining tower of nuclear research,
collaboration with the military, and overt repression against internal
dissent. The young people rebelled against the arrangement of scoiety,
confronting monsters like Ronald Reagan, the FBI and the National Guard.
Just a few blocks down Ashby from Levandowski’s house is the former site
of a series of communes that existed in the 60’s and 70’s. In one of
these communal houses, a group of rebels, freaks, communists and lovers
wrote the Berkeley Liberation Program. We offer the following extract:
The civilization of concrete and plastic will be broken and natural
things respected … We will change this deadly Machine which steals our
land and rapes our minds, or we will stop its functioning … The
revolution is about our lives. We will fight against the dominating
Berkeley life style of affluence, selfishness, and social apathy - and
also against the self-indulgent individualism which masquerades as
“doing your own thing.” In the spirit of honoring the memories of all
who died, went crazy, or disappeared on the streets of Berkeley, we wish
to expose Anthony Levandowski and the evil he brings into this world.

Preparing for the action, we watched Levandowski step out of his front
door. He had Google Glasses over his eyes, carried his baby in his arm,
and held a tablet with his free hand. As he descended the stairs with
the baby, his eyes were on the tablet through the prism of his Google
Glasses, not on the life against his chest. He appeared in this moment
like the robot he admits that he is.

There are men and women in the Congo, slaving away in giant pits in
order to extract gold and other precious metals from the earth. This
gold will go into phones and tablets made by companies like Google,
Apple, and Microsoft. Anthony Levandowski has never worked in a pit mine
nor will his children. People like him are exempt from this type of
degrading and exploitative labor. Instead, he can casually stare at his
screens as if there was not human blood making this technology possible,
as if there was not a life in his hands.

As Levandowski lives his normal life, building his nuclear family, an
unspeakable horror is unfolding. Everything he is building will only
help this disastrous economic system continue a bit longer. The
self-driving car will allow commuters to get another hour of sleep, talk
on their phones in the car, and keep the economy going. In a promotional
video for the Google self-driving car, a blind man is shown getting to
where he needs to go with this new technology. In the video, the man
decides to go to Taco Bell. In another promotional video for Google
Glasses, the user is shown buying products, buying things and then
buying more stuff . At the very end of the video, the user fi nds his
father on the fl oor suff ering a heart attack. The user calls 911 with
his Google Glasses and saves his father. This emotional surprise ending
is meant to affirm for the viewer that the product is necessary and good.

The blind man buying Taco Bell and the consumer saving his dad are the
heroes of this tech-utopia. The pit miners and factory workers are
ignored and forgotten. As long as capitalism functions, everything it is
connected to will be poisoned with its sickness. People like Levandowski
are gentrifying neighborhoods, flooding the market with noxious
commodities, and creating the infrastructure for an unimaginable
totalitarianism. This is the evil that we stake our lives against.

We are the counterforce and you might be too. Disengage from the
capitalist economy to the best of your ability. Create autonomous areas
where the laws and rituals of capitalism are ignored. Do not look back
at the fl ickering lights. Develop ties with your neighbors. Defend the
land. Use your position in society—whether as a felon, a barista, an
immigrant or whatever your experience—as your starting point for your
revolt against it. Have courage. Find others who feel the same way and
block a tech bus. Steal from the techies you babysit for. Take down
surveillance cameras. Go hard: The time is now.

the counterforce

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