[Lab] Ahmed's Clock - Discussion

Jason Cobill jason.cobill at gmail.com
Wed Sep 16 11:13:53 EDT 2015

   This is from a while ago, but came up on my twitter feed:
   The story is about an MIT student who wore a light-up hoodie (with an
exposed breadboard) to the Boston airport to pick up a friend and has guns
drawn on her.
   *"She's extremely lucky she followed the instructions or deadly force
would have been used," Pare told The Associated Press. "And she's lucky to
be in a cell as opposed to the morgue."*

   How risky is it to leave an exposed lilipad board on your sleeve, or to
have loose wires hanging from a wearable?
   How important is the context? Clearly I can get away with something
hacked together at Maker Faire - could I ride a bus or visit a busy mall
with a sense of security?

   To be fair, I'm playing devil's advocate a little:
   I think skin colour is probably a factor in both of the cases I posted.
As a white middle-aged male I think it's unlikely police are going to shoot
me for wearing a blinky sweater. Combine a circuit with a hijab though, and
I'm less optimistic that you'll get an easy pass.

   -Jason Cobill

On Wed, Sep 16, 2015 at 9:51 AM, Andrew Szeto <andrew.szeto at outlook.com>

> Whoa! That's deep stuff Jason. I feel like "camoflouging" maker gadgets
> and products is probably not the right way to go about it. In Ahmed's case,
> it sounds like a bit of paranoia and as his father stated, potentially some
> profiling as well. It's a bit of a shame that the "engineering teacher"
> sort of blew it off too (no pun intended). As opposed to hiding anything, I
> think the best remedy is to keep promoting all the awesomeness and
> innovations. Things like the Maker faire, Darcy's videos and website, Elon
> Musk's projects, help educate folks and puts the movement in the forefront
> of folks' eyes. More of that, better promotion and a strong, fostered
> community with events like high school outreach programs will really help
> foster a love and passion for these types of projects as opposed to the
> fear of the unknown. I'm always super stoked and inspired seeing the
> thought process and emails coming through, but more people championing the
> movement and "dumbing" it down a bit and making it more accessible would
> hopefully help with the future and how these projects are perceived. Just
> my two cents!
> Andrew
> ------------------------------
> Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2015 08:59:55 -0400
> From: jason.cobill at gmail.com
> To: lab at artengine.ca
> Subject: [Lab] Ahmed's Clock - Discussion
>    A cautionary tale about a young maker who's clock was misconstrued as a
> bomb. (There's an #IStandWithAhmed hashtag floating around if you want to
> read the reaction)
> http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/northwest-dallas-county/headlines/20150915-irving-ninth-grader-arrested-after-taking-homemade-clock-to-school.ece
>    Should we talk about this as a maker community? This actually touches
> on a concern I often have about doing technology projects (especially
> unauthorised ones) in public: that someone's going to misconstrue a project
> for something it's not, which keeps happening (do a search for Boston
> Mooninite to see an example of an entire city shutting down over some
> harmless LED displays).
>    I suspect the day is coming that someone's wearable project gets
> misconstrued for a bomb - already kids are getting shot by police in the US
> for having cell phones in their hands and carrying crock-pots to picnics.
>    This kind of knee-jerk prosecution is definitely having a chilling
> effect on the maker movement, particularly in non-white communities.
>    Is the solution to "camouflage" your inventions?
>    Do we have a responsibility to educate the general public about "how to
> read" an electronics project?
>    Eventually something like this is going to happen in Ottawa - security
> is getting tighter after the Parliament Hill incident, and we have a
> thriving maker community - someone's going to raise flags for having a
> home-made watch (or a hacked backpack, or a drone, or a blinky hat) in a
> public place. Is anyone preparing statements for this when media comes
> calling for responses? Should we think about a Maker Legal Defense Fund?
>    -Jason Cobill
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