Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Just finishing the excellent Hacker/Anonymous book by Gabriella Coleman. Its really a work of an anthropologist, studinying the weird new tribes in the cyber-jungle and their odd, odd, but it does make one wonder (especially bits about Arab Spring) how nuch of a "performance installation/artwork" this all is, how much truth, rather than a Margaret Mead type debacle...we shall see....(or probably not, given the nature of Anonymous....

Thursday, December 11, 2014

collaborated to death

I'm working on quite a few projects, and we use what used to be quaintly known as "productivity tools" - basically, we use (for example - non exhaustive list):

twitter/facebook/google groups & email lists and sms to coordinate stuff

shared calender tools

Git, Svn, Basecamp and a zillion other version controlling repositories

wikis, wordpress, for shared live journaling/awareness/coordination where > 140 char and less ephemeral, but not as versions as code, reports/papers

hotcrp, easychair, edas for conference management

webex, skype, younameit for video/voice realtime meetings

sharedlatex, office360, google docs for shared edits

This is a triumph of toolsets over sanity! I spend the first 7 minutes of any meeting trying to remember the use-context of the tools....arghhh!!!

death by computer supported collaborative computing!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Big Brother2.0 debate/conversazione, Lady Mitchell Hall, Nov 1, 11-12.30

I'm going to discuss things from a technical (computing) perspective, but with a modicum of social science

1. The canard: "If you've got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" needs debunking
(cue visual duck being thrown out of a hammock:)

This oft-repeated statement misses various important features of the way the world and people work:
Firstly, we all hide things all the time - the reasons are many:

some things are not finished, and need further work before they are presentable - 
sometimes, that is our own selves -our half baked opinions.

some things are hurtful to some people, but not to others

we present ourselves differently to different people - our kin, our close friends, our colleagues, our acquaintances and people that we encounter - all are given different levels of trust, because there are different levels of shared experience (and many other reasons). Context matters

Surveillance is toxic. It reduces everyone's choice of behaviour to that which is acceptable to everyone else. For all time. 

2. Because of the change of context over time (we grow older, our social network varies, the world changes, new stuff gets discovered, people forget stuff), we need to control aspects of information about ourselves as seen by others - indeed, we need to have obsolete data removed from their view

The statement that this is "censorship" is false. It is about a generalization of the "public right to know"

In general, the "public" is a set of people who we can send information to - e.g. my family, my friends, google, facebook, Sky TV, Isil, or GCHQ or the NSA or the Polis. Most of these, most the time, do not have a "right" to know. this is obviously false. I have a right to tell or not. I can judge my context.

e.g. Wes Hardaker, en route from san Francisco to Vancouver in SFO airport tweets to his partner at 5am "this airport is so dead" - the NSA might think he's a terrorist. he isn't - he means that the airport is really quiet (its 5am, after all).

e.g. Euan Blair on his 18th birthday gets drunk and is found /photographed in a gutter. before he was 18 it was no-one's business (he's a minor)- after he's 18, he's an adult -t he fact that his father is prime minister isn't relevant. the fact that many of the journalists covering the story are functional alcoholics and hipocrites is of no more interest, either, even if it is deliciously ironic.

e.g. mark thatcher gets lost in a rally drive across the sahara isn't specially interesting - see above. His mother isn't responsible for her 25yr old son's poor navigation skills doesn't reflect on her free market dogma or handbagging skills

3.with a suitable combination of technology (tracking content using DRM just as music and movie companies do, but on behalf of the citizen) we can tell if people send our data further than we wish, and law (data protection law, esp. in Germany - mainly because over time, the experience of the Stasi surveillance state rammed home why you really should care about this) we can 
catch bad people, fine them, put them in jail and (hopefully) make people think about whether they should inappropriately gossip - we can also age and remove from sight data that is no longer relevant (criminal records for crimes that the perp has rehabilitated, health records of no public interest, financial info that is out of date). THis is no less true of trivia (my birthdate is not necessary for buying a drink, just the fact that I am over age X...)

4. Enforcement ideally should be social, but should include suitable independent organisations - perhaps a new Estate (the first virtual estate)

5. GCHQ (and the NSA etc) are in no special privileged relation to most people in regards the above.
We need to incent them to do their job right. expensive surveillance is not a substitute for good old fashioned Humint....

6. Google (facebook, NHS care data/Price Waterhouse) aren't exempt either

7. we need law with sharper teeth, because of the heavily asymmetric power held by agencies named above compared with the individual

8. data,just because it can be copied without error, is not necessarily true in the first place. and it can become false (law change, for example). recall by humans is revisionist, because context changes. Data without context is inherently false

9. Every decoding is an encoding (Maurice Zapp, Small World, by david lodge).

10. If you don't by this, give me all your keys and all your passwords.

There's a lot of background work to this, but I'm assuming the audience probably won't want bell, book, candle and footnotes:-)

My 10 cents

stephen farrell quite (59 mins in):

terrorism, evidence etc report card:

CATO report on costs of counter terrorism compared to what:

John Naughton's notes are now available too

Friday, October 24, 2014

Not wrong to be forgotten

A few more points after the illuminating debate at the Cambridge Union Society last night (23.10.14).

i) so people are still hung up on the notion that,
because the internet/web/cloud can copy/store things so cheaply,
then deletion is impossible -

first off, that isn't necessarily so,
but even assuming it is,
its tantamount to arguing that
because we can now 3D print guns, we don't have to bother with gun control law...

- in fact, if there is a reason to remove data from publication
(its required by law - because its  defamatory or wrong,
or its required by ethics because the use is no longer relevant,
or its required by emotions - it would hurt someone's feelings again and again)
then the imperative is to embed the right in a law so that we incent people to withold their copies
(which is not the same as _erasure_ but is quite possible, and easily enforced

keeping a copy of my ex-partners photos private is fine (i do) -
re-broadcasting them 35 years later is not.

ii)  preventing search producing a hit on content from i) isn't pointless -
its just a weaker version of stopping people re-publishing stuff
the european court finding was blurry on this
because of the definitions of stakeholders in current law. poor.

iii) the argument that there are many search engines and meta-search,
and that the internet "routes around damage"
so people will setup sites like "blockedbygoogle"
minutes after something is not returned by search, is irrelevant -

if we get the law right, and the right put into action, then technology can work -

scale out of distributing rules for filtering spam (e.g. see how ApamAssinsin shares filter rules, see how ingress filtering and BGP policy checks work, see how legal censorship works etc etc and see how collaborative filtering and recommendation engines work), and
other tricks works vert well (no, not 100% -but we aren't arguing 100% -
we're arguing shifting the balance so
a) people think a bit about this,
b) law that gives victims teeth, so deliberate flouting
earns the perpetrator fines/criminal records, public opprobrium etc

personal clouds, with personal control of flow of data through cloud, and
making the relationships between people and between people and organsations
(whether government or corporate)
more symmetric in terms of control of flow and lifetime of data)
is essential

people get confused about "google do x" or "person re-tweets y" -
the size of the agencies shouldn't
matter - anyone can leverage the internet to scale out cheap copying of data to many,
but should they?, is the question to ask?,
to whom? who is the entitled audience, now? or later? -
see next points:

iv) people are confused that this is censorship -
certainly currently the legal framework, and its "enforcement" by Google is a form of censorship,
because the "right to know" (i.e. public interest)
isn't being tested by an organisation that _represents_ public interest,
in any accountable way - sure, that's a bug, but we can fix that too - that doesn't mean
the right to be forgotten is wrong either

popular journalism (especially in recent years) has not helped :-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Right to be forgotten & trolls & hobbits & elves

A two-part blog today

1. Right to be forgotten.
This is a very bad phrase. The right should be to not be reminded (as much).
The false dichotomy is just that - the binary decision between "remember and not remember".
Neither humans nor technology remember things accurately.

a) Every encoding is a decoding (Maurice Zapp, of Euphoric State University, in David Lodge's fictional Small World) - recall is revisionist for humans. It is also revisionist in technology - you may decide to do an audit (who read the file, when ? these are often recorded or appended to meta data) - where were the people looking at the data? why. Should we sort the results of a search to show more recently accessed data higher? this will affect others. Just as it does with your own grey matter!
b) We need to forget things - its part of coping with trauma, even just at the level of embarassment
c) We evolve (and we all evolve) so stuff we did that they agreed with then, we and they may not agree with anymore. Why should we be faulted now for what was ok back then?

Delete, by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger

Better solutions - social nets should use interaction/activity based weights to decide what is recalled easily - stuff should fade - this copes with public figures naturally (as they interact with world but about their public duties, not their private lives) as well as the private individual online - if I havn't seen you for 25 years, I won't naturally recal lstuff about you - if you show up asking mefor a reference, maybe some stuff will come "flooding back" - this maps also to natural cognitive resource limits that are known about in humans, and implements a nice form of relevance filtering easily. THis also implements "unfriending without tears" on online social media - you just ddidn't interact with someone (like or mention or comment on their timeline) so they slowly fade from memory - many systems already are implementing things a bit like this, but for somewhat misguided reasons - lets fix it - its easy!

2. Trolls
There's a saying from 30 years or more of newsgroups (Usenet, if you go back that far):
"Don't feed the trolls"

So trolling is getting worse - this is not surprising - there's more people in the hills (which have eyes) than ever. These people don't know from Adam (and they are probably eating the apple). Why do they troll - to share in your glory? who knows....but they can because of what I might call Internet Induced Empathic Disorder - they are alienated, and they don't know you are a person - many of them do stuff they wouldn't dream of doing in the same room as you - this is well known. Its worse where there are too many terrible cultural examples (see the Russian Social Media abuse below, but nearer to home, see BBC's :Have your say" comments  or Youtube's hilarious children from hell type comments on videos there (remindes me of the evil devils on rollerblades in the hilarious film, Dogma!)

How to fix? Engage or Ignore? I don't believe the troll's target is the right person - we need to have a social response - peer pressure - show the troll where they sit, surrounded by hobbits and wizards (and elves) - that'll wake them up, or else turn them to stone, come sunrise.

Protest 2.0 - networked negoative consolidation

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Lottery of Babel and the Library of Babylon

On every floor of the tower, it is sometimes said, a different language is spoken. once a month, the floor manager buys a ticket for the lottery. if the ticket wins, the language stays the same. otherwise, a new language is chosen, and everyone on that floor must learn it. the chances are rare that the language stays the same for 2 months in a row, let alone a lifetime. however, it is rumoured that sometimes this has happened. Indeed, it is said that there are dizzy heights and possibly sepulchrous depths in the tower where denizens of neighbouring floors have found they spoke the same language as each other for a time. the lottery is administered, of course, by a priesthood, who either understand all the languages, or else have their own universal tongue and each learn the language of a handful of floors. nobody knows which.

few people on each floor are capable of learning a new language every month, and so most people cannot truly understand one another. sometimes, a group get together and try to keep the old tongue alive. these cathars claim too that there are no priests and there is no lottery. they are quickly suppressed.

In the library of babylon, the most sacred works of all religions are kept. the more common books, such as the bible, the torah, the koran, the vedas and so on occur in many versions. the rarer religions, or ones for whom there are few remaining living followers, often have a single copy, or even only a partial segment of the Ur text. the organisation of the library is chaotic. the librarians wanted to organise the text in order of date, but could not agree on whose calendar to employ. then a small group  proposed alphabetizing the entire collection, but were resisted by those who pointed out that there were more ways of writing than there were religions.

the theological experts suggested that there was a tree of religions, not to imply "older" or more "fundamental", but that one could see many similarities in the gods - the indo-european polytheists at least, and the abrahamic religions.

the chief librarian suggested that this was merely the result of errors that crept in during the copying of texts due to the biases of the monks at the time.

as a result, no-one can vouch for the correctness of any of the religious tracts. reform and born-again are thrown together in confusion. there is a ground swell of opinion that the library must be burned, as it represents the ultimate sacrilege. the librarians have all deserted the buildings, which stretch far across the sands to the sea, where the boats full of foreigners are arriving. it will not be long now.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I Need a Vacation

I went away (as we do) for 2 weeks to Paleochora, Crete and then 1 week in La Villa, Fosciadora, Garfagnana so I should be feeling great, n'est ce pas? well up til the last minute in each place, all was v. good, but then, in each case, there's a long drive to an airport, waiting around for a plane, and a long drive home from the airport in England. Then there's no food in the house and everything smells of damp and cat. Then there's a pile of obscure letters on the doormat. Then there's kids' results to open and ponder.

Then there are rental car add-on bills in the e-mail which appear to be made up out of thin air (thank you Maggiore, yes that's you - bogus bill about twice the amount of the quote on the booking).

Then there's email - two weeks away and 1300 mesages to deal with, at least 100 of which actually require thought - 1 week away, and another 450 messages - this is in august, for godsakes, when most people should be on a beach or by the pool, but no, they are writing research proposals, drafting theses, preparing responses to research funding agency calls, discussing research code releases, posting papers from conferences (yes that's you SIGCOMM, right in the middle of august and in Chicago, where no sane person would go except to see Buddy Guy, and then not in mid-summer). And my vacation away mail told people (and I told all my colleagues I'd be offline too).

I think that German Company that started to delete all e-mail for people on vacation has the right idea - work/life balance tricks like that are essential for some sort of sanity. I actually had a vacation message that said that once, but still people resent stuff after I know they got my auto-response.

Modern Technology is not progress - repeat after me:)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

NPfIT - NP Hard and Not Fit for Purpose

In an interesting report from the Cambridge MPhil for Public Policy student group, on the largest IT project failure ever, so far, a lot of historical detail is dredged up, and a number of useful conclusions drawn under headings like Haste, Design, Culture & Skills, which are pretty hard to disagree with.

Some stuff goes unsaid, but reading between the lines, one might ask

1. were no "references taken up" for the people who were shortlisted for the contract? I mean I know BT pretty well, and I'd never hire them for a systems integration job like this - sure, for the spine/N2 (which worked fine, and afaik, were loosely modelled on SuperJANET), but not to bring together an unknown outfit with a dodgy sounding name (iSoft - wannabe Microsoft:) and Fujitsu (ok, make decent clone PCs once then, but large databases etc? Not really).

2. So I realize it was a while ago, but even then, we had rapid growth internet outfits with many services (like google and apple and onlone gaming) who had built customer relation databases (with ok security) for 100s Millions of users, which managed a lot of stuff that scaled out, and could address the srts of needs the NHS requirements said (oh, ok - the requirement capture was one of the biggest failings in the whole thing, of course) - one thing that open source, internet/cloud companies do is to stay agile, so they can interface to legacy systems (as they get big enough to acquire them - e.g. google buying youtube or the maps system, or microsoft buying skype) - in the same way, rather tan imposing a central design on an heterogeneous set of health services, interfacing between them woould have been just fine...

3. How bad was Lorenzo? Didn't anyone do a code inspection ever? It sounds a bit like the Obamacare sign-on system fiasco - but why? I mean lashing up a bunch of patient recor databases into mongodb, mysql or whatever (let alone Oracle or Ingres or some big iron dbase) is not rocket science. Its done by Internet startups 100s of times a year and is hardly ever the reason they fail.

Of course, the other component that work (Picture Archiving / Comms) worked because there is much less heterogeneity in those systems - image standards exist and you just need web/email access to glue systems lucky no-one managed to balls up that part, eh!

Anyhow, nice report, but would be nice to hear more about the contract failures (lack of penalty clauses with enough teeth)....

Sunday, July 20, 2014

forget me, forget me not - how to implement?

some haev argued that
copyright takedown == right to be forgotten
(ie. not quite the same as censorship - just enforcement of access control
by the data owner (in case of PII, person is owner of rights to access some
facts about themselves, unless there's a compelling argument for public knowledge) -
there are other arguments for and against, but this analogy (whatever its flaws) might be useful for estimating the cost of the right to be forgotten (as per EU court ruling)

whatever the many of pros and cons on the topic, but how to implement?
well, if you upload film, music (or stills) to youtube, and are worried about copyright, don't:
google have made it their business to acquire legal copies of Just About Everything digital, and will eventually match whatever you've uploaded to a copy they have in house - they will then discover if there is a rights holder (that isn't you) and, if they havn't already done so, will contact said owner, and ask/ngotiate
 a) do they want content taken down b) do they want analytics c) do they want advertising revenue -
in fact, google can and do optimise this by region by doing blanket agreements with large publishers of digital content.

so to do the same for stories in webpages (and search results) concerning individuals could be done exact same way (probably is) - the technical cost might be a bit higher because you need to
keep a per page (per region) filter entry. The bigger cost (by far) is establishing genuine rights holder (data subject) and whether there's a public interest angle or not - this requires judgement (rather than just money:) so I think its interesting that Google is doing this now...

but the negotiation is where this differs and that's a really tricky business...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mutually Assured Distraction

A lot of commentary on the current fad for extra-territorial mass surveillance misses the point - the reason countries are doing this isn't just because they can, its because they can't currently be held to account.

In the old days, spies would be caught from time to time, and executed (or exchanged). Now, the spies aren't in the other territory, and plausible deniability means you can't even use extradition agreements between allegedly friendly countries (e.g UK &US) to get them bought to book/justice. This shows up in other domains than mere military intelligence:

1. Drones
2. Finance
3. Energy

Sadly for all these, the level of technological development of a country really doesn't have to be that great to gear up to use a bunch of 100$ radio control quadcopters, or a cunning HFT instrument, or even just the ability to turn off the gas pipeline to a neighbour - of course, there are expensive versions of these weaponised tools (e.g. BAe Systems drones that US uses in Pakistan are quite pricey - surprisingly so given cost of crop spraying, or outside sports broadcast drones, really - but then the MoD/DoD were always targets for ripoff pricing) - also the US threatens banks who don't reveal US taxpaying customers accounts/transactions details with massive fines if the bank has a stateside operation (of course, swiss and german banks just close down US tax payer accounts rather than face this), and Putin wields the russian gas wealth like the playground chess playing bully he is:)

But the low cost versions are just as bad.

Hence, talking about this needs to move up a level, methinks, as the realpolitik of using this stuff is not going to go the way of nukes, quite the reverse, since the Use of Weapons of this type doesn't lead to Mass Destruction, just death by a thousand strikes......

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Horizon Digital Economy annual shindig - some ideas...

so we had the Horizon annual conference last 2 days in Nottingham, and jolly good it was too - esp. two v. good "industry" talks, one on New Media from local 21st century 'cinema' people in notts, the other from the link guy for NHS data projects which was v. v cool

couple of ideas sproinged up during discussions

1. the loneliness of the long distance spectator - instead of filing a long strung out event (marathon run, tour de france etc) from central, string together a set of friends and family of a given participant into a narrative...lovely idea  - whole new experience for all concerned - main problem is legal consent (if spe, participants have prior agreement, e.g. with news media channels) - should be fairly easy tho to think through

2. - a startup idea - we are suffering from ethics questionnaire fatigue - we need a pool of people who agree to be study groups for repeated things (a la Nielsson ratings biz model) and just deal with their informed consent once (or occasionally) for all those twitter/facebook/email/emotionsense/mypersonality etc etc

3. Embrace Messy

Lots of studies of systems (esp. internet of things or other tech embedded in everyday life) involve lots of noise - e.g. multiple occupancy houses etc etc - why bother trying to be a control freak nailing down who is who (e.g. with fascistic rfid tagging of everyone or even worse, invasive use of cameras or mikes and face speaker/gait/gesture recognition etc) - embrace the mess - for example, lots of people in my house use computers at random, so we all get each others' profiles/recommendations - this is amusing and, indeed, gives us a community feel about who likes/watches/listens to what!! this is good not bad:)

the fact that it also acts as cover traffic is also good for fuzzing (plausible deniability:)

Friday, June 20, 2014

35 years of irresponsible research

Yesterday, I went to the very cool science museum london future room to attend the very cool Responsible Innovation project's flagship event showing off their rather good ideas on how we in the tech sector (the hated ICT term unfortunately due to funding agency's presence) should include some sort of notions of responsibility (e.g. to people, e.g. ethics and society) into our work in innovating (i.e. don't just do it because you can, but choose what to do because you should and what not to do because you should not:)

being a grumpy old git yesterday, I had to intervene in various curmudgeonly ways, but on the whole, I thought the proceedings were constructive, optimistic and helpful, and surprisingly, a lot of people in the audience seemed positive too:)

So here's some comments on the event

Marina Jirotka (University of Oxford) introduced the project - a few things I didn't like
1/ they were filming and we were told if we didn't want to be filmed, not to ask questions - that's a bit of a technology fail up front:)
2/ the noise level fro mkids running around in the science museum would have made life difficult for anyone with significant hearing loss (e.g. me, which is why i was sitting in the front row being annoying)

Marina showed a REALLY cool video showing affective robots as a use case example of hat can be good, but then bad - i didn't say it at the time, but Robots have been done to death in the Sci Fi (our ethical storifiers) community - not just going back to the Golem of Prague, but Asimov's Zeroth law, and then things like Aliens Synths (good and bad in Alien 1 and 2) and BLade Runner's Replicants (and Philip K Dick's dissection of what makes us human and them not (empathy!). and even humans falling in love with robots (see one of the original I Robot stories - or for a more oblique version, see John Wyndham's story abotu smart monkeys painting and revealing adultery in a family) see also Sladek's Roderick & Roderick at Random for a lot of discussions of robots in society
Indeed, one distinguishing feature of the Geek/Tech (ICT) sector is the addiction of many practitioners to the morality tales that we get from 100 years of Sci Fi (HG Wells, Jules Vern to Star Trek and Dr Who - many featuring techno ideas 50 years before they are realized, with a full exploratory discussion of their pros and cons - for more recent stuff, look at Pat Cadigan's  work, e.g. Synners or Charlie Stross's Accelerando....for other areas of concern including mixed reality and new economic forms...or even Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind
 Sir Nigel Shadbolt (University of Southampton)
Sir Nige is ever the optimist - I asked him about being forgotten - why do we need to save everything personal - he bought up the difference between Commons and Public goods and private goods (see question later about 17th century models:) which was a good answer - I asked why we just talk about data and not just processing - for example, why can't I direct th digital camera stream to my phone (which knows where I am in the room and has enough processing to remove the pixels with video of me and send back to the net without me, for example - many other examples, given the copious amount of CPU cycles out there where we could personalize and filter the interweb in ways that reflect our preferences for what is seen by who about stuff that concerns US! we could even build Social Machines (e.g. for democratic or dictatorial households or meetings) to determine what rules for processing and storage apply:)
Note, Technicolor routinely customies digital movies for over 30 different locales in europe (e.g. substitute for a coke can, Orangina in France, or IrnBru in Scotland) - so substituting for my image in known location in a (fixed) camera view is really quite trivial:)
 Artist display - Barbara Gorayska - quite a cool performance/installation in the break
PANEL: How do we innovate responsibly in a digital world?
Lizzie Coles Kemp (Royal Holloway, University of London) - great synthesizing chair person!
  • Daniel Stauffacher  (ICT4Peace) - very cool stuff - like the IRTF's GAIA group (see research group which will meet soon )
  • Derek MacAulay  (Horizon Institute, University of Nottingham) -- Gave a nice chat about Horizon model of personal cloud etc 
  • John Hand  (EPSRC) - the funders viewpoint - I mentioned the NSF as an Ethics for STEM programme that's more general that EPSRC should look at...
  • Anthony House  (Google) quoted Tim O'reilly "Create more value than you capture" and also got asked a great question about breaking concrete that cements us to 17th century values:)
  • Judy Wajcman (London School of Economics) - a GREAT talk about women and about time (why should everything that's faster be better:)

Q&A:  Questions to the panel
I asked "since many areas like banks/finance, government/war, pharma/medical, energy/global warming, as well as cloud/privacy, don't take ONE BLIND BIT OF NOTICE of what would be socially responsible, why should we in the tech (ICT) community bother?
Several questions followed, which were a bit less blunt....

The gist of the answers was that we could lead/set an example, but also that businesses if large need to keep their brand clean so theres is mileage (economic) in being ethical, plus small outfits would like help ("tell us what to do")

of course, not just being motivated by profit (Pikketty got namechecked) was good - i'd have love to have heard Precariat views too:)
 WRAP UP: Tristram Riley-Smith (University of Cambridge) wrapped up with the Science/Evidence-> Policy story which was good stuff

I'd have like to have heard about making the law responsibile too (GCHQ said "we don't break the law" - not on paper, bt in a moral sense they do:)
[shout out here to PIs Campaign to test this in European Court

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Duty Cycles Finished

We depend more and more on Solid State Storage, and more and more devices use rechargeable batteries.

What if one day, everything went wrong at the same time?

Why this is not unlikely?

Simple - the devices are made and sold in batches. They have a duty cycle limit (there are a maximum number of write cycles you can apply to Flash memory and there are maximum number of discharge/recharge cycles you can run a battery through). The chances are likely because of the law of large numbers - most people buy things at xmas or other holidays, so manufacturing and usage are synchronised.

Devices (like cars) are built so that components fail on the guarantee lifetime boundary (or just after).

The law of large numbers (central limit theorem) says that this is something that will apply to lots of stuff....

So picture this (cue Blondie music) a day in december, 2024, all the electric cars and phones and networks and power systems and internet of things die. And cannot be rebooted. Ever. Again.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Solution to the Google Glass Privacy Problem

It's obvious that Google Glass is the only way we will solve the dementia problem of the future, but the current worry on many peoples' mind is the ominpresent privacy risk - as written about so cogently in Dave Eggars' book, The Circle, this is not acceptable.

I propose a solution, not very different than several technologies I invented many years ago such as the Hairt and the Gurl (a clear pre-cursor to the Glass, and obviously prior art sufficient to bust any patent on it:)

The solutions is that every Glasshole shall be given a regulat supply of enough kits for everyone in every social encouter that might cause embarassment for innocent bystanders (colleagues, sexual partners, family etc) - a suitable kit is already available for around 5 bucks - see google tache proposal, for one fine product.

This would also make many pub situations infinitely more entertaining.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

the net is a very gendered engenderment

so thinking back, its hard to remember any women associated with the creation of the internet - lots of "fathers of x" and so forth

yet in the 70s and early 80s, computer science was nearly 50/50 gender balance (in jobs I had an university courses and departments)

so why did this happen?

and how would the net be different if it had been designed/discovered/invented by women?

answers on a woven tapestry embroidered with holerith string band music

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Towards an Aesthetic for Conspiracy Theories

So we need to lay down some terms for these conspiracy theories, that enable people to get them right (lets say we want to start a few bogus ones and see how they run, for example:-)

Rule 1. Lack of evidence proves that there is a cover up.
This is an essential rule of the conspiracy theorist - its part and parcel of the next rule:

Rule 2. A conspiracy theorist should strive to make their story unfalsifiable.
Falsifiable theories are for Popperians seeking objective knowledge, not for the hunter for objectionable ideas.

Rule 3. Ideally, a conspiracy theory should have great (in the sense of broad) explanatory power or applicability - it ought, at one fell swoop, to encompass several problematical domains (missing aircraft, beleaguered news readers, confused celebs). Conspiracy theories make the inexplicably complicated, suddenly comprehensible to a complete dolt.

Rule 4. Any decent conspiracy theory resonates with some fundamental cultural meme, especially one that engenders fear, uncertainty and doublets. Hence myths from eldritch times, alien technology, hidden rules of numbers and the odd way some people look at you when you talk about this in the context of UKIP's chances at ruling Scotland, are essential.

Rule 5. There is a cover up, which means that there are coverer uppers. There is some group (Illuminati, Opus Dei, the French, the Arms/Drugs/Car manufacturers, UKIP) who know something, and are not telling us.

Rule 6. A good conspiracy theory exploits the principle of maximum astonishment (see also Rule 3). On the other hand, a conspiracy theory might sound occasionally plausible for a moment - for example, the fact that mice, cats, dogs and horses are just different stages in the growth of the same creature, or that the names of passengers on flight MH370 were the same as the travellers on the Marie Celeste, or that 3D printers contain secret scanners to make sure you don't ever copy people, especially not members of UKIP.

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home