Thursday, August 14, 2014

Peter Watts on the "Scorched Earth Society"

Via Boingboing, we have Peter Watts' talk to the Symposium of the International Association of Privacy Professionals: The Scorched Earth Society: A Suicide Bomber's Guide to Online Privacy (PDF). The title is deliberately over-the-top. It's a great essay, covering many topics, among them why "privacy" matters far less than "surveillance".

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Programming Sucks

I'm finally getting around to reading and closing out a bunch of browser tabs. This "Programming Sucks" essay is a couple of months old, but it sure is funny and accurate.

Most people don't even know what sysadmins do, but trust me, if they all took a lunch break at the same time they wouldn't make it to the deli before you ran out of bullets protecting your canned goods from roving bands of mutants.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Thought of the Day

If corporations are people, shouldn't the 13th Amendment bar buying and selling them?

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Charlie Stross Explains Why This is a Bad Idea

So apparently the US Secret Service wants software to detect sarcasm.

Charlie Stross explains why this is a Bad Idea. Highlights:

...then the Internet happened, and it just so happened to coincide with a flowering of highly politicized and canalized news media channels such that at any given time, whoever is POTUS, around 10% of the US population are convinced that they're a baby-eating lizard-alien in a fleshsuit who is plotting to bring about the downfall of civilization, rather than a middle-aged male politician in a business suit.


Indeed, a successful sarcasm detector implies not only an eerily functional human consciousness emulation and a metric fuckton of encoded knowledge about human cultural relationships, but the ability to engage in primate social interaction with sufficient agility to tell when a primate means something, and when a primate is signalling an implicit negation of meaning. Which in turn means the sarcasm detector requires a theory of mind. Hello, singularity! And while I'm at it, can I have a pony? And the moon on a stick, too. KTHX.

Monday, May 19, 2014

What Chris Hadfield's version of "Space Oddity" can tell us about Copyright

Cory Doctorow at Boingboing points us at a very good essay about Chris Hadfield's "Space Oddity" and what it means for copyright in general.

Doctorow's comment bears repeating:

Ironically, if Hadfield had recorded the song and sold it on CD or as an MP3, there would have been no need for him to get a license from Bowie, and no way for Bowie to remove it, because there's a compulsory license for cover songs that sets out how much the performer has to pay the songwriter for each copy sold, but does not give the songwriter the power to veto individual covers.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Daryl Gregory on Investigating the Numinous

Over at, Daryl Gregory explores the concept of the numinous from a hard-SF viewpoint. He jumps off from Barbara Ehrenreich's essay in the New York Times.

Gregory's core quote:

But that profundity, that quality of realness, is also just a feeling. If one of the symptoms of the numinous was that it felt “fake,” as some visual hallucinations do, neither Ehrenreich nor anyone else would be lobbying for pursuit of external intelligences.

The brain, after all, is lying to us all the time, about things great and small. It edits our sense of time so that neuronal events that reach the brain at separate times seem to occur simultaneously. It makes us see patterns in random noise. And, in its finest deception, it makes us think that there’s a self behind our eyes that’s steering a body around, an illusion so pervasive and natural-feeling that it makes the numinous look like a cheap card trick.

He also links to Ross Douthat's response to Ehrenreich, which leads me to say something I never thought I'd say: Ross Douthat makes more sense than Barbara Ehrenreich (at least on this narrow topic).

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Vi Hart on Net Neutrality

As if I didn't already have enough reasons to adore Vi Hart, she has a fantastic explanation of Net Neutrality and why it matters so much.