Tag Archives | Computers

The Rise Of Internet Feudalism

computer_robot

Via the Atlantic

The Internet has emboldened traditional power. On the corporate side, power is consolidating, a result of two current trends in computing. First, the rise of cloud computing means that we no longer have control of our data. Our e-mail, photos, calendars, address books, messages, and documents are on servers belonging to Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and so on. And second, we are increasingly accessing our data using devices that we have much less control over: iPhones, iPads, Android phones, Kindles, ChromeBooks, and so on. Unlike traditional operating systems, those devices are controlled much more tightly by the vendors, who limit what software can run, what they can do, how they’re updated, and so on. Even Windows 8 and Apple’s Mountain Lion operating system are heading in the direction of more vendor control.

I have previously characterized this model of computing as “feudal.” Users pledge their allegiance to more powerful companies who, in turn, promise to protect them from both sysadmin duties and security threats.

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Does Silicon Valley Want To Create Its Own Separate Nation?

balloonPlease leave me behind. CNET News dissects a talk given at Y Combinator this past weekend that echos the recent sentiments of Google co-founder Larry Page, eBay co-founder Peter Thiel, and others who imagine a libertarian, tech-utopian paradise as the ultimate goal:

At Y Combinator, Balaji Srinivasan, a Stanford lecturer and co-founder of genetics startup Counsyl, lays out his proposal for creating opt-in societies “outside the US, run by technology,” Srinivasan said, often reading from the slides he presented onstage with an authoritarian tone.

The idea is techno-utopian spaces — new countries even — that could operate beyond the bureaucracy and inefficiency of government. It’s a decision that hinges on exiting the current system, as Srinivasan terms it from the realm of political science, instead of using one’s voice to reform from within.

Calling his radical-sounding proposal “Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit,” Srinivasan thinks that these limitless spaces, popularly postulated by Page at this year’s Google I/O, are already being created, thanks to technology and a desire to exit.

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Timothy Leary’s MIND MIRROR Computer Game

Can you handle performing a mind-scope of your subconscious? Create a mind map of your bio-energy? Become part of the first generation in know how to control your own nervous system? Just pop in the floppy disc:

Timothy Leary designed MIND MIRROR for Electronic Arts in 1985. MIND MIRROR empowers users with psychometric routines of the type Dr. Leary pioneered earlier in his career in a funny and insightful role-playing game. MIND MIRROR is both a game and a self-coaching tool. Play as yourself, someone else, an object, or even an idea to gain the clarity of MIND MIRROR.

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Stop Saying Robots Are Destroying Jobs—They Aren’t

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.     ~Isaac Asimov

If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.
~Isaac Asimov

Change and the unknown may be the commonest fears, along with public speaking. All of which hold the potential of limiting progress. Perhaps some adhere to a notion of singularity, maybe ignorance, perhaps others are prone to the narratives passed down from parents. I don’t know, and I accept that. What I do know is that we all have the power to educate ourselves, and to choose. For the sake of balance I offer you this.

via MIT Technology Review

Many experts would have us believe that robots and other technologies are behind the job drought. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

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Bruce Schneier On The Solution To Surveillance

PRISMVia the MIT Technology Review, the security expert on staying free from the NSA:

My five tips suck. They are not things the average person can use. One of them is to use PGP [a data-encryption program]. But my mother can’t use PGP. Maybe some people who read your publication will use my tips, but most people won’t.

Basically, the average user is screwed. You can’t say “Don’t use Google”—that’s a useless piece of advice. Or “Don’t use Facebook,” because then you don’t talk to your friends, you don’t get invited to parties, you don’t get laid. It’s like libertarians saying “Don’t use credit cards”; it just doesn’t work in the real world.

The Internet has become essential to our lives, and it has been subverted into a gigantic surveillance platform. The solutions have to be political. The best advice for the average person is to agitate for political change.

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Nearly Half Of American Jobs Are Likely To Be Eliminated By Computers Over The Next Two Decades

american jobs

Humanity is nearly obsolete. MIT Technology Review writes:

Rapid advances in technology have long represented a serious potential threat to many jobs ordinarily performed by people.

A recent report from the Oxford Martin School’s Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology concludes that 45 percent of American jobs are at high risk of being taken by computers within the next two decades.

The authors believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage.

Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering. This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.

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A List Of Online Encryption Tools That The NSA Has Already Foiled

encryption

Why even bother trying? The New York Times reveals:

The NSA is winning its long-running secret war on encryption. Below are encryption tools the agency has had some success in cracking, according to documents provided by Edward Snowden.

Virtual Private Networks – Commonly used by businesses to allow employees to access work networks from outside the office, via an encrypted “tunnel” through a public network.

Encrypted chat – Available with chat programs like Adium or with software added to programs like AOL Instant Messenger, providing “end to end” encryption, in which the data cannot be decrypted at any point along the transfer (even by the messaging service).

Encrypted Voice over Internet Protocol – Services like Microsoft’s Skype and Apple’s FaceTime allow users to make free, encrypted phone and video calls over the Internet. The documents suggest that the N.S.A. is working with some VoIP services to obtain pre-encryption access to such messages.

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Does Information Overload Cost The United States A Trillion Dollars Per Year?

information overload

Will contemporary society’s ever-growing, never-ending stream of information gradually paralyze and destroy us all? In 2008 the IT consulting firm Basex claimed this as a conservative estimate, with the figure presumably rising since then:

According to our latest research Information Overload costs the U.S. economy a minimum of $900 billion per year in lowered employee productivity and reduced innovation. This is a fairly conservative number and reflects the loss of 25% of the knowledge worker’s day to the problem. The total could be as high as $1 trillion.

Information overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks. It is nothing new – it was very much on the minds of thought leaders centuries ago, including Roger Bacon, Samuel Johnson, and Konrad Geßner whose 1545 Bibliotheca universalis warned of the “confusing and harmful abundance of books” and promulgated strategies for coping with the overload of information.

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Japanese Government Opens “Internet Fasting Camps” To Treat Addicted Teens

Computer_labCould you survive these brutal camps? Via the International Business Times:

In response to rising numbers of young people who are “pathologically addicted” to the internet, Japan is opening up so-called “internet fasting camps” to wean youths off the web. Researchers at Japan’s Nihon University estimate that about 8.1 percent of the country’s students are addicted to the internet.

The Tokyo government’s education ministry will introduce “web fasting camps” to help young people disconnect from their PCs, laptops, mobile phones and hand-held devices. Akifumi Sekine, a spokesman for the education ministry, added: “We want to get them out of the virtual world and to encourage them to have real communication with other children and adults.”

Youths forcibly removed from their beloved mobile devices may suffer withdrawal symptoms, i.e., “cold turkey.”

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Why The Singularity Is Not Coming

singularityVia Edge.org, Bruce Sterling tells us what to not worry about:

Twenty years have passed since Vernor Vinge wrote his remarkably interesting essay about “the Singularity.”

This aging sci-fi notion has lost its conceptual teeth. Its chief evangelist, visionary Ray Kurzweil, just got a straight engineering job with Google. Despite its weird fondness for AR goggles and self-driving cars, Google is not going to finance any eschatological cataclysm in which superhuman intelligence abruptly ends the human era. Google is a firmly commercial enterprise.

We’re no closer to “self-aware” machines than in the 1960s. A modern wireless Cloud is an entirely different cyber-paradigm than imaginary 1990s “minds on nonbiological substrates” that might allegedly have the “computational power of a human brain.” A Singularity has no business model, no major power group in our society is interested in provoking one.

[Instead] we’re getting what Vinge predicted would happen without a Singularity, which is “a glut of technical riches never properly absorbed.”

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