Tag Archives | Computers

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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Against Tech Solutions To Our Surveillance Problems

solutionsVia Wired, Jathan Sadowski writes that “tech hacks” to shield our own privacy shouldn’t be the answer we are looking for:

The notion of tech-centric solutionism: what tech hack, device, or app can I turn to for a quick fix to my privacy troubles? There’s no shortage of articles and how-to guides for securing privacy, with headlines promising “Five ways to stop the NSA from spying on you.”

Here’s the thing, though: We shouldn’t resolve ourselves to a life where cyber-hygiene and an obsession with technological solutions fools us into thinking we’ve somehow preserved our privacy.

It’s always going to be a losing battle when going against a panoptic titan whose methods are wide-reaching, constantly evolving, and classified. Just look at the fates of Lavabit and Silent Circle, the two email services that shuttered last week.

The fundamental belief in technology’s ability to “fix” everything ignores the fact that not everything needs to be fixed in the first place.

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Rebuilding A New Internet Using Meshnets

meshnet

Time to start the internet over with? New Scientist reports on the burgeoning world of meshnets:

The internet is neither neutral nor private, in case you were in any doubt. So some people are building their own net from scratch.

Across the US, from Maryland to Seattle, work is underway to construct user-owned wireless networks that will permit secure communication without surveillance or any centralised organisation. They are known as meshnets and ultimately, if their designers get their way, they will span the country.

Each node in the mesh, consisting of a radio transceiver and a computer, relays messages from other parts of the network. If the data can’t be passed by one route, the meshnet finds an alternative way through to its destination.

While these projects are just getting off the ground, a mesh network in Catalonia, Spain, is going from strength to strength. Guifi was started in the early 2000s by Ramon Roca, an Oracle employee who wanted broadband at his rural home.

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On The Death Of The Global Internet

global networkVia the Guardian, John Naughton writes that the most significant development heralded by Edward Snowden’s revelations is the end of the internet as a global network:

The days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, i.e. divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.

Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.

The Obama administration’s “internet freedom agenda” has been exposed as patronising cant. “Today,” he writes, “the rhetoric of the ‘internet freedom agenda’ looks as trustworthy as George Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ after Abu Ghraib.”

They tell us, for example, that no US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data.

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Defcon Hacker Conference To Detail How Moving Cars Be Remotely Sabotaged

defcon

From now on, are all notable car crashes suspicious? Engadget reports:

Famed white hats Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek are preparing to unleash a 100-page paper at the annual hacker conference in Las Vegas, and notably, hacks that overtake both Toyota and Ford automotive systems will be positioned front and center. The information was gathered as part of a multi-month project that was funded by the US government, so note that the specifics of the exploits will not be revealed to the masses; they’ll be given to the automakers so that they can patch things up.

Using laptops patched into vehicular systems, the two were able to force a Prius to “brake suddenly at 80 miles an hour, jerk its steering wheel, and accelerate the engine,” while they were also able to “disable the brakes of a Ford Escape traveling at very slow speeds.”

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Google Plans Wearable Computer For Dogs

Hund der in den Computer schautCan you imagine your favorite mutt using its wearable computer to tell you to take it for a walk… NOW!?

You might not have to imagine it for much longer as Google moves beyond its Glass project, reports MIT Technology Review:

…[W]earable tech needn’t be just for people. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, visiting associate professor Melody Jackson, professor and Google Glass technical lead Thad Starner, and research scientist Clint Zeagler are working on a system called FIDO, which stands for “facilitating interactions for dogs with occupations.”

Jackson, who has been training assistance dogs for about 18 years, says FIDO is meant to make it easy for the animals to communicate clearly with their handlers (whether a disabled person or a police officer) by activating a sensor on their vest or collar to transmit a verbal command the handler can hear through an earpiece or see on a head-mounted display.

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Three-Quarters Of All Smartphones Contain NSA Code In Operating System

androidGoogle confirms that Android phones come with “Security Enhancements” added by the NSA, Bloomberg reports:

Google spokeswoman Gina Scigliano confirms that the company has already inserted some of the NSA’s programming in Android OS. “All Android code and contributors are publicly available for review at source.android.com,” Scigliano says, declining to comment further.

Through its open-source Android project, Google has agreed to incorporate code, first developed by the agency in 2011, into future versions of its mobile operating system, which runs on three-quarters of smartphones [globally].

NSA officials say their code, known as Security Enhancements for Android, isolates apps to prevent hackers and marketers from gaining access to personal or corporate data stored on a device. Eventually all new phones, tablets, televisions, cars, and other devices that rely on Android will include NSA code, agency spokeswoman Vanee’ Vines said in an e-mailed statement.

In a 2011 presentation obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek, the NSA listed among the benefits of the program that it’s “normally invisible to users.” Vines wouldn’t say whether the agency’s work on Android and other software is part of or helps with Prism.

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Playing for Keeps: AI Enters the World of Online Poker

poker-botsA poker bot able surpass human competitors still has other bots to contend with. Is online gambling poised to become cyperpunk? From Gabriel Dance at The New York Times:

Bryan Taylor, 36, could not shake the feeling that something funny was going on. Three of his most frequent opponents on an online poker site were acting oddly, playing in ways that were so similar it was suspicious.

Mr. Taylor, who started playing poker professionally in 2008, suspected that he was competing against computers — specifically bots, short for robots — that had been programmed to play poker and beat the odds.

And he was right. After an investigation, the site Mr. Taylor frequented, PokerStars, determined that his opponents had been computers masquerading as people and shut them down.

Poker bots are not new, but until recently they were not very good. Humans were better at the nuances of the game — at bluffing, for instance — and could routinely beat the machines.… Read the rest

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