Tag Archives | Information

The Library of Alexandria and the Martyrdom of Hypatia

hypatia_2via chycho

I first heard about the Library of Alexandria when I was in high school. Unfortunately, being a captive of our current education system I really wasn’t given the opportunity to ponder the implications of the creation of the largest library - at the time - known in human existence or its eventual destruction. I was herded into the next classroom and forced to change my train of thought to whatever subject matter was at hand.

I had intended to look up the history of Alexandria further when I had more time, but youth being what it is, I never got around to it, not until I was reminded to do so through Carl Sagan’s thirteen-part television masterpiece “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”.

“It covered a wide range of scientific subjects including the origin of life and a perspective of our place in the universe…. The series was first broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service in 1980, and was the most widely watched series in the history of American public television until [1990]….

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UK Government To Make The Entire Population’s Medical Records Available For Sale To Drug And Insurance Firms

medical recordsThe move will allow insurers to more efficiently serve the public and pharmaceutical companies to better target their life-saving new drugs…because surely those are the only reasons why those industries would pay to access vast troves of personal medical data. The Guardian reports:

Drug and insurance companies will from later this year be able to buy information on patients – including mental health conditions and diseases such as cancer, as well as smoking and drinking habits – once a single English database of medical data covering the entire population (harvested from GP and hospital records) has been created.

Privacy experts warn there will be no way for the public to work out who has their medical records or to what use their data will be put. The extracted information will contain NHS numbers, date of birth, postcode, ethnicity and gender.

Once live, organisations such as universities – but also insurers and drug companies – will be able to apply to gain access to the database, called care.data.

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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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CLOUDS Interactive Documentary: Exploring Creativity Through the Lens of Code

I’m so glad the CLOUDS project was fully-funded by Kickstarter! Part research project, part documentary, this is a prime example of what I’m looking forward to in the future of art; immersive dreamscapes of information driven by creative content and lucid interactivity! Eventually, the audience will have total digital participation with the media at our disposal, and opens up all sorts of questions regarding authorship, artistic intent, storytelling, and our relationship to technology, media and message. What would Marshall McCluhan say?

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Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have Nothing to Hide

Via the Chronicle of Higher Education, law professor Daniel J. Solove reveals all:

The nothing-to-hide argument is everywhere. In Britain, for example, the government has installed millions of public-surveillance cameras in cities and towns, which are watched by officials via closed-circuit television. In a campaign slogan for the program, the government declares: “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear.”

But the problem with the nothing-to-hide argument is the underlying assumption that privacy is about hiding bad things. By accepting this assumption, we concede far too much ground and invite an unproductive discussion about information that people would very likely want to hide. As the computer-security specialist Schneier aptly notes, the nothing-to-hide argument stems from a faulty “premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong.” Surveillance, for example, can inhibit such lawful activities as free speech, free association, and other First Amendment rights essential for democracy.

One such harm, for example, which I call aggregation, emerges from the fusion of small bits of seemingly innocuous data.

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Eleven Secret Documents Americans Deserve to See

David Wallechinsky has written a list of eleven secret documents that he feels every American deserves to see:

Via AllGov:

Many documents produced by the U.S. government are confidential and not released to the public for legitimate reasons of national security. Others, however, are kept secret for more questionable reasons. The fact that presidents and other government officials have the power to deem materials classified provides them with an opportunity to use national security as an excuse to suppress documents and reports that would reveal embarrassing or illegal activities.

I’ve been collecting the stories of unreleased documents for several years. Now I have chosen 11 examples that were created—and buried—by both Democratic and Republican administrations and which cover assassinations, spying, torture, 50-year-old historical events, presidential directives with classified titles and…trade negotiations.

1. Obama Memo Allowing the Assassination of U.S. Citizens

When the administration of George W. Bush was confronted with cases of Americans fighting against their own country, it responded in a variety of ways.

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Security Questions, Market Research, Or Something Else?

Email providers, banks, and other entities commonly and increasingly use knowledge-based security questions as a backup or addition to simple passwords, for your own security. Or at least that’s what they say the purpose is. Should you really be revealing these things to someone whom you don’t know? From the New Aesthetic:

What Apple would like to know about you. (Screenshots by Chris H.) These are Apple’s new security questions for iOS. I thought the London 2012 site ones – “What’s your favourite colour?” “Who’s your best friend?” were bad enough.

secure

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Microsoft Shows What The Future Will Look Like

Microsoft has released this “positive” (hear the cheery music?) thought-exercise short film titled “Productivity Future Video” which shows “how future technology will help people make better use of their time, focus their attention, and strengthen relationships while getting things done at work, home, and on the go.”

It’s an affluent, depressing world in which every surface has been turned into a screen with notifications telling you what do or think, interpersonal relations have completely atrophied, and emotions and sensation are muted as one is shuttled between airports, hotels, and other highly-planned spaces. Just wait until everything around you, the walls and the floor the table, is a Microsoft product with malfunctioning software.

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