2017/10/19: this is a logical consequence of Brexit. You’re now blaming the French for the logical consequences of Brexit. About as logical as initiating a divorce and then complaining about not seeing your children every day. Typical of the muddled, self-pitying arrogance of the typical Brexiteer.
2016/06/03: Ultimately, is paper the gold standard we should stick to?
Yes. Paper has some fundamental properties as a technology that make it the right thing to use for voting. You have more-or-less indelible marks on the thing. You have physical objects you can control. And everyone understands it. If you’re in a polling place and somebody disappears with a ballot box into a locked room and emerges with a smirk, maybe you know that there is a problem. We’ve had a long time to work out the procedures with paper ballots and need to think twice before we try to throw a new technology at the problem. People take paper ballots for granted and don’t understand how carefully thought through they are.
2018/10/16: When security researchers report on the ghastly defects in voting machines, the officials who bought these machines say dismiss their concerns by saying that the tamper-evident seals they put around the machines prevent bad guys from gaining access to their internals.
But University of Michigan grad student Matt Bernhard has demonstrated that he can bypass the tamper-evident seals in seconds, using a shim made from a slice of a soda can. The bypass is undetectable and doesn't damage the seal, which can be resecured after an attacker gains access to the system.
Fred Woodhams from the Michigan Secretary of State's office dismissed Bernhard's warning: "the seal that is shown in the video was not affixed to anything, and the video does not represent a real-world scenario of how seals are used and affixed."
2018/10/05: Last year, Apple outraged independent technicians when they updated the Iphone design to prevent third party repair, adding a "feature" that allowed handsets to detect when their screens had been swapped (even when they'd been swapped for an original, Apple-manufactured screen) and refuse to function until they got an official Apple unlock code.
Now, this system has come to the MacBook Pros and Imac Pros, thanks to the "T2 security chip" which will render systems nonfunctional after replacing the keyboard, screen, case, or other components, until the a proprietary Apple "configuration tool" is used to unlock the system.
Apple does not tell its customers that the computers it sells are designed to punish them for opting to get their property repaired by independent technicians; the details of the T2 came from a leaked service manual.
“There’s two possible explanations: This is a continued campaign of obsolescence and they want to control the ecosystem and bring all repair into the network they control,” Kyle Wiens, the CEO of iFixit, told me on the phone. “Another is security, but I don’t see a security model that doesn’t trust the owner of the device making much sense.”
2018/09/25: DNA, these marketing campaigns imply, reveals something essential about you. And it’s working. Thanks to television-ad blitzes and frequent holiday sales, genetic-ancestry tests have soared in popularity in the past two years. More than 15 million people have now traded their spit for insights into their family history.
If this were simply about wearing kilts or liking Ed Sheeran, these ads could be dismissed as, well, ads. They’re just trying to sell stuff, shrug. But marketing campaigns for genetic-ancestry tests also tap into the idea that DNA is deterministic, that genetic differences are meaningful. They trade in the prestige of genomic science, making DNA out to be far more important in our cultural identities than it is, in order to sell more stuff.
First, the accuracy of these tests is unproven (as detailed here and here). But putting that aside, consider simply what it means to get a surprise result of, say, 15 percent German. If you speak no German, celebrate no German traditions, have never cooked German food, and know no Germans, what connection is there, really? Cultural identity is the sum total of all of these experiences. DNA alone does not supersede it.
Listening to 99 Luftballons or rooting for Germany in the World Cup is fairly trivial as these things go. But this wave of marketing campaigns encourages a way of thinking—that you can pick and choose which fractional parts of genetic identity to highlight when it makes for good cocktail-party conversation.
2013/03/07: A warning about the accuracy of the tests was made by the Sense About Science campaign group, which said "such histories are either so general as to be personally meaningless or they are just speculation from thin evidence."
The warning was backed by a number of leading genetics experts. Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Human Genetics at UCL said: “On a long trudge through history – two parents, four great-grandparents, and so on – very soon everyone runs out of ancestors and has to share them.
"As a result, almost every Briton is a descendant of Viking hordes, Roman legions, African migrants, Indian Brahmins, or anyone else they fancy.”
His colleague Prof Mark Thomas said: "These claims are usually planted by the companies that provide these so-called tests and are not backed up by published scientific research. This is business, and the business is genetic astrology.”
2018/9/18: Times Newer Roman, a font from internet marketing firm MSCHF (which you may remember from the Tabagotchi Chrome extension). Times Newer Roman looks a lot like the go-to academic font, but each character is subtly altered to be 5 to 10 percent wider, making your essays look longer without having to actually make them longer. According to Times Newer Roman's website, a 15-page, single-spaced document in 12 point type only requires 5,833 words, compared to 6,680 for the standard Times New Roman. (That's 847 words you don't need to write, which is more than twice the length of this post!)
2018/09/12: Article 12a: No posting your own photos or videos of sports matches. Only the “organisers” of sports matches will have the right to publicly post any kind of record of the match. No posting your selfies, or short videos of exciting plays. You are the audience, your job is to sit where you’re told, passively watch the game and go home.
At the same time, the EU rejected even the most modest proposals to make copyright suited to the twenty-first century:
1. No “freedom of panorama.” When we take photos or videos in public spaces, we’re apt to incidentally capture copyrighted works: from stock art in ads on the sides of buses to t-shirts worn by protestors, to building facades claimed by architects as their copyright. The EU rejected a proposal that would make it legal Europe-wide to photograph street scenes without worrying about infringing the copyright of objects in the background.
2018/09/12: MEPs approved articles 11 and 13, meaning that unless member states push back (and good luck with that), it will likely become illegal to link to an article using the headline for that article, and all but the smallest websites will need to install upload filters to weed out copyright-protected content.
The effects? Google News would shut down across the EU and Facebook may well stop handling articles, making it harder for journalists like me to find an audience for our work. Platforms of all sorts that handle user-generated content would likely go out of business, unless they employ automated censorship of the sort that currently isn’t smart enough to tell an actual copyright violation from a parody or meme – and that is frequently used to take down things that don’t actually violate copyright.
Congratulations to all the media organisations that lobbied hard for collective suicide, and farewell.
All we can hope for now is the restoration of sanity in the trilogue negotiations. I have a couple of suggestions for achieving that end.
Firstly, stop talking about the “link tax”. It is not a tax on links; it is a tax on the text that accompanies links, most notably headlines. the phrase allows the likes of Axel Voss to claim the opponents of Article 11 are wildly misguided.
Secondly, regarding Article 13, please stop going on about memes so much. Newsflash: legislators don’t care about memes. They may care about the weighty issues at play here – immature AI, the entrenchment of dangerous censorship mechanisms across the web, the boost that this will give to YouTube over less-well-resourced European rivals – but the meme angle preaches only to the choir.
ALSO THIS MORNING, THE COMMISSION UNVEILED its long-threatened proposal for a regulation on “preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online”. Here’s the text and here’s my Fortune story on it.
2014/03/24: economic growth has already ended in the sense that the growth that continues is now uneconomic; it costs more than it is worth at the margin and makes us poorer rather than richer.
We still call it economic growth, or simply “growth” in the confused belief that growth must always be economic. I contend that we have reached the economic limit to growth but we don’t know it, and desperately hide the fact by faulty national accounting, because growth is our idol and to stop worshiping it is anathema.
some say that if our empirical measure of growth is GDP, based on voluntary buying and selling of final goods and services in free markets, then that guarantees that growth always consists of goods, not “bads.” The free market does not price bads—but nevertheless bads are inevitably produced as joint products along with goods.
Since bads are unpriced, GDP accounting cannot subtract them—instead it registers the additional production of anti-bads (which do have a price) and counts them as goods. For example, we do not subtract the cost of pollution as a bad, yet we add the value of pollution cleanup as a good. This is asymmetric accounting. In addition we count the consumption of natural capital (depletion of mines, wells, aquifers, forests, fisheries, or topsoil, for instance) as if it were income rather than capital drawdown—a colossal accounting error.
Paradoxically, therefore, GDP, whatever else it may measure, is also the best statistical index we have of the aggregate of pollution, depletion, congestion, and loss of biodiversity. Economist Kenneth Boulding suggested, with tongue only a little bit in cheek, that we relabel it Gross Domestic Cost.
2016/01/04: A long time ago, we had really smart mobile phones: devices compatible with any pocket, that wouldn’t distract us every second, but get enough signal even inside a cave, last one week without recharging, and years without breaking. Then we got dumb phones that do all the opposite.
I did see many things almost as tragic that no one could miss -- AI being squeezed into almost every conceivable bit of consumer electronics. But none were convincing. If ever there was a solution looking for a problem, it's ramming AI into gadgets to show of a company's machine learning prowess. For the consumer it adds unreliability, cost and complexity, and the annoyance of being prompted.
One key lesson from the recent T-Mobile and several other breaches: our phone numbers, that serve as a means to identity and verify ourselves, are increasingly getting targeted, and the companies are neither showing an appetite to work on an alternative identity management system, nor are they introducing more safeguards to how phone numbers are handled and exchanged. From a report:rnIdentity management experts have warned for years about over-reliance on phone numbers. But the United States doesn't offer any type of universal ID, which means private institutions and even the federal government itself have had to improvise. As cell phones proliferated, and phone numbers became more reliably attached to individuals long term, it was an obvious choice to start collecting those numbers even more consistently as a type of ID. But over time, SMS messages, biometric scanners, encrypted apps, and other special functions of smartphones have evolved into forms of authentication as well.rnrn"The bottom line is society needs identifiers," says Jeremy Grant, coordinator of the Better Identity Coalition, an industry collaboration that includes Visa, Bank of America, Aetna, and Symantec. "We just have to make sure that knowledge of an identifier can't be used to somehow take over the authenticator. And a phone number is only an identifier; in most cases, it's public." Think of your usernames and passwords. The former are generally public knowledge; it's how people know who you are. But you keep the latter guarded, because it's how you prove who you are.rnrnThe use of phone numbers as both lock and key has led to the rise, in recent years, of so-called SIM swapping attacks, in which an attacker steals your phone number. When you add two-factor authentication to an account and receive your codes through SMS texts, they go to the attacker instead, along with any calls and texts intended for the victim. Sometimes attackers even use inside sources at carriers who will transfer numbers for them.
Even as concerns rise about technology distractions for drivers, automakers are rapidly bringing PC features to the dashboard.
With the effects of climate change no longer theoretical, projections more dire and action lagging, some potential parents are hesitating.
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2015/05/14: If a fraudster puts out a ridiculously deceptive piece of information and nobody falls for it, is it still fraud?
Probably yes, but today’s attempted manipulation of Avon’s stock price by somebody who slipped a false takeover offer on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s EDGAR system raises the question of whether anybody – any human, that is – could have been dumb enough to believe it. Maybe that's the point: It was designed to fool word-scanning, dumb computer trading systems.
This was a fraud designed for algorithmic traders. It was not designed to fool anybody who’d actually read it. It was designed to fool some system that scans SEC filings for certain words but doesn’t actually read them.
A famous anecdote from 19th century New England involves Margaret Fuller, an early feminist and ardent exponent of the spiritual movement of transcendentalism. Besotted by her emotions, she once blurted out, "I accept the universe!" When he heard of this, the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle remarked dryly, "Gad-she'd better."While the story may be apocryphal, if you replace Fuller with Pope Fr...