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Comment: Re:I'm shocked, I tell you! (Score 4, Interesting) 173

Lord Acton hit the nail on the head. 128 years ago he wrote that, ""Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Unfortunately, no one has ever devised a way of running societies without giving power to certain individuals. With a very small number of honourable exceptions (which prove the rule), that power has corrupted them. We see it around us almost every day, and the people who rise to control entire nation states display the corruption due to power in singularly pure and concentrated form.

The technicians working in the FBI labs had a very limited form of power, but within that particular domain their sway was almost unchallenged. What expert would dispute the word of the mighty FBI, what lawyer would challenge it, what judge or jury would not be impressed by it? And the technicians' bosses had more power, which was assuredly focused on the important task of getting convictions. I rather doubt that any lab technician at the FBI ever got much career advancement out of frequently discrediting prosecution evidence. Every bureaucratic organization measures itself according to a limited set of drastically oversimplified metrics, and conviction rate is an important metric for any law-enforcement organization. The higher up the tree you go, the greater the desire for more convictions, and the less the concern for whether they are justified or not.

"One of the many reasons for the bewildering and tragic character of human existence is the fact that social organization is at once necessary and fatal. Men are forever creating such organizations for their own convenience and forever finding themselves the victims of their home-made monsters".
- Aldous Huxley

Comment: Anyone mention Ada yet? (Score 1) 232

by Archtech (#49378603) Attached to: Why You Should Choose Boring Technology

No, thought not. IMHO a classic - almost, in fact, the canonical - example of boring technology that's good because it's boring. Look at all the criticisms of Ada, and you will find that most of them boil down to, "It's not so much fun and doesn't make me feel so good". But that depends on what makes you feel good. As many qualified people have remarked, if you are flying in an airliner you really want the avionics to be written in Ada, not C++ or Ruby or Python. Why? Because you're a lot more likely to survive. Almost unbelievably, it boils down to a matter of professional pride. What gives you a warm feeling - coding something marvellously clever that you yourself won't understand in three weeks, or creating something that works reliably and does exactly the job it was meant to do? One is an amateur attitude, the other is a professional attitude.

Comment: You have got to be joking (Score 1) 158

by Archtech (#49362417) Attached to: UK Licensing Site Requires MSIE Emulation, But Won't Work With MSIE

"How can a government department concerned with security not get this sort of thing right?"

Very funny.

When did a government department of any kind ever get anything right? Especially when it concerns computers. Triply when it concerns security. See for example:

etc., etc. passim.

The truth of the matter is that politicians and civil servants tend to be highly non-technical, and very much focused on high-sounding (but misleading) talk. This is the exact opposite of the attitude you need to accomplish anything with computers. But they are also very arrogant, and committed to the belief that - since they don't understand computers - programming and the like must be extremely easy.

Comment: The Emperor Julian (Score 1) 191

by Archtech (#49318909) Attached to: Your favorite Julian?

(known to the Christian churches as "The Apostate" because he tried to restore the official religion of Greece and Rome for the previous thousand years).

Educated, cultured, humane, civilized: along with Marcus Aurelius, a living proof that near-absolute power does not always have to corrupt absolutely. Sadly, he was murdered by Christians to prove that their religion (which mandates peace, forgiveness, and non-violence) was better than his.

Comment: Is this really what the Constitution is for? (Score 1) 391

by Archtech (#49154377) Attached to: Verizon Posts Message In Morse Code To Mock FCC's Net Neutrality Ruling

"...In 2012, it insisted that the very idea of Net neutrality squished its First and Fifth Amendment right..."

As a foreigner I'm probably completely wrong. But isn't the Constitution getting to look very much like a Bill of Rights for immense corporations to enrich themselves by any means they choose? Just asking.

Comment: It's harder in a democracy (Score 1) 183

by Archtech (#49101509) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How Can Technology Improve the Judicial System?

It's funny that the summary starts with "One of the cornerstones of any democracy is its judicial system". That's true of all forms of society/government; it is absolutely not limited to democracies. So why bring democracy into it - except that it's one of the holy words of our society, a word that stuns everyone into instant acquiescence and worship?

One can make a strong case that justice is particularly hard to come by in a democracy, as opposed to a monarchy or a true aristocracy. The distinguishing feature of real democracy is that the people as a whole wield supreme power. So a majority can carry out any act, no matter how illogical, unethical, or downright disgraceful. Such as the execution of Socrates, for instance. Or the decision to execute the admirals of the Athenian fleet after the battle of Arginusae - which was rescinded the following day, when the people changed their minds.

You can see a similar pattern in the USA, where many prosecutors are elected by the people. This leads them to pursue popularity at all costs - and, in a populous society where most electors will never get to meet the actual candidate, popularity is usually sought by lighting up the media with sensational news. How many miscarriages of justice have been perpetrated because a prosecutor wanted to make a name for himself? And of course the prosecutor is not held responsible, because his job is only to argue the case for conviction. If someone is wrongly found guilty, that is the fault of the defence, the jury, the judge, the police who made up evidence or concealed exonerating evidence... and anyway, it's all forgotten the next week.

Probably the best place to start constructing a good judicial system is with a genuine concern for justice. It has been well observed that, in any country that has a Ministry of Justice or something similar, justice itself will be conspicuous by its absence. (Just as any corporation that has an "ethics committee" has probably forgotten what the word "ethics" means). Honest people know what's right, but given enough bureaucracy and laws - assisted by thousands of career-minded functionaries - we get today's situation where any lawyer can tell you that the law has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with justice.

Comment: Re:Tough decision (Score 1) 136

Definitely bricked. It's axiomatic that your data is more valuable than your hardware - since you have it all backed up, you just buy new hardware and you are set. (Although you might want to consider changing your OS).

In fact, I have heard security professionals opine that a brick is the ideal secure IT system. It can't store any data, it can't do any computing, and it doesn't do you any good except as part of a wall (or something handy to throw at a politician). But it is VERY secure indeed.

Comment: Re:Something Truly Innovative (Score 1) 162

by Archtech (#48802061) Attached to: What are you most interested in seeing out of CES?

" At the core, sales & marketing are just con artistry".

When I was a bit younger - I'm really old and creaky now - I might have said exactly that. And I still feel that way, a lot of the time.

The thing is though, even if those skills are just con artistry, maybe they are necessary or even indispensable. In a perfect world, as Dr Sheldon Cooper might see it, everything would be decided by pure facts and logic. Everyone would have perfect information, and would instantly see all the consequences and ramifications of every fact.

Needless to say, your average human being (even Sheldon, actually) is not much like that. One of the greatest weaknesses of economics has always been its understandable inclination to over-simplify reality through entirely unjustified assumptions such as perfect information, perfect rationality, and a complete lack of empotions or any other motives than maximizing monetary property.

So salesmen and marketroids do fulfil a useful function - like dung beetles and bacteria, if you will - by partially compensating for our lack of imagination and logic. It would be far better if we could do without them, but sales would be a lot slower - causing manufacturing to slow down, workers to be laid off...

Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. -- Publius Syrus