Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
Slashdot Deals: Cyber Monday Sale! Courses ranging from coding to project management - all eLearning deals 25% off with coupon code "CYBERMONDAY25". ×

Comment Re:From a National Security Lawyer (Score 1) 400

Best post on the thread. Probably too late to be properly modded up.

There are some things I always think when I read threads like this. One is the American public's horror at surveillance is a kind of induction-from-introspection. They know themselves and what they might be tempted to do. They know how blase they are about The Lives Of Other People ( also the title of a great movie on just this subject and not a waste of your time should you make an effort to find it) . So they can infer what goes on.

They also know some history both American and foreign and they know as one poster said, it all starts with lists.

Another thing think influences their reaction is how they're treated by private entities, not the government. That might best be described as "extremely unfairly". In companies, at school, even in friendships, what is true and real, the actual facts of a matter rarely count for much. Instead, it's some kind of autocratic and often despotic process with some HR-type fig leaf thrown over it.

Read the headlines about what corporations do to their employees, their customers, they government and then realize that this same corporate culture is the hand that feeds these Americans. Corporations aren't just places we go to work like restaurants are places we go to eat and theaters are places we go to see movies; they're more like pirate ships we are sworn to for a time and we continue to eat and live another day only at the captains pleasure. It's more like that.

So of course they carry that despotic model of authority into their reasoning about terror watchlists and the like.
How we are treated and how we treat each other in daily life has big implications for how we perceive the world around us, at least, barring an aggressive and sustained effort by an individual to eschew anything but well-founded facts when reasoning about, say, the government. A national security lawyer is going to fall into the later category, but most people never will.

On top of all this, there does seem to be an out-of-control element to the CI behavior, a perception shared by many in the IC community itself BTW. The most obvious example is the parsing of the Fourth Amendment to mean you can collect everyone's "papers" but you haven't "searched" it until a human has peaked at it. That's the most charitable way to describe their legal viewpoint.

Now clearly, their fears about terrorism are more specific, more graphic and more realistic and occupy more of their waking moments than non-CI population. It may be a matter of fact- it may be reality- that to protect the nation against a devastating and destabilizing terrorist attack, doing what they're doing is an obvious necessity. That may actually be the case. The problem is, just because the IC community has such a well developed map of the threat matrix, they are out of touch with the prevailing American's perception of how to deal with terrorism. That and of course they can't tell the public what they're doing, for obvious reasons.

But it could also be that they are erring on a dangerous side of caution, and accidentally laying the foundation for a future, unusurpable fascism. This is nothing to dismiss.

But in either case, the IC leadership are so out of sync with the public that even seasoned senators and members of the IC community itself are at odds with them. This and , quite frankly, they're massive liars. James Clappers bald-faced lying to Congress followed on by his bald-faced lying about why he lied to Congress (claiming he was forced to because they were in open session, which is a point blank, no-shades-of-gray lie for reasons I won't go into right now ) was a hugely damaging event to the nation. Trust in the IC community by large segments of people in this nation and other nations went to zero and has stayed there. And yet, he (with the blessings of the Obama administration) carries on, which itself is a kind of slap in the face to the American public.

The paranoia and loathing expressed in this thread is not without a foundation in the authors' collective realities. There is no "good news" in the way of trustworthiness coming to them from people with power or in authority, in any part of their lives. Defense contractors rip them off while vets go un-cared for; companies offshore their profits while outsourcing their jobs; Wall Street steals their money, ruins the nation, then steals some more so they can keep alive and pay themselves huge salaries in order to get back to the business of stealing money. All of this is unnecessary, running to ruinous, to the economy and frankly immoral. That's their world. A world where people with power exploit it to the hilt and the things like principles and ideals, even the Constitution itself are what these people have printed on their toilet paper, because they think that's funny.

So yeah, people are paranoid, but the reasons for that run deep and are represent than just some quirky national character flaw. Whether they are right or whether they are wrong, it's hard to blame them or make the claim that their paranoia is all so unreasonable.

All the while Congress

Comment More dangerous than it appears (Score 4, Interesting) 350

Reposting under my name. /. forgets my login in some browsers

One of the most dangerous things you can do on a road is to be stopped dead at a long-been-green stoplight, say playing with your phone. That's because *no one sees you as stopped*, specifically the car coming up to the light going 50. No one looks for it. People glance at the light, it's green, keep going at speed. What sort of idiot is stopped at a green light, your big chance to go? It's in the same category as saying "no" to free money. Being stopped at a green light is a nearly invisible event.

So let's talk about how dangerous going too slow is because your algorithm encountered a novel traffic situation (aren't a majority of them novel, really?) and urged caution to the accelerator. It's nearly as bad as being stopped at a green light, especially if you're the only one *reasoning* the way you reason about things, rightly or wrongly. In fact, this may be their fallback tactic- when confused, slow down. That way Google doesn't have any high-speed accidents that actually kill people. That would be bad, and bad press, too.

This is another thing about Google cars and self driving cars generally. They're safer *if they're in the majority*. They all know what each other is likely to do and can take account of it in their own behavior. They can coordinate. It's sort of the opposite effect of the Wall Street bots. They all know do the same thing, and then crater the market on account of it.

So here is a thing to think about. Self driving cars may have real trouble as an incremental approach. I have to think that it's a self conscious part of Google's game plan to reach a tipping point of self-driving cars where they are a significant minority. Until then, the project is a financial loss. Past that point, and working in tandem with insurance companies, expect to pay a first a little then a LOT more for insurance to drive regular cars. This will force the market (that means you) towards self-driving cars, if only for economic reasons. Somewhere along the way to this tipping point, the government will subsidize the purchase of self driving cars using the argument that that money comes back to them and more in the cost savings realized by fewer accidents, less healthcare costs associated with accidents, less police and emergency costs etc etc.

It's interesting to think that owning a car with self driving features is a status symbol now, reflecting wealth and prestige but in the future, driving a regular car will be the status symbol, signalling wealth and the freedom and autonomy it brings.

Google must be reasoning all this through even as they try to get self-driving car technology working. The players- insurance companies, the government the regulators, are all talking about these kinds of things- how they can economically *flip* everyone onto self-driving cars. They also have to be thinking about the popular perception and possible resistance to the technology. Obviously, cars are a form of individual autonomy. The government can't remotely pull the plug on your driving or automatically track your whereabouts. But with self-driving cars, expect to see them demand these *features* and Google *begrudgingly* go along with it.

When we switched from horses to cars, there were obviously numerous social issues that got dragged along. There was a large popular resistance because with a horse, you went where you wanted, the way you wanted. With a car, you could only go where what roads there were were. One of the things that made cars popular was amusingly enough, sex. A car was a kind of rolling bed, a possibly subversive dual purpose technology with a respectable side. The very first porn movie features a man and two women driving in an car in the country. The woman says she has to get out and pee. The car stops and woman gets out and after a little while the man follows. Pants-down embarrassment is followed by flirting which leads to fucking, of course. The other woman follows onto the scene and the gates of Hell break wide open. No shit, this was the cultural subtext around "horseless carriages" is actually how cars what cars were (and are) used for. But, of course.

It's not a conspiracy in the sense of an evil conspiracy to enslave you. It's just that 1) they are working together 2) towards a future they are unilaterally creating (although they would use phrases like "technological inevitability") 3) without your input, except as a fait accompli 4) but which will effect you deeply 5) in ways they can clearly see and 6) you might not like while 7) not admitting they are doing so.

If you want to call that a conspiracy, then feel free. Hitherto it's been called "technological progress". This is how the world has always been. TPP is another instance of this hidden process policy-making but in that case it really does appear to be a play by the (1/10th of) 1% against the good of the merely well off, the average and of course, the poor. I call that a conspiracy, yes, I do.

Civic groups who try to involved themselves in public spirited way with what direction technology should take, groups like the EFF find themselves out spent, out peopled, out maneuvered, out lawyered and just shut out of the real decision making processes. If this is not the way you want the world to go, then you need to get involved, at least through talking about things in online forums and making a small donation to a civic group you think advocates for your best interests.

Comment Mass, subterrainian civil disobedience (Score 3, Insightful) 247

This is such an over-reach, especially the intellectual property parts, it's going to lead to mass civil disobedience in the form of a fundamental attitudinal shift from one of basically respecting the law to one of basically disrespecting it *on the part of everyone* including society's intellectuals, academics and cultural leaders.

That's the deeper danger of this kind of law making, not to mention the content of the law itself. It leads to contempt for the law, contempt for Congress , the Executive and the Judiciary. Contempt leads to mass, defacto civil disobedience where ignoring or subverting the law becomes the norm, as in the days of prohibition.

How is this good for the country?

Comment Re:I Am Not Alone (Score 1) 120

It's not directly about being physically close to each other. It's about how advancing technology gives extraordinary leverage to smaller and smaller groups of people. That leverage includes the ability to hurt other people, potentially a large number of other people, potentially fatally.

This basic fact is going to drive the shape of human society into the future. It's never been true before. You either needed an army to kill a lot of people or you needed a nation state. Depressingly, the number of people you need now is dwindling to one and the resources you need are coming online.

This is going to drive a nworld without privacy. I hate the idea too, and bitch about it loudly, but I can simultaneously see the inevitiability, even necessity of it.

The task at hand for people who want to create a decent future is to constrcut a system in which there is no ultimate privacy but there is honesty and transparency and trust and fairness and justice.

Just taking away privacy from everyone is the road to fascism. That's the road we're on now unfortunately. What we need are civil institutions, laws and a jsuticce system that actually ARE fair, just and honest. We don't have that now. Our systems of government are corrupt, our justice system system is corrupt, our economy and businesses are corrupt.

We can make them not corrupt with enough transparency, but how do you balance that with security, boradly defined to include both personal and national security? It's not a simple problem.

Comment Re:Is this what a Singularity looks like from insi (Score 3, Interesting) 120

A great post. One tweak. People put people in subjegation because they thrill to doing so. They like to do it. They like knowing that they have absolutely everything- all power, all money and they control opportunity for everyone.

This is a basic unhappy fact about humans. They get off on dominance hierarchies, seek to ascend them instinctively, and equally as instinctively seek to rule, cripple and destroy those beneath them.

The socio-biological roots of this are well known. In an era of competition for the basics of survival, when stuff is basicallya zero sum game, the males seek to monopolize everything and the females, who do the same, also do it by proxy. That is, they differentially reward powerful, high status males with sex and offspring.

They way we moderns represent this to ourselves is we say men are ambitous and women like rich, powerful men.

The world devoves to harems, a few select males monpolizing all females, whenever conditions permit. The fact that the majority of males get cut out and rebel means that this *system* can't always sustain itself and is unstable (but look at the Middle East, Saudi and other places for current examples).

But with respect to *stuff*, well, the system does indeed permit and even encourages it.

In both cases, it's all about competition for limited resources and selfish genes wanting to monopolize reproduction. In the harme case, we've gotten past that in the Western world. In the case of *stuff*- for which money is a proxy- we are nearly as primitive as we've ever been.

Comment Distortion From The Article (Score 2) 120


...Sustainability advocates and environmental activists often claim that âoethe planet is at risk,â but of course it is not. The planet is a large mass of rock and a film of various carbon compounds, and that is not at risk at all. What is at risk is a particular mental model of what the world should look like, a constructed snapshot. That does not mean that there arenâ(TM)t many environmental issues that require attention; of course there are. But, as in the case of the emerging technology discourse, it does mean that existential catastrophe language is not only invalid, but can actually prevent seeking constructive adaptations to accelerating change.

Uh, no it doesn't.

This appears to be disingenuous on the part of the author. What environmentalists mean when they say "the planet is at risk" is "the ability of the planet to sustain human civilization (and not just in its current form, but ANY form) is at risk".

The actual question to ask is- is the habitability of the Earth at risk from global warming. And on THAT question, the answer is a resounding yes.

M.I.T. doubles its 2095 warming projection to 10 degrees with 866 ppm and Arctic warming of 20 degrees F

  Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11 degrees F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90 degrees F some 120 days a year and that isnâ(TM)t the worst case, itâ(TM)s business as usual!

  Hadley Center: Catastrophic 5-7 degree C warming by 2100 on current emissions path

Science: CO2 levels havenâ(TM)t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5 degrees to 10 degrees F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher. We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm.

Ocean dead zones to expand, remain for thousands of years

Nature Geoscience study: Oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred

Nature: Dynamic thinning of Greenland and Antarctic ice-sheet ocean margins is more sensitive, pervasive, enduring and important than previously realized.

Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100
High Water: Greenland ice sheet melting faster than expected and could raise East Coast sea levels an extra 20 inches by 2100 to more than 6 feet.

Science stunner: Clouds Appear to Be Big, Bad Player in Global Warming an amplifying feedback (sorry Lindzen and fellow dis informers)

  U.S. media largely ignores latest warning from climate scientists: Recent observations confirm the worst-case IPCC scenario trajectories (or even worse) are being realized 1000 ppm

The Copenhagen Diagnosis warns Without significant mitigation, the report says global mean warming could reach as high as 7 degrees Celsius by 2100.

Study: Water-vapor feedback is strong and positive, so we face warming of several degrees Celsius

UK Met Office: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18 degrees F over most of U.S. and 27 degrees F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon.

NOAA stunner: Climate change largely irreversible for 1000 years, with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe

Comment Re:The very act of being on the internet... (Score 1) 133

you trigger all sorts of three-letter agency attention that you don't want, because it's now considered a sign of possible criminal activity if you actually have the gall to protect your privacy.

This. People are considered criminals and engaging in suspicious activity if they try to arrange their lives so people can't develop dossiers on them, attach derogatory information on whim and then share that dossier with just anyone.

That's insane.

Ask anyone from any dictatorship - and I have- especially read history how democracies turn into dictatorships. It all starts with lists. Lists of people and their supposed attrtibutes and governments encouraging people to turn each other in.

This is exactly what went down in Iraq. Iraqis used the US government's hunger for terorists as an opportunity to get even. A lot of the people arrested and jailed and some tortured did nothing more wrong than be distateful in some way to their neighbor. Other's had ho-hum run of the mill grudges that they'd been nursing.

But it all gets written down and once it's written down, it's true to the next guy who read the dossier.

Comment guns and bombs are not the issue (Score 1) 349

Finding guns and bombs is not what's important. What's important is TSA contractors continue to receive no bid contracts so they can afford to continue to buy off politicians.

TSA agents continue to grope and oogle women through their clothing

Bored people in the airline reservation system who pre-screen passenger names for security using, in part , known pictures of them continuer to amuse themselves by seating "twin strangers" right next to each other then laughing as the internet loses its shit at the crazy coincidence.

Comment Re:Why isn't this universal and omnipresent? (Score 1) 167

Some "witnesses" will lie if they know they'll never be held accountable. I would think this pool is significantly larger than the clam up pool. Especially given plea deals, jailhouse confessions, and all the other prods prosecutors have at their disposal to make people say what they want them to say irrespective of the truth.

It's come to my attention later than it should have that people are not afraid to lie and lie big for a mind-boggling variety of reasons. Ask any cop and they will tell you people do nothing but lie to them all day long. Well, it's not just limited to people talking to cops. On the job, between friends, in relationships, I eman the amount of non-face-saving, really damaging malicious lying that goes on is shocking at least to me. Most of it is slander about some 3rd party.

I have the impression that this dependable, well known uh, quirk of human nature is what our criminal justice system is actually based on. That's disturbing.

Comment Re:How does CandyCrush make money? (Score 1) 132

Thank you !

Seems like there's limited room in the economy for this kind of thing since the people who play it have no dough, most likely, although there are a lot of them.

It's probably also a market subject to crazes and fads and a winner take all dynamic since there's limited time and money anyone can devote to it and also you want to *do it* (whatever it is) with your friends and one up them etc etc.

So it's got a built in boom bust dynamic to it and they were booming and then they sold themselves and now comes the bust.

Yeah. Don't want my life's work having created that. Thanks though.

C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas l'Informatique. -- Bosquet [on seeing the IBM 4341]