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Comment Re:NSA is infinitely weaker? (Score 3) 572


Only for those of us who won't have to pay for it. You'd expect the overpaid sinecurists who lost all this data to be trying to minimise the consequences of their laxity but they're doing the opposite. To the point that it's now an 'infinite' amount of damage caused. One that will, by extension, require an infinite amount of money to fix.

Unless the politicians see through this outrageous bit of self-interested lobbying, and there's no reason to suspect that they will, a whole lot of taxes will shortly be heading not to help the poor or sick or fix the roads, but to a bunch of lying charlatans. Like the bank bailout, but with none of the benefits.

Comment Spooky, but inconsequential. (Score 1) 103

The only novel thing, and by far the spookiest, about this "research" is that it's coming from a "Department of Psychology".

As for the ramifications, it'll be a long time before North Korea's press officers get much overtime on the back of it. I doubt it'll be of interest even to domestic security services. However cheap and widespread hi-res cameras become, 90% reliability is woefully low. They can get much better than that already, just with a board and a bucket.

Comment Re:Alternative to Doctor-Assisted Suicide (Score 1) 961

That's a very good point. Hospice care is seen as gentle and dignified, but that's only because by the time you're in a hospice the amount of morphine needed to stop you screaming (the apparent definition of 'comfort' is an absence of screams) will stop you doing, or thinking, anything much at all. All you can do is lie there, staring at the ceiling, listening to your own bones crumble and/or waiting for your organs to fail.

I know this because my father died in a hospice after a few weeks of cheerful and dedicated care. Four or five days before he died, after a long period of silence, and when we thought (and had been reassured) that he'd be more or less unaware of anything, he escaped the befuddlement for a moment and shouted his last words "I wish I'd blown my ****** brains out". It was the most shocking experience of my life, not least because he was not a man for swearing. The effort it took him to do this, and the obvious terror he was in, was enough to convince me that hospices, though better than the legal alternatives, are a fraud. They're a chemically-imposed torture, and only accepted because we'll happily confuse incapacity for comfort, and muteness for contentment. Hospices deliver death by lethal injection, just like euthanasia, but spread over weeks or months to keep it legal. Like a nice funeral, it's not done in the interests of the victims, but to give the survivors the impression they've done the right thing. To my mind, that's just cruel.

Comment Re:somebody's got some splaining to do... (Score 1) 417

That's a good description, with interesting ramifications.

One thing that seems to be falling out of this is that, on account of the secret work of these secret agencies being secret, they're not really accountable. They can't, for example, publish the data they're not supposed to know about, or reveal very much of it even to the governments that are supposed to be running them. Effectively there's a massive, largely autonomous, supra-national bureaucracy, analogous to the G8 or the OECD or whatever, but unanswerable to any such organization or individual government.

Given the intriguing suggestion that every past human civilization has fallen owing to their bureaucracy going rogue - either becoming so unwieldy or corrupt that it's become impossible for governments to govern - I'm wondering if this mightn't be the start of something interesting.

Comment Re:Oops - wire must have come loose. (Score 5, Interesting) 161

I'm not sure about that. Judging by Hillsborough, De Menezes and Tomlinson, the courts never confuse suspicion with evidence, and are happy to accept almost any account, provided enough police officers deliver an identical version of it (even down to the punctuation, which just shows how well they're trained). Where the absence of video is concerned, the simultaneous and comprehensive failure of CCTV cameras in a given radius (which may, in London, be a few dozen) has become so commonplace in cases where police misconduct is alleged that it's hardly grounds for suspicion.

In any case, the courts rarely get involved until years later, if at all. In England and Wales, we have an Independent Police Complaints Commission, which deals with all such cases, and which is firmly on the side of justice. Where upsetting incidents occur, the IPCC's job is to issue a press release, an hour or so before any complaint, setting out the results of their inquiry. If an investigation is, despite that, still needed, they usually outsource it to the police force in question, who are better placed to know exactly what they want to have happened. This not only produces quicker results, but insures against the further waste of public money in the courts. It is a system that, bar a few high-profile cases pursued by especially persistent mobs of bereaved troublemakers, has served them all very well for many years.

Comment Re:My request to hoarders (Score 1) 181

This will only work for a while. Once you hit a certain age, when your friends have married and moved away, and your colleagues either resent your promotion or gossip about the lack of it, people will only accept invitations from you if they involve well-lit public places where they can keep an eye on your hands,

After that, there's no profit to be had from herding dust-bunnies. Sure, everyone dreams of one day settling down and having a normal life like you see on the television, but everyone dreams of alien space-monsters, too. In short, the life skills you acquired in your twenties have a surprisingly brief shelf-life and, happily enough, from the age of about forty to the time when the authorities seal your home and call the decontamination unit, it really won't matter how neat you keep the place.

Comment Mind-reading (Score 1) 456

Although lie-detection is a consequence of mind-reading, it's useless on it's own. Without knowing the quality of the lie (mild or serious, suppression or embroidery, distraction or bluff), and the reasons for it (malice, avarice, sociopathy or dementia) lie detection alone is useless. Everybody lies, in some way or another, for most of the time they're alive.

Mind-reading, on the other hand, would be really useful. You could do things like buy stuff, hire services, go to work, vote, book hotels and watch the news without wasting 90% of your time and money in the process. Personal relationships would be transformed, too. There'd be no need to do all that stuff about pretending not to be bothered about them not calling, or feel guilty about not calling in return. Instead of searching for a mythically perfect partner until the biological clock triggers a desperate rush for the barely adequate, we'd end up with the grudgingly compatible much sooner. And instead of seething resentments triggering myriad rows about the inconsequential minutiae of household-management, we'd get the bit about the new dress or what your best friend said or losing the chair money at poker right from the start. You wouldn't have to spend your childhood feeling resentfully guilty, either.

But no, most of the respondents, at the time of writing, would prefer to lie awake at night, wondering why their partner chose to lie about the juicer, or bathed in the disconcerting glow of the walls around them.

Comment Re:Monitoring Fail (Score 5, Insightful) 176

Simple operation? You've clearly never worked for a large company.

Even if a warning wasn't trickled down a month ago, and we've no reason to assume it wasn't, the person whose job it is to act on it, provided they weren't on vacation, won't have simply thrown five dollars at a registrar. They'll have had to put in a request to the finance department, probably via a cost-management chain of command, with a full description of what needed to be paid to whom and why, with payee reference, cost-center code, expense code and departmental authorization, and hoped it would arrive in time to be allocated to the next monthly rubber-stamp meeting. Assuming the application contained no errors, was suitably endorsed and was made against an allocated budget that hadn't been over-spent and wasn't under review, then, perhaps, in the fullness of time, it might have received approval and have been sent back down the chain for subsequent escalation to the bought-ledger department, who'd have looked at the due date, added ninety days and put it on the bottom of the pile. After those ninety days, when the finance folk began to take a view to assessing its urgency, unless they found a proper purchase order from the supplier, and a full set of signed terms and conditions of purchase, non-disclosure agreements, sustainability declarations and ethical supply-chain statements, as now required by any self-respecting outfit, it'll have been put aside and, eventually, sent back round to be done properly. Or, if it all checked out first time, it'll have been put on the system for calendering into the next round of payment processing.

I'm sure it might be possible to streamline aspects of such mechanisms, but to suggest there's anything trivial about them is a touch hasty. But you never know. Perhaps they're already thinking of planning a meeting to discuss it, and are working on a framework for identifying the stakeholders as I write.

Comment Age is everything to do with it (Score 1) 515

Age is everything to do with it, I'm afraid.

This week, you've saved a bit of time and paperwork that may, or may not, make a difference to the overall profitability of the place you work, by happening to have the right bit of knowledge at the right time. Next week, you'll be the guy that fixes things.

I guarantee you, however, that not everything you read on Google is correct. And, one day, you'll apply your skills to a few thousand dollars-worth of equipment and, through carelessness or misinformation or a pesky warranty violation, you'll stop being the guy that fixes things.

That'll be the day when you'll decide that being a jack-of-all trades is not necessarily an advantage in this world. It is sometimes better just to do one thing right, and let other people earn a living at what they're good at. That'll be the day when, if you keep your job, you'll turn into a "stubborn case-screw" who reckons that a regular income beats bragging rights.

But don't stop until you do. Your colleagues will have learnt that lesson the hard way, and will be looking forward to when you do the same.

Comment Interesting choice of words (Score 1) 234 that people and employees...

This always annoys me, whatever the company concerned. The distinction between 'people' and 'employees' mightn't be conscious, but it's an insidious feature of the commodification of human resources. Every time I hear a phrase like it I fear we're one step closer to the sweatshop.

Comment Re:More useful than you think (Score 1) 98

We have medical records already. Comparisons across populations already happen. The effect of habits on lifestyles can already be measured. Choices are available. Education is imposed Unfortunately, the two things we've found that make any significant difference to people's health are where they live and how much money they've got.

As for personal analytics, there's little chance of that extending beyond the small, self-selecting group that has a temporary interest. We've been able to count calories and measure our weight for the best part of a century, but only the self-obsessed bother, and not for long at that. What seems an exciting opportunity for the technocrat is a pain in the backside for the ordinary human who, on the whole, doesn't really care what you think they should die of.

If you really want to encourage healthy lifestyles, you need to convince people that dementia really is better than cancer, and that dying of cancer is more fun than a heart attack. Otherwise, the bad food wins.

Comment Re:PROBLEMS: Civil Liberty, Health and Welfare (Score 1) 575

The scanner being presented is an infrared camera, nothing more

So it's an infrared camera. But it's not just an infrared scanner, it's a fiscal stimulus. Look, we're in hard times and there are real sinecures at stake here - nobody will thank you for holding up the gravy train or peeing in the pork barrel.

Besides, since the Sniffex debacle, the US is lagging badly behind the UK in the production and marketing of high-ticket hobdangles aimed at the tax-guzzling fringes of the global paranoia industry, and it's about time it fought back.

We therefore have a duty to leave it to the experts. They're the one's being paid to go "reading the energy people emit" and if they think conductivity's a myth, then so it must be.

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