Quotable (#129)


… imagine [an] app that manifests a dark, threatening figure at your shoulder every time twitter plants a tracking cookie on your laptop, or whenever Google mines your email for lucrative keywords. Imagine some raincoat-wearing perv with binoculars, popping onto your screen whenever the TV relays your living-room conversation upstream to parties unknown. Or a monstrous leech affixing itself to the glass, pulsing and sucking and grotesquely swollen with data, every time you fill out one of those facebook surveys to discover which Disney Princess you are. […] Nothing that actually blocks the stream, mind you. Nothing that might disrupt functionality or fuck with any of those peeks and scrapes nobody seems to care about. Just something to show your online environment as it really is, in a way your Pleistocene brain can grasp. Write it first for cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Move on to the Oculus Rift and the HoloLens; have it ready for that imminent point, just a few years down the road, when our realities are all augmented. That’s when it will really hit its stride, gut-reaction wise. […] Call it “Realview”. Better yet, call it Real Life. I’ve even got a tag line for you: […] Real Life. When facts aren’t enough.

(There’s a visual aid at the source that makes the idea even more vivid.)

Quotable (#101)

Nuance on encryption from some senior voices in the US security establishment:

We recognize the importance our officials attach to being able to decrypt a coded communication under a warrant or similar legal authority. But the issue that has not been addressed is the competing priorities that support the companies’ resistance to building in a back door or duplicated key for decryption. We believe that the greater public good is a secure communications infrastructure protected by ubiquitous encryption at the device, server and enterprise level without building in means for government monitoring. […] … Strategically, the interests of U.S. businesses are essential to protecting U.S. national security interests. After all, political power and military power are derived from economic strength. If the United States is to maintain its global role and influence, protecting business interests from massive economic espionage is essential. And that imperative may outweigh the tactical benefit of making encrypted communications more easily accessible to Western authorities.

ADDED: Friedersdorf comments.

Climate of Uncertainty

Natural cycles being what they are, there’s bound to be another mini-Ice Age (of the Maunder Minimum-type) eventually, and quite possibly soon. The implications for climate science, climate politics, and much beyond, are huge. Clean data on systemic effects are not accessible within history. That means all vulgar attempts to read out the effects of anthropic interventions from the historical record are doomed to fail, until perfect understanding of confounding rhythms are fully understood — basically, indefinitely. (Throw in chaos theory and other sources of epistemological pessimism here.) No one seriously thinks that a globally-coordinated ‘precautionary’ policy stance viz anthropogenic warming is constructible during a mini-Ice Age (do they?).

The consequence: Climate politics could — in reality — be a fairly remote science fiction scenario. By the time its opportunity comes around, far more will have been decided than is being allowed for.


Twitter cuts (#36)

Andreessen tweet-storming on prices and information:

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Quotable (#59)

Digital storage for periods exceeding a million years using silica encapsulated DNA:

In recent years, there have been several approaches using DNA as a coding language to encode digital information. “However, those approaches are not reliable as they cannot handle errors efficiently and do not suggest how to (physically) store the DNA to maintain its stability over time”, [Robert N.] Grass and his colleagues explain. Therefore, they combined an error-correcting coding scheme with chemically embedding the synthesized DNA strands in capsules of silica. Releasing the DNA was performed by simple fluoride chemistry, after which it was sequenced and decoded. “The corresponding experiments show that only by the combination of the two concepts could digital information be recovered from DNA stored at the Global Seed Vault (at -18 °C) after over 1 million years”, the researchers explain.

(Journal reference.)