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‘The press, the machine, the railway, the telegraph are premises whose thousand-year conclusion no one has yet dared to draw.’ —Nietzsche

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We fail to see that a computer that is a hundred times more accurate than a human, and a million times faster, will make 10,000 times as many mistakes.

{ The Guardian | Continue reading }

related { Robots Will Replace Doctors, Lawyers, and Other Professionals }

art { electropollock | video }

‘Emergence’ is an idea that has received much attention in consciousness literature, but it is difficult to find characterizations of that concept which are both specific and useful

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Since 1955, The Journal of Irreproducible Results has offered “spoofs, parodies, whimsies, burlesques, lampoons and satires” about life in the laboratory. Among its greatest hits: “Acoustic Oscillations in Jell-O, With and Without Fruit, Subjected to Varying Levels of Stress” and “Utilizing Infinite Loops to Compute an Approximate Value of Infinity.” The good-natured jibes are a backhanded celebration of science. What really goes on in the lab is, by implication, of a loftier, more serious nature.

It has been jarring to learn in recent years that a reproducible result may actually be the rarest of birds. Replication, the ability of another lab to reproduce a finding, is the gold standard of science, reassurance that you have discovered something true. But that is getting harder all the time. With the most accessible truths already discovered, what remains are often subtle effects, some so delicate that they can be conjured up only under ideal circumstances, using highly specialized techniques.

Fears that this is resulting in some questionable findings began to emerge in 2005, when Dr. John P. A. Ioannidis, a kind of meta-scientist who researches research, wrote a paper pointedly titled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.”

[…]

The fear that much published research is tainted has led to proposals to make replication easier by providing more detailed documentation, including videos of difficult procedures. […] Scientists talk about “tacit knowledge,” the years of mastery it can take to perform a technique. The image they convey is of an experiment as unique as a Rembrandt.

{ NY Times | Continue reading }

‘The old woman dies, the burden is lifted.’ –Schopenhauer

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This report spells out what the world would be like if it warmed by 4 degrees Celsius, which is what scientists are nearly unanimously predicting by the end of the century, without serious policy changes.

The 4°C scenarios are devastating: the inundation of coastal cities; increasing risks for food production potentially leading to higher malnutrition rates; many dry regions becoming dryer, wet regions wetter; unprecedented heat waves in many regions, especially in the tropics; substantially exacerbated water scarcity in many regions; increased frequency of high-intensity tropical cyclones; and irreversible loss of biodiversity, including coral reef systems. […]

The science is unequivocal that humans are the cause of global warming, and major changes are already being observed: global mean warming is 0.8°C above pre industrial levels; oceans have warmed by 0.09°C since the 1950s and are acidifying; sea levels rose by about 20 cm since pre-industrial times and are now rising at 3.2 cm per decade; an exceptional number of extreme heat waves occurred in the last decade; major food crop growing areas are increasingly affected by drought.

{ World Bank | PDF }

Nicky, Ginger, Ace, all of them

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China is a kleptocracy of a scale never seen before in human history. This post aims to explain how  this wave of theft is financed, what makes it sustainable and what will make it fail.

{ Bronte Capital | Continue reading }

artwork { Li Shida }

And I’m gonna shine homie until my heart stops

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Using scientific theories, toy ecosystem modeling and paleontological evidence as a crystal ball, 18 scientists, including one from Simon Fraser University, predict we’re on a much worse collision course with Mother Nature than currently thought. […]

Earth’s accelerating loss of biodiversity, its climates’ increasingly extreme fluctuations, its ecosystems’ growing connectedness and its radically changing total energy budget are precursors to reaching a planetary state threshold or tipping point.

Once that happens, which the authors predict could be reached this century, the planet’s ecosystems, as we know them, could irreversibly collapse in the proverbial blink of an eye.

{ EurekAlert | Continue reading }

A kiss to the winner? Oodelally!

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A massive, highly sophisticated piece of malware has been newly found infecting systems in Iran and elsewhere and is believed to be part of a well-coordinated, ongoing, state-run cyberespionage operation. […] Dubbed “Flame” by Russia-based anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab […]

The malware, which is 20 megabytes when all of its modules are installed, contains multiple libraries, SQLite3 databases, various levels of encryption — some strong, some weak — and 20 plug-ins that can be swapped in and out to provide various functionality for the attackers. It even contains some code that is written in the LUA programming language — an uncommon choice for malware.

Kaspersky Lab is calling it “one of the most complex threats ever discovered.” […]

Gostev says that because of its size and complexity, complete analysis of the code may take years. “It took us half-a-year to analyze Stuxnet,” he said. “This is 20-times more complicated. It will take us 10 years to fully understand everything.” […]

Among Flame’s many modules is one that turns on the internal microphone of an infected machine to secretly record conversations that occur either over Skype or in the computer’s near vicinity; a module that turns Bluetooth-enabled computers into a Bluetooth beacon, which scans for other Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity to siphon names and phone numbers from their contacts folder; and a module that grabs and stores frequent screenshots of activity on the machine, such as instant-messaging and email communications, and sends them via a covert SSL channel to the attackers’ command-and-control servers.

The malware also has a sniffer component that can scan all of the traffic on an infected machine’s local network and collect usernames and password hashes that are transmitted across the network. The attackers appear to use this component to hijack administrative accounts and gain high-level privileges to other machines and parts of the network. […]

Because Flame is so big, it gets loaded to a system in pieces. The machine first gets hit with a 6-megabyte component, which contains about half-a-dozen other compressed modules inside. The main component extracts, decompresses and decrypts these modules and writes them to various locations on disk. The number of modules in an infection depends on what the attackers want to do on a particular machine.

Once the modules are unpacked and loaded, the malware connects to one of about 80 command-and-control domains to deliver information about the infected machine to the attackers and await further instruction from them. The malware contains a hardcoded list of about five domains, but also has an updatable list, to which the attackers can add new domains if these others have been taken down or abandoned.

While the malware awaits further instruction, the various modules in it might take screenshots and sniff the network. The screenshot module grabs desktop images every 15 seconds when a high-value communication application is being used, such as instant messaging or Outlook, and once every 60 seconds when other applications are being used.

{ Wired | Continue reading }

Suddenly they all died. The end.

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The outbreak of a new livestock disease in western Europe last year, particularly harmful to offspring, could move further into areas surrounding the worst affected countries in the next cycle of new births, scientists say.

Schmallenberg virus - named after the German town where it was first detected in November - infected sheep and cows on at least 2,600 farms in eight EU countries last year, most likely between August and October.

Thought to have been spread for hundreds of miles across Europe by biting midges and warm late summer winds, the virus has since been confirmed in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Spain and Britain.

{ Reuters | Continue reading }

My way is the highway

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Computers dominate how we live, work and think. For some, the technology is a boon and promises even better things to come. But others warn that there could be bizarre consequences and that humans may be on the losing end of progress.  (…)

“Economic progress ultimately signifies the ability to produce things at a lower financial cost and with less labor than in the past,” says Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman. As a result, he says, increasing effectiveness goes hand in hand with rising unemployment, and the unemployed merely become “human waste.”

Likewise, (…) Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, both scholars at the MIT, argue that, for the first time in its history, technological progress is creating more jobs for computers than for people.

{ Spiegel | Continue reading }

unrelated { Competition among memes in a world with limited attention }

I’m saving all my Black Amex points to go to space

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As bacteria evolve to evade antibiotics, common infections could become deadly, according to Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization.

Speaking at a conference in Copenhagen, Chan said antibiotic resistance could bring about “the end of modern medicine as we know it.”

“We are losing our first-line antimicrobials,” she said Wednesday in her keynote address at the conference on combating antimicrobial resistance. “Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units.”

Chan said hospitals have become “hotbeds for highly-resistant pathogens” like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, “increasing the risk that hospitalization kills instead of cures.”

Indeed, diseases that were once curable, such as tuberculosis, are becoming harder and more expensive to treat.

{ ABC | Continue reading }

artwork { Mœbius }

‘No compulsion in the world is stronger than the urge to edit someone else’s document.’ –H. G. Wells

We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China - which we broadcast in January - contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey’s acclaimed one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.

{ This American Life | Continue reading | More: Mike Daisey’s Lies About China }

And it could have went so many ways, so many ways it can go

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How would things change if Google and Bing went down for 24 hours, and there wasn’t a way around the block?

If your first thought is to do your online searches through Yahoo!, you will run into another roadblock. Since 2010, Yahoo! searches are powered by Bing. Can you name any other search engine sites off the top of your head? (…)

Losing search sites is only the tip of the iceberg. Google and Bing also provide extensive services in other areas, one of the most obvious being email—Gmail alone has 350 million users. Blacking out Gmail would certainly affect all these people, but it would also affect everyone trying to reach them.

{ Naked Capitalism | Continue reading }

Last week, I got a notice from Twitter saying the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had subpoenaed my account activity for a three-month period between September and December of last year. On October 1, I was arrested along with 700 or so other people marching across the Brooklyn Bridge as part of an early Occupy Wall Street demonstration. (…)

Why was it Twitter who got subpoenaed even though they’re my words the DA wants to see?

The short answer is: they’re not my words. Not in the legal sense at least. Part of the Twitter user agreement is that the Tweets belong to the company, not to the user. As far as the law is concerned, my online self is an informational aspect of a legal entity named Twitter, not me. That means if someone wants to use my statements against me in court, it’s not me they have to call, it’s that little blue birdie. In this context the term “microblogging” gets some new meaning: Twitter’s users really are unpaid content producers for a giant microblog hosting site.

{ Malcolm Harris/Shareable | Continue reading }

related { Will the Web Break? }

photo { Guy Bourdin }

He fills gaseous environs with the sound of contracting metal and retro Roland effects that spit battery acid and blue sparks onto the tense, prowling beats

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{ Apple sells more phones in a day than people make babies | An hour of video posted every second on YouTube }

image { Robert Mangold, 1/3 Gray-Green Curved Area, 1966 | Guggenheim, until Feb. 8 }