“Unlike a rusting highway bridge, digital infrastructure does not betray the effects of age. And, unlike roads and bridges, large portions of the software infrastructure of the Internet are built and maintained by volunteers, who get little reward when their code works well but are blamed, and sometimes savagely derided, when it fails. To some degree, this is beginning to change: venture-capital firms have made substantial investments in code-infrastructure projects, like GitHub and the Node Package Manager. But money and support still tend to flow to the newest and sexiest projects, while boring but essential elements like OpenSSL limp along as volunteer efforts. It’s easy to take open-source software for granted, and to forget that the Internet we use every day depends in part on the freely donated work of thousands of programmers. If open-source software is at the heart of the Internet, then we might need to examine it from time to time to make sure it’s not bleeding.”—The Internet’s Telltale Heartbleed : The New Yorker
Walking West is a walking art perfomance by Conor McGarrigle. April 11 2014, Colfax Avenue Denver.
Walking West seeks to inscribe the virtual on the physical as it combines the physical act of walking with the ephemeral digital traces of its GPS track and the invisible actions of a satellite 400-miles above capturing the scene.
The path will be marked with a physical line as a GPS device simultaneously traces a virtual digital line along the route, the route will be captured from space by a commissioned satellite photograph.
“Rather than simply seeing these behaviors as a series of exploits or hacks, I see them as signals of a changing posture towards computational systems. Culturally, we are now familiar enough with computational logic that we can conceive of the computer as a subject, an actor with a controlled set of perceptions and decision processes. And so we are beginning to create relationships where we form mental models of the system’s subjective experience and we respond to that in various ways. Rather than seeing those systems as tools, or servants, or invisible masters, we have begun to understand them as empowered actors in a flat ontology of people, devices, software, and data, where our voice is one signal in a complex network of operations. And we are not at the center of this network. Sensing and computational algorithms are continuously running in the background of our lives. We tap into them as needed, but they are not there purely in service of the end user, but also in service of corporate goals, group needs, civic order, black markets, advertising, and more. People are becoming human nodes on a heterogeneous, ubiquitous and distributed network. This fundamentally changes our relationship with technology and information.”—In the Loop: Designing Conversations With Algorithms | superflux
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. government masterminded the creation of a “Cuban Twitter” — a communications network designed to undermine the communist government in Cuba, built with secret shell companies and financed through foreign banks, The Associated Press has learned.
The Obama administration project, which lasted more than two years and drew tens of thousands of subscribers, sought to evade Cuba’s stranglehold on the Internet with a primitive social media platform. First, the network would build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then, the plan was to push them toward dissent.
Yet its users were neither aware it was created by a U.S. agency with ties to the State Department, nor that American contractors were gathering personal data about them, in the hope that the information might be used someday for political purposes.
It is unclear whether the scheme was legal under U.S. law, which requires written authorization of covert action by the president and congressional notification. Officials at the USAID would not say who had approved the program or whether the White House was aware of it. The Cuban government declined a request for comment.
Big-data surveillance is dangerous exactly because it provides solutions to these problems. Individually tailored, subtle messages are less likely to produce a cynical reaction. Especially so if the data collection that makes these messages possible is unseen. That’s why it’s not only the NSA that goes to great lengths to keep its surveillance hidden. Most Internet firms also try to monitor us surreptitiously. Their user agreements, which we all must “sign” before using their services, are full of small-font legalese. We roll our eyes and hand over our rights with a click. Likewise, political campaigns do not let citizens know what data they have on them, nor how they use that data. Commercial databases sometimes allow you to access your own records. But they make it difficult, and since you don’t have much right to control what they do with your data, it’s often pointless.
This is why the state-of-the-art method for shaping ideas is not to coerce overtly but to seduce covertly, from a foundation of knowledge. These methods don’t produce a crude ad—they create an environment that nudges you imperceptibly. Last year, an article in Adweek noted that women feel less attractive on Mondays, and that this might be the best time to advertise make-up to them. “Women also listed feeling lonely, fat and depressed as sources of beauty vulnerability,” the article added. So why stop with Mondays? Big data analytics can identify exactly which women feel lonely or fat or depressed. Why not focus on them? And why stop at using known “beauty vulnerabilities”? It’s only a short jump from identifying vulnerabilities to figuring out how to create them. The actual selling of the make-up may be the tip of the iceberg.
As Teresa makes me a cup of coffee, we exchange small talk, much of which is focused around the fact that she’s too busy to open her own mail. “Someone offered $80 for what you’re doing now,” she tells me. I have been assigned to do this task for $22. “I mean, you don’t even need a high school degree. You can’t get paid $20 an hour for everything you do.”
Teresa is a single mother who has had trouble collecting child support. Her son is a freshman art student in California. She sometimes forgets to pay her bills and has been applying for jobs even though she’s worked in freelance PR for years. I know all of this because I’ve opened at least a year of her mail. In the process, which I complete while she works nearby on her laptop, I see all of her account numbers, her lease agreement, and other personal information. If I wanted to steal her identity, it would be quite easy.
"It is enough to choose or generate a random sound," Read says, as that’s all that’s needed to inform someone that something important is going on. "It seems to be an easy way to provide rich expression for robots," he says. The findings were presented at the Human-Robot Interaction conference in Bielefeld, Germany, on 3 March.
Sean Andrist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his team have a number of other tricks to make a humanoid robot seem “alive”. One is to introduce small random movements into a robot’s head rotation motor, so that instead of appearing stationary, the robot’s head twitches slightly now and then.
A face-tracking camera can ensure a robot always looks at the person it is interacting with, but instead of staring straight at their face, the team have programmed in a tendency for the robot to avert its gaze from time to time. The idea is to mimic the human habit of glancing fleetingly to one side when thinking of an answer to a question.