01/22/18 Morning links

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Techdirt: Report shows US law enforcement routinely engages in parallel construction. This should be a huge story, but a quick Google search shows that only a handful of websites are covering it.  Basically, police use illegal surveillance methods to gather evidence in criminal cases.  But for the evidence to be admissible in court, the methods used must be legal.  So the cops have to concoct a fake narrative as to how they gathered the evidence.  It’s lying to the judge and the jury, and it obscures just how prevalent illegal tactics are used in criminal cases.  And it is probably very difficult to detect.  This story is more proof that police departments need to be restrained by independent oversight committees.

Telecoms: Microsoft gets support of privacy groups in battle against US

and more from Gizmodo: Nearly everyone backs Microsoft in landmark email privacy case…except the DOJ

Computer Weekly: European Parliament votes to restrict exports of surveillance equipment.  Europe getting it right.  It’s important to note that the bill would specifically prohibit the export of surveillance to Third World tyrants who have no Constitutional restraints on abusing their citizens.  The US, however, has no qualms whatsoever about selling weapons and surveillance tech to any tin-pot dictators.

Zero Hedge: Wikileaks’ Assange keeps warning of AI censorship, and it’s time we started listening.  Assange is warning of the coming automated Surveillance State, and yes, we should listen.

SWNS: A history of CCTV surveillance in Britain. Brits live under the most omnipotent Surveillance States in the West, with the story noting that the country has more CCTV cameras per person than any other country in the world. 2.2 billion pounds are spent each year on these surveillance devices.

Information Age: The evolution of artificial intelligence

Maybe we should force Zuckerberg to submit to a Turing test. Or the Voight-Kampff: Phys: Facebook to train 65,000 in French jobs scheme


Abort the Surveillance State before its too late

By: | Post date: January 21, 2018 | Comments: No Comments

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Yes, the Surveillance State is alive and well, tracking our movements, reading our emails, cataloging our daily activities, creating and storing digital dossiers on us all and placing them in a mammoth database.  BUT, but.  It’s still unformed, in a state of chrysalis. It hasn’t yet reached that future point where turning back would be almost impossible.

Image result for total surveillance

There is a feeling of a totalitarian, technocratic egg in the middle of hatching at the moment.  Drone technology, real-time facial recognition, a slave race of quasi-AI programs, algorithms that put total surveillance on auto-pilot, this and much, much more is speeding towards a nexus point, where the chaos of data that this technology is gulping up will be brought into a state of order and control.  It’s like a young animal testing its boundaries, discovering its potential.  And the potential this technology has is to realize Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon.  Total, real-time surveillance of every individual on the planet.  And the means to quickly and easily sift and act on the relevant information.

Governments murder and enslave.  This is the most important lesson of the history of the human race.  The greatest lie is that we can control that institution to any degree.  And the greatest lie of democracy is that “we are the government”.  Our very survival depends on knowing the vast difference between ruler and ruled, between Crown and Subject.

Looking past all the propaganda about “public service” that governments of the world engage in, focus on one number: 262 million. That is the number of unarmed civilians murdered by their own governments during the 20th century.  Professor R.J. Rummel, who came up with the number, dubbed this phenomenon “democide”.  Now, did the human race suddenly because abnormally blood-thirsty during the 20th century?  What accounts for the greatest letting of civilian blood in our history?  The answer is that governments, for the first time in history, had the means to carry out mass murder on an industrial scale, easily and quickly.  The means made the difference.  The weapons, chemicals, machines, etc., were at their disposal for the first time in history.

Governments of the world are gaining, through technology, virtually limitless technology to surveil their citizens, predict their movements and actions.  The Surveillance State is giving governments of the world the means for total enslavement of their populations.  Does that sound like hyperbole?  Just remember, 262 million.

The hubris of the belief that we can control the most murderous institution ever created by man is similar to the belief that one can train a crocodile.  We are the ones being trained.

What we mean by Surveillance State is really the inability to hide from our own government, which is probably the most important survival strategy we possess.  When we can no longer evade our government, for whatever reason, we are at its mercy.  This is the reason to oppose seemingly innocuous programs like a small surveillance drone for the local police department.   That drone, once embedded within your local department, will soon become equipped with facial recognition tech.  Then it will have internet access, and upload its video feed to a database that other law enforcement agencies can access. Its data will be fed to algorithms that will catalogue and predict your movements, creating a near-perfect picture of your entire life.  This information will complement every other piece of information that other tentacles of the Surveillance State is busy capturing.

But its hard, so very hard to stop a process that’s being fed by our addiction to the “dopamine-driven feedback loop” of social media, our addiction to the latest shiny tech, which fuels Silicon Valley to create and innovate, and who thereby does the NSA and the Pentagon favors for favorable treatment in return.

This meandering harangue has been meant to restate just why we oppose total surveillance of our entire lives by our government.  Because governments by their nature murder, enslave, and control.  Total surveillance would give governments an almost limitless ability to accomplish these.  So, we must resist.

01/22/18 Overnight links

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1/21/18 Overnight links

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No surprise here: Oklahoma’s congressional reps are Surveillance State minions

By: | Post date: January 19, 2018 | Comments: No Comments

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All five of Oklahoma’s congressional representative’s rejected surveillance reform, voting to reauthorize the spying that Edward Snowden currently lives in exile for exposing.  Not too surprising, as Tom Cole, James Lankford and the other three Republicans have been nothing more than automated rubber stamps for increased military spending and surveillance powers.

I realize this is week-old news, but it still strikes me as more bleak confirmation that not one spine exists among the five.  I think Oklahoma is ripe for at least one Congressman to have even a quarter of the courage as Amash and Paul have.

Cole himself said he has seen no abuse of 702, but clearly there has been, particularly with the revelation of rampant FISA court abuse.  How could they not have known?  The answer: of course they did.  They just didn’t care.  They just spewed the two-decade old “protect Americans from terrorists” trope to rationalize everything.

Ed: Despite having been absent for four days, about 70% of you are still here reading.  I appreciate that very much.  The lesson I’ve learned is this: don’t use a computer charger equipped for a much more powerful computer on a dinky old Chromebook.  It shall be fried.

Is this all just a computer simulation?

By: | Post date: January 19, 2018 | Comments: No Comments

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The gnawing fear at the back of the mind of many people throughout history has been that we may just be a brain in a vat, being fed impulses, imprisoned in a never-ending dream.  Or merely a creation of someone else’s dream.

The past few years have seen more and more people ask a similar question that appears more likely: are we living in a computer simulation?  Given the frenetic pace of computer graphics, it’s not far-fetched to believe that we are ourselves plugged into some digital “game”, developed sometime in the far future.  What could be the purpose of such a simulation? Maybe we entered the simulation of our own free will, eager to experience life on the eve of some technological revolution.  Maybe we are ourselves AI beings who wish to experience ancient biological life through the eyes of our imperfect creators.

Or we’re the digital copy of a real person living inside an advanced dating app, a la Black Mirror’s episode ‘Hang the DJ’.

Dreams feel real at the time we are experiencing them.  The sensory experience within dreams is almost indistinguishable from waking life. It’s only after the dream that we realize it was “only a dream”.

Typing on this keyboard, drinking this coffee feels real right now.  But in the same way that its difficult to remember dreams, I’ve only had vague memories of “waking life” while inside a dream.

This train of thought brings with it the truth that we would never truly know whether we were in the “real” world, even if we were brought out of the simulation.

Theoretical physicists at Oxford have appeared to definitively laid to rest the notion that we could be living inside a computer simulation.

According to the theorists, simulating various quantum phenomena is impossible in principle, due to the exponential complexity of the number of particles being simulated. “The researchers calculated that just storing information about a couple of hundred electrons would require a computer memory that would physically require more atoms than exist in the universe.”

But why should we assume that the physical laws within the simulation apply also in the “real” world? The universe in the “real” world could be vastly different than what we currently experience.

What’s more, if we are indeed living within a computer simulation, and we also develop our own convincingly real simulation that also allows users to create their own simulations within it, where does it end?  How would we ever know when we finally escaped the simulation and entered the real world?

One thing about the simulation problem, once that doubt enters your mind, it never leaves.

01/19/18 Links

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Computer down until 7/18/18

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Phone blogging has proven impossible thus far.

01/13/18 Overnight links

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01/12/18 Morning links

By: | Post date: January 12, 2018 | Comments: No Comments

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Despite the scaremongering, the press is probably safer than its ever been, so says David Harsanyi: “There is no country in Europe that boasts as healthy an environment for press freedom or free speech as the United States — and considering the attitude of elites, it’s doubtful they want that dynamic to change. In Europe, libel laws are frequently used by the rich and powerful to suppress unfavorable coverage. In England, for example, Trump would likely have been able to quash the Wolff book. In Germany, the state demands that private online outlets govern speech that doesn’t comport with their diktats. In France, the government will decide what is real news. The European Commission Code of Conduct features an array of demands for the government to police speech, which includes online “hate speech” — a perpetually flexible and easily abused phrase — among other things. Increasing numbers of Americans, some no doubt worried about Trump fascism, support the implementation of these kinds of laws here. 

The press is probably safer from government interference (we can talk about megacorporations instilling speech codes another time) than it was from 2001 to 2016. The internet is freer for everyone, including journalists, because of the administration’s deregulatory efforts. Political discourse is in better hands because of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. And after an eight-year hibernation, the press has rediscovered its purpose as the opposition party.”

Encryption is a roadblock to Surveillance State expansion, so of course its minions at the FBI would dub encryption as “evil”.  FBI Director Chris Wray calls encryption an “urgent public safety issue”.  He’s correct, in a way, although he’s pushing the notion that encryption itself is a the public safety threat.  I can’t imagine anyone, let alone him, believes that tripe.  Encryption is one of our only effective shields against the Surveillance State, so it will continue to be maligned by that hatching totalitarian bureaucracy.

More on the encryption frontier:

Wired: Skype introduces end-to-end encryption for hundreds of millions of users

Consumer Reports: How to use encryption: it’s easy

New Electronics: Pulses of light to encrypt and protect

Cancer survivor Matt Kibbe thinks Jeff Sessions should talk to Stage 4 cancer patients before making a pathetic attempt to overturn marijuana legalization among the states

How did I miss this story yesterday? Police are using 50,000 apps to influence public sentiment

Everyone in Congress who believes Trump to be a “lawless authoritarian”, just gave him vast, warrantless spying powers

New York Times: We Are What We Read

Matt Drudge was right to label Facebook, Twitter as ‘internet ghettos’: Facebook bans popular author over anti-Obama book