Archive: July 26th, 2013

NSA: The Decision Problem by George Dyson

A really terrific piece by George Dyson taking a suitably long-zoom look at information warfare and the Entscheidungsproblem, tracing the lineage of PRISM from the Corona project of the Cold War.

What we have now is the crude equivalent of snatching snippets of film from the sky, in 1960, compared to the panopticon that was to come. The United States has established a coordinated system that links suspect individuals (only foreigners, of course, but that definition becomes fuzzy at times) to dangerous ideas, and, if the links and suspicions are strong enough, our drone fleet, deployed ever more widely, is authorized to execute a strike. This is only a primitive first step toward something else. Why kill possibly dangerous individuals (and the inevitable innocent bystanders) when it will soon become technically irresistible to exterminate the dangerous ideas themselves?

The proposed solution? That we abandon secrecy and conduct our information warfare in the open.

An Event Alarm

I’m at An Event Apart. Somewhere. It’s in a room in a hotel. The room is smaller than the usual ballroom-sized venue, but I know it’s An Event Apart because Luke Wroblewski is giving a talk. I think it’s a talk about how he led a group of people who were trapped in the desert to safety. Somehow he saved them with data.

I’m speaking next. But there’s a pressure on my bladder that I need to relieve. I’ve got another ten or fifteen minutes ‘till my talk so I reckon I have enough time. I go out into the corridor in search of a toilet. I find one and do what I need to do.

But when I go back out into the corridor, I can’t immediately find the room that the conference is in. That’s okay, I think. I’ve still got time. But as I wander the corridor more and more, I start to panic. I’m supposed to be on in five minutes! Now the hotel building seems to be cavernous, like one of those Las Vegas hotel-casino hybrids that contain a labyrinthine mini-city. I’m supposed to be on stage now! Up escalators, down stairs …I can’t find the room. I’m really panicking now. I was supposed to be on stage five ago …Jeffrey’s going to kill me. I grab someone who looks like a hotel employee and beg him to help me: I was supposed to be on stage ten minutes ago! But he can’t help me. I’m really freaking out.

Then I woke up. I don’t think if I’ve ever had the classic “final exam” dream, but I think this is the closest equivalent.

An Event Apart DC is ten days away. I’m giving a new talk. I thought I was prepared for it. My subconscious begs to differ.

100,000 Stars

A gorgeous interactive visualisation of our local galactic neighbourhood.

The slippery slope | 90 Percent Of Everything

The transcript of a terrific talk by Harry on how dark patterns are often driven by a slavish devotion to conversion rates.