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There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.

A Race, A Game, and Chinese Takeout
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:20 am EDT, Mar 28, 2013

Michael Chertoff:

We are in a race against time.

Nicole Perlroth:

Janet Napolitano knows she has a problem that will only worsen. So she needs her own hackers. "We have to show them how cool and exciting this is," said Ed Skoudis.

One answer? Start young, and make it a game, even a competition.

Mary Meeker:

Do humans want everything to be like a game?

Abigail Pesta:

For the past year and a half, Brett Coulthard has been running a business, the Frivolous Engineering Co., that sells kits to build useless machines. For people who would rather not spend any money on a useless machine, Mr. Coulthard also provides free instructions.

Marvin Minsky dreamed up the useless machine, although the name he gave it was the "ultimate machine."

Nathan Heller:

Back in Sweden, the guys told me, they were studying computer science at university, and -- well, you know how it is: one thing leads to another, and soon you find yourself carving sheep bellies for a little extra cash.

Benjamin Carlson:

The "junket" industry of Macau brings high-rolling gamblers to the territory and collects debts on behalf of the casinos. These businesses also allow VIPs to stake more than the $50,000 legal limit on how much money Chinese are permitted to take out of the country every year. (In essence, junkets collect their clients' money on the Chinese side of the border and give them loans to gamble on the Macau side.)


Peak Google
Topic: Knowledge Management 9:43 pm EDT, Mar 13, 2013

Patrick McKenzie:

Add revenue. Reduce costs. Those are your only goals.

Urs Hoelzle:

We launched Google Reader in 2005 in an effort to make it easy for people to discover and keep tabs on their favorite websites. While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

Alan Green:

We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the actual date is July 1, 2013). We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We're sad too.

There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we're pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

Occupy Google Reader, from November 2011:

If I wanted Facebook I'd use it.

Who is in charge out there?

Peak Google


The Rewards Are Going To Be Tremendous
Topic: Futurism 7:50 am EST, Mar  4, 2013

Quentin Hardy:

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, unauthorized disclosures of confidential information, whether from unsecured devices, leaky apps or poor cloud security, must be announced publicly if the information could affect a company's stock price.

Dexter Filkins:

Our ignorance is not total, but our information is nowhere near adequate.

NYT:

Executives should understand that openly discussing threats helps everyone become more alert to risks, which would be in their own long-term interest.

Ashkan Soltani:

It's not a matter of whether or not you've been compromised. It's whether you have the expertise to tell.

James Harkin:

No matter, because the rewards are going to be tremendous. Big data is on the cusp of becoming a "significant corporate asset", so much so that it may even help the west to win back manufacturing advantage from the developing world. Soon, they claim airily, it "may be able to tell whether we're falling in love".

Most of all, we have to know what we want to achieve and what we want big data to do. Otherwise, like the previous iterations of internet futurism, big data will remain a showy buzzword - full of sound and fury, signifying very little.

David Brooks:

As we acquire more data, we have the ability to find many, many more statistically significant correlations. Most of these correlations are spurious and deceive us when we're trying to understand a situation. Falsity grows exponentially the more data we collect. The haystack gets bigger, but the needle we are looking for is still buried deep inside.

Straw Man:

Money for me ... Money for me, databases for you.


An Experience of Unfading Freshness
Topic: Society 7:25 am EST, Feb 19, 2013

Michael W. Clune:

Augustine writes that the experience of a person listening to a song he knows well becomes thin, ghostly. The listener feels himself "stretched" between the memory of the notes just played and the anticipation of the notes to come; he hardly hears the present notes as they pass. But the first time he hears that song, the listener's experience is rich and full. Time swells and slows. His mind, trying to grasp the complex form of the song, comes alive. And then, almost at once, the richness fades. As he beings to understand the form of the song, the song's magic begins to disappear. This is the tragic paradox of our perceptual existence. The effort to grasp the object's form triggers the intense sensory engagement that the success of that effort destroys.

But what if what you felt the first time you heard a song could last forever? What if you discovered an immortal song, a song that never gets old? Listening to it provides you with an experience of unfading freshness, of unending novelty. To imagine such music is to imagine a device for stopping time within time. This music would be like a hand grasping your heart, like a lover's kiss, fused with a star's immortality.

Ron Horning:

By consumerist ideology, nothing could be more enjoyable than a shopping spree. What could be better than exercising one's freedom of choice, over and over again, to get new and exciting things, to have novel experiences tailored especially for our personal delight?

To capitalize on convenience and autonomy in a consumer marketplace, we must first allow our desires to be commodified and suppress the desires that don't lend themselves to commodification. We have to permit more intrusive surveillance to enjoy the supposed benefits of customization. We have to buy into a quantity-over-quality ethos for aspects of life where it has never made any sense, like intimacy.

For online dating sites, the optimal customer is an oversexed solipsist addicted to novelty. But interacting with the sites doesn't have to be a matter of sitting alone at your computer (or staring into a phone) and attenuating your personal predilections as if they came entirely from within and existed independently of social relations. Instead, it can be a confrontation with how little we know about ourselves and how we might aspire to be sure of even less.

Roger Ebert:

I used to believe it was preposterous that people could fall in love online. Now I see that all relationships are virtual, even those that take place in person. Whether we use our bodies or a keyboard, it all comes down to two minds crying out from their solitude.

Tim Kreider's married friend:

It's not as if being married means you're any less alone.


Life's Little Ups and Downs
Topic: Education 11:31 am EST, Feb 17, 2013

Nathan Heller:

Average college debt, adjusted for inflation, has tripled since the late nineteen-eighties.

(It's still growing.)

Nicola Clark:

Nearly 40 percent of French 15-year-olds have repeated at least one grade.

Clay Shirky:

Tuition and fees at public four-year colleges went up 72% last decade, even as the market value of a bachelor's degree fell by 15%.

Nathan Heller:

Nielsen data indicate that the most enthusiastic audience for HBO's "Girls" is middle-aged men.

Gretchen Reynolds:

Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer's life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.

Arif Hasan:

According to 2006 figures, fully 72 percent of the University of Karachi student body is today female. Among medical students, 87 percent are women, and the figure for architecture and planning is as high as 92 percent.

"Emma Gertlowitz", 11-year-old fan of Nate Silver:

Statisticians are the new sexy vampires, only even more pasty.


Uncomfortable Truths Or Personal Consequences
Topic: Computer Security 11:31 am EST, Feb 17, 2013

Michael Schmidt and Nicole Perlroth:

Hackers are increasingly exploiting the lack of security to gain access to the nation's most critical infrastructure.

Jon Kalish:

The kids in Hacker Scouts are not breaking into computer networks. They make things with their hands.

Susan Landau:

What are the personal consequences for employees who allow data breaches to happen?

Until people lose their jobs, nothing is going to change.

Nicole Perlroth and Nick Bilton:

A common saying among security experts is that there are now only two types of American companies: Those that have been hacked and those that don't know they've been hacked.


A Global Market in Friendly Conversation
Topic: Computer Security 8:19 am EST, Feb 15, 2013

Ellen Nakashima:

Cyber-espionage, which was once viewed as a concern mainly by U.S. intelligence and the military, is increasingly seen as a direct threat to the nation's economic interests.

Christopher Soghoian:

On the one hand the government is freaking out about cyber-security, and on the other the U.S. is participating in a global market in vulnerabilities and pushing up the prices.

David Chavern, Chief Operating Officer at the US Chamber of Commerce:

It's nearly impossible to keep people out. The best thing you can do is have something that tells you when they get in.

It's the new normal.

George Chidi:

I'm consistently surprised by what can be learned from a friendly conversation with the right person. The only thing more surprising has been what I've learned without talking to a soul.


A Not-Fun Time Was Had By All
Topic: Politics and Law 11:31 pm EST, Feb 13, 2013

Brian Eno:

Most of the smart people I know want nothing to do with politics.

Barack Obama:

It's not a fun time to be a member of Congress.

Decius:

I've come to the conclusion that you actually want shifty, dishonest politicians elected by an apathetic populace. This means that things are working.

Brian Eno:

Whatever the reasons for our quiescence, politics is still being done -- just not by us.

We expect other people to do it for us, and grumble when they get it wrong. We feel that our responsibility stops at the ballot box, if we even get that far. After that we're as laissez-faire as we can get away with.

What worries me is that while we're laissez-ing, someone else is faire-ing.

Decius:

Civil liberties really matter, and nobody cares.

Teju Cole:

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather. A bomb whistled in. Blood on the walls. Fire from heaven.


The Only Winning Move Was Not To Play
Topic: Education 8:10 am EST, Feb  1, 2013

David Brooks, via Tyler Cowen:

Our system of higher education is like a giant vacuum cleaner that sucks up some of the smartest people from across the country and concentrates them in a few privileged places.

The highly educated cluster around a few small nodes. The magnet places have positive ecologies that multiply innovation, creativity and wealth. The abandoned places have negative ecologies and fall further behind.

This sorting is self-reinforcing, and it seems to grow more unforgiving every year. ... Half of the jobs in university political science programs went to graduates of the top 11 schools. That is to say, if you have a Ph.D. from Harvard, Stanford, Princeton and so on, your odds of getting a job are very good. If you earned your degree from one of the other 100 degree-granting universities, your odds are not. These other 100 schools don't even want to hire the sort of graduates they themselves produce. They want the elite credential.

Marge Simpson:

Bart, don't make fun of grad students! They just made a terrible life choice.

Decius:

Life is too short to spend 2300 hours a year working on someone else's idea of what the right problems are.

James Suroweicki:

The only way to win the game is simply not to play.

Alan Kay:

If the children are being instructed in the pink plane, can we teach them to think in the blue plane and live in a pink-plane society?

What is to become of those of us past schooling, who are aware of these planes? Are we to dredge on with pink shades over our blue eyes? What other choice do we have, become hermits and form our own seceded blue colony?


He Had Suddenly Found Precisely What He Was Looking For
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:01 am EST, Jan 31, 2013

Luke Mogelson:

Daowood's method was different. When a fighting-age male struck him as suspicious, the colonel would use his thumbs and index fingers to pull open both of the man's eyelids. Then he would lean close and stare searchingly. Usually, after several seconds, as though he had suddenly found precisely what he was looking for, Daowood would declare, in mock surprise, "He's Taliban!"

It was a joke, of course -- one that mostly made fun of the Americans. A few years ago, the coalition embarked on an ambitious enterprise to record in an electronic database the biometric information of hundreds of thousands of Afghan citizens, and a hallmark of American patrols has subsequently been the lining up of villagers to digitally register their eyes and fingerprints. Daowood's faux iris scan was in part an acknowledgment of the A.N.A.'s inferior technology. But it was also a dig at the coalition's somewhat desperate reliance on technology. Where Daowood's interactions with villagers were always intimate, it is hard to imagine a more clinical and alienating dynamic between two people than that of the NATO service member aiming his Hand-held Interagency Identity Detection Equipment at the face of a rural Afghan farmer. In such moments, the difference in the field between the U.S. and Afghan soldier is far starker than that of the foreigner and the native. It is more akin to the difference in the ocean between a scuba diver and a fish.

David Foster Wallace:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, "Morning, boys, how's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, "What the hell is water?"

Jared Diamond:

Americans' thinking about dangers is confused. We obsess about the wrong things, and we fail to watch for real dangers.

Charles Simic:

I found myself worrying. As my fellow Serbs say, inside each one of us lurks a turd.

Robert Krulwich:

Where, they wondered, did that poop come from?

Tim Cook:

There are always things that are unknowable.


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