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The Selfish Gene
Topic: Science 11:35 pm EDT, Aug  2, 2004

Richard Dawkins' brilliant reformulation of the theory of natural selection has the rare distinction of having provoked as much excitement and interest outside the scientific community as within it. His theories have helped change the whole nature of the study of social biology, and have forced thousands of readers to rethink their beliefs about life.

In his internationally bestselling, now classic volume, The Selfish Gene, Dawkins explains how the selfish gene can also be a subtle gene. The world of the selfish gene revolves around savage competition, ruthless exploitation, and deceit, and yet, Dawkins argues, acts of apparent altruism do exist in nature. Bees, for example, will commit suicide when they sting to protect the hive, and birds will risk their lives to warn the flock of an approaching hawk.

The Selfish Gene

Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think and Communicate
Topic: Society 11:34 pm EDT, Aug  2, 2004

In _The Selfish Gene_, Richard Dawkins sought to describe cultural evolution in biological terms with the newly coined term "meme." Here, Cambridge anthropologist Robert Aunger theorizes on the nature of this so-called "thought gene." In doing so, Aunger coins a term of his own, "neuromemetics," proposing that memes are in fact self-replicating electrical charges in the nodes of our brains. The author explains that the shift in perspective from Dawkins's purely social memetics to a memetics working at the intercellular level is akin to sociobiology's view of social behavior as a genetic trait subject to evolution. This is an ambitious book on a par with Susan Blackmore's The Meme Machine. Unlike the handful of pop-culture treatments out there, Aunger steers clear of the popular image of the meme as a VD-like brain parasite passed by word of mouth. That said, this book is that rare hybrid of crossover science writing that carries enough intellectual punch to warrant thoughtful peer review, and yet should appeal to those ambitious general readers who are in the market for a megadose of mind candy.

This rocks! 400 pages of serious thought about memetics. Amazon offers up the book's introduction for your review.

Electric Meme: A New Theory of How We Think and Communicate

On Memes, and MemeStreams
Topic: Society 11:32 pm EDT, Aug  2, 2004

Vile wrote:
] Once again, we have a news story. Listen up, all you amateur
] reporters out there in memestreamsland, we can get the news
] from multiple (more reliable) sources. Please offer us some
] recommendations for art, literature, movies, music, et al.

It's not about "news." It's not about "recommendations."

It's about memes. That's why it's called MemeStreams.

If it's recommendations you want, I suggest Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, Susan Blackmore's The Meme Machine, and Aaron Lynch's Thought Contagion, for starters.

This is not a "web log." This is not a "collaborative filter."

It's not about you. It's not about me. It's about memes.

On Memes, and MemeStreams

US Warns of High Risk of Qaeda Attack
Topic: War on Terrorism 8:56 am EDT, Aug  2, 2004

The Bush administration on Sunday declared a high risk of terrorist attacks against financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas after receiving what it described as alarming information that operatives of Al Qaeda had conducted detailed reconnaissance missions at certain sites.

"This information is about as specific as you can get ... chilling in its scope, in its detail, in its breadth."

Suspects were found with blueprints and may have conducted a "test run" for an attack in recent days, collecting information on the flow of pedestrian traffic, possible escape routes, elevator schedules, neighborhood landmarks, the patterns and number of security personnel, details on surveillance cameras and relevant architectural details.

The elevation of the threat level for the financial institutions was set off by the recent arrest of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a 25-year-old Pakistani computer engineer, who had used and helped to operate a secret Qaeda communications system where information was transferred via coded messages.

A companion article reports: "One senior American intelligence official said the information was more detailed and precise than any he had seen during his 24-year career in intelligence work."

It continues: "Since his arrest, Mr. Khan has described an elaborate communications system that involves the use of high and low technology."

Several episodes in the United States have recently drawn scrutiny from counterterrorism officials, including reports from passengers on a recent flight to Los Angeles about odd activity by a group of Syrian musicians.

NYT finally mentions Flight 327 but says it was not a factor in raising the orange alert.

NYT's David Rohde is now reporting from Karachi, Pakistan.

US Warns of High Risk of Qaeda Attack

90 Percent of Afghans Registered to Vote
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:41 am EDT, Aug  2, 2004

Nine out of 10 eligible Afghans have signed up for landmark October elections, the United Nations said Sunday, a resounding endorsement of a democratic experiment supposed to help Afghanistan turn its back on years of debilitating war.

... except when the Afghan news media report that candidates are "sniping" at each other, they aren't referring to verbal attacks.

WSJ ran a good week-in-review-style article last week entitled something like "Good news from Afghanistan" in which the reporters highlighted a litany of positive developments in the country.

90 Percent of Afghans Registered to Vote

A Show Called Hope
Topic: Politics and Law 12:44 pm EDT, Aug  1, 2004

The 2004 Democratic convention had its moments, some of them quite good, if not all intentionally so.

On Wednesday there was the speech by Dennis Kucinich -- a reminder, perhaps, that the primary system really does work, even though an alarming number of Yale millionaires manage to slip through the net.

A Show Called Hope

Topic: High Tech Developments 11:29 pm EDT, Jul 31, 2004

Since the late 1990s, technology markets have declined dramatically. Responding to the changing business climate, companies use strategies of open innovation: acquiring technologies from outside, marketing their technologies to other companies, and outsourcing manufacturing. But open innovation is not enough; it is mainly a way to run a business to its endgame. By itself, open innovation results in razor-thin profits from products that compete as commodities. Businesses also need a path to renewal. No one ever achieved a breakthrough with open innovation.

A breakthrough creates something new or satisfies a previously undiscovered need. Radical breakthroughs often have uses and effects far beyond what their inventors had in mind. Breakthroughs can launch new industries or transform existing ones. Our capacity for creating breakthroughs depends on a combination of science, imagination, and business; the next great waves of innovation will come from organizations that get this combination right.

During periods of rapid economic growth, companies and investors focus on the short term and forget where breakthroughs come from. Without appropriate engagement and reinvestment, the innovation ecology breaks down. Today, universities, technology companies, government funding agencies, venture capitalists, and corporate research laboratories need to foster the conditions in which breakthroughs arise.

In Breakthrough, Mark and Barbara Stefik show us how innovation works. Drawing on stories from repeat inventors and managers of technology, they uncover the best practices for inventing the future. This book is for readers who want to know how inventors do their work, how people become inventors, and how businesses can create powerful cultures of innovation.


Shilling Recommender Systems for Fun and Profit
Topic: Technology 6:13 pm EDT, Jul 31, 2004

Recommender systems have emerged in the past several years as an effective way to help people cope with the problem of information overload. One application in which they have become particularly common is in e-commerce, where recommendation of items can often help a customer find what she is interested in and, therefore can help drive sales.

Unscrupulous producers in the never-ending quest for market penetration may find it profitable to shill recommender systems by lying to the systems in order to have their products recommended more often than those of their competitors.

This paper explores four open questions that may affect the effectiveness of such shilling attacks: which recommender algorithm is being used, whether the application is producing recommendations or predictions, how detectable the attacks are by the operator of the system, and what the properties are of the items being attacked. The questions are explored experimentally on a large data set of movie ratings.

Taken together, the results of the paper suggest that new ways must be used to evaluate and detect shilling attacks on recommender systems.

Shilling Recommender Systems for Fun and Profit

John Kerry's Acceptance Speech
Topic: Current Events 3:06 pm EDT, Jul 31, 2004

I will have a Vice President ... I will have a Secretary of Defense ... I will appoint an Attorney General ...

"I will have a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Marketing and Consumer Services ..."

Note: No mention of a DCI or an intelligence director.

Did I mention values?

... jobs, jobs, jobs ... jobs blah blah jobs blah blah jobs blah blah jobs ...

... and not so much as a word linking jobs with education. Jobs are about people, not policy, not process.

Did I mention values?

NEO: Can you fly that thing?
TRINITY: Not yet.
TANK: Operator.
TRINITY: Tank, I need a pilot program for a military B- 212 helicopter.
TRINITY: Let's go.

He seems deeply confused about foreign relations. First he says, "to protect the American people, fundamental American values ... is the only justification for going to war." Then he talks about the importance of not having "to go it alone in the world." How does he expect other nations to join with us in the protection of American values, if our president is on record that the United States is unwilling to go to war to protect fundamental British values, or French values, or Italian values, or German values, or Spanish values, or Iraqi values, or Pakistani values, or Canadian values?

Did I mention values?

I will immediately reform the intelligence system.

How, please?

I will fight a smarter, more effective war on terror.

How, please?

For a man of details and nuance, he is rather short on both here.

Did I mention values?

We need to lead a global effort against nuclear proliferation – to keep the most dangerous weapons in the world out of the most dangerous hands in the world.

Bandwagoning, motherhood, and apple pie. Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar have been working on this for years now.

"In the past decade, the Nunn-Lugar has spent $4bn to help former Soviet states eliminate or secure weapons of mass destruction. Its successes range from dismantling one of the world's largest biological weapons production facilities in Kazakhstan to deactivating more than 6,000 nuclear warheads spread across Russia and the former Soviet Union."

... balanced budget ... balanced budget ... balanced budget ... I will immediately implement the recommendations of the 9/11 commission.

Does he have any idea how much it will cost to physically inspect every container ship?

"Some 200 million intermodal cargo containers carry an estimated $12.5 trillion in cargo by ship, rail and truck each year. Today, only 2 percent or of cargo containers are inspected at US ports, and of those inspected, the containersÂ’ contents match the manifest only about 30 percent of the time. Experts estimate that fielding the necessary cargo inspection ... [ Read More (0.1k in body) ]

John Kerry's Acceptance Speech

High Qaeda Aide Retracted Claim of Link With Iraq
Topic: War on Terrorism 1:58 pm EDT, Jul 31, 2004

The American officials now say still-secret parts of the separate report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was released in early July, discuss the information provided by Mr. Libi in much greater detail. The Senate report questions whether some versions of intelligence reports prepared by the C.I.A. in late 2002 and early 2003 raised sufficient questions about the reliability of Mr. Libi's claims.

Mystery resolved: it is highly likely that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi was the subject of the redacted portion of the Senate report blogged here earlier this month. That is, Libi is the "third man" along with KSM and Abu Zubaydah.

If you haven't yet read "The Man in the Snow White Cell", I highly recommend it as a companion to this article.

High Qaeda Aide Retracted Claim of Link With Iraq

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