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Showing posts from March 2, 2017

Will Democracy Survive Big Data and Artificial Intelligence?

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["We are in the middle of a technological upheaval that will transform the way society is organized. We must make the right decisions now." Corporations and governments have the means to steer our courses of action without our even knowing. We are entering an era of  'big nudging' — nudge policies informed by big data. This might be good: But it is fundamentally undemocratic, and, more to the point, almost sure to produce perverse results, because the central planning of public opinion and public behaviour will be even more complex than central planning of an economy; and we know how that went. *RON*]

Dirk Helbing, Bruno S. Frey, Gerd Gigerenzer, Ernst Hafen, Michael Hagner, Yvonne Hofstetter, Jeroen van den Hoven, Roberto V. Zicari, Andrej Zwitter, Scientific American, 25 February 2017
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Spektrum der Wissenschaft, Scientific American’s sister publication, as “Digitale Demokratie statt…

The future of Ransomware

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["Some random thoughts about crypto. Notes from a course I teach." Creepy, on the possible future of ransomware. *RON*]
Matthew Green, A Few Thoughts on Cryptography Engineering, 28 February 2017

This is kind of a funny post for me to write, since it involves speculating about a very destructive type of software — and possibly offering some (very impractical) suggestions on how it might be improved in the future. It goes without saying that there are some real downsides to this kind of speculation. Nonetheless, I’m going ahead on the theory that it’s usually better to talk and think about the bad things that might happen to you — before you meet them on the street and they steal your lunch money.

On the other hand, just as there’s a part of every karate master that secretly wants to go out and beat up a bar full of people, there’s a part of every security professional that looks at our current generation of attackers and thinks: why can’…

Oldest Fossils Ever Found Give New Clues to Life’s Origins

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[Very cool. *RON*]
Eric Betz, Discover Magazine, 1 March 2017
Four billion years ago, as a faint young sun beat down on the newly-formed Earth, a cluster of creatures—each less than half the width of a human hair—were already thriving around volcanic vents.

In a study published Wednesday in Nature, researchers say they’ve found the microfossil remnants of organisms that, if confirmed, lived at least 3.77 billion years ago.

Putin in Syria, 2017

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[Perceptive account of how Russia is likely to consolidate its gains in Syria, bearing in mind its lessons from Afghanistan. *RON*]
Ammar Abdulhamid, Lawfare, 27 February 2017

Now that he has established a firm foothold in Syria following 18 months of direct military intervention, Russia’s strongman, Vladimir Putin, has to politically safeguard his gains in order to ensure their long-term consolidation and present the world with a fait accompli. For this, he needs to create a new administrative architecture for the country and to introduce a new way for governing it, one that accommodates not only his interests and those of his allies but also the interests and concerns of some of his enemies as well, now that they can no longer pose a threat to Russia’s interests in the country.

Putin is going about this cleverly, apparently mindful of the lessons of the old Soviet experiences in Afghanistan, as well as those of Syria itself during its long inter…

Today's Trumpery

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Welfare Icon Now Wants People to Take Care of Themselves

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["The government has engaged in an ideological crusade away from the Nordic welfare state." To what extent has this shriveling of brotherly love been fueled by the increased racial mix in Denmark in recent years? *RON*]
Peter Levring, Bloomberg, 28 February 2017


When a European government raises the pension age and makes cuts to welfare programs, it’s usually because of dire finances. In Denmark’s case, it’s because of ideology.

Greece, Italy and other highly-indebted countries are regularly urged by officials in Brussels to find ways of reducing public spending or making their labor markets more efficient. But of Denmark, the European Union's commission said in its most recent report: Competitiveness indicators “don’t point to major challenges;” employment has “remained strong;” and the “risks to Denmark’s fiscal sustainability are low in the short, medium and long term.”

So why is the Scandinavian nation finding it necessary to make…