Rants

Boing Boing Blindness

I'm finding Cory Doctorow's rants on "owning" numbers are becoming irritating. I despise the DMCA and the organizations like the AACS that exploit it, but Cory is propagating lies whenever he talks about them copyrighting numbers or owning numbers. He's misrepresenting the legal claims made by the AACS. He's doing the very thing that we all hate when it seeps out of the think tanks, PR machines, political spin doctors and astroturf campaigns.

The piece of information that is illegal to publish is more that just a number; it is the fact that a particular number unlocks a particular protection system. If you publish the number without relating it to the protection system, then nobody can make a case against you. The number is just a number. If you do decide to publish the circumvention information, you are not breaking a copyright law that would control reproduction of that number, you are breaking a law that prohibits dissemination of that number + usage context.

Now Cory's a smart guy, so I'll assume that he's just a bit too carried away with the issue to be able to see how dishonest the "owning" numbers spin is. It's sitting right in his blind spot. I really hope that's it.

Running scared of copyright laws

A wonderful YouTube video has been taken down.

Rainer Hersch has posted a 1996 comedy routine in which he plays a piano using sticks. The sticks have been made so that they press certain piano keys to play chords. A similar (and much funnier) skit entitled Rachmaninov Had Big Hands, performed by Igudesman and Joo, has been taken down (at the time of writing), apparently at the request of Hersch, judging by his comments. So now, the link says "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by a third party." All the rest of the Igudesman and Joo videos are still there, but sadly the Rach is no more.

I watched Hersch's routine. In this case there is no copyright infringement, since one can't copyright ideas. There is no copied dialog or music. The only things the performances had in common were the use of chord bars on a piano for comedic effect. Even the idea of using chord bars to press the notes of a piano was patented in 1934, so Hersch has no ownership of that concept and his claims of plagiarism are hollow.

Nevertheless, he's managed to get a hilarious little video taken down.


Update: Yay! It's back.

(Hmmm... the page and comments are there with no copyright block but the video's not loading in my browser.)


Update (16th April): and now we can see it again.

Searle's Pointless Room

I see long discussions on John Searl's Chinese Room thought experiement, and I still fail to see why anyone should spend time on it. The experiment tells us nothing.

In essence, the experiment has us force a human to perform a menial, mindless role in a larger machine. The role of identifying symbols, processing them according to rules and transferring the results to the outside world is something we already know a computer can do--mindlessly. So why would we expect a human performing those actions to have to understand anything in order to play that role?

Searle's experiment purports to comment on the Turing test and whether any machine can exhibit understanding, but all he's illustrated is that you can subdivide a large intelligent system into smaller ones that perform according to fixed rules and have no understanding of what they manipulate. Any surprise there? Having split the apparently intelligent room into a thinking part (the reference/algorithm) and a purely mechanical communication part (the man in the room), Searle focusses on the tediously boring and obviously unintelligent part. The man is a distraction: "Ooh look, there's a man in there, but he doesn't understand any of the symbols!"

I wish Searle had spent more of his time on the thinking part rather than misleading people with pointless arguments focussed on mechanical processes.

According to QANTAS

"Whether made verbally or on a T-shirt, comments with the potential to offend other customers or threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft will not be tolerated."
-Qantas spokesman

Since the T-shirt describes Bush as the World's #1 Terrorist, it's true that it has the potential to offend other customers, but was this really the clause that blocked boarding, or was it the potential to threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft? Exactly what would happen if the World's #1 Terrorist knew that Qantas was aiding and abetting a promulgator of anti-Bush sentiments? Perhaps the people at Qantas realize how dangerous that would be.

Looking Back

Remember early info-age
Before 2K & 10,
When genome seqs were run by geeks
On hardware humming hot for weeks;
All brains were simple then.

Recall the days of Hollywood
When starlets ruled the screen,
When flesh-life still had roles to fill
In 2-D movies shot to thrill--
So quaintly pre-machine.

Remember when the snake oil flowed
In PowerPoint plus poise--
The next big thing with QA lingo
Boomed your biz with buzzword bingo
Meaning lost in noise.

Remember when the minds of men
Spent weekends watching jocks,
When freaks of meat with agile feet
Were lionized for sheer conceit
And pimped by idiot box.

Remember when the brightest minds
Were valued overseas,
But strapped for cash, their budgets slashed,
Were treated here like neuro-trash,
Divided by degrees.

Remember how teh stoopid spread,
Infecting unsafe heads,
When fundie fools could castrate schools
And stifle thought with prudish rules
Enforced by covert feds.

The world was hateful-crazy then
Before the New Cognition
With every child from birth beguiled
By ancient myths contrived and styled
On gods and superstition.

It's hard to think of how they coped
With fear-memes running mad;
So few could see how life could be--
That all they had to do was free
The simple brains they had.

[Cross posted from PhaWRONGula.]

Team Fiction

How Kaavya Viswanathan got famous.

I'd say that there's more to this story
Of KV's reuse of priori.
Forty passages found
Makes 'internalized' sound
More like 'ripped off for personal glory.'

Say "I stole it. It's time to come clean,"
or "My book's from a chick-lit machine"?
No, instead, hide behind
The mystery of mind:
"Take pity, I'm only nineteen."

To admit that she deliberately plagiarized would be an extremely bad career move.

To admit that she didn't write the passages herself, and that she wasn't so much an author as a young attractive iconic front for a profitable prose machine, would be better for her but would be bad for the book packaging company (who would then have to admit that their company provides stolen material).

Her least dangerous path is to blame an untouchable source--the mysterious workings of her mind. People can say that they find it completely incredible, but who can prove or disprove it? So, there are identical wordings? An amazing memory could be expected for a talented writer (forgetting of course that she can't remember what belonged to someone else). Maintaining a shred of plausibility is all she needs to do to be able to profit from the extensive exposure.

(Via 3 Quarks Daily)

(More discussion at newsmericks)

Once more around the dance floor?

 Tom Standage puts some perspective on The Culture War (via Boing Boing). A quick sample of the quotes:

1790: "The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth;"

1816: "The indecent foreign dance called the Waltz"... "forced on the respectable classes of society by the evil example of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion."

1909: "but GOD alone knows how many are leading dissolute lives begun at the 'moving pictures.' "

1926: "Does the telephone make men more active or more lazy?"

1954: "All child drug addicts, and all children drawn into the narcotics traffic as messengers, with whom we have had contact, were inveterate comic-book readers"

1956: "The effect of rock and roll on young people, is to turn them into devil worshippers;"

2005: "The disturbing material in Grand Theft Auto and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children"

Coulter's Only Faithful Fan

Read about Ann Coulter's new book.

O Ann, I am your only faithful fan.
Conservatives may buy your books, but they
Don't see your ploy, your pocket-lining plan

To market pseudoscience to your prey
By tugging on their xenophobic fears.
I love the way you gather what they say,

Then sell it, packaged—all they want to hear.
But Ann, my love, the thing that stokes my lust
Is seeing you, so confident, sincere,

Presenting crap, but getting them to trust
Like babies. Through your ballsy lies I can
Adore the noxious dreck that should disgust.

Naively, they respect you as a man;
O Ann, I am your only faithful fan.

(Crossposted from PhaWRONGula)

The Future

Do you fear the rise of the machines?

For decades writers have been predicting the subjugation of humans to robots, or to a super AI. The created slave becomes the master. We lose our freedom, our enjoyment of life. Would I be stretching the bounds of credibility if I suggested that the robot revolution is already proceeding as predicted? I had to ring up a bank today.

Evil upon evil upon evil. First, take a run-of-the-mill pop-love-twee-gush-song from the '80s. Next, create an emotionless cover of that song with extra dollops of soporific. Then shred it through a band-mangled tweeterless wooferless telephone audio system, and then butcher it into four and a half bar chunks between adverts for bank services, canned messages to acknowledge that you're still on a queue, regular reassurances that your call is important, and messages to suggest that you dial 1 to try a customer self-serve abomination to avoid the further embarrassment of this phone queue. Admit it, loser: if you hang around waiting for a real human to talk to, you're a frightened luddite, unfit to enjoy the sparkling future of automated banking services.

Why did I have to subject myself to such debasement at the "hands" of a machine? I could have hung up at any time. I could have wandered away from the phone and left it off the hook in a symbolic gesture of defiance. But, I needed information. They had something I wanted. The machines have inserted themselves between providers and consumers. They've found that perfect leverage point. Drive your wedge between vendor and customer and you can control the world. The rise has begun.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Software Geek Haiku

Last day before freeze;
Feel the fragility of
Unguided design.

This should have been written a couple of days ago. Now that the software in question is frozen there's time to stop and rant at the unbelievably inept interface design that caused last minute defects.

Syndicate content