Entrepreneur, Law & Policy Analyst helping clients w/ strategic planning, communications interoperability, Software Developer, Scotch Enthusiast.
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How Media Fuels Our Fear of Terrorism

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How selective media coverage fuels our fear of terrorism.
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christophersw
20 hours ago
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Baltimore, MD
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Is Humanism Really Humane?

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The idea of the “human” has brought us human rights, but it’s not enough to ensure justice.
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christophersw
5 days ago
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"... social media merely dramatizes something that has always been true of the “self” — that it is, in fact, a prosthetic entity, a distributed, dispersed “assemblage” constituted by many elements, some of them physical and material and biological, some of them not, the constitution of the self by language and how it rewires the brain being the most obvious example. That is, if you like, the “truth” of the self: that it exists nowhere as a totality"
Baltimore, MD
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Thanks Mom!

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I started thinking about the history of my first PC recently while reading Fire in the Valley, a book on the history of the PC revolution.

On Christmas in 1995, I unwrapped a shiny new IBM Aptiva. Much to my delight, my mom had gifted me my first PC.

Each time I've thought about my mom making this purchase, it's been thru the lens of someone looking back in time. Reading Fire in the Valley reminded me that I'd never before put myself in my mom's perspective and thought about her making the decision within the context of being a parent without a technical background in 1995.

So, I asked my mom about the purchase. And since it's 2016, I asked over text message. Below is our conversation:

altaltaltaltaltaltaltaltalt

...And this is where we end.

To bring this story full circle, this year for Christmas I bought my mom her first MacBook Pro.

Thanks mom!

alt

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christophersw
5 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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15 days ago
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4 public comments
codesujal
11 days ago
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This is a wonderful story... #fb
West Hartford, CT
iaravps
14 days ago
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Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
skittone
16 days ago
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So sweet. She bought her kid a computer that she didn't really understand herself, because she thought it would be important later. Awesome.
angelchrys
16 days ago
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It's kinda dusty in here
Overland Park, KS

F*** frequency in 2016

3 Comments and 17 Shares

Apparently something happened in early November.

The person who created the chart says "I tracked all mentions of ‘fuck’ on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, blogs, comments, forums and in the news using a tool called Netbase, which is a very powerful tool when it comes to monitoring social media."
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christophersw
5 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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14 days ago
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3 public comments
jeterhere
1 day ago
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I wonder what the fuck it was ...
Kennewick, WA
chrisrosa
13 days ago
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that's a lot of fucks given
San Francisco, CA
hansolosays
14 days ago
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oh lawd...
Norfolk, Virginia

Trump And The Batman Effect

3 Comments and 15 Shares

Today on Trump Twitter:


Here’s my concern.

When US companies do something that sounds good in the next few years, whether it’s hiring new people, or deciding to stay in the United States, or reporting high profits, some of them are going to credit President Trump.

First, because it’s going to get them good press. “Ford decides not to build plant in Mexico” is tenth-page news. “Ford decides not to build plant in Mexico because of President Trump” is front-page news.

But second, because it’s going to make the President like them. I don’t know whether Trump is secretly sending people to whatever conferences all of these people go to, saying “if you decide to do something good, give me credit, and I’ll do you a favor later”. I assume he isn’t. This is the sort of thing that coordinates itself, without any inconvenient documents that can get posted to WikiLeaks later. If you’re the CEO of Ford, and you notice you’re doing something that would make Trump look really good if you attributed it to him, why not attribute it to him for free, then remind him how much he likes you next time you need a tax cut or a subsidy or something? Trump has put a lot of effort into crafting his image as a person who repays favors (think appointing many of his earliest supporters to Cabinet positions) – you think businesspeople aren’t going to notice that kind of thing?

But also:


0.1% of the time a US company does something that looks bad, like close a plant or move jobs overseas, Trump is going to launch a media crusade against them. The Presidency has a big pulpit and he’s going to get a lot of people angry. Then Trump will offer them some kind of deal, and the company will back down. Not because they’ve learned the error of their ways. Not even because the deal was so good. But because making the President (and the public) happy is much more important to them than moving jobs to Mexico or whatever they were doing before.

Mother Jones mentions in passing that Carrier air conditioning, Trump’s biggest job “success” so far, is owned by a giant defense contractor who gets probably like 1% of their profits from air conditioning. Presumably the company would be happy to never sell another air conditioner again if it meant that the government chooses their fighter jets over the competing brand. Knowing Trump’s style of corruption, they have every reason to believe this will happen after they handed him a big PR victory.

This plan isn’t going to scale. Even Trump can only create so many media circuses. 999 companies will successfully move to Mexico in the amount of time it takes Trump to convince one company not to. But almost tautologically, the only ones we’ll ever hear about are the ones that become media circuses, and so it will look like Trump keeps winning.

So based on these two strategies, we are in for four years of sham Trump victories which look really convincing on a first glance. Every couple of weeks, until it gets boring, another company is going to say Trump convinced them to keep jobs in the United States. The total number of jobs saved this way will never be more than a tiny fraction of the jobs that could be saved by (eg) good economic policy, but nobody knows anything about economic policy and Trump will make sure everybody hears about Ford keeping jobs in the US. Every one of these victories will actively make the world worse, in the sense that these big companies will get taxpayer subsidies or favors they can call in later to distort government priorities, but nobody’s going to notice these either.

I think it’s important that we be prepared for this and send a clear message, before this gets any worse, that these aren’t to be taken seriously.

I also think it’s important to be prepared for the fact that this clear message won’t work. Imagine you’re a factory worker in Indiana, and every week you hear on the news that Trump convinced another factory to stay in the US. And also, you read an editorial by Paul Krugman or someone saying that this is all a trick. What do you end out believing?

And saving jobs isn’t the only way he can do this. Trump’s talent is PR, having his finger on the pulse of the media. He can spot things like that guy who raised the price of the toxoplasma drug 1000%, and then he can go in, make some corrupt deal, and get him to back down. He can spot all of those culture war things where the entire country is going to spend a month focused on the same small-town bakery, and by throwing around the entire might of the federal government he can probably make everyone back off and pose together for a nice group photo. If he can get all of these things right (and it will play exactly to his talents), then a majority of people won’t care what policies his administration passes. I think this is a big part of his plan.

There’s an old joke about Batman. Suppose you’re a hypercompetent billionaire in a decaying city, and you want to do something about the crime problem. What’s your best option? Maybe you could to donate money to law-enforcement, or after-school programs for at-risk teens, or urban renewal. Or you could urge your company full of engineering geniuses to invent new police tactics and better security systems. Or you could use your influence as a beloved celebrity to petition the government to pass laws which improve efficiency of the justice system.

Bruce Wayne decided to dress up in a bat costume and personally punch criminals. And we love him for it.

I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like, while leaving policy to rot. And I worry it’s going to work.

[prediction: highly-publicized stories about Trump successfully keeping businesses in the US on a case-by-case basis, which never add up to a significant number of jobs saved, will keep coming, and be a central point of how his administration relates to the public over the next year: 50%]

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christophersw
5 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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11 days ago
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kazriko
11 days ago
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Colorado Plateau
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ahofer
10 days ago
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"Bruce Wayne decided to dress up in a bat costume and personally punch criminals. And we love him for it.

I worry that Trump’s plan for his administration is to dress up in a President costume and personally punch people we don’t like, while leaving policy to rot. And I worry it’s going to work. "
Princeton, NJ or NYC
toddgrotenhuis
11 days ago
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"This plan isn’t going to scale. Even Trump can only create so many media circuses. 999 companies will successfully move to Mexico in the amount of time it takes Trump to convince one company not to. But almost tautologically, the only ones we’ll ever hear about are the ones that become media circuses, and so it will look like Trump keeps winning."
Indianapolis
gradualepiphany
11 days ago
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I had a conversation with my wife earlier today after hearing about this on NPR. This article is essentially exactly what I said I am afraid (and fairly confident) will happen.
Los Angeles, California, USA

Class Breaks

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There's a concept from computer security known as a class break. It's a particular security vulnerability that breaks not just one system, but an entire class of systems. Examples might be a vulnerability in a particular operating system that allows an attacker to take remote control of every computer that runs on that system's software. Or a vulnerability in Internet-enabled digital video recorders and webcams that allow an attacker to recruit those devices into a massive botnet.

It's a particular way computer systems can fail, exacerbated by the characteristics of computers and software. It only takes one smart person to figure out how to attack the system. Once he does that, he can write software that automates his attack. He can do it over the Internet, so he doesn't have to be near his victim. He can automate his attack so it works while he sleeps. And then he can pass the ability to someone­ -- or to lots of people -- ­without the skill. This changes the nature of security failures, and completely upends how we need to defend against them.

An example: Picking a mechanical door lock requires both skill and time. Each lock is a new job, and success at one lock doesn't guarantee success with another of the same design. Electronic door locks, like the ones you now find in hotel rooms, have different vulnerabilities. An attacker can find a flaw in the design that allows him to create a key card that opens every door. If he publishes his attack software, not just the attacker, but anyone can now open every lock. And if those locks are connected to the Internet, attackers could potentially open door locks remotely -- ­they could open every door lock remotely at the same time. That's a class break.

It's how computer systems fail, but it's not how we think about failures. We still think about automobile security in terms of individual car thieves manually stealing cars. We don't think of hackers remotely taking control of cars over the Internet. Or, remotely disabling every car over the Internet. We think about voting fraud as unauthorized individuals trying to vote. We don't think about a single person or organization remotely manipulating thousands of Internet-connected voting machines.

In a sense, class breaks are not a new concept in risk management. It's the difference between home burglaries and fires, which happen occasionally to different houses in a neighborhood over the course of the year, and floods and earthquakes, which either happen to everyone in the neighborhood or no one. Insurance companies can handle both types of risk, but they are inherently different. The increasing computerization of everything is moving us from a burglary/fire risk model to a flood/earthquake model, which a given threat either affects everyone in town or doesn't happen at all.

But there's a key difference between floods/earthquakes and class breaks in computer systems: the former are random natural phenomena, while the latter is human-directed. Floods don't change their behavior to maximize their damage based on the types of defenses we build. Attackers do that to computer systems. Attackers examine our systems, looking for class breaks. And once one of them finds one, they'll exploit it again and again until the vulnerability is fixed.

As we move into the world of the Internet of Things, where computers permeate our lives at every level, class breaks will become increasingly important. The combination of automation and action at a distance will give attackers more power and leverage than they have ever had before. Security notions like the precautionary principle­ -- where the potential of harm is so great that we err on the side of not deploying a new technology without proofs of security -- will become more important in a world where an attacker can open all of the door locks or hack all of the power plants. It's not an inherently less secure world, but it's a differently secure world. It's a world where driverless cars are much safer than people-driven cars, until suddenly they're not. We need to build systems that assume the possibility of class breaks -- and maintain security despite them.

This essay originally appeared on Edge.org as part of their annual question. This year it was: "What scientific term or concept ought to be more widely known?"

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christophersw
5 days ago
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Baltimore, MD
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10 days ago
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josephwebster
12 days ago
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Denver, CO, USA
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2 public comments
DGA51
10 days ago
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I'm still kinda fond of manual locks, manual transmissions, manual thermostats, and especially cars not connected to the Internet.
Central Pennsyltucky
zippy72
10 days ago
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Very important thinking...
FourSquare, qv
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