Monday, October 23, 2006

culture of blame: take responsibility!

so apparently muslims are blaming the attack on a Mosque in Eccles on
MInisters' comments about the Veil (or Niqab -not sure why we can't use the perfectly good english word). Well frankly
this is bogus as blaming it on the weather - if some racist idiots decide to attack
another bunch of idiots, that is THEIR decision - what other people SAY isn't a reason or an excuse
except for people not prepared to take responsibility for their own actions. This applies as much to any party - Muslims that threaten violence to cartoonists are criminals. W People that attack anything or anyone whether a pub or a mosque or a synagogue or a pig farm or an abortion clinic or a
person, are criminals. Other people's words (whether in the Koran, Bible, Torah, Sun Times, Hansard) are irrelevant - words cannot be sufficient provocation. period. words, cannot be reason enough to lose reason.

why do such people abnegate responsibility for actions in themselves or in other people?

well, my belief is that there's three reasons.
1. they are exploiting liberal fear - bad idea - remember we got the guns
2. they've never been required to take responsibility for such actions,
often because a fascist priest or a liberal government have taken away that requirement, or else because they think they wont get caught.
3. they are repressing something.

oh wait, maybe they are just plain STUPID. you know, lots of crims in chokey apparently claim that "they don't know why they did it" - their "hand moved of its own accord" or "their brain went on holiday". No it didn't. they were bad AND stupid.

Listen, Marx said "combat liberalism". This applies to the other side of the coin too.
tough on liberalism - tough on the opponents of liberalism.
Freud talked in his work on "beyond the pleasure principle" about the darkside. he was wrong. there's no fun in this, not even peverse.

god I am starting to sound like some kind of libertarian - if you read this, I'm not:) I am a syndicalist anarchist (but its damn close:)...

Region Enforcement should be done by Death Penalty

Cookie-cutter region-enforcement

net neutrality and regionalisation are pretty much the same thing - larry lessig has a lot to say on this - personally , i dont see the problem - clearly people that do cross-border arbitrage should be hung:

Many companies are faced with the awful prospect of reduced profits
due to globalisation, where the price they set in the poorest plaecs
on the planet isntantly becomes the price everywhere - products from
DVDs, MP3s, and completely innocent things like AIDS drugs and
automatic weapons and ammunition are available at knock down prices in
places where the rich should be fleeced for every penny (e.g. Saudi
Arabia, USA and other friendly states).

We propose the use of embedded, lat-long sensitive nano-tech cookie
cutters within the product wrapping so that anyone trying to open
their new xmas prezzy to
fire on the insurrectionists, or treat the unwitting HIV victim, to
the accompaniment of the sounds and vision of the latest hits, will
have to make sure they are in the right place at the right time, else
its "bye-bye skin and bones".

suitable nano-technology would have to include GPS and Galileo
receivers which might make it quite bulky, so one thing to do would
be to desing some sort of decentralised mimo sensor net GPS receiver
that would collaborate over a number of wrappers and products - after
all, where there's one M16/AK47/AZT-dose, there's probably 100.

You know it makes sense: price discrimination isn't unfair at all. No
it isn't, really

I don't have a emoticon for massive irony, so you'll just have to figure out for yourself if I am serious above....

Friday, October 20, 2006

Many people are incensed by Internet Censorship

The sois-disant Great Firewall of China, for example, is designed to
prevent people within PRC accessing information from certain sites
via various search engines such as Google, based on various keywords
deemed to be subversive by the Chinese government. (Actually, the
mechanism is much simpler than that, but the effect is as described).

Of course, other countries, and many commercial organisations
implement mechanisms to limit users' access to various kinds of
information. Many of these are merely extensions of censorship
to New Media, that makes sure there is consistency- for example:

In Germany (and several other countries)
holocaust denial is illegal (even criminal) and just as much on the Net as
in other forms of media. Many search engines (such as Google) filter
such content for users from those countries. It is still possible for
users to obtain the information by masquerading as users from elsewhere,
just as one can buy censored books from foreign bookstores, and risk
shipping (or carrying) them back.

In the UK, what constitutes pornography is rather more strictly
controlled than in many countries (in Europe, but even the US for example)
and many Internet Service Providers implement filters that censor such

In most commercial organisations that use the Internet extensively,
staff are often prevented from misusing the network resource by limiting the
sites they can reach. This is largely no different than limiting the access
that telephones can be put to (e.g. think student lab phones not having
international access). Of course, some industries go further and log all use
(including all e-mail content and web access) and check for abuse. This might
be regarded by some as an invasion of privacy, but others would say that you
choose where you work.

So we must ask why this topic is such a hot button to press with many people.

I think there are three reasons:

Firstly, the Internet was not originally censored (much, if at all -
and I have been using it since 1981, so I have a fairly good idea of its
origins). Thus when it first appeared as a service in many parts of the
world, it could be used to access information that was previously difficult,
expensive or impossible to obtain. This international (or global) nature of
communications happened before national or international law could comprehend
the effects. This is still largely true. As an aside, we should note that it
is almost impossible to police the Internet by location perfectly.
Identifying server, content, and client by Internet address is insufficient.
Mechanisms such as anonymising, peer-to-peer, and encryption all undermine
any centralised attempts to impose control.

Secondly, anyone can provide information on the Internet. It removes
intermediaries (newspaper and other media magnates), and democratises the
information providing processes. Even powerful presences
such as the BBC or CNN are not providing as much information as the end user.
In some cases, the immediacy of this information makes it more valuable that
traditional sources. In other cases, the provenance and accuracy of the
information make it less valuable. It is not clear what the balance is, but it
is clear that censorship may be arbitrary, and remove more valuable information
than otherwise.

Thirdly, the Internet provides information about diversity just as
much as being a tool for uniformity or globalisation. Many Internet users form
their own communities (whether youth users such as MySpace or YouTube, or
language and culture based). Censorship threatens to lead to so-called
balkanisation of the Internet, where these groups are completely disjoint,
whereas today, they are simply ways to organise subsets of users and
interests, and do not represent actual boundaries.

In conclusion, many people are incensed by Internet Censorship. Technology is
not terribly effective at enforcing the arbitrary and local rules: our global
society needs to develop new social and legal processes to which we all have
input, so that the "baby luck" we have had in gaining the low cost advantages
the Internet brings is not thrown out with the "bathwater" via high-cost dodgy
and false content control mechanisms.

I would propose to start by refining two principles, those of
freedom of speech, and freedom from persecution.

Both of these principles are already subtly different depending whether
the means of expression is spoken or written (e.g. libel versus slander), and
indeed whether the spoken or written (heard or read) material was communicated
privately or publicly. What the Internet does is to introduce at least a 3rd
type of communications channel, which needs to be comprehended by its users
(recipients as much as transmitters). The Internet provides the ability to
distribute information at nearly zero cost to arbitrary (unforeseen) users.
[Aside: this is why Internet piracy is so attractive too].
Indeed, the receiver may have chosen to hunt and retrieve the information.
This is a very different world from the traditional channels of printed or
broadcast words, or even of private letters and telephone calls.

For writers, a refined version of the principle of "freedom of speech" should
include a middle ground in terms of consideration of audience, and in terms of
channel. A blog is nothing like a TV or Radio item or a newspaper article. Nor
is it directed like a letter. It has soem of the elements of a pub

For readers, what is retrieved on the net should be subject to a refined
version of the principle of "freedom from abuse or persecution". What was
written on a blog may well have been put there in a different culture, with a
different readership in mind. Sense of humour and cultural conventions vary
across the world, and normally, physical difference isolated receivers from
witnessing these differences. Downloading offensive material is a matter of
choice, and not of the authors' intent. Cartoons satirising Islam in poor taste in a dutch newspaper would not normally appear on the street in a village in Sudan.

Between these two refined principles, there still has to be room for
respect and negotiation, no different from the application of the principles
in the more traditional channels and media.

Of course, there are parts of the world when these principles are not
respected even in the traditional form. Nobody's perfect.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

apologize or else

Richard Dawkins
has written widely on the (non-)existence (probable) of God.

In his latest tome, I believe he commits 3 errors of argument, and several mistakes in terms of the tactics he uses, as well as
potentially leading us strategically down a dead end. While I don't disagree with some of his goals or many of his conclusions, I just wanted to point this out (amongst all the other noise:)

Firstly, there's a tendency to be unimaginative about alternative possible universes. There is a lot of material in the God Delusion dedicated countering arguments about
the existence of God from the complexity of the Universe. Understandably, given Dawkin's background, the argument that complexity emerges from the (simple) evolutionary (selection/crossover) processes is used widely, and reasonably. However this begs the question: why is the universe suited to the hierarchy of systems that allowess complexity (counter-intuitievely, negative entropically etc etc) to emerge? there are LOTS of alternative organisations that one could imagine of the laws of physics upwards that would not lead to such a possibility. The fact that energy, time and matter are organised arccording to a remarkably simple set of rules that do allow this is, obviously, remarkable - it doesn't prove the existence of god, but it is very very hard to argue about the probability of laws being this way rather than another way - we don;t have necessary priors to do the Baysian inferencing - we don't even have the level of evidence that SETI folks use in arguming about the probability of intelligenyt species on other planets (in other solar systems tec etc) _ we don't have alternative physical universices to look at except in simulation, and precious few (even in Sci Fi literature) have the ability to cook up
viable alternatives and examine their relative likelihood in the "best of all possible random choices". [footnote:- there was a competition in the New Scientist, I think, a few years back to see who could achieve most for the human race with the smallest change to the laws of physics - the winner was someone who observed that altering the speed of light by a very small amount could make the threshold for fission and fusion bombs impossible to achieve on earth, but let all of chemsiitry and important physics liek the stable fusion process in stars, continue largely undetectably the same. More please:-]

Secondly,there's a failure to look at a LOT Of anthropology literature - a common failing of Oxford academics (Penrose is similar in lapses of citation of colleagues elsewhere:) which addresses the question both of diversity and numbers of (e.g. languages, but also) religions. There are reasons why diverse languages evolve rapidly, and they are to do with increased survival of the gene pool (in line with Dawkins' own theories). A good summary of some of the ideas behind this is in
"Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language" by
Robin Dunbar, which referenecs a lot of evidence anthropologists haev gathered on the topic (not just nice headline grabbing stuff about potlatch or cargo cults).

Thirdly, Dawkins says that children may be natural thesists - well I'd love to know his evidence (admitedly, there is the Israeli study, but Jewish studies conflate culture, race and religion, and so are not good at pulling out any inate religiosity, imho) - anecdote: a Latin teacher tried to claim a bunch of religious views as fact to a class of ten year-olds that I happened to be in. The class objected - he said "you are too young to decide not to believe", to which they ALL retorted: "So are we not too young to believe, by the same argument" - this was in a church school - yet the children were able to see that "default off" was just as good as "default on" in the face of no evidence - I bet there's plenty of evidence that default behaviours are established by culture VERY early by peer pressure and example (c.f. gender role/behaviour etc).

I believe that Dawkins does no favours to his case by including a tactic that too often includes ad hominem remarks - for the examples of ludicrous behaviour (e.g. televangelists), he will preaching to the deaf or the converted. For some other examples, we may (or may not) know who is talking about:)

More seriously, I question the entire strategy behind writing the God Delusion. While I see there are many dangerous religious extremist groups trying to set global agendas today, I feel that taking them (that is to say, the extremist components) seriously at all (and taking them alongside the moderate reglious) is an error - as John Sladek said (quoted) in Roderick at Random, if there's somethign more dangorous than a disbelief in the existence of intelligent robots, it is too much of an unhealthy belief in their existence.

Finally, a note on humour. All the humour in Dawkins' work is quoted - does the man actually have his own sense of humour, or just the ability to recognize it in others? Douglas Adams wasn't just funny: He was also succinct:)

Vonnegut said that the true message of the New Testament is not
"turn the other cheek". It is that people should check who the Mr Big is behind someone before they plan to crucify them. There's lots of simple examples like this that Dawkins could also use to stengthen his arguments through simplicity. Or not.

Joke: what if life was just a hologram of a french 19*19 board game - Le Go d'Illusion ? :-)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


mad, bad ideas abound in the world, and here are a few of mine.

however here is an even worse one:

so i've been thinking about applications and usability

a feature of handsets is that there are limited resources
but the famous success of handsets is SMS - so the
popularity of txt messageing is sometimes attributed to its use
not as a tool for information, but as a channel for emotional
communication - studies (e.g.

so is there a case to be made that we should design
oppprtunistic applications' UIs very badly
to FORCE users to think outside the box (ie.. play the
hacker/workaround game) to find the ways of using our applications
in new and creative ways

i.e. is there a case for the
Really Stupid Interface design paradigm?

(RSI is not just a conincidence:-)

apologize or else

1. An islamic policeman is let off from guarding the Israeli embassy in London in case his relatives in the middle east are threatened

MP jack straw doesn't want to let women wearing a veil over their face into his castle (sorry, i mean constituency meetings)

The british army want to give their soldiers a tax break/bonus
for fighting in Iraq

This is all very odd, since these people are all essentially evading the job they are PAID to do. obviously, the solutions are simple and is an example of the type of joined-up-thinking this government claims but fails so visibly to employ:
1. the british army should guard the israeli embassy, and the british islamic policemen should be required to fight in Iraq, but wearing a veil to avoid being recognized.
2. jack straw should be required to wear suspenders, high heals and a bra (and nothing else) when seeing men in his constituency
3. Tony blair should retire immediately and take over running afghanistan, as he is so good at sorting out people's disagrements.