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Friday, November 21, 2014

Domesticating Ourselves...

So here in the WSJ we have direct evidence that people, such as pilots, who allow automation (such as autopilot) to take over for their skills, lose their skills very quickly.

The article reasonably concludes this is dangerous because pilots come to accept what automation does and react to the operation of the automation instead of acting proactively taking control of the plan and allow the automation to "help."

So what does this say about cars, for example, and the automation that is increasingly taking over their operation?

One is reminded of the novel "The Humanoids" by Jack Williamson where, under the guise of "To Serve and Obey, And Guard Men From Harm" take away everything man does for himself (such as driving a car, reading, doing everyday tasks) because they might be dangerous.  Man is left to sit in a padded room where everything is done for him by Humanoids.

Basically we are becoming stupid through use of our own machines that 'help' us each day.

I have written on this blog elsewhere where even the ability of young males in today's society to have normal sexual relations is thwarted by the plentiful pornography the wireless devices bring (I can't find the link here or in my other blogs but it was some TED video - perhaps lost by google when deleting my old posts).

I have also written how modern feminism has stripped away from young me the ability to be men (see this old post).

Here (and there are more related thoughts being published if you google "domestication neural crest") we see that science thinks domestication is a process of creating less-than-fully-capable animals.

So does our own automation do this?

One would have to agree that it does.

I wonder if things like "government aid" accomplishes the same?

Certainly there are scenarios where aid is appropriate but as a lifestyle when one is fully able to work the consequences of "helpful intervention" in the long term would seem to diminish the capacity of those who receive it.

More "self driving" cars will simply make people as drivers less able, just as with pilots.

One imagines government programs dispensing food will there also make those receiving it less able to acquire it on their own.  Ditto for jobs, and so forth as well.

Oh well at least people will be having fun while getting dumber...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fedex Robo Call Security Fail

I'm driving in my car.

The phone rings.

It's a robo call from Fedex informing me of a pending delivery the next day requiring a signature.

Sometimes this is a problem...

The robot reads out the tracking number digit by digit.

But I'm driving so I can't write it down.

No worries, I think, I have an online account and Fedex will send me an email with the tracking info.

I check email at home - nothing from Fedex.

So I call... (pick "Other options" twice from the idiot robot that answers to find a human).

"I got a call but I was driving and I have no email," I explain.

"I want to go online and set the option of pre-signing so if I am out my package will still arrive."

"I can't help you," is the reply, "we aren't allowed to sign for packages for you."

I see...

"Okay, can I have the tracking number then - I will go online and handle this..." I retort.

"No, we can't give out the tracking number on phone..."


The robot can give me the tracking number but a person can't...

Hmmm, should I call the robot back?

How dumb is this.

You can't have your people give me my own info because they can't be trusted.

Fortunately I was able to weedle the shipper from the agent and I was able to track it that way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Tyranny of “Sanitary Euphemisms”

Gotta love this turn of phrase The Tyranny of “Sanitary Euphemisms.”  See this

Today's little kiddies spending Mommy and Daddy's money at college are so afraid of the "trauma" of "feeling uncomfortable" that anything potentially troubling or merely controversial must support a warning in case the little kiddies don't have the stomach for it.

So some woman (as described in the link above) shows up at a so called "college" and gives a speech on the importance of the First Amendment (a part of the United States the place where you live) Constitution (for those with a modern liberal arts degree the "Constitution" is a document written on paper obtained through the destruction and desecration of wilderness and trees by old racist, bigoted, misogynistic homophobes to hold down and repress all minorities and women) and uses Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn as an example.

The topic (including the use, as Wikipedia call it, of "local color regionalism") is so horrifying that someone who posts the audio of the speech places the following warning at the front of it:

“Trigger/Content Warnings: Racism/racial slurs, abelist slurs, anti-Semitic language, anti-Muslim/Islamophobic language, anti-immigrant language, sexist/misogynistic slurs, references to race-based violence.”

So I guess little Johnny and Suzy are unable to function if they hear such horrors.

What will happen when little Johnny or Suzy are an adults and forced to live in a world without the Tyranny of Sanitary Euphemisms?

Like someone in a quick-mart says a bad word?

Or their boss calls them stupid?

Or the barbarians crash through the gates?

I guess they'll just sit down and cry...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Tyranny of "Consensus" - Why the Supreme Court Needs to Enforce API Copyrights

I have been very busy with a number of things which I shall write about at some point in the future.

However, this PDF link (created by the Electronic Freedom Foundation) caught my eye: It's from a link from ArsTechnica describing how copyrights on API's are a "thread" to the tech industry.

It basically says that without public access to software API's the tech world is doomed.

The PDF is written by "concerned scientists" as an amicus brief to the SCOTUS explaining why things like the UNIX system API's are all "public domain" and hence copyright should not be enforced.

In particular on page #9 of the PDF describes how the UNIX APIs, originally owned by AT&T, suddenly and magically became public domain as part of Linus Torvalds gift to humanity via Linux.

As someone who has used UNIX since 1975 and in person purchased a copy from Bell Labs on behalf of my employer in 1977 I can tell you that this software was owned by ATT and that there restriction on commercial use.  Certainly anyone could use UNIX but commercialization of any part of the original Bell Labs UNIX was a different story.

See, for example, this link regarding SCO and IBM.

It seems clear that anyone who creates an API and has ownership thereof can freely make such an API "public."

There is clear controversy about both the ownership and value of the UNIX APIs.

As for the APIs themselves?

There are several issues here.  For example, the original UNIX documentation had various sections accessible via man, a program to display documentation via print.  Section #1 was based on program, e.g., ls, cd, and so on.  Section #3 was based on the C API (also described in the EFF PDF) and defined things like read, open and close.

All of the original code we received was under copyright - there were no exceptions for APIs.  APIs were a "new thing" in the 1970's.

So the first question I would ask is why are the magical rights bestowed on others relative to Section #3 different than any other part of the documentation?

After all the C API is an API into kernal calls just like the shell command line.

It's taken thirty-some years of litigation to establish what can be freely used by something like Linux and what cannot.

Our EFF friends would like to hand-wave away this history and have you believe that the original APIs and associated copyrights are now simply public "rights" of anyone.

Our EFF PDF also does not clarify exactly what an "API" is.  Is it merely for compilers or does it include humans or other types of automata?  Does an API even require a computer? Today an API can be created for anything form submitting taxes to the IRS to communicating with satellites to controlling electronic cigarettes.

For example, patent claims often create an API for a process of some sort - does making any "API" open apply there?

I think not.

The entire concept of "openness" used in software APIs today to a large degree discards the rights of the authors who created them.  Richie and Thompson create UNIX for AT&T - not themselves as AT&T Bell Labs paid their salaries and hence owned their work product - and the "openness" of these APIs was ultimately decided by thirty years of litigation.

Much of what is open today is donated by the actual owners directly or indirectly.  And in my book this is as it should be.  If Microsoft chooses not to pursue the creator of something like Samba so be it - this is implicitly granting public license.

But what about Monsanto?  One could argue that DNA is simply an API - it has, like UNIX, a well understood set of operations, sequences, codes, and so on that create subroutines, e.g., glyphosate tolerance, which can be manipulated just like software subroutines and moved from one organism to another.  So why aren't Monsanto's "RoundUp Ready" products open?

As a programmer I believe that I own what I create - especially if I pay my own salary.  And any API I create is my own. 

I decide whether or not to cast it into the public domain.

Not the great community of developers who wish to usurp my rights and property for "the greater good."

No, today's programmers want to share everything - there is no responsibility of authorship or ownership - everything is owned by everyone.

I disagree - the same thinking is being forced onto music and soon, I am sure, the authoring of books.

After all, why should anyone own anything?

Why not make it all owned by the collective - the State?

Oh wait - humanity has tried that and tens of millions gave their lives.

Good thing no one teaches history any more so we can stumble down this well-worn path with our eyes wide open...