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computing

Those who predict the future tend to overestimate change in the short term and underestimate change in the long term. The Desk Set from 1957 with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy envisioned mainframe-based automation eliminating human staffers in a TV network research department. That has happened to some extent, though it took another 50 years and people are still involved. But the greater technological threat wasn’t to the research department but to the TV network itself. Will there even be television networks in 2029? Will there even be television? Big Data is the new Artificial Intelligence

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Here is why this is so bad: the heartbeat response can contain up to sixty-four kilobytes of whatever data happens to be in the server’s random access memory at the moment the request arrives. There is no way to predict what that memory will contain, but system memory routinely contains login names, passwords, secure certificates, and access tokens of all kinds. System memory is temporary: it is erased when a computer is shut down, and the data it holds is written and overwritten all the time. It is generally regarded as safe to load things like cryptographic keys or unencrypted passwords into system memory—indeed, there is little a computer can usefully do without temporarily storing pieces of sensitive data in its system memory. The Heartbleed bug allows an attacker to “bleed” out random drops of this memory simply by asking for it. Heartbeat requests aren’t usually logged or monitored in any way, so an attack leaves no trace. It’s not even possible to distinguish malicious heartbeat requests from authentic requests without close analysis. So an attacker can request new pieces of system memory over and over again; it’s almost impossible for the victim to know they’ve been targeted, let alone to know what data might have been stolen. The Internet’s Telltale Heartbleed

Either way, no matter who wins out, it was never about the rendering. All four of these visions have one thing in common: the servers. It’s about who owns the servers. The servers that store your metrics. The servers that shout the ads. The servers that transmit your chat. The servers that geofence your every movement. It’s time to wake up to the fact that you’re just another avatar in someone else’s MMO. Worse. From where they stand, all-powerful Big Data analysts that they are, you look an awful lot like a bot. The real race isn’t over the client — the glasses, watches, phones, or goggles. It’s over the servers. It’s over the operating system. The one that understands countless layers of semantic tags upon every object on earth, the one that knows who to show you in Machu Picchu, the one that lets you turn whole visualizations of reality on and off. Musings on the Oculus sale

We haven’t lost yet, but we have to win the copyright war first if we want to keep the Internet and the PC free and open. Freedom in the future will require us to have the capacity to monitor our devices and set meaningful policies for them; to examine and terminate the software processes that runs on them; and to maintain them as honest servants to our will, not as traitors and spies working for criminals, thugs, and control freaks. Lockdown: The coming war on general-purpose computing

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Today we have a paradox, the more communistic the sharing license we use in the peer production of free software or open hardware, the more capitalistic the practice, with for example the Linux commons becoming a corporate commons enriching IBM and the like … it works in a certain way, and seems acceptable to most free software developers, but is it the only way? From the Communism of Capital to a Capital for the Commons

But the Turing test cuts both ways. You can’t tell if a machine has gotten smarter or if you’ve just lowered your own standards of intelligence to such a degree that the machine seems smart. If you can have a conversation with a simulated person presented by an AI program, can you tell how far you’ve let your sense of personhood degrade in order to make the illusion work for you? Jaron Lanier

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The idea that a computer might know you better than you know yourself may sound preposterous, but take stock of your life for a moment. How many years of credit card transactions, emails, Facebook likes, and digital photographs are sitting on some company’s servers right now, feeding algorithms about your preferences and habits? What would your first move be if you were in a new city and lost your smartphone? I think mine would be to borrow someone else’s smartphone and then get Google to help me rewire the missing circuits of my digital self. Ed Finn

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