Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What I Learned On Youtube: Sep. 18


This is the first of several articles I will be sharing with all of you, each of which chronicling what I can learn from youtube in just a few hours. I'm not interested in providing an acknowledgement heavy preface for this blog, albeit new and unread.  Instead, I ask only that you read, comment and criticize.

What I learned today: Doubt and Skepticism is awesome.

With a fresh cup of coffee in hand, I turned on my laptop eagerly looking forward to adding six more pages to an ongoing writing project. But that didn't happen. I was distracted by a video. No, it didn't have a kitten in it or a news broadcaster dropping F-bombs. It was Cory Doctorow: "The Coming Civil War over General-purpose Computing", Talks at Google. 

I know what you're thinking.

"Why didn't that appear in my search for 'Most Awesome YouTube Clip...Ever'"

Well, because you'd have to be as nerdy as myself to find it.  And being a nerd, I like to start my day reading websites that cover tech, movies, comic books, video games, and finally politics.

I stumbled upon this video treasure while glancing Kurzweil, Accelerating Intelligence.  I've been a fan of that website since watching the documentary, Transcendent Man.  Before I clicked the play button, these were my expectations: he'll talk about computers of the future and wars fought using robots, kind of like a book reading of Terminator.

I didn't get the futuristic tale of Jetsons meets Robocop I expected, but I was delightfully entertained nonetheless.  And this is what I learned.

1. I'm not the only one that thinks Digital Rights Management is dumb. (Copyright Law doesn't scale to the internet)

Basically, protecting software against hacks will work until it doesn't. And that usually happens within the first few minutes that a teenager with a laptop starts looking at the DRM. Ultimately, there seems to be only a few options to really protect consumer software from pirates and other "intellectual property thieves". I'm sorry but just typing those words makes me think of Leonardo DeCaprio sneaking around my dreams, well-dressed of course, and hijacking every good thought I have hidden in there leaving behind just knock knock jokes and my idea for a movie about a guy sneaking around dreams and well....

The options for DRM seemed to be loading computers with double secret software that the owner can't see or find but will prevent any unauthorized use of DRM. It would be like having a cloaked Predator standing in a crosswalk eviscerating jaywalkers. I guess the only problem would be when real criminals learn how to use cloaking themselves.

Ultimately, putting secret backdoor programs on your computer without the owner's knowledge can only lead to bad things. Maybe owners should be allowed to do whatever they want to their computer and should have a reasonable expectation to know everything that's loaded on it.

2. Holy Crap, computers are everywhere and they know everything.

Society relies on computers to do a lot of things and it's easy to see a future with more computers in it.  They have microphones and cameras, control RF, are connected everywhere, and we have one close to us all the time. It would really suck if people/govt/corporations used them to spy on me. 

3. René Descartes makes me feel really dumb, but at least I know I exist. (Thanks, one less thing to think about)

OK, he's the father of modern philosophy and the phrase, I think therefore I am is attributed to him.

First mental hurdle, he lived during the early part of the 17th century. I'm not a mathematician like this old, dead French dude, but that's a long time ago. I'm guessing this is a liberal use of the word "modern".  All kidding aside, I learned that this guy was questioning his very existence. He determined that because he was thinking and aware of the question, that he was real. But just his mind. Not his body.

See, he believed that the senses couldn't be trusted all the time. The only way to make sure that his body and the world around him was real was through a series of tests. Yeah, it makes you wonder what he would have come up with if he'd been tripping his balls off for 18 hours.

Oh yeah, and the only way you know that you're not dreaming is because you're awake. And when you're dreaming, you don't know you're dreaming.

4. Streaming Music and Video is the same as downloading. 

My new favorite quote is, "We have this consensus hallucination that there's a difference between a stream and a download, as though there's some means of transmitting a stream of bits to someone's computer without actually having them download that stream of bits. Like the internet is made of mirrors and speaking tubes. We say stream, we mean your receiving software doesn't have a save as button" - Cory Doctorow

5. Cars are really dangerous.  

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 5-34. It's really dangerous, and we all do it...everyday. 50k people die each year in car crashes. It doesn't kill as many people as cancer, heart disease, and smoking, but it's next on the list. Think about it people. We've gone after the tobacco companies. There's a war on fastfood and snacks in this country. Can we admit to ourselves that our addiction to cars is killing us. 

Not yet? OK.

Oh, we're waiting for the autonomous cars that will eventually drive us past McDonald's and Bestbuy because the onboard computer talks to our laptop and phone and facebook and knows everything about us, up to the point of driving us to see a matinée of Dark Knight Rises instead of going to that off-site meeting.

I will name mine BumbleBee.

6. Whether we use a computer or own one, individuals still have rights. Human Rights.

I understand if you don't keep up with your payments on your car, it can be repossessed. But doesn't the repo man have to notify you first. What if you took out a loan to buy some new legs, or an implant so you can hear better. Could it really be like that terrible Jude Law movie aptly named, Repo Men. Well, according to Cory, yeah it could be. 

In 2006, a computer controlled parking garage of the future in Hoboken, N.J. (I know right?) was shut off remotely over a dispute between the garage owner and the software vendor. I guess if you hold 314 cars hostage, you get paid regardless if it was an accounting error.

Basically, we are going to be living in a world where we will rely on and use computers or computer-controlled devices. If we don't have control over them and our user rights aren't recognized as human rights, abuse may follow.

7. Finally, I learned the word "a priori". 

A really smart person asked a question and used the word a priori. I didn't know what that word meant and now I do, because I looked it up.

I learned a lot today watching one youtube video. It wasn't a vertical stream of knowledge downloaded directly into my surgically implanted storage device, but at least I have some new things to bring up when I don't want to talk about the weather, traffic, or that mole on my neck.

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