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  • North Korea Denies Responsibility for Sony Attack, Warns Against Retaliation

    jones_supa writes: A North Korean official said that the secretive regime wants to mount a joint investigation with the United States to identify who was behind the cyber attack against Sony Pictures. An unnamed spokesman of the North Korean foreign ministry was quoted by the country's state news agency, KCNA, describing U.S. claims they were behind the hack as "slander." "As the United States is spreading groundless allegations and slandering us, we propose a joint investigation with it into this incident," the official said, according to Agence France-Presse. Both the FBI and President Barack Obama have said evidence was uncovered linking the hack to to North Korea, but some experts have questioned the evidence tying the attack to Pyongyang. Meanwhile, reader hessian notes that 2600: The Hacker Quarterly has offered to let the hacker community distribute The Interview for Sony. It's an offer Sony may actually find useful, since the company is now considering releasing the movie on a "different platform." Reader Nicola Hahn warns that we shouldn't be too quick to accept North Korea as the bad guy in this situation: Most of the media has accepted North Korea's culpability with little visible skepticism. There is one exception: Kim Zetter at Wired has decried the evidence as flimsy and vocally warns about the danger of jumping to conclusions. Surely we all remember high-ranking, ostensibly credible, officials warning about the smoking gun that comes in the form of a mushroom cloud? This underscores the ability of the agenda-setting elements of the press to frame issues and control the acceptable limits of debate. Some would even say that what's happening reveals tools of modern social control (PDF). Whether or not they're responsible for the attack, North Korea has now warned of "serious consequences" if the U.S. takes action against them for it.

    125 comments | 4 hours ago

  • What Happens To Society When Robots Replace Workers?

    Paul Fernhout writes: An article in the Harvard Business Review by William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone suggests: "The "Second Economy" (the term used by economist Brian Arthur to describe the portion of the economy where computers transact business only with other computers) is upon us. It is, quite simply, the virtual economy, and one of its main byproducts is the replacement of workers with intelligent machines powered by sophisticated code. ... This is why we will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value. Figuring out how to deal with the impacts of this development will be the greatest challenge facing free market economies in this century. ... Ultimately, we need a new, individualized, cultural, approach to the meaning of work and the purpose of life. Otherwise, people will find a solution — human beings always do — but it may not be the one for which we began this technological revolution."

    This follows the recent Slashdot discussion of "Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates" citing a NY Times article and other previous discussions like Humans Need Not Apply. What is most interesting to me about this HBR article is not the article itself so much as the fact that concerns about the economic implications of robotics, AI, and automation are now making it into the Harvard Business Review. These issues have been otherwise discussed by alternative economists for decades, such as in the Triple Revolution Memorandum from 1964 — even as those projections have been slow to play out, with automation's initial effect being more to hold down wages and concentrate wealth rather than to displace most workers. However, they may be reaching the point where these effects have become hard to deny despite going against mainstream theory which assumes infinite demand and broad distribution of purchasing power via wages.

    As to possible solutions, there is a mention in the HBR article of using government planning by creating public works like infrastructure investments to help address the issue. There is no mention in the article of expanding the "basic income" of Social Security currently only received by older people in the U.S., expanding the gift economy as represented by GNU/Linux, or improving local subsistence production using, say, 3D printing and gardening robots like Dewey of "Silent Running." So, it seems like the mainstream economics profession is starting to accept the emerging reality of this increasingly urgent issue, but is still struggling to think outside an exchange-oriented box for socioeconomic solutions. A few years ago, I collected dozens of possible good and bad solutions related to this issue. Like Davidow and Malone, I'd agree that the particular mix we end up will be a reflection of our culture. Personally, I feel that if we are heading for a technological "singularity" of some sort, we would be better off improving various aspects of our society first, since our trajectory going out of any singularity may have a lot to do with our trajectory going into it.

    311 comments | 5 hours ago

  • Virtual Reality Experiment Wants To Put White People In Black Bodies

    Molly McHugh (3774987) writes with an intriguing use of VR technology: "It's as simple as making a light-skinned person feel connected to a virtual, darker skinned self—a thought experiment pretty much impossible without the immersive potency of VR. The effect is achieved by outfitting participants in VR headsets with built-in head-tracking and motion capture capabilities that sync actual movement to virtual experience." From the article: Evolving from cruder methods, VR is a natural extension of research examining the ways that people think differently when made to feel like they are part of a meaningfully different social group, known as an outgroup. ... What’s most exciting about this channel of research is that it gets at the kind of complex, subtle prejudices that most people can’t even articulate if asked directly.

    446 comments | 4 days ago

  • The Personal Computer Revolution Behind the Iron Curtain

    szczys writes Obviously the personal computer revolution was world-wide, but the Eastern Bloc countries had a story of PC evolution all their own. Martin Malý tells first hand of his experiences seeing black market imports, locally built clones of popular western machines, and all kinds of home-built equipment. From the article: "The biggest problem was a lack of modern technologies. There were a lot of skilled and clever people in eastern countries, but they had a lot of problems with the elementary technical things. Manufacturing of electronics parts was divided into diverse countries of Comecon – The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance. In reality, it led to an absurd situation: You could buy the eastern copy of Z80 (made in Eastern Germany as U880D), but you couldn’t buy 74LS00 at the same time. Yes, a lot of manufacturers made it, but 'it is out of stock now; try to ask next year.' So 'make a computer' meant 50 percent of electronics skills and 50 percent of unofficial social network and knowledge like 'I know a guy who knows a guy and his neighbor works in a factory, where they maybe have a material for PCBs' at those times."

    115 comments | 5 days ago

  • Sony Pictures Leak Reveals Quashed Plan To Upload Phony Torrents

    retroworks writes Motherboard.vice offers an interesting scoop from the hacked Sony Pictures email trove. A plan championed by Polish marketing employee Magda Mastalerz was to upload false versions of highly-pirated Sony programming, effectively polluting torrent sites with false positives. For example, a "Hannibal"-themed anti-piracy ad to popular torrent sites disguised as the first episode. Sony Pictures legal department quashed the idea, saying that if pirate sites were illegal, it would also be illegal for Sony Pictures to upload onto them. There were plans in WW2 to drop phony counterfeit currency to disrupt markets, and I wonder why flooding underground markets with phony products isn't widespread. Why don't credit card companies manufacture fake lists of stolen credit card numbers, or phony social security numbers, for illegal trading sites? For that matter, would fake ivory, fake illegal porn, and other "false positives" discourage buyers? Or create alibis?

    130 comments | 5 days ago

  • Vinyl Record Pressing Plants Struggle To Keep Up With Demand

    An anonymous reader writes The WSJ reports that the revival of vinyl records, a several-year trend that many figured was a passing fad, has accelerated during 2014 with an astounding 49 percent sales increase over 2013 (line chart here). Some listeners think that vinyl reproduces sound better than digital, and some youngsters like the social experience of gathering around a turntable. The records are pressed at a handful of decades-old, labor-intensive factories that can't keep up with the demand; but since the increased sales still represent only about 2 percent of US music sales, there hasn't been a rush of capital investment to open new plants. Raw vinyl must now be imported to America from countries such as Thailand, since the last US supplier closed shop years ago. Meanwhile, an industry pro offers his take on the endless debate of audio differences between analog records and digital formats; it turns out there were reasons for limiting playing time on each side back in the day, apart from bands not having enough decent material.

    433 comments | about a week ago

  • Facebook Drops Bing Search Results

    New submitter mrflash818 writes Facebook has dumped search results from Microsoft's Bing after the social networking giant earlier this week launched its own tool for finding comments and other information. According to Reuters, Facebook confirmed the move Friday. TechCrunch, drawing on the same Reuters story as VentureBeat, says "The report says that Facebook’s new search tool will give users the ability to filter through old comments and other information from friends. Facebook has been building out its search products for a long time, using Bing as an extra layer to provide results beyond the Interest Graph in an effort to avoid letting rival Google into the system."

    33 comments | about a week ago

  • How Your In-Store Shopping Affects the Ads You See On Facebook

    itwbennett writes Facebook has made several acquisitions over the years to help advertisers target their ads and extend their reach. Custom Audiences is one such targeting tool, allowing retailers to match shoppers in their stores with their accounts on Facebook. It's often done through an email address, phone number or name. Facebook won't give hard numbers, but there seems to be a lot of matching going on. For decades, marketers have been trying to understand more about what's happening at the point of sale, 'so their systems are really robust at capturing a strikingly large amount of transactions,' says Brian Boland, Facebook's VP of advertising technology.

    69 comments | about two weeks ago

  • An Algorithm To Prevent Twitter Hashtag Degeneration

    Bennett Haselton writes The corruption of the #Ferguson and #Gamergate hashtags demonstrates how vulnerable the hashtag system is to being swamped by an "angry mob". An alternative algorithm could be created that would allow users to post tweets and browse the ones that had been rated "thoughtful" by other users participating in the same discussion. This would still allow anyone to contribute, even average users lacking a large follower base, while keeping the most stupid and offensive tweets out of most people's feeds. Keep reading to see what Bennett has to say.

    162 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Economist: US Congress Should Hack Digital Millennium Copyright Act

    retroworks writes This week's print edition of The Economist has an essay on the Right to Tinker with hardware. From the story: "Exactly why copyright law should be involved in something that ought to be a simple matter of consumer rights is hard to fathom. Any rational interpretation would suggest that when people buy or pay off the loan on a piece of equipment—whether a car, a refrigerator or a mobile phone—they own it, and should be free to do what they want with it. Least of all should they have to seek permission from the manufacturer or the government."

    129 comments | about two weeks ago

  • How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Twitterbot

    An anonymous reader writes Have you ever wondered what it is like to have your online identity hijacked and replaced with a Russian-speaking Bruce Willis impostor? Here's a lesson in online impersonation from Passcode, The Christian Science Monitor's soon-to-launch section on security and privacy in the digital age. From the article: "Weeks prior, I changed my handle from @SaraSorcherNJ to the simpler @SaraSorcher when I left my job at National Journal covering national security to join The Christian Science Monitor to help lead our new section on, somewhat ironically considering the situation, security and privacy. Apparently within days of that change, someone - or a bot - had taken over my former work identity. My real account, @SaraSorcher, still existed. In my picture, I was still smiling and wearing a gray suit. The @SaraSorcherNJ account — Fake Me — sported a smirking, balding Willis in a track suit and v-neck white tee. I tweet about news and wonky security policy issues. Fake Russian-speaking Me enjoys 'watching Hannibal, eating apples and pondering the nature of existence.'"

    54 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Twitter Use By Romney and Obama In 2012 Highlight the Speed of Social Media

    HughPickens.com writes On 30 August 2012, Hollywood star Clint Eastwood took the stage to lambast President Obama. What ensued was an odd, 11-minute monologue where Eastwood conversed with an empty chair upon which an imaginary Barack Obama sat. The evening of Eastwood's speech the official campaign Twitter account @MittRomney did not mention the actor, while the Obama campaign deftly tweeted out from @BarackObama a picture of the president sitting in his chair with the words "This Seat's Taken". The picture was retweeted 59,663 times, favorited 23,887 times, and, as importantly, was featured in news articles across the country. According to Daniel Kress both campaigns sought to influence journalists in direct and indirect ways, and planned their strategic communication efforts around political events such as debates well in advance. Despite these similarities, staffers say that Obama's campaign had much greater ability to respond in real time to unfolding commentary around political events (PDF) given an organizational structure that provided digital staffers with a high degree of autonomy.

    Romney's social media team did well when it practiced its strategy carefully before big events like the debates. But Obama's social media team was often quicker to respond to things and more creative. According to Kress, at extraordinary moments campaigns can exercise what Isaac Reed calls "performative power," influence over other actors' definitions of the situation and their consequent actions through well-timed, resonant, and rhetorically effective communicative action and interaction. During the Romney campaign as many as 22 staffers screened posts for Romney's social media accounts before they could go out. As Romney's digital director Zac Moffatt told Kreiss, the campaign had "the best tweets ever written by 17 people. ... It was the best they all could agree on every single time."

    47 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Neglecting the Lessons of Cypherpunk History

    Nicola Hahn writes Over the course of the Snowden revelations there have been a number of high profile figures who've praised the merits of encryption as a remedy to the quandary of mass interception. Companies like Google and Apple have been quick to publicize their adoption of cryptographic countermeasures in an effort to maintain quarterly earnings. This marketing campaign has even convinced less credulous onlookers like Glenn Greenwald. For example, in a recent Intercept piece, Greenwald claimed:

    "It is well-established that, prior to the Snowden reporting, Silicon Valley companies were secret, eager and vital participants in the growing Surveillance State. Once their role was revealed, and they perceived those disclosures threatening to their future profit-making, they instantly adopted a PR tactic of presenting themselves as Guardians of Privacy. Much of that is simply self-serving re-branding, but some of it, as I described last week, are genuine improvements in the technological means of protecting user privacy, such as the encryption products now being offered by Apple and Google, motivated by the belief that, post-Snowden, parading around as privacy protectors is necessary to stay competitive."

    So, while he concedes the role of public relations in the ongoing cyber security push, Greenwald concurrently believes encryption is a "genuine" countermeasure. In other words, what we're seeing is mostly marketing hype... except for the part about strong encryption.

    With regard to the promise of encryption as a privacy cure-all, history tells a markedly different story. Guarantees of security through encryption have often proven illusory, a magic act. Seeking refuge in a technical quick fix can be hazardous for a number of reasons.

    103 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Sony Employees Receive Email Threat From Hackers: 'Your Family Will Be In Danger

    MojoKid writes: Things are going from bad to worse when it comes to the recent Sony Pictures Entertainment breach. Not only has sensitive financial information been released — including the salaries of high-ranking Sony executives — but more damaging personal information including 47,000 Social Security numbers of employees and actors have been leaked to the internet. We're now learning some even more disturbing details, unfortunately. Guardians of Peace (GOP), the hackers claiming responsibility for infiltrating Sony's computer network, are now threatening to harm the families of Sony employees. GOP reportedly sent Sony employees an email, which just so happened to be riddled with spelling and grammatical errors, that read in part, "your family will be in danger."

    184 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Programmer Father Asks: What Gets Little Girls Interested In Science?

    nbauman writes Programmer David Auerbach is dismayed that, at a critical developmental age, his 4-year-old daughter wants to be a princess, not a scientist or engineer, he writes in Slate. The larger society keeps forcing sexist stereotypes on her, in every book and toy store. From the article: "Getting more women into science and technology fields: Where’s the silver bullet? While I might get more hits by revealing the One Simple Trick to increase female participation in the sciences, the truth is there isn’t some key inflection point where young women’s involvement drops off. Instead, there is a series of small- to medium-sized discouraging factors that set in from a young age, ranging from unhelpful social conditioning to a lack of role models to unconscious bias to very conscious bias. Any and all of these can figure into why, for example, women tend to underrate their technical abilities relative to men. I know plenty of successful women in the sciences, but let’s not fool ourselves and say the playing field in the academic sciences or the tech world is even. My wife attributes her pursuit of programming to being a loner and pretty much ignoring wider society while growing up: 'Being left alone with a computer (with NO INTERNET TO TELL ME WHAT I COULDN’T DO) was the deciding factor,' she tells me."

    584 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Interviews: Malcolm Gladwell Answers Your Questions

    A few weeks ago, you had a chance to ask Malcolm Gladwell about his writing and social science research. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.

    48 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Celebrated Russian Hacker Now In Exile

    An anonymous reader writes: VKontakte is a Russian social network, more popular there than even Facebook. Its founder, Pavel Durov, was a celebrity for his entrepreneurial skills, much like Mark Zuckerberg elsewhere. But as Russia has cracked down on internet freedoms, 30-year-old Durov had to relinquish control of the social network. He eventually fled the country when the government pressured him to release data on Ukrainian protest leaders. He's now a sort of roving hacker, showing up where he's welcome and not staying too long. "Mr. Durov, known for his subversive wit and an all-black wardrobe that evokes Neo from the Matrix movies, is now a little-seen nomad, moving from country to country every few weeks with a small band of computer programmers. One day he is in Paris, another in Singapore." Durov said, "I'm very happy right now without any property anywhere. I consider myself a legal citizen of the world."

    130 comments | about three weeks ago

  • James Watson's Nobel Prize Goes On Auction This Week

    HughPickens.com writes: Nicholas St. Fleur reports at The Atlantic that James Watson, the famed molecular biologist and co-discoverer of DNA, is putting his Nobel Prize up for auction on Thursday. He's the first Nobel laureate in history to do so. In 2007, Watson, best known for his work deciphering the DNA double helix alongside Francis Crick in 1953, made an incendiary remark regarding the intelligence of black people that lost him the admiration of the scientific community. It made him, in his own words, an "unperson." That year, The Sunday Times quoted Watson as saying that he felt "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really." Watson has a history of making racist and sexist declarations, according to Time. At a science conference in 2012, Watson said of women in science, "I think having all these women around makes it more fun for the men but they're probably less effective." To many scientists his gravest offense was not crediting Rosalind Franklin with helping him deduce the structure of DNA.

    Watson is selling his prized medallion because he has no income outside of academia, even though for years he had served on many corporate boards. The gold medal is expected to bring in between $2.5 million and $3.5 million when it goes to auction. Watson says that he will use the money to purchase art and make donations to institutions that have supported him, such as the University of Chicago. He adds that the auction will also offer him the chance to "re-enter public life." "I've had a unique life that's allowed me to do things. I was set back. It was stupid on my part," says Watson. "All you can do is nothing, except hope that people actually know what you are."

    355 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Want To Work For a Cool Tech Company? Hone Your Social Skills

    jfruh writes Big companies like Google may need to fill seats with high-skilled workers, but smaller companies — which often fit the profile of the hip workplaces people dream of — still have the luxury of picking and choosing. That's why applicants' social skills and "cultural fit" are so important, which may shatter your dreams of tech as a clique-free meritocracy.

    139 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Cyber Ring Stole Secrets For Gaming US Stock Market

    chicksdaddy writes Reuters has the scoop this morning on a new report out from the folks at FireEye about a cyber espionage ring that targets financial services firms. The campaign, dubbed FIN4 by FireEye, stole corporate secrets for the purpose of gaming the stock market. FireEye believes that the extensive cyber operation compromised sensitive data about dozens of publicly held companies. According to the report, the victims include financial services firms and those in related sectors, including investment bankers, attorneys and investor relations firms. Rather than attempting to break into networks overtly, the attackers targeted employees within each organization. Phishing e-mail messages led victims to bogus web sites controlled by the hackers, who harvested login credentials to e-mail and social media accounts. Those accounts were then used to expand the hackers' reach within the target organization: sending phishing email messages to other employees.

    37 comments | about three weeks ago

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