Shifting power

The Battle for Power on the Internet
https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/10/the_battle_for_1.html

A very interesting, if a bit long-ish (for the ‘net) article discussing the shifting power between the early Internet adopters and the johnny-come-lately corporate and government interests that are moving in now (well, have been for a decade). Since big bloated governments/corporations move slowly there exists a large window for small nimble ‘startups’ (be they hackers, actual business startups, Russian mafia, geopolitical agitators, etc.) to quickly adopt new technology. The Internet had a long period where the powers-that-be were too sluggish to react, now that period is over and those powers are now acting in their typical reactionary methods to bulldoze the ‘startups’. How this will turn out is hard to predict, though as a student of history I have to favor the oligarchy and give worse odds for the little guys. It is true that the Internet paradigm shifts power somewhat, diversifying leverage, but ultimately, as long as society at large attaches values to shiny tokens of metal (or their virtual equivalent, say in numbered Swiss bank accounts (do they still have those?)) it will be trivial for the oligarchy to purchase the required expertise (meaning they can always find ‘sellouts’ who will work for the highest bidder). If, on the other hand, we actually change the shiny tokens into pure virtual tokens there exists a window where the befuddled powers-that-be can be sidelined. I doubt that will work, particularly here in the good old USofA, as purt near _everyone_ here buys into the fantasy that they can become rich and thus don’t want to trade in the (infinitesimally small, yet still dramatically shrinking every day) chance to become rich by switching tokens they seek after.

Proto-Skynet

DARPA Announces Cyber Grand Challenge
http://www.darpa.mil/NewsEvents/Releases/2013/10/22.aspx

Great! Lets have a contest to see who can build Skynet faster!

Disclosure: I just started a new job where I am working to help build Skynet:

http://www.hexiscyber.com/content/hawkeye-g-active-defense-grid

So far as I know (it is a nice change to be working on a job that allows me to talk about it!) no one has actually put the system in charge of their network yet, but this is the only viable path forward, so at some point a system exactly like this one is going to have to be put in control. That this has been true for at least 25 years (actually, almost exactly 25 years) is irrelevant to most people, but sooner or later (I suspect later, but Hexis is well funded by people that think it will be sooner, I hope they are right) automation is the way we are going to have to go. Attack has been automated for decades, it is time for defense to catch up!

For those of you who think $13 billion is a lot of money

Nobody Should Shed a Tear for JP Morgan Chase
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/nobody-should-shed-a-tear-for-jp-morgan-chase-20131025

Everyone (well, of those tiny number that actually knows this has been in the works) talks about the magnitude of the ‘fine’, but no one is going to jail and none of the decision makers is even having to pony up any of his (or her) ill gotten gains. One hundred percent of the money is coming from shareholders and interestingly, the price of the stock has remained stable. That should tell any rational person (are there any left?) that this ‘record fine’ is meaningless.

…No more crying, please, about no-jail, no-individual-penalty settlements in which companies use shareholder money to pay fines at huge discounts relative to the actual damage they caused. And again, wake me up when even one of these guys goes to jail. There are only about a million Americans doing time for less.

Nutritional pseudoscience

Opinion: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
Nutrition research must overcome pseudoscientific measures and self-interest to make progress in the fight against obesity.
http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/37918/title/Opinion–A-Wolf-in-Sheep-s-Clothing/

I have a strong interest in nutrition (my degree, after all, is in biochemistry and nutrition) and have written about it from time to time. It is amazing to me how certain areas of research have so little scientific method in them; nutrition research seems to be clearly one of these based on the article. I have read a few papers on this topic over the years and haven’t been terribly impressed with the rigor so my feelings are the author is spot on in his analysis. Researching anything to do with humans is problematic at any time, when you are doing research on something where people have a built-in biases (does anyone expect to get straight answers for this: “hey, you fat ass, how much have you been pigging at the trough?”) getting reliable information is damn near impossible, yet billions of dollars are moved around based on policy decisions built on such dubious foundations. As the author says, once you get a culture of dysfunction it is very difficult to change it; the mentors become the problem.

So, keep this in mind the next time you see some headline trumpeting something or other about nutrition.

By heel or toe

Pounding Pavement by Heel or Toe
http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/16/pounding-pavement-by-heel-or-toe/?_r=0

Some more interesting information on running, though not specific to barefoot this time. It seems you can’t get away from physics, striking with your forefoot or your heel result in the same overall impact, but you can shift around where the main stresses occur and for those of us able to shift from forefoot to heel impacting ‘on the fly’, we can give different portions of our anatomy a bit of a break.

Equality for few and justice for none

Why Robert Reich Cares so Passionately about Economic Inequality
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/businessdesk/2013/10/why-robert-reich-cares-so-passionately-about-economic-inequality.html

An interesting interview about our current failure to foster any sort of efforts toward remedying income inequality. According to the interviewee, we have had periods in the past where inequality was high, like today, and then we reversed course, so perhaps we can do so again. Sadly, I can’t get optimistic about the prospects, but then again, I was wrong when I was sure our f-ed up government would fail to keep the lights on last night (though they merely kicked the can down the road a couple of months).

I would love to be wrong about the looming apocalypse (see here for an example), gleefully wrong. I am happy to have my pessimism proven to be unwarranted. I just can’t make my brain believe that the sheeple will suddenly start to vote in society’s best interests (which often (though not always) go against _individual_ best interests). Maybe this govt shutdown will lead more people to vote in primaries and drag politicians back to the middle. I think it will be the opposite, though, but time will tell…

Depends on your point of view

Placebo’s Double Whammy
Sham treatments can both reduce pain and increase pleasure, and do so affecting similar circuitry in the brain.
http://www.the-scientist.com//?articles.view/articleNo/37876/title/Placebo-s-Double-Whammy/

I talk about placebos from time to time, this is another interesting article. If you are anticipating a pain reduction one part of your brain gets activated, if you are anticipating a pleasure enhancement another part gets activated. I wonder if we can ever effectively harness the power of the placebo, or rather, the power of our own mind to control how our mind feels. No doubt this is a core element of depression, once you get depressed your brain starts biochemical feedback that can keep you depressed or drives you to incapacitation (or to take your own life). I wonder how much of this feedback happens for successful people. I feel very strongly that had things been just slightly different for me life would be radically different (hard to say if it would be better, but easy to say it would be different). I just finished reading a book about angel investing from the investor’s point of view and I am pretty sure that it is just ‘bad’ luck (see here and here for my take on luck) that has kept me from making the right contacts that could have lead to the positive feedback situation where I would achieve the goals I had imagined. I might still be able to get ‘lucky’ (in business; I am already lucky in love) and start that feedback in my brain that makes me ‘luckier’ still, what is simple happenstance and what is ‘real’?

Maybe there is something to the blather about ‘if you believe it it will happen’…