Our story begins on 4chan, a violent, pornographic, iconoclastic pit of the internet which invented the idea of putting grammatically incorrect captioOur story begins on 4chan, a violent, pornographic, iconoclastic pit of the internet which invented the idea of putting grammatically incorrect captions on cat pictures. On /b/, historically the most popular board on the site, forced anonymity brought with it a freedom from social conventions and norms, as a place to vent things that one would not ordinarily say. In this place, communities developed, and with their morbid senses of humor, friendships grew.
One way for /b/ to pass the time was recreational hacking, by finding personal information about their victims. This was primarily done out of schadenfreude, or 'lulz', but not necessarily. Some targets included pedophiles. A brief sketch of their attacks shows the mercurial nature of /b/'s targets - first the social game Habbo Hotel, then the minor racist talk show host Hal Turner, then the cultish Church of Scientology, then the real anus mundi known as the Westboro Baptist Church.
The rest of the book focuses on LulzSec, a group which grew out of this random vandalism. which hit targets at random, and for fun. They attacked corporations, governments, and other institutions almost at random, and on a larger scale. Their targets included Sony Pictures, the Tunisian government during the Arab Spring, private security companies, the CIA, and the US Senate, either by stealing passwords or designated denial of service attacks. If I might speak from anecdotal experience and memory, most in Anonymous did not necessarily approve of all of LulzSec's actions, especially those involving video game companies.
After some fifty days of chaos, they claimed that they were finished, but instead were taken down en masse largely due to a turncoat and informer within the group. Much of Olson's chronology of events is taken from interviews, as well as research and archives taken from sites such as chanarchive.
The strength of the narrative comes from the personal details, taken from multiple interviews. One of the problems with this method is the reliability of the sources. It is easy, perhaps a custom, for people to lie or embellish their identities on the internet. An British army private claimed to be a young nymphet girl hacker, for example. How, then, can the sources be verified? Olson admits this is a problem.
By contrast, the book's worst flaws are in the grievous technical errors. For example, the author does not differentiate 'hashing' from encryption, mistakes text-to-speech as 'speech recognition', misspells a 'l33tsp33k' name, and mistakes the purpose of a command line. For heaven's sake! My dad knows the last one, and he started programming with punch cards.
So what can we learn from this? Anonymous is not just a decentralized amorphous mass of people causing havoc, but rather a name or brand that individual actions could be attributed to. LulzSec itself was only six or seven people at it height. Law enforcement was able to find them and squash them individually, even though its members lived in disparate areas as the Shetland Islands and the Bronx. How the group operated will no doubt be of interest to scholars of 'Network theory' and decentralization away from a central authority.
Nevertheless, some points in Olson's analysis are essentially true. We can all learn from the horrendous mistakes of security professionals. Do not ever use a simple password. criticizes the mistakes of the 'old media' in trying to describe Anonymous and Lulzsec, while she proves her own point with her mistakes. LulzSec is now defunct, but others claiming the name Anonymous will no doubt return. ...more
A history of the early computer and what miracles were done with it. The computer, says the author, is one of the great creative forces of the 20th ceA history of the early computer and what miracles were done with it. The computer, says the author, is one of the great creative forces of the 20th century, compared to the great destructive force of the atom bomb - and certain instrumental figures worked on both.
The title appears to be misleading, as Mr. Turing himself only appears some 200 pages in. His contributions, although not immediately evident, are still quite important. The majority of the early part of the book concerns Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study - originally intended as a refuge from the bureaucracy and 'old-boys-club' mentality of American universities, which became one of the greatest accumulations of mathematical talent anywhere in human history.
One of the central figures here is a certain John von Neumann, who can be truthfully described as a genius, responsible for the foundations of everything from game theory, to nuclear physics. There are too many others in the book to list here, but you get the idea of their sort of caliber.
With the earliest and most primitive of computers, the scientists here were able to work on weather prediction, statistical analysis, and basically the foundations for almost every computer since - all with the processing power reserved for single cursors today.
Even with this bare minimum of processing power, the ideas which these thinkers discussed are still used today - advanced climate modelling is still a topic of various supercomputers. von Neumann's and Turing's theories on 'self-replicating autonoma' can be used in both biological mathematics applications and possibly a description of computer viruses. It would be futile to attempt to list it all, but Dyson gives a very solid overview.
The tragedy is that some of the greatest architects of our new age never lived to see it. Turing's tragedy is well known, and computer scientists and the LGBT community see him as a martyr. John von Neumann died in his 50s from cancer, possibly from all of his atomic bomb observations. Both for those others who survived, and many of the great ones did, they bore witness to a new age in discovery, the greatest shift in human knowledge seen since the printing press and the Renaissance....more
This book looks at the technical, organizational, and psychological effects of using robotics and unmanned vehicles in modern warfare. Optimists mightThis book looks at the technical, organizational, and psychological effects of using robotics and unmanned vehicles in modern warfare. Optimists might say that this is a revolution in military affairs, as robots will be able to do tasks too dull, dirty or dangerous for humans, and will be able to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently as well.
The chief difficulties with this revolution are multiple. Here are a few. First, the problems of command structure, whether instant access and communication for all officers in the command structure might lead to micromanagement. Second, whether there is the case of whether robots develop autonomous targeting and accidentally harm the wrong target. A third problem is psychological - troops becoming attached to robots and trying to 'rescue' them where they should not, or whether the technicians who pilot the drones some thousands of miles away feel distant from the effects of combat. Fourth, there is the problem of security, or hacking. Fifth, there is the problem of privacy and security, whether individuals could be placed under more compromising and embarrassing surveillance.
The issue of unmanned warfare will not solely remain the domain of the United States Armed Forces alone. Our allies in Europe, as well as the Chinese, are already working on developing their own surveillance drone capacity.
This book does a convincing job at relaying the chief problems of drone warfare. Some of the information is slightly out of date after three years, but this is not due to the author's fault so much as it is the rapid advancement in this field. His projections are largely correct.
This book only receives three stars for its overoptimism over the Singularity, as well as some other minor factual errors. Other reviewers might note the author's heavy usage of pop culture metaphors, but I do not mind - science fiction has long had a 'feedback' effect on the development of technology since at least the 1930s.
A reliable guide to the major questions of robotic warfare. 3.5/5 ...more
This was a real treat to read. A compilation of essays by Dennett about a good variety of topics, from neurosci to philosophy of language and everythiThis was a real treat to read. A compilation of essays by Dennett about a good variety of topics, from neurosci to philosophy of language and everything in between.
Be warned, it's a bit tough for the layman, so I'd recommend Consciousness Explained first. But if you can handle it, this book is a gem. Good science, good writing, and just good overall. ...more
Very impressive book about the inner workings of Google. The chapters are grouped around several themes, from its early history, to Gmail, Videos/YoutVery impressive book about the inner workings of Google. The chapters are grouped around several themes, from its early history, to Gmail, Videos/Youtube, PageRank, and the feud it has had with China. Full of detail about the inner workings of the company. A very high quality book - perhaps one of the best we have on this subject....more
Dear FSM, what a rambling mess of a book. This review is going to be longer than usual for me, as I have a lot of bile to get out of my system.
As I reDear FSM, what a rambling mess of a book. This review is going to be longer than usual for me, as I have a lot of bile to get out of my system.
As I read through the first several pages, I was bemused by the author's arrogant and lofty tone. I was willing to give him a bit of credit, if he had any logical backup behind it.
Finished the introduction. The book makes clear its intentions: to analyze and reduce complex phenomenon to simple mathematical representations. Not bad, but hardly revolutionary. This had been done in various forms since Newton, perhaps even earlier, if you play fast and loose with my terms. Simple rules can produce complex results. Every CompSci student now knows this.
After this, the book rapidly goes downhill. What follows are several hundred slogging pages of examples, and after that, faulty hypothetical applications to such disparate fields as evolution, cognitive science, complexity theory, gravity, quantum mechanics, etc. Most of his methods are either demonstrably false, or so reduced in effectiveness as to be useless, or restatements of ideas already discovered - without giving any fair credit. The author frequently downplays the contributions of other scientists, even trying to reduce Turing, Zuse, and Goedel to mere footnotes in his book, and blandly restating simplified or distorted or useless or plagiarized versions of their discoveries.
The author's arrogant tone does nothing to help his case. This book is a damned foolish waste of time, and I expected a hell of a lot better. What a shame. The creator of Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha (both excellent tools) should stick with those....more
Impressive little book which along with Turing's work, et al., founded the field of computer science as we know it. Of most interest if you are intereImpressive little book which along with Turing's work, et al., founded the field of computer science as we know it. Of most interest if you are interested in the history and foundations of modern computer science, otherwise the concepts here will be so familiar that you will know many of them already....more