Archive for July, 2008

Evil genius

July 28th, 2008 — Wordman

The year is 2035. Joe Smith stands in front of the United States Senate, subject of a confirmation hearing for the post he has sought all his life:

Camera cuts to Senator Archibald Huffenpuff [R], looking self-important and slightly bored.

Huffenpuff: Mr. Smith are you now or have you ever been a member of the web site called [checks notes] MySpace.com?

Cut to Joe Smith, in a sharp suit.

Smith: Yes sir.

Huffenpuff: In what capacity?

Smith: Well, while running for office several years ago, we used myspace.com/joe-smith-in-30 as part of our grassroots campaign to…

Huffenpuff: Have you ever used any other usernames on this site?

Smith looks moderately confused by the question.

Smith: I don’t particularly recall, Senator.

Huffenpuff: Have you ever used the name el-guapo-suave?

Smith smiles.

Smith: Ah, yes. I used that name during school.

Huffenpuff: Do you recall comments made then about circuit judge Mary Jones?

Smith blanches, clearly confused

Smith: Back then? I didn’t even know who she was then, Senator.

Huffenpuff: Let me refresh your memory. In 2008, she was fifteen years old and went by the user name meow1kittens15.

Smith: Uh…

Huffenpuff: You left comments on her page when she posted a picture of herself in her cheerleader uniform.

Sensing Smith’s discomfort, the camera slowly zooms in.

Smith: Uh…

Huffenpuff: Specifically, you said of the then underage Mary Jones, and I quote “I’d tap that” and “omfg u r so h0ttt!!!11!1”. Are these your words, sir?

Smith: Uh…

Camera cuts to a closeup of a white cat with blue eyes and a diamond necklace, being pet by Rupert Murdoch (indirect owner of MySpace) in his orbiting space station.

Murdoch: Bwah-ha-ha-ha! You should have paid up, Mr. Smith.

Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are already being used for blackmail, but I can’t help but suspect that blackmail is actually their entire reason for existence. This is the only reason I can find to explain why Faceberg still gets investment capital in spite of having no visible business plan or prospects. It may also explain why Facebook removed a third-party application that let its users stab each other: it was cutting in on Facebook’s action.

Expect to see this type of thing show up in government more often, along with services that will eliminate incriminating web evidence. One interesting aspect of this will be the collateral damage created. For example, in my fictional example above, a plot intended to take down Smith would probably also take down Mary Jones by also exposing her teenage escapades.

Skynet

July 25th, 2008 — Wordman

Poker faceAfter digesting James Devlin’s articulate (and still ongoing) series on building a poker bot, an obvious near-term prediction can be made: prepare for a future of bot on bot action. That is, as more knowledge of building software that can play on-line poker masquerading as humans spreads, inevitably the ratio of bots to humans will increase. Far from causing the on-line poker industry to collapse, it will thrive under such conditions, gaining more and more “players”, even as the proportion of actual humans in a virtual seat shrinks. An average of humans-per-table may never hit zero, but it could become vanishingly small. Once it gets lower than 1.0, most on-line poker games will be bots vs. other bots.

A good number of these bots, possibly large subsets of them, will be colluding. Since this requires communication between them in some way, what you will have here are distributed expert systems, programmed for conflict. In short, you’re halfway to Skynet. This, I think, would be a much better story for the Terminator franchise: where Skynet arises out of an intense escalation of poker-bot conflict, and the extermination of the human race is merely the side effect of Skynet’s (successful, though misguided) obliteration of all opposing poker bots.

Devlin’s articles also paint a picture of how disturbingly easy it is to hijack software on the Windows platform. There’s some Skynet potential there as well. For example, it is easy to see how a zombie network could easily become a poker playing powerhouse. Chances are one or more of them already is.

Image from a lego model by robbed.

For all the wrong reasons

July 16th, 2008 — Wordman

I just left a comment on samaBlog kvetching about the tenacity of the stupid Imperial measurement system that continues to thrive in the U.S., as well as the U.K., Liberia and Myanmar. (Measurement is completely arbitrary; you might as well choose a system that at least makes some sense internally. How many inches in a furlong again?) Shortly after, I noticed that (in addition to running out of fours for their signs) some gas stations are now selling gas by the half gallon.

This is, apparently, being done because their pumps don’t support prices higher than $3.999, rather than the psychological reasons you might expect. It would be hilarious, however, if this kind of thing conspires with the price of oil to convert American gas pumps to charge by the liter, essentially using greed, bad hardware programming and laziness to force us kicking and screaming into a new metric dawn.

I also fully recommend that any hydrogen stations that open should use liters, as the price will then look ridiculously low compared to gasoline.