The Longest Now


Designing life for episodic tyranny | 1: Secure toolchains
Friday November 11th 2016, 6:00 pm
Filed under: Aasw,Blogroll,chain-gang

See also Part 2: social networks

Motivation

Classify your local environment according to how much freedom you have to create and share tools, access those of others, and communicate across secure networks.  
  • In a “Tier 1” environment you have access to all popular security technology, and can build whatever infrastructure you want, entirely within your control.  
  • In a “Tier 2” environment, central network nodes and critical infrastructure all have backdoors and logging, and noone is allowed to distribute strong cryptography that some central group is unable to break.  
  • In a “Tier 3” environment, using secure tools and all but trivial cryptography is illegal – you shouldn’t have anything to hide.  Even talking about such tools may put you on a blacklist.  A central group that enforces the law may also access, modify, or reassign your work and possessions at will.
Say you live in a Tier 1 jurisdiction, which controls land, banks, and physical infrastructure.  Periodically, it shifts for a time to a Tier 3 regime, which may make abrupt changes at any depth in society to suit the fashion of the moment.
 
While in the latter regime, you can’t always trust the law or social norms to preserve
  • Your right to communicate with others
  • Your right to use your own tools and resources
  • The visibility (to you and those around you) of how your rights and tools are changing, if these are taken away

Most infrastructure in such an environment becomes untrustworthy.  Imagine losing trust in AT&T, Google, Symantec, Cisco.  (Even if you trust the people who remain running the system, they might no longer be in full control, or may not be able to inform you if your access was altered, filtered, compromised.)  

What can you do while in a Tier 1 regime to moderate the periods where you have fewer rights?

These are some quick thoughts on the topic, from a recent discussion.  Improvements and other ideas are most welcome.

Technical design decisions to improve resilience:

1.  multi-homing, letting users choose their jurisdiction.  for instance, let you choose from a number of wholly independent services running almost the same stack, each within a different jurisdiction.
  1a.  Be able to choose who hosts your data, tools, funds.  E.g., fix current US-EU policy – give users choice of where data resides and under which laws.
  1b.  Measure: how long it takes to shift key storage / control elements betweeb jurisdictions, copying rather than mirroring any required pieces.  Make it possible to shift on the timescale of expected transition between Tiers.
 
2. Give users advance warning that the threat to their data/account is rising; make it possible to quickly change what is stored [not just what is shared with other users].
2a. Learn explicitly from how banking does this (cf. concerns among many users about funds being frozen, for less-than-fascist conflicts).
 
3. work with telcos to add built-in IP and egress-fuzzing
   3a.  consider what china does: blocking per IP, by each egress point.  harder but possible in the US.
 
4. multi-source hardware, and any other needed ‘raw materials’ at each level of abstraction
  4a.  Both multiple sources w/in a jurisdiction (for the first stages when only some producers have lost control of their own production), and in different jurisdictions.
 
5. have systems that can’t be subverted too quickly: relying on the temporary nature of the fascist trend.  (if it lasts long enough, everything mentioned here can be undone; design to make that take a reasonable amount of time and a lot of humanpower)
  5a.  add meshes – like the electrical grid, that have local robusness. When central management disappears or ‘shuts things off’, local communities can build a smaller-scale replica that uses the physical infrastructure [even if they have to go in and replace control nodes, like generators, by hand]. 
  5b.  make change happen on the lifescale of hardware that has to be replaced.  e.g. a bulk of investment in dumb pipes that have to be replaced or removed by hand.  Systems with high upfront infrastructure costs that are easy to maintain but relatively hard to replace.
 
6. design alternate solutions for each level of the stack that have minimal central requirements.  E.g. fuel-powered USB chargers, gas generators, solar panels, desktop fabs and factories.  Make it easy to produce inferior, but usable, components if the high-economy-of-scale sources dry up.
 
7. keep strong contacts with someone in the existing [government], even when there’s nothing that you need to lobby for. that makes transitions smoother, and you less likely to be surprised by change.  Cf. Idea 3: invest heavily into those social relations.
 
8. distribute end-user tools that let individuals adapt under hostile conditions.  Examples:
  8a.  Ship antennas or power sources flexible enough to be modded.  
  8b.  Allow broadcast updates to the latest version, but allow users to freeze the version at one they support.  
  8c.  Support unblockable rollbacks to earlier revisions: something like a hardware button that rollsback to one of a few previous versions, if you realize you’ve installed malware or controlware.  you can still push updates as agressively as you like, as long as the provider can hint that a new snapshot is useful as risks of overtaking increases.
  8d.  provide some sort of checksum to see if firmware has changed [even with above may be possible for new software to change that option; but users should at least know]

Related ideas

1. consider reasonable steps to degrade control:  
  1a.  starting with increased infra for those who align with government views.  (or decreased for those breaking new / stringent laws)
  1b.  compare how voting is restricted, liquidity is restricted.
 
2. consider: is it better to be asset-heavy or asset-light?  
  2a.  usefulness of land and resources to use, vs. having things that can’t be claimed / revoked. networks rather than assets – land, tools?  
  2b.  compare liquidity of favors to that of funds or items.
 
3. compare current work with regulations/regulators.  in politics, relationships w/in a commission made it valuable to have a rotating door.  Invest in those relations, considering also 2) above – invest before assets are frozen to offset risk.
 
4. compare how US corps plan for inter-state shifts within the country.  Including being flexible enough to move to a new state for favorable regs, or shift ops/people among different centers.
5. Currently there’s network-tracking of IP addresses in malls, &c.  There are tools now that have a ‘War mode’ that randomizes your MAC or other address all the time.  Injecting noise into bluetooth and other tracking is straightforward.


Psych statistics wars: new methods are shattering old-guard assumptions
Thursday October 20th 2016, 12:51 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,citation needed,Glory, glory, glory,knowledge,meta,metrics

Recently, statistician Andrew Gelman has been brilliantly breaking down the transformation of psychology (and social psych in particular) through its adoption of and creative use of statistical methods, leading to an improved understanding of how statistics can be abused in any field, and of how empirical observations can be [unwittingly and unintentionally] flawed. This led to the concept of p-hacking and other methodological fallacies which can be observed in careless uses of statistics throughout scientific and public analyses. And, as these new tools were used to better understand psychology and improve its methods, existing paradigms and accepted truths have been rapidly changed over the past 5 years. This shocks and anguishes researchers who are true believers in”hypotheses vague enough to support any evidence thrown at them“, and have built careers around work supporting those hypotheses.

Here is Gelman’s timeline of transformations in psychology and in statistics, from Paul Meehl’s argument in the 1960s that results in experimental psych may have no predictive power, to PubPeer, Brian Nosek’s reprodicibility project, and the current sense that “the emperor has no clothes”.

Here is a beautiful discussion a week later, from Gelman, about how researchers respond to statistical errors or other disproofs of part of their work.  In particular, how co-authors handle such new discoveries, either together or separately.

At the end, one of its examples turns up a striking example of someone taking these sorts of discoveries and updates to their work seriously: Dana Carney‘s public CV includes inline notes next to each paper wherever significant methodological or statistical concerns were raised, or significant replications failed.

Carney makes an appearance in his examples because of her most controversially popular research, with Cuddy an Yap, on power posing.  A non-obvious result (that holding certain open physical poses leads to feeling and acting more powerfully) became extremely popular in the popular media, and has generated a small following of dozens of related extensions and replication studies — which starting in 2015 started to be done with large samples and at high power, at which point the effects disappeared.  Interest within social psychology in the phenomenon, as an outlier of “a popular but possibly imaginary effect”, is so great that the journal Comprehensive Results in Social Psychology has an entire issue devoted to power posing coming out this Fall.
Perhaps motivated by Gelman’s blog post, perhaps by knowledge of the results that will be coming out in this dedicated journal issue [which she suggests are negative], she put out a full two-page summary of her changing views on her own work over time, from conceiving of the experiment, to running it with the funds and time available, to now deciding there was no meaningful effect.  My hat is off to her.  We need this sort of relationship to data, analysis, and error to make sense of the world. But it is a pity that she had to publish such a letter alone, and that her co-authors didn’t feel they could sign onto it.

Update: Nosek also wrote a lovely paper in 2012 on Restructuring incentives to promote truth over publishability [with input from the estimable Victoria Stodden] that describes many points at which researchers have incentives to stop research and publish preliminary results as soon as they have something they could convince a journal to accept.



Digital rights groups in Europe are gaining ground: a model to watch
Friday April 04th 2014, 1:13 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,international,knowledge

The recent historic wins for net neutrality in the EU demonstrate an organized and informed advocacy network that is still not echoed in the US or in many other parts of the world. We should celebrate and learn from their work.

Thanks to Axel Arnbak for his thorough and delightful writeup of this.



Women’s Public Voice: points left out of Mary Beard’s history of speech
Sunday March 02nd 2014, 10:38 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,metrics,poetic justice,popular demand

Bruce recently recommended an essay on the historical public voice of women, by noted classicist Mary Beard.

Beard is a fine and provocative writer; it is good rhetoric.

But I don’t think it gives much insight into historical causes, or ways we can bring about change. Women face deeply gendered and hateful criticism today, particularly online. The argument that this is due to Greco-Roman rhetorical traditions, or the Western literary canon, is unconvincing. I see selection bias in Beard’s examples.

I would love to see a version of this essay that gets nuances right, and tries to explain changes in the past century based on its arguments.

Left out:
+ The complexity of women’s voice in Rome, from Fulvia and Livia to Irene of Athens;
+ Greek admiration of Gorgo, Roman admiration of Zenobia;
+ Conflicting views of leaders in adjacent cultures (Boudica, Cleopatra, Dido);
+ The Old Testament (Deborah and Esther ?)

Misused for effect:
– Ovid: No metamorphs of any gender could speak; Io for one was changed back.
– Fulvia: First by describing her as someone’s wife, though she was one of the most powerful figures in Rome; then by framing her hatred of Cicero as a matter of gender.


On a tangent: Two speeches I love, to lift the spirits. (Both American; I know less oratory from the rest of the world. Suggestions welcome!):

Frances Wright on global patriotism and change:
# Independence Day speech at New Harmony (1828)

Margaret Chase Smith on an issue too great to be obscured by eloquence, thankfully no longer a concern today:
# Declaration of Conscience (1950)



Sacrifice Mt. Gox: This will be good for Bitcoin because
Tuesday February 25th 2014, 2:04 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,fly-by-wire



“BRB singularity” : A comic on love, death, and robots
Monday February 24th 2014, 12:36 am
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,SJ

XBRB – stories from the Singularity.

A Blue/Red/Brown production.



Harlan Ellison on getting paid for writing
Sunday December 15th 2013, 3:19 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang

A cluster-class rant.  It warms up around 2:45.



Desert canticles wrestle susurrantly, lithe behind quiet eyes
Friday September 13th 2013, 2:39 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,fly-by-wire,indescribable

Sitting down today to write my first non-work letter in a few weeks.  I’ve been enjoying poetry lately; here’s some Simon:

A man walks down the street
Dusty street in a strange world
Maybe it’s the Third World
Maybe it’s his first time around
He doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound
The sound
Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen and Hallelujah!



Socrates Jones: Wow. “There are no limits on the extent of smiting!”
Thursday August 22nd 2013, 2:53 am
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,knowledge,metrics,poetic justice

Noted game designer Chief Wakamakamu writes:

So, guys. I’m pretty sure that, whenever you played Phoenix Wright, you thought to yourself “Man, this game would be so much better if it was about moral philosophy instead of high-stake courtroom arguments.”  

Well, I have come to make all your dreams come true. I’m currently looking for play-testers for Socrates Jones: Pro Philosopher, so that we can make it as awesome as it could possibly be before we unleash it on … a starved market.

Sate your hunger.  Interrogate antiquity’s moral philosophers for yourself.

 



Future Conduct and the Limits of Class-Action Settlements – James G.
Monday May 20th 2013, 1:25 am
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,metrics,poetic justice,popular demand

The coruscating James Grimmelmann recently published a crisp, clean exorcism of “future conduct” releases in class action suits, in the North Carolina Law Review.  Using a number of recent class actions as motivation, including the Google Books case, he patiently and eloquently dissects the ideas behind such carte blanche releases, and the rare cases in which they might be called for.

This is a gem of a monograph – worth reading even if you are not a copyright geek.

From the opening salvo (emphasis mine):

This Article identifies a new and previously unrecognized trend in class-action settlements: releases for the defendant’s future conduct. Such releases, which hold the defendant harmless for wrongs it will commit in the future, are unusually dangerous to class members and to the public… [F]uture-conduct releases pose severe informational problems for class members and for courts… create moral hazard for the defendant, give it concentrated power, and thrust courts into a prospective planning role they are ill-equipped to handle.

Courts should guard against the dangers of future-conduct releases with a standard and a rule. The standard is heightened scrutiny for all settlements containing such releases; the Article describes the warning signs courts must be alert to and the safeguards courts should insist on. The rule is parity of preclusion: a class-action settlement may release future-conduct claims if and only if they could have been lost in litigation. […] The Article concludes by applying its recommendations to seven actual future-conduct settlements, in each case yielding a better result or clearer explanation than the court was able to provide.

If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to savor all 90 pages of finely referenced background and analysis, a handy comparative timeline is on p.410, the standard and rule start on p.431, and the 7 brief case studies start on p.458.

via the Laboratorium.



Genius And The Soil / Inspired By Aaron: Thoughts From me, mako, jwyg
Thursday March 28th 2013, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Aasw,chain-gang,indescribable,international

From the latest issue of the UK magazine red pepper. With photos by Sage Ross from a memorable Boston Wikipedia meetup in 2009. Click on the pages for higher resolution:





Sin Identidad – tumbling one man’s favorite writers of color
Wednesday March 13th 2013, 9:46 pm
Filed under: Blogroll,chain-gang,Uncategorized

SinIdentidades Tumblr.

sebastianM. Popova



Aaron’s Army: A brotherhood remembered by Carl Malamud.
Tuesday February 12th 2013, 3:18 am
Filed under: Aasw,chain-gang

Carl’s speech at the Internet Archive memorial.



Edit by Edit: an Article Feedback Tool gets firmly tested
Saturday February 02nd 2013, 11:49 pm
Filed under: %a la mod,chain-gang,wikipedia

One of the Wikipedia projects that has been developing slowly over the past two years is the Article Feedback Tool. In its first incarnation, it let readers rate articles with a star system (1 to 5 stars for each of the areas of being Well-Sourced, Complete, Neutral, and Readable).

The latest version of the tool, version 5, shifts the focus of the person giving feedback to leaving a comment, and noting whether or not they found what they were looking for. After some interation and tweaking, including an additional abuse filter for comments, it has recently been turned on for 10% of the articles on the English Wikipedia.

This is generating roughly 1 comment per minute; or 10/min if it were running on all articles. In comparison, the project gets around 1 edit per second overall. So if turned on for 100% of articles, it would add 15-20% to the editing activity on the site. This is clearly a powerful channel for input, for readers who have something to share but aren’t drawn in by the current ‘edit’ tabs.

What is the community’s response? Largely critical so far. The primary criticism is that the ease of commenting encourages short, casual/random/non-useful comments; and that it tends to be one-way communication [because there’s no obvious place to find responses? this isn’t necessarily so; replies could auto-generate a notice on the talk page of the related IP]. Many specific suggestions and rebuttals of the initial implementation have been made, some heard more than others. The implementation was overall not quite sensitive to the implications for curation and followthrough.

A roadmap that included a timeframe for expanding the tool from 10% to 100% of articles was posted, without a community discussion; so a Request for Comments was started by an interested community member (rather than by the designers). This started in mid-January, and currently has a plurality of respondents asking to turn the tool off until it has addressed some of the outstanding issues.

The impression of the developers, here as with some other large organically-developing feature rollouts, was not that they had gotten thorough and firm testing, but that editors were fighting over every detail, making communication about what works and why hard. Likewise there has been a shortage of good facilitators to take in all varieties of feedback and generate an orderly summary and practical solutions.

So how did things go wrong? Pete gets to the heart of it in his comment, where he asks for a clearer presentation of the project hopes and goals, measures of success, and a framework for community engagement, feedback, and approval:

I think it’s a mere mistake, but it does get frustrating because WMF has made this same mistake in other big technical projects…

What I’m looking for is the kind of basic framework that would encompass possible objections, and establish a useful way of communicating about them…

WMF managed that really well with the Strategic Planning process, and with the TOU rewrite. The organization knows how to do it. I believe if it had been done in this case, things would look very different right now…

It is our technical projects that are most likely to stumble at that stage – sometimes for many months – despite putting significant energy into communication.

Can we do something about it now? Like most of the commenters on the RfC, including those opposing the current implementation, I see a great deal of potential good in this tool, while also seeing why it frustrates many active editors. It seems close to something that could be rolled out with success to the contentment of commenters and long-time editors alike; but perhaps not through the current process of defining and discussing features / feedback / testing (which begs for confrontational challenge/response discussions that are draining, time-consuming, and avoid actually resolving the issues raised!).

I’ll write more about this over the coming week.



Exploring science in ten hundred words or less, and similar gems
Tuesday January 29th 2013, 6:27 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,citation needed,indescribable,knowledge,meta,poetic justice,Uncategorized

try and grok science
try and make a gun
try Sheldrake’s homing dove thought experiments

For dessert, some fraud:
listed, retracted, pharmed, 11-jigen (x6),
chilled(snapshot, comments).



Mystery Hunting, 2013: Pulling off an epic Coin Heist
Friday January 25th 2013, 7:50 pm
Filed under: Aasw,chain-gang,indescribable,knowledge,meta,Uncategorized,zyzzlvaria

Mystery Hunt 2013 pitted teams against Enigma Valley to rescue the Hunt coins from a vault.

As usual, it was full of some of the best puzzle ideas in the world.   (more…)



#pdftribute – a hack to share research in honor of AS.
Tuesday January 15th 2013, 3:58 am
Filed under: Aasw,chain-gang,fly-by-wire

Original idea by Eva Vivalt and Jessica Richman, site and scraper by Patrick Socha.

Well covered by Kerim Friedman.




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