* Posts by Jez Burns

52 posts • joined 7 Mar 2009

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Hey, remember that monkey selfie copyright drama a few years ago? Get this – It's just hit the US appeals courts

Jez Burns

Re: Devil's Advocate

@Oh Homer: I think the logical fallacy you've used is called 'poisoning the well'. Could you explain how - if you like to own anything or be paid for any work you do - the 'premise of copyright' is ridiculous (beyond a flimsy and nonsensical assertion that all intellectual endeavour is derivative)? If you can make a convincing argument against ownership of stuff (as intellectual property is no different from physical property) I will quite happily have your car, your house, and the shirt off your back.

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It's time for a long, hard mass debate over sex robots, experts conclude

Jez Burns

Re: Androids are special

I'm not sure what your point is - and you don't discuss what you think would constitute a 'sensible discussion' any further than indicating that in your view, this would be an analysis of the morality of exploitation of humans in the sex industry. Being this is a technology (and not a sociology) site though, this would seem to be beyond the remit of The Register, whereas discussion of probable future roles of technology is (and what most people reading it come here for).

"..imaginary sex toys, imaginary robot brothels give us plenty of sexy hypotheticals to discuss, without actually having anything to deal with." And? Discussion of possible futures is self-evidently hypothetical. The scope of this article is entirely relevant in its context, which is a speculative discussion of an aspect of a hypothetical future (AI / Robot sex) which would have significant social implications - positive or negative. A future where 'sex androids' are a thing is also perfectly conceivable. Where there is a demand, there is profit to be had (not necessarily just financial - sex can be used as a form of control in lots of ways), and someone will arrive to meet it. Some of the recent advances in artificial muscle fibre which can create huge efficiency / space savings by utilising contraction through a twisting motion are astonishing, as are applications of machine learning in control systems for walking / motion - and this is now, not 2050.

Why should androids not be anthropomorphic - is that not inherent in the name? IMHO barring economic obstacles and societal regression, human-like robots (amongst those those that are specialised and non-anthropomorphic) are a certainty for two reasons: Firstly, natural selection has given us a form that suits our environment. Multi / general purpose androids will operate in our environment, therefore our own form is likely the ideal one for them. Secondly (and more relevantly for fine tuning the physical characteristics) we can relate better to things in our image. Non-anthropomorphic robots aren't the thing under discussion in this article. I think sex robots in the next 50 or so years are almost a certainty and the implications in terms of potential benefits and harm they might cause is an interesting subject worthy of speculative exploration, as are all the potential applications of robotic technology combined with AI. Your strangely angry response that the article should be what you would like it to be - a discussion of today's sex industry (of which there is no shortage anywhere) smacks a bit of virtue signalling..

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Boffins' five eyes surprise: Bees correct colour for ambient light

Jez Burns

Re: The visual equivalent to a noise cancelling microphone.

"It would be interesting to see the world as the eye really sees it"

I suspect as an incomprehensible mess of light and colour moving around like a kaleidoscope. Think the first few seconds of waking up with a bad hangover.. Not sure how accurate this is but I've heard people who have been blind since birth will never be able to 'see' even if their physical sight is restored (after a certain age when most long-term neural connections have formed).

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Boeing preps pilotless passenger flights – once it has solved the Sully problem, of course

Jez Burns

MachDiamond, the point of controversy in the Paris airshow case (if it's the one I'm thinking of) is how / if the computer assist arguably responded to make worse a dire situation caused by human error (or breathtaking negligence) in the first place. An AI - assuming an effective one could be built - would not have gotten into that situation. Even then it's not clear anything could have been done to avert the disaster once the wheels had been set in motion.

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Just delete the internet – pr0n-blocking legislation receives Royal Assent

Jez Burns
Pint

Blanket criminalisation

At risk of sounding tin foil hatted, I expect the government knows full well any new laws allowing internet censorship (not just restricted to pron but also covering libel, secrets and other areas unprotected by the UK's lack of provision for freedom of speech) would be hard to enforce effectively, but a sweet side effect (and what I suspect is the aim) is blanket criminalisation of swathes of the population.

While in extremis, this erodes habeas corpus, broadening the opportunities for targeted silencing, persecution and imprisonment of individuals on any kind of 'shit list', on a mundane day to day level, it opens the door to more intrusive surveillance without effective protection. If it is too hard to spy on, cajole or intimidate individuals with a clean record, and too hard to expand state powers without attracting negative attention, just use 'think of the children' legislation to 'dirty up' as many records as possible - who would object if they have nothing to hide?..

A beer for Renate Samson anyway..

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Microsoft nicks one more Apple idea: An ad-supported OS

Jez Burns

Re: Adverts, etc.

Same here - I purchased an OEM Windows 10, switched off Cortana, set all phone-home options to 'nope', decided never to go near Onedrive and have never seen any adverts..

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UK cops spot webcam 'sextortion' plots: How vics can hit stop

Jez Burns

Re: sorry no, there are no excuses

Who has suggested new laws? You might find some covering blackmail and extortion if you take a look at the statute books. Pompous moralising and lack of compassion for victims of these crimes (who themselves have engaged in nothing illegal) loses even more of its weight when coming from a position of anonymity - why don't you own your comments? Seems there may be a degree of projection or repressed guilt here..

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Helping autonomous vehicles and humans share the road

Jez Burns

Autonomous vehicles would be an amazing thing, but like you said, we don't have autonomous pedestrians, cyclists or roads to suit them. Until everyone by mutual consent agrees to trash the concept of liability (which probably predates fire, and will likely never happen), autonomous vehicles will never come into mass usage in an uncontrolled environment. There will be accidents involving autonomous vehicles leading to death or injury - no doubt orders of magnitude fewer than those of regular vehicles, but at some point, a car's computer will make a 'trolley bus' decision. If a Mercedes built car causes a death, it could be shown logically by lawyers acting for the victim's family that the behaviour causing his or her death was predetermined by the manufacturer. For this reason, it wouldn't surprise me if, without huge legislative changes, the directors of Mercedes could be found criminally liable regardless of contracts between the vehicles operator and manufacturer. Blame is in some ways a compensation afforded to victims by society that helps salve their grief, and society's guilt.

The only alternative is that legislation (agreed by all countries) forces operators of autonomous vehicles to accept legal responsibility for the actions of their cars' AI. If the idea of criminal responsibility was navigated successfully, insurance companies would bear the burden of compensation for injury or death, and as is the case at the moment, would be forced to contribute to a pool to cover payouts to victims of uninsured operators (though the system would have to be vastly improved).

However, will we ever really be morally comfortable with abandoning the idea of blame, and accepting - emotionally, not logically - that the roads are a lottery; that any time, you or someone you care about could have their life snuffed out by a cold, unthinking machine? Could we completely substitute awards of money for feelings of vindication towards another human being in apportioning blame?

Even if people are killed by faults in mechanical devices every day, these devices don't make decisions. The public might see deaths from AI as akin to a death squad of robots, randomly executing people on their doorstep every few days - at least that's how it could be framed by the media.

Most readers here would probably accept the logic that statistically a vastly reduced overall road death rate would be a price worth paying for this kind of lottery. But picture a situation where a young pregnant single mother (a nurse) and her little girl are killed by an AI on their way to school, leaving her other three children orphaned. Can you imagine how the media would frame it? How public opinion could change overnight? I'm pretty convinced that without a completely controlled environment to operate in, autonomous vehicles would be dead in the water after a single incident like this, no matter how much effort went into dealing with the liability issues. People would stop buying them, companies would stop selling them.

How much would it cost to create controlled environments for the exclusive use of automated vehicles (fenced roads with controlled junctions for crossings etc)? In urban areas we don't have the space to assign exclusivity to many roads without a huge uptake in automated vehicles (before which public opinion might turn against them in any case). For freight transport maybe, but then is it more cost effective to upgrade and improve autonomy in rail systems?

The automotive industry should probably concentrate on automated enhanced safety systems long before thinking about self-driving cars.

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'Pavement power' - The bad idea that never seems to die

Jez Burns

Don't forget that the 6 million+ tonnes of soil nutrient-depleting chomped up trees (2014 figures) need to be shipped over from the US to feed Drax alone. Assuming a load of 45,000 tonnes per shipment, that's 133 transatlantic trips, burning ~200,000 gallons of heavy oil each way: 1675342 tonnes of oil burned to feed one power station in a year. Of course, coal ships will burn the same fuel, but as you'd need to ferry almost double the quantity of woodchip to achieve the same energy output as coal, it seems likely that transport of the stuff alone negates any benefits of burning it in terms of emissions - not just the widely hyped gaseous plant fertilizer, but the nasty particulate stuff that clogs up your lungs.

Obviously the people running this scheme will know perfectly well how wasteful and environmentally damaging it is. So what's the point in doing it? Renewable subsidies - eye watering sums of money for the great and the good and all their pals, all doing their bit to save the world, of course..

https://jenny4mp.wordpress.com/2016/10/27/greenwashing-drax-plenty-of-public-money-for-corporate-welfare/

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Dear Tesla, stop calling it autopilot – and drivers are not your guinea pigs

Jez Burns
Pint

Re: Do we want to advance or not?

"Common sense has to compete against a childhood of watching Knight Rider."

You absolutely nailed it - have a beer.

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Google-funded group mad that US Copyright Office hasn't abolished copyright yet

Jez Burns

The behaviour of Google is worse than the file sharing sites - at least they didn't have the sheen of legitimacy and the ability to influence legislation. If there is 'north of a billion dollars per year', that money will only ever go to the big players in the publishing industries. Music and content creators (apart from those with the most generic, middle of the road, audience friendly products) are generally left begging for scraps, not having a clue what is happening to their rights, and if having the time or inclination to chase them, becoming lost in a labyrinthine maze where they have to put all their trust in large corporations to treat them fairly with absolutely no accountability - you can imagine how that works out. If you can shut down piracy in murky, underground conduits for sharing, why shouldn't it be possible to shut it down when conducted brazenly by the world's largest corporations?

Imagine a world where the only restaurant you could eat in was McDonalds. Some people wouldn't have a problem with that I guess, but culturally, the behemoth content pirates of the world are taking us there whether we like it or not..

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Google's AI finds its voice ... and it's surprisingly human

Jez Burns

Re: Muzak

They've been going that way for a long time (hear the dreadful, flat, emotionless multi-sampled instruments in anything but the most expensive TV programmes and commercials). Not always the fault of the composers though - often if they ask producers / production managers for a budget to record real musicians with real instruments they'll be met with either laughter, a blank uncomprehending look or 'can't you just do it with computers these days?' For US documentaries the soulless muzak sound is sometimes a requirement due to it being so ingrained in the audience experience. Unfortunately in terms of its value, music itself is now becoming obsolete.

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Jez Burns

Wow..

That is really impressive, especially given the use of neural networks that will give it more room to evolve. As other commenters have pointed out, the rhythms and timing are still a bit off. I guess that's because these things are largely context sensitive in natural human speech. Still, there are rules that can be followed (and perhaps they already try to) involving the cadences and timings of different types of words following each other (nouns / verbs etc.), along with sentence / paragraph structure and amount of breath available before needing to pause.

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'Alien megastructure' Tabby's Star: Light is definitely dimming

Jez Burns

Re: What is important is what was not said ...

I like that thought. It's possible in this scenario that the swarm might not be built by an alien civilisation to harness power for their technology, but built by itself to harness power for itself.

What do self replicating machines do when they've replicated to the point that exhausted their fuel source? Better pull down the blinds..

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Teen faces trial for telling suicidal boyfriend to kill himself via text

Jez Burns

Therapists have therapists everywhere - personal therapists and supervisors. It's sensible, and professional supervision is a required part of the job.

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Jez Burns

Re: No she didn't kill him in any way

Horseshit - argumentum ad absurdum. This wasn't a one-off, or a message sent in a fit of anger, and she was by definition fully aware of the victim's mental state.

You have to worry about the psychology of someone who expresses concern over legal precedents that might curtail online / remote abuse.

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Docker hired private detectives to pursue woman engineer's rape, death threat trolls

Jez Burns

Re: Utterly unacceptable

Also a very small number of sociopaths, angry narcissists, antisocial loners (or teenagers - same difference probably) using an anonymous broadcasting platform with unlimited reach can have a hugely disproportionate influence. While not wanting to minimise the impact of hateful behaviour on victims, I wonder if the term 'endemic' is used wisely here. Even a small degree of fallout for the perpetrators (who are by definition cowards) would likely solve the problem.

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Net scum lock ancient Androids, force users to buy iTunes gift cards

Jez Burns

Re: Tight

My TV is a 70 year old projector with a grandfather clock hooked up to it..

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Kanye West: Yo, DNS... Imma let you finish, but this gTLD is one of the best of all time

Jez Burns

Re: All part of his new career?

I thought his new career was providing the voice of the 'confused.com' robot?

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Tell Facebook who's the greatest: YOU are!

Jez Burns

"The pioneers of social media used it to exclude opinions they didn't like - quite proudly demonstrating their intolerance and control-freakery."

Sounds interesting but I missed that one. Could you expand on it?

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Register readers mostly too ashamed to cop to hideous hoard horrors

Jez Burns
Unhappy

Cable hell

Each time I dispose of an old SCSI or Parallel cable, another two spring into existence to take its place. I've just given up now and made them a home.

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Massive study concludes: 'Global warming is real'

Jez Burns
FAIL

Why would this deal any kind of 'blow' to AGW sceptics? The idea that those sceptical of claims of a 'catastrophic' 4-6 degree potential increase of global average temperature over the coming century as a result of anthropogenic CO2 emissions would hold that global temperatures have remained static since the 'little ice age', or that they have not increased, is a fiction designed to smear their credibility. Whenever sceptics have pointed this out, they have been tediously and meaninglessly accused of 'moving the goalposts' (as if this whole issue was some kind of football match).

Sceptics would raise as a concern the lack of correlation between satellite measurements of tropospheric temperature and the land-based temperature datasets, shared by the Hadley Centre, NOAA, NASA GISS and indeed BEST (who have at least tried to factor measurement uncertainty into their statistical models). The urban heat island effect may not have been dealt with properly in any of these datasets (due to vague classification and oversimplification of definitions of 'urban' and 'rural'), which could account for the discrepancy. Or perhaps satellite sensors are inadequate for measuring surface temperature? As a common or garden sceptic with no axe to grind, I would like to know without being shouted down by some imbecile for exercising my scepticism, or treated like I was engaged in some sort of competition for righteousness.

Sceptics would generally argue that there is no observational evidence of a meaningful correlation between PPM fluctuations in CO2 levels and global average temperatures in the industrial era. They would argue that global average temperature is an irrelevant metric in any case (especially as around one third of the raw data used to compile the global average shows no trend, or a decreasing trend in temperature in different regions). They would argue that averaging the output of computer models pre-loaded with assumed temperature 'forcing' parameters for factors such as CO2, ozone, solar activity, soot and so on that are based on a combination of dubious paleo-climate reconstructions, curve fitting to known temperature trends, or output of other computer models is an absurd exercise in circular reasoning, and has no predictive value whatsoever. They would point to the failure of all climate models used by the IPCC to date to reflect reality as confirmation of this view.

They would argue many other things, none of which are remotely addressed, or dealt a 'blow' by the BEST study. I continue to be sceptical and interested - not in 'denial' of anything (including the possibility of AGW), just suspicious and vigilant when it comes to arguments launched from a platform of mindless cheerleading, alarmism, unquestioning acceptance of authority, refusal to address legitimate questions, bizarre lumping together of scientific and political belief and the kind of mischaracterisation of critics seen in the headline of this article.

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Apple plan to rate shops etc by number of iPhones visiting

Jez Burns

Good question..

I'd like to know the answer too. Also why should I have to turn off a useful feature just to retain my privacy? How easy / hard will it be to opt out, and what does 'opting out' entail? Does it mean the data will not be gathered, or just that gathered data will not be used for marketing? Quibbles about privacy and anonymity, see my post below..

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Jez Burns
Unhappy

Working for Apple?

Of course this is all to enhance the user experience, create synergy between brands blah blah blah... nothing to do with making a shitpile of cash for a company who already have more in the bank than the US government.

I don't care if this is anonymised - they don't seem to grasp that this isn't the issue. There is A) the principle that once you kick the privacy door off its latch, it's very easy to boot it wide open. B) The fact that I don't want to work for fucking Apple. By helping to make them money through the sale of my usage / location information, I feel like I'm being co-opted. They already treat other businesses (like the music, publishing and software industries), as cash cows to be milked until they dry out. It's starting to appear this isn't enough for them and their grubby fingers are making a grab for their own users.

I'm an iPhone user, and I think it's a great product, but it's heading for the bin if this crap continues.

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Fukushima: Situation improving all the time

Jez Burns

BBC coverage

I couldn't believe the lack of clarity and the constant tone of paranoia in the BBC coverage of this crisis either. I wouldn't normally bother getting annoyed about this kind of thing enough to write 'Tumbridge Wells' style complaints, but I get the feeling the mainstream media are desperate to milk this for all it's worth, and cause mass fear and anxiety in the process. I sent this to them, but I somehow doubt it'll get published:

"What is wrong with you (the BBC)? There is no information in your reports, just knee-jerk scientifically illiterate alarmism, unfounded and disproportionate insinuations about possible food and water contamination (presenting normal safety precautions as warnings of impending doom), and lazy speculation dressed up as reporting, achieved by linguistically conflating the terrible tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami with the real, but hardly catastrophic crisis at Fukushima. I get the impression the BBC and other news organisations are tangibly disappointed by the lack of human culpability in the earthquake and tsunami, and are almost willing there to be a real nuclear disaster in order to obtain some juicy hand-wringing headlines and prance around like some sort of vindicated Cassandra, able to point a finger of blame for the whole natural disaster at mankind. Please compare the lazy and ill-informed BBC coverage of this incident with the sober, scientific, informative and rational coverage from The Register and hang your heads in shame."

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One third of Russians say Sun revolves round Earth

Jez Burns

It's who you ask?

And in other startling news, over 97.4% of priests surveyed - who are active publishers in theology - expressed a belief in God.

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DARPA inks 5-year-mission solar strato-wingship deal

Jez Burns
Thumb Up

Primary objective:

To unsettle the enemy by beaming Joe Satriani style twin-axe power-rock over a 200 mile radius..

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Boffins authenticate Apple 'Antennagate'

Jez Burns
Go

Far from a lemon IMHO

I read everything I could, thought about it for ages, checked one out and bought it. I have no particular devotion to Apple, use some of their gear but readily accept the flaws and the good points, just like anything else. IMHO Apple's response to the antenna issue has been arrogant and appalling, and has left them rightly open to a massive amount of criticism. When I bought the phone I knew all about the antenna issues, but had no idea, thanks to Apple's obfuscation and out-of-control rumours and speculation everywhere, whether it would be a big or a small problem.

I live in the Midland's countryside with weak 3g reception. I found immediately that bridging the gap between the two antennas caused a massive signal drop. If I moved my finger so much as a couple of millimetres away from the antenna gap, the signal was restored. This in my mind rules out general RF interference from the body as the problem- it really is an antenna bridging issue.

On the other hand, I've found it pretty easy not to hold the phone in a way that would bridge the two antennas (I wouldn't hold the phone that way anyway, other than browsing / text messaging). I've also ordered a case, which I would use in any event as the phone would almost certainly smash if dropped on a hard surface.

In every other respect, I've been utterly blown away by the phone - particularly good points for me are the speed and the display which are both amazing. The reception, when held 'normally' is pretty good. It's horses for courses really - if you're not prepared to be restricted in the way you hold the phone, or to get a case for it, I wouldn't bother buying one. For me, this isn't a problem, and in every other respect the phone is about as far from a lemon as you can get. It's a shame really, as Apple deserve a lot of credit for pushing the boundaries so far.

Please don't flame me! I have no axe to grind, I'm utterly unbiased and technologically literate - this is just my opinion and I'm hoping it might clear things up for anyone else considering buying one..

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Twitter bomb joker found guilty

Jez Burns

Stuff

Two notable things about this case - firstly that Paul Chambers wasn't convicted of a terrorism offence, therefore it couldn't be argued that he caused any security scare or disruption, or that his message was taken as a gesture of intent to bomb an airport. If he was, he could have argued his case and won. The fact that he was convicted under the 2003 Communications act makes the decision even more sinister. Secondly, he was tried by magistrates rather than a judge and jury. Magistrates have become the PCOS's of the judicial system. They are by and large untrained, legally illiterate political appointees, frightened to come to any decision that might upset the state or media.

It is no accident that the Government who passed the nasty Communications Act (amongst many other equally oppressive laws) is the same one that has put in a concerted effort to abolish jury trials and massively increase the recruitment of magistrates. Real judges, the High Court and House of Lords (despite the bad press they all get) have been fighting a quiet, dignified but ultimately losing battle against abuse of power by the state for years.

If the State, and by extension it's burgeoning bloc of patrons in the Police, CPS or Judiciary want to bring you down, the whole system is geared towards allowing them to do so. Chamber's conviction is likely to be quashed on appeal. In the meantime, hopefully a change of UK Government might help redress the damage that has been done to civil liberties over the last decade.

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Aussie smoko-proofing drug prevents ill effects of cigs

Jez Burns

"should do the decent thing and remove themselves from society sooner rather than later"

Nice to see people like you hiding under a cloak of anonymity whilst spouting vapid, mean and generally twatty groupthink bullshit like this. You really are a coward.

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Atheists smite online God poll

Jez Burns
Happy

@Graham Bartlett

Amen to that!

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State attorney nabbed in car with stripper, Viagra and sex toys

Jez Burns
Thumb Up

Just in case..

"a Viagra pill and several sex toys". Corning said he had them with him "just in case".

His father had said "Son, these might just save your life one day.."

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Increase in comms snooping? You ain't seen nothing yet

Jez Burns

@minionzero

Great post! What is really worrying is that the Government (from the PM to Whitehall to the police) don't even feel under any obligation to explain the motives for their spying- anti terrorist, criminal or other. If you refuse to justify something, perhaps it is because you can't. They have at no point been given permission by society to take unfettered surveillance powers, yet seem to take it for granted that this is what they are entitled to, without question or scrutiny. This level of arrogance is astonishing and unsettling. They seem to treat the 'civilian' population as children, perhaps knowing that in doing so, we will behave like good children, believing unquestioningly what we are told, accepting unlimited intrusion into our lives and being seen and not heard.

There has never been any clear evidence that this level of surveillance is an anti-terrorist measure. The last few anti-terrorist operations (and you have to assume they have been conducted with heavy surveillance) have not exactly been a roaring success, with entirely innocent people being arrested without any evidence, then gagged with Control Orders or threatened deportation when it looks like any embarrassing truth might be revealed. Of course, any fight against potential domestic bombers is an crucial one, but it has yet to be shown that powers beyond those already available to the police and Government (and I remember terrorist atrocities being far more common in the '80s) are necessary or even helpful.

This feeling is strengthened when even the Government's own anti-terror justifications for increased surveillance come across as lame and half-hearted, falling back on 'anti-fraud', 'anti-gang', 'anti-criminal' soundbites, peppered with logical fallacy when held up to scrutiny.

We can only conclude in the absence of any other evidence that a policy of blanket surveillance and interception is being pursued by those in power for its own sake, not as a means to any useful end. That they (Government and civil service) believe they have an automatic right to power and a monopoly on control. Anything that happens outside that control (such as internet communication) angers and terrifies them.

Then again, maybe it's always been like this, and the growth of the internet and mass communication has merely given us the illusion of freedom when in reality it has never really existed.

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Bezos begs forgiveness for Amazon's Big Brother moment

Jez Burns

Re: On the doubleplusgood side

Were you reading the special version with the big letters and pictures? It's, like, so not the Matrix is it?

0
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Boffin predicts pee-powered cars

Jez Burns
Thumb Up

One of the

coolest things I've ever heard.

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German old timers torture financial adviser

Jez Burns
Thumb Up

Film rights?

I'd pitch it as "Cocoon meets Reservoir Dogs"

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The Moon? We're going nowhere, says NASA official

Jez Burns

@John Smith

"(note in accountancy land a mis-entry of 1 too high in 1 account matched by 1 too low in another equals a discrepancy of 2)"

Really interesting- didn't know that, thanks! Any indication whether in NASA's case this was too high or too low?

@Stuart Halliday

Yeah, not to mention how lucky they were not to get fried in solar ratiation. Perhaps back in the day, any risks were worth taking to get ahead of the Commies?

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Branson breaks ground on US rocketplane spaceport

Jez Burns
Alert

Billionaire builds playground / theme park for the super-rich..

Hasn't he seen Jurrassic Park, West World etcetera? This is bound to end in tears.

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So what we do when ID Cards 1.0 finally dies?

Jez Burns
Unhappy

@Bronek Kozicki

Your arguments in favour of an ID card system (simply to allow proof of address) are totally redundant. The idealised system you propose is not the one being considered by the UK government, which is an ID card tied into a necessarily monolithic database system with access necessarily granted to tens of thousands of anonymous officials. Even if it was, the positive aspects you set out do not even touch on the potential negatives. It is facile to bring other countries with an ID card system in place into the argument. For one, they do not have the same system in place as that proposed by the UK Government. Secondly, where is the evidence that the ID system of other countries is not already open to abuse / being abused. Thirdly, the implementation of a massive database backend, which is the true point of contention in the ID cards debate appears to be a Europe-wide, not just UK-centric plan. Citizens of EU countries, with or without ID cards should be equally concerned. If they are not, then like you, they are being breathtakingly complacent.Citizens of EU countries, with or without ID cards should be equally concerned. If they are not, then like you, they are being breathtakingly complacent towards their privacy and liberties.

Having said that, maybe you are a part of a minority who find the prospect of state intrusion and control of your life comforting?

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Jez Burns
Happy

@David Bell

When I was a teenager (around 15), me and my mates came up with a cunning and foolproof way of obtaining beer and cigarettes, which would outfox any ID scheme imaginable. We'd simply bribe an adult to purchase them for us in return for a cut of the booty.

Actually, scratch that. I propose implanting an RFID chip into the hand of anyone under the age of 18 that can pass information to an RFID chip implanted in the fabric of any beer can / cigarette packet, bongo mag etc. These can both then register with terminals hidden in pub tables, park benches, bus stops, which will alert the authorities in the case of minors making use of such contraband. Of course, any such scheme could be entirely voluntary- if you don't have the ID chip you just can't purchase any unsavoury items. The chip will only activate in the case of interaction with said goods, so privacy will not be an issue.

Underage drinking never really did me any harm anyway, it just led to a well developed sense of paranoia. The prison doctors said I might be eligible for a liver transplant in a couple of years anyway, so all good!

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Jez Burns
Thumb Down

Gets one point, misses a more important one

This is a really interesting and informative article, and one that for a change addresses the technical rather than simply the moral issues of the ID card. So maybe it's inappropriate to start banging on about this side of the debate in a comment here, but are the two actually separable? Is it not possible that the architects of the ID card scheme are perfectly aware of the possibility of retaining a degree of privacy for the holder with clever use of software, but that this is actually undesirable for the state looking to implement it? Every UK Govt proposal relating to the ID scheme appears to confirm that the ID card (and more importantly, associated database system) has one simple function- to eradicate privacy altogether. The concept of privacy itself is an anathema to a state looking for micro-management of a population, scared to death by the shadows of terrorism and uncontrollable individualistic behaviour. If you doubt this, just listen to what the architects of the scheme say:

""The realm of intelligence operations is of course a zone to which the ethical rules that we might hope to govern private conduct as individuals in society cannot fully apply"

Quotation taken from Register article: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/17/damian_green_imp/

Granted, this refers to Government communications monitoring, but what is an ID card, linked to a system of databases, if not communications monitoring?

My worry is that more sensible proposals for the implementation of ID technology such as this, while coming with the best of intentions, will merely give the state an excuse to sweep any moral objections to the scheme under the carpet. Once established it will be very easy to do away with any built-in privacy protection and steam ahead with the scheme as it was originally intended- to use an automated process to red-flag and monitor any citizen who has the potential to step 'out of line'. What line, the state is free to decide at any given time.

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Imagine! Government to legislate against badness

Jez Burns
Happy

@Shakje

I don't think any of the people posting here seriously believe the Government intend to lock up parents for spending all their money on beer rather than their kids. They are mostly pointing out the ludicrousness of a government producing empty and nonsensical legislation which could never be enforced, just to pass on a 'message'. As for it not being something negative, check out my post above for ideas about how it could be exactly that..

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Jez Burns
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Do they really care?

Nice to see Government get back to joyriding constitutional law again. Can we have some more child poverty databases too so we can feel good looking at made-up statistics on a computer screen? It would be interesting to see the full costs of this Government's vanity legislation over the past ten years - meaningless drivel that is contradictory, unintelligible, and clogs up the entire legal system as judges try (in the best cases) to make sense of it, or (in the worst cases) to protect the weakest in society from being completely shat on *. I would guess the costs of this Government's endless legislation spew would run to hundreds of millions of pounds. Of course, we wouldn't want this money to go on things like feeding and clothing children, rebuilding sink estates to give people somewhere dignified to live, or a decent education system. We'd far rather see government sponsored infomercials, databases and long-term-child-unwealth-delivery-monitoring-and-classification quangos.

And what of the impact of this Government's more recent fiddle with the legislature on child poverty- abolishing legal aid for defendants in criminal cases? "It's means tested" they wail. Is £3000 per year income really above the poverty line? It is the poorest in society who are most likely to find themselves in court for a crime they did not commit, especially when you have a police force cut to the bone by obsessive target hunting and a Government who do not understand, or care about the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty', who are both happy to see innocent people punished just to bolster the stats. You now pay your legal fees even if you are acquitted of a crime. I repeat, even if you are found innocent. If you are poor, whether or not you have children living below the poverty line, thanks to this Government, you have the choice of accepting prison, or parting with money you do not have if you are accused of a crime.

In short, this Government could not give a piss about child poverty. They just want to look good, and make their political opponents look bad through Orwellian logic. By opposing ridiculous and ineffectual legislation like this, you are naturally in favor of child poverty. I am obviously in favor of kicking puppies, as I would oppose any new puppy-kicking directive.

I hope the public will finally start to pay some attention to what these arseholes are really doing to the legal system.

* custodial sentences for some repeat ASBO breakers are indeterminate- you are released from prison when the review board says you can be released. Unfortunately the review board can't handle their case load, and if it wasn't for judges refusing to hand down disproportionate punishments for minor crimes, tens of thousands, rather than hundreds of kids would be rotting in prison. Another thing not a lot of people know.

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Jacqui's secret plan to 'Master the Internet'

Jez Burns
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Why shouldn't we know?

"GCHQ does not discuss 'how' we use data, as this may lead to revelations about our capability which damage national security."

This is sounding more and more like the Stasi every day. I have never been paranoiac, and like most other people, I have "nothing to hide". My opposition to state funded surveillance and control systems has been based on indignation at the invasion of my privacy, and a natural suspicion of the state's nannying tendencies rather than outright worry. This is starting to change now. The state are giving themselves totalitarian powers, totally unchecked, uncriticised and seemingly immune from any kind of scrutiny.

Perhaps elected members of the Labour government never completely lost their student Marxist tendencies, or maybe they are so pliant and stupid they have allowed a civil service 'shadow government' to take root while they fiddle their expense claims. Do the government (elected and unelected) really believe they are doing the right thing- driven to a flailing panic by the prospect of another terrorist act on their 'watch'? Or are they striving to build up a detailed picture of our lives and habits, to tag and label us so that we can be more easily manipulated- individually told a different lie in order to control mass public opinion. So we can be marked as 'undesirables' - denied public sector jobs, medical support, the right to free movement if we disagree with them? So we can be 'disappeared' if we speak out? Or is this simply the socialist dream of reducing society to an easily manageable dataset- the dream that starved 30 million people to death in communist Russia before the advent of computers?

The thing is, whatever our speculation, we don't know, we are not being told, and we are not even allowed to debate the issue with people who are making decisions on our behalf. We don't even know who these people are! Because of this, we are right to be suspicious and to assume the worst- that the door to Room 101 is being booted wide open.

The anti-terrorist arguments for implementation of this kind of surveillance are appealing on the face of it. Once you look deeper into how it actually works, they are laughable. See this article by Ben Goldacre:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/feb/28/surveillance-ben-goldacre

So this leaves us with the argument that this kind of surveillance can monitor and curtail criminal activity. No one would argue that locking up gangsters and pedophiles is a bad thing, but is existing legislation and technology really insufficient to do this? Even with the most sophisticated surveillance equipment, you will still suffer from shortage of human recourses, lazyness and ineptitude that marks the worst aspects of policing in the UK. Watch a couple of episodes of 'The Wire' - criminals adapt, and can easily change their communications methods to sidestep the authorities. Even if there is some value to paying Lockheed Martin millions of pounds to install equipment to spy on us, is the price of sacrificing our privacy, freedom and security from a brutal totalitarian government in the future (it has happened many times over elsewhere in the world) really worth paying? Does this kind of reaction not put the 'terror' in terrorism, and perfectly achieve the aims of militants - to disrupt and scare us into some kind of capitulation to their ideology?

We can ask these questions until we are blue in the face, but the people making the decisions will not give us an answer. They don't even appear to be listening. They will not discuss their methods on the grounds of national security.

They will not even give us their definition of 'national security'. Since when has internal criminal activity been a matter of national security? Probably since leaking embarrassing facts about government ineptitude did. Why is debate about the Criminal Justice System that affects all of us suddenly forbidden? Who has something to hide?

If the government and civil service do, it is our job to prize the information from them. This site is read by intelligent and IT literate people who have real insight into the systems being implemented. The more we can share about what we know, the more answers we can hopefully get.

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Tory 'terror' affair shows danger of ubiquitous surveillance

Jez Burns
Coat

Correction

Case mentioned in paragraph 6 happened in Nottingham, not Manchester- sorry!

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Jez Burns
Happy

@Graham

You're welcome! I think I need a lie down now..

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Jez Burns
Stop

Reasonableness?

As in the kind of reasonableness that allows you to baton an innocent man over the head whilst he walks home from work, giving him a fatal heart attack? The kind of reasonableness that leads you to arrest people for taking photographs of historic buildings and trains?

The kind that allows you to shoot an innocent man repeatedly in the head, claiming him to be a 'terrorist suspect', having followed him for miles and allowing him to board a tube train? The kind that leads you to subsequently photoshop his face for the media in order to make him look more 'Asian', and to smear him as a cocaine addict in order to imply that somehow, he got what he deserved?

The kind of reasonableness that gives you cause to shoot an unarmed man in the shoulder in his own home, branding him a terrorist, then upon finding no evidence to support this assertion, to attempt to slur him with false accusations of internet perversion and money laundering?

The kind of reasonableness that allows you to fake a dossier of evidence claiming that we are all thirty minutes away from being destroyed by chemical and biological weapons launched by a rogue middle east state, leading to an illegal attack on said state costing tens of thousands of lives, many of innocent men women and children. The kind of reasonableness that allows you to then cover up advice given by your own attorney general prior to launching said war that any such action would be a breach of international law.

The kind of reasonableness that allows you to harass a local newspaper journalist with evidence pointing towards corruption in your police force, to the point of confiscating her equipment and reading her private and privileged communications under some spurious constitutional law introduced by the back-door by a political party only interested in protecting its flimsy reputation?

The kind of reasonableness that allows your policemen to career into the body of a teenage girl whilst driving at over 60mph in Manchester city centre, knocking her 100ft away from the collision, causing her severe brain-damage, then to claim in a civil suit (having slipped out of criminal charges) that she deserved it because she had been out drinking 'under-age'? The kind that allows you to disappear CCTV footage of the incident from the area, then to lie to a court when footage is found that it would cost too much to transfer the tapes?

The kind of reasonableness that allows local councils to use anti-terror legislation to spy on residents for wheelie-bin misuse?

This is the reasonableness of the corrupt, lazy, lying, self-serving, power-grabbing bastards that make up the police, government and 'security services' in the UK. These are the people we are supposed to trust with details of our communications, our movements, our relationships, our beliefs, our sexual habits, our shopping habits, our history and our identity. We are supposed to believe that contrary to all previous evidence, these details won't be mishandled, misused, lost, leaked, faked, abused, compiled, graded, sold and otherwise abused- as the people in charge of them are essentially ‘reasonable’, and therefore not required to be subject to any safeguards or restrictions?

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Report: Legalising drugs would save UK plc huge packet

Jez Burns

Eyes are wide open I reckon..

@ Alexander

All fair points, but I'm still not convinced the criminalisation of drugs does anything to help anyone. This argument doesn't come from any kind of drugs are good / bad viewpoint- that's a totally different issue. My point is that criminalising drugs creates an underground industry that sucks people in and keeps them there. Legalising drugs would put an end to this industry, bring addicts out into the open, give them some dignity and allow them to function like anyone else.

I'd like to see evidence that any other criminal enterprise has anywhere near the same influence on society as the drug trade. By it's nature, this industry is a pyramid scheme of huge proportions, needing to constantly enlarge and pull in more and more dealers and addicts to keep itself going. Sure, a lot of criminals higher up the pyramid would go into other enterprises (hopefully eliminating each other in competition), but I can't think of any other illegal industry where the numbers of people affected are anywhere near so large.

The fact that your mate managed to get hold of the drugs that wrecked his life, regardless of the fact that they were illegal kind of proves my point. It makes absolutely no difference that drugs are illegal- if people want to use them, they will. They'll just spend more money on more dangerous products, and sink themselves further into a hole.

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