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The Growing Disruption Of Artificial Intelligence

Photo by Frank Wang

Artificial intelligence may be as disruptive as the computers used to once were, and it could be an even bigger disruption. Given the disruption that social media has proven to be, one has to wonder if we are fully prepared for the life altering consequences we are building for ourselves.

IBM has been a key player in the artificial intelligence arena for over two decades. Deep Blue was their first tour de force in 1997, when its team of developers received $100,000 for defeating chess champion Gary Kasparov in a game of chess. That watershed moment has its roots all the way back in 1981 when researchers at Bell Labs developed a machine that achieved Master status in chsess, for which they were awarded $5000. In 1988 researchers at Carnegie Melon University were awarded $10,000 for creating a machine that achieved international master status at chess. Deep Blue, however, was the first machine to beat the world chess champion.

Google has entered the fray as well, wit…

Information Dissemination In An Open Society

Information derives a large part of its value in its timeliness. Democracy dies in darkness, because transparency of government is essential for it. When these two principles collide, things get messy, as they have with Waze and the NYPD. Google, owner of Waze, was recently notified by the NYPD with a demand that they remove a feature from Waze that alerts drivers of DUI and speeding checkpoints. Here our democratic principles are colliding, whereby timely information is being communicated about the government operations which is effectively being used to undermine it.

Police departments generate a lot of revenue from DUI and speeding convictions. This revenue sustains law enforcement in other crime fighting activities which generate little, if any, cash flow for police. Yet the NYPD is not framing the issue in this way. DUI checkpoint and speed trap data is posted to Waze by a method called crowdsourcing. If someone sees a DUI checkpoint or speed trap, they use Waze on their smartph…

Law enforcement and DNA sequencing

DNA sequencing has risen in popularity in recent years to to the widespread availability of affordable testing kits. Obviously people are opting into participation by uploading their DNA data, in great numbers, but do they fully know how that data will be used?

The Golden State Killer, who terrorized California from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, was recently apprehended by working with a lesser known testing company, Family Tree DNA. Their kits are smaller and so is their database, but their database has an big advantage. The company boasts that it has the largest database Y-DNA database in the world. Y-DNA is very useful in tracing patrilineal ancestry, which is essentially data on who you are related to. This data is how the Golden State Killer was caught. Because some of his relatives had willingly participated in DNA kit testing, law enforcement was able to triangulate his identity.

Use of these databases by law enforcement is a new but already rapidly growing phenomenon. Gene …

Defeating location services without killing it

Location data is a valuable commodity, both to consumers and to businesses as they connect with each other. Location services have become an integral part of the smartphone experience, but the other edge of the sword is how location services can track users. The major carriers long ago realized the value of this data and have been selling it, even as calls for a federal investigation mount. We aren't even touching on the subject of what the government could do with this data either.

The value provided by location services to consumers can not be overlooked though. A large part of the power of having a computer in your pocket comes from that computer knowing where you are and where you go, this helps in navigation you and in making meaningful suggestions for you. Turning off location services entirely definitely cripples the user experience.

First, in iOS, location services uses what they call Significant Locations, which allows for useful information in Maps, Photos and Calendar …

The Intellectual Dark Web

The "dark web" typically invokes discussion around Tor and .onion sites, and perhaps Ross Ulbricht and his libertarian politics enter the discussion. In its most recent permutation, the dark web has become intellectual and is far less hidden from view than Silk Road and its ilk. Coined by the mathematician and financier Eric Weinstein, the term intellectual dark web (or IDW) has its base in challenging conventional modes of thought of today, much like Galileo or Martin Luther challenged convention in their day.

Even the briefest of forays into current events shows there are plenty of views being challenged every day; we are living in deeply divided times. It seems as if the IDW was borne out of frustration with the lack of progress on this front. We are wrapped up in hyper-partisanship and raw anger, challenging other views only to score points for our own rather than to seek truth. At its core the IDW is a rejection of political correctness. However, merely being contraria…

Ad blocking without browser extensions

Google is an advertising company first and foremost, lest we forget. They want to create ads people want to see, they say, but I find it hard to trust their motives. It comes as little surprise they want to clamp down on browser extension based adblockers as Ars recently covered.

Fortunately, there are other ways to block ads which are more effective anyway. Every OS has a hosts file, which is simply a plain text file that can route internet traffic from one host to another. In Linux and Mac OS X the hosts file is in /etc/hosts and in Windows it is in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers\etc\hosts and editing it will require sudo or Administrator rights.

Once you have your hosts file open, we are going to add a bunch of entries to it that will take traffic from many thousand known ad-serving domains and route it to which is equivalent to a digital trash can. There are options for host file ad blocking. Personally, I use the list from but the list from Steven Black looks even …