Apr. 22nd, 2008

On Logic

Apr. 22nd, 2008 09:55 am
jackofallgeeks: (Geeky)
Here is an interesting
article
about a man who's found the perfect algorithm for remembering
things -- everything -- and at first blush makes me think a little bit about
the borg, vulcans, and madness. Which probably isn't helpful to any of
you. The idea is that it's well known that forgetfulness in humans follows
a predictable pattern, but it's so complex with so many variables that it's
fairly impossible for us to track on our own. This man has written a
computer program which apparently tracks it for us. And he seems to be
running an odd experiment on himself regarding "strict obedience to logic."
When I get time, I'd like to read the other 6 or 7 pages in the article.

Also, most of you won't know the name Jon
Finkel
, but he's a long-time world champion for Magic: The Gathering, a
game I've been playing since I was 12. (I was at a tournament last weekend
and it occured to me that I'd been playing the game longer than some
of my opponents have been alive.) Anyways, I was surprised and
amused to find an article about Finkel on Wired, and I'd like to get to
that, too, when I have time.
jackofallgeeks: (Geeky)
So a CAPTCHA is a mechanism used to tell a real person from a scripted bot
on the Internet; I'm sure most people these days have seen the distorted
images or obscured words that banks and email providers ask you to identify
when you mistype your password. The idea was that at one point computers
couldn't "see" the screen as well as humans, and since the words were images
rather than text, bots couldn't read it. Eventually bots learned to read,
so they distorted the images. Bots have figured that one out, too, and
broken into Gmail (which was thought to have pretty strong protection).
Now, It
Seems
, some are trying a new tactic which is both absurd and, I think,
futile. I'll save you clicking through the link: it seems RapidShare (a
download site) is presenting users with letters and animals, and
asking you to type the letters that are on top of a certain pet. I guess
the idea is that computers can tell what the letters are but... can't
determine what animal's behind them? That's why I think it's futile: at
best you're just delaying the inevitable because the bots WILL over come
this. Visual tricks aren't working and this is a visual trick.

The whole idea of a Captcha
comes from the Turing
Test
-- a test proposed by Alan Turing to demonstrate the
capabilities of an artificially intellgent computer. All the test says is
that an AI passes the test if it can can convince a human operator that
they're talking to another human, not a
machine
. Captchas are supposed to be tests that are impossible for bots
to pass but trivial for humans (so we aren't utterly frustrated everytime we
have to prove to a website that we're human). They're failing this
objective.

The really amusing thing, I think, is that Captchas are really, really
distorted Turing tests. It's not a machine proving to a human that it's a
human, it's a machine proving to another machine that it's a human.
The odds seem so stacked against Captchas that I imagine the only
reason they're still around is due dilligence -- we have to do
something to protect against bots, and this is as good as we have.
jackofallgeeks: (Default)
And This
Article
, on how expertise in computer security is a scarce commodity, is
the sort of thing that gives me warm fuzzies about my place in the world.
jackofallgeeks: (Gendo)
"Officials said Shvarts' description of her creative process as well as her
subsequent denial that the description was fictitious were all just part of
her performance."

For those just joining us, a senior at Yale's art program is in the middle
of, I think, a
rather interesting news flurry
regarding the controvercial nature of her
most recent project. Pardon me if this is too graphic -- it's definitely a
bit too squicky for me -- but Shvarts claims that she artificially
inseminated herself and then self-induced 'miscarriages' using certain
herbal concoctions. She says she did it so that her 'miscarriage'
corresponded with her period, so she never knew if she was actually
pregnant, but that blood from her period would constuitute part of the
exhibit.

There was, apparently, a big outrage over this, which then turned into Yale
saying the story is a fiction and part of the 'performance' of Shvarts' art,
and Shvarts herself standing by her story and claiming that Yale is just
trying to save face after giving her permission to do the project.

I'm inclined myself to believe it's all a great farce, that the whole thing
is a performance including the school's denouncment of Shvarts and 'removal'
of her exhibit from the art show. I think they're all in on the game and
that her art is in seeing how we the people react to this manufactured
scandal. It's got all the right pieces, from a controvercial (even
grotesque) art piece, and a school's persecution of an artist, and claims
that the institution is putting on a pretty face because they're getting
negative attention. And I think that the fact that this is Yale and not,
say, Maryland University or Boston College, adds credence to this hypothesis
because not only COULD Yale get away with a stunt like this, they'd probably
give it a go, too.

That being said (and maybe this speaks to why I think it's a hoax), I don't
get why this is an issue. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm personally
appauled that anyone could possibly think this exhibit -- the insemination
and the blood and the 'miscarriages' -- would be a good idea. If it
actually happened the way Shvarts says it did I think she's a rather
wretched human being on a number of levels -- but all for reasons that set
me apart from what it is our society seems to think is OK. We have
abortions every day, and while it is a controvertial topic, as it stands now
our society approves of if not condones abortion. Sex itself
is in a strange, half-taboo position in society; we won't talk about
consensual intercourse in polite company (or public TV), but all sorts of
violence is thrown about casually and society condones pretty much anything
that goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults (unless you
live in Virginia or Utah). And those two points seem to be key in this case
of a girl inseminating herself and subsequently inducing miscarriages -- it
happens every day in America and no one thinks anything of it, she's
just abstracted it and turned it into an art piece -- not art like Classical
Art, I propose, but art in the more modern sense of saying something.

I know why I'm repulsed, because what she's claimed to do is squarely
against a good deal of what I think is right and proper. What I don't get
is why the society that condones this same behavior in private is in an
uproar over it in art.

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John Noble

August 2012

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