Filed under: tech, Predictions, Science Fiction, BoingBoing, Society, Connections, Cory Doctorow, Philip K. Dick, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, RFID, Preparedness, Privacy, George Orwell | Tags: jim downey, writing, blogging, technology, Science Fiction, augmented reality, predictions, BoingBoing, St. Cybi's Well, Philip K. Dick, privacy, Boing Boing, George Orwell, security, RFID, smartphone, Dave Lewis, Forbes, John Dodge, Cory Doctorow, A Scanner Darkly
When you see news like this in the mainstream press…
It seems rather far fetched at first glance. There is news that came out last week that rogue cell phone towers around the US are forcing mobile devices to disable their encryption making it possible that someone might be able to listen in to your call. “That could never happen to me,” you think out loud. But, apparently it could.
In 2010 at the DEF CON in Las Vegas, security researcher Chris Paget did the unthinkable. He built a cell tower of his own so that he could spoof legitimate towers and intercept calls.The device would mimic the type used by law enforcement agencies to intercept phone calls. In this case, he was able to build it for roughly $1500 US. Paget’s device would only capture 2G GSM phone calls. Carriers such as AT&TT -0.06% and T-Mobile would be vulnerable as they use GSM, unlike Verizon which relies on CDMA technology.
… it’s easy to feel a little paranoid. But is this a real threat? Has anyone actually seen things like this ‘in the wild’?
So-called rogue cell phone towers, the type that can intercept your mobile calls and data, are cropping up all over the United States, including here in Chicago, according to a company that specializes in developing highly secure mobile phones.
* * *
CBS 2 security analyst Ross Rice, a former FBI agent, said it’s likely being used illegally.
“I doubt that they are installed by law enforcement as they require a warrant to intercept conversations or data and since the cell providers are ordered by the court to cooperate with the intercept, there really would be no need for this,” Rice said.
“Most likely, they are installed and operated by hackers, trying to steal personal identification and passwords.”
Great. Just great.
Well, what can you do? There are some smart phones out there which are designed to thwart this kind of security threat. And I’ve mentioned another option previously. And now there’s a company with a whole line of clothing based on similar RF-blocking technology:
“The 1984 Collection” is a line of clothing for men and women with removable, snap-in pockets that act as radio-shields for slipping your devices and tokens (cards, phones, etc) into to stop them from being read when you’re not using them.
Hmm … let’s see, there’s a passage from Chapter One of St Cybi’s Well that comes to mind:
Darnell stepped close to her, said in a low voice, “Give me your hand-held.”
She looked at him, raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
“I don’t want to make it too easy for anyone to listen in.”
“Really, Dar, or is this some kind of joke?”
She looked him in the eye, pulled her phone out of her small purse, held it out to him. “Here.”
“Either turn it off or put it into offline mode.”
She fiddled with it a moment then handed it over. He took it and dropped it into the RF-blocking pocket in his satchel. “Thanks.”
“Couldn’t I just have turned it off?”
“Nope. They can still turn it on remotely and activate the mic. This pocket,” he patted the satchel where he had put the phone, “blocks the signal. It isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty good protection.”
I guess I need to get back into the habit of using my RF-shielding pocket.
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Civil Rights, Connections, Constitution, Expert systems, General Musings, Government, movies, Music, Philip K. Dick, Predictions, Privacy, Science Fiction, tech, Violence, YouTube | Tags: augmented reality, Buffalo Springfield, civil liberties, Constitution, jim downey, movies, music, Philip K. Dick, predictions, Science Fiction, technology, The Minority Report, The Verge, video, www youtube
There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware*
When the Chicago Police Department sent one of its commanders to Robert McDaniel’s home last summer, the 22-year-old high school dropout was surprised. Though he lived in a neighborhood well-known for bloodshed on its streets, he hadn’t committed a crime or interacted with a police officer recently. And he didn’t have a violent criminal record, nor any gun violations. In August, he incredulously told the Chicago Tribune, “I haven’t done nothing that the next kid growing up hadn’t done.” Yet, there stood the female police commander at his front door with a stern message: if you commit any crimes, there will be major consequences. We’re watching you.
What McDaniel didn’t know was that he had been placed on the city’s “heat list” — an index of the roughly 400 people in the city of Chicago supposedly most likely to be involved in violent crime. Inspired by a Yale sociologist’s studies and compiled using an algorithm created by an engineer at the Illinois Institute of Technology, the heat list is just one example of the experiments the CPD is conducting as it attempts to push policing into the 21st century.
Filed under: Art, Blade Runner, Connections, movies, Music, Philip K. Dick, Ridley Scott, Science Fiction, YouTube | Tags: Anders Ramsell, art, Blade Runner, blogging, jim downey, movies, music, Philip K. Dick, Ridley Scott, Science Fiction, video, watercolor, www youtube
I am staggered by this thing: a 35-minute “paraphrasing” of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner from 12,597 animated watercolor paintings. It’s beautiful and insane—who would do this? A really big Blade Runner fan, I guess.
That fan is Swedish artist Anders Ramsell, who hand-painted each of the thousands of 1.5 by 3 cm paintings that make up the film, then synced them up to audio from the movie. The results are moody, and dreamily gorgeous.
Judge for yourself:
For me, this presentation/interpretation works, because it fits so perfectly with the theme and style of the movie. Very impressive.
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Connections, Constitution, Expert systems, Government, Heinlein, Humor, movies, Philip K. Dick, Predictions, Preparedness, Privacy, Religion, Reproduction, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech | Tags: augmented reality, Heinlein, humor, jim downey, movies, NSA, Philip José Farmer, Philip K. Dick, predictions, privacy, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, simulated reality, simulation, technology, The Matrix
Everyone is thinking about the whole “NSA Spying” thing all wrong. This isn’t about surveillance. It’s not whether there is a trade off to be made between security and privacy. It isn’t a question of how much the government is watching you or that you shouldn’t worry at all if you have nothing to hide. Nope. It’s not about any of that.
It’s about whether you want to live forever or not.
The idea that we’re living in some kind of ‘simulated reality‘ has been a mainstay of Science Fiction for just about forever, whether you want to credit it to Philip José Farmer, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, or for that matter, Genesis. One popular twist on this perhaps best seen in The Matrix where at some future time hyper-intelligent computers have re-created our reality for their own purposes, using the best records available to run simulations and better understand us.
So don’t think of it as the National Security Agency. Think of it, rather, as a records-keeping entity. One which is doing everything possible to record as much of this world, and your life, as possible so that later it can be used to make an accurate simulation. Just call it the Nascent Simulation Archive, and rejoice that our government is being so ecumenical in trying to document as much as possible about not just America, but the whole wide world. Because it means that you’ll live forever.
And you want to live forever, right?
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Art, Blade Runner, Connections, Depression, Failure, Flu, General Musings, Health, Philip K. Dick, Ridley Scott, Science, Science Fiction, Scientific American, Society, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: Alzheimer's, art, bipolar, Blade Runner, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, health, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kickstarter, memoir, memory, New York Review of Books, Oliver Sacks, parainfluenza, Philip K. Dick, reality, science, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, video, writing, www youtube
Of late, as I have been slowly getting over the rather nasty bout of parainfluenza I mentioned previously, shedding the more annoying and disgusting symptoms, I’ve also come to realize that just now I am pulling out of the depressive trough of one of my long-term bipolar cycles. It wasn’t a particularly bad trough, and was somewhat mitigated by the success of the Kickstarter back in the fall. Nonetheless, it was there, as I can see in hindsight.
I am frequently struck just how much of our life doesn’t make sense until seen from a distance. Just recently I was surprised at the revelation of *why* the failure of Her Final Year to be more successful bothered me as much as it did: it was because I had seen the book as being a way to create something positive (for the world) out of the experience of being a long-term care provider. To have the book only reach a limited audience was, in my mind, saying that our roles as care-givers didn’t matter.
Which isn’t true, of course, but that was the emotional reality which I had been dealing with. The “narrative truth”, if you will. A term I borrow from a very interesting meditation by Oliver Sacks at the New York Review of Books website titled Speak, Memory. From the article:
There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the truth, or at least the veridical character, of our recollections. We have no direct access to historical truth, and what we feel or assert to be true (as Helen Keller was in a very good position to note) depends as much on our imagination as our senses. There is no way by which the events of the world can be directly transmitted or recorded in our brains; they are experienced and constructed in a highly subjective way, which is different in every individual to begin with, and differently reinterpreted or reexperienced whenever they are recollected. (The neuroscientist Gerald M. Edelman often speaks of perceiving as “creating,” and remembering as “recreating” or “recategorizing.”) Frequently, our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other, and ourselves—the stories we continually recategorize and refine. Such subjectivity is built into the very nature of memory, and follows from its basis and mechanisms in the human brain. The wonder is that aberrations of a gross sort are relatively rare, and that, for the most part, our memories are relatively solid and reliable.
Let me repeat one bit of that: “Frequently, our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other, and ourselves.”
I think this is at the very heart of why fiction has such power, and appeal. I also think that it explains the well-documented phenomenon of people believing things which are clearly and demonstratively false, if their facts come from a trusted source.
Little surprise that writers of fiction are aware of this very human trait, and have explored it in all manner of ways. I have a note here on my desk, a scrawl written on a scrap of paper some months ago as I was thinking through character motivations in St. Cybi’s Well, which says simply: “We take our truths from the people we trust.”
And here’s another example, from one of my favorite movies, exploring a favorite theme of Philip K. Dick’s:
That theme? The nature of reality. And this is how the Sacks essay closes:
Indifference to source allows us to assimilate what we read, what we are told, what others say and think and write and paint, as intensely and richly as if they were primary experiences. It allows us to see and hear with other eyes and ears, to enter into other minds, to assimilate the art and science and religion of the whole culture, to enter into and contribute to the common mind, the general commonwealth of knowledge. This sort of sharing and participation, this communion, would not be possible if all our knowledge, our memories, were tagged and identified, seen as private, exclusively ours. Memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds.
In other words, that reality is a shared construct. A Communion of Dreams, if you will.
Time for me to get back to work.
Filed under: Artificial Intelligence, Civil Rights, Connections, Expert systems, Government, Marketing, movies, Paleo-Future, Philip K. Dick, Predictions, Privacy, Psychic abilities, Science Fiction, Society, tech | Tags: blogging, civil liberties, corruption, Facewatch, jim downey, literature, Philip K. Dick, police, privacy, Science Fiction, surveillance, technology, The Minority Report, video
I’ve mentioned Philip K. Dick, his genius and his influence on my writing, previously. And I’ve specifically written about his short story The Minority Report in the context of the UK’s plunge into becoming a surveillance society.
Well, even Philip K. Dick had his limitations. He was a man of his time, and couldn’t foresee just how powerful and widespread computing power and expert systems would become. Powerful enough that now it is routine for such systems to mimic one of the human brain’s best tricks: facial recognition. To wit:
Remember, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear. Unless, you know, you worry about abuses committed by others using such a powerful surveillance tool.
Nah, *that’d* never happen, would it?