July 29th, 2003

Terror futures and “open source intelligence”

Ooooh, cool… I get to write a long post about a topic I really love that I don’t think I’ve ever discussed with any of you! (I talk so much that it’s rare to come across a secret passion of mine.)

While the DoD’s insta-shitcanned “terror futures” market was pretty stupid and incredibly poorly handled, it stems from a generally reputable idea. Here’s hoping the Feds won’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

So here’s the baby, as it were: Markets do more than just assign value to goods. Markets represent a form of knowledge, and futures-style trading does consolidate and maximize that knowledge. The Hollywood Stock Exchange is a great example of this. HSX is often far more accurate in predicting opening-weekend grosses than Variety is. Basically, research into this field has proven that people in groups are smarter than any single person in that group; an efficient market (based on accurate and transparent underlying data) magnifies this effect. So as offensive and unsettling as its ramifications may be, a worldwide network of well-read amatuer and professional predictors might be more accurate at assessing and predicting threats than even the sharpest spook in Langley. (This Slate article is a decent half-defense of the Policy Analysis Market, or PAM, that just went down in flames, though it misses the most obvious way to ensure that terrorist don’t profit by manipulating the results: make it a “closed-end fund” open only to thoroughly vetted individuals– a few thousand to start with, sprinkled around the globe.)

The realization that bountiful intelligence information is available in the public sphere but is nonetheless undervalued and underanalyzed has given birth to the idea of “open source intelligence.”
Read the rest of this entry »


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon

July 29th, 2003

ClayKittenShooting

This is simple, straightforward, and immensely satisfying: ClayKittenShooting.

Especially if you dislike cats.

Thanks for this one, Pete! When are we going to hear about your Israel and Poland trip, and see some photos?


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon

July 29th, 2003

Well, I should hope so

Uhm, so the Pentagon suddenly came to the conclusion that their most bizarre scheme in the war on terror, basically betting on future terrorist activities, was a bad idea. Uhm, duh. I’m still puzzling over who the hell thought this could possibly have been a good idea in the first place. Imagine, for example, if the White House chief of staff, suggested that Wednesday afternoons should be reserved for dwarf tossing in the west wing. You’d think he would just be met with blank stares and muttering about what the guy’d been smoking, right? Well, maybe not in this particular administration.

If I seem a little, uh, speechless, THAT’S BECAUSE I AM. What else am I supposed to be upon reading “The Pentagon, in initially defending the program, said such futures trading had proven effective in predicting other events like oil prices, elections and movie ticket sales.”

Yeah. Hey, it works for predicting movie ticket sales. That means it should scale well to terrorist activities, right?

Wait. Backup a second. People lay wagers on movie ticket sales?


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon

July 28th, 2003

More job ads should be like this

The Toxic Custard Workshop Files (one of the first blogs ever, which I’ve been reading since, oh, 1991) just pointed me to these two very amusing job ads [ad1] [ad2]. They were originally posted to Australia’s monster-equivalent Seek, but found here in less evanescent form. More recruitment should be like this.


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon

July 25th, 2003

Genetic Poetry

eyes closed illumines men loved
for jest from quiet neotype
with give fire followers firm
home helmet kind infinite son
sits so still defines so
to be throne revoking of you burning
the occupied front in scene

Any guesses as to who wrote this? No-one: it was computer generated by a clever little application called Darwinian Poetry.
Read the rest of this entry »


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon

July 24th, 2003

The Birds

Don’t tell Tippi Hedren, but crows are just as smart as we feared. As linked from memepool, the venerable journal Science shows us that they can make and use tools. This is a fairly rare ability among animals; otters use stones to break mussel shells, but this is obviously a far better-developed problem-solving ability.

And we thought Dozer was smart… maybe some trips to Home Depot would help him get more proficient with tools.


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon

July 24th, 2003

“Robotic Nation”

A really interesting link from Slashdot today. While the title is a bit geeky, Marshall Brain makes a very clear argument that advances in robotic technology will have huge impacts on employment patterns within our lifetimes. It sounds terribly sci-fi, until you realize that all those ATMs and self-service kiosks and auto-check-out lines in stores are all basically robots. And they have already eliminated millions of jobs. Brain looks at a number of sectors (manufacturing, food service, construction) that he estimates will be, for simple economic reasons, devoid of human workers by mid-century. It makes me awfully glad to be a member of the creative class–our work is the last field slated for robotic replacement. Let’s face it: when the robots start marketing to us, it’s all over. As that Jane’s Addiction song goes, “We’ll make great pets.”

Leaving aside Terminator-style doomsday scenarios, having 50% unemployment in developed countries will completely alter all of our assumptions about work, production, and citizenship. Brain’s point is that we need to start wrestling with these issues now.

One point he doesn’t touch on: perhaps by 2050, with all those robots, Americans will finally get more than 2 lousy weeks off a year. Of course, the Europeans are sure to beat us to the point where humans only have to work two weeks out of the year. Assuming the robots are kind and loving masters, it will be a great vacation.


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon

July 23rd, 2003

Making me legitimate

I had thought the best thing about the Dads’ vacation in Maui was getting spoiled by Aunt Paulette. (That woman can give a belly-rub like nobody’s business!) But no– as you all know, the Dads are getting married.

As a dog, I have always found human politics a little confusing– we find butt-sniffing and pack behavior so successful that we’ve never found the need for elections and political parties. Needless to say, I’m completely confused by the Christian Coalition and why they think the Dads shouldn’t get married.

Luckily for us, there’s Canada. Much like us dogs, the Canadians are humble, loyal, and above all socially tolerant. So while they should really be able to just get married here, and talk a lot about something called “tax benefits” they would get if they could, it’s all going to work out fine. Canada also has something called a “favorable exchange rate,” which based on context clues I’m guessing is almost as good as a Paulette belly-rub.

But the taller Dad had not taken the time to look up all the details of this– I heard him twice unable to answer basic questions about what marriage in Canada entails. Well, Tall Dad, here’s all the information: Getting Married in Canada. Apparently you two are going to have to decide if you want a civil or religious ceremony. I’ve also heard you talking a lot about where to have the wedding. I don’t care about either of these things, as long as you have it somewhere they like dogs. Because this is a big day for me: I may still be a dog, and will always be a bit of runt, but soon nobody will be able to call me a bastard. And amen to that.


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon

July 23rd, 2003

Jumping on my bandwagon

Why is it that every time I get some idea in my head, it seems like before I can spit out the word “copycat”, everyone else has suddenly made a mad dash to beat me to the punch? Well, not that it will stop me, but still, this is frustrating.

Ok, the last time it happened they didn’t exactly make a mad dash, but it was still frustrating to see a movie about Porn ‘n Chicken, the Yale club that nearly got themselves booted out of Old Blue for making a porno flick in the stacks at Sterling Library called Staxx, an idea I first floated back in my days with University Pictures, and which, for some reason, I never managed to get any Sudler Fund sponsorship for.

So now, it was probably about two weeks ago I started making plans to spend a week working on the Jubilee, a salmon boat out of Kodiak, Alaska that belongs to someone I know. Now, suddenly Slate’s copy chief Laurie Snyder is sending her dispatches from a southern Alaskan salmon boat?

What gives? Well, I’m still planning on doing this next summer, since it looks like the timing won’t likely work out for me going this August, but trust me, the other idea I’ve been cooking up lately, I’m not breathing a word of, lest some member of Salon’s editorial staff take it upon herself to do it first.


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon

July 23rd, 2003

F*** the Two-Buck Chuck, says Slate

So after Mike Steinberger, writing in Slate’s new wine column, trashes Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck,” he goes on to list some inexpensive greats that I’ve mostly not tried. While calling Salice Salentino “the world’s greatest pizza wine” could ignite quite a discussion, I can back him up so far as to say it’s quite nice with a good gourmet pie. But his apparent fascination with French wines is itself an impediment to finding great cheap wines. By my informal calculation, France’s brand equity in the wine world exacts a 20%-40% premium over, say, an Australian wine of similar quality. Plus, you know, dealing with the French still gives me a bit of a bad taste despite the fact that they were (I admit it) basically right about all that war stuff earlier this year.


Social Bookmarking: del.icio.us Digg it StumbleUpon