Wednesday 8 February, 2023

Two ladies of Arles

Speaks for itself, really.

Quote of the Day

”Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent.”

  • George Orwell

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

John Field | Nocturne no 5 in B flat major | John O’Conor


I love all the Field nocturnes, but this one is special.

Long Read of the Day

We are ‘greening’ ourselves to extinction

Sharp essay by Vijay Kolinjivadi from the University of Antwerp.

More than a decade ago, investment experts James Altucher and Douglas Sease wrote a book for the Wall Street Journal called ‘Investing in the Apocalypse’. They argued that the end of the world is a profitable opportunity for those who know how to “fade the fear”, as everyone else panics. They maintained that when disaster strikes, investors should approach it with the rationale that “no matter how bad things seem, they really aren’t that bad”.

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, they advised investing in big pharmaceutical companies as a strategy to reap dividends from global pandemics. They also encouraged putting money into renewable energy systems while ramping up oil production.

Today, it seems many have followed Althucher and Sease’s advice. Under the guise of taking action on the pandemic, billions of dollars have been poured into big pharma, instead of public health and policies aimed at preventing another global outbreak. The supposed energy transition that has been undertaken has seen renewable energy production expanded, but there has been no indication that oil and gas are being substituted and ultimately phased out.

What is worse, governments and corporations have teamed up to turn the apocalypse into a money-making opportunity…

It’s good on the ‘carbon offsets’ racket, too.

And of course it reminds me that we need a theory of incompetent systems — ones that can’t fix themselves.

Books, etc.

Security guru Bruce Schneier has a new book, A Hacker’s Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend them Back, coming out soon, and it’s on my reading list. (I think I’ve read all of his previous books.) Cory Doctorow (Whom God Preserve) has a nice blog post about it — and about Schneier.

Schneier led the charge for a kind of sensible, reasonable thinking about security, using a mix of tactics to shift the discourse on the subject: debating TSA boss Kip Hawley, traveling with reporters through airport checkpoints while narrating countermeasures to defeat every single post-9/11 measure, and holding annual “movie-plot threat” competitions.

Most importantly, though, Schneier wrote long-form books that set out the case for sound security reasoning, railing against security theater and calling for policies that would actually make our physical and digital world more secure – abolishing DRM, clearing legal barriers to vulnerability research and disclosure, and debunking security snake-oil, from “unbreakable proprietary ciphers” to “behavioral detection training” for TSA officers.

He even designed the rings for Cory’s wedding — which, naturally, were cipher wheels.

One thing I especially like about Schneier is his description of himself as

“a public-interest technologist, working at the intersection of security, technology, and people”.

My commonplace booklet

Deus ex machina

My friend Quentin had the good idea of asking ChatGPT to come up with an Eleventh Commandment. And a Twelfth. And a Thirteenth!

 This Blog is also available as a daily email. If you think that might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email a day, Monday through Friday, delivered to your inbox. It’s free, and you can always unsubscribe if you conclude your inbox is full enough already!**