The Null Device


The Turing test with a twist: A computer program, Brutus.1, writes stories on the theme of betrayal. (NYTimes)


Australian golf tournament offers penis enlargement surgery as prize; condemned by doctors. (Reuters)


An amusing and illuminating article on Harry Stephen Keeler, the mad genius of crackpot pulp fiction often compared to Ed Wood Jr.:

eeler transcended deus ex machina, deploying regiments of metaphorical robots to keep things moving along all sorts of bizarre tangents. The seemingly rickety labyrinth is held together by a fantastic agglomeration of weird wills, lunatic laws, kooky contracts, idiotic oaths, and some of the most outrageously beautiful multilayered, interlocking coincidences ever devised by the human mind. The mystery is ultimately resolved by an exquisitely unreal solution with all the wacky ingenuity of a flawlessly conceived Rube Goldberg device.
(The standard Keeler protagonist) may be the unwitting victim of a nefarious capitalist plot to foreclose on his mortgage, steal his inheritance, or defraud him of his patent. Through a bizarre chain of coincidences, he finds himself implicated in some crime. His alibi is worthless, for his witnesses are invariably dead, abroad, or otherwise incommunicado. He is deeply in love, but his fiancé can never simply tie the knot. She has pledged to stay single until some rare book is stolen or a one-act vaudeville play is produced... Standard subplots involve weird curios, circus freaks, concealed identities, and mysterious (but not sinister!) Chinese laundries. It's the stuff of pure pulp fiction, but zanily transformed as if it's gone through the looking glass once too often.

bizarre fiction harry stephen keeler outré psychoceramics 0

Big Brother in your photocopier: Secret embedded IDs in colour copies exposed. (Privacy Forum)

It's also the case that we need to be watchful for the "spread" of this technology, intended for one purpose, into other areas or broader applications (what I call "technology creep"). We've seen this effect repeatedly with other technologies over the years, from automated toll collection to cell phone location tracking. While there is currently no U.S. legislative requirement that manufacturers of copier technology include IDs on color copies, it is also the case that these manufacturers have the clear impression that if they do not include such IDs, legislation to require them would be immediately forthcoming.
It is important to be vigilant to avoid such perceived or real pressures from causing possibly intrusive technology creep in this area. In the copier case, that ID technology being used for color copies *could* be adapted to black and white copies and prints as well. The addition of cheap GPS units to copiers could provide not only valid date/time stamps, but also the physical *locations* of the units, all of which could be invisibly encoded within the printed images.