The Null Device


The Fifth Utility: Researchers in the UK, the birthplace of universal video surveillance, are developing software for detecting crimes before they happen, by detecting telltale behavioral traits of potential criminals:

The footage showed how car thieves tended to walk erratically and look in directions irrelevant to their path of travel. Before an act of violence culprits would walk aggressively, their arms static by their sides, taking long purposeful strides.

Mind you, it's only a matter of time until what the cameras look for is figured out, and tips on spoofing them start circulating on the underworld grapevine, becoming known to every competent criminal and writer of contemporary fiction; and so the arms race begins.


Coca-Cola does a Nike and has been availing themselves of the local right-wing death squads' assistance in sorting out labour problems; this time, in Colombia. Nothing like the disappearance of some trouble-making organiser, their mutilated corpse later to be found in a sewer, to keep the employees compliant and docile. Coca-Cola, however, denies involvement, saying that the bottling plants aren't owned or operated by them (much like the Nike factories, right?) Though, surely, if the plants have to meet a quality standards to earn the valuable and tightly controlled Coca-Cola trademark (and I doubt that Coca-Cola would want someone attaching their brand name to bottles of muddy water), the parent company could equally insist that they not torture or kill their employees, no?

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Ominous tidings: Riot police shoot dead a demonstrator at anti-globalisation protests; the officers will probably be charged, but who gave the orders to shoot to kill? Meanwhile, a Russian programmer is in jail for revealing the secrets of Adobe's access controls (a crime under the DMCA), and hence Alan Cox has resigned from the USENIX committee in protest. Whether this will make a point or marginalise the penguinhead pirasite colony remains to be determined. Meanwhile, the US Government has created a special elite cyber-cop agency of highly-trained aspheads to hunt down intellectual property thieves, crackers, copyright violators and other enemies of capitalism (and that means you, hiding there with the DeCSS source and the eight gig of MP3s on your hard disk; don't think they cannot see you), further escalating the War On Copying.

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Today I went to a screening of Angels of the Universe, which was showing as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival. It is an Icelandic film about an artistically-inclined man who, upon being rejected by his girlfriend, suffers a psychological breakdown, becomes schizophrenic and is committed to a mental institution; there he meets several other patients, including a man who believes that he telepathically wrote all the Beatles' songs. He contends with his inner demons, muses on the nature of sanity or otherwise, and in the course of this, has a number of adventures, including paying a visit to the President with a fellow patient. It's a beautiful film; a very thoughtful and somewhat philosophical portrayal of sanity and its absence, set against the vast, cold, desolately beautiful backdrops of the Icelandic landscape, and featuring music from local post-rockers Sigur Rós. If you get a chance to see it (and it's showing on this coming Friday), doing so is highly recommended.