The Null Device


Former UN arms inspector Scott Ritter debunks arguments for invading Iraq. According to him, Iraq could not have any remaining capability to develop weapons of mass destruction, and no links to terrorist groups were ever found, and the claims in the media about impending Iraqi-backed nuclear/biological/chemical terrorism are baseless, contrived for political reasons.

"Technically capable," however, is the important phrase here. If no one were watching, Iraq could do this. But they would have to start completely from scratch, having been deprived of all equipment, facilities and research because of Ritter's work. They would have to procure the complicated tools and technology required through front companies, which would be detected. The manufacture of chemical and biological weapons emits vented gasses that would have been detected by now if they existed. The manufacture of nuclear weapons emits gamma rays that would have been detected by now if they existed. We have been watching, via satellite and other means, and we have seen none of this. "If Iraq was producing weapons today, we would have definitive proof," said Ritter, "plain and simple."

Nonetheless, preparations for the invasion of Iraq (scheduled for mid-October) are going ahead.


The next wave in marketing is here: chatroom bots or "buddies" with virtual personalities, which befriend people, make conversation and gently encourage them to consume lifestyle products -- and potentially provide marketing analysts with a lot of customer-profile data in the form of conversations.

Most buddies are programmed with personalities that appeal to their target audiences. ELLEgirlBuddy, the Internet ego of teen magazine ELLEgirl, is a redheaded 16-year-old who likes kickboxing, the color periwinkle and French class. GooglyMinotaur, a buddy for the British progressive rock band Radiohead, affected a British demeanor with words like "mate." The Austin Powers buddy, which promotes the summer film "Goldmember," interjects the movie character's favorite phrases - "yeah, baby" and "grrr" - into conversation.

Perhaps surprisingly, thanks to improvements in natural-language technology and extensive customer databases, the bots give the illusion of being sentient. People know they're machines, but choose to suspend disbelief.

ActiveBuddy's bots save details about each user - names, birth dates, even instances when the person used offensive language. When the buddy recalls these facts, it could appear to the user that it is taking a genuine interest in him or her. "We're programmed to respond to certain signals as though in the presence of a life form," said MIT's Turkle. "These objects are pushing our buttons."

(via TechDirt)

ai deception marketing spam turing test 2

ode to the 90s, from a somewhat US-west-coast dot-com angle.

I was a millionaire at 27
for thirty seconds.
I learned HTML
and swing dancing.
moved to Seattle
but I was back on the redeye.
why did I eat
those krispy kremes?

(via bOING bOING)

1990s dot-com boom 0