The Null Device
A new book from the Disinformation troublemakers: 50 things you're not supposed to know, with "irrefutable evidence" of factoids like "Nearly all American milk-cows are infected with Bovine Leukemia Virus", "Pope Pius II wrote a best selling erotic novel", and "One of the heroes of 'Black Hawk Down' was a convicted child molester". (via bOING bOING)
Another resourceful criminal use of the countless thousands of virussed Windows machines on the internet: online protection rackets, where the "businessmen" (predominantly from Eastern Europe) target a high-profile website and threaten to knock them offline with a massive DDOS attack unless they pay up. Online casinos (which make a lot of money and are in poorly-policed areas) are a popular target.
Most of the computers used are broadband-connected home Windows PCs owned by clueless people, of whom there is, sadly, no shortage; and it doesn't look like the problem is going to go away, at least not until a totalitarian "trusted computing" regime is imposed on the internet at the IP level, or something equally drastic happens. Which makes me wonder whether or not Microsoft are deliberately allowing viruses to flourish on their OS as to drive people into the highly profitable embrace of Big Brother.
Scientists are discovering the neurological bases of social phenomena such as romantic love, trust, self-awareness and deception.
"We believe romantic love is a developed form of one of three primary brain networks that evolved to direct mammalian reproduction," says researcher Helen Fisher, PhD, of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. "The sex drive evolved to motivate individuals to seek sex with any appropriate partner. Attraction, the mammalian precursor of romantic love, evolved to enable individuals to pursue preferred mating partners, thereby conserving courtship time and energy. The brain circuitry for male-female attachment evolved to enable individuals to remain with a mate long enough to complete species-specific parenting duties."
In the new research, Zak and his colleagues find that when someone observes that another person trusts them, oxytocin - a hormone that circulates in the brain and the body - rises. The stronger the signal of trust, the more oxytocin increases. In addition, the more oxytocin increases, the more trustworthy (reciprocating trust) people are.
"Interestingly, participants in this experiment were unable to articulate why they behaved they way they did, but nonetheless their brains guided them to behave in `socially desirable ways,' that is, to be trustworthy," says Zak. "This tells us that human beings are exquisitely attuned to interpreting and responding to social signals.
(Or, perhaps, that what we know as the conscious mind doesn't so much make decisions or control our behaviour as rationalise it; could it be that the conscious mind does little more than provide a running commentary for the many physical processes happening in the brain and nervous system, and the (advantageous) illusion of a coherent, unified "self"? But I digress.)
And in other related news: a wink sends testosterone soaring:
He paid male students $10 to come into the lab and leave a saliva sample. Unbeknownst to the men, the scientists staged a five-minute chat with a twentysomething female research assistant before they spit. This brief brush set the men's hormones surging: testosterone levels in their spit shot up around 30%. The higher a man's hormone soared, the more the female research assistant judged that he was out to impress - by talking about himself, for example.
One could probably coin a corollary to Gibson's Law ("the street finds its own uses for things") stating that any technology that communicates anything about its users will become primarily a means of asserting social identity. This seems to be happening with shared iTunes playlists, which are becoming an indicator of status and position in the hip-daggy spectrum:
On college campuses, for example, a new form of bigotry called "playlistism" is emerging... Playlistism, Aubrey explained, is discrimination based not on race, sex or religion, but on someone's terrible taste in music, as revealed by their iTunes music library.
Students are starting to realize they must manage their music collections, or at least prune them, to maintain their image, Aubrey said. He confessed to deleting a lot of stuff himself. "I had a lot of show tunes I had to get rid of," he said. "And a lot of punk pop from my earlier days like Green Day and Blink-182."
As well as trimming their music collections, some students are enhancing them, but not always subtly. Aubrey said the campus' resident jazz expert complains that any jazz he talks about instantly shows up on his fellow students' playlists. "He tells them about something he just heard and then all the pseudo jazz kids have it," Aubrey said. "A lot of people try to be cooler than they are through their playlist. I think people are trying to figure out what is trendy and popular by looking at what's on playlists of people who are cool, and then emulate that."
That's not really a new phenomenon; it shows up everywhere, from teenaged mooks professing to be into the Sex Pistols or Sisters of Mercy because it makes them more authentically "punk" or "goth" or whatever, to hipsters getting into a band because of what it signifies, even if the band is mediocre at best (until the backlash starts, and the last one not to have dumped their Licorice Comfits MP3s has egg on their face, even if they did have one or two good songs). In fact, I wonder what proportion of recorded music is "consumed" for the status is signifies rather than its actual quality; I suspect it's a large one.