Category Archives: Computing

How to Win a Social Media Argument

The definitive guide to being one of those smug (or perhaps ***LOUD***) bastards that annoy you so much online …

Disclaimer: A few of the examples in this piece are from memory of particularly ‘interesting social media posts that have struck me over the past month or so. They won’t be exact and I can’t remember who it was anyway so there’s no attempt to have a particular go at anyone!

It’s frustrating isn’t it? You’ve got an idea, a thought, a suggestion perhaps, maybe even an opinion. And you’ve thought it through (actually, that might be your first mistake but let’s leave that for now). You venture into an online discussion and what happens? You get shot down by … yes, by what exactly? Swearing? Threats? Witty (but irrelevant) one-liners? *****AGGRESSIVE LANGUAGE USING CAPITALS AND RANDOM PUNCTUATION – DON’T(!!) ***INSULT*** MY INTELLIGENCE BY …*****? It really doesn’t seem as if they’ve any more knowledge than you on the topic (maybe even not as much) and the flaws in their reasoning are pretty visible but, somehow, they still seem to get the better of you. How does that happen? Are they just more forceful? Wittier perhaps? Better at expressing themselves? More experienced? Is their true genius hidden behind their apparent muddled logic? It’s probably simpler than that: more likely they’re just fundamentally different to you.

So, does that mean, to get anywhere, you have to become like them? Do you really want to? Perhaps not: by and large these people don’t lead rewarding real lives (it’s basically why they’re like this online). But, just in this context, there are some easy pointers to follow that will mostly see you right. You almost have to be a different person on- and off-line. (With any luck you can still keep some friends in real life.) It starts with mental attitude then a small number of simple steps and you can win any argument on social media. But before that, a little bit of context …

The irony is that a social media argument really should work the way an ideal face-to-face conversation would. Someone listens while the other speaks, digests what’s been said, then responds. At that point, the roles reverse and it continues from there. Of course, in practice, it never works like that in real life but you’d think that the enforced half-duplex nature of text-based exchange really would enforce that structure on its participants. Why doesn’t it?

Continue reading


“San Francisco is first US city to ban facial recognition“

Well, this is interesting: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-48276660

Something had to happen of course: we’ve been discussing this for years on this blog …

… etc. …

Obviously, we weren’t going to walk straight in to a 1984 scenario: there’s always pre-ripples to any of these social upheavals.

But whether this turns out to be a liberal victory or a camouflaged route to alternate forms of surveillance remains to be seen.  Watch this space …


You’re Not My Dad! (The Kettle Said So)

So what are the chances of a global, on-demand, real-time, publicly-accessible DNA database?  (Or what are the chances of stopping it?)

The increasing simplicity and speed with which DNA testing can now be performed has already changed lives.  Not only can simple issues of parenthood be resolved (sometimes disproved) quickly – often causing great distress, the gradual expansion and combination of DNA databases has exposed relationships previously unrealised and even potentially compromising in private and working lives.

How far could this go?

Continue reading


No More Privacy Any More? (Just putting this out there)

OK, some of this material isn’t new but I’ve been asked to edit a special (Information) journal edition on (something like) ‘Will AI, Big Data and the IoT Mean the End of Privacy?’  The plan is to circulate a ‘discussion paper’ to encourage submissions.  What follows is an early draft of that (extended from The Prof on a Train Game) so it won’t hurt to get it ‘out there’ as soon as possible.  Comments welcome below, by email, message, whatever …

Abstract

The embodiment of the potential loss of privacy through a combination of AI, big data and IoT technology might be something like an integrated app capable of recognising anyone, anytime, anywhere: a sort of ‘Shazam for People‘, but one capable of returning seriously personal material about the individual.  How credible is such a system?  And what might stop it?

Introduction: A Future Scenario?

It’s 2025 or thereabouts.  You meet someone at an international conference.  Even before they’ve started to introduce themselves, your IoT augmented reality glasses have told you everything you needed to know … and a lot more you didn’t.

Jerry Gonzales. Born (02/11/1970): Glasgow, UK, dual (plus USA) citizenship; 49 years old. Married 12/12/1994 (Ellen Gonzales, nee Schwartz), divorced 08/06/2003; two daughters (Kate: 23, Sarah: 17); one son (David: 20). Previous employment: Microsoft, IBM, University of Pwllheli; current: unemployed. Health: smoker, heavy drinker, recurrent lung problems, diabetic, depression. Homeowner (previous); now public housing. Credit rating: poor (bankruptcy 10/10/2007); Insurance risk: high. Politics: Republican. etc., …,  Sport: supports Boston Red Sox and Manchester United FC. …,  Pornography: prefers straight but with mild abuse …,  etc., etc.

Continue reading