Category Archives: Sufficiently Advanced Technology

Gregory Koger Tries to Head Off the Death Star Construction Program

U Miami Political Science Professor Gregory Koger knows how to get way ahead of the curve, and has published a comprehensive treatment of what will someday be a major political issue — Should we build a Death Star?:

I wish to address the most important policy question of the millenium: should we build a Death Star?  This debate picked up this year after some Lehigh University students estimated that just the steel for a Death Star would cost $852 quadrillion, or 13,000 times the current GDP of the Earth. Kevin Drum suggests this cost estimate is too low but, in the context of a galactic economy, a Death Star is perfectly affordable and “totally worth it.” Seth Masket and Jamelle Bouie highlight the military downside of the Death Star, suggesting that more people might rebel against the wholesale genocide of the Empire, and that the Death Star would be the prime target of any rebellion. I have two thoughts to add. First, the Death Star is a bit misunderstood. It is primarily a tool of domestic politics rather than warfare, and should be compared to alternative means of suppressing the population of a galaxy. Second, as a weapon of war, it should be compared to alternative uses of scarce defense resources. Understood properly, the Death Star is not worth it.

And there’s lots more where that came from.

I look forward to subsequent articles about the costs, benefits, and ethical ramifications of building a time machine, a Stargate, and a transporter.

Posted in Econ & Money, National Security, Sufficiently Advanced Technology, U.Miami | 2 Comments

At Cardozo’s “Anonymity and Identity in the Information Age”

I’m in New York for Cardozo Law’s Anonymity and Identity in the Information Age, speaking on the war on online anonymity.

It’s a great program, and I’m on the first panel so then I get to relax and enjoy the event.

Travelling here yesterday I learned two things: First that putting your boarding pass on your electronic device instead of a phone is not a smart move. The person in front of me at the TSA line was not able to have his boarding pass on his iPad read by the TSA screener’s machine. And at the gate, the person in front of me in the boarding queue was not able to have her boarding pass on her smart phone read by the gate agent’s scanner.

Second thing I learned, from the French person sitting next to me on the plane, is that a lot of French people with money are investing in Belgium (!) as a form of tax evasion. Apparently, if you buy an asset there you don’t have to pay tax on the appreciation if you hold it 5-7 years. Thus, among other things, there’s a property boom going on with appreciations of as much as 5% per year. (Bubble, anyone?) It wasn’t clear to me if this was legal tax avoidance, or a classic French fiddle, but my interlocutor seemed to think there was an awful lot of it going on.

Incidentally, last night I saw Venus in Fur. Highly recommended. It has three Tony Award nominations. The play is clever — arch at points, but fun and brainy at the same time — and I think that Nina Arianda in particular has to be a very strong contender for her spectacular performance.

Posted in Econ & Money, Sufficiently Advanced Technology, Talks & Conferences | Leave a comment

Securing Gmail (Updated)

Coding Horror, Make Your Email Hacker Proof has lots of good advice about how to secure your Gmail account.

This is all good advice, even if two-factor authentication is not a panacea.

Plus, when you print out that last-ditch backup paper to put in your wallet…don’t label it. Why make it easy for the guy who steals your wallet?

Update: A friend writes,

I followed the instructions, first on the desktop.

Then, it locked out my Gmail account on my iPhone, because I need to do one more step since smartphones “apps” cannot ask for verification, only a password.

(That part is missing in this “Coding Error – Make your Email Hacker Proof” article because it is only for the desktop. If you use Gmail also on your mobile device, you need to do the below):

So I read further and found that you need to the 2 step authoriztion by following these steps (watch the video).

This gives you a long “application specific password” which is different from your password you use when you login to Gmail from a browser on a desktop (not your mobile device). You only need to type it in once.

Now my Gmail works on my iPhone. Terrific!

Posted in Internet, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Dear Verizon Wireless

There was nothing in the documentation to suggest that 4000 or so Google contacts and 196 apps (including all the cruft you pre-loaded on my phone and I cannot remove), would bork the Droid Incredible 2.

Anyway, I don’t have 4000 contacts. The phone, or the phone-Google connection, seems to have systematically put in multiple entries for the ones I do have due to some weird effect of matching contacts.

And most of the apps are very small.

Oh, and did I mention that the DINC2 startup screen (pictured) always makes me think of the Eye of Sauron?

Posted in Android, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 2 Comments

Pacemaker Recipient Wants Source Code to Know What’s in Her Body

Interesting issue:

Lawyer Karen Sandler’s heart condition means she needs a pacemaker-defibrillator to avoid sudden death, so she has one simple question: what software does it run?

Yet it turns out that it’s impossible for her to see and understand the technology that’s being installed into her own body and upon which her life depends. Regulatory authorities don’t see or review the software either.

Despite the Australian provenance of the “Cyborg lawyer demands software source” story, this is the same Karen Sandler who is executive director of the GNOME Foundation, lives in New York, and has

Spotted via Slashdot.

Posted in Law: Copyright and DMCA, Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment

Wendy Grossman Wants Me to Fear My Printer

Wendy is not an alarmist sort of person, and she has me scared. In Printers on Fire, she tells the tale of Columbia computer science professor Sal Stolfo and PhD student Ang Cui, who have figured out how to hack routers and set printers on fire by printing a suitably doctored c.v.

There’s an employment-related joke in there somewhere, I’m sure, but I’m still stuck on this part:

“In every LAN there are enormous numbers of embedded systems in every machine that can be penetrated for various purposes,” says Cui.

“We turned off the motor and turned up the fuser to maximum.” Result: browned paper and…smoke.

How? By embedding a firmware update in an apparently innocuous print job. This approach is familiar: embedding programs where they’re not expected is a vector for viruses in Word and PDFs.

“We can actually modify the firmware of the printer as part of a legitimate document. It renders correctly, and at the end of the job there’s a firmware update.”

Moral of the story: print more at work?

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | 3 Comments

Putting an iPhone to the ‘Fullest Possible Use’

This image of the new Siri intelligent agent at work is the first thing I’ve ever seen that makes me think an iPhone might be a good thing to have.

Meanwhile, however, the Android remains a more open platform, which certainly has its virtues (and the occasional vice too).

Source: Brad DeLong (who got it from a Telstra user in Australia?).

Posted in Sufficiently Advanced Technology | Leave a comment