Jun 272017

Some days I wonder if we are completely screwed. So today’s post is a perhaps slightly hysterical outburst.

The news is not paying enough attention to the Petya/NotPetya ransomware, and the effects it is having on the Ukraine and on a bunch of businesses worldwide. I think it may be a harbinger of how the Internet could kill us all.

Based on what little I have read so far… A piece of widely used tax software — one used by the Ukrainian government — did its usual “phone home” to check for updates. Instead of getting back a few hundred bytes of acknowledgement, it got a viral payload. Basically, this tax software served as a means of auto-updating the virus to thousands of targets. The result is not just accounting systems down, though. It’s gas stations and point of sale systems in grocery stores.

This kind of thing basically makes me wonder how long we’ll have the Internet.

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Building the human algorithm

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Jun 042008

Some academics (including Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, author of the excellent Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means) have been doing analysis of human movements based on where people are making cell phone calls from.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Mobile phones expose human habits

The results showed that most people’s movements follow a precise mathematical relationship – known as a power law.

“That was the first surprise,” he told BBC News.

Is it really a surprise anymore when something happens to have a power-law distribution?

In any case, it does seem like we are inching ever closer to Asimov’s psychohistory. Given enough data, why wouldn’t we be able to build predictive algorithms for large-scale human populations and social trends?