Sunday, February 24, 2013

You don't know half of it

You may or may not have noticed this, but the human being is capable of feeling a wide range of emotions.

Far wider than the range of words denoting emotions available in the vocabulary of an ordinary person.

Quick! What's the word for the feeling of remembering a heartache felt on an autumn afternoon faintly scented by the promise of resumed rain?

There is no such word.

If you are of the creative kind, you might very well have made up a word for this in the time between reading this line and the line above this one. If so - then good for you. It is a useful word.

Humans are peculiar creatures. They tend to feel something as a baseline feeling for an extended period of time, and to afterwards go around and remember/refeel this from time to time. Oftentimes, they use the rememberances of these baseline feelings as an unarticulated emotional backdrop which everything newly encountered is compared and contrasted to.

They never give words to these feelings, though. And thus never get around to the all-important task of getting to know themselves.

There is a feeling of sadness associated with this thought. There is, however, no word for this feeling.

Now might be a good time to change this.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Accessorize those criminals!

Strange things are afoot.

I awoke today to the news that my local Pirate Party has been subjected to legal threats. The conditions are simple: stop providing bandwidth to the Pirate Bay, or face the legal consequences.

Which provides any number of legal conundrums. For one thing: since when is it illegal to provide bandwidth? For another: who makes the call as to which things are illegal to provide bandwidth to? For yet another: if providing bandwidth is a crime, then what other things are criminal as well?

Is it time to, perhaps, investigate the postal service for their distribution of illegal goods? Or the municipal services who provides maintenance for the road systems?

The legal  basis for their threat is the crime of being an accessory to an accessory to an accessory to the one actually committing the crime. Which is vague indeed. And opens up for many an interesting lives of crime.

You know, the easy thing to do might just be to reform the actually existing copyright framework. Make communication a little less criminal and a little more communicative.

Communication is hard as it is. No need to make it harder than it should be.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The radical stance

The easiest way to find out whether something should be changed is to try to apply a strict definition to it. It does not have to be a particular definition - any one will do.

A prime example of this is the word "justice". As soon as you put any kind of definition at all to it, you will suddenly find that a great many instances in your lifeworld are in fact not just. Not by any feat of magic, but by a feat of definition - suddenly, you find yourself having a yardstick able to measure just about anything. Including long standing traditional institutions that have been around since time immemorial.

If this is taking a radical stance, then being radical is the easiest thing in the world.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Everything will be hacked

Everything. Absolutely everything. It is just a matter of time. If there is a security flaw, it will be found, exploited and shared. For as long as it is not fixed or dealt with.

Fixing and dealing with a security flaw is not always the same thing. Sometimes, a hole is more than just a hole.

A worrying tendency of our times is the criminalization of those who find security flaws. Even obvious ones. The reaction to someone pointing out that there is a security risk should be something along the lines of "oh my, thank you for pointing this out, we will be right on it!". Instead, the response people actually get seems to go something more along these lines: "OMG, a hacker, to jail with you for pointing out these hacker secrets!".

Knowing enough about security to know about obvious security risks becomes a security risk in itself. For the knower, that is.

The criminalization of hackers amounts to a criminalization of knowledge as such. Because hacking is knowledge, and knowledge is hacking. Once you know something, you can hack these things - and the only way to keep yourself "safe" from hackers is to make darned sure that no one knows everything.

Needless to say, there are obvious downsides to this approach.

The results of a continued policy along these lines are easy to predict. For starters, people will inevitably find out how to hack it anyway. And they will most likely use this knowledge to great advantage. More so since the "solution" to the hacker problem is to send them to jail rather than to actually solve the security flaw itself. In larger institutions, such as public institutions, the flaw can remain for years while the criminal courts duke it out with the criminal minds.

Less security, less solved problems, more criminals and more legal expenses. Lose-lose all around.

If you've ever nodded in assent to stock phrases about how we need to base our society on knowledge rather than on old-style factory production, you now have a very clear picture about where to start putting these stock phrases into action.

Happy hacking!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Upwards! And downwards! Both at the same time!

Among the things I sometimes think about, the EU is one of them. There seems to be a dual motion going on within the union, with things going in two directions at once.

On the one hand, things are getting ever more centralized. More and more power and legislative authority is being transferred to Brussels, and national governments are finding themselves being able to do less and less with their national authority. Both in big matters - the Euro is the big example here - and in small matters - like, say, the warning labeling on cigarette packages. Both are regulated from the EU, and everything in between.

On the other hand, regions are getting more active than ever. There's a marked increase in regional co-operation, and networks of cities are slowly emerging from past solitudes. No matter which borders might have been there in the past. And those regions who have enough historical clout to proclaim being their own thing, are increasingly proclaiming to being their own thing. With the proposed upcoming vote on Scottish independence being the prime example.

The thing about this dual movement is not that it is contradictory. To the contrary, the one can happen because of the other - as more and more state functions are delegated upwards, the things that are left to do are primarily local. When the big issues are already settled, the particular regions can focus on being particular regions.

Now, this is not an attempt to downplay the very real possibility that the whole thing might come crashing down on the heads of everyone before anyone knows it. But it is interesting to see these things change with perceptible speed - I was alive when the Euro became a thing, which means it wasn't that long ago.

We live in interesting times. As the Ancients said.

# of 95 - From icebox to inbox

Due to life being made up of reasons, I'm putting the #95thesis project on ice.

But not completely.

If you in any way, shape, form or subtext indicate to me that you want the next part to be written, I will write it. But only it - only one post per poke. Which means that if you want to want me to reach that 95th post, you'll have to poke me there one post at a time.

Until then, the rest of life will happen. One non-thesis at a time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Corrosion of Character

Sometimes, I amble through some of my old posts. After the recent events in Oslo [Breivik], I ambled systematically to things I've written about terrorism, to see if there were any thought worthy of rethought. There were. A lot of them. I'm going to quote some of them, in order to put them into context. Starting with this recent one:

Wouldn't it be cool if there actually was a [Muslim] conspiracy? Think about it. If there were one, any and all other everyday problems would be null and void. Unimportant. There would be a war coming, a war in need of preparations! Forget all of those lousy drab problems that never go away - they are unimportant, not worthy of attention, irrelevant. When the war comes, no one will be either willing or able to remember them.

Those words of "what if" doesn't quite ound the same now as when I wrote them. To understate it. They are, in a way, a reuse of the words of another post:

The key to the concept of anomie is to think that the parents of yesterday succeeded in doing anything but teach their kids to use and understand the tools of modernity. Instead, the kids are left to fend for themselves, and to try to understand how the world works on their own - without either positive or negative feedback following good or bad actions. Because of this, both good and bad, good and evil, become indifferent concepts, impossible to differentiate. And thus, the one become as doable as the other. [...]

The point here is not that we are all the children of society (though we are), but the loneliness of the modern condition. The one we are all prone to fall into every now and then.

The best cure against loneliness is of course meaningful interaction with others. Every child knows this. Yet, somehow, this is forgotten as age happens: one starts to think about one's life as if what's lacking is something other than other people. The feeling of loneliness submerges, sublimates, subverts into something else - into an all encompassing life goal, a grand narrative of good versus evil, an epic quest, anything that brings order to the chaos that is the lack of other people.

Anomie is not a pleasant condition. It is also an extremely common one. Very few living among us are not anomic to some extent. And we all, sometimes, feel that urge to do something extreme. To borrow a thought from another post:

There are days when all I want to do is to yell a non-euphemistic "fuck this", blow up some minor monument and then use the following media spin to imprint the message "next time, I'm not going to dick around with minor monuments; stop this madness at once!". And then, once the madness inevitably continues, blow something bigger up, with the same spin. Rinse and repeat.

We all have our extremist days. It comes with being human.

As fortune would have it, most of us have social safety nets (in the form of friends, family etc) that helps to mitigate such thoughts. People who, as if by magic, makes the anomie go away by just being, and who remind us of why we do what we do. But the tendency is still to go into that dark place every now and then - it comes with the being human thing. One can live with it. Handle it. Like I did (in a backward kind of way) when I wrote this post:

If I was a terrorist, I wouldn't waste time dicking around with blowing things up or hijack airplanes or spread socialist propaganda or any of that nonsense. Bombs have a very limited blast radius, and it's easier (albeit slightly more expensive) to just buy a plane that to steal one. There are better ways to achieve my diabolical goals and aspirations.

You might  have caught glimpse of a tendency by now. A tendency that can be summarized by something I wrote in this post:

The key here is to understand that there will always be self-appointed philosopher kings. Persons who are fanatically convinced that so many of the world's problems will be solved if this one thing gets done, and who get so fanatic about it that they will take the world into their own hands to execute their master plan. No matter the cost - the world may burn while I save it.

An easy solution gets a difficult problem. An easy solution that fixes both the problem and the loneliness - until it doesn't.

The purpose of this collection of quotes is to show how important it is to take the time to acknowledge one's peers - even if only by the tiniest of gestures. But also to show that we all become the extremist every once in a while, and that this happens for a reason. When the world is big, inexplicable and lonely, people reach for explanations that will make it easy and manageable. Easy explanations is food for the starving soul, and if there happens to be company at the dinner table - why object?

We are all the children of society. This big, inexplicable and in oh so many ways lonely society, so effective at the mass production of anomie.

It is easy to feel tiny and insignificant in the setting of everyday life. As if that doesn't matter. But, paradoxically, it does - it is there all things of importance happen. It is there that you, me and everyone we know can create just enough sense to shoo away both the anomie and the terrorism of our lives. Through the creation of meaning and understanding. By being those persons who create a better context than that of extremism and terrorism.

If you've ever wondered how hugs save lives - this is how.

Originally published July 25, 2011