(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Bug

“Knowledge of means without knowledge of ends is animal training”*…

Spy vs.Spy

According to a March 1967 report entitled “Views on Trained Cats [Redacted] for [Redacted] Use,” the CIA stuffed a real, live cat with electronic spying equipment and attempted to train it to spy on America’s Cold War rivals.  The report states that Acoustic Kitty (as the project is commonly known) was a “remarkable scientific achievement.” Unfortunately, the report also states that the continued use of live cats as eavesdropping devices “would not be practical.”

According to Victor Marchetti [an ex-Deputy Director of the CIA]: “A lot of money was spent. They slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him. They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that. Finally they’re ready. They took it out to a park and pointed it at a park bench and said, ‘Listen to those two guys…’ They put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was dead!”…

Acoustic Kitty

For more on animal training adventures in the security services, see “The CIA’s Most Highly-Trained Spies Weren’t Even Human.”

Steve Martin

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As we study subterfuge, we might recall that it was on this date in 1974 that transcripts of the audiotaped White House conversations between President Richard Nixon and Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman were released to the public. Considered at the time a “smoking gun,” the transcripts confirmed Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate cover-up– and precipitated Nixon’s resignation three days later.

Transcripts of the Watergate tapes arriving on Capitol Hill to be turned over to the House Judiciary Committee.

source

“Reality is frequently inaccurate”*…

Machine learning and what it may teach us about reality…

Our latest paradigmatic technology, machine learning, may be revealing the everyday world as more accidental than rule-governed. If so, it will be because machine learning gains its epistemological power from its freedom from the sort of generalisations that we humans can understand or apply.

The opacity of machine learning systems raises serious concerns about their trustworthiness and their tendency towards bias. But the brute fact that they work could be bringing us to a new understanding and experience of what the world is and our role in it…

The world is a black box full of extreme specificity: it might be predictable but that doesn’t mean it is understandable: “Learn from Machine Learning,” by David Weinberger (@dweinberger) in @aeonmag.

(image above: source)

* Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

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As ruminate on the real, we might send carefully-computed birthday greetings to Grace Brewster Murray Hopper.  A seminal computer scientist and Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, “Amazing Grace” (as she was known to many in her field) was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer (in 1944), invented the first compiler for a computer programming language, and was one of the leaders in popularizing the concept of machine-independent programming languages– which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first high-level programming languages.

Hopper also found and documented the first computer “bug” (in 1947).

She has both a ship (the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper) and a super-computer (the Cray XE6 “Hopper” at NERSC) named in her honor.

 source

“We often plough so much energy into the big picture, we forget the pixels”*…

Alvy Ray Smith (see also here) was born before computers, made his first computer graphic in 1964, cofounded Pixar, was the first director of computer graphics at Lucasfilm, and the first graphics fellow at Microsoft. He is the author of the terrific new book A Biography of the Pixel (2021), from which, this excerpt…

I have billions of pixels in my cellphone, and you probably do too. But what is a pixel? Why do so many people think that pixels are little abutting squares? Now that we’re aswim in an ocean of zettapixels (21 zeros), it’s time to understand what they are. The underlying idea – a repackaging of infinity – is subtle and beautiful. Far from being squares or dots that ‘sort of’ approximate a smooth visual scene, pixels are the profound and exact concept at the heart of all the images that surround us – the elementary particles of modern pictures.

This brief history of the pixel begins with Joseph Fourier in the French Revolution and ends in the year 2000 – the recent millennium. I strip away the usual mathematical baggage that hides the pixel from ordinary view, and then present a way of looking at what it has wrought.

The millennium is a suitable endpoint because it marked what’s called the great digital convergence, an immense but uncelebrated event, when all the old analogue media types coalesced into the one digital medium. The era of digital light – all pictures, for whatever purposes, made of pixels – thus quietly began. It’s a vast field: books, movies, television, electronic games, cellphones displays, app interfaces, virtual reality, weather satellite images, Mars rover pictures – to mention a few categories – even parking meters and dashboards. Nearly all pictures in the world today are digital light, including nearly all the printed words. In fact, because of the digital explosion, this includes nearly all the pictures ever made. Art museums and kindergartens are among the few remaining analogue bastions, where pictures fashioned from old media can reliably be found…

An exact mathematical concept, pixels are the elementary particles of pictures, based on a subtle unpacking of infinity: “Pixel: a biography,” from @alvyray.

Dame Silvia Cartwright

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As we ruminate on resolution, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that fabled computer scientist Grace Hopper (see here and here), then a programmer at Harvard’s Harvard’s Mark II Aiken Relay computer, found and documented the first computer “bug”– an insect that had lodged in the works.  The incident is recorded in Hopper’s logbook alongside the offending moth, taped to the logbook page: “15:45 Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay. First actual case of bug being found.”

This anecdote has led to Hopper being pretty widely credited with coining the term “bug” (and ultimately “de-bug”) in its technological usage… but the term actually dates back at least to Thomas Edison…

bug
Grace Hopper’s log entry (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 9, 2021 at 1:00 am

“A buyer with disproportionate power”*…

 

Chickens are seen at a poultry farm at Hartbeesfontein, a settlement near Klerksdorp, in the North West province

Imagine the farm that raised the chicken that produced the meat that sits in your sandwich: a few workers, thousands of birds, tens of thousands of pounds of white and dark meat, work that starts before dawn and ends after dusk, uncertain revenue, slim profits. There are thousands of these small farms in the United States, and they benefit from millions of dollars of taxpayer support each year.

Chicken is America’s favorite protein, after all. Family farms are one of its most prized institutions. And farming is tough business. According to one estimate, a new, hangar-like chicken house costs something like $300,000 to build, and more to maintain and upgrade. “A farmer has to invest over $1 million just to get set up—a lot of debt to carry when you’re paid on average between 5 cents and 6 cents per pound of chicken produced,” Sally Lee of the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA has found. Even when a chicken-growing operation is established, financial success is far from a sure thing. Given those realities—and given the American love for and support of the family farm—generous taxpayer subsidies seem not just sensible, but vital.

But a government report released this spring calls into question whether all those family chicken farms are really family chicken farms, and whether those taxpayer dollars might be better spent elsewhere. The Small Business Administration’s inspector general looked at poultry growers, and found that many of them are tied-and-bound contractors—so controlled by their agreements with giant food corporations that they no longer act like independent entities. Why offer them taxpayer support meant for the little guy?…

What your chicken dinner says about wage stagnation, income inequality, and economic sclerosis in the United States: “The Rise of the Zombie Small Businesses.”

For a consideration of the effects of corporate concentration on wages: “More and more companies have monopoly power over workers’ wages. That’s killing the economy.”

* Monopsony: 1) (economics) A market situation in which there is only one buyer for a product; also, such a buyer. [from 1930s] 2) (economics) A buyer with disproportionate power.  -Wiktionary

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As we cogitate on (real) competition, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that fabled computer scientist Grace Hopper (see here and here), then a programmer at Harvard’s Harvard’s Mark II Aiken Relay computer, found and documented the first computer “bug”– an insect that had lodged in the works.  The incident is recorded in Hopper’s logbook alongside the offending moth, taped to the logbook page: “15:45 Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay. First actual case of bug being found.”

This anecdote has led to Hopper being pretty widely credited with coining the term “bug” (and ultimately “de-bug”) in its technological usage… but the term actually dates back at least to Thomas Edison…

bug

Grace Hoppers log entry

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 9, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Artificial intelligence is growing up fast”*…

 

Every moment of your waking life and whenever you dream, you have the distinct inner feeling of being “you.” When you see the warm hues of a sunrise, smell the aroma of morning coffee or mull over a new idea, you are having conscious experience. But could an artificial intelligence (AI) ever have experience, like some of the androids depicted in Westworld or the synthetic beings in Blade Runner?

The question is not so far-fetched. Robots are currently being developed to work inside nuclear reactors, fight wars and care for the elderly. As AIs grow more sophisticated, they are projected to take over many human jobs within the next few decades. So we must ponder the question: Could AIs develop conscious experience?…

It’s not easy, but a newly proposed test might be able to detect consciousness in a machine: “Is anyone home? A way to find out if AI has become self-aware.

* Diane Ackerman

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As we ponder personhood, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that US Navy recalled Captain Grace Murray Hopper to active duty to help develop the programming language COBOL.  With a team drawn from several computer manufacturers and the Pentagon, Hopper – who had worked on the Mark I and II computers at Harvard in the 1940s – created the specifications for COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language) with business uses in mind.  These early COBOL efforts aimed at creating easily-readable computer programs with as much machine independence as possible.

A seminal computer scientist and ultimately Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy, “Amazing Grace” (as she was known to many in her field) had invented the first compiler for a computer programming language, and appears also to have also been the first to coin the word “bug” in the context of computer science, taping into her logbook a moth which had fallen into a relay of the Harvard Mark II computer.

She has both a ship (the guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper) and a super-computer (the Cray XE6 “Hopper” at NERSC) named in her honor.

 source [and here]

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

August 1, 2017 at 1:01 am

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