Our monitors want software that detects sarcasm

The Secret Service is in the market for software that can detect sarcasm. That way the government agencies that monitor what you say on the internet will be able to tell whether you are joking if you threaten the president or if you really mean it.

Two points of interest here:  The government is really serious about monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and other internet media, doing continual automated monitoring of anything that might be construed as threatening statements.  Note how this could be both used and abused.

There is also the technical problem of a software program being able to detect language that does not mean exactly what it says.  How can a mechanized process determine the possible meanings and intentions of a statement such as “I’m going to kill him!”  Attention to context, of course, would help.  (Note to government monitors of this blog:  The statement before the previous sentence is for illustrative purposes only.)  But there is not always clear context.  “Artificial intelligence” can only take us so far in emulating the human mind, since intelligence is only one of many faculties of the mind, which also include imagination, the will, emotion, as well as complicated uses such as play, humor, fiction, and self-expression. [Read more...]

Signals weren’t from Malaysia airliner after all

The mystery surrounding the Malaysian airliner that seemingly disappeared into thin air seemed to have been solved when searchers announced that they had detected pings from the airplane’s black box in the Indian Ocean.  But now, after a large-scale search of the area, searchers are saying that the pings weren’t from the aircraft after all.   The mystery of the disappearing airliner remains. [Read more...]

More on “the right to be forgotten”

We blogged about the European Union’s Supreme Court equivalent ruling that Google must take down links to information about individuals if they request it.  Well, the requests are pouring in. [Read more...]

The right to be forgotten

The highest court of the European Union has ruled that Google and other search engines must allow individuals to request that links about them that appear in searches be deleted. [Read more...]

How the Egyptians moved those big stones

No, it wasn’t aliens who moved those massively huge blocks for the Pyramids.  An ancient drawing shows builders dragging a monument on a sledge with someone pouring water in front of it.  Egyptologists interpreted that as some kind of purification ritual.  But scientists have discovered that pouring water on sand reduces the friction so that it would be possible to drag a multi-ton object on a sledge through the desert sand.  See the picture and an account of the research after the jump. [Read more...]

Encrypting the internet on the cheap

“Heartbleed” is the name of a major bug found in some encryption software that nearly everybody uses.  The thing is, that software–used by big corporations and the U.S. Government–is a free, open-source program that anyone can contribute to, including the designer of this bug.  The company that runs it has one employee and income from contributions of a mere $2,000.  But because all of these wealthy users are so cheap, the world’s passwords and financial data are at risk!  (Go here to learn how to see if your devices are affected and what to do about it.) [Read more...]


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