Discussion Continues; Internet of Things; Robot Personality

Chaos Manor View Monday, April 06, 2015


I have been very busy. Of course last week was Easter week, with family obligations; and next week is Writers of the Future, and just after that the taxes are due. And for better or worse I am still in a walker, although there are faint indications that by the end of Summer I will only need a cane. Wish me well.

Meanwhile there will be a new release of the first two (of ten) volumes of There Will Be War; I have found a publisher willing to do all the paperwork and pay the contributors, which was important because I can’t undertake that burden. Look for them in a couple of months. We’re getting them ready, and I am writing a Preface to the 2015 release.



Are you safe in the Internet of Things? (USA Today)

Steve Weisman, for USA TODAY 9:02 a.m. EDT April 4, 2015

The Internet of Things, the popular name for the technology by which devices are connected and controlled over the Internet, is big, and it is only getting bigger. The presently estimated number of Internet of Things devices of 4.9 billion devices is expected to rise to 25 billion by 2020. IBM has recognized the opportunities present in the Internet of Things and earlier this week announced it is investing $3 billion in a new business unit that will focus entirely on developing products and services for the Internet of Things.

What kinds of things make up the Internet of Things? Products include cars, refrigerators, coffee makers, televisions, microwave ovens, fitness bands, thermostats, smartwatches, webcams, copy machines, medical devices and even some sex toys.

So where are you vulnerable? A better question might be where are you not vulnerable?

A study last year by HP Security Research concluded that 70% of the most commonly used Internet of Things devices had serious security flaws with 90% of the devices using unencrypted network service and 70% vulnerable through weak passwords.

A recent report issued by the Government Accountability Office found that the computers that make up the National Air Traffic Control System are vulnerable to hacking. The GAO issued 17 recommendations and 168 specific actions to address security weaknesses in security controls including — what should have been obvious — the need to encrypt sensitive data. The threat here, as noted by New York Sen. Charles Schumer, is that “sophisticated terrorists could even steer planes into one another. The threat of a cybercriminal taking over this system makes your stomach sink.”

Now your house can be hacked…


My short squib on Freedom vs. Diversity generated less hate mail than I expected, and some thoughtful comments.

White only

When I hear of business owners being able to put up signs like “White Only” I get the feeling this was something distasteful from our history.
Something (I read) that took a fair amount blood & sweat to get rid of.
Are “White Only” signs a symbol of freedom or something else?

It depends: if you are required by law to display that sign it is clearly no sign of freedom, just as a sign that said Blacks Only could be either a sign of freedom or an imposition of the state. Freedom of association is a freedom; where public facilities are involved clearly there is a right of the public to enjoy them.

Enforcement of such restrictions is worth debating, but you didn’t ask that question. In practice, no one sues to join a Blacks Only club…

Discrimination or slavery?

You said, “[N]o one questions the source of this right, not to marry, but to require a particular baker to sell them a cake.”
I couldn’t agree with you more on your statements on this ridiculous notion that business owners and even private citizens can be forced to comply with the moral judgements of those in authority or those who happen to be screaming the loudest at the time. There is, however, the notion that publically owned corporations should exist for the public good and this would require them to abide by the strictures of non-discrimination. This makes sense to me since these corporations truly are just an extension of the public and its needs; though a very good argument could be made that this is not true since only the stock holders truly own the company. Privately held corporations and private businesses, not so much. My personal belief is no public corporation should be allowed to exceed 10,000 employees just as no single government program should exceed this size, but that is another chat entirely. What we are seeing here is clearly the progressive notion that no person is truly private and that all businesses have some public component to them. That this allows government to pretty much do anything it pleases is quite evident in the behavior and statements of our current president.
Your above statement, however, ignores a very large elephant in the room. None of the bakers, florists, pizza vendors, etc. that I have read about have a problem selling to anyone. Walk into their shop and order a cake, a cut of flowers, or a pizza and then walk out with them, not a problem even if it is quite obvious that you are gay. Where they object is they are being asked to cater a wedding or a party and the theme is a gay theme. This is where the problem lies. They are being forced to perform labor that violates their religious beliefs by giving tacit approval to something they believe is forbidden. It is truly no different than forcing a Jewish deli to cater a pig roast for a Hawaiian luau or an atheist book store to hold a bible study class. It is blatant and obvious slavery. One class of citizens – homosexuals – hold legal authority over all others and can force them to perform labors even when those labors are abhorrent to them. Rather than being something that perhaps violates a non-discrimination requirement in public service, this seems to me to clearly violate the 1st, 13th, and 14th Amendments by forcing one group to work for another group.
As always, thanks for all you do,
Braxton Cook

I am not concerned with their reasons; but when a baker is faced with jail because she will not make a wedding cake for a gay marriage, that is tyranny. As to publicly owned corporations that i9s a matter of discussion: but the stock holders bought the stock of their own free will, and if enough of them object to a corporate policy, they own the company do they not?

In response to your posting on anti-discrimination laws, I see three separate issues. First, the historical reasons for racial Civil Rights action, second the justification for Federal involvement, third the current gay rights issues.


The reason that the federal Civil Rights Act was needed was to dismantle systematic oppression of black Americans (specifically Southern black Americans) by white Americans (again, specifically Southern white Americans). This went far beyond state government action. If one restaurant won’t serve you or employ you, that’s one thing. If all of them won’t, that’s quite another. In the context of the Cold War, this was providing a massive propaganda advantage to the Soviets. See:
This is why Brown v. Board of Education was unanimous. Yes, that was dealing with government equality, but the concerns were similar.
The question of where in the constitution laws applying to private parties are authorized has two answers: One, they aren’t in the text itself. Two, there was a mini-revolution during the Franklin Roosevelt administration that greatly expanded the scope of the commerce clause, and under that the commerce clause gives the federal government the authority to do this. I know you don’t consider that legitimate, but it did happen and is unlikely to change any time soon (though the dissent in the Obamacare case did seem to nibble at the farthest excesses of that interpretive regime, though that was of course a dissent).
On the subject of gay rights, there is no federal law against discrimination either in employment or in service. The cases one hears about are under either state or local law. Ironically, Indiana has no anti-discrimination laws regarding homosexual orientation so the whole hubbub was about overly broad (according to detractors) exceptions to a non-existent law. Though I suppose it might interfere with some local ordinances (which when Colorado did it in the 1990s, caused Justice Kennedy to become quite irate).

Two points: I do not question the need for or the constitutionality of the laws ensuring the right to vote no matter what race; I will debate the wisdom of some of their provisions, but not their intent. It is regarding private property and businesses I have concerns.

Either it is a free country or it is not.

The matter of Federal threats and gay rights is another discussion. Where state legislatures have acted is one matter; where fresh new rights were found in old documents is another.

Americans with Disabilities Act is Federal, and exceeds constitutional powers. It seeks to give disabled people equality with others; this is impossible, and why can it be imposed on those unwilling? It leads to absurdities, but it is wrong at bottom.

As you say, Brown dealt with public resources. It also was an abject failure in providing good shools to all races.


Fox News is reporting on the idea to modify passenger jets to be remotely piloted in case some pilot, or terrorist, decides to fly the plane into the ground or a building. This idea was put forward shortly after 9/11 as well. I thoroughly criticized the idea then and I wish to do so now, though Fox is not allowing comments on the report. I thought I would reach out through your blog.
Allowing passenger jets to be remotely piloted is the most terrifying proposal I have ever heard. Right now, if a nefarious person wishes to crash a plane on purpose, that person must first board the plane and then violently take control of it. Remote piloting changes that equation completely.
With remote piloting in place, a terrorist organization merely needs to break the security of the system. It can then hijack every single passenger plane in the air and fly them all into buildings from the comfort of home. No personal presence on the plane is needed.
No one should fool themselves that a system for remote piloting a plane can be secured against intrusion. After all, the proper authorities have to have access. If ANYONE has access, it is only a matter of time till EVERYONE has access.
The answer to the problem of hijacking, either by a terrorist or by a distraught pilot, is not a remote piloting system, but a fairly simple change to the autopilot software of the aircraft. Reprogram the autopilot to always monitor the trajectory of the aircraft. If it sees that the plane is on a course to strike an object, be it a mountain or a building, the autopilot can takeover the aircraft and place it on a safe course while radioing the specifics of the incident to ground controllers. The autopilot intervention should not be surmountable by turning off the autopilot.


I would not think this idea will go far, for the same reason that we rejected mid-boost course correction on ICBM’s; it’s a single point failure mechanism and a target for every enemy. You do not dare assume you can make it secure.


Dr. Pournelle,
In re IBM and the weather channel teaming up, you wrote:
“And perhaps we will have some data, not subject to climate Believer vs., Denier selection. “
I hope you were being facetious — for the last couple years, TWC had been firmly in the camp of the anthropogenic climate change evangelists. While I don’t know if IBM has a policy on climate change, considering the state of their business they would be foolish to stand on any “denier” principles.

If they pay for it, they may do as they please, surely. The market will teach them.


Why PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel thinks American democracy is dead (WP)

By Brian Fung April 1 at 12:27 PM

Democracy in America is dead, according to  Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel.

No, not in the anthropological, Alexander-de-Toqueville sense. The PayPal co-founder means it literally.

“It’s not clear we’re living in anything resembling a democracy,” he told a crowd Tuesday at George Mason University. “We’re living in a republic that’s modified by a judicial system, that’s been largely superseded by these agencies that drive the decision-making.”

“Calling our society a democracy is very misleading,” Thiel went on. “We’re not a republic; we’re not a constitutional republic. We live in a state that’s dominated by these technocratic agencies.”

For even the typically colorful Thiel, this is a surprisingly blunt critique of the American political system. It fits into a much larger brand of Washington skepticism that’s become characteristic of Silicon Valley in recent years. And while much of it may ring true to the casual observer, it also draws its own critics.

Thiel says that organizations like the Federal Reserve have been allowed to roam too far. Calling government agencies “deeply sclerotic and deeply nonfunctioning,” Thiel pointed to the Energy Department’s failed investments in Solyndra as a case study in bureaucratic mismanagement and executive overreach.

“You could use ninth grade geometry to show this was never going to be commercially viable,” he scoffed in reference to Solyndra’s round solar panels, which he argued weren’t as efficient as conventional solar collectors.

There is more, and worth reading.


Google patents robots with personalities in first step towards the singularity

Google has been awarded a patent for the ‘methods and systems for robot personality development’, a glimpse at a future where robots react based on data they mine from us and hopefully don’t unite and march on city hall.

The company outlines a process by which personalities could be downloaded from the cloud to “provide states or moods representing transitory conditions of happiness, fear, surprise, perplexion, thoughtfulness, derision and so forth. “

Its futuristic vision seems to be not of a personalised robot for each human but a set of personality traits that can be transferred between different robots.

“The personality and state may be shared with other robots so as to clone this robot within another device or devices,” it said in the patent.

Meet George Jetson…



Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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