Social scientists have warned Zuck all along that the Facebook theory of interaction would make people angry and miserable

Since the earliest days of Facebook, social scientists have sent up warnings saying that the ability to maintain separate "contexts" (where you reveal different aspects of yourself to different people) was key to creating and maintaining meaningful relationships, but Mark Zuckerberg ignored this advice, insisting that everyone be identified only by their real names and present a single identity to everyone in their lives, because anything else was "two-faced." Read the rest

Using structured encryption to search protected photos in the cloud

In a recent presentation at the Real World Crypto symposium, researchers affiliated with Brown University and a startup called Pixek presented their work developing an app that encrypts photos at the moment they're taken and uploads them in encrypted form to a cloud server, in such a way that the keys remain on the user's device, meaning the service provider can't view the photos. Read the rest

Comic-strip contracts, so no one argues they’re too confusing to be enforceable

University of Western Australia Law professor Camilla Baasch Andersen has helped businesspeople draft legally binding contracts that take the form of simple comic-strips, arguing that their simplicity not only promotes understanding, but also insulates companies from the risk of courts finding their contracts unenforceable because they were too confusing (an Australian court has forced insurers Suncorp and Allianz to refund AUD60m paid for insurance that was of "little or no value," but which Australians purchased thanks to confusing fine-print that made it hard to assess). Read the rest

Trials confirm the use of psilocybin for depression without the "dulling" effects of traditional antidepressants

The prohibition on psychedelics was memorably described as "the worst case of scientific censorship since the Catholic Church banned the works of Copernicus and Galileo" by former UK Drugs Czar David Nutt, and despite the ban, there has been a consistent, determined, very promising (sometimes surprising) drumbeat of scientific papers about the use of psilocybin ("magic mushrooms") and other psychedelics in treating a range of chronic illnesses, including mental illnesses. Read the rest

Playing low frequency noise to disrupt hard-drives: denial of service for CCTVs, data-centers, and other computing environments

A group of Princeton and Purdue researchers have demonstrated a successful acoustic attack against mechanical hard-drives where low-frequency noise keyed to the resonant frequency of the drive components is played nearby, causing the drive to vibrate so that the drive can neither be read nor written to. Read the rest

Anyone who claims that machine learning will save money in high-stakes government decision-making is lying

danah boyd (previously) writes enthusiastically about Virginia Eubanks's forthcoming book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, which she calls "the best ethnography I’ve read in years," "on par with Barbara Ehrenreich’s 'Nickel and Dimed' or Matthew Desmond’s 'Evicted.'" Read the rest

Regular ibuprofen usage "alters human testicular physiology"

A small cohort of 31 healthy young men who took 600mg of ibuprofen twice a day for six weeks developed "compensated hypogonadism" (little balls), because the ibuprofen interfered with their testosterone production and their gonads had to work overtime to compensate. Read the rest

Nudging doesn't give poor people retirement savings, it just makes them poorer

Nudging -- the idea that a well-designed "choice architecture" can help people make free choices that are better than the ones they would make without the nudge -- has a few well-publicized success stories: the cafeteria where frontloading veggies and other healthful options gets kids to choose carrots over pizza; and the employer-side deduction for retirement savings that gets employees to put aside a little more to retire on (this insight rates a Nobel-adjacent prize*!). Read the rest

Scientist who synthesized the active ingredient in the powerful psychedelic salvia also broke ground on open access publishing

Salvia divinorum is a plant that is legal in most of the USA and the world, a uniquely powerful psychedelic whose effects are as short-lived (5-10 minutes from first onset to the end of the experience) as they are profound (users generally need to have a "sitter" nearby because they lose control over their bodies and perceptions). Read the rest

Adversarial patches: colorful circles that convince machine-learning vision system to ignore everything else

Machine learning systems trained for object recognition deploy a bunch of evolved shortcuts to choose which parts of an image are important to their classifiers and which ones can be safely ignored. Read the rest

Critical perspectives on the Singularity from eminent computer scientist Ed Felten

Princeton's Ed Felten (previously) is one of America's preeminent computer scientists, having done turns as CTO of the FTC and deputy CTO of the White House. Read the rest

Statistical proof that voter ID laws are racially discriminatory

In ADGN: An Algorithm for Record Linkage Using Address, Date of Birth, Gender, and Name, newly published in Statistics and Public Policy, a pair of researchers from Harvard and Tufts build a statistical model to analyze the impact of the voter ID laws passed in Republican-controlled states as part of a wider voter suppression project that was explicitly aimed at suppressing the votes of racialised people, historically likely to vote Democrat. Read the rest

The Polak Game: an exercise to help reveal your theories of the future

Dutch sociologist and Holocaust survivor Frederik Lodewijk Polak's massive future studies text The Image of the Future makes a bold statement about optimism and pessimism, creating four categories of belief about the future, divided on two axes: things are improving/worsening; and people can/can't do something about the future. Read the rest

"The efficiency gap": understanding the math behind a crucial Supreme Court gerrymandering case

Last October, the Supreme Court heard argument in Gill v. Whitford, a Wisconsin gerrymandering case that has far-reaching implications for the November midterms in 2018; the court is expected to rule next June. Read the rest

Anti-adblock is a lot more common than anyone thought, but it's not hard to defeat

To quote Doc Searls, adblocking is the largest consumer revolt in history; the rise of third-party tracking cookies, mounting awareness of breaches, and a shift in the balance of power between publishers and advertisers have conspired to make ads more visibly and invisibly obnoxious, driving millions to block ads in their browsers. Read the rest

American inequality is unequally distributed, and got lumpier after the Great Recession

Since the Great Recession, the wealth gap between poor whites and poor blacks and Hispanics collapsed (all the poor people are living in similar poverty), but the wealth gap in the middle class grew: middle class blacks and Hispanics are worse off than middle class whites, a phenomenon that's increased since 2008/9. Read the rest

The Australian health authority believed it had "anonymised" a data-set of patient histories, but academics were easily able to unscramble it

The Australian government's open data initiative is in the laudable business of publishing publicly accessible data about the government's actions and spending, in order to help scholars, businesses and officials understand and improve its processes. Read the rest

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