How Easy to kill you All
One journalist wondered just how easy it would be to create a biological WMD.
Scientists have always been skeptical that individuals or terrorist groups about the idea that individuals or small groups are capable of creating bioweapons.
In their opinion “A significant bioterror attack today would require the support of a national program to succeed”
Roger Brent, a geneticist who runs a California biotech firm, claimed in an unpublished paper that that genetically engineered bioweapons developed by small teams are a bigger threat than suitcase nukes.
There is a growing number of researchers claiming that advances in DNA-hacking technology have reached the point where an evil lab assistant with the right resources could create a bioweapon.
Anyone’s allowed to buy raw genetic material and lab equipment online and very few checks are carried out.
Experts believe that currently the expertise required to create a fully fledged bioweapon such as smallpox is beyond a lab technician.
However DNA synthesis is following a kind of accelerated Moore’s law—the faster and easier it gets, the faster and easier it gets.
If the current pace of biotech proceeds for another decade, cooking up a lethal bug will be as easy and cheap as building a Web site.
after-the-fact vaccines won’t stop a plague; they take months to develop and deploy.
the only option is a general-purpose virus detector and destroyer, which has yet to be invented.
Such a device would also do an enormous amount of good for routine health care and global disease possibly eliminating large lethal epidemics of infectious disease in our lifetime.
The Right to Dissent
Publisher of the Mohamad Cartoons explains his reasoning
“cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam.”
Editor felt was a legitimate news story
Editor cited a half-dozen cases of self-censorship – freedom of speech vs. fear of confronting issues about Islam as the motivation for the cartoons.
Cartoons do not demonize or stereotype – those who have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet have given it a bad name.
Editor noted: cartoons depict Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse have not drawn the embassy burnings or death threats that the Mohammad cartoons have.
religious who demand we observe their taboos in public domain – not asking for our respect, but for our submission.
“I acknowledge that some people have been offended ….. But we cannot apologize for our right to publish material, even offensive material.”
aimed to provoke debate – hailed moderate Muslims who contributed to the debate about freedom of expression, freedom of religion and respect beliefs
success and failure – inspiring defences of freedom of speech vs. tragic demonstrations
paper has recieved numerous death threats – some of the cartoonists and staff in hiding
Did all life evolve from Viruses?
Virus’s have typically been looked down upon their name comes from the Latin word for “poisonous slime”.
Virus’s are seen as evolutionary latecomers as they depend on organisms such as cells etc. to host them.
However the sheer number of new viruses (millions literally!) being discovered are painting a broader and more benign picture.
Scientists estimate that they have discovered and documented less than 1 percent of all the living things on the planet.But for every organism in that unidentified 99 percent, at least 10 times as many unknown viruses are thought to exist—the vast majority of which are harmless to life and yet integral to it.
The discovery of a new virus Mimivirus (because it mimics a bacterium) is so complex that The London Telegraph described it as, ” unlike anything else seen by scientists . . . that . . . it could qualify for a new domain in the tree of life.”
The complexity of Mimivirus indicates an ancient ancestor which may have been around when life was first emerging on Earth.
Virus’s seen traditionally as the bringers of death could see a new role, as one of the foundations of life.
A Digital Identity System for Comment
Bloggers have to deal with comment spam etc. and it is a constant trade-off between reader convenience and effectiveness.
A company called clipperz is proposing a reputation based online system
This system requires the trust of the public in and the existence of an online identity bond merchant
The only conceivable companies which would have the trust – Microsoft, Ebay, Google
Could this be the more important feature of the proposed Google Wallet
The system clipperz propose is essentially
commenter gets unique trust token from identity merchant
blog confirms id – checks ‘rating’ with ID merchant
confirms or deletes comments – and provides feedback to merchant
Requires trusted identity merchant
Whom do you trust to watch all comments
Especially in the light of companies like google being more than williung to co-operate when governments seek access to email / posting etc
Open to campaigns of identity smear
Open to identity theft
Spam blog nets could support each other – unless id’s were linked to real world ID’s
Hired bloggers could still comment / spam for cash – spam would just be more targeted
Who will pay? Confirmation of real world id & fighting abuse would cost real cash – so ID’s would not be free
Even posting a dissenting opinion – especially in a contentious area – could lead to loss of reputation
Judging the reliability of a blogs feedback – how? Just moves the problem around
Anonymity from government / corporate surveilence
Identity providers have too much power – without central authority – they can dicatate you reputation / punish you for switching providers
Every identity bond merchant would have to co-operate
The market for fake / second hand reputations would be huge
Gervais Show to Charge
The Ricky Gervais Podcast will be jump the gun of the yet to be enabled monetarised iTunes downloads – having signed an exlusive deal with audible.com
Shows will be available on iTunes as an audible partner
This will be the first experience most users have with the nefarious world of DRM
The shows will be available for the price of $7 per month (or as part of an audible.com subscription) – monsterously high when compared to Satellite packages
Audible files apparently no longer work once you’ve cancelled your account
If your computer dies – you may no longer be able to listen to the files you’ve purchased
Audible files cannot be used on mp3 players other than the ipod
Audible files can only be burnt to a CD once
The Rick Gervais Show on Audible.com
O’Reilly.net on audible’s DRM hell
Computing Pioneer Dave Winer’s experince with audible
Dave Winers Podcast on his experience with audible
Goldwave Software – can supposedly circumvent the odious restrictions on audible files
Audible Subscription Plans
Out of Control
Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World
Kevin (former executive editor of Wired magazine) Kelly’s 11 year old masterpiece is free to read online
The book covers the emergent biological properties of complex systems – to ultimately argue ‘that biological and machine life are converging’
The book covers topics as varied as transhuman evolution, complexity, anthropology, epistemology, ontology, and ethics
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