Aristillus

A large crater to dump my thoughts

Archive for December 2010

Berliner Schnee

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Berlin looks beautiful in the snow. If I’d have to choose another European city to live in, Berlin would be high on my list.

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Written by aristillus

December 29, 2010 at 12:27

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Feminism in IT

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I’ve been reading a lot about feminism recently. In particular Valerie Aurora’s article about the dark side of open source conferences recently was a bit of an eye opener for me, and made me more aware of the importance of feminism in IT today. I had heard about some of these incidents, but I had not realized it was so ubiquitous.

Somewhat related, Jen over at Blag Hag has a nice post about feminists and science. Another good reminder that a few nutcases can easily ruin the public perception of an entire movement, much like the media interpretation of the word “hacker”.

Written by aristillus

December 28, 2010 at 04:44

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Wikileaks and responsibilities

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So, Wikileaks.

Perhaps the thing that most shocked me was the fact that secretary Clinton asked diplomats to gather credit card numbers and DNA of UN diplomats. I’m sure there’s plenty more ahead.

There are no reported casualties from the information published by Wikileaks so far, and that suggests that they have actually done a pretty good job of censoring any information that could e.g. harm informants physically. No doubt that if such cases were known that the US government would be all over it.

The responsibility for the leaks appears to be placed almost exclusively on Wikileaks itself. That seems wrong to me. They are just the medium that is being used to publish these documents. The more fundamental problem is probably that over two and a half million people have access to these documents. Just based on those numbers alone I find it very optimistic to assume that among those there aren’t any others who are leaking documents – perhaps not to the press, but (more dangerously) to foreign powers. In other words, if three million people have access I wonder how “secret” these documents should be considered in the first place.

I’m very disappointed by the reactions of some of the pundits and politicians on the most recent leak. At least our PM responded appropriately (much to my surprise), stating that the leak was “hugely damaging” (within the boundaries of what can be expected when something like this happens to an allied country) but without pointing the finger at Wikileaks. As I commented earlier, it is strange to see some of the same US politicians who were previously defending Scooter Libby are now calling for Assange to be assassinated. If any action is taken against Wikileaks I would hope it is done according to law by the public prosecutor and through the judicial system. That said, nothing at this point suggests that Wikileaks or Assange have actively encouraged the leaking of these documents, which puts them in the same spot as “normal” media like the NY Times.

Wikileaks’s itself seems to have the ultimate goal of a completely transparent government. There is a
good writeup of Julian Assange’s views here (from a couple of years ago). Personally, I think there is reason for states to keep some information secret on a temporary basis, where justified – so e.g. diplomacy can work. But all of this needs to happen within reason. The public needs to be well informed, so they can (in theory, at least) monitor the government. Covering up civilian casualties and misinforming the public is not within reason.

And of course, leaving the question of ethics aside for a minute, it also just very interesting to see what is going on beneath the surface.

Written by aristillus

December 2, 2010 at 20:33

OMGWTFBBQ “NASA discovers aliens”

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Shoddy science journalism strikes again. Even the NRC has an absurd headline, suggesting the existence of extraterrestrial life on earth.

Speaking as a layman, the research seems interesting enough – but there’s no reason to go all X-Files on us.

Written by aristillus

December 2, 2010 at 17:37

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Burn the witch

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And suddenly Wikileaks is big news again.

A lot has already been written about this topic, and I can – and might at some point – write a long essay about whether or not it is ethically right to release 250k US Embassy cables. What worries me most about this whole affair is the total lack of respect for the judicial system demonstrated by a lot of people, in particular politicians. Some have labeled Julian Assange a terrorist and have asked for him to be hunted down “like Bin Laden” and assassinated, before it is even clear he or Wikileaks have done anything illegal by publishing the cables. This has all the signs of a modern witch hunt.

(Note that I am talking about the publishing of the cables, not the allegations made against J.A. personally in Sweden; that is a different matter)

Written by aristillus

December 2, 2010 at 05:44

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