Start up: Trump’s impact on tech, AI goes phishing, DDOS that heating!, how we read news now, and more


Too many bubbles in the tech world? Photo by Charos Pix on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Keep calm and carry on. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Trump victory could mean tougher times for tech • The Information

Reed Albergotti:

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Mr. Trump is widely viewed as a wild card among people involved in tech policy. He’s been vague about most policy areas, making it tough for anyone to be sure what he will do. But with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, he will have a lot of power.

And during his campaign he was hostile towards several parts of the tech industry. He took aim at the H1-B immigration program, which tech companies lean on heavily to hire foreign workers. His official platform called for U.S. companies to try to hire American workers first. Bolstering his calls for companies to consider “America first,” he’s also advocated for companies like Apple to make hardware in the United States rather than China.

He’s also called for a boycott of Apple unless it ceded to FBI demands that it build a “back door” to the iPhone so the agency could read texts sent by the San Bernardino terrorists. Mr. Trump has attacked Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, claiming the company doesn’t pay “fair taxes.” His broader “law and order” campaign themes suggest he could be more forceful against tech companies, while President Obama and Hillary Clinton looked to balance national security with privacy.

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Ben Thompson, in Stratechery (you should subscribe, honest) also points out that a Trump repeal of Obamacare would make it harder for people to have their own health insurance, and so stymie the “gig economy” and entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, Trump’s policy is to allow money held overseas to be repatriated cheaply, and to lower taxes on companies.
link to this extract


DDOS attack halts heating in Finland’s winter • Metropolitan.fi

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Both of the buildings where managed by Valtia. The company who is in charge of managing the buildings overall operation and maintenance. According to Valtia CEO, Simo Rounela, in both cases the systems that controlled the central heating and warm water circulation were temporarily disabled.

In the city of Lappeenranta, there were at least two buildings whose systems were knocked down by the network attack. In a DDoS attack the network is overloaded by traffic from multiple locations with the aim of causing the system to fail.

In an interview with Etelä-Saimaa, Rounela estimated the attack in Eastern Finland lasted from late October to Thursday the 3rd of November. The systems that were attacked tried to respond to the attack by rebooting the main control circuit. This was repeated over and over so that heating was never working.

At this time of the year temperatures in Finland are below freezing and a long-term disruption in heat will cause both material damage as well as the need to relocate residents elsewhere. Thankfully in this case the fix was easy to do by limiting network traffic.

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Otherwise, they’d have had no heating/hot water until it thawed in spring/summer.
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Trump, Twitter, and the failed American experiment • The Currency Paradox

James King:

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In a real sense, Twitter is rigged. I watched as technologies and algorithms were changed to systematically decrease my reach and influence. I was walled off into my own corner by those who perceived themselves my betters. Neither the accuracy of my observations nor resilience of my concepts mattered, I simply was not one of the popular kids. No amount of truth could change that.

So I find myself on the eve of the presidency of a fascist. It doesn’t surprise me how we got here. We got here because we stopped believing in truth and started believing in systems. Twitter is one such system. We don’t care if the systems are rigged or broken. But no one else seems to understand that the act of rigging a system invalidates it. A broken thing will eventually collapse.

The advantage of a fanatic or demagogue is their ideological purity. They exist in a world in which their beliefs are truth and therefore unassailable. What they do not understand is that there is indeed objective truth, optimal forms of reason and existence that will eventually undermine and destroy any belief that doesn’t adhere to them.

We are likely on the cusp of the failure of the experiment called the United States of America. It is a system that was built on hypocrisy and the blood and exploitation of innocents. Its religion is Capitalism. Much like Twitter, it has been a comforting notion. And, like Twitter, it has failed to fulfill its promise for the majority of people. Re-read my description of my Twitter experience. You may notice how well it parallels the experience of many in this country.

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link to this extract


News in the age of now • Nieman Reports

Nick Carr:

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Unlike the printed page, the Web never encourages us to slow down. And the more we practice this hurried, distracted mode of information gathering, the more deeply it becomes ingrained in our mental habits—in the very ways our neurons connect. At the same time, we begin to lose our ability to sustain our attention, to think or read about one thing for more than a few moments. A Stanford University study published last year showed that people who engage in a lot of media multitasking not only sacrifice their capacity for concentration but also become less able to distinguish important information from unimportant information. They become “suckers for irrelevancy,” as one of the researchers, Clifford Nass, put it. Everything starts to blur together.

On the Web, skimming is no longer a means to an end but an end in itself. That poses a huge problem for those who report and publish the news. To appreciate variations in the quality of journalism, a person has to be attentive, to be able to read and think deeply. To the skimmer, all stories look the same and are worth the same. The news becomes a fungible commodity, and the lowest-cost provider wins the day. The news organization committed to quality becomes a niche player, fated to watch its niche continue to shrink.

The fervor of nowness displaces the thoughtfulness of ripeness.

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link to this extract


Trump can’t stop the energy revolution • Bloomberg Gadfly

Chris Bryant:

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President-elect Donald Trump thinks man-made climate change is a hoax and he’s promised to revive the US coal industry by cutting regulation. So renewables are dead in the water, right? Maybe not.

President Trump can’t tell producers which power generation technologies to buy. That decision will come down to cost in the end. Right now coal’s losing that battle, while renewables are gaining.

Trump will doubtless try to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which obliges states to cut fossil power carbon emissions. That would probably keep more coal plants open for longer. But, try as he might, Trump can’t will the coal industry back to health. It will still struggle to compete with cheap natural gas, as Gadfly colleague Liam Denning explained here.Even without the CPP, about 60 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity will probably be retired by 2030. On the same basis, renewable capacity would still be expected to grow more than 4% a year until 2040, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, meaning they’d have a 23% share of generation.

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Technological progress doesn’t care who’s elected. Nor does money.
link to this extract


Who’s better at phishing Twitter, me or artificial intelligence? • Forbes

Thomas Fox-Brewster thought he could easily beat an AI (SNAP_R) when it came to tempting people to click on links on Twitter:

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I shouldn’t have been so smug. Two days later the results were in. When it came to social engineering, the data showed I’m not of the same calibre as AI. Not only were the SNAP_R bots able to send out far more tweets – obviously computers are quicker than humans when it comes to such rote operations – but they had a greater conversion rate. SNAP_R sent simulated spear-phishing tweets to 819 users at a rate of 6.75 tweets per minute, reeling in 275 victims.

Me? I managed a puny 129 attempts at 1.075 tweets a minute with 49 total click-throughs. I lost by 226. A shattering loss, the second to AI in a matter of days, having been thoroughly pounded by a machine Smash Bros. player in the same week.

As much as it’s useful warning people to be careful with what they click, SNAP_R is more than that; it’s a harbinger of Twitter doom. The prospect of armies of phisher bots that appear human is worrisome. Will any user be able to tell the difference between humans and AI? Will Twitter’s security staff? Given SNAP_R was so successful in its first test against a human, I’m doubtful.

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Guaranteed that criminals have figured this out already.
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Explaining nationalist political views: the case of Donald Trump • SSRN papers

Jonathan Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell of the pollsters Gallup:

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Using detailed Gallup survey data for 125,000 American adults, we analyze the individual and geographic factors that predict a higher probability of viewing Trump favorably. The results show mixed evidence that economic distress has motivated Trump support. His supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relatively high household incomes and are no less likely to be unemployed or exposed to competition through trade or immigration. On the other hand, living in racially isolated communities with worse health outcomes, lower social mobility, less social capital, greater reliance on social security income and less reliance on capital income, predicts higher levels of Trump support.

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IPhone 7 and 7 boost iOS share in US • Kantar Comtech

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“In Great Britain, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were top-sellers during the month of September, accounting for 15.1% of sales,” said Dominic Sunnebo, Business Unit Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe. “In the third quarter of 2016, iOS accounted for 40.6% of smartphone sales, a 2.4 percentage point increase from the same period a year ago. It’s interesting to note the continued success of the iPhone SE in Britain, accounting for 8.5% of sales in the quarter vs. a share of just 3.5% in the US.”

“Britain is the only market where Samsung made year-on-year gains, totaling 30.4% of smartphone sales,” Sunnebo added. “In Italy, Huawei replaced Samsung as the reigning smartphone leader to become the top brand sold at 27.3%, a 15.2 percentage point gain vs. the third quarter 2015. Samsung accounted for 24.7% of smartphone sales in Italy, a decline from 40.6%. In Spain, Huawei and Samsung are now neck-and-neck, with Samsung edging out Huawei 24.2% vs. 23.3%.”

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Amazing: Apple plus Samsung equals over 70% of sales in September. Note Huawei, though, which is coming to eat Samsung’s lunch (and quite possibly some of Apple’s dessert).
link to this extract


Inside the loss Clinton saw coming • Politico

Benjamin Oreskes:

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Democrats and many others are now in crisis, wrapping their minds around the reality of a President Donald Trump. But the crisis is sharpest in Clinton campaign headquarters: not only do they feel like everything is about to go deeply, collapse-of-America wrong, but it’s going to happen because she failed, and they failed her.

Clinton and her operatives went into the race predicting her biggest problems would be inevitability and her age, trying to succeed a two-term president of her own party. But the mood of the country surprised them. They recognized that Sanders and Trump had correctly defined the problem—addressing anger about a rigged economy and government—and that Clinton already never authentically could. Worse still, her continuing email saga and extended revelations about the Clinton Foundation connections made any anti-establishment strategy completely impossible.

So instead of answering the question of how Clinton represented change, they tried to change the question to temperament, what kind of change people wanted, what kind of America they wanted to live in. It wasn’t enough.

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link to this extract


Election Alphaville: the mood at Web Summit • Financial Times

Izabella Kaminska:

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In fact, before the [onstage] interview — when I asked [Cisco chairman John] Chambers [who calls himself a moderate Republican but voted for Clinton and her “digital strategy”] about how his disruptive vision would be received by those likely to be left behind — he had urged me not to dwell on the “negatives” because that’s not what the crowds wanted to hear.

It was at this point I realised that what I was witnessing at the Web Summit was the manifestation of the biggest and most self-deluding feedback loop of all time.

The crowd had its own preconceived notion about how great disruption was, about how important being “agile” is, and why the downsides of the tech revolution just don’t matter. They didn’t want to hear anything else. They saw themselves as representing the innovative and disruptive future, whilst those moaning about the social disruption associated with the tech revolution represent the luddite past.

What they perhaps didn’t realise is that the division doesn’t necessarily represent a simple clash between futurist progressives and technophobic regressives. More likely, it represents a clash between the bubble elite — the increasingly concentrated beneficiaries of the tech revolution — and everyone else, who they just don’t care for.

Web Summit is a bubble. And the people in that bubble have no idea they’re in a bubble (even though they’re repeatedly going around saying the exact same thing to each other as if in a trance). With the US election playing out in Donald Trump’s favour, there’s a good chance those inhabiting that bubble may finally be forced out of it.

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link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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