Gongol.com Archives: February 2010
Brian Gongol

February 14, 2010

Computers and the Internet Online services still aren't turning a profit for Microsoft
More evidence that the company should consider better ways to diversify its income. Its strengths are suited to lots of areas outside the Internet-services market. The market for online services is cutthroat and rapidly evolving -- great for consumers, but terrible for suppliers. But there are scores of fields where a little bit of research, aided perhaps by computer modeling and data analysis (the kinds of things Google and Microsoft alike are very good at doing) could deliver very profitable results. Why fight it out in a fiercely competitive market with uncertain returns rather than use a company's existing strengths to leap over small hurdles?

Business and Finance Recommended with reservations: "Pilgrimage to Warren Buffett's Omaha"

Computers and the Internet Symantec shuts down its in-house feedback service
They're moving their interactive discussion site to Facebook only. Bad move. It might save them some trouble and some overhead cost when it comes to administration, but they're only opening themselves up to a whole host of new problems. Facebook has security troubles of its own, not to mention the fact that Facebook cannot possibly retain its standing as the premiere social-networking site for another full decade to come. Services like Facebook and Twitter are good auxiliaries, but they should never be used as the primary "storefront" for any company or organization.

Computers and the Internet Photorealism and a thought or two to chew upon
The production of extremely realistic paintings using airbrushes and digital "paint" -- not to mention ever-improving computer modeling -- is going to start posing some strange questions. For instance, if someone takes another person's photo, does the subject own the rights to his or her likeness? If that photo is then copied in a photorealistic fashion, is it still the property of the subject? If that likeness is then modeled into a 3-dimensional computer simulation, at what point is the representation still a likeness of the individual who was photographed, and when is it generic enough to resist that kind of label? Is an imprecise representation treated differently from a sophisticated reproduction? What happens when it becomes easy to model anyone -- living or dead -- into a lifelike role in a television show or a movie? What if that movie happens to be pornographic? What if you were simply walking down a public street and were photographed (as is perfectly legal) and your likeness was then used in a 3D computer-generated pornographic film without your consent? What if it were so realistic, your boss, your lawyer, your lover, and your priest couldn't tell whether it was really you or not? Anyone who doubts these questions will become important -- and soon -- hasn't seen "Avatar" or Madden NFL. Voters need to start pondering these questions? If meat cloned in a bioreactor could provide guilt-free bacon to those who self-identify as vegetarians for ethical reasons, what will be the moral status of videos created strictly in a digital environment? Will that somehow create a sort of "guilt-free" pornography, in which nobody ever feels exploited? It only sounds far-fetched for the moment. Inside of ten years, this will be a matter of serious legal debate. Somewhere between a high-resolution portrait and a stick-figure drawing, we lose the right to claim that a picture uniquely identifies us. But where is the line, and what kinds of things can happen to us on either side of that line?

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