Wise Guys on WHO Radio - March 26, 2016

Brian Gongol

The WHO Radio Wise Guys airs on WHO Radio in Des Moines, Iowa on 1040 AM or streaming online at WHORadio.com. The show airs from 1 to 2 pm Central Time on Saturday afternoons. A podcast of show highlights is also available. Leave comments and questions on the Wise Guys Facebook page or e-mail them to wiseguys@whoradio.com.

Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

In the news this week

Computers and the Internet Microsoft releases chat bot and everything goes off the rails

We can't have nice things, in part, because people can't seem to resist digital vandalism. Microsoft tried to launch "Tay", but unfortunately it would appear that exposing it to social media only turned it into an idiot.

Computers and the Internet Apple rolls out iPhone SE

Arriving in stores next week (3/31), it shares a chip with the iPhone 6S, has a 12-megapixel camera, and is in a relatively compact 4" size. $400 for the 16 Gb entry-level edition.

Computers and the Internet Microsoft introduces $22,000, 84" touchscreen TV

A little bigger than the Surface

But first...

Microsoft pulled the plug on their "Tay" artificial-intelligence bot.

Tay was a tabula rasa -- a blank slate. And that it got terminally corrupted within a day of being exposed to the world via social media serves as a natural experiment with a strong warning.

Had the same artificial intelligence been set loose on the Library of Congress, it's hard to imagine the same kind of cataclysmic failure resulting.

What occupies our time fills our minds.

New ideas, deliberately chosen are found when we do things like reading books. Such is an active process of adding to our knowledge and synthesizing more about what we know of the world.

Spending our time adrift in a sea of "right now" -- as happens when we get lost in things like social media -- is just an exercise in tickling the amygdala.

There are plenty of bad books in the world -- Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and the Communist Manifesto all come to mind -- and there are plenty of productive and useful people sharing things via social media, like Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Gates.

But on balance, the Tay experiment is a warning against setting our minds loose and adrift on a sea of social media without anchoring them firmly in thoughts that are deliberately arranged so as to be constructive.

Being constructive and productive is harder than generating snark or finding shortcuts to tickle the amygdala. Entire business models are being built on making lots of low-value messages become viral.

But the only way to construct a civilization is by following the harder route. Civilization is built by people who read textbooks on subjects like engineering and math and law, not Buzzfeed and Gawker.

When all of us are drafted as the infantry in a desparate arms race among "content creators", who is left to absorb real knowledge and synthesize important ideas across subjects?

Your role in cyberwar

Computers and the Internet EFF argues that there's no room for compromise on data encryption

The privacy-rights group argues there's no alternative to the mathematics of absolutism when it comes to encryption

Street-smart social media

Computers and the Internet Study: Adults ages 19 to 32 use social media for 61 minutes a day

What in the world is that time displacing? It's not all just "found" time that was otherwise spent in line at the grocery store -- it's coming from the time budget for something else. And the authors found that high levels of use were correlated with symptoms of depression. Correlation isn't necessarily causation, but it is a relationship that is cause for concern and further analysis.

Technically funny

Broadcasting The "most interesting man in the world" is retiring

Only the actor. Dos Equis is planning to reboot the campaign.

Productivity tool

Computers and the Internet Cartoon animation software goes open-source

What built "Futurama" is about to become free

Brian's Big Picture

News Wrong-way driver crashes into police transport on I-80

Two police officers, one prisoner, and the opposing driver were all killed. Another tragic event that only underscores just how seriously we need to take the need to get human beings out of the driver's seat.

Politics of technology

Computers and the Internet Secretary Hillary Clinton knew her e-mail server arrangement was problematic

An FOIA request by a group hostile to her finds emails from February 2009 that appear to acknowledge her recognition that her BlackBerry and e-mail use were going to raise questions

News Macro-scale factors making voters angry worldwide

The middle classes are feeling discontent

Also in the news this week

Computers and the Internet Intel is going to start foot-dragging on Moore's Law

The perpetually high rate of improvement in chip power is going to ease back a bit

News TV station takes on local newspaper directly in Cincinnati

If physically getting the news on a dead tree is no longer a defining characteristic for a news organization, then the rivalry could severely disrupt the classic monopoly model enjoyed by major metropolitan newspapers

Computers and the Internet Activist group tries takeover of Yahoo board of directors

Starboard Value LP is launching a proxy fight. With just 1.7% of the company's stock, they don't have enough to call the shots, but in their letter to shareholders, they indict the current board and management for failing to turn around the company operationally or get it sold.

Aviation News Army and Marine Corps argue that budget cuts are causing fatal crashes

Marine commandant: "[W]e don't have enough airplanes to meet the training requirements for the entire force"

Computers and the Internet Apple announces a new iPhone

But no real revolutions at the latest product launch

Health It may be possible to recover memories after Alzheimer's

With so many people in the Baby Boom generation headed into their senior years, don't be surprised by an intense focus on the diseases associated with aging

Computers and the Internet Microsoft doesn't want to buy Yahoo, but...

...the company might help some other party to buy it out. Microsoft apparently makes decent money from its partnership with Yahoo and doesn't want to kill a productive arrangement.

Broadcasting Netflix now throttles video to Verizon and AT&T wireless networks

As long as data limits remain both low and in effect, video streaming over wireless networks is going to be a source of conflict. This is (probably) just a short-term ploy by Netflix, but one that may be enough to tweak some of the wireless carriers into raising data limits. It certainly isn't leading to good feelings.

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