The Power of the Little Details
Nov 16, 2003
Thanks to the ability of Apple's iTunes to share music collections over local networks, it is now possible to judge someone's taste in music -- or lack of it -- in a way that previously required a certain level of intimacy.

The ability to examine the music collections of co-workers, neighbors or fellow students is akin to peering into their souls: Someone who appears cool and interesting from the outside is revealed as a cultural nincompoop through the poor sap's terrible taste in music.

And now that iTunes is widely available for both Mac and PC users, it is becoming clear that there are social implications for sharing music.

While I often spend a great deal of time explaining why machine learning is not omnipotent, this shows the flip side rather well: A large enough collection of little details can be correlated reasonably well to certain traits, and it can be very hard to "lie" to such systems.

Given that a person's playlist is built without restrictions beyond "what the person likes", I would expect that we could write a computer program to give a reasonably accurate assessment of a person's personality based merely on a playlist. The evidence? People are using the playlists for information, so there must be information there.

Now, it's totally inappropriate for large-scale law enforcement uses because the accuracy would be too low, and that's the point I'm typically making on this weblog due to iRight's subject matter. But as long as you're not trying to use it for something so important, where false positives have a truly damaging effect on somebody's life, the information so extracted can be useful; it just takes a large enough sample. Marketing, for instance.

This also provides a vivid demonstration of how casually and unwittingly your privacy can be violated. These people didn't realize how much information about themselves they were leaking until they started to suffer the social repercussions. Sure, in this case it probably seems trivial, but this is just an exemplar; much more information can be gleaned from your buying habits and such.

A lot of little details can add up to much more then the sum of the parts.

Unreason's seductive charms
Nov 06, 2003
Unreason's seductive charms. "... our rationality is bounded by what our brains were constructed -- that is, evolved -- to do." [dangerousmeta!]

Read the rest (852 words)

FCC Adopts Hollywood "Broadcast Flag" Mandate
Nov 06, 2003
EFF: FCC Adopts Hollywood "Broadcast Flag" Mandate. [Hack the Planet]

This just boggles the mind. "We all know" the government agencies are in the hip pockets of "the industry", but even by those standards this is a lopsided ruling, 110% in favor of "the content industry" with all the costs completely shifted onto the manufacturing side of the industry, and by extension everybody who needs to buy that equipment.

Canonical asymmetry; we are all actively paying for the protection of the content industry while they pay nothing. This is already asymmetrical, but how much do you want to bet that while they will produce nothing without this bit, nothing we buy at "normal consumer prices" will be able to produce this bit? A little unfair to make this accusation since it hasn't happened yet, but history is quite on my side; see DAT copy protection.

Remainder of The Ethics of Modern Communication posted

I have finally posted the remainder of my essay, The Ethics of Modern Communication. With this I lift my previous request not to link to the work-in-progress.

This is the end of over three years of work for me, so I hope you enjoy it. Additions may be posted and I someday hope to clean up the Misc. chapter, but I believe it is ready to go. Mental note, since this is the summation of this weblog up to this point I really need to add it to the sidebar.

Now this will free me up to work on my other other major project that will likely end up consuming years...

Arcane Copyright
Nov 03, 2003
NY Times: Music-Sharing Service at M.I.T. Is Shut Down. To Jonathan Zittrain, who teaches Internet law at Harvard and is a director of the university's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, that incident shows that the world of copyright has grown so arcane that even the major players do not even understand it. [Tomalak's Realm]

I disagree. It's not the "arcane world of copyright" here, it's the "arcane world of music licensing". It is not copyright law in dispute here, it is what contracts have allowed whom to do what. The only copyright "fix" here is to somehow mandate simpler contracts and as neat as that may sound on first blush, it could only backfire. There's really no way to avoid this when you have contractual relations amongst that many entities.

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