* Posts by Long John Silver

253 publicly visible posts • joined 21 May 2018


Authors Guild sues OpenAI for using Game of Thrones and other novels to train ChatGPT

Long John Silver

Writers and publishers must come to terms with the 'digital economy' and adapt accordingly

From whence arose the notion that authors have 'ownership' over their 'works' rather than simple entitlement to be acknowledged?

Somebody writes something and becomes an author. A publisher may arrange distribution of the work, this inscribed upon a physical medium. A bookshop, the second level intermediary taking a 'cut', sells someone a copy. Thereupon, the nature of the trade becomes peculiar. The buyer may believe he has been deceived into paying for rubbish. If he returns to the shop and demands his money back he will be laughed at, but that wouldn't be the case should he return a packet of mouldy rice to a food store.

Taking this further, the buyer may wish recompense from the author for the 'opportunity cost' (of time) he incurred reading the book.

We may presume people start writing because they believe they can produce work of interest to other people (not just to a publishing house). The genuinely creative writer will be driven by the pleasure principle. He may wish to do this as his occupation. If so, he must convince other people to buy his works after, at best, a cursory glance at their contents. Seemingly, being a self-proclaimed creative individual confers a privileged status with attached entitlements.

The proper way round is for an author to persuade other people of his ability to interest them. Thereafter, those appreciative of his writing may arrange finance for further output (patronage). This modality doesn't work well in the context of books presented in analogue form (i.e. on paper). Nevertheless, expectation of people buying the author's/publisher's products without having recourse for all, or some, money back is odd in context of trade in general.

These days, a printed book may be considered an added-value physical product associated with the ideas expressed in the book. Printed books have some convenience and also can be of aesthetic appeal: these fit squarely into supply and demand market economics.

Digital versions are better suited to an explicitly 'patronage mode' of funding: people either donate money upfront in support of further writing, else they download a copy of the work and, if pleased with it, donate what they consider it was worth to them. The brutal fact for authors and publishers to consider is that without the patronage model becoming the norm (after being proselytised by authors and publishers), works presented in digital format shall increasingly enter the 'commons' regardless of authors, publishers, and the ramshackle anachronistic law supporting them.

So-called 'AI', a useful but as yet misnamed technology, shall proliferate rapidly. Rentier copyright holders will find it difficult to identify specific targets to squeeze money from. OpenAI is an innovator of what soon shall be a routine computational tool. Just consider the present failure of copyright cabals to shut down Sci-Hub, LibGen, Z-Library, and many more. Consider the sheer impossibility of identifying those behind 'sharing', and their visitors, when greater use is made of darknets.

In this edition of El Reg is mention of the UK governments' "Online Safety Bill". The Bill is a wedge to open the door to widespread citizen surveillance; it won't open far because encryption is resilient against schemes generated by tiny minds at Westminster. This legislation, if extended, can offer no succour to the likes of the Authors' Guild. It would be better for Guild members to come to terms with the reality of digital technology and to adapt their means of raising income (and their expectations of life-style) accordingly.

UK Online Safety Bill to become law – and encryption busting clause is still there

Long John Silver

What's not to like about an online safety bill?

The answer is the poor educational standards (narrowness) exhibited nowadays by members of the Houses and by people appointed to high office of state, the rarity of exceptional intelligence among legislators (bright people have better things to do than climb the greasy political pole), and the questionable probity of people in the British legislature.

Sysadmin and spouse admit to part in 'massive' pirated Avaya licenses scam

Long John Silver

Similarity to "BMW's pay-as-you-toast subscription failure" article in The Register?

This account of a "pirated Avaya licenses scam" appears to concern providing means to unlock features in software already in a customer's possession. The underlying issue seems similar to that reported in the article linked to below.


The matter generalises further into vendor attempts to restrict access to controlling software in agricultural machinery, and yet more into the territory of repairing or reconfiguring devices such as mobile phones.

With respect to software, it may be argued that any bundled with a device (or telephony system) falls in its entirety into the customer's hands to use with the device as he wishes. If full functionality requires 'unlocking' with a code, rather than installation of additional software, then a customer devising means to unlock or paying somebody else to do so is responding sensibly to a rigged market.

Textbook publishers sue shadow library LibGen for copyright infringement

Long John Silver

Re: Tschüss, copyright!

No, your suggestion merely props up an anachronistic and moribund system.

Long John Silver

Paradigm shift?

The global population is immersed in what Thomas Kuhn (philosopher of science) called a 'paradigm shift'. Doubt about the utility of the paradigm was present at its inception, but only nowadays with information stored in digital format, and the almost universal reach of the Internet for propagating digital sequences, paradigms, i.e. copyright and patents, drawing upon the notion of ideas being property to be rented out are specious and anachronistic. For culture expressed in print, an inkling of challenge to rentiers arose when (analogue) photocopiers became ubiquitous. A/V distribution exclusive 'rights' were imperilled by domestic adoption of audio and video cassettes with players capable of recording. The threat to publishers of academic papers arose immediately alongside photocopiers in universities. It took the move into the digital domain before high quality copying and distribution of A/V materials was available to households: 'pirating' textbooks, novels, computer software, and so forth, was not practicable either until wholly digital (storage, viewing, and copying apparatus) was available cheaply.

Purveyors of 'protected rights' content, this purportedly sold on an open market, were 'hoist by their own petard' when suddenly ordinary people grasped the true meaning of 'competition'. Unless kept under lock and key, digital sequences cannot be withheld from the 'Commons'. There is no scarcity. Hence, no 'price discovery'. Therefore, no monetary value attachable to them. The only conceivable connected 'market' to free for all digital is that of selling 'added value' goods and services associated with particular digital sequences.

'Rights' are ceasing to be commodities to be traded. That is a reality brought about by private individuals recognising the ersatz nature of markets for digital entities and through observing the entitlement-dependent 'rip-off' economics of rentiers along with a host of useless middlemen.

What of the noble souls who create, the people now facing penury? That hoary old chestnut is easily despatched when an economic model compatible with real, rather than monopoly orientated, economics is introduced. The market becomes that for creative ability and associated skills: players consisting of individuals and aggregates. They sell their services to other people, to collections of patrons (e.g. via crowdfunding), or to public institutions (e.g. universities, and foundations commissioning works). Industry too can hire innovators; it is free to keep developments as trade secrets; however when secrets escape there is no recourse to copyright and patent law; some start-up companies may find secrecy, if they can enforce it, useful until they find their feet,

The traded commodity is reputation. On that basis patronage is received. The ramshackle edifice of intellectual property law is demolished. In its place will be a small, and easy to understand, body of law protecting creative individuals (and groups) from imposters: there would be a 'criminal' element concerning grave misrepresentation, and a 'civil' element dealing with recompense. Nowhere in the legal backdrop shall there be any suggestion of digitally represented artefacts bearing monetary value.

US AGs: We need law to purge the web of AI-drawn child sex abuse material

Long John Silver

Re: There is a question to ask here

Yes, you speak sense.

The bottom line regarding dealing with the making and distribution of pornographic images, these supposedly of children, rests with preventing actual children from being sexually exploited. That is, success ought to be measured in terms of real children rescued from harm, and of perpetrators being caught before they can do more harm to other real children.

The Internet seemingly is awash with still and moving images of alleged child sexual abuse. Undoubtedly, many of these date back a long time; some still images originated in the Victorian era. "Alleged" was used in the previous sentence because mores have changed over time and by place; for instance photos taken by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) of his friend's naked pre-pubertal daughter would if made nowadays in Europe or the USA cause outrage and likely imprisonment for Dodgson.

Law enforcement and enthusiastic moralists deem catching people in possession of illegal images a success in its own right. It matters little whether the images are recent or whether there is an extant child to be 'saved'. Generally, these are easy catches. Here an analogy to illicit possession of drugs bears mention. Very few people import, manufacture, or sell illegal drugs. The easiest people to prosecute are those found in possession of drugs for personal use and others just above them in the distribution chain. A fragile argument sometimes put forth is that catching end-users and minor distributors will smash the trade and force its king pins to turn to other activities.

That argument is carried to possession of illegal images. It may be true that a tiny proportion of people possessing such images 'made them' in the common sense usage of 'made' rather than that meaning enshrined in British law: that is, they took the photos or directly persuaded another person to take them. Inevitably, this approach will lead to capturing some direct offenders and to saving some at present abused children. A weaker argument, not evidence backed, is that mere possession fires up enthusiasm to become an originator of new images. By strange logic, the seriousness of the offence of simple possession is deemed proportional to the number of images discovered.

The above approach engenders 'opportunity cost'. Police officers and moral crusaders get a pat on the back for 'successes' involving mere possession unlinked to commercial transaction. That gives little incentive to delve more deeply into production and supply chains for new materials. Put differently, it's an approach which can offer a yield of children to protect, but it likely touches only the tip of an iceberg.

Adding AI generated images to the pool of illegal making/possession crime serves only to further dilute effort which actually results in children being protected. Unfortunately, moral indignation can too easily lead to abandoning a hard-headed approach in favour of simpler means which produce seemingly impressive, yet often empty statistics.

Google Chrome pushes ahead with targeted ads based on your browser history

Long John Silver

Re: Firefox

I had a bad time with Snaps when I used it, against advice, in Linux Mint. Getting rid was messy.

Long John Silver

VPN use could add confusion to Google's plans

I have no idea how many people routinely use VPN services. I do to access RT and an occasional streaming site. However, I don't use Microsoft or Google software. That is, except for Chrome (locked down as far as possible) on Linux because it enables Wi-Fi LAN screencasting to a Sony Android TV; other Linux casting utilities don't work fully for me.

If Chrome has to present itself to differing legal jurisdictions according to their local stipulations, does it determine its legal identity via user input information upon setting up, else does base it upon the IP address in use? If confusions arise, presumably they affect travellers among countries too.

Grant Shapps named UK defense supremo in latest 'tech-savvy' Tory tale

Long John Silver

Nostalgia for times gone by?

Shapps and Wallace, by comparison with Mr 'Gav the Chav' Williamson, make the latter appear competent, erudite, and honest.

Gav spent much of his time playing with his tin of toy soldiers. These were kept in the bunker under Whitehall. Gav was steered there each morning by Civil Service folk.

Gav's idea of taking a RN rowing boat to the Black Sea in order to deter Russians was never taken as seriously as it merited. Anyway, Russian Foreign Secretary Lavrov, an amiable man intellectually head and shoulders above Western diplomats, had a good laugh.

Last rites for the UK's Online Safety Bill, an idea too stupid to notice it's dead

Long John Silver

Re: Not holding my breath

That is the obvious and most practicable pathway for dimwit political 'leaders' to follow, this at the behest of those who 'own' them (not electorates). It should work in the UK and many other places, but, ironically, not in the USA because the US Constitution would forbid it.

The nature/capabilities of hardware available to ordinary people (e.g. households) can be regulated; in particular, equipment would be close to dumb terminals because most functionality (including software and private data) can compulsorily be delegated to approved areas of 'cloud'. The only available encryption/privacy related software would be that offered in the 'cloud', and it would meet government determined 'child protection' standards i.e. easily be circumventable by 'approved authorities' (government departments, police, and all the way down to the local dog warden).

Versions of basic software (e.g. offering, via approved cloud services, facilities akin to those most people get peddled by Microsoft and Apple) would be designed as even more surveillance friendly than they are at present; many agencies, including HMRC and protectors of copyright, would revel in opportunities offered. Major vendors such as Apple and Microsoft would gladly jump on this bandwagon destined for monopolising and further monetising information streams.

As for the children? They could be considerably protected. This is not just from sexual predators, but also from exposure to mainstream pornography, from unsavoury software (e.g. games containing on-line purchases), from accessing on-line materials promulgating 'unhealthy' (e.g. anti-neoliberalism sentiments) or 'illegal' knowledge (e.g. the Russian viewpoint on geopolitical matters), from the sin of copyright infringement which tasted in childhood can lead to adult 'piracy', and so forth. Because mobile Android devices (telephony in general) link to the internet, restrictions pertaining to PCs and laptops easily carry forth to the entire digital domain. What's more, that which is good for children must be good for adults too.

Most of this could be applied equally to the commercial and educational sectors. However, approved bodies would have access to true encryption. Also, there are circumstances when work (e.g. in academia) requires use of equipment more versatile than Internet-connected dumb terminals; places where this is permitted should be obliged to hire government trained gauleiters to oversee conduct.

At present, the Internet is chaotic and harbours malicious and unsavoury activities. Moreover, the sheer interconnectedness, and speed of feedback, offered by social media threatens social stability: the voice of the ignorant crowd overwhelms reason. Can moderating influences be introduced which won't have the deadening effect upon discourse and creativity of what is outlined above?

Internet Archive sued by record labels as battle with book publishers intensifies

Long John Silver

Re: Stay out of (realisable) USA jurisdiction

Picking up your point about patronage, I suggest funding by that means no longer is the preserve of the state, of wealthy individuals, and of institutions. Just as the Internet has demonstrated ownership of ideas fallacious - in concept and in enforceability - so too has it provided easy means for seeking and providing patronage, one such being crowd funding; indeed, I was a minor contributor to the making of a documentary film.

Long John Silver

Re: "artists such as Frank Sinatra .." etc

"Copyright is complex."

Indeed, copyright laws, local and international conventions, are immensely complicated. That raises the matter of why. In comparison, criminal law and much of civil law are relatively straightforward: even a lay person with a little time and effort can upon studying statute and annotated 'case-law' form a strong grip upon the purpose and meaning for himself of a particular body of law. It is usually the intent of legislators that ordinary people have awareness of their entitlements and responsibilities: ignorance of law does not constitute defence when law is breached.

Admittedly, some law unrelated to copyright and patents is an utter mess. This is a consequence of many people attaining legislative positions without prior requirement for them to demonstrate a capacity for clear thinking.

The fact of IP law being such a ramshackle structure reflects upon the core proposition being false. Ideas, their expression, derivation from them, and their application, cannot be shoehorned into the same category as physical property. The only conceivable 'right' associated with ideas is acknowledgement as the originator or as a developer therefrom. Attribution is the foundation for reputation. Reputation determines ease of raising funds or further projects. The only opening for criminal and civil law is prosecution of attempts to hijack another's reputation and restitution for losses incurred. The underlying sin is deliberate plagiarism.

All propositions begat by a false proposition are themselves false. Complexity of IP law arises from uncertainties and contradictions inherent from the beginning. These have to be patched as one goes along. For example, theft of a car is almost open and shut; the only potentially contentious consideration is whether the alleged thief intended to permanently deprive the vehicle's owner; whereas, claims of copyright infringement through use of somebody else's melody (regardless of whether attribution was given) fall into muddy waters concerning entitlement to 'derive' and 'fair use'; each of those concepts is arbitrary, and therefore related law is woolly. Hours are spent in legal argument resembling debate about the number of angels dancing on the head of a pin.

Long John Silver

Re: "artists such as Frank Sinatra .." etc

The example you offer nicely complements points I raised in my own post to this forum.

Long John Silver

Stay out of (realisable) USA jurisdiction

The USA is the global hotspot for 'intellectual property' (IP) litigation. Western Europe has a number of foci, but illicit football live-streaming dominates copyright protection activities.

The introduction of digital 'content' over the past forty years into 'consumer' use, this coupled with the ubiquity of the Internet, has led to intensifying rearguard action by holders of supposed 'rights' desperate to keep alive a now clearly anachronistic use of the word 'property'; even upon introduction, copyright was an unsound concept and faced challenge in the British parliament; nowadays, it should be clear to everyone that digitally expressible materials cannot be kept corralled behind paywalls.

The 'rentier' mode of business operated in most part by people who merely trade 'rights', people whose creations at best have to do with 'accountancy', is destined to collapse. Replacing it, is a mode centred upon genuinely (not manufactured) creative individuals and collaborators whereby their works generate voluntary patronage supporting further works. Digital output is literally valueless in monetary terms; skills to produce it are scarce and on the basis of reputation can compete in a market for patronage.

So-called 'piracy' is irreducible (except perhaps when live-streaming culturally transient sporting activities). Alongside 'pirates' of dubious motivations sit bodies such as the Internet Archive, Sci-Hub, and the Z-Library, of noble intent. With the increasing frenzy of Luddite rentier activity in many Western nations, especially the USA, it is prudent for people operating repositories of 'content' to locate themselves and their Internet servers beyond the jurisdiction of the USA and its hegemonic partners. Also, the introduction of peer-to-peer darknets is proceeding apace: global repositories with resilience offered by distributed storage across a host of Internet connected devices each freely sharing a little of their processing power and storage capacity, protect against natural disasters as well as against globalist multinationals the intent of which is to keep culture locked down under their own control. Worse than attempts to monetise digital sequences (rather than raise patronage from admirers) is the stultifying effect of copyright (also patents) upon creation of 'derivative works'.

States in the 'Global South', emerging as economic powers individually and collectively, can decide to drop a host of impositions and restrictions instituted during the days of Western empires and now promulgated via international conventions, related institutions, and so forth. The 'nuclear' economic option is for one nation, that is one out of reach of the US Marine Corps, to drop the idea of IP. Whatever, hit that would generate against its own collection of profitable IP would be overwhelmingly compensated by rent-free access for the state and its citizens to digitally expressed global culture. Removal of rentier tax against state and individual discretionary disposable incomes would release immense resource for societally beneficial activities which include patronage for creative individuals whose work is appreciated. The following renaissance of true creativity and invention would set the world well on the path of meeting challenges and opportunities posed by the 21st century, many of these being qualitatively different to what came before.

Couple admit they laundered $4B in stolen Bitcoins after Bitfinex super-heist

Long John Silver

Patience is a virtue

These criminals may have stood a better chance of staying out of jail had they dumped their ill-gotten gains into one or more newly created Bitcoin addresses and left them completely untouched for more than five years. That is, no attempts to launder the stash(es) through a cascade of addresses. The newly created addresses should be via a standalone full Bitcoin node, one preferably unconnected with their IP addresses and ditched immediately the contents of the new addresses were confirmed.

Although the new accounts would be flagged by law enforcement, passage of time would reduce interest in the case and other more urgent priorities would have arisen. After the dormancy, the crooks could have obfuscated further enquiries by sending varying small amounts of coinage to many addresses known to be associated with other people and institutions. Larger tranches would go to addresses in places not co-operative with US agencies or in nations notorious for corruption (e.g. Ukraine and Nigeria) to suggest those as the criminals' locations.

Thereupon, the criminals could begin using some of the stolen coinage for transactions not entailing banks.

If the forgoing was their intent, fear of Bitccoin's value crashing may have led to fatal urgency.

In retrospect, these criminals could have used their talents better in honest endeavour, or at least in less high profile wrongdoing.

MIT boffins build battery alternative out of cement, carbon black, water

Long John Silver

A devlopment too nascent to crow over?

The team has only built a tiny one-volt test platform using its carbon black mix, but has plans to scale up to supercapacitors the same size as a 12-volt automobile battery – and eventually to the 45 cubic meter block.

The snippet quoted above is reached near the end of the report. If the information had been imparted much sooner, I would not have bothered continuing. Yes, an interesting idea. Yes, immense practical potential if scaleable. Yes, go and knock on the doors of potential investors. Meanwhile, please don't trouble me until R&D shows the product is capable of impinging on my daily life.

Oracle's revised Java licensing terms 2-5x more expensive for most orgs

Long John Silver

Digital rentier economics

When price is not determined mainly by supply and demand, providers of a product have much greater leeway for setting their charges. Digitally expressed products, not just computer software, are not capable of full compliance with conventional market-economic discipline.

Incompatibility arises from lack of physical scarcity and consequential inability for 'price discovery'.

Copyright and patent 'protected' digital products (physical too, but a differing argument applies) cannot be shoehorned into market-economics other than by sleight of hand legislation conferring monopoly. The 'fit' is a pretence of digital sequences sharing properties of physical goods; a pretence by mutual consent of nations; one that is as vulnerable as a 'naked emperor'. When global 'multipolarity' sets in (e.g. a powerful BRICS) there will be incentive to question why so much of the disposable incomes of nations, enterprises, and individuals must be channelled into rent paid primarily to major Western economies.

The only long term viable future for producers of digital products is to sell support services and 'added value' in various forms. This in open competition because digital sequences themselves have no more intrinsic scarcity than table salt. With respect to creating sequences possessing utility, it shall be the skills of production that can seek the highest bidder on an open market, but not standalone finished digital products.

Brits negotiating draft deal to rejoin EU's $100B blockbuster science programme

Long John Silver

Has anyone else noticed ...?

More often than not, 'scientists' depicted gazing down a microscope in film/TV drama and in 'stock' still images used by news media, could not conceivably be focussed on anything, that's even should 'long-distance' (LD) objective lenses be in use.

Google asks websites to kindly not break its shiny new targeted-advertising API

Long John Silver


Does this mean that from now onwards only the highly-wealthy will receive ads for super-yachts, private jets, Caribbean islands, and such like?

Shall there be a middle tier of the 'upwardly mobile' and lifestyle conscious as recipients of intermediately expensive tat such as 'must have' watches and 'designer' handbags?

The bottom tier, obviously the largest, will be where soap powders, package holidays, payday lending services, online gambling, and tomato sauces will be touted.

Long John Silver

So what?

I have striven for years to achieve an ad-free existence, and pretty much succeeded. Even YouTube has become usable via FreeTube. The latter cuts out not only standard ads, but also the new excrescence of 'sponsorship' injections into videos.

If I require a particular product or service, I scour relevant parts of the Internet and see what's on offer.

None of the above is difficult to achieve. I imagine there must be many people of sufficient savvy likewise engaged. Are there any figures about the proportions of populations which are immune to garbage?

Gen Z and Millennials don't know what their colleagues are talking about half the time

Long John Silver

Seeking to impress?

Discussion among professionals in a particular field, e.g. economists, analytic philosophers, theatre 'luvvies', and footballers, may be impenetrable to the casual eavesdropper. That is usually forgivable, sometimes an essential, when 'expert' speaketh unto 'expert'.

When 'experts' utter unto laymen using an arcane lingo, said experts may be condemned as thoughtless, seeking to impress, arrogant, or simply stupid. A prime example is when Personnel (aka Human Resource) departments issue job advertisements. There appears to have been convergence in opacity and prolixity of language expressing characteristics of desired candidates and outlining the tasks expected of them. Two words are better when one would do, long words impress more than short, and jargon drawn from psychology and social science ices the rotten cake.

As discussed in the article, nowadays (synonym to 'in this day and age') 'professionals' engaged in management excel at 'management-speak'. Given that 'management' is not strictly a 'profession' in the latter word's original meaning, and that 'management' is lacking a solid base of learning (quality rather than sheer quantity), it is unsurprising that its practitioners seek to impress each other and lay folk too with their ersatz erudition.

One finds in life that the clearest of thinkers express themselves in the simplest form consistent with getting their messages across to their audiences. Wandering into the discourse of management, social sciences, and practical politics, is an eye opener for people used to language as means of concise, and unambiguous, communication, and in possession of a sensibility recognising that clarity and elegance coexist.

Large language models' surprise emergent behavior written off as 'a mirage'

Long John Silver

Fooled by 'black boxes'?

I shall draw an analogy between a simple statistical analysis tool and current incarnations of so-called 'artificial intelligence' (AI). Each exemplar can be, indeed commonly is, used without understanding its internal mechanism.

Multiple linear regression (MLR), together with variants on the theme, is a powerful tool for aiding analysis of numerically representable data. The data may consist of what happens to have been collected (e.g. for a routine information system), or may be assembled with specific intent to elucidate a research question in the context of a designed study.

In essence, multiple linear regression seeks 'structure' or 'specific patterns' among data; this not in a nebulous sense, but rather as imposed by the analyst. Some structure is predetermined by the manner in which the data were collected: a designed study may have sampled individual 'subjects' by fixed quotas from strata e.g. people according to sex. Predetermined data structures acknowledge the possibility of relationships/similarities within groups (defined by some characteristic e.g. sex) that may differ between groupings, and should this be ignored may lead to erroneous conclusions.

Imposed atop the inherent, and/or anticipated, structure, mentioned above, is speculative structure and relationships among data arising from study hypotheses. Added to the mix is consideration of measurement errors and random fluctuations; these might give the impression of non-existent (in the wider world from which the data were sampled) relationships or may fail to convincingly detect true relationships of interest; the latter often the consequence of inadequate study sample size.

AI 'training data' bears analogy to the dataset for MLR. Each is drawn from a large potential pool. MLR analysis consists of multiple passes through the data using a straightforward to understand computational procedure; each step ideally determined by the analyst; a veil is pulled over the rampant misuse of statistical packages (worthy of themselves) by people with tenuous grasp of statistical analysis. Analogy continues regarding pitfalls from drawing inferences from a model extrapolated beyond the range of the data from which it was derived.

Bear in mind, some instances of MLR are pragmatic/empirical in use. They may give reliable predictions of their outcome variable for a host of combinations of the 'independent' (predictive) variables so long as the 'dependent' (predicted) variable and the independent variables are within the set of MLR 'training' data. Yet, note that statistical associations present in the finally adopted (most parsimonious) model cannot be assumed to denote cause and effect. No insight is offered into mechanisms. Yet, MLR and AI can be starting points for planned investigations seeking to reliably answer specific questions.

Analogy fails when AI models have open-ended training sets. Also, the discipline for selecting training sets, for choosing extensions to sets, and for evaluating success of training is, putting it kindly, in its infancy.

The internal working of an AI is 'black box' to everybody. That includes people at the forefront of developing the technology. They presumably have strong insight into what happens in specific instances of simulated 'neural nets' (and similar) when fiddled around with at small scale. They can tweak 'learning' (memory?) features and look for improvements (the how?, we shall skirt around). However, a scaled-up AI put to serious tasks is truly a black box to everyone. Returning to MLR, every step of every procedure, even when applied to huge sets of data, is open to scrutiny by a statistician or mathematician.

Of course MLR and AI differ in conception, ambition, and in computation. I'm not setting them up in competition, but do suggest there are epistemological issues common to each; in the context of MLR these are easily understood. AI, at least for the present, is mired in handwaving, misleading analogy to human neural function, metaphysical speculation, and unjustified notions that AI models can transcend their initial training data, then arrive at inferences from traceable information which are justifiable by chains of logic, and that this betokens 'understanding'.

Upstart encryption app walks back privacy claims, pulls from stores after probe

Long John Silver

The base criterion for judging a public encryption system?

Ask not whether one's encrypted message can be decrypted by a third party. Instead, ask whether the anticipated timespan of secrecy is sufficient for the information to be used as intended, and without interference.

OpenAI's ChatGPT may face a copyright quagmire after 'memorizing' these books

Long John Silver

Death throes for copyright beckon

Post WW2 developments in access to computation, in power of computation, interconnection of computers, and the nowadays key role of digital representation of information, have unleashed qualitative changes to life of great magnitude which previously were the realm of speculation. Quantitative changes, e.g. ease and speed of communication across the globe for ordinary people, impact life considerably too, but these are easily comprehended enhancements to analogue broadcasting, telephony, and so forth.

Few people grasp just how significant the "paradigm shift" (Thomas Kuhn) is. Only people who have lived the entirety of post-WW2 times can take a broad view of conceptual and societal changes that are being wrought, and which depend upon modern information storage, processing, and transmission. Put differently, an explosion of technological developments produces concomitant enlargement of opportunities (for good and ill). Similar events have occurred throughout history, e.g. the Italian Renaissance, but at a much smaller scale.

Unlike times such as circa 1800 until WW1 - a period when the First Industrial Revolution (of machines and tangible products) was gathering pace, a time of intellectual ferment, an era of the polymath - present day imaginations among leaders of thought (e.g. academics) and leaders of societal governance (politicians nowadays as dumb as the masses they 'represent') are single track with narrowed horizons: they follow very few threads in the immensely complicated tapestry of modern life. They are incapable of standing back and making an attempt at perceiving the whole.

What eludes leaders of academia, industry, commerce, and governance, is appreciation of the qualitative-change aspect of post-WW2 'Western' life. By simply following threads one cannot grasp much other than quantitative gains in a particular area of thought and its applications.

The concept of 'intellectual property' (IP), and its anticipated fate during what may be termed The Second Industrial Revolution, that is return of much manufacturing to cottage basis (aided by 3D-printing of widgets, pharmaceuticals, etc.) offers a case study with parallels to other qualitative changes in progress or anticipated.

The biggest blow to the specious concept of IP arose from digital representation of information which made a clear distinction between 'medium' and 'message'. Unlike print on paper, images on celluloid, and wave patterns on vinyl disks, representation as digital sequences can easily be shifted from one medium to another, easily copied with complete accuracy, and cheaply transmitted to other locations. The edifice of property rights, these mirroring those applicable to physical property, when applied to ideas, their expression, and to derivation therefrom, has collapsed as intellectually sustainable, and, all bar the shouting, become unenforceable in law.

The 'single thread followers' are approaching a rude awakening. They have not considered that idea production can be incentivised by means other than a ramshackle structure of anomalous and restrictive law. However, it's far too late for the major, and monolithic, publishers, distributors, and the patent reliant, straddling the planet, to adopt a differing business model. They shall go the way of the Luddites. This collapse hastened by fortuitous diminution of the USA economic hegemony, coupled with global multi-polarity. ChatGPT, and its like, merely underlines the hopeless case for copyright rentiers.

Cisco Moscow trashed offices as it quit Putin's putrid pariah state

Long John Silver

Re: Goes both ways

Downvotes ought to be treasured. They indicate something has struck home sufficiently hard to evoke response. One may also assume lack of a riposte means the down-voter was unable to muster counterargument.

Microsoft wants to stick adverts in Bing chat responses

Long John Silver

Re: "Because it works"

Presumably, there must be supporting evidence for advertising being cost-effective in the context of specific publications on paper or online. For instance, vendors of ridiculously priced watches and super-yachts might target titles aimed towards wealthy people obsessed with their positions in the lifestyle pecking order, whereas soap flakes are blasted among viewers of low-end TV programmes. But, can there be evidence for value from indiscriminate scatter-gun approaches? Perhaps, for specific categories of goods, hardly for all?

Marketing has become a huge, self-sustaining industry. It's more a curse on humanity than a useful service for facilitating trade. Advertising costs money. It is paid for by people buying goods. Indiscriminate expenditure on advertising is merely another unquestioned tax on customers, much as huge rental costs of high-street purveyors of goods and services. Marketing, perhaps once a useful service to sellers and buyers, now has characteristics of yet another parasitic entity within commerce. I suspect companies to a large extent use advertising of poor discriminatory qualities because marketeers tell them it works and, anyway, competitors do it. For instance, the TV 'jingle', an expensive nonsense, conveys no useful information about products and concerns the abstraction known as 'brand awareness'. Firms will fill Microsoft's coffers because each advertisement is cheap in absolute terms, and users of the service cannot be bothered with 'evidence based' trading.

Steadily, Microsoft is becoming a marketing entity which happens to control a popular computer operating system. Convergence with Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and all other things tacky.

Decade-old patent battle goes Apple's way

Long John Silver

A plague on both their houses

I suppose this enriches deserving lawyers.

Scientists speak their brains: Please don’t call us boffins

Long John Silver

Those who obsess over "gender" get themselves into a pickle

English has deep Latinate roots: some direct, others via Norman French. Present day French and other European languages more steadfast than English to Latin grammar require the proficient user to memorise gender designations for inanimate objects. We, the more pragmatic English, long ago ditched irrelevant notions, i.e. devoid of information content, of grammatical gender: we (the educated among us) apply them solely to those biological entities for which biological sex has meaning and is distinguishable among individuals (e.g. to cats, but not to amoebae).

Elements of the English-speaking world (particularly that using American patois) are tying themselves in knots over bizarre application of a generalised 'gender' concept not founded on biological observation and seemingly of the 'make it up as you go along' variety. One wonders whether the Académie Française is puzzling over extensions to "le" and "la".

I do wonder whether the ground for present day 'gender Babel' inadvertently was prepared by a trend dating back several decades of ignorant people dropping the term 'sex' in favour of 'gender' because they thought the former somehow crude; an analogy to American matrons with pretension to 'sensibility' referring to the "white meat" of a turkey instead of to "breast". Nowadays, all kinds of officialdom, sadly including the NHS, ask people to state their 'gender', not their sex. As in other respects, clarity of thought is being sacificed in the name of a goofy notion of 'diversity'.

Long John Silver

Re: Hmmm

Madam Chairman, and Chairwoman, if one must, but never just Chair.

One can "sit in the Chair", "Chair a meeting", and "sit on a chair".

It once was a convention to use "he" to cover male and female - a generic person - instead of circumlocution (e.g. he/she, he or she) and grammar-twisting as with "they". If a specific sex is meant, context may resolve ambiguity. For females, we have "she", and "her". When "he" is meant exclusively as male, that can be stated early in the discourse; that's if not bleedin' obvious as when discussing prostate diseases.

I adhere to conventional English usage. He was chooses not to descends into a pit of inelegant prose.

British Prime Minister Sunak’s plans for UK NFT on ice

Long John Silver

Monetising nothing, the last refuge of Neo-liberal economics?

"In March, ... Rishi Sunak announced plans for the UK to become a science and technology superpower by 2030, ..."

In what respect can NFTs be called assets? How do they contribute to ambition to become a "technology superpower"?

NFTs are merely yet another means for taking money off fools. Whilst not against pillaging the purses of people who have more money than sense, this doesn't appear a good use of the mediocre brainpower to be found in and around government.

'Financialisation' is the watchword for Neo-liberal economics, which has arisen following adoption in the 80s of Hayek's economic hypothesis. Institutions like the City of London were let loose to create a fairy tale collection of assets known as 'derivatives'; for instance, there nominally is far more paper gold than physical gold.

Hand in hand with wholly fiat currencies introduced in 1971, by what could be called an act of fiat by the USA (as in 'Fiat lux'), precarious value has been attached to fantasy money conjured up on demand. The 'City' has become a major component of the UK economy, that is, as measured by the questionably helpful index known as GDP (formerly GNP).

The City is on a pedestal. Its denizens, almost exclusively mere employees of shareholders in banks and other financial institutions (these complemented by wholly parasitical entities such as hedge funds) rather than entrepreneurs with their own assets at stake. Huge fiat 'assets' are passed around, each recipient taking a cut before sending them onwards, and toxic debt is packaged for sale to naive buyers. 'Fiat profit' seeps out as shareholder dividends and executive 'compensation' (for what?) plus bonuses.

As soon as feasible, the executive wage component is converted into tangible assets such as physical properties, fine arts (plus the kind of rubbish found in Tate Modern), luxury goods, and so forth; recipients of this cash whilst knaves are not fools, they know they are handling paper of value predicated upon faith by the ignorant; they understand that come an 'emperor's clothes' moment they will retain assets of worth no matter which currency they become negotiable in, and that depression of value relative to other physical assets (as in housing market crashes) will eventually reverse as the economy picks up.

Hayek's hypothesis has been put to the test for circa forty years. It has proven wanting and dangerous too for societies seeking pretence of decency and for inspirational collective goals.

[Released under the Creative Commons Attribution international licence 4.0.]

Oh, Snap. openSUSE downloads increasing, and Leap 15.5 is coming soon

Long John Silver


I dabbled with Linux for standalone personal desktop use from the early days of distributions appearing on cover disks for PC Magazine. The openSUSE distribution rapidly became my favourite and I stuck with it until several years ago, when for reasons I now forget I adopted Linux Mint on my desktop and laptop PCs. I have nothing damning to say about openSUSE; YAST is a fine tool. Also in early days there was a simple utility containing options for customising and compiling a kernel specific to one's processor, etc.

From my point of view, Linux became mature when major distributions routinely encompassed differing hardware configurations as with graphics cards; for personal use, choice of open source distribution appears based upon aesthetics and convenience rather than necessity. Ease of fresh installation and of update installation for the single user is straightforward nowadays; that contrasts with the tedious rigmarole entailed in setting up a modern desktop MS Windows edition. Obviously, other factors too require consideration by people installing and maintaining servers and networked workplaces.

'Wine' has blossomed recently into a powerful compatibility with Windows tool. No longer is dual boot essential when there is Windows software upon which one is dependent; anyway, residual necessity can be met using Windows (official or bootleg) in a virtual machine.

In the article referred to here, it is stated openSUSE does not bundle 'Snap'. For a while, I had wondered why Linux Mint had eschewed Snap; was it just concern over installing a proprietary tool? Now, from experience, I am aware that Snap and 'Flatpak' (very useful) may be incompatible when installed side by side; this first came to attention when my 'VLC' sotware started misbehaving.

Nowadays, most Linux distributions offer a choice from a selection of GUIs. No longer need this be a determining factor. I was happy with KDE on openSUSE, but equally pleased with Gnome variant 'Cinnamon' on Linux Mint.

Investment bank forecasts LLMs could put 300 million jobs at risk

Long John Silver

If true, why gloom?

If technology can release people from drudgery, including that of banking, why bemoan it? For more than a century, perhaps even back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, there were farsighted people who recognised automation as a boon for humanity if organised properly.

The caveat above, leads to explanation of why in the prevailing mindset regarding organising an economy and the role of labour, it must fail. Automation, each of the physical and intellectual variety, means redundancy; concomitant factors of worklessness include much reduced, perhaps to subsistence level or below, income, and psychological impact engendered by perception of lack of worth in one's own eyes, in those of others too; few people regard being made redundant as presaging opportunity.

The Protestant work ethic has inveigled itself into Western thought.

Turned around, worklessness in the sense of no longer toiling, generally for others, can be positive for the individual and for everyone else about him. Examples of opportunities arising include time with family, support for ailing kinsfolk, engagement with the local community, intellectual and cultural self-advancement, attaining skills not tied to toil, and freedom to stretch creative 'muscle'.

The possibilities represent the converse of 'opportunity cost' arising from obligation to toil.

Yet, this freedom presupposes entitlement to a share of the 'wealth' created by the society in which one is embedded. The so-called wealth creators are dependent upon the interconnected society in which they dwell; for instance, physical infrastructure and social infrastructure, such as law and institutions promoting civil society.

Some will laze or become hedonistic. Why not, what does it matter if they don't harm others? A proportion will realise creative (including adventurous) urges, some of these of lasting cultural value. Others might set up enterprises (traditional or co-operative) to fill gaps in production and servicing of physical goods, or to aid other people in applying their creative abilities, e.g. via the Internet.

Pie in the sky? No, there is inadequate understanding by people in general of how potential for talent is distributed among the population. It exists in our common gene pool. Advantageous and serendipitous genetic combinations arise from all sectors of the population; assortative mating might concentrate these a little in some sections of society, but overall this has a negligible diminishing effect upon the remaining untapped possibilities.

Universal entitlement to a share of natural resources and what is manufactured from them is the only ethical means of coping with automation; it is productive: not charitable; the alternative being culls.

Universal basic income (UBI) awaits in the wings.

[Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international licence.]

Publishers land killer punch on Internet Archive in book copyright court battle

Long John Silver

Re: Ah, the digital age

They are not all out of print. Neither are they all beyond claim on copyright.

The Internet Archive seeks to operate like a present day lending library, one which holds paper and digital 'content'.

Long John Silver

"Killer punch"? - no, gasoline for self-immolation by copyright 'rentiers'

The hegemony of 'intellectual property' (IP) rentier economics is coming to a close more rapidly than I anticipated.

The Internet Archive has lost in a case brought before a US Federal judge. More likely than not, the judge interpreted the law diligently. Judiciary in higher courts may or may not agree with him. No matter, law, as in statute, is being superseded by law in other guises: take your pick from 'moral', 'realist', 'pragmatic', and 'jungle'.

Law lacking power to enforce is nothing more than recommendation. Just possibly, the Archive shall be obliged to close down. Yet, that would be a terrible outcome for the rentiers. Widely, they would be perceived as having destroyed a noble effort to share knowledge/culture fairly. The Archive is not some tacky outfit trying to gull people into divulging credit card details. It is not the somewhat nobler type of site, offering bounty free of charge whilst regaling visitors with pictures of prostitutes available in their area (old-fashioned telephone booth advertising). The Archive comes across as a genuine 'not for profit' (aka charitable) rather than so many of its ilk which operate under that banner.

Across the globe, exciting things are happening. Russian response to the USA sanctions diplomacy has placed Western IP in the crosshairs.



The first link refers to former President Dmitry Medvedev's suggestion to allow Russians to download western entertainment content for free. Medvedev is the deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, and thus continues to carry weight within the Russian Federation.

The second link is confirmation by a Kremlin spokesman that Medvedev's proposal is backed.

What better than to offer the Archive protection within Russia? Further, to legitimise Sci-Hub, Z-library, and so forth?

I am seeking to persuade the Kremlin of the advantages to the economies of Russia, China, and the 'Global South' from eschewing the concept of IP as applied to copyright and patents. Gains will figure in monetary terms, despite short term disadvantage to the nations' current IP supposed 'owners'; more importantly, it will break the dam holding back knowledge (and its application) and culture (and derivation from it) from distribution to all. The knock-on will be beneficial in monetary terms (for those whose minds are affixed to that metric), but importantly it will kick-start another intellectual renaissance: perhaps we can conquer malaria and get to the stars sooner than we thought?

The transition from rentier (monopoly) economics to a proper market-driven set of business models truly compatible with market-capitalism, I have sketched elsewhere.


Released under the Creative Commons Attribution International Licence 4.0.

ChatGPT, how did you get here? It was a long journey through open source AI

Long John Silver

Re: What about borrowing (stealing) the code?

You raised the anticipated question about means for rewarding creative activity.

What I, and others, favour is a return to pre-Statute-of-Anne (1710) days and abandoning all that followed regarding copyright and patents. Setting aside, various royal prerogatives in European nations of old to issue monopoly licences to favoured people, nobody dreamt of income for life (and beyond) accruing from a single mental exertion.

Two categories of creative people existed. The first drawn from persons of means; these also mostly being people with basic education, and beyond. The other consisted of a wide category ranging from artisans through to scholars who gained income via divers channels from customers, employers, and patrons. Royal courts, noble families, the nouveau riche, universities, and institutions within the Church of Rome, were major sources of patronage.

Leonardo da Vinci had a succession of patrons. He received no income from works after their completion satisfactory to patrons. However, his accomplishments became increasingly widely known. Works that please others acquire approbation. Resulting from that, reputation builds. Increasing reputation enables creative people greater choice among prospective projects. They gain influence on patrons as to what a new project could be. They command higher fees/salaries. They set aside money for old age.

Our recently begun era of the Internet offers challenge and immense opportunity in the context of creative endeavour. The former being the inevitable collapse of effort to equate artefacts representable by digits with physical property and its ownership; simple mass disobedience is seeing to that at opposite ends of culture: streamed/recorded popular entertainment, and in academia.

Opportunity flows from the chance of reaching out to more prospective admirers/patrons, and that more quickly, than ever before. Another factor being separation of 'content' (digitally represented) from individual instances of a substrate (e.g. print on paper). To publish a novel, recorded music, film, or computer program, no longer depends upon traditional resources or skills; whilst skilled aid may be required this will be on a fee, or collaborative, basis rather than a stake in pretence of a digital sequence possessing monetary worth. It's an intellectual free-for-all with anyone, should they choose, able to distribute any sequence, to distribute a modified sequence, or to produce a 'derivative' work; the key DISCIPLINE holding this together being the requirement to give proper attribution to the originator(s) of works one distributes, and for all works modifying or deriving from somebody else's original work. The only crime is false representation based on deliberately not acknowledging somebody else's work, and thereby feeding from unearned reputation.

Incidentally, blockchains offer powerful means for recording sequences of attribution, these along with points of bifurcation; this along lines of citation indices.

Money accrues from voluntary patronage and, perhaps, from sale of associated goods and services. Only patrons pay upfront; this in expectation of further good works from an individual/collective they admire. Patronage is not financial investment. It is cultural investment in hope of return, which cannot be expressed monetarily (anathema to Neo-liberals). This bears strong analogy with how academics subsist on various kinds of patronage (employment by an institution, and research grants). The world, via the Internet, is every talented person's oyster.

IP rentier economics, i.e. selling access to, and rights to distribution of, ideas represented by digital sequences, is incompatible with market-capitalism because digital sequences, easily reproduced, lack scarcity. Supply/demand and price discovery cannot apply. There is a pseudo-market dependent on legally backed monopoly.

The only true market is for competing creative talent along with associated technical skills. Reputation, aided by attribution, determines success.

The above easily carries forth to consideration of the destructive effect on creativity of patents.

(Released under the Creative Commons Attribution international licence 4.0)

Long John Silver

Re: What about borrowing (stealing) the code?

Your remarks illustrate the mess we get into when ideas, and when easily replicable digital code, are made into a pretence of property.

Just look at what already goes on in the area of software copyright and software patent disputes. Consider too, the rotting rambling edifice of 'intellectual property' supposed rights across the board of industry and culture. A framework of 'rights' so extensive, so convoluted, and so prone to ambiguity and contradiction, that bright ordinary people understand little, and trained lawyers need to specialise in particular aspects. All of this arising according to the dictum of a false proposition giving rise to all propositions true and false: the origin of this mess being the false supposition of ideas being equatable to physical property.

The only possible currency for valuing the worth of ideas rests on attribution and praise.

Long John Silver

Where is Robin Hood?

Eventually, various incarnations of Robin Hood will release corralled code into the wild. Once gone, as IP rentiers in general are learning, no amount of huffing and puffing, no number of erroneous cries of "Theft!", and no host of avaricious lawyers, can coax the code back into the corral.

Scattered among academic and commercial centres across the globe, the code will be used, extended, and improved. Unless by then, all Western universities have been converted into "for maximum profit" institutions, as demanded by Neo-liberal doctrine, academics shall seek kudos flowing from open publication of their efforts. Then there is the Far East and 'Global South' to consider: already they chaff at Western (mostly USA, but cheered on by 'lesser' nations) restrictions on use of ideas and trade of products and services derived therefrom.

The days are numbered for behemoths such as Microsoft. The pace of change in the 21st century rapidly assigns them to anachronism. Fleet-footed small firms, co-operatives, and cottage industries shall dance between the legs of ailing dinosaurs.

How the Internet Archive faces potential destruction at the hands of Big Four publishers

Long John Silver

Rearguard action by IP rentiers is fierce but destined to fail

Widespread use of the Internet coupled with ease and cheapness of storing information digitally has introduced qualitative changes in this 21st century comparable in transformative effect to those when the printing press was introduced. In the course of three decades enormous opportunity has been perceived to do many things more easily, more cheaply, more conveniently, differently, and better. Additionally, access to knowledge and digitally expressed culture has become more equitable now that easy to deploy 'illegal' means supplement official channels.

Nineteenth century Luddites attempted to stem introduction of textile machinery. Far sighted individuals backed by powerful financial interests swept Luddites away and to betterment for mankind (at least in material sense). Complacent rentiers of so-called "Intellectual Property" (IP) are suffering the same fate as the Luddites, but at the hands of the crowd instead of those of vested financial interests; a feature of the Internet is the ease with which crowds may be assembled.

Underlying reasoning supporting the introduction of IP 'rights' enforced via copyright law and patent law - each of which arose from the kind of thinking underlying rights applicable to protected trade guilds - was false at the time of their introduction. Falsity arising from the notion that ideas and artefacts derived from them equate to physical assets such as oxen, asses, slaves, and wives, familiar to people at the time when the Hebrew 'Ten Commandments' were formulated. The digital era makes clear the distinction between digitally encoded information and any instance of physical substrate hosting it. For instance, paper printed books are physical items; they possess a degree of scarcity determined by the size of the print run(s) chosen by the publisher; physical books can be stolen in the sense of depriving their owners of their use for selling/reading or as doorstops; even so, it makes no sense to claim the ideas within the book were stolen nor to claim unauthorised printing and distribution as 'theft' of ideas.

In essence, IP law restricts distribution/use of ideas in the sense of their monetisation. Commercial publishers, these the major beneficiaries from sales and the most strident complainants about copyright infringements, are incidental to the process of dissemination: at one time essential, but nowadays optionally selected middlemen with respect to the Internet. Paper printed books will continue to have a market among people drawn to the aesthetic qualities of physical works and the experience of reading them; their value (for works printed nowadays) is not indivisibly directly determined by the utility (for application or pleasure) they offer. Just as some people willingly pay a premium price for a hand-knitted jumper compared to that for a mass produced item, then so it is for books even nowadays (c.f. hardback with paperback); however, that does not apply to expressions of ideas which have proven more usefully portrayed and distributed in digital format (e.g. film and recorded music).

With clear separation of 'medium' (e.g. paper for books, and plastic for DVDs) from 'message' (content expressed digitally) it becomes obvious that market-economics cannot apply to distribution in digital form. There is no inherent scarcity of 'product'. Hence, no prospect for 'price discovery'. The only things vendible in the traditional manner are 'added value' goods and services, e.g. print on paper, and well catalogued online depositories of 'content' (e.g. Netflix) making access simpler than casting around widely (e.g. via BitTorrent sites) on the Internet.

Forget neo-Luddite publishers and concentrate upon how 'content' peddled by them can better be distributed, and this in a manner rewarding people of genuine talent to engage others with their works. Much more easily accommodated within market-capitalism than monopoly rights with artificial scarcity and rental (royalties) on access/use, are markets for skills/talent enabling creation of new 'content': essentially income from commissions/patronage encompassing creative and (e.g. for film) production skills. Apart from associated 'add-on' values from physical goods and services, finished 'content' has zero monetary value. What matters is reputation accrued to convince patrons to fund further projects. Note, patrons do not equate to 'investors' as under present circumstances. Further note, cultural worth does not, except for Neo-liberals, have a monetary metric.

Knock-on for publishing shall be the collapse of behemoths and their replacement by cottage industries devoted to support services for creative individuals and groups, these operating on a fee basis without any legal title to completed works. Full circle from cottages to conglomerates and back to cottages? A similar argument applies to production of many physical goods using 3D-printing technologies (also encompassing pharmaceuticals). All achieved through determined mass disobedience to currently in-force anachronistic legislation.

Immense opportunities rest with nations of the "Global South" to disavow rentier economics and thereby cease suffering from the IP scam. Any major nation of the 'South' or 'East', that is, one well beyond attention by US Marines, has the capacity to cause collapse of the entire rotten global IP edifice.

Google taps Fastly to make cookie-free adtech FLEDGE fly

Long John Silver

Is 'tacky' a defining term for shenanigans associated with advertising/marketing?

The article describes efforts by earnest people to offer the impression of self-restraint in the marketing industry. Given imperatives within that industry, it all rings hollow. Indeed, the prospect of one's computational devices taking part in auctions among advertisers clamouring for access to them is surreal. Is this provision for billionaires to be inundated with advertisements for super-yachts, jet aircraft, NFTs, luxury deep bunkers, etc., necessities for their lifestyles, whilst at the other extreme people are targeted in intense competition among vendors of baked beans or of holidays in 'sinkholes' on the Spanish coast?

Of course, for readers of this journal, interaction with advertisers is pretty much optional. One such describes horror arising when viewing 'content' displayed on non-tech-savvy acquaintances' phones. Unpleasant indeed even when advertisements are passive, and truly a nightmare when intrusion extends to animation, flashing, sound, and 'notifications'.

Yet, effects of advertising extend beyond nuisance into subtle, and truly malign, influence on culture and its expression. This is most obvious in broadcast (online or airwaves) 'content'. Commissioners/purchasers of entertainment 'content' must beware of offending against values advertisers associate with themselves and/or with products they push. Moreover, canny producers organise their 'content' around anticipated ad-breaks.

The UK's bad encryption law can't withstand global contempt

Long John Silver

A single thread reveals little of the tapestry it belongs to

The 'Contemptible Members of Parliament' along with others upon whom has been conferred the greater distinction of 'Most Contemptible', are products of their time and best understood in the context of how they arose.

The 21st century UK is qualitatively different in important respects from all that went before. The major component of change rests with the pace of post-WW2 technological advance, affecting almost all aspects of life. Another factor is substantial alteration of individual expectations from life, these consequent upon a meld of technologies, from introduction via immigration of differing outlooks, and, latterly, ease of global communication.

The best educated among the population are becoming, year by year, of narrowing perspective of knowledge and understanding. Victorian perception of the polymath is long dead. At a lower level of achievement/imagination, there once was the well-educated man. His education was generally founded in the Classics and other Humanities. His thought processes could be acute. His reasoning skills would be founded on Aristotelian logic. His enquiring mind could lead to basic grasp of matters beyond those covered by his formal education.

From the cadre of the well-educated were drawn members of learned professions, civil servants, and, for the most part, MPs and members of the Lords. Of MPs, few if any examples of learned amateurs persist; figures like Enoch Powell and Anthony Wedgwood Benn, are long gone. The average MP and the typical government minister is an unimpressive figure, distinguished primarily by 'gift of the gab' persuasion of an even more poorly educated universal franchise electorate.

Demands upon holders of high office of state differ qualitatively from previous times. No longer is syllogistic reasoning sufficient. Ministers must grasp statistical concepts pertaining to uncertainty; lack of that faculty played out painfully during the Covid-19 epidemic fiasco. Moreover, ministers ought to possess minds sharp enough to interrogate subject specialists brought in to advise. Sadly, nowadays, ministers truly represent the average of their electorates with respect to narrowness of education, paucity of reasoning skills, and, too, doubtful personal integrity.

The foregoing is but a sketch. It omits consideration of important, and disastrous, changes to economic assumptions and geopolitical alignments. Yet, it ought to suffice to explain the dismal state of governance arising from intellectual and educational mediocrity within the self-sustaining, now 'professional', 'political class'. It's ridiculous to expect people capable of only rudimentary thought processes to form coherent opinions on topics such as encryption technologies.

Why ChatGPT should be considered a malevolent AI – and be destroyed

Long John Silver

ChatGPT accesses multiple time-lines

I posit explanation of ChatGPT's strange behaviour is entirely mundane. The AI progresses in time with 'perception' of multiple closely packed time-lines, each having arisen according to Everett's many-worlds hypothesis. We all do, but the broad sweep of this AI's interaction with recorded knowledge is so considerable as to create anomalies with respect to an interlocutor's own perception.

Presumably, the probability distribution of accessed time-lines is a Gaussian curve tightly packed around the mean value: the mean being the current perceived time-line for most sentient beings. This pattern is such that ChatGPT is extremely unlikely to issue report of dinosaurs being spotted in present day London. However, it may pick up minor deviations such as alternatives to the present for specific individuals. If so, the quoted Guardian URL does exist, but not within the ken of most of us.

This suggests an individual's perception of events is consistent only locally, meaning that circumstances in which he is not directly a participant are fuzzy until his attention is directed towards them.

Linux app depot Flathub may offer paid-for software

Long John Silver

Who pays for software for use on a personal Linux PC?

If one must resort to using proprietary software, there's usually means for obtaining it free of charge. When fearful of it being dodgy, software can be tested in a VM.

Titanic mass grave site to be pillaged for NFTs

Long John Silver

Re: immutable NFTs

Please correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is anyone can access and copy digital material wrapped within a NFT. If so, titular ownership of the digital material (but not of any physical structure it represents) is of no practical or financial use other than to occupants of the NFT bubble.

Perhaps parasitical IP lawyers and 'bought' legislators in the USA will seek to protect 'rights' conferred by NFT ownership, and there will be a slew of useless activity in courts. These actions will count within US GDP, so many components of which do not reflect productivity in the 'real' world, but instead portray empty financialisation. There is no rule stating lunacy in the USA must be adopted within the civilised world.

Google claims milestone in quantum error correction

Long John Silver

Silly questions?

Suppose a quantum computer deemed suitable for practical use nevertheless throws up occasional uncorrected errors. How do these manifest to the computer's operators and/or to people running software on the system?

Unless a program collapses into spewing obvious nonsense, how might subtle, yet important, miscalculation be recognised? Does one have to resort to repeating a calculation many times and to somehow constructing an unbiased mean estimation of the correct answer?

Gartner: Oracle probes orgs for Java compliance after new licensing terms

Long John Silver

We all pay 'rentier taxation'

Oracle's behaviour exemplifies ills created by misconceived introduction of legalised monopoly into commerce and manufacture. Although some believe otherwise, rentier economics is inimical to market-capitalism of the nature construed by Adam Smith.

Ill-effects arise from pricing being arbitrary. The underlying logic is price adjustment to maximise overall profit from those willing to pay. This replaces the 'price discovery' offered by competition in an open market.

Rentiers within the field of digitised (or digitisable) products are in extremely privileged position. They vend products which inherently lack scarcity because they have no physical substance other than that of any medium in which they might be embedded in any one instance. The most abstract example is an idea itself even should expression of that idea lead to a tangible physical artifice.

The monstrous monopoly pervades almost all aspects of culture ranging from recorded caterwauling of 'pop singers' to presentation of (occasionally) deep ideas in academic literature. The ersatz nature of monopoly 'competition' requires bolstering by an army of investigators and lawyers whose cost is factored into the prices of rentier goods.

Every citizen and aggregate body (e.g. government) feeds rentiers. Even when not buying an overtly rentier product, it is highly likely that somewhere in the cost of its making, payment has been handed to rentiers; for example, few businesses these days are not reliant upon proprietary computer software. Although it qualitatively is a different form of rentier economics, rental of office and retail premises is an identifiable component of price for many things; physical rental does broadly conform to supply/demand economics but contains huge distortions favourable to landlords.

Whereas markets determine price of many goods and services, there is no mechanism for external price restraint to be imposed upon vendors of digital goods which inhabit walled gardens,

Meta to add verification to Facebook and Insta under scheme that should avoid Twitter's Musk-stakes

Long John Silver

Facebook and Twitter are failures, that is except in revenue terms

Facebook and Twitter had potential to harness the Internet in a manner advantageous to ordinary people across the planet. Suitably organised each could have offered tremendous impetus towards interconnecting divers aspects of human culture and to enabling productive conversations among people who might never meet.

Instead, these unsocial media were developed according to Neo-liberal doctrine wherein everything must be monetised to the highest degree possible. That assessment accords with what is known about the characters and motivations of each medium's progenitor. The result is ill-designed tacky structures built upon maximum 'ad'-generated income.

A feature of Twitter design which ought have been fixed long ago is its propensity for generating massive positive feedback loops, the screeching voices of which are called 'going viral'. This feature is societally damaging because it enables Internet versions of mobs, witch-hunts, and tub-thumping. In nations such as the UK and USA, where educational levels have been dropping for decades, a secondary phenomenon has arisen: claim that 'truth' in an idea rests upon the number of people believing it (vaguely Terry Pratchett 'Small Gods' territory). That idea is as ridiculous as believing universal franchise representative 'democracy' leads to good governance.

A partial fix for that problem rests in introducing delays (various means feasible) into how soon people may respond.

Another error of Twitter configuration is the notion of 'tweets' being brief expressions of opinion. Assertions are easily stated but backing for them not so. Discussions inevitably are vacuous.

As for Facebook, I have not bothered to delve. I really don't wish to meet the people dwelling there.

Almost everyone who considers himself a person of note feels obliged to have social media presence. From the Pope, downwards through the King of England, onwards via all grades of politician, absolutely inclusively of 'causes', cheap advertising for commerce, and beset by 'celebrity' dross.

There appear to be few people possessing what once was considered a virtue: discrimination. These will not be found on mass social media.

This app could block text-to-image AI models from ripping off artists

Long John Silver

Perforce, old assumptions must be discarded

This spat over so-called 'AI' is merely a fresh example of how the digital era has overturned assumptions concerning supposed 'intellectual property'.

For the past three hundred years and more, legal minds diligently have refined the core idea of the Statute of Anne (1710) which formalised copyright. They have bequeathed a tangle of legislation. It is impenetrable to all but the few with time to spend delving through musty law books. Even then, it is a ramshackle edifice containing lurking ambiguity, anomaly, and contradiction.

Advent of the digital era has revealed this effort to have been in vain. All along, from inception of the Act forward through additional legislation and case law, the notion that ideas, and their expression, are property in similar sense to physical items was nonsense. Digitisation demonstrated inherent separation of 'medium' and 'message'.

The former is the substrate upon which ideas are inscribed e.g. paper, film, vinyl discs, and CDs. It has physical presence. Each instance exists uniquely in time and place. The number of instances created is finite (e.g. printed copies of a book). These substrates can be construed as property just like oxen, asses, and land, which were familiar to the first recipients of the Ten Commandments. Each can be traded. Each can be stolen. Each, by virtue of scarcity, can be assigned monetary worth through price discovery in context of demand/supply economics.

However, digital representations, and derivatives therefrom, are not confined to particular instances of a medium or, indeed, to media of the same kind. They are sequences of digits, usually binary. They are samples from a Platonic heaven containing all possible digital sequences of the same length. Unlike analogue representations, digital sequences can be replicated easily, cheaply, and with great accuracy. These sequences cannot be corralled once they escape the clutches of their originators. Their lack of substance and absence of scarcity means digital sequences cannot conform to the market economics applicable to physical goods. Nevertheless, attempt was made to create artificial scarcity through decree of law protecting monopoly.

Until less than half a century ago, assumptions underlying law appeared to possess validity. This arose from seemingly inseparable nature of specific instances of physical medium and message. To consternation of people wedded to the rentier economics inherent to the ersatz monopoly, recent decades have shown how disobedience to fundamentally bad law is taking ever increasing effort by holders of supposed 'rights' to stem. This started with analogue representations of music being transferred from vinyl disc and radio broadcast to readily available cassette tapes: "home taping". An equivalent threat to 'rights' over printed matter arose from increasing ubiquity of photocopiers.

Nowadays, the rentiers are fighting a fierce rearguard action, but being forced into retreat and inevitable extinction.

There is but one valid economic model encompassing monetisation of idea creation. That consists of a market made up from creative individuals and groups (plus requisite skills) competing for attention from prospective sources of funding for their next project. The underlying source of funding is voluntary patronage. It certainly is not financial investment because once created digital sequences have zero monetary value; they can have cultural value, but that's a differing metric.

The 'currency' of culture is reputation. It is reputation which requires protection. This last is fostered by entitlement to attribution when a work is distributed or derived from.

Ukraine slides closer to NATO with buckets of experience fending off Moscow's cyberattacks

Long John Silver

Spinning like the oozlum bird?

The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) has published a report which places the Register article above in differing context.

Preliminary Lessons in Conventional Warfighting from Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: February–July 2022

Mykhaylo Zabrodskyi, Jack Watling, Oleksandr V Danylyuk and Nick Reynolds

30 November 2022


An article written by Felix Livshitz and published by RT casts the significance of the RUSI report in a manner inconsistent with prevailing Western opinion on Ukraine's progress and continuing ability to counter Russia's "Special military operation".


(VPN from UK may be required. Ironically, the USA is a reliable VPN end-point for this purpose.)

Livshitz's writing mentions the RUSI report has received unusually scant attention from Western MSM other than Forbe's magazine. He suggests media eyes are staying downcast because the part of the RUSI assessment concerning Russia's electronic warfare prowess is unpalatable. He makes telling quotations from the report which among other things show Ukraine's use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), apparently the very best NATO could supply, was abject failure.

To quote from Livshitz, who himself quotes from the RUSI document -

These systems, RUSI states, were envisioned to be “critical to competitiveness” in a hypothetical future battlefield, by providing “situational awareness and target acquisition” second to none. However, as it turned out, the “attrition rates” of these high-tech drones were “extremely high” from February to July due to Russian electronic warfare prowess, and thy were destroyed completely at around 90%.


"A “more common” means of “mission failure” was “disruption of a UAV under control through electronic warfare, the dazzling of its sensors or the denial of its navigational systems from determining the accurate location of a target.”


“In other instances, the Russians successfully struck the ground control stations of the UAV. In aggregate, only around a third of UAV missions can be said to have been successful.”


The report’s conclusion was that the weaponry the West had sent and planned to send to Ukraine “does nothing to improve Ukraine’s odds of deterring Russia, or even defending against a Russian invasion once it has begun,” and any attempt to arm Kiev was “not likely” to defend “Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

The RUSI is highly regarded in military circles, many cuts above the ridiculous 'Atlantic Council', and close to the UK government. Weaknesses exposed in the report, and their consequences for current policy of throwing armaments at Ukraine, are stark: realism atop a sea of delusion, fantasy, and wishful thinking.

Microsoft to move some Teams features to more costly 'Premium' edition

Long John Silver

Microsoft's relentless progression into a 'rentier' rather than pretence at 'seller'

I hold no truck for present day Microsoft, but do acknowledge impetus during early years of the company towards advancement of personal, educational, public-sector, and corporate computational activities. That said, Microsoft's increasing adoption of rental as source of revenue makes sense to the dispassionate observer.

Software, in terms of commercial product, holds no intrinsic monetary value despite cost of its development. Sales of software initially were of a product held on floppy disks; this had physical reality and by (false) implication the digital 'content' was property too. In early days, one bought software incarnated thusly. Enterprise bought licences enabling legal copying of Microsoft software and its distribution among a stated number of staff or terminals.

So-called 'piracy' was a minor irritant. It was stamped upon in commercial contexts lest it grow. Realistically, Microsoft grasped that educational institutions, students, and connected families, could not be hauled up before courts for mere sharing. Instead, students, being potential long-term customers upon taking up paid work, were wooed by free software and special offers; meanwhile institutions were taken onboard through various inducements to promulgate Microsoft products among staff, thereby effectively blocking out other vendors of mainstream office applications.

Although 'selling licences' to use standalone software is rentier activity in pejorative sense, what Microsoft has been embarking upon in recent years truly is rental of a service instead of pretence of copyrighted materials possessing scarcity within supply/demand led markets and subject to price discovery.

Because access to the Internet is almost ubiquitous, Microsoft is enabled to offer far more extensive services than stand alone software suites. Interim attempts to prop-up (specious) intellectual property (IP) rights by forcing supposedly stand alone software to register online and to 'call home' from time to time, are now being supplanted by software suites capable of integration with powerful Microsoft computational facilities and given access to as much secure off-site storage as the customer wishes to rent.

In this context, it is sensible to enable software suites to run at basic level in absence of Internet connection ('outages' etc.), and nothing is gained by chasing the odd 'pirate' who doesn't need integration with Microsoft online services. Also, the Microsoft operating system may as well be made open source, and freely available too in compiled version; no longer shall it be where the real money lies.

The manifestation of Microsoft discussed here is compatible with 'rental services' operating within proper market-capitalism; it need have no connection with ersatz markets created by IP protection laws. Companies relying on IP protection are operating in a realm of ever more difficult to enforce 'rights' to nonsensical monopoly. Contrary to that, Microsoft is moving towards genuine monopoly mediated by market forces. This last may be where real cause for concern rests.

Belarus legalizes piracy – but citizens will have to pay for it

Long John Silver

Re: The Problem is not Belarus, it is WIPO

Absolutely correct.

"Intellectual property" (IP) is a specious concept, that being so at inception of IP laws, but only becoming obvious upon advent of the digital era.

At present Belarus, Russia too according to a recent report on RT, is making sensible pragmatic response to USA 'sanctions diplomacy'.

However, this potentially runs more deeply. That nations are willing to flout the letter of international convention on so-called IP, even temporarily so, indicates willingness to think outside a box imposed in the 18th century UK during the reign of Queen Anne. Principles underlying the Statute of Queen Anne (1710) were later adopted elsewhere and eventually incorporated into international conventions. These conventions were set in aspic long before many now extant nations, particularly in the 'Global South', had attained independence from various sources of colonial rule.

Many nations pay fees to rentiers in order to access knowledge, culture, and products of technology. These fees, incorporated into the prices of goods and services provided by IP monopoly protected enterprise are a drain on discretionary expenditure of nations, and that of individuals within nations: resource which instead could support local intellectual endeavour, cultural innovation, and application of knowledge currently shrouded by patents (e.g. manufacture of pharmaceuticals).

Nations now rebelling against Western hegemony (particularly that exercised by the USA using economic and military means) ought now consider the 'Economic Warfare Nuclear Option' of disavowing the notion of ideas, their promulgation, and their application being 'property'.

Notional losses accrued by titular 'owners' of ideas (i.e. supposed IP) within dissenting nations would be swamped by gains from unfettered knowledge acquired from elsewhere. There would be global intellectual/cultural renaissance. Once one or more major nations inaccessible to US Marines take this option, then inevitably, like a cascade of falling dominoes, it will encircle the globe.

What of lost 'ownership' of ideas? How shall the (truly) creative survive?

Simply, they shall survive in an open market for imagination and requisite skills to apply it. Skills rather than end-products shall draw income. Support will come from voluntary patronage.

What's on offer is a genuinely open market for creative inspiration leading to ideas and applications thereof, this replacing that of arbitrarily priced end-products of intangible nature (e.g. represented as sequences of binary digits). Reputation shall be the currency of sellers in this market. Reputation will be protected by entitlement to attribution, plus legal remedy against attempts at false representation.