Things of note for the week ending January 9th, 2015.
1. ROBOTS ARE BREAKING THE LAW
…and nobody knows what to do about it. Well, that second part isn’t strictly true. But read the intro to this article and tell me if you’re not intrigued about what our android friends might get up to in the future:
The Random Darknet Shopper, an automated online shopping bot with a budget of $100 a week in Bitcoin, is programmed to do a very specific task: go to one particularÂ marketplace on the Deep Web and make one random purchase a week with the provided allowance. The purchasesÂ have all been compiled for an art show in Zurich, Switzerland titledÂ The Darknet: From Memes to Onionland, which runs through January 11.
The conceptÂ would be all gravyÂ if not for one thing: the programmers came home one dayÂ to find a shipment of 10 ecstasy pills, followed by an apparently very legit falsified Hungarian passportâ€“ developments whichÂ have leftÂ some observers of the botâ€™s blog a little uneasy.
Right? This whole thing is pretty cool/questionable/good brain fodder. The article makes a few good points, but in summary:
- IF this was the US, then the programmers might be found responsible (and guilty).
- The coders in question have claimed responsibility for everything their bot does (and claim ownership of said illegal substances).
- The coders’ lawyer says as it’s an art project which means that, in line with the Swiss constitution (that states all art is in the public interest) that all of it is allowed to be free.
The implications for the future are… well, interesting. The coders in this instance have taken responsibility (but have an ‘out’) but that might not always be the case. The Swiss constitution allows an art project to be free and without prosecution but that might not always be the case.
The future is bright, the future is vague.
2. THE VOICEMAIL RETURNS
Some of you might know this already but I [used to] record a weekly mobile tech podcast called ‘The Voicemail‘. Along with another mobile tech-head, one Mr Stefan Constantinescu, we deliver 30mins of irreverent mobile tech coverage and generally have a laugh doing so.
Back in October 2014, Stefan and I decided to put the show on hiatus for the remainder of the year (he was changing jobs and moving country and me, well, I needed the time out too.
Anyway, the plan was that we’d regroup in January to kick-start the show for 2015. We have, and episode 121 is available to download now. Even if you have only a passing interest in the latest mobile tech (eg: what phone should you get next?) then you should give us a listen.
3. PHIL HARTMAN: THE GLUE
One of the more enjoyable long reads of the week: I found this Grantland piece from last summer about how the super talented Phil Hartman was the glue that held Saturday Night Live together.
At this point I’d normally put in an image from the website or quote something from the piece or even embed a video for ya’all to watch. But not this time. This time I’m going to tell to just go and educate yourself on one of the great, lost comedians of our time.
4. HEROIC WORDS OF WISDOM
As is customary for a good Five Things on Friday, here’s a section on superhero-related stuff.
In ‘Heroic words of wisdom’ artist (and obvious comic book fan), Adam Thompson, pairs the stars of Detective Comics with the inspirational words that have appeared in the pages (or from the films) where they dwell.
I really like these.
That is all.
5. SMUGGLING ULYSSES
I read this piece on a tube journey earlier this week and was hooked from start to finish. It’s the story of how, in 1933, a man was hired specifically to smuggle a copy of [the then banned] Ulysses into the United States of America and get caught doing so.
The after-effects of which would cause a major shift in the way censorship of literature behaved not only in the US but across the rest of the English-speaking world.
Bonuses this week are short and sweet:
- Your stuff, you have too much of it
- Animal Problems (the Octopus pun killed me)
- Do Pufferfish hold their breath?
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