Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is "Jacking" a good term for "Genetic Hacking?"

Does anyone else remember only a few years back, when DNA sequencing was carried out across thousands of distributed home PCs running SETI-like batch software?  And how it was going to be, like, ten years to decode a fairly simple genome given the state of the art in computers at that stage was 486's and the very first Pentiums?

So it was good to see Moore's Law kick in and that first genome fell in only a few years.  Meanwhile, other DNA was being unravelled, larger more complex chunks, bigger genomes.  And now, we're at the point where the number of people with completely sequenced genomes will go from a handful, to the proverbial shitload.  In fact, the article even discusses home hobbyist gene tinkering.  Because of cheap gene sequencing technology.

My thoughts?  Almost as soon as we had civic records, we had people "hacking" records to create false personas.  When we got telephone systems, we had phreakers hacking the telephone networks to make free calls and/or create mayhem.  When we got credit cards, we had credit card fraud as well as clever ideas like gift cards. Almost before computers got on a few elite desks, there was the brain virus and then stoned virus.

Yes, we also had people who compiled great information from our civic records, telephone help and support lines, convenient ATM banking, and so much software and computing power that the genome fell in a tenth of the time that was originally predicted.  But there are always people wearing grey hats and black hats, taking advantage.

Gene technology is going to open a few very strange doors indeed.  I can imagine the first home genetics hacker to discover how to stop ageing processes by a simple genetic manipulation.  But there are also going to be some very nasty hacks.

Are we ready for this kind of onslaught?  Probably not, but that's never stopped us or slowed us down in the past.  I'm sort of hoping I can hold on long enough for some home hacker to figure out a way to regrow emphysemic lung tissue, that would be nice.  But I'm not at all looking forward to the first case of chocolate bars laced with some kid's "zombie juice" virus laying inert in it...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Are We Just A "Kodak Moment?"

I won't beat the stupid journo drum of saying "IF this is true" because I am not a scientist.  The people in this long article, however, they are  scientists, and they should know better than to keep up the "what if" garbage.  If they have something that fits their observed facts, then they should stop saying "if this is true" and instead start believing in themselves a bit more.  Since our whole belief system would be changed by this.

If you've waded through that article, you're probably back here with a zillion thoughts whizzing around in your head.  For those of you that haven't read it, let me summarise for you:

An "observatory" in Hanover which was set up to observe gravity waves, has been getting the odd noise that's messing up their signals.  Before they had a chance to formulate a theory, a physicist named Craig Hogan volunteered an hypothesis of his that predates the Hanover experiment but which explains the problems they've had.

Which is, that they've hit the quantum limit of resolution of the Universe.  You know how a two dimensional computer image contains one dimensional bits (pixels) which represent a three dimensional object we've taken a picture of?  Well, the Hanover experiment has discovered the "pixels of space and time," the smallest units of spacetime that can be measured.

And that means that our Universe is a three-dimensional "picture" itself, representing a higher dimensional Universe.  Going back to the idea of the picture of a three dimensional object, you can imagine that the three dimensional object "drifted" through the picture plane, and left an image of itself behind.  Our brains can do the complex math of recovering that original object by the simple act of looking at the two dimensional picture.  We 'know" what the three dimensional object that cast this particular "shadow" was, because we have experience of how the picture encodes the information.

Despite that picture looking like a completely smooth analog object, though, we know that it's made up of pixels, which are the "quantum limit" of a digital picture.  You can't "enhance the image" beyond the individual pixels despite what all the CSI shows suggest.  Similarly, the quantum limit of a painting is the molecules of the pigment and the substrate, once you go to microscopic levels you find that the "quanta" of the painting are the molecules of pigment adhering to the molecules of the substrate, and no matter how much more you magnify, that's the limit.

Now we've known for millenia that things are composed of smaller things.  Ships, planks, molecules of wood, atoms that compose the molecules, quantum particles (there's that word again) that compose the atoms.  But for some reason we've treated both space and time as analog quantities.  I.e. it's always been assumed that time flows in a stream, that you can always halve the distance between two points one more time.

So the quanta of our Universe would be the "shadow" of the next higher dimension(s) as seen in our "3D plus time" fashion.  Now to the most unquestionably mind-blowing part of this...  Just as every part of a two dimensional image as described above is part of a representation of a three dimensional object, that means that we ourselves are also just "pixels" of an image of a Universe with more dimensions than ours...

I'll take this a step further, because I like to stick my neck out.  We've known that the material world is atomic, that is, larger assemblies being composed of smaller assemblies, down to the quantum limit.  We assumed that there would just be no lower limit to quanta, but it seems that we may have been wrong on that one.  Now we're being forced to understand that time is similarly atomic and that time too has a lower limit.

Now imagine your brain, your mind, working away, ticking over.  If intelligence and consciousness were linear and analog, we would notice discrete quanta of space and time.  In the space between one "tick" of time and the next, our intelligence/consciousness would be churning along feeling very strange indeed.  So our consciousness also is quantum in nature, meaning that what we consider our "selves" is actually a 3D hologram of the next dimension in consciousness and intelligence.

No wonder we're filled with such a sense of being part of a larger whole, this is why we invent gods and demons and whole religions designed to "develop" us into the next dimensional being we quite likely sense we're the image of...  No wonder we have entire theologies and religions devoted to the idea that "we are all one" or "we are part of a greater Being's plan..."  It's because some higher dimensional being took a snapshot...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I haz a clone online!

Just been and visited my chatbot online again at I keep forgetting I have it there, and keep forgetting to send people there.  I know this one doesn't do much more than a glorified Eliza, but I can see the day not so far away when an AI online will be able to field questions and contacts for me and send me only the ones it can't deal with on my behalf...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010



Q: What do you do if you're a hacker with a sense of ethics and a burning desire to stop polluting countries who aren't willing to toe even the Copenhagen line?  What if that country was big, armed, and everyone else was just a bit afraid to tackle it?

A: Imagine if you will, a small group infiltrating the launch control systems of every other major power on earth, inputting a very specific co-ordinate, and setting a synchronised timer . . .

HUH: Well, the problem of bringing recalcitrant superpowers into line is that no single other superpower will ever be the first to fire, because they'll just make a target of themselves right away.  It's difficult to get your fellow superpowers to conspire with you to sync-launch, and even if you do negotiate there's always the chance that you'll all set up a plan, the moment comes, you launch your missiles - and no-one else does...

A small cadre of infiltrators would have no such qualms, and every missile would launch as planned.  The superpower being targeted would have to conclude that ALL those countries couldn't possibly have organised sex in Bangkok with a fistful of fifties let alone such a secretive and co-ordinated strike, so none of them are responsible, and besides, retribution on 75% of the rest of the world is a bit of a tough battle to take on, even for a superpower.

A message would have been delivered.

Think this is far-fetched?  Don't forget that almost every political advance in the world has been made, not by politicians sitting behind polished desks with secure jobs, but from people who realise that their fate is in their own hands and they need to act if they are to survive.  And the only difference between political monsters and political heroes is the direction the public takes on hearing the news...

Stay tuned to the news channels because as I so often say, if I can think of it now, someone's already thought of it in the past, and someone else has either already made it happen or is in the process of making it happen.

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