Today in Fermi Paradoxes

Asymptotic burnout and homeostatic awakening:

We propose a new resolution to the Fermi paradox: civilizations either collapse from burnout or redirect themselves to prioritizing homeostasis, a state where cosmic expansion is no longer a goal, making them difficult to detect remotely.

Their proposal seems to be that the Great Filter is that Capitalism is a death cult: either you reach for the stars and explode, or you get a little cottage in the country and don't bother disassembling Jupiter.

Also that the Kardashev scale is imperialist nonsense.

But most importantly, look at that illustration! Just look at it!

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SFPD Are Using Driverless Cars as Mobile Surveillance Cameras

I am shocked, shocked at this revelation about companies and organizations otherwise known for their scrupulous ethics.

"Autonomous vehicles are recording their surroundings continuously and have the potential to help with investigative leads," says a San Francisco Police department training document. "Investigations has already done this several times." [...]

"As companies continue to make public roadways their testing grounds for these vehicles, everyone should understand them for what they are -- rolling surveillance devices that expand existing widespread spying technologies," said Chris Gilliard, Visiting Research Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School Shorenstein Center. "Law enforcement agencies already have access to automated license plate readers, geofence warrants, Ring Doorbell footage, as well as the ability to purchase location data. This practice will extend the reach of an already pervasive web of surveillance." [...]

The use of AVs as an investigative tool echoes how Ring, a doorbell and home security company owned by Amazon, became a key partner with law enforcement around the country by turning individual consumer products into a network of cameras with comprehensive coverage of American neighborhoods easily accessible to police. Police departments around the country use automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) to track the movements of vehicles. The EFF has sued the SFPD for accessing business improvement district live cameras to spy on protestors.

Privacy advocates and researchers have long warned about the implications of increasingly sophisticated cars, but many of these warnings are essentially extensions of the privacy concerns of smartphones, where consumer technology tracks your movements and behavior, anonymizes it, and sells it to third parties in a manner that can be reverse-engineered to identify individuals. They rarely imagine a scenario where cars on the road are constantly recording the world around them for later use by police departments.

It is the combination of using fixed location camera networks with rolling networks of autonomous vehicle cameras and data that scares privacy advocates most. "The holistic outcome of these combined moving and fixed networks is a threat that is greater than the sum of its parts," Schwartz said. "Working together, [they can] more effectively turn our lives into open books."

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How to fix social media

What we need is this one simple trick:

A site that scrapes, collates, and de-dups your friends' posts on every social media site, and then shows you the union of all of those posts as one feed.

This is the only way to break Facebook's back: to allow your friends' transition from one social network's data silo to another to be so gradual and effortless that you don't even notice it happening.

The thing that makes this difficult, of course, is not the coding, but the fact that if you succeed at it in any meaningful way, the sky will blacken with lawyers, and the data silos' spending on technical countermeasures will absolutely smother you.

It is hard, intentionally so, for people to quit a social network because that's where all their friends are and you can't get them all to move at once. But if it were possible for someone to move to a new service in such a way that neither they nor you lose that connection, then the barrier to switching would much lower. The services would have to compete on their merits rather than on your sunk cost.

But by facilitating this, not only would you be in violation of the terms of service of every site, you'd also be posing an existential threat to almost every aspect of their business model. They live for the lock-in. Touch that in a way that actually turns the Eye of Sauron upon you, and it won't go well.

Many of you are already bouncing up and down in your eagerness to go into the weeds with designs of how this could work at a technical level, but -- stop. It's a Small Matter of Programming, and that part doesn't matter at all. Unless you have a plan that solves "lawyers and countermeasures" problem, there's no point. You're looking for your keys where the light is good instead of where you dropped them.

So yeah, I said that step 2 is "and then a miracle occurs". This project is absolutely impossible. It will never happen, and social media cannot be fixed. Surprise!

But that step 2 miracle does have a name, and it is "antitrust legislation". It needs to be illegal for these companies to monopolize and lock in your data. It needs to be illegal for their TOS to prevent entry into the market of the kind of inventions that I'm talking about here. Interoperability and federation would need to be a legal mandate.

Anyway, good luck with that.

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It's Over

It's like "This Is Fine" and How To Destroy Angels had a baby.

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Scenes from IANA's growing magician problem

I was unaware that the Unicode Consortium is the standards body with authority over Astrology and the Zodiac.

Objects orbiting the Sun outside the orbit of Neptune are named after mythological figures, particularly those associated with creation. But the subset that orbit in a two-to-three resonance with Neptune -- the so-called "plutinos", such as Pluto and Orcus -- are named after figures associated with the underworld. In this case, the five TNOs, ordered by distance from the sun, are named:

  • Orcus: the Etruscan and Roman god of the underworld.
  • Haumea: the Hawaiian goddess of fertility; the telescope used to discover this object is located on Hawaiʻi.
  • Quaoar: an important mythological figure of the Tongva, the indigenous people who originally occupied the land where CalTech is located.
  • Makemake: the creator god of the Rapanui of Easter Island.
  • Gonggong: a destructive Chinese water god.

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jwzlyrics 1.20

jwzlyrics works again. I retooled it to scrape Genius, now that LyricsWiki is gone forever.

Who knows how long this will continue to work, before they change something in their generated HTML. Such are the indignities of This Modern World. If there are better options, I don't know of them.

LyricsWiki had an actual API. It was annoying but stable. Genius technically has an API, but using it would require each user of this program to create an account there, which is far too onerous.

I also applied some countermeasures to their weird steganography!

It's amazing to me the the music conglomerates have basically conceded that all music is available everywhere for a dollar a month and nobody's ever going to get paid, but they are still treating the lyrics like those are the most precious thing they own.

The source also includes "itunesxml", a command line utility that generates an XML file nearly identical to the file that iTunes used to keep up-to-date in "~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music Library.xml", that last existed in macOS 10.14. This means that tools that need to access the iTunes database, e.g. the Mac::iTunes::Library::XML Perl module, can continue to work.

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Rotary Cellphone

Hey, remember that rotary cellphone? Now you can buy one!

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QR scanning

Dear Lazyweb,

Is it possible for JavaScript on iOS to scan a QR code using the camera, and return the scanned data to the caller?

As always, please only respond with things that you have seen working with your own eyeballs. I see a few things that maybe purport to do this, but they don't work.

We check people off of our guest lists using a JavaScript-heavy web page on various tablets, and it might be a little faster if, instead of needing to scroll to the customer's name, we could just point the tablet's camera at a QR code that the customer is waving at us.

Update: This one seems to work well so far.

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This is magical

Via, but I couldn't find the original GIF.

And because I had to know: yes, every frame decodes properly.
And nearly all of the animated bits are necessary for proper decoding.

Update: A generator: Amazing QR.

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