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Another Week, Another Data Hack

This past week we found out the personal identifying information of a half-billion people was stolen from the guest record database of Starwood Hotels, now owned by Marriott. While the Yahoo! hack in 2013 involved the records of more users — 3 BILLION! — Yahoo! didn’t cough up people’s passport numbers in their data breach.

I think the push to make user data more secure and harder to steal is a fool’s errand. With each new breach of this nature, the need to get off that treadmill of failure and shift the paradigm to a system of authenticity instead of security is more and more evident. Forget trying to prevent personal identifying data theft, and instead build a system where it’s impossible to use the data of someone that isn’t actually you.


2Is Breaching Someone’s Privacy “Art”?

Online art platform Artsy has a thought-provoking article about how bending the rules of civility in the name of “art” works when other people’s privacy and dignity are at issue. (NOTE: there’s a NSFW photo in this piece.) Consider the work of Arne Svenson: surreptitiously photographing unsuspecting people who have no idea their private moments are being presented to a mass audience. Is that really all that different from live-tweeting the conversation of an unsuspecting couple in the row in front of you on a flight? Is the publicly distributed voyeurism of Rosey Blair really different from Svenson’s merely because her’s went viral using Twitter and wasn’t packaged as collection-quality “art”?


3CRISPR Babies

Speaking of breaking the conventions of modern society because one is pursuing a believed higher, nobler pursuit …  Last week the world was stunned by the news that Chinese geneticist Dr. He Jiankui had used the CRISPR gene editing technology to genetically engineer twin babies who were born recently. The ostensible purpose of this use of the CRISPR gene editing technology was to enable a couple to reproduce while insuring the children were genetically innoculated from their father’s HIV.

In classic 2018 fashion, Dr. He announced his historic, groundbreaking and extremely controversial breakthrough via a video posted to YouTube:

After appearing at a summit on human genome editing in Hong Kong to face the criticism and defend his work last week, Dr. He has now been missing for over a week.


4New Life Form Found

This just may be one of the most surprising things I’ve read in quite awhile. This isn’t the discovery of a new species, but instead an entirely new kingdom of life here on Earth. Two quotes from the CBC article illustrate why:

  1. “A genetic analysis shows they’re more different from other organisms than animals and fungi (which are in different kingdoms) are from each other, representing a completely new part of the tree of life.” — think about that: as different as cats are from mushrooms, these organisms are *more different* from either cats or mushrooms.
  2. “Two species of the microscopic organisms, called hemimastigotes, were found in dirt collected on a whim during a hike in Nova Scotia by Dalhousie University graduate student Yana Eglit.” — this historical discovery was made by a student on a walk in the woods.

“on a whim” = serendipity at work


5Elon’s Big Cyborg Idea

Admittedly, it’s a bit unsettling to hear Elon Musk talk nonchalantly about designing a “electrode to neuron interface at a micro level” that is implanted surgically into people’s brains. His purpose? — “to achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence [in order] to achieve a sort of democratization of intelligence.”

Sounds looney tunes crazy, right?

Now, pull out your smartphone, open up Google, and pull up your search history. With the world’s combined historical knowledge literally at your fingertips now being a perfectly unremarkable thing, understand that you’re already a good deal down the road toward Borg Town. Your intelligence, memory capacity, information processing capability, spatial awareness across distances, and a host of other abilities have already been enhanced through the omniscience of the internet, the omnipresence of our phones, and the omnipotence of cloud computing.

Elon and Neuralink just want to get your thumbs out of the equation.