Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 14, 2020

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The IOTA foundation is responding to a hack; Boston Dynamics' Spot robot reports for duty on an oil rig; An "information ecology" framework for dealing with "fake news" considers misinformation and disinformation to be forms of information pollution; The University of California cancels its subscription to Elsevier; Brush fires uncover a historical stone-carved boomerang in Australia; and a Steem essay describing an ad-hoc operation to rescue an injured wild eagle


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First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.

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  1. Investigating stolen funds on Mainnet - Breaking (Feb. 13): The IOTA blockchain has apparently experienced a theft that affected 10 people. The Coordinator has been turned off and the Mainnet is offline in order to prevent further theft. The IOTA Foundation says they are working with law enforcement and trying to identify the mechanism of the theft. (I'm not very familiar with IOTA's "tangle" concept, but this doesn't seem very decentralized...)

  2. Boston Dynamics’ dog robot Spot is going to patrol an oil rig in Norway - After years as a Youtube celebrity, Boston Dynamics' robot-dog, Spot is getting a real job. Later this year, the device will be deployed on a rig in the Skarv field in the Norwegian Sea in order to provide autonomous rig inspection safely capture data from gas leaks and other challenges. Because this sort of work involves high risk for humans, it is believed to be an ideal role for a robot. The rig's owner, Aker BP says, "We believe robotics will help us operate more safely and with lower cost and emissions in the near future." The device has already been tested in a simulated environment, and it will now undergo additional examination to determine which particular tasks are best-suited for completion by the robot. Spot has been available for companies and organizations to rent since September, 2019, and has been rented by 75 organizations, including the Massachusetts State Police bomb squad. Spot was previously covered in this series on: April 21, 2019, September 25, 2019, September 29, 2019, and January 26, 2020.

  3. You May Not Even Know You're Spreading Lies - This article is part of a Wired series on an "information ecology" framework. The article begins by distinguishing between online misinformation - sharing something that is genuinely believed to be true, and disinformation - sharing something that is known to be false. In many frameworks, attempts are made to identify disinformation as the root cause of misinformation, but in the information ecology framework, the authors consider both forms of faulty information to be analogous to pollution. The explain this decision as follows,
    It’s not that motives are irrelevant. It’s that they matter less than environmental impacts, and less than the overall process of spread: how and why a polluted message is able to travel so seamlessly across so many audiences—or how and why it’s encouraged to do so by attention-economy incentives.
    With an eye on reducing the overall spread of information pollution, the authors argue that efforts to debunk misinformation and disinformation often wind up spreading it, and this can lead the social media algorithms to promote it further. On the other hand, the authors also acknowledge the need to confront false ideas, so although the subtitle promises, "But here's a simple thing we all can do to make the internet slightly less terrible." The article really doesn't deliver that. Basically, in a whole lot of words, the authors just suggest that everyone should be cognizant of and balance the risk of spreading information pollution against the need to confront bad information.

  4. Huge US university cancels subscription with Elsevier - The University of California (UC) is the largest public university system in the US, and they have terminated their subscription to Elsevier, a dutch scientific publishing giant. The university apparently let the subscription lapse because they could not reach terms on pricing for a so-called "read and publish" agreement whereby their stakeholders could read the articles, and their authors could publish in Elsevier and also under open access terms. An industry observer is quoted saying that this action will embolden other universities to follow suit, and also that the Sci-Hub web site also threatens the closed scientific publishing model. UC researchers say they are happy with the decision, and that they'll only be losing access to articles that are published after the contract's expiration date. In all, Elsevier publishes 3,000 journals that produce more than 400,000 articles per year. UC has 10 campuses in the US state of California, and says that 18% of its researchers have published in Elsevier journals. -h/t Daniel Lemire

  5. 'Sspecial' boomerang discovered in bushfire-ravaged Cobargo creek - The owners of a burnt out Australian property in Cobargo discovered a stone-carved boomerang in a section of property that was razed by the on-going brush-fire crisis. As the owners were aware of the significance of the find, they contacted a campaigner for museum repatriation,Rodney "Murrum" Kelly, who said that he is also aware of another historic boomerang that was uncovered by the fire, and the article also notes that the brush fires also uncovered an aquaculture system that is 6,600 years old and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Archaeologists are considering establishing a date for the boomerang, but they first need to clear it with indigenous elders. Christopher Wilson says that the oldest wooden boomerang was found in the 1970s and dated to 10,000 years ago. Kelly said that his goal is to get the artifact into a museum somewhere in the country, and adds that it is likely that the fires will uncover additional artifacts. -h/t archaeology.org

  6. Steem @kheys: An Eagle Fell From The Sky-Indonesia - In this post, the author describes the experience of rescuing a wild eagle that couldn't fly due to an injured wing. The eagle was discovered on the ground during horse-riding practice and rescued by the author, some friends, and a riding coach. They took the bird to a local zoo, where the eagle can hopefully return to full health. The post also contains some photographs of the injured bird, so click through and leave an upvote while you're there. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @kheys.)


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"It’s not that motives are irrelevant. It’s that they matter less than environmental impacts, and less than the overall process of spread: how and why a polluted message is able to travel so seamlessly across so many audiences—or how and why it’s encouraged to do so by attention-economy incentives."

While you point out other flaws in this analysis, it is of critical importance to recognize the difference between pollution, accidental introduction of harmful materials, and poisoning, the deliberate introduction of such harmful materials.

Poisoning the well is not an insignificant phrase, and derives from historical use of biological vectors to spread disease during siege warfare. It's application today in terms of information warfare is no less significant, and will continue to dominate societal control mechanisms going forward, as impacting mental ability to wage war precedes all physical abilities and practices.

The sale of Steemit to Tron may well prove this on Steem social media immediately.

Thanks!

Poisoning the well is not an insignificant phrase, and derives from historical use of biological vectors to spread disease during siege warfare.

Good point. And the reason the well was chosen was because the attacker knew that the poison would be distributed from there. Similarly, modern disinformation almost certainly focuses its efforts on the most connected communications channels. So by the time the disinformation finds its way to the casual user, it is already too late to prevent it from spreading. I don't think that the source article recognized that point at all.

Nice post. Congrats