Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Brian Micklethwait on William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
6000 on William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
Peter Whale on William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
Chuck Pergiel on White van reflexology
Darren on Two photographers photoing me
Simon Gibbs on Digital photography ballet
Brian Micklethwait on My next camera?
Brian Micklethwait on My next camera?
Michael Jennings on No wicket in fourth over shock
Alastair on A blast from the photographic past
Most recent entries
- William Hague on the collapse of the centre left
- Weird wide angle lens effect
- Shiny little car
- On clapping in between movements at classical concerts
- Brightly lit against a dark background
- Alcoholic Architecture sign
- Big Ben through the legs of Gandhi statue in Parliament Square
- You can’t make a skyscraper out of containers
- A couple of old squares
- Further spectacular information storage progress (which will immediately become very useful)
- A big Black Cab advert picture for a Samizdata posting
- Designing and building with glass
- White van reflexology
- Photoing down by the river
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6000 Miles from Civilisation
A Decent Muesli
Adventures in Capitalism
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Another Food Blog
Antoine Clarke's Election Watch
Armed and Dangerous
Art Of The State Blog
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Burning Our Money
Chase me ladies, I'm in the cavalry
China Law Blog
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Communities Dominate Brands
Confused of Calcutta
Conservative Party Reptile
Counting Cats in Zanzibar
Deleted by tomorrow
Don't Hold Your Breath
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Everything I Say is Right
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we make money not art
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This and that
Category archive: The internet
Following along from these pictures of earlier-than-now digital cameras, I have been doing further trawling through my photo archives, looking for weird old cameras in the hands of people wandering around the tourist spots of London, which typically, for me, then and now, means Westminster Abbey, Parliament Square, Westminster Bridge, and then along the South Bank. And with this, I thought, I had struck gold. This, I thought, from outside Westminster Abbey, nbjh is the weirdest camera of them all:
I took that picture, which I have somewhat cropped in order to eliminate the face of the man holding this contraption, on October 29th 2006. At first I thought that this camera was a very ancient digital camera, for doing still photos. A … well, a camera. But after a little googling (that the company that made this thing is called “Sharp” was no help at all) I now learn that it is a Sharp Video8 8mm Video Camcorder Player Playback Hi8 Camera, or something a lot like that.
Whatever that is. I have no real clue. Does it mean that it is pre-digital, and that it records pictures on film?
The internet was very coy on the subject of what this thing actually is, and even more coy about when it was first on sale. I myself have absolutely no idea, and would welcome enlightenment from any commenters inclined to supply it.
A man who writes about cameras writes, here:
Camera makers have been trying for 150 years to develop an all-in-one camera that satisfies the needs of most photographers. The Nikon Coolpix P600 comes closer to filling that order than any of the other ultra-zooms I’ve tested to date, taking into account the issues at the wide-angle end of that monster zoom.
I love zoom. My current amount of zoom is x24. But, I really love zoom. And there have been cameras out there, like this one with its x60 zoom, for quite a while now. I was cautious, fearing that other things would have been sacrificed too much, for too much zoom, too soon. But it is clear that Nikon’s marketeers have a wire attached to my mind and have been reading it:
The P600 was obviously designed for photography enthusiasts, by photography enthusiasts. Photographers who purchase the P600 will need to have realistic expectations – any camera with a 60x zoom is bound to be the result of countless mechanical, optical, electrical, and functional/operational compromises, and every one of those compromises is going to affect image quality in some way. The P600 will appeal to serious photographers who want to be able to cover a very broad zoom range of photographic genres without having to carry a heavy DSLR, a sturdy tripod, and a bag full of very expensive lenses.
And, he might have added, who doesn’t want to be wasting vital seconds faffing about with swapping lenses, while an animal like a cat or a digital photographer abandons the pose that got you (me) all excited, just before you (I) take the shot.
They also include a twiddly screen, which for me (me) is an absolute, no-twiddly-screen-no-sale, must.
Overall, the P600 does a remarkably good job of making those compromises palatable.
So, could this be my next camera?
Reviewers also mention that it is quite light, light as in not heavy I mean.
Best of all, although Amazon wants £500 for the P600, Amazon also kindly let me know that there is now a P610, which is a P600 and just a teeny bit more so, for under £300.
I am very tempted. But I have been so happy with my x24 Lumix camera that I have not been paying attention to the camera market, until I happened to go back to it today. Not only was I unaware of the existence, since several years back, of the Nikon Coolpix P610. I also failed to clock the fact that since it was introduced, in about 2013 or some such year, the Nikon Coolpix P610 has acquired a bigger, more expensive and even zoomier younger brother, the Nikon Coolpix P900. The Nikon Coolpix P610 is a cool red colour ...:
... but the Nikon Coolpix P900, maybe because it is aimed at money-less-of-a-problem semi-pro types (rather than at “enthusiasts"), is boring black:
The Nikon Coolpix P900 is also more expensive, and heavier, and heaviness is starting to be as much of a problem for me as expense always has been. Is the Nikon Coolpix P900 worth that extra expense and extra weight, just to get x83 (!!) zoom, instead of a mere x60 zoom? I am thinking, maybe not.
But mostly, what I am thinking is: that I would like to be able to compare these two cameras in a shop. Remember those? To see just how much these two cameras differ in bulk and weight. This is the kind of thing that is hard to see from mere pictures, even if they tell you the weights in numbers.
And no sooner is the thought thought, than it is investigated, because this, as I keep being reminded, is the world we now live in. Next stop, I think, will be a place like this, just to see if they’ll let me hold these two cameras, one in each hand, to compare and contrast.
Incoming, this morning, 11.37 am:
How are you?
Oh you know, much the same as ever.
My name is Chrystal. I am 25 years old. I am from Chongqing. I like your page. How often do you visit the site? I really want to communicate with you. I am good at Thai massage and really like to eat fish. What about you? I guess that we will have many topics to talk about.
Do you have some social networks? I will be waiting for your letter.
I was pondering my reply to Chrystal, asking for clarification about this site I am supposed to be visiting, but going on to say that she really is a bit young for me.
But then, incoming, at 12.12pm:
How are you?
My name is Eugenia. I am 25 years old. I am from Chongqing. I like your page. How often do you visit the site? I really want to communicate with you. I am good at Thai massage and really like to eat fish. What about you? I guess that we will have many topics to talk about.
Do you have some social networks? I will be waiting for your letter.
Uncanny. Truly, truly uncanny. They even both said “hi brian” is the same giant blue letters. What are the odds? Presumably, I should continue with the composition of my reply, and send a copy to each of them. It’s almost as if one of them isn’t a real person. Or even – the horror – neither of them is. Does some terrible middle aged, male, ugly criminal want to know more about me, that he can then use to his advantage and to my disadvantage? If Eugenia hadn’t copied Chrystal’s email to me, these suspicious thoughts might never have occurred to me.
Seriously though, these sorts of (and all the other sorts of) bullshit emails pollute email, by making you assume that any email from anyone which seems even slightly off key is bollocks, even if it isn’t. You even think it may be bollocks if the person it’s from is someone that you know. Because, maybe someone else stole that person’s name, or just guessed it or chose it at random. I can remember when it actually made sense to trust incoming emails from strangers, unless they were obvious bullshit. Those days are long gone. At first, email seemed to create a bright new world of candour and of quick and easy communication. But emails like the ones above clog up the pipes. They may be a joke, but they are a joke we could all do without.
Today I was out and about in the sweltering heat of London, and unusually for me, I found myself noticing a news item:
The news item being that big cloud of smoke, somewhere up river from Tate Modern. Seeing as how I myself live up river from Tate Modern, this was a bit troubling. Was it a moderately big fire, quite near to me? Would I return home to find my home ablaze? Had I started the fire by leaving something switched on that shouldn’t have been? Or was it, as I found myself ignobly hoping, a bigger fire, further away?
I consulted the www about this fire when I got home, my home not having disappeared, and there being no smoke anywhere near it. Eventually the www revealed what had happened. The fire was - and alas, as I write this, it still is - in Perivale, which is way out in the west of London. And this was one very big conflagration.
To quote the Evening Standard:
An enormous fire is raging in a warehouse in a west London suburb, with smoke visible for miles around.
Some 100 firefighters are tackling the inferno at a large building in Wadsworth Road, Perivale.
About 30 people fled before the London Fire Brigade arrived, with flames erupting just before 7pm.
That’s what I was seeing, no question about it.
According to my camera, the above photo was taken at 8pm, so the fire had already been raging for an hour before I noticed it enough to take photos of it. Not that photoing smoke is my forte. Presumably photoing smole is like photoing anything else in particular, the more you do it, the better you do it.
No matter. Many others will undoubtedly have been photoing that same huge cloud of smoke. It was, like the ES said, visible for miles around. You’ll have no difficulty finding better Perivale warehouse fire pictures, in the event that you want to see such things. For me, it is enough to know that nobody died.
A BIT LATER: Looking at the above photo, and at some of the others at the other end of the link immediately above (notably the one from beyond Tower Bridge) I realise that one of the tricks of smoke-photoing is the put the smoke behind a very definite and recognisable building. So here is another photo I took, of some of the smoke that had already travelled a bit further, to the area behind St Pauls Cathedral from where I was:
Trouble is, although St Pauls is very definitely St Pauls, the smoke is not so definitely smoke. It could just be clouds, in my photo. Like I say, smoke is not a speciality of mine.
As you can also see, there is a crane to be seen there. I also photoed smoke behind a crane cluster, but showing you that would be to change the subject.
I’ve been giving attention to and often photoing white vans lately, and am starting to notice interesting things about them, of which more in due course. (Maybe. I promise nothing.)
But meanwhile, Fridays here have not, lately, seen much in the cat category, which is a thing I like to do on Friday.
So, a picture of a white van with a picture of a cat on it would seem to be in order.
I have yet to photograph such a thing myself, but I did find just such a picture of just such a white van, here. But alas, the cat was on it for a not very internetty sort of reason:
There’s lots of cat related stuff on the www, but this is an aspect of cats and the keeping of them that typically gets omitted. All is cuteness. Spaying is ... not cute.
I don’t often go to pubs, because of the noise. But Goddaughter 2, raised in France, wanted to try eating a pie in a pub, so we went to the Barley Mow in Horseferry Road to see what they had. They had pies, which proved very tasty.
Two particular circumstances made the evening pure perfection for me, besides the pure perfection of Goddaughter 2’s company I mean.
First, they had the latest England v NZ cricket ODI on the telly, and I got to watch the conclusion of England’s outstanding and outstandingly successful run chase that has just levelled the ODI series 2-2. And second, this being the twenty-first century, GD2 had her smartphone with her and was texting with all her friends. I hope you aren’t bored because of me doing all this texting, she said. No no, I said, gazing happily at the giant telly screen, you just carry on my dear. Don’t mind me. As I said to her when we were leaving, had I been asked to chose the perfect hour and more to spend in a pub this week, then given that this pub had the cricket on the go, and given that my ever-delightful companion was apologising for neglecting me and communing instead with her smartphone, this hour and more would have been it.
There was noise but it didn’t matter. We didn’t do much in the way of conversation, in other words we didn’t shout much at each other, although we did a bit because it wasn’t actually that noisy. But we were mostly doing two separate things that did not require peace and quiet to work. GD2 didn’t need silence to read and write her texts. I didn’t need any television cricket commentators to tell me that England were batting up a storm.
As we left I asked GD2 if she reckoned the social media have made it better for women in pubs. She reckoned yes they probably have. If men in pubs are diverted by men’s stuff, like cricket on the telly, then any women they have dragged along with them are now able to entertain themselves, instead of just sitting there moping and getting bored. Or, if the men were a bit more gracious than that, they would force themselves to ignore the men’s stuff and do conversation, despite their strong inclinations. Also not ideal. So, social media definitely equals progress. And if the women are distracted by women’s stuff, then the men can play with their smartphones.
One of the very few uses I have found for my own smartphone, aside from telling me where I am and where to go when I am out and about, is acquainting myself with the latest cricket scores when I am out and about.
Preview – England begin latest rebuild, announced the Cricinfo front page, betting on this latest one being a flop. But then what happens?
This. England batted first and this is what the Cricinfo guy said after their innings had finished:
5.45pm, tea Well that is extraordinary. Two scintillating hundreds, first from Joe Root but then usurped by Jos Buttler. Eoin Morgan and Adil Rashid playing their parts too in big partnerships, and all after losing a wicket first ball of the innings! Just some of the records here: England’s first ODI score of over 400, the first score over 400 in an ODI in England, the most sixes in an innings from England, the world record seventh-wicket stand in an ODI. Few others I’m sure. But England have played a blinder here and if New Zealand can get anywhere close to chasing it, we’re in for an outrageous evening. See you in 25 mins…
The last over of the England innings went like this: 1 W W 6 1nb 6 1. Both the sixes were hit by England’s number ten, Plunkett, in an innings consisting of those last four balls there after those two Ws. This took England well past 400 just when it looked like they might not get to 400 after all, on account of Buttler and then Rashid (they of the record seventh-wicket stand) getting out near the end.
Jason Roy getting himself out to the first ball of the match was by no means at all the worst one-day innings you’ll ever see or hear about, because at least Roy only consumed one ball making zero runs. Thirty balls making not much more than zero is what will cost you your place in an ODI side, not very few balls making very few. Provided you don’t make too much of a habit of it, getting out first or second or third ball is okay. It comes with the territory.
Paul Collingwood was recently accused by various scumbag headline writers - headline writers are the origin of most of the biggest media lies, I find - of calling for “no consequences” cricket. But if you actually read the reports below the scumbag headlines by the scumbag headline writers, you find that what Collingwood really said was stuff like this:
“The guys in world cricket now who have taken the game to the next level are people like AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, David Warner, Chris Gayle and they are playing as if they are in the back yard. It’s as if there are no consequences on their wicket whatsoever. Somehow a coach has to get that environment, certainly in the one-day form of the game, to where he can say ‘lads, you’re backed, don’t worry, you have games to fail, go out there and prove what you can do’. I think that is an important factor in how to get the utmost amount of skills from each player.”
“It’s as if there are no consequences ...” Of course there are consequences if you make a succession of small scores and no big ones, as Collingwood perfectly well knows and as he never denied. But the best players play as if that wasn’t the case, because they know that every few tries they’ll make big runs.
Talking of Jason Roy, Roy usually plays for Surrey, and also today, Surrey trounced Leicester with a day to spare, and are now promotion contenders. Leicester, big deal, I hear you sneer. But Surrey have had a bad habit of late of not taking enough wickets in such situations. They have, over recent years, bought in all sorts of big name England or nearly-England bowlers, who then try to bowl sides out at the Oval and lose the will to live, never mind bowl. This win was accomplished by younger bowlers with less starry names, notably by one young bowler called Curran, who also batted well. Also, Surrey now have a new spinner who is coming along nicely called Ansari, and there is talk of him playing for England soon, because he bowls better than Moeen Ali. But Surrey didn’t buy Ansari in after he had already proved his worth, they spotted him early and trained him up themselves. Ansari is also quite a good batter, having learned in recent months the art of hitting boundaries, which he never used to do until this season. It would be nice to see Surrey creating England players (or in Curran’s case maybe South African players, unless England come calling first) rather than just buying them in after someone else has created them, so to speak.
But I digress. In the NZ reply to England, the one-man wrecking ball that is Brendan McCullum hit two fours and then got out, off the last three balls of the first over. And whereas England were able to do without Roy, and later Stokes and new boy Billings, all of whom struck out with the bat, NZ really needed some slogging from McCullum to get them going, and they never truly recovered from his early departure. There were, in other words, consequences to McCullum getting out so quickly. See also: the recent World Cup Final. NZ ended up getting less than half England’s score, losing by 210.
England won the first test match against NZ in style, only to lose the second not at all in style. So they could easily make a hash of the next ODI against NZ, as everyone realises. But in the meantime: hurrah, and I am now going to settle down to watch the TV highlights.
Can anyone tell me what this is?:
Soon, you will be able to shovel an image like this into the www and it would tell you what it is, same as you now do with words. But if that can be done now, I don’t know how.
I photoed this contraption last night, next to the recycling rubbish bins a few dozen yards from the front door of my home. So, whatever it is, someone has no further use for it. It was right under a street lamp which meant that the non-flash snaps I took were better than the flashed ones.
But, what on earth is it? Suggestions so far have been: some kind of toy; or: some sort of home for a pet. The latter suggestion being mine, but not a very confident one. I mean, why does it have what looks like a toast rack sticking out of its top? Bizarre.
So, as I often find myself asking here, ... anyone?
Indeed. Both of them were photographed by me, in central London, yesterday afternoon.
The first was very striking mainly because of its colour, or the colour it was showing to me. Very pretty in pink:
Seriously, I found this bus very eye-catching. You don’t expect to see a London double decker decked out in that colour.
It was selling ice lollies.
The second strange bus was this:
Something to do with Bayern Munich, as you can see. I stood as far away from this bus as I could, but the pavement was just not deep enough. But, you get the picture.
But why “Gulp”? Was “Gulp ‘82” some kind of tournament they won, in 1982? I asked the internet what gulp means in German, but sadly, all the internet wanted to tell me was the German for gulp. Anyone?
And this one has a camera!:
It’s like the internet can read my mind.
Am I happy about that? Are you?
More to the point, what are the rules about flying one of these things around in London?
A few months back my computer got a going over from The Guru, and I immediately started receiving more internet advertising than hitherto. At first this continued because I merely didn’t know how to stop it. But now, I find myself interested by this advertising.
I like old-school advertising, the sort that has no idea who you are or what you like, not even a bad idea. I learn from old-school advertising how the world in general is feeling about things, which is interesting and amusing information. (This is, for me, one of the pleasures of walking about in London. (Soon this pleasure may also vanish, because of embedded spy cameras. Soon, I may find myself looking at adverts for classical CDs and history books (and drones – see the rest of this), whenever I walk past a billboard).)
But I am now starting to enjoy new-school, internet advertising, where your most trifling internetted thought results in adverts appearing a little while later, for related (or so the internet thinks) products. Sometimes, it’s just crass, like a salesman barging into a conversation at a party and changing it. Fuck off jerk. But I am starting to enjoy this sort of advertising, sometimes.
As you can see from this picture, this drone is very small. It is also very cheap. But does it have a camera on it? Could you even attach a camera to it, or would that make it too heavy and crash it?
The last drone posting here was about a drone noticed by 6k that costs $529 dollars. But the above drone costs a mere £13.78. It is as cheap as that partly because you get it in the form of a kit rather than completed. But there must surely be a factory in China where people are paid 10p a go to assemble such things. I could surely buy a completed Eachine Q200 40g Carbon Fiber FPV Quadcopter Multicopter if I wanted to, rather than have to make do with an Eachine Q200 40g Carbon Fiber FPV Quadcopter Multicopter Frame Kit.
Kit or completely, I have no intention whatsoever of buying such a thing any time soon.
I can’t help thinking what gadgets like this, so small, so cheap, will do to photography, in a place like London.
A lot of what this blog is about is the texture of everyday life, and how that is changing. (I mean things like down-market computer stuff and smartphones and CDs. And advertising, see above.) Well, these drones are not yet a Big Thing about which old-school moany newspaper articles are being written about how the twentieth century was better, blah blah. But, they soon will be.
If I ever do get a drone to take photos, you may be sure that I will make a point of photoing the other drones. Although that’s assuming I’d be able to make something like a drone actually work, and I now assume the opposite. Maybe I will compromise, and photo all the drones I see from the ground. So far, I have only seen drones for real in shop windows. But give it a couple of years …
And oh look, the mere fact of me working on this posting, embedding links into it, caused another advert to present itself to me (for this only slightly more expensive drone (and this one you don’t have to assemble yourself (it’s like it read my mind!))), when I switched to reading something Instapundit had linked to. The advert has vanished now and been replaced by something for Walt Disney (?), but I screen-captured it before it went:
Adverts at blogs are a rich source of horizontality, I find.
The catification of the internet continues.
This big cat head isn’t now for sale, apparently. But I bet that it, or something a lot like it, soon will be.
Ages ago now, before I was ill, I checked out that Suicide Bridge in North London, as reported in this posting. This was a fine destination to have picked for an photo-odyssey, both because the destination itself did not disappoint, and because it was in an unfamiliar part of town, and thus was only the first of many wondrous discoveries I would make that day.
As the years go by, I accumulate more and more photo-collections of such days, and get further and further behind in mentioning them here. Which is fine, because there will soon come a time when I won’t want to be going out at all, just sitting here reminiscing. Then I can catch up. Then I can die.
So, March 8th of this year. I hoover up snaps of the view from Suicide Bridge and then walk away from the top of it in a westerly direction, along Hornsey Lane. I am in Highgate. Then I go north (actually more like west north west) along the B519, past the Ghana High Commission, until I get to a turning that looks like fun again, turning west, again (actually more like south west). I am climbing, still, getting higher and higher above central London. And I take another turn, south, and come upon a miniature version of the Alexandra Palace Tower (that being a bit further out of London, to the north east), beside a lane called Swains Lane.
Here is a web entry that says what this tower is.
And here are some of the photos I took of it and of various decorative effects that it had on its surroundings, on a day that, although getting very dark in parts, is still topped off with a bright blue blue sky, worthy of Hartley himself:
And here is another web entry, which explains what an excellent war this contraption had:
The British immediately realised that the powerful Alexandra Palace TV transmitter was capable of transmitting on the transponder frequencies and instigated ‘Operation Domino’. Using the receiving station at Swains Lane, Highgate, the return signal from the aircraft’s transponder was retransmitted back to the aircraft on its receiving frequency by the Alexandra Palace TV transmitter and hence back to the aircraft’s home station. This extra loop producing a false distance reading.
The Swains Lane receiver station was connected by Post Office landline to the Alexandra Palace transmitter. By using a low-voltage motor, this line controlled any drifting in the lock-on carrier beam, thus eliminating any give-away heterodyning beat-notes.
Which you obviously wouldn’t want, would you?
I love the way things like this look. Totally functional, but … sculptors eat your hearts out. It beats most of what you guys do without even giving it a thought.
Actually, slight correction provoked by actually reading some of what I linked to above. The current structure at Swains Lane is the metal successor structure to its wooden predecessor structure, and it was the wooden predecessor structure which had a good war, but was then blown down by a gale in October 1945.
Had it not been for this extreme weather story, pride of place there would have gone to the report about Quisling getting shot.
I love the internet.
I was in Tottenham Court Road this afternoon, searching out a toner cartridge for what I discovered is now an antique laser printer. I had no idea until now how much less toner cartridges cost if you get them on line. Stupid me.
Anyway, it was a chance to photo the BT Tower, the first and still one of the greatest of London’s new Big Things (Big Thing being what BT stands for). Most things in London look better in bright sunshine, or at least I can photo them better. But for some reason, this rule does not apply to the BT Tower. Today’s decidedly muggy weather suited it very well. Because it is quite a way behind those empty trees, it looks dim and grey, instead of bright, and this seems to suit it. Maybe this is because muggy weather makes it look further away, and consequently bigger. Here is my favourite shot that I took of it:
Summer is very nice and well lit and warm and everything, but all those damn leaves get in the way horribly, and ruin all manner of what could be great shots.
Here (pp. 143-5) is how Thiel explains the difference between humans and computers, and how they complement one another in doing business together:
To understand the scale of this variance, consider another of Google’s computer-for-human substitution projects. In 2012, one of their supercomputers made headlines when, after scanning 10 million thumbnails of YouTube videos, it learned to identify a cat with 75% accuracy. That seems impressive-until you remember that an average four-year-old can do it flawlessly. When a cheap laptop beats the smartest mathematicians at some tasks but even a supercomputer with 16,000 CPUs can’t beat a child at others, you can tell that humans and computers are not just more or less powerful than each other - they’re categorically different.
The stark differences between man and machine mean that gains from working with computers are much higher than gains from trade with other people. We don’t trade with computers any more than we trade with livestock or lamps. And that’s the point: computers are tools, not rivals.
Thiel then writes about how he learned about the above truths when he and his pals at Paypal solved one of their biggest problems:
In mid-2000 we had survived the dot-com crash and we were growing fast, but we faced one huge problem: we were losing upwards of $10 million to credit card fraud every month. Since we were processing hundreds or even thousands of transactions per minute, we couldn’t possibly review each one - no human quality control team could work that fast.
So we did what any group of engineers would do: we tried to automate a solution. First, Max Levchin assembled an elite team of mathematicians to study the fraudulent transfers in detail. Then we took what we learned and wrote software to automatically identify and cancel bogus transactions in real time. But it quickly became clear that this approach wouldn’t work either: after an hour or two, the thieves would catch on and change their tactics. We were dealing with an adaptive enemy, and our software couldn’t adapt in response.
The fraudsters’ adaptive evasions fooled our automatic detection algorithms, but we found that they didn’t fool our human analysts as easily. So Max and his engineers rewrote the software to take a hybrid approach: the computer would flag the most suspicious transactions on a well-designed user interface, and human operators would make the final judgment as to their legitimacy. Thanks to this hybrid system - we named it “Igor,” after the Russian fraudster who bragged that we’d never be able to stop him - we turned our first quarterly profit in the first quarter of 2002 (as opposed to a quarterly loss of $29.3 million one year before).
There then follow these sentences.
The FBI asked us if we’d let them use Igor to help detect financial crime. And Max was able to boast, grandiosely but truthfully, that he was “the Sherlock Holmes of the Internet Underground.”
The answer was yes.
Thus did the self-declared libertarian Peter Thiel, who had founded Paypal in order to replace the dollar with a free market currency, switch to another career, as a servant of the state, using government-collected data to chase criminals. But that’s another story.