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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Crime

Thursday March 12 2015

I have been reading Peter Thiel‘s book Zero to One.  It abounds with pithily and strongly expressed wisdoms.

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.

Saturday February 21 2015

Today I decided that I would like to do one of those “A Year In …” postings, at the end of this year, featuring newspaper front pages, one for each month.  Everything hinged on whether I’d happened already to have taken any pictures of front pages during January.

And, I had.  These front pages:

image

And I expanded the picture, and scrolled across.  Tax demands.  Some NHS politics ruckus.  Snow warning.  Something to do with racing, which anyway is not properly visible.  Yawn yawn yawn yawn.  And then there’s that “Big D”.  I still don’t know what “Big D” stands for.  It’s incomprehensible.  But look at this subheading:

image

That’ll do.  The rest will have to be rather better, helping readers to remember big stories of the year, but this little story will do for starters.  The project survives.

A rather more serious newspaper page which I also photoed in January, not a front page but it got my attention, was this, from the Evening Standard of January 21st:

image

Latest news about that:

Badawi is serving 10 years in prison, and has also been sentenced to 1,000 lashes for blog posts criticizing Saudi Arabia’s clerics.

The first 50 lashes were delivered on Jan. 9 and Amnesty said he’s had none since then.

His detention and sentence have stirred up worldwide condemnation.

Amnesty being one of the chief stirrers.  Good for Amnesty.

“Insulting Islam” is what Badawi has been convicted of.  Carry on handing out punishments like that for “crimes” like that, and the “insults” hurled at the evil monstrosity that is Islam can only grow in volume.

Islam.  The bad stuff in it is bad.  And the supposedly good stuff in it only helps the bad stuff to go on doing bad, which means that the “good” stuff is bad also.

Friday January 23 2015

I’ve already noted drones being used to take photos, and to save lives (although that is only being worked on).  Now, here is a story about drones being used to smuggle drugs.  One of these drones crashed, which is how they know.  The drugs were too heavy.  Man.

Is there anything, as Instapundit would ask, that drones can’t do? During the next few years, we’re probably going to find out.

LATER: Proposed State Legislation May Limit Drone Facial Recognition Use

Friday November 07 2014

Yesterday I took this photo, in the remainder shop on the other side of the intersection from the Old Vic.  I thought I was photoing that book about procrastination.  My immediate thought was that I should buy it, read its contents carefully and apply those lessons straight away to my hitherto hideously postponed life.  But then I thought: I’ll get it later.

image

But look on the right there.  A cat book.  I didn’t even see that when I took the photo.  They’re everywhere, I tell you.

And as if determined to prove my point, today is also a Feline Friday at the Daily Mirror:

image

I’m talking about the front page on the right.  The story, of which I can make neither head nor tail, can be read here.

The catification of the mainstream media continues.  Make way tasered cannibals.  Flesh eating zombies, your days dominating the front pages are also numbered.

Friday August 01 2014

Trawling through the archives this evening, I came across this fine feline:

image

Photoed by me, in Battersea, about two months ago.

In other cat news, pet cats in Vietnam are being stolen and sold to restaurants.  And not because the restaurants want cats for their customers to mingle with.  Oh no.  This is Vietnam, not Paris.

Back here in evil Britain, hundreds of black cats are being abandoned by their owners because, according to the Daily Mail, these black cats don’t look good in SELFIES (their capital letters):

Today the RSPCA announced a rise in the number of black cats being abandoned by their owners, and attributed it to them not photographing well.

A spokesman for the animal welfare charity said that more than 70 per cent of the 1,000 cats in its care were black, and blamed the trend for people taking pictures of themselves with their phones.

He said: ‘There are a number of reasons for us having so many black cats, including the fact that black animals tend not to photograph as well as other cats with more distinctive markings.

Other cats are also easier to tell apart, he said.

The spokesman added: ‘There is a national problem with rehoming cats of this colour.

‘We really are puzzled as to why this still happens but we would urge people to never judge a cat by its colour and look at its personality instead.’

This story is everywhere.  I sense hostility towards digital photography, and in particular towards the evil practice of taking photos of yourself, an evil practice which now has its own word.

However, a selfie is when you take a photo of yourself.  Owners are including themselves in their cat photos on incidentally.  Often only the cat is in the picture.  These photos are not being taken by cats, so they are not selfies.

Cats don’t take photos of themselves.  If they had been caught doing this, on video for instance, I would definitely have learned about it and passed the news on to you people.  All that is actually going on here is that black cat owners are finding it hard to photo their black cats and are consequently abandoning their black cats, and obtaining other cats, more like the one in my picture above, that are easier to photo.  That’s a wicked enough story as it is, without misreporting it and put your mistake in capital letters.  Socks, Daily Mail.  Pull yours up.

Next up, an Italian shooting champion is on trial for using live cats as target practice.  I sense hostility towards shooting champions, but it may just be towards Italians.

Finally, Cats is being revived, in the Millenium Centre, Cardiff:

The highlight of the evening was the singing which included lots of harmonies ...

Which is what you want.  What with Cats being a musical show, consisting mostly of people dressed as cats, singing, and trying to be harmonious about it.

Rachel Howells continues:

Cats is at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 9th August and includes many matinee showings so you have no excuses not to miss it.

Once again, we see the mainstream media getting their facts in a twist, this time because of faulty grammar.  No excuses not to miss it?  It would appear that, at least when it comes to their online content, the writing and/or editing at the South Wales Argus has gone to the dogs.

Monday June 23 2014

Here:

Know what’s the perfect crime? Murdering a jury. You can’t get a fair trial because any jury will be biased against you.

It’s Frank J.  The J stands for Jenius.

Saturday April 05 2014

From a report on an exhibition at the Building Centre (which I will definitely be looking in on soon), about the burst of new tower building that is about to happen in London, and in particular in Tower Hamlets, this:

Structures of over 20 storeys were usually only found on council estates or in the business hub of the city, yet new plans reveal that over 80 percent of the 236 planned towers are set to become luxury residential buildings to cater for London’s growing population. 43 percent of the all the proposed high-rises have now received approval and 77 percent of them will be focussed in Central and East London, with Tower Hamlets set to play host to 23 percent of the futuristic towers.

And, from a report about the alleged misdeeds of the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, this:

The government has ordered outside auditors to examine allegations that an east London mayor sought to shore up his vote by diverting £2m in public grants to Bangladeshi and Somali groups.

The communities secretary, Eric Pickles, said staff from the accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers were already in place at Tower Hamlets council. A file is being passed to the Metropolitan police.

Hm.  A corrupt mayor.  And, lots of new towers.  Coincidence?  I choose to doubt it.

If my guess (and I stress that a guess is all it is) is right, then to many, this would be an argument against all the towers.  They can only be built if the builders find some way to line the pockets of the mayor and his favourite voters.

But I like towers.  To me, this confluence of events is more like an argument in favour of local government corruption.

Besides which, doesn’t “Tower Hamlets” sound like a place where there ought to be lots of towers?

Monday March 10 2014

Quoted by “Robert Galbraith” (aka JK Rowling) at the beginning of The Cuckoo’s Calling:

Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous.

Lucius Accius.

Celebrity and its discontents are nothing new.

Quota quote
The Met swoops on the Adams Family
On the insecurity of ObamaCare - and on the unwisdom of only punishing big and later
Guido in the Spectator (and in Free Life)
Monty Panesar: “I piss on your short pitched fast deliveries aimed at my body!”
Samir Chopra on how match fixing turns cricket into not cricket
Michael Jennings on how the taxis at Skopje airport are an evil racket and what he did about it
Turning back the spam comment tide and allowing proper comments from way back still to be read
Meow
How gun control works and how it will defend Libertaria
Dream and reality in Mumbai
Like a crisp packet being popped
I’m Charia Hebdo!
Natalie Solent at Biased BBC
Lion steals camera
The graffiti says he won’t get his keys back
Multilingual signage
Nil scrap value
Let us now trash infamous men
More signage
Mozart might have become a criminal
Scientology enthusiast is now Climate Change Minister
Guerrilla webfare
Zaltzman on Clarke
Ten thoughts about the Pakistan cricket corruption story
Why not just sell them?
Is Timberland guilty of spam commenting me?
A response to the cyclist menace
Big box computers versus laptops
Shard sitings and and an agreeably honest rabies prevention sign
This is not Mohammed
Everybody draw Mohammed on May 20th!
“Is this a case of us operant-conditioning them or them operant-conditioning us?”
You know where you are with a book - usually
Three more headlines and how the internet remembers it all
Yet more ramblings about Guesswhatgate
Under a hundred copies
Correction
Green cats - feral cats - cats murdered in Wales - more than 113 cats in Livingston NJ
Why I object to Madam Scotland and why I don’t
What a difference a g makes
Indy Flatverts and a Guido Q&A
Mrs Billion Monkey doesn’t want to catch swine fever!
At Samizdata: cricket - crime - Kevin Dowd quote
Not cricket
Jennings did it
Monster buildings and monster people
Keith Windschuttle on history - truth - Robert Hughes
“I’ll build it with explosive bolts connecting the wings to the fuselage …”
Armed is less dangerous
“If only it were true …”
Underestimating crime
Tower Bridge in the blue grey afternoon (and Jenny Agutter obviously did it)
Billion Monkey murderers!?!
Better safe than sorry
She’s alive I tell you! Alive!
Alisher Usmanov is now better known for being nasty
Links and guns
Lots of links
Richard Dawkins on the Muhammad cartoons affair
Heh indeed
Ouch
The Joyce Hatto affair - no big deal
Stupid Billion Monkeys!
Whatever it is and no matter how illegal it already is … there ought to be a law against it!
iPods as the new CDs
“Publish it in your Blog!”
Car attack – the plot thickens