Sunday, January 4, 2015

beached and other mysteries

Here at the start of a whole other year my friends have made it safely ashore. It was touch and go for a while what with the oars having been lost in the maelstrom - which you may remember, but if not:

Anyway, we'll have to wait to see what happens next to our intrepid pair and those who pay such close attention to them. What could they all be up to?

Speaking of ongoing mysteries, there's an intriguing case across the street where a small apartment building has appeared to be largely uninhabited for all of the past few years we've lived here. From the end room of our place we can see the long side of the building where there are never any lights on any of its three floors. Rarely, there'll be a window lit in one room or another at the streetfront, although never for long. In winter the sidewalk is cleared and a little smoke sometimes rises from a chimney. We've never seen a 'for rent' sign or evidence of tenants. With no further evidence than this (and our active imaginations) we've come to conclusion the place is inhabited by a wealthy recluse.

At least one mystery that's confounded a number of us in the online community does seem to have a solution as described in this fascinating excerpt from an article called Ai Weiwei is Living in Our Future:

Very recently I found another way in which Google appropriates my pattern recognition abilities to further its own cause. I had to fill in a ‘CAPTCHA’.

CAPTCHA’s are used to battle spambots. By recognizing a pattern that isn’t easy to read for a computer, you are proving that you are a human. Millions of CAPTCHA’s are filled in every hour. Luis von Ahn, a computer scientist, didn’t want to waste this cognitive capacity and invented the ‘reCAPTCHA’.

Through typing in hard to read words you helped to digitize newspaper archives and books. You always had to type in two words: one that the computer would already know and another which the computer would be a bit uncertain about. Google bought reCAPTCHA in 2009.

A short while ago I noticed that you didn’t have to type in book texts anymore when filling in a reCAPTCHA. Nowadays you type in house numbers helping Google, without them asking you, to further digitize the physical world.

Perhaps there is information about that place across the street, but personally, I prefer it remains a mystery. I stopped using Google for general searches in favor of DuckDuckGo several years ago, but Blogger is Google based so there's no getting around that. However, as you'll see if you read the article, our ideas about personal privacy have already been superseded. George Orwell could never have imagined people would eventually line up willingly to pay Big Brother.

Of course, it amused me too when we watched a couple of episodes of 'Walking Dead' and I realized the 'zombies' likely performed for free. Humans are strange creatures as Crow has remarked at every opportunity.


Tom said...

I wish I understood the technical computer stuff you talk about. But as I do not, I try my hardest to avoid interacting with my computer as much as possible (except for blogging and emails), to avoid coming into contact with something called "apps" as much as possible. I rarely use my mobile 'phone (cell phone); it helps that I do not hear it clearly, and in any case only Lucy contacts me on it. I do wonder whether for the first time, a new technology has brought with it more drawbacks (or malefits if such a word existed) than benefits.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

More to these dragons than meets the eye, I think. I could do with a pair of them looking out for me too. Nice artwork as ever.

And to be fair to Google, all their services (at least the one I use) are free, and if we don't like them we don't have to use them. It amazes me that I don't have to pay for Blogger and search (still the most useful search service I've ever used) and it surprises me when people complain about a service that is offered to them for nothing.

susan said...

I'm not at all tech savvy either, Tom. The 'captCha' things are what bloggers use for word verification in the comments sections of their posts to prevent spam. I'm glad I haven't had resort to that but many bloggers and website owners have done.

We don't own a cell phone at all (although I see their value for people traveling far from home). At the same time we can be traced to wherever it is we carry our cell phones - a good thing if there's an emergency and not so good if you'd prefer to keep your destination private. There are definitely downsides as well as upsides to modern tech. Knowing what they are is a good thing.

susan said...

Thanks, Andrew. Yes, they do seem to be operating according to their own agenda.

I'm not trying to be unfair to Google, particularly because I've long enjoyed the benefits the company provides. I just wish they were more upfront about what they do. Yes, the service is free but Google is making a lot of money somewhere - mostly from advertising and allowing advertisers to collect information about its users.

As I said, I prefer to use a search engine that doesn't track my keystrokes, whether I'm copying a recipe or whatever else.

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
Pleased to hear your friends have made it safely ashore, as evidenced by your lovely apt pictures and I look forward to see and hear what happens next.
Paul Schweitzer thinks that what has happened with globalization is that it makes it too easy for multinational organizations to escape from the local laws because of the lack of international legislation. I think he provides an interesting perspective on the need for such measures and so forth ……..should it be of interest click Here .
Best wishes.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

Can they be trusted? (The dragons I mean).

susan said...

As it does with all things, only time will tell.

susan said...

I think that what has happened is that it makes it easier for multinational organizations and corporations to escape from the local laws because of the lack of international legislation. Of course we are progressing with that: the International Criminal Court at the Hague is taking great steps forward, but the ability to veto in the UN Security Council is an obstacle to progress.

That was an interesting article, Lindsay. The above statement puts the problem in a nutshell since there are powerful governments who tend to ignore rulings they don't agree with. The situation is made all the more difficult by the fact that there's a lot of corruption among politicians in almost any country you can name. Never mind international financial responsibility, we haven't yet seen international acknowledgement of human assisted global climate change.

Best wishes too.

Lydia said...

Whew! Glad they are safely ashore and I look forward to more amazing drawings showing what is to come.

All that captcha and re-captcha stuff is further proof of what a strange new world we live in. You are so right about George Orwell. By the same token, when I read him in high school I never could have imagined the lack of privacy I have allowed into my life, or that has been stripped from me. It is getting weirder and scarier in the world by each day. As for me, I am hanging onto the beauty created by friends (like what I always find here) to bring joy into my life and give me hope. I have so much to thank you for, Susan! With deep appreciation I wish you a happy new year.

susan said...

Glad you're enjoying them, Lydia ♡

Yes, the whole thing has become very tricky to navigate without being sucked in one way or another. The choices we think we're making out of convenience (or because of new requirements) aren't necessarily good for us or anyone else we care about.

All we can do is what we feel is for the best. Don't lose hope :)

I'm very glad to know you too and may this be a good new year.

Steve Emery said...

I love both of these illustrations. I enjoyed the maelstrom when you first posted it - but I had forgotten how beautifully you had painted the water. I found myself wondering where the dragons were during the maelstrom, but suspect that they are only visible to us (and not to the friends) at certain points, while always being present. I often think that reality is more like that than it is like what we can sense.

susan said...

I'm not nearly as pleased with this one as I was with the maelstrom (or consult) but it was acceptable enough. You're right that the dragons are always around while not always visible. Thanks so much again for always noticing the inferences, Steve.