April 2009

I commented in agreement with Matt McCormick’s post on The God Projector:
There is a very good book by Reeves and Nass called “The Media Equation” looking at the psychological responses of human beings to various media, including television and computers in particular. One of the telling elements which jibes quite well with the ideas presented here is solid evidence that our psychological reactions to computers automatically ascribe human emotional contexts to machines. One of a number of well-documented examples is the subconscious positive bias we make when filling out a survey about the qualities of a computer program. If we fill it out on the same physical computer on which we used the program, then we give higher scores than if we fill it out on a different (but otherwise identical) machine. So, given a lab with two identical Dell computers in them if we fill out the questionnaire on the one we used a program on then we give higher results for the program than sitting at an identical machine. The only mechanism that seems plausible for this conclusion is that we’re hardwired to avoid hurting the feelings of the computer we used. These results are consistent even among people with a high level of education about computers and a high level of intelligence. So, there are hard-wired subconscious elements of the human brain that attempt to ascribe human-like qualities to everything we interact with. Hence “don’t make the lightning mad” is perfectly reasonable as a first hard-wired reaction. (more…)

The Counter Terrorism Act 2008 includes the provision:

76. Offences relating to information about members of armed forces etc

(1) After section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (collection of information) insert:
“58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces etc

(1) A person commits an offence who:

(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been:

(i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces,

(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or

(iii) a constable,

which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

(b) publishes or communicates any such information.”

This is in addition to a prior claim in December 2008 where the Home Secretary informed the National Union of Journalists that photography in public places may be restricted when it “may cause or lead to public order situations or inflame an already tense situation or raise security considerations”.

The Today programme (BBC Radio 4’s morning news/current affairs programme for the non-Brit amongst you) has a “Best of Today” podcast available on the BBC site. While I regularly lsiten to the whole programme for a lot of the other news/current affairs programmes from Radio 4, the Today programme being 3 hours long has quite a bit of repetition (most people listen to it for up to an hour rather than the whole thing). Anyway, I had a look to see if the “Best of” was better than picking up the iPlayer version and forwarding to 08:00 today and found that they’d obviously had use of the TARDIS while no one at BBC Wales was looking. The date as I write this is Monday 6th April. Look at the podcast page, then see the close-up. (more…)