by Stephen Downes
Oct 03, 2016
When you receive a report that your website has been hacked, the first thing to do is not to panic. That may be hard to do with your host provider warning that your site might be deleted forever unless you take immediate action. And as Jim Groom reports here, tthey may suggest that you pay hundreds of dollars for security. But take a deep breath, and check. It might be nothing - when Groom's site was reported, for example, it turned out only to contain a link to some other site that was on a Google blacklist. "SiteLock wanted to charge me $199 to remove a link from a blog post," he writes. Companies prey on users' inexperience. We should be thinking about ways to counter that.
This review of Deirdre McCloskey's Bourgeois Equality ends too suddenly, almost in mid-thought, which is a pity. It would have been worth reading Charles Wolf's criticism of the 768 page tome (especially since it won't appear openly on the internet in my lifetime - I remember when young I could consume books voraciously, getting a stack from the used book store or library and setting up in the park or the pub; now, however, it would cost my salary to consume books at that rate. My 'wealth' has increased but access to what I need hasn't).
There are several themes in Bourgeois Eqiuality, of whch I'll mention two: first is the idea that the increase in the absolute wealth of the poor is more significant than the growing gap between between the wealthy and the rest. This is an old ideaa, popularized in an early TED talk, and does not withstand scrutiny - if you can't buy the things that are important (food in Venezuela, security in Syria, an exit visa in Iran) then you are vulnerable, and your recent rise in wealth is a chimera. The second is that wealth is created by ideas, and the ability of all classes to create and implement ideas is the key to prosperity. But this argument is what Nathan Leites termed a “self-sealer” - no matter what the development, good or bad, the idea preceded the implementation.
The abuses in academic publishing are well known. It has led to the creation of what is known as Beall's list of predatory academic publishers. We are pursuing the wrong metrics, argue Julius Kravjar and Marek Hladík. "The current system of publishing scholarly papers needs a new paradigm... Perhaps a primary argument could be that science does not produce products so much as create ideas." That sounds great, but in practice it would simply lead to a system of gathering and counting ideas (and thereby, lead to systems of producing and counting fake ideas, much like the patent system). The problem doesn't lie in what's counted, the problem lies in the counting.
The Gates Foundation has announced (22 page PDF) the positions it will advocate (and presumably fund) for 2016. It's focused on the U.S. college and university system and stresses the development of networks supporting personal paths for students. There are three major areas of focus:
None of these priorities is misplaced per se but the program seems very focused on US-based students and educational institutions, and seems to focus on working within the traditional institutional structure. Though I guess one could ask, what else would they do? Via EdSurge.
The headline is probably not news to the people reading this article. But to people in the movie theatres watching the Cineplex advertising that they can "own this movie" with a superticket, many of the limitations may come as a surprise. The fact is we are being misled with the purchase of just about everything today - limitations on digital copying, restrictions on repairing our cars or our lawn mowers, constraints on resale or exchange, no rights of satire and fair use - none of these would be acceptable at the prices we pay, and yet all of them constitute deliberately hidden limitations on our purchase rights. If I, an ordinary citizen, tried to do this, it would be fraud. But in the digital marketplace it's business as usual. Do people care? No. "Before anything like that can happen millions of users will have to, at a bare minimum, acknowledge that huge swaths of their lives are legally controlled by contracts they have never even read."
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