Friday, December 18, 2015

Troll detection in games may be repurposed for the Chinese surveillance state

Recently, China's Tencent acquired full control of Riot Games, which had been pioneering automated troll detection and account bans. Tencent has collaborated with Chinese authorities in the online surveillance state, with QQ being among their many tools. It's but a small step to leverage the deep learning technology used to identify trolls automatically and turn it toward automated detection of any politically undesirable speech online.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bedroom brainwashing and ISIL

Lurid headlines regarding UK schoolgirls fleeing to Syria like "brainwashed in their bedrooms" intuitively appeal to contagion models of why people go bad. We saw this during the Red Scare, where exposure to communist ideology was tantamount to contamination which had to be purged from organizations. However, despite intuitive appeals, it's clearly wrong, as a contagion model clearly does not explain why more people aren't affected.

Given the objectively small numbers, a more useful model to consider would be why women fall for serial killers. Although videos of serial killers in action and their aftermath are rare, photographic evidence and accounts are readily available on the Internet as well. That subject isn't very well studied, but there's no shortage of more plausible speculation as to why women may fall for men who kill. Schwyzer's proposed mechanism of envy while trapped in a highly demanding situation seems to fit, particularly given that the 3 schoolgirls were all reportedly straight A students and therefore likely under high pressure to perform:

the fascination may be less about attraction than about a strange kind of envy of the shows' sociopathic villains. How many bright, talented, acutely sensitive young women have occasionally fantasized about having an internal "mute button" that could silence the judging, nagging, needy voices of all around them?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Saudi playbook for lower oil prices is obvious in retrospect

According to a piece in published in January 2013, the EIA's "Annual Energy Outlook 2013" appears to have given Saudi Arabia inspiration for their current stance on maintaining production in the face of lower oil prices:

The extra EIA oil projections are almost as much as Saudi Arabia currently pumps, leading to a scenario whereby for Riyadh, prices will have to fall to stimulate faster consumption growth while discouraging development of rival supply sources.

Given that pronouncement, the Saudi strategy of maintaining production despite lower oil prices hits a home run, by maintaining market share, stimulating oil consumption, and discouraging the development of oil sands, shale oil, and alternative energy. One example of increased consumption is strategic stockpiling of oil by China.