Tools for Thought

It’s a niche interest, maybe; geeky, if you will. But I continue to explore ways that the computer keyboard and monitor that most of us have in our homes these days can do a better job of gathering information and meaning, and not just stupefying us with entertainment and distraction.

Also, we presently lack good ways of validation and credibility of the sources we find to support our thinking (we seldom set out to find evidence that falsifies our strongly-held beliefs.)

Add to that the way the present web connects resource to resource, but plays little or no role in weighing of one resource over another for our purposes (ideas, concepts, thought webs, creative design.)

There are tools both extant and under development to address both the credibility and integration of resources towards “cognitive productivity” and “augmented learning.” Our brains are not being used to best effect with the current siloed info-aggregators. If there ever was a time we needed collaborative wisdom, it is now.

So possibly, I will write here about my explorations in memory and thought-enhancement by the tools and techniques at our disposal. One of those might be contained in this video. Another, a evolving outline in a tool for creative thought called ROAM–at this link.

Getting Around the Web: Take the Cab

Originally Crystal Atari Browser, this is an oldie to be sure, but hanging tough.

And for the iPad Pro, iCab Mobile wins over Safari (for most sites but not all) and has many well-conceived bells and whistles that are so customizable that this detail might put off casual-sometimes users of the iPad who do not expect to do any serious web work on the smaller device in the first place.

iCab mobile browser (Pro version is two bucks I think) plus Index App are a very useful combo for me (iPad more than iPhone.) Your mileage may vary.

I will leave it to these websites to highlight the pros and cons.

Simulated: Life, the Universe and Everything

Here’s a mind-bender to end the week: Are we all merely shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave? Is there really a REALITY or are we simply made by some puppetmaster to act is if…

In the Matrix, minds were real but the physical world was a computer simulation.

In the current philosophical and physicists’ speculation, none of it is what we refer to as “real.”

We are projections in a simulated reality, and if that is true, it can be discovered. And we can create our own simulations (just think of what we can already do with computer-created reality) and populate worlds we make ourselves to suit our own whims. To the Holodeck, Number One!

Even Elon Musk thinks this might be so:

“Forty years ago we had Pong – two rectangles and a dot. That’s where we were. Now 40 years later, we have photorealistic, 3D simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously and it’s getting better every year. And soon we’ll have virtual reality, we’ll have augmented reality,” said Musk. “If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then the games will become indistinguishable from reality.”

It’s a view shared by Terrile. “If one progresses at the current rate of technology a few decades into the future, very quickly we will be a society where there are artificial entities living in simulations that are much more abundant than human beings.”

If there are many more simulated minds than organic ones, then the chances of us being among the real minds starts to look more and more unlikely. As Terrile puts it: “If in the future there are more digital people living in simulated environments than there are today, then what is to say we are not part of that already?”

Think (or imagine you think) that this is a fringe area of interest? Pretend to think again.

So in the final scene, does Dorothy step behind the curtain and meet the Wizard who runs the projector?

Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?

We Really Don’t Know Clouds At All

I’m sure I had another post topic in mind before I checked my Google News Alerts. Stupid thing to do if you have any interest at all in maintaining focus. I did not maintain.

One of my searches is for news for “cybersecurity.” While I’m not a coder or hacker, I’m an end-user. I’m a participant (mostly enthusiastic but with serious concerns) in the techno-commercial use of digital technology to run a civilization.

I’m deeply invested in web technology both at home and on the road. The “cloud” has made it so much easier to save and share and retrieve information–and gobs of it–on OneDrive, Box, Google Drive, and Dropbox. I use all of those. So this is NOT good news:

The lastest exploit–call “Man in The Cloud” puts at jeopardy the security of all these cloud storage tools. Once discovered, even changing passwords does not rescue your account (far worse if YOU are a big corporation) from being controlled by the invader or your files held at ransom. This is truer of Dropbox than of Google Drive apparently.

I’m thinking this is a Windows issue and NOT a Mac issue. I could be wrong about that if anybody knows for sure. Now that the story is in the wild, I wonder if we won’t see quick and major use of this before steps can be implemented to minimize if not prevent such attacks.

And if you want a smaller scale threat that’s more up front and personal–your iPhone can also belong to others if you are not VERY careful to ONLY download apps from the Apple App Store.

A “Masque” attack might look like an app from Facebook, Twitter, Whassap, or another legit app provider. It might work like the original. But it is enhanced and wants your data for lunch.

Header image confession: it is a mashup of two of my images.

► Man in the Cloud’: Hackers can access Dropbox, Google Drive accounts without the user’s password – Firstpost

► “Man-in-the-Cloud” Attacks Leverage Storage Services to Steal Data | SecurityWeek.Com

► Fresh Masque iOS security flaw puts iPhone users at risk – Business Insider

Homeland Security: Locally Intact

I know how anxious you have all been during the silence at Fragments since last week, but want to assure you that all is quiet on the western front, and I come back from my adventures in NY state to find the homelands secure.

I will, perhaps, have a story of my encounter with TSA and post my letter to them for your approval, or for you to tell me I’d be crazy to send it, or “why bother.” But hey, there was a wall sign imploring me and my fellow travelers to tell them how they are doing. Boy, will I tell them.

I’ll have stories, possibly, about places and plants and word rambles along the way and the usual ruminations that end up every time (once every 5-10 years) that I travel.  But, there is indeed no place like home. And on the Fortinet Threat Map, I am relieved to find that not a single cyber-attack from China or Russia is focused on Goose Creek.

As for the rest of the world as we know it, there are rumors of war. Do take a quick peek at this real-time cyber-threat map and imagine what it will look like when the skirmishes of the past blossom to all-out web-infrastructure attack. It’s only a matter of time.