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Rule 34 moments

Back while I was working on "Halting State" I had a number of what I called "Halting State moments" — the eerie experience of seeing something I'd invented for a near-future novel's background colour showing up in the news, in real life. It was somewhat disturbing, but after a while I got used to it: at this point, just about everything in that novel (written circa 2005-2006) has shown up, with the possible limited exception of a (the current argument being whether it is in fact a general purpose quantum computing device or something more limited).

Well, I've just had the first real "Rule 34" moment: DNA testing is now being used to enforce dog-poop by-laws. (It's only a matter of time before the police drones come with dog-poop samplers ...)

Have you spotted any harbingers of the world of "Rule 34" yet? And if so, what and where?



I saw someone on twitter mention that a housing association in the US was using DNA tests to find out which (human) residents had been shitting in the pool.

Of course, this being twitter, it is absolutely impossible to search, so I don't have a URL for you.


How about a decades-old newspaper being brought down by a mobile-hacking scandal. As in, happening now, last edition on Sunday.


Here are some emotion-reading AR goggles:


"The News of the World" will be back in business a week later as "The Sun on Sunday" (or some variation thereon). It is, after all, merely the Sunday edition of the Sun -- NewsCo are ditching the toxic brand name in the hope that it won't contaminate their other assets, but the product remains on the newsstands.


Looks like they started contingency planning a couple of days ago:

was registered on Tuesday.


As long as Jr. loses his toys I don't mind if NotW reincarnates or not. I'd be happier if the spoiled little twit went to jail.


Does the President of the United States accepting questions over Twitter count?

And would that be a 'Halting State' moment or a 'Rule 34' moment?

Lastly, would it not really count until the First Minister of Scotland did it?


Although the mirror group is not part of News International. Wonder who the "non-trading individual" is.


It's rule 34-ness is a little tenuous, perhaps, but a team at Exeter Uni have come up with a 3D printer that prints chocolate.


I wonder what technique they're using for DNA analysis. is it the short tandem repeats technique used for human forensics. They'd have to select other loci for dogs, how were they selected? Do they have peer reviewed literature supporting the ability of those loci/repeats to discriminate between dogs?

Many breeds are quite inbred so they may show as very similar depending on what loci are used for the STR...


Chocolate 3D printing has been around a while, I think a you can build your own out of Lego - Limited geometry at this stage, but that's not too difficult to improve on.


That Sunday Sun is a regional newspaper in the north east of England. No relation.


But the Sunday Sun is an established regional newspaper owned by Trinity Mirror who are News Internationals main tabloid rivals.


Oh, ffs. They canned the entire newsroom. There is no News of the World any more. Also, it wasn't the Sunday edition of the Sun. You can tell by the fact it had a newsroom and an editor and a profit and loss account.

You have an editor and a staff and a circulation and a P&L - you're a newspaper.

You don't - you're not.

It's transitioning from being as much a paper in its own right as the Observer to being as much a paper in its own right as the Daily Sport.

Also, will anyone other than me actually keek at that whois record?


Lets try again with the full url:

Then there's this - closing NotW means, in UK law, all records can legally be destroyed.

The Murdochs are actually real life Bond villains.


If only you will take the owner of the "News of the World" out of the USA for a long term in jail. Oh please!!


I'm just waiting for the Kyrgyz/IRIK debt shuffle you describe to be suggested as a fix to the U.S.'s debt ceiling issue. Let Texas secede if they'll take 20% of the debt with them, then reannex after they blow up.


Have you seen this Boing Boing article on feedback loops?


You're the only person I "know" who's ever argued that the NotW is different to "The Sun on Sunday" in any sense other than as a purely legal entity.


It's not at all clear if that's true. The legal argument it refers to involves liquidating a company - the NoTW isn't a company in its own right, it's part of News Group Newspapers Ltd. which is still going. They'd also be reliant on the liquidators being willing to let them do it.

You're the only person I "know" who's ever argued that the NotW is different to "The Sun on Sunday" in any sense other than as a purely legal entity.

This is a weird statement. Who do you think all those journalists they just fired are? If it always was "the sun on sunday", why did they need a whole newsroom?

The two papers used to compete quite bitterly for stories.


Para 1 - Whether or not the NotW is a separate legal company will depend on the articles of incorporation of both it (if it has them; if it doesn't then it's not one) and NGN.

Para 2 and 3 - I was talking about how the publications are generally perceived rather than about corporate structures and company politics.


You mention "waves" a few times - did you expect Google Wave to take off instead of being shut down or is it meant to be something more generic?


Charlie, I have been having these moments for about 25 years now in Internet security. It seems that a quick thought and passing comment in the hallway early on can often presage entire industries.


Personally, I'll bet that the Sun on Sunday doesn't show up for a bit, especially if it incorporates NotW personnel.

The reason's simple: NotW current and former employees are getting arrested right now. Everyone who works at NotW is presumed to be tainted until they are passed over for prosecution, at which point their future as journalists is still in question. Would you hire someone as an investigative journalist who worked around such practices and demonstrably didn't know what was going on?

The best thing truly innocent NotW employees can do right now is to document their whole experience in this mess, in hopes of making a few pounds off the book next year.

I suspect that Murdoch will wait for the dust to settle before he brings out any Sunday paper, whatever he's going to call it.


Grampian Police have been wearing video cameras for the last year:;33;13

The polis like 'em because, apparently, they lead to more early guilty pleas.


The fact that the current President of Kosovo, a female former police officer in her mid-30s, has a graduate certificate in police management and criminal law from the University of Leicester.


Apple files patent on gesture based communication.


There is a small, handheld scanner that can download everything in a smart phone. Who you called, who called you, where who have been, everything.
In some States, here in the Land of the Free, cops can use it anytime.
Anybody think it could not be scaled up so it would work without being close. Bob Howard's Jelly Phone maybe?


The highly scifiogenic "there's no such thing as free will" result is criticised.


Rule 34's Turing battle between spammers and spam filters reminds me of Google's ongoing struggle against entities that game its search algorithms. Here's a recent high-profile example of that sort of mischief:

It's also a pretty common form of phishing. Most novice internet users don't actually remember URLs; they just Google whatever they're trying to get to. Looks like their bank's site, must be the bank, here's my login info!

I think the NYT had an article recently about lead generation sites crowding out local tradesmen in local search, but I can't seem to find it.


A month or two ago, NPR reported that biologists had, with the aid of a computer, developed equations that could successfully predict the behavior of a specific single celled critter.

The problem is, the math is so complicated that nobody has yet been able to pick the math apart and actually understand it, everything is bound to the computer.


How about using cognitive behavioural interviewing techniques on police officers before and after international deployments, so as to assess the impact on their skill-sets, then describe said skill-sets in such a way that senior coppers can design career paths which will maximise the benefit of the year in Kosovo, or wherever? We're not planning on pointing an expert system at the results, though, so it's not as Rule 34 as it might be.


Does today's XKCD count?


I finished reading "Rule 34" this morning and did not need to have this email waiting for me at work:

Forget the Iron, Enjoy the Poi

Given the time and expense it takes to plan a well-deserved Hawaiian vacation, it would be a shame to spend the whole luau worrying about whether you turned off the iron before you left your house. Soon, well give you a host of good reasons to relax and enjoy your trip. [*Provider redacted*] Home Monitoring and Control, coming soon, will help you monitor your home environment and keep an eye on your family, as well as your budget. Youll be able to turn off the iron from the airport, the hotel or the luau on the beach using a computer or smartphone. Then grant your neighbors access to your home to check that everything else is okay, and monitor them as they come and go through your front door. Use "Vacation Mode" to keep energy costs down by controlling your home lights and temperature while youre away, and receive text messages or email alerts if something unexpected happens. Then view a video to decide what action to take. But Home Monitoring and Control isnt just handy while youre away on vacation. Let kids, house guests and service technicians in with a pass code instead of a key, and keep tabs on them while youre at work or out to dinner. You can also monitor the total energy being used in your home on a monthly, weekly or daily basis, and even identify the amount of electricity it requires to make authentic-tasting kalua pork in your own slow cooker. It`s easy to install, and easy to use. Look for more information about how Home Monitoring and Control will bring you savings, comfort and peace of mind soon.

How would you use Home Monitoring and Control in your home? Click here to let us know.

Because what could possibly go wrong?


How about a sock puppet nation?

The story gets weirder than fiction.


I haven't gotten Rule 34 yet (still waiting for my local bookstore to stock it), but on the subject generally of those kinds of coincidences: Jungians tend to call it synchronicity, and refuse to explain it. Discordians call it 'the law of fives', and when they explain it, the explanation generally comes down to "you see what you are looking for, often whether or not it's there" (i.e., there are a huge number of cognitive biases influencing you to focus on anything you are already primed to be on the lookout for, and to ignore things you don't expect). Writing or reading a book involves a lot of sustained focus on things that aren't very common in real life, and so any time someone goes out of mental storyland and becomes aware of one's physical environment, any similarities between the two will dominate one's perceptions.


Well, this looks like the beginning of a Rule 34 moment:

"By basing its strategies on the text of a manual, a computer infers the meanings of words without human supervision. The paper Learning to Win by Reading Manuals in a Monte-Carlo Framework (PDF) explains how a computer program succeeds in playing Civilization II using the official game manual as a strategy guide. This manual uses a large vocabulary of 3638 words, and is composed of 2083 sentences, each on average 16.9 words long. By this the program improves it success rate from 45% to 78% in playing the game. No prior knowledge of the language is used."

Another Rule 34 moment: A book review in The Onion.


The cover's not right. It's a total gun while the one on the real cover is disappearing.


Charlie's using that version, here, too. Also on the real cover, the woman has more tats.

Meanwhile, Borders finally has it listed as available in store, though out of stock locally. Glad I got mine at B&N, but I prefer Borders, and they lost a sale. I never did get around to e-mailing them about it.


And here's another one.

Mazzola’s cause of death has been listed as asphyxia due to airway obstruction by a foreign body

Just for clarification: for those speculating about domains registered at 123Reg as evidence of some 'devious' plans at NI/NC/Murdochland.

NewsInternational are top level domain registrars in their own right, as well as also being members of Nominet in their own right.

They therefore have no need and little incentive to register anything via a third-party domain registrar of dubious [sic!] reputation.

A domain for a Sunday edition of the Sun has been registered [and dormant] for some considerable time now on the NewsInternational DNS servers, along with a lot of other unused domains which NI/NC presumably feel might be useful to them in future.

The various domains registered via 123Reg in recent days appear [to me] to have all the hallmarks of attempted cybersquatting by people betting on a specific outcome.


I realise that you've probably seen this already (and may in fact have had to create a new spam filter rule for us helpful folk pointing it out to you by email), but...

Forget being a successful SF writer of some considerable note, now that you've been XKCD'd, you're really famous :-D


Charlie - you get a good review in New Scientist:

So that's xkcd and NS.

Not a bad piece of work!


Our FBI is now looking into Murdoch. We have hard laws about corrupt corporations.


Well, they're looking to see if News of the World hacked the phones of the 9/11 victims.


So, Charlie, how many references have you had to XKCD and the New Scientist review?


The NS blog-article also points to "Halting State" predictions Here and Here as well which are already deployed, or are about to be.

Scary stuff.


On the face of it, more of an anti Rule 34 moment:

"The problem, as Neuberger saw it, was that there was "precious little" evidence to show that nudge worked beyond a purely individual basis."

but as usual, if you read down the story, you realise that it's not as simple as that, and tha 'nudge theory' appears to have worked in the case of things like seatbelt wear and drink driving. Also, I'd add that it's the basis of Norbert Elias's theory of the civiling process, which appears (says the social history smart money) to have worked remarkably well, albeit on a scale of centuries rather than years.


There does also seem to be some question about whether to investigate whether senior News International executives (in the US) authorised illegal payments to British police and politicians. That would, technically at least, be a Federal felony, I believe, in addition to being completely illegal in the UK.

But as for any part of the US government being hard on a wealthy corporation and major political donor? I'll believe that when I see it, I'm afraid. (The same is true of the UK government, although possibly to a slightly lesser extent; UK politics are less nakedly bent solely towards the rich few than in the US.) Still, the idea of the responsible parties suddenly finding themselves faced with a choice of which country to be prosecuted in does have a certain appeal.


Hmm... Journo who went on the record about phone hacking, but never in a detailed way under oath, and has massive drug and drug problems, dies with them about three days before Operation Weeting would have come round with immunity and a tape recorder. I hope that this wasn't a Rule 34 moment, but I'm not ruling it out.


When the policeman escorting him to the prison observed: "What's the use of rebelling, young man? Don't you see there's a wall before you?" Lenin replied: "Yes, but the wall is rotten. Give it a good push and it will topple over!"

Murdoch, your boys fall like dominoes..

and now Lulz have come out of retirement to show News International what hacking really means.


Remember the posts about the gun on the cover of Rule 34. We saw how people can find things when the really try. Things that are not true. It's hardwired into us.


Not really a "Rule 34 moment" as such, but this is a great TED talk on how algorithms (particularly black-box trading ones) are shaping our world :



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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on July 7, 2011 4:14 PM.

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