Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Talks from the Hacker Congress

Lift button at 32C3. Image Source: Mustafa Al-Bassam.

The 32nd Chaos Communication Congress, 32C3, the largest conference related to freedom of speech, cryptography, hacking, and Internet security, just wrapped up in Hamburg, Germany on 30 December 2015 (-Thanks to C.). The conference is run by the Chaos Computer Club, which was founded in 1981. The Twitter hashtag for the conference is here. Below, see a selection of talks relating to robots, quantum computing, surveillance and Internet development. The conference included a talk on Commodore Amigas, for which I have a soft spot.

Julia Maria Mönig: "Household, Totalitarianism and Cyberspace," 28 December 2015 (Hat tip: C). Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Household, Totalitarianism and Cyberspace: Philosophical Perspectives on Privacy Drawing on the Example of Hannah Arendt

In my talk I am 1) discussing philosophical concepts of privacy, especially Hannah Arendt's philosophy. I am 2) explaining why in a liberal-democratic system we need to protect our privacy and 3) what we can morally do to prevent catastrophes such as a totalitarian system from happening again. With Hannah Arendt's arguments and her analysis of totalitarian systems in mind, I am referring to three examples from today's privacy discussions: cybermobbing, Behavioral Advertising and secret services.

That our privacy is at stake is not just a problem since the 2013 revelations of Edward Snowden. The 20th century philosopher Hannah Arendt is an important source to understand what `privacy' means and why we need to protect it. In my talk I am going to explain what Arendt understood as `private' throughout her work, and how her reasons to claim the protection of the private realm were connected with her analysis of the totalitarian systems in the 20th Century.

In my contribution I am first discussing philosophical concepts of privacy, with a focus on Hannah Arendt's philosophy. Second, I am arguing why in a liberal-democratic system we need to protect our privacy. The third step will be to reason what we can morally do to prevent catastrophes such as a totalitarian system from happening again.

Being a philosopher, I am going to make the philosophical — and in part legal — claims and preconditions understandable for a larger public. To prevent "what never ought have happened" from happening again we should, following Arendt, never refuse to judge about what is happening around us. I apply Arendt's framework of moral judging by examples to three cases from today's privacy discussions, Cybermobbing, Behavioral Advertising and secret services."

Simon: "What does Big Brother see, while he is watching?" 27 December 2015. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "What does Big Brother see, while he is watching? Uncovering images from the secret Stasi archives.

In the past years there has been a lot of discussion on the topic of state sponsored surveillance. But hardly any material can be accessed to support the general debate due to vaguely declared security concerns. So we are debating Big Brother with little knowledge about what he actually sees, while he is watching. Over the course of three years, I was able to research the archives left by East Germany's Stasi to look for visual memories of this notorious surveillance system and more recently I was invited to spend some weeks looking at the archive by the Czechoslovak StB. Illustrating with images I have found during my research, I would like to address the question why this material is still relevant – even 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain."

Christian Schaffner: "Quantum Cryptography," 28 December 2015. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Quantum Cryptography: from key distribution to position-based cryptography

I will entertain the audience with a science talk about quantum cryptography, covering both some classics (Quantum Key Distribution) and the latest developments (position-based quantum cryptography) in this fascinating research field. [No previous knowledge of quantum mechanics is required to follow the talk.]

The most well-known application of quantum cryptography is Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) which was invented in 1984 by Bennett and Brassard. QKD allows two players Alice and Bob to securely communicate over an insecure line which is overheard by an eavesdropper Eve. Security can be proven in an information-theoretic sense against an unrestricted Eve. Such a high level of security is impossible to achieve with classical communication. In the first part of the talk, I will introduce some basic concepts of quantum information theory in order to understand and appreciate the security of QKD.

However, quantum cryptography offers a wide range of other applications that go beyond the task of key distribution. For instance, the goal of “position-based cryptography” is to use a player’s physical position as cryptographic credential. The combination of relativistic constraints (assuring that information cannot travel faster than the speed of light) and quantum mechanical effects (such as the impossibility to perfectly copy a quantum state) enables entirely new cryptographic applications like sending a message in such a way that it can only be read at a particular geographic position. In the second part, I will introduce you to this intriguing new branch of quantum cryptography."

Florian Grunow, Niklaus Schiess: "Lifting the Fog on Red Star Operating System," 27 December 2015. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Lifting the Fog on Red Star OS: A deep dive into the surveillance features of North Korea's operating system

Angae means "Fog" in Korean. The term is widely used in parts of custom code used by the Red Star OS. We will lift the fog on the internals of North Korea's operating system. Our talk will provide information about how privacy is invaded for all users of Red Star OS and how an operating system designed by a totalitarian dictatorship works.

In 2014 the version 3 of North Korea's Red Star operating system was leaked. It is based on Linux and has the look and feel of a Mac. There is also a server version available. We will start the presentation by giving a general overview and presenting findings that already hit the net during the last year, like research on Red Star’s custom browser and its configuration.

The focus of the presentation is to explain in depth how the architecture of the components is made up and to give a detailed overview of the privacy invading custom code implemented into the OS.

The system is designed to defend and protect itself from changes made from user space. We will analyze the interaction of the components and the protection mechanisms and provide information on how to deactivate some of the malicious functionality of Red Star OS. North Korea abuses the principals of free software to provide an operating system that suppresses free speech. Therefore we think it is necessary to disclose this information to the public and present the audience on how to get around the limitations introduced by North Korea.

Investigating functionality that can be used to invade the privacy of users was our primary goal. We found that the features implemented in Red Star OS are the wet dream of a surveillance state dictator. It provides a set of surveillance features like the capabilities to watermark different types of files that can be used to track the distribution of documents and multi-media files. We will have an in depth look on how some of these features built the foundation for a suppressive state in a modern world."

Thomas Lohninger: "Net Neutrality in Europe," 28 December 2015. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Net Neutrality in Europe: alea iacta est

After two years the fight for net neutrality in Europe about the Telecom Single Market Regulation has come to a close. In this talk we will analyse the new net neutrality law and it
s consequences and we give you the lessons learned from two years of EU campaigning. 

On 30c3 we launched the SaveTheInternet.eu campaign. Since then activists from all around Europe fought for net neutrality and the freedom of the open internet. At 32c3 the the legislative process in Europe will have come to a close and the campaign will be mostly over.

In this talk we will look back and try to learn from past mistakes and successes. What has worked and what didn't? What will the new net neutrality law in Europe actually mean in practice? We assess the repercussions for the European internet and also for the global fight for net neutrality, particularly in the global south."

Gianteye: "My Robot Will Crush You With Its Soft Delicate Hands!" 27 December 2015. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "My Robot Will Crush You With Its Soft Delicate Hands! How to design and fabricate soft robots using everyday materials

In this talk Matthew Borgatti, Lead Scientist at Super-Releaser, will take you through the process of turning a puddle of goo into a working soft robot. He will take you through the different mechanisms that can be created, simple processes for fabricating soft robots, and methods for joining elements together into sophisticated assemblies.

Soft robots are slowly trickling out of universities and labs into everyday life. Amazon is experimenting with installing soft grippers on robotic arms to pick any product off a warehouse shelf. DARPA just funded an extensive program to build soft exoskeletons for soldiers to enhance how much they can lift and how long they can march. My lab, Super-Releaser, is developing robotic spacesuit components for NASA as a subcontractor on a SBIR grant. On paper they might seem too complex to whip up at home, but if you’re the kind of person who loved Creepy Crawlers and have access to a 3d printer you can make your very own soft robots.

Let’s take a step back to explain what a soft robot is and what they're good for. Most robots out there are made from hard parts like steel gears and plastic housings with the occasional rubber wheel or timing belt thrown in. When they respond to their environment it’s usually by reading sensors and using a processor to change their behavior accordingly. This responsiveness is called compliance. There’s another way to get compliance out of an engineered object, though: make the object soft. Everything from goat hooves to octopus tentacles, starfish suckers to human muscles, use softness and springiness to their advantage. When your robot responds to the environment by bending, say around the thing you’re trying to grip, getting a specific output, like putting that thing in a box to get packed up and shipped off, becomes a lot simpler on the computation side of things. Adding compliant mechanisms to your engineering toolbox can add huge problem solving power to any robotics problem you're trying to tackle.

In this talk I’m going to describe how I go about fabricating soft robots. There are lots of methods out there – from heat sealing, to stitching, to direct printing – but the method I prefer is casting. I like casting my robots from 3d printed molds because I can test multiple designs in parallel (just print out the different molds with, say, different wall thicknesses or numbers of ribs inside the actuators, all at the same time). It also allows me to experiment with designs in a context that matches the material I’d be using if production were scaled up for mass manufacture. Finally, if I decide I really like the robot I’ve created, making a dozen of them is just a matter of casting that same mold a dozen times.

I’m going to go over the materials I use and where to find them online, how to go about designing your own soft robot, and some interesting problems in soft robotics that are just waiting for solutions. I’m going to be taking the audience from building the simplest actuators, to methods for fastening parts, to getting airtight seals even at high pressures, to putting everything together into a single-piece walking quadruped."

Evan Roth: "Internet Landscapes," 27 December 2015. Video Source: Youtube.

Caption for the above video: "Internet Landscapes

In Internet Landscapes, Evan Roth with discuss his work as it relates to visualizing, archiving and understanding the Internet and its effects on culture with a focus on the misuse of communication technologies. Roth will trace his personal and creative history within an Internet landscape that has changed significantly in the last 16 years. The presentation will include a range of work culminating in his more recent pilgrimages to the beaches of the UK, New Zealand and Sweden, where submarine Internet fiber optic cables reach the land. Armed with an array of paranormal technologies, Roth will recount his personal quest to visualize and reconnect with a changing Internet landscape."

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