Filed Under: Identity, Telecoms and Technology

The Turing Wars have begun

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On the internet, as they used to say, no-one knows you’re a dog. That’s not, as far as I can tell, too much of a problem at the moment because dogs have quite poor keyboard skills and little interest in most kinds of internet fraud. The real problem, as things have turned out, is that on the internet no-one knows you’re a bot. Now, I see this emergent property of Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law as fascinating and chaotic and there are some environments in which it is jolly amusing as well. Fake social media fans, for example.

Today, he says he manages 10,000 robots for roughly 50 clients, who pay Mr. Vidmar to make them appear more popular and influential.

[From Inside a Twitter Robot Factory – WSJ.com]

Rappers fighting over fake fans is funny but, as is easy to imagine, there are environments (almost all of them as far as I can see) in which there is no humour, only havoc. A very good current example of this is Bitcoin trading.

Bots control/contribute more than 70% of the volume on OKCoin Futures.

[From Further lies at OKCoin, where does it end? : BitcoinMarkets]

There’s no problem with this, as far as I know, and I don’t see why we should stop bots on Bitcoin exchanges when we allow them on Wall Street, especially when they might offer an accelerated evolutionary path by exploring different strategies.

The exchanges are already rife with trading bots; these are shark infested waters. Bots dance around each other in a chaotic swirl. They employ so many diverse strategies. It’s like so many microbes competing in the primordial ooze.

[From High Frequency Trading on the Coinbase Exchange]

Another environment that, unlike Bitcoin, I see as a fantastically useful economic model of the “real” world is World of Warcraft. This is infested with bots. If you want to see this for yourself, take a look at this amusing (but not suitable for work) YouTube clip of a guy playing WoW only to discover that he’s the only human playing. Last month, there was a WoW crackdown that saw more than 100,000 bots kicked out so I suppose Bitcoin exchanges could have a crackdown try to kick them out too if they want to, but in the absence of a working identity infrastructure the arms race may already be lost. The WoW bot maker had revised their technology to be undetectable. WoW revised their technology to detect it. And so it goes on.

The Turing Wars, as I call them, are only just beginning. These Turing Wars will not be limited to fun and games, to fintech bloggers battling over influence leaque tables or investment banks battling over bonds. There are considerable real-world implications as to possession or otherwise of the IS_A_PERSON credential and without it I can see a likely international cyberwar battleground that will replace WoW battlefields at the epicentre of bot vs. bot evolution, turning the Internet of Things into a wasteland.

In March, two students at the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, created a swarm of bots that caused a phony traffic jam on Waze, the navigation software owned by Google… The Waze software, believing that the bots were on the road, started to redirect actual traffic down different streets, even though there was no traffic jam to avoid.

[From Friends, and Influence, for Sale Online – NYTimes.com – NYTimes.com]

When you don’t know who IS_A_PERSON and who IS_A_DOG and who is neither, you cannot interact online in a functional way. We must grasp the nettle, so to speak, and actually do something about this. Who is better placed, right now, to determine whether I am a person or a dog or a bot? Surely it must be my bank and surely this must give my bank a key role in the future? All my bank needs to do is to issue me with some kind of digital passport that I can show to WoW or Waze or Wall Street? Right?

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