The Numbers Behind Piracy

Before we delve into the piracy topic, it’s important to note the differences between pirating something and stealing something. The public service announcement launched by Motion Picture Association presents an add stating that “You wouldn’t download a car”. This ad basically blends the two together to relate the crime and guilt between stealing and pirating.

In solutions trying to end piracy there were two bills: PIPA and SOPA. These solutions were not great because they would censor the web and impose harmful regulations on businesses. Over 7 million people voted No on SOPA and PIPA on January 18. There must be a better way to solve this then the government asking companies to censor the web. How can we approach the problem of ending piracy without hurting liberty?

Notch, the creator of Minecraft – a game that has been pirated a lot, has said his own thoughts on piracy, noting very specific differences between it and stealing. He realizes that copying a book costs money, but copying a digital movie is essentially free. If you copy a program, no one loses money, no one loses resources, and more people are using that program. This presents a problem for people who are trying to get paid for their digital work, such as Notch. It has become a rather old outdated model that giving something to someone meant ridding the owner of their original copy. The only source of those copies is from the original owner who made them. Along the way, there may be development costs involved in the process of making the copies. Going back to the ad, for every car in the market, there is money involved in making it. In understanding a scenario with digital copies, you would only pay to make the car once.

It’s easy to see why people pirate programs. They are free, easily available, and quick to get, all the while bearing very little consequences. If you are past the moral part of course. Notch sees the bright side to pirating, and while discussing potential revenue, he says that in some form people who pirate his product give his product more exposure. It is possible that the person with the pirated product will enjoy it and share it with friends. Now this case hits home with Notch, as he is a Swedish developer and Sweden faces the most fire because it has a site called, which allows a lot of pirating to happen, as well as an anti-piracy police force.

Other tactics that do not require a certain bill to be passed involve requiring the product to connect to the internet. If it has connected to the internet it can be checked on to be sure it is being used legally, and gives the product’s company a considerable amount of control over it. This also raises another issue of requiring people to have internet access before they can use a product, (and a lot of complaints have happen with Starcraft 2 for doing this), but most people these days have that connection.

Yet again, piracy does not equate money being taken out of a person’s pocket. My brother is a manager at The Printing House and I have temporarily worked with him during the very busy seasons. Loss is worked into the budget because it is something that needs to be accounted for. It could come from various amounts of reasons, such as items breaking, being stolen, or being defective. In a retail setting, the losses can be calculated since it is physical objects being sold that come from manufacturers, and they had to be put in stock by employees paid for their time. There is a constant tie of numbers and inventory that goes from the consumer all the way to the manufacturer, involving money and labour.

In the accounting spreadsheet, a loss will show if someone got their money back from a company. That loss is a return and it can be seen as being much more harmful than someone pirating a product. If someone returns a digital copy, it does not get added to your infinite stock, because yet again, infinity is not a definitive number. So what shows if a company will profit and thrive is something that goes beyond numbers. It is up to the customers and their intentions. Do they want to buy your product? Do they want to support you? Have you done what it takes to earn their satisfaction previously?

In theory, if piracy was stopped, it is difficult to tell whether or not the people that would have pirated would have bought the product. You cannot calculate this because you cannot quantify the intentions of a person.

The toughest question of all is how do you make them want to buy your product, not just want it.
If everyone in the world who was willing to buy a copy instead pirated a digital copy of a product, then the company surely will not generate enough to revenue to cover its expenses. There is damage being done, and it’s hard to say that without piracy no one of them would have even bought the product anyways. The people that actually buy the product are the ones that are keeping the company alive and supporting them. It is because of them that the company can continue doing what they are doing and have a chance to grow and create future products. It is also these people that give jobs to the employees of the company for all the hours of work they have invested into making the product. Such is the reason why piracy is a big moral dilemma.

But it still remains that piracy is not on the same leggings as stealing, and shouldn’t be treated as such. The solution isn’t as simple as “do whatever it takes to make the act stop” because it hurts more than it fixes. Freedom, privacy, and rights will be hurt.

Something Smells Phishy

Alright, it’s time for us to talk about the big elephant in the room. Let’s talk about all those lying ads we see on every site, and all those ridiculous e-mails and messages that we get. Let’s talk about phishing.

Don’t take the bait!

An act of internet crime, phishing is a means of getting sensitive information from people (such as passwords and credit card info) through deceptive electronic communication.

The term phishing comes from the word “fishing”, as it is similar to leaving out bait and waiting for their victims, or ‘fish’,  to bite.

As claimed in some of the online ads, I know for a fact that a 50 year old single mother can’t look 22 just by applying mud on her face or whatever the “shocking secret” supposedly is. The internet has been used as a medium to allow a bunch of scams and phishing schemes to try their hand at luring a few unfortunate browsers.

A recent article has outlined that online advertisements have become the biggest threats for spreading malware.

With the fast-paced development of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, phishers have been taking attempts at them, especially with identity theft as personal information is often revealed in these networking sites.

Phishing has gotten clever, they now use images to avoid anti-phishing filters.

Of course, there are legitimate advertisements out there that don’t have the sole purpose of taking as much money as they can from you, and they usually are more tastefully done than the phishers.

Youtube uses a variety of short video advertisements. We are beyond the age of e-mail transferring, as most e-mail services such as gmail offer various forms of protection against them.

Online advertisements are more likely to be the reason for hackers to spread their malware.

Well the solution seems relatively simple: Don’t click on those ads! You have to use your utmost best discretion to ensure that you won’t be falling down the same rabbit hole other victims have.

The Fastest Learner – Machine Intelligence at Work

We have long lost our title as being the fastest learners in the planet. No, it wasn’t taken by dolphins or chimps, we’re not quite there yet. It’s by our own creations – computers, that have managed to surpass us.

Computers have gone a long way in terms of their sophistication since their debut in the 1940s. At around this time, they played an important role in breaking wartime codes, as the computational power required to do so was just too tedious for humans.

The formula to making computers perform tasks is rather simple. We tell them how to do it – and then they do it. Better.

Math Equation

Do this without a calculator? Ha, only in my biggest nightmare!

Calculators are a prime example of this. We know the methods and we know the operations to add up or divide whatever numbers, but to do it by hand could take a while. Not to mention the likelihood of making an error in a particularly long equation. We know all too well that computers are capable of doing these sorts of calculations within a second.

We have even taught computers how to play games to perfection. A solved game is a game that can be algorithmically broken down to find the best possible solution. Classics such as connect four and checkers have been taught to computers that have become absolutely unbeatable tyrants at them.

When it comes down it, the computer is merely running through a bunch of zeros and ones that instruct them to perform the way they do, there is no creative mind behind the scenes that is innovating and “thinking outside of the box”. More importantly, there is no thinking at all.

Supercomputer Joshua from WarGames

The supercomputer finds no point in playing a solved game.

Which is exactly what lead to conspiracy theories around the chess supercomputer, Deep Blue. In a battle of man versus machine, Deep Blue did more than just hurt the pride of world chess champion Garry Kasparov. The computer demonstrated such ingenuity in its play, that Kasparov accused its makers, IBM, of human intervention and cheating during the matches.

Or maybe it’s just because he’s bitter. After all, it is no surprise that Kasparov was the favourite to win; an experienced human capable of adapting and thinking should have no trouble at all beating a machine with limitations. And this is also perhaps why Deep Blue was such a big deal. It went beyond mere information processing and used machine learning techniques to predict and adapt to its opponent.


Wait – So are machines actually learning now?

Well, not really in the “I, Robot” sense. Supercomputers like Deep Blue show that they can adjust their thinking parameters given new interactions and experiences. In fact, a conversationalist AI (or “chat bot”) known as Cleverbot is built around this functionality.

Apparently he's a vegetarian now.

Apparently he’s a vegetarian now.

Cleverbot learns by talking to people and getting new information out of them, including watching their sentence structure and vocabulary. Taking into account that Cleverbot can have simultaneous conversations with anyone that has an internet connection, and you end up with a rapidly learning artificial intelligence. Of course, the site warns that the bot can be inappropriate, but that is only because certain people that talked to him have taught him it.

In this way, Cleverbot can be knowledgeable on several topics, learn the lyrics to songs, and even learn new languages if enough people talk to him. His “preferences and opinions” of things, while all copied from others before him, are constantly changing and giving him different personalities as time goes on.

Eerily enough, that doesn’t seem too far off on how we change and mature. Our own mannerisms, phrases, and sayings come from past experiences and other people as well. Sure, we may give it our own flair, but essentially we all grow with experiences – it just may not be a database that’s growing!