Spark 163 - November 27 & 30, 2011

On this episode of Spark: Hypnotizing Computers, Online Ethics, and Your Friend the Social Bot. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

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Hypnotizing Computers

First it was the mouse and keyboard, then it was touch screens, and soon...a picture? With the ubiquity of technologies like the Xbox Kinect camera and Google Goggles, we're heading towards a world where images - a book cover, a flower, your body - can control computer systems and in some cases even execute complex commands. Tim Maly is a technology writer and futurist who has written extensively on the implications of this new visual input. He says a picture can do more than just talk to a computer, it can hypnotize it. (Runs 14:06)

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Watching the Detective

From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, this year we've seen the huge role social media and mobile communications play in helping people share information, photos and videos of major events with the rest of the world. It's a new and exciting wave of front line reporting, but it's also been raising bigger questions about how we can judge whether we're getting the full story. The French website Copwatch posts photos and detailed personal information about police officers, and as a result it's been ordered down by law. But it keeps springing back up. Spark contributor Daniel Finnan is in Paris, and has been following the site's many lives. (Runs 9:12)

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Bot or Not

How many of your Facebook friends are robots? Maybe more than you think. New research from the University of British Columbia suggests that online social networks like Facebook can be easily infiltrated by socialbots - computer programs designed to pass themselves off as human beings. We'll hear from UBC researcher Konstantin Beznosov, socialbot coding competition organizer Tim Hwang, and professor Maria Bakardjieva on the world of socialbots and how they may soon be influencing opinions and changing the shape of social networks. (Runs 25:43)

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