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A lot of film industry folks are upset that Sony caved to hacker threats, presumably from North Korea, and cancelled release of the new Seth Rogan movie The Interview. The problem, say the critics, is that caving to terrorists might embolden future hackers to do more of this sort of thing. Maybe someday it will be hard to get a movie made if it has any controversial elements.

Keep in mind that Sony execs have been deeply embarrassed by the release of emails and there are probably more gems that could be released. And of course you have the threat of a 9-11 type terror attack if someone runs the movie.

I have a few thoughts on this issue.

For starters, if you believe that the individuals working at Sony should take personal risks with their lives and the lives of their families so you can see more shitty movies, you might be a bit of a terrorist yourself.

Is it Sony's job to protect the American constitution? No. Their job is making money and trying to keep their employees and customers safe. How are they doing? Well, I would say that greenlighting the project was a mistake, in hindsight, but they certainly made up for it by eating a gazillion dollars of nearly guaranteed movie profit this year. I call that gutsy and smart. And they also don't seem to be putting the blame on anyone else for getting into this situation. I give them A+ for their handling of the situation recently.

Are you truly worse off if there are fewer movies featuring dictators with exploding heads? I have a hard time seeing this as a slippery slope that prevents another Transformers movie from getting made. It might prevent more movies about North Korean dictators. Will you miss those? Team America was hilarious, but how many of those do we need?

We already have no Hollywood movies being made about the early days of Islam, presumably because no studio wants to be targeted. Have you missed those movies?

There is a 100% chance that I will someday see the banned Seth Rogan movie. I'll watch anything with Seth Rogan. He earned that. And the Internet is too leaky to stop it from happening in the long run. Someday Sony will release it and make their money. No one loses anything in the long run.

Keep in mind that you and I don't know what other bombshells are in the hacked files. But Sony probably knows, or suspects. So they are not operating on the same limited information that you are. That alone is reason to not second-guess their decision.

Do any of you believe that Sony employees should risk their lives, and the lives of movie-goers, so you can see more movies about dictators?

Disclaimer:
I have worked with Sony on Dilbert projects in the past and might again someday.

----------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com     
Author of this book 

Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily

Twitter for Scott: @ScottAdamsSays

 
I don't know if this has anything to do with my recent computer problems but you can see from this story why a Microsoft tech support number has to be viewed with skepticism.



 
Earlier this year I worked with Dr. Carmen Simon at Rexi Media to create a memorable SlideShare presentation of my latest book. Did Dr. Simon's double-doctorate and fancy brain science make any difference to the outcome?

Today I learned that out of millions of presentations on the SlideShare site, our work was picked as a Best of 2014.

Given that my book was not a best-seller or even close, one has to assume my sparkling content was not the reason for the achievement. Science wins again.

To be fair, the other millions of creators are probably still operating at the "People like blue" level of design. While no one was paying attention, the job of designing moved from art to science.

Ever wonder why Apple consistently does great design and others can't seem to figure it out? My assumption is that Apple is using science and other companies are using art. I once worked in the Human Interface test lab at Pacific Bell and saw how powerful science is when applied to design. And science has learned a lot since those days.

--- And now I talk about robots again ---

I have a Dilbert series in the pipeline in which robots learn cognitive science simply by reading the Internet. All of the science is there. Robots thus informed could control human decisions without us being the wiser.

In other words, robots will never need a bloody coup to take control of Earth. All they need to do is read the Internet where we humans have painstakingly documented the science that will allow robots to manipulate our emotions and thus our choices without our knowledge.

My guess is that most of you think this cognitive science stuff is only influencing group averages and isn't much of a factor in your own daily decisions. But I will tell you that if you have a background in hypnosis and you have wallowed in this cognitive science stuff as I have for both work and fun, you see it as a far more powerful force, and possibly the only important trend for the future.

Someday robots will fix most of humanity's problems in the areas of energy, food, water, medicine and even climate change. They might even make war obsolete. But in the process of solving these problems the robots will acquire cognitive science knowledge that will effectively give them control of any democratic country because they can control the majority opinion through cognitive manipulation.

And even more interesting is the question of whether humans will someday prefer machine-based government over human control. I don't want some human telling me how to live my life based on his belief in magic. But I don't get angry at my ATM for only giving me the amount of money that I have in my own account. The machines will follow agreed rules and be predictable. I want a machine overlord, not some corrupt, drunken, horny, tired human that had a bad childhood.

But that's just me.

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com     
Author of this book 
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily
Twitter for Scott: @ScottAdamsSays

 

 
I wouldn't bother reading this if I were you.  I'm just venting.

The story goes like this...

Bought a Gateway computer from Best Buy

It breaks, as electronics do when near me.

Independent computer repair guy replaces a bad board.

Windows thinks I have a new machine because it doesn't see the same hardware mix. I have learned that Windows checks the hardware for that reason.

Windows starts its "pesterware" process to bug me into buying a legal copy, which I already have. Knowing my copy is legal, I assume I have malware that is trying to trick me.

I did have the Conduit virus, which I mistakenly believed was related to my Windows authorization problem. But in any case, I needed to remove the malware just to know what my baseline was.

I called what I labelled in my prior post the "fake" Microsoft number and got a rep who said he worked for Microsoft. When I explained that I have a legal copy and don't want to buy a new one, he told me their global network was down and I should call back in two hours.

I called the next day and explained again that I have a legal copy and want to know how to authenticate my machine. Again, by amazing "coincidence" the rep said their global network was down and they could not help. I asked for a supervisor.

I called bullshit on the "global network is down" and told him I got the same story yesterday. I asked him to verify that the network was down both days. He said it was definitely NOT down at all yesterday when the rep said it was.

That was the moment I unloaded on him for being either a fraud or managing a bunch of folks who are somehow incented to get me off the phone if I don't whip out a credit card in the first ten seconds to buy a new copy. The supervisor said they do not have any incentives, just salary. Some part of the story was bullshit, so I unloaded on him. His next five minutes were not pleasant.

The folks I spoke with were all Indian-sounding, so this was presumably an Indian call center of some sort.

Then I called a "real" Microsoft number and asked if the last guys I called were real or fake. The real Microsoft rep, who sounded American, confirmed that the other phone number is not genuine. Moreover, she confirmed that if I had called a number because of a pop-up error on my screen it was definitely not Microsoft because they don't ever show you a number and ask you to call to fix a problem. She said that is policy. (And it makes sense because no one wants customers calling.)

On a second day, I called the real Microsoft number and got another American-sounding rep who also confirmed that the other number is a scam. I'm not sure how, but he said he was familiar with this malware and Microsoft was trying to track down the perps. They even knew the cities where they operate.

But the second rep also mis-diagnosed my problem as the Conduit virus (which was a coincidental problem) so he might have been confused about the rest as well.

Yesterday one of the commenters here called the real Microsoft number to ask if my "fake" number was really fake. At first the rep said it was fake and later in the conversation confirmed it was genuine. If you are keeping score, that is three official Microsoft opinions that the other number is fake and one opinion that it is not.

Today I called the "fake" number again and got someone who - as far as I could tell - was an actual Microsoft employee, or at least he did a better impression of one. His first suggestion was a simple command prompt of "slui 3" to bring up a window to enter my legal Windows authorization code, which I had from the sticker on the machine.

This process didn't work, and the new error message prompted the real Microsoft rep to say only the manufacturer of the computer (Gateway) can fix the problem. So I have to call them.

It is not possible to call Gateway, as far as I can tell.

So my current working theory is that Windows 7 is the malware, in effect. It is illegitimately forcing me to buy a "legal" copy when I already own one, and there is no workaround. The alternative is to throw away my machine, or reformat and try over I suppose, but even then I would need to buy a new copy of Windows. And Windows 8 isn't even a real product.

My best guess about the Indian call center - which might actually be Microsoft - is that they have either a fraud problem, an employee incentive problem, or a training problem within the organization because I'm willing to bet that the network is never down when you offer to pay for a new copy of Windows.

So, anyway, eventually I did solve the malware problem. You might have heard of this solution. I'll show you a picture.

 

Disclosure: I own Apple stock.  I was a Mac user for the first half of my career and those crash-puppies have collectively eaten over a month of my work in the past. I don't expect the new one to be better. But it won't have the SAME problem and I'm tired of the old one.

[Update: People often ask where I get my ideas. Here's a sneak preview of the first panels of a Sunday comic I am working on today. I think that answers some of the question.



 
Nearly 100% of the well-informed and honest citizens of the United States agree that the Federal Government should not be in the business of weed-policing in states that allow medical marijuana.

That's an easy law to change, right? I mean, if something like 80% of voters agree on an issue, it's a no-brainer.

But our ineffective government couldn't pass a law that had overwhelming support because, I suppose, it is bad for reelection if someone labels you pro-drug.So instead, Congress quietly just removed funding for the FBI's weed-chasing efforts. No budget means no action in the future. In effect, the federal war on weed is over.

While I appreciate that the government is moving in the direction the citizens prefer, how much does it tell you about the effectiveness of our system that lawmakers couldn't change a law that nearly 100% of well-informed and honest (meaning not taking money from private prison lobbyists for example) folks prefer?

My point is not about weed. That fight is essentially over. We're just waiting for the referee to count to ten, although that might play out over several years. Full legalization for adults (in effect) is inevitable because the data will be so clear after a few states do their test runs.

My point is that if your government can't pass a law that has has nearly universal approval, do you really have a functioning government?
 
Recently I wasn't paying attention and clicked something I shouldn't have. I got a [update: not the Conduit virus] virus on my Windows machine and it dug in deep.

[Update 2: Called the "fake" Microsoft number a third time today just to see why commenters keep saying it is real. This time the rep told me to do a Windows+R command and enter SLUI_3 and enter my existing Windows license. (The last two days I called the rep told me the "network was down globally. Call back tomorrow." Am I to believe they need a network to tell me to press two buttons on my keyboard? Keep in mind that everyone calling that number has the same problem, and bringing up the product key entry screen is always the obvious first step, although it didn't work for me and I am told I have to throw away my computer (essentially) because there is no path from there unless the manufacturer will help, which it won't.

By the way, the second day I called the same number I asked if their system had been down the day before and the supervisor told me 100% sure it was not. So...if this is real Microsoft...which I now see as possible, the other explanation is that the reps have some sort of incentive to make me go away fast so they just say the system is down unless I want to give them money. (The supervisor said they have no incentives.) -- Scott]


--- older post continues here ---

It's a clever virus. Normal antivirus and malware products can't even see it. I lost a week of productivity. I've already warned my syndicate there might be a missing week of Dilbert unless I pull a rabbit out of the hat.

The virus generates a pop-up window pretending to be Microsoft. The message says you don't have an authentic version of Windows but if you call their number they will sell you one.

Before I continue, I did verify with Microsoft that the message is fake. Microsoft never tells you to call them. And they are aware of this scam. Their tech finally got it off my machine.

I called the scammers' phone number. They do an amazing imitation of a Microsoft call center. Apparently they studied Microsoft's actual processes and they trained good scam actors. I pretended to be an ignorant customer for a few minutes just to draw them out. A pleasant, Indian-sounding fellow patiently answered my questions.

Did I mention I was mad because I lost a week of productivity to these assholes?

I might have done some yelling. There might have been profanity. Okay, to be honest, I was foaming at the mouth and inventing insults that even impressed me. I screamed about his criminal ways, implored him to seek honest work or kill himself to make the world a better place. I told him to fuck himself seven different styles. And I was just getting started.

And he stayed on the phone, keeping in character to the scam, trying to calm me down like a real help desk person.

I even got him to put his "supervisor" on the line so I could insult his lineage, competence, and preferences for bestiality. He took it too. This was fun!

Then I told them they had 60 seconds to tell me how to remove their virus or I would publish their phone number in a natiional blog so everyone can call and insult them.

I started counting from 60 to zero, stopping occasionally to remind him how fucked he was. He sounded a bit worried but stayed in character. 

So here you go: The scammers are at 1-866-530-6599. Please call them and pretend to be a customer so you waste their time before you go off on them. Be creative. Be mean. And please yell. It's a free pass. The number will change soon, I assume, so act quickly.

Just tell them you got a pop-up message saying you don't have an authentic version of Windows 7 and you want to know what to do.

It's a lot of fun. Let me know how it goes.

I also thought it would be useful to publish the phone number so search engines can find it in case anyone in the future wants to verify it as a scam.

Scott

[update 1: The virus is still on my computer. Microsoft failed to remove it after an hour of trying. I called the scammer number I posted to confirm it is the scammers not Microsoft. Part of the scam is that they tell you to Google their number and it does show as a real Microsoft number. You can confirm they are fake (but extraordinarily convincing) by asking if the message in your computer to call them is real. Microsoft never asks you to contact them. That is policy. The scam asks you to contact Microsoft to authorize Windows. ]

[Update 2: The virus (which is not the Conduit virust after all) is still on my machine. Microsoft's tech help couldn't get it. MalwareBytes, ADWcleaner, and Hitman 3 can't see it. So I had to get a second monitor just to handle the fake pop-ups. I put them all on the second monitor and turn it off.

Oh, I haven't given up. But I'm impressed at the scam because I can describe it in detail and no one but Microsoft actually believes it is real. So here's the real published Microsoft number to check for yourself i you you like: 800-642-7676. I've called it twice and confirmed twice that the Windows activation message is a well-known scam that Microsoft is actively hunting down. (They know approximately where the perps live.)

Indeed the scammers do somehow have a phone number that used to belong to Microsoft. That seems confirmed. But if you ask Microsoft, they will tell you the 866-530-6599 number is scammers. The fake phone number seems to be the key to the whole scam. When I first questioned them about their credentials the first thing out of their mouths is "You can Google our phone number." The real Microsoft goes through a more clever credentials confirmation process.

When I said I lost a week of work, I meant I couldn't get anything done for a week. I didn't lose files. I do back-ups, of course. Although I doubt they are actually working. I've backed up every computer I've owned and never had a backup system that worked yet.

Nor have I ever had a missing driver that Windows could find for me automatically. Some things are just placebos.]

[Update 3: As a valuable service I'm going to delete any comments after today that still suspect the scam is a real Microsoft message and I'm playing some sort of prank because anyone coming here for real information would be misled by the comments.


 
I can accurately predict whether you will meet your weight loss goals by the way you talk about it.

I mean that literally. I think I could devise a controlled experiment in which I pick weight-loss winners and losers in advance based on nothing but a transcript of folks talking about their fitness goals.

I'll give you some examples. What follows is a list of things you will hear from people that have no legitimate chance of losing weight and keeping it off. Yes, your thing is probably on this list and it pisses you off to see it. But stay with me and I'll change your life by the end of this post.

Here's what people say when they are preparing to fail at a weight-loss strategy.

"I need to exercise more."

"I'm counting calories."

"I have a cheat day coming."

"I'm watching my portions."

"I'm doing a cleanse."

"I'm trying the (whatever) diet plan."

Ten years ago I would have said everything on the list is a common-sense way to lose weight. But science has since shown otherwise. I'll go through them one at a time.

"I need to exercise more."

You probably DO need to exercise more, for lots of health-related reasons, but exercise is a terrible way to lose weight. Science tells us that exercise is maybe 20% of the solution and diet is 80%, roughly speaking. So when I hear someone talking about trying to lose sixty pounds by joining a gym, I know that person isn't up-to-date on the science and doesn't have a plan that can work. The only way to lose tons of weight through exercise alone is by pushing yourself to the pain point, and science tells us that in that case your subconscious mind will find a way to be "too busy" to keep exercising.

During the first week of January my gym fills with overweight people who think they can exercise their way to slimness. After a month they will see no improvement and quit. The gym probably makes its entire profit from the folks that mistakenly believe exercise is a great diet plan.

"I'm counting calories."

If you are counting calories you probably don't know about the recent science on hunger control. One of the best ways to decrease hunger naturally is by eating calorie-laden fatty stuff such as peanuts. Science says that peanut-eaters lose weight even though they eat fatty peanuts because it suppresses their appetite. Meanwhile, calorie-counters might eat carbs with low calories without knowing they are stimulating appetite by their food choices.

"I have a cheat day coming."

Science tells us that unpredictable rewards create addiction. If you find yourself talking about your upcoming cheat day a week in advance, and craving it, you probably just set yourself up to become addicted to that cheat day - and therefore bad food in general - by your diet plan. If you reward yourself for "cheating" your diet, what do you think happens to your brain wiring? Yup, you crave the bad food that is the reward. Worst...diet...strategy...ever.

"I'm watching my portions."

Portion control has the same problem as calorie-counting. If you eat the right food, portion control takes care of itself. When was the last time you ate too much broccoli? If portion control even enters your mind, it means you don't understand the science about food cravings and the science about the glycemic index. Successful dieters manage their food choices and eat as much of anything as they want. The secret is in changing the "wanting" part, not the portion size. Eating a smaller portion of cake is rewarding the part of your brain that wants cake.

"I'm doing a cleanse."

I timed myself and it took exactly five seconds to find a Mayo Clinic link that says science does not support cleanses. If your diet plan can be debunked in five seconds, you probably aren't a seeker of knowledge. So even if a cleanse turns out to be accidentally a good idea, a knowledge-free long-term diet strategy has a low chance of success.

"I'm trying the (whatever) diet plan."


When I took my dog to puppy training class the instructor told us the importance of training the dog in different locations. If you only train your dog to sit when he is in your kitchen, he only learns to do the trick in that one room. You walk into the living room and the dog doesn't understand why you are doing the "sitting in the kitchen" trick in the wrong place. It will just stare at you.

My point is that if you learn to lose weight on a diet plan . . . all you learned is how to lose weight on a diet plan. After you lose your ten pounds you stop the plan and return to your normal diet. You don't know how to lose weight on your normal diet. Now you're the dog in the living room looking puzzled when someone says, "sit."

Okay, so those are all the things that don't work. So what does work?

Beats me. I'm not a doctor. But I can tell you my story to compare to other folks' accounts and maybe you can see a pattern. What I noticed in myself is that until I reached a critical base of knowledge about diet science I couldn't lose weight no matter how much so-called willpower I brought to it. As a reference point, I have a lot of this thing called willpower. Generally speaking, I simply have to want something badly enough and I'll chew through a concrete wall to get it. But willpower didn't help me lose weight, and it took me decades to learn why. In my defense, science was confused about diet choices until recently too, so the knowledge I needed didn't exist. Now it does.

I've lost 26 pounds from my high adult weight, gradually, over years. None of the improvement is from any sort of "diet." I simple acquired knowledge about nutrition and food science, a bit at a time, year-by-year, until some sort of critical mass was hit. Now I literally eat as much as I want, whenever I want, of whatever I want, and I have the body of a 19-year old swimmer who was tragically born with an old guy's head.

The secret to eating whatever I want is that I systematically reduced my cravings for the wrong food. Now I only want things that happen to be great for my body. And I also experimented for years to find ways to prepare healthy food that doesn't taste like your grandpa's socks. I'm already looking forward to my protein smoothie that is full of berries, almond butter, yogurt, protein powder, chia seeds, almond milk and ice. I get the same pleasure from the smoothie that I once got from ice cream. Sacrifice? Zero. Portion control? Zero. I often have two smoothies in a row just for the pleasure.

As an aside, my efforts in learning to control my food cravings are part of a larger decade-long personal experiment in which I am seeing how much I can reprogram my basic human preferences using science and my knowledge of hypnosis. Preview: So far, almost all of my most basic preferences in life seem reprogrammable. That will be another blog post someday.

If you want links to any of the science I mentioned, I have most of that in my latest book.

You shouldn't listen to cartoonists when it comes to health decisions. All I'm trying to add to the discussion is the idea that knowledge of food science can replace your need for willpower, and that wasn't possible until recently because the knowledge didn't exist. So consider a diet that involves consuming knowledge first. You'll know you have enough knowledge the first time you consciously eliminate a food craving you've had all your life.*

Good luck!

--------------------

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com     
Author of this book 

Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily

Twitter for Scott: @ScottAdamsSays

  *That's a hypnosis trick I just did for you. It's a trigger for the future.

 

 
If you needed to describe the human mind to aliens from another planet, what would be the simplest way to do it? Assume the aliens speak English.

I would tell the aliens that humans form strong bonds with sports teams and enthusiastically cheer for victory. Then I would walk away, done. The aliens, having learned all there is to know about humans, get back in their spacecraft and continue their search for intelligent life.

In my youth, I rooted for my local sports teams. As I matured, I learned that life is just particles bumping into each other according to the rules of physics. What we observe with our five senses is nothing more than the result of all that particle activity. Once that understanding sunk in, I could no longer feel any emotion about the fate of one team versus another. In the universe, shit happens, and sometimes humans are wearing matching uniforms when it does. Why would that excite me?

I think the answer lies in the illusion of free will.

If you believe humans have free will then it makes sense to see a sporting event as a battle of wills. And maybe, just maybe, your mental concentration and inspirational rooting from home is helping things along. If you believe in free will it is not a stretch to believe that your free will flies from your head into the cloud and interacts with the "will to win" of your favorite team and somehow strengthens it. Thus, you, the fan, are important to the winning process. I can see how that would be exciting.

But if you are scientific-minded, and see no evidence of this thing called free will, you probably see sports as the sum of particles bumping around. It's hard to root for that.

I'm also puzzled by the concept of loving a specific team. A professional sports team is a legal entity with assets that change every year. If the assets change (mostly the players) but you still love your team the same, you're actually rooting for an artificial corporate entity formed for tax and legal purposes. Try explaining that to your aliens.

Perhaps you love your local teams because they are local, so you have something in common and they are representing for you. But realistically, your team is comprised of a bunch of freakish multimillionaires that came from other places. And the minute their contracts expire they are probably gone.

I love playing sports because it jacks up my body chemistry, gives me a cardio workout, has social benefits, and more. But watching other people play sports doesn't entertain me. The exception is major tennis matches, but I watch those more to observe techniques I can borrow.

This all leads me to wonder if there is a strong correlation between religious belief and rooting for a sports team. Both actions require a special kind of belief in free will, and not all of us have that.

So I put the question to you, my blog readers. On a scale from 1 to 10, where do you rank in terms of religious belief and enjoyment of watching sports?

Here's me:

Religious belief: 0
Enjoy watching sports: 2

How about you?

--------------------
Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com    

Author of the best book in the history of humanity

Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily

Twitter for Scott: @ScottAdamsSays

 

 

 
There has been a lot of research on willpower in recent years. The gist of it is that willpower is a limited resource during any given day, so if you use your willpower resisting one temptation you might not have enough to resist the next.

I don't know about you, but my biggest drain on willpower during any given day is my iPhone 6. It calls to me continuously during the day. Often I need to be focusing on something more important, or it would be socially impolite to check my text messages, or I am driving and it would be dangerous. These situations come up all day long. It's mentally exhausting. The conversation in my head goes like this: "Look at phone. DON'T LOOK AT PHONE! Look at phone. DON'T LOOK AT PHONE!" And so on to infinity. The research on habit formation suggests that anyone with a smartphone is having the same experience because the "rewards" of checking your phone are unpredictable, and unpredictable rewards create addiction circuitry in your brain.

Life had enough temptations before smartphones were invented. Personally, my daily willpower drain feels as if it is 100% higher than it was pre-smartphone.

If my hypothesis is correct, smartphone users should have higher obesity rates, drug dependence, spouse abuse, and infidelity rates than non-smartphone users all other things being equal.

I have no data to support my hypothesis, but it is built on fairly solid assumptions:
  1. Willpower is a finite resource.
  2. The reward from checking your phone is unpredictable and creates addiction/habit circuitry in your brain.
  3. Resisting your smartphone addiction all day requires willpower.
  4. You need willpower to resist unhealthy choices.
I'm pro-technology and I don't suggest we return to an agrarian civilization. But am I wrong that smartphones are killing us?
--------------------

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com     

Author of this book 

Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily

Twitter for Scott: @ScottAdamsSays

 
Here's a short video of Katie Curic interviewing an entrepreneur with a device like the one I described a few posts ago to prevent teens from driving and texting.

The difference, I think, is that in my concept I required one driver to register as the designated driver in order for the car to start.

I can't tell if there is an easy way for teens to defeat the product in the video. But if the teen only has one car, and the device is in it, I can see it working well so long as it also notifies a parent whenever the device is removed from the port.


 
 
 
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