Cybersecurity, Robotics, Philosophy, Mourning, Worldbuilding

A weekly selection of fine writing from Conked.


Update from Rand

I am so excited! This week we are bringing you an On Deck Writers trifecta: we have a piece written by an ODW1 Fellow, Robert Terrin; that has been published in her new magazine, Symposeum, by Rachel King, an ODW1 Fellow; and finally as another ODW1 Fellow, it has been conked by me here!

Thermodynamics of Cybersecurity

Robert Terrin | Symposeum | Issue 1 Spring 2021

A great piece, written, published and conked by On Deck Writers! It has been fifty years since the internet was invented and nearly forty years since the advent of the World Wide Web. Yet last year, 2020, was the worst year for cybersecurity. As examples of the difficult transition to a digital economy, last year, 18,000 customers were impacted by the SolarWinds breach, and the rise in ransomware and misinformation campaigns, often on social media. The question of “Where can we improve cybersecurity?” actually offers hope in risk management: avoidance, transfer, and acceptance; reinforce the weak points, often the transition points of software end-of-life, development and patches. These are all points for vulnerability and should not be taken for granted due to new security flaws and attacks. (2,597 words)

Boston Dynamics’ Robot Dog Is Now Armed—in the Name of Art

Will Knight | Wired | 22 FEBRUARY 2021

Boston Dynamics, an American engineering and robotics design company, has achieved huge YouTube views with their viral videos of their robots dancing, working in a warehouse or completing obstacle courses. They have also created Spot, an agile mobile doglike robot, controlled by a tablet application and its own built-in cameras. Now internet collective MSCHF, who often carry out meme-worthy pranks, have added a paintball gun to Spot that allows others to control it within a simulated art gallery. The concept of Spot's Rampage has made its creators unhappy as they say its "terms of use prohibit violent uses of the robot." (692 words)

Remembering Karl Popper

David Cohen | Quillette | 22 FEBRUARY 2021

Austrian-born Karl Popper was a philosopher, social commentator and academic who moved to New Zealand in 1937, via Great Britain, thereby escaping the Final Solution in Vienna. He was influenced by his father, a lawyer with great knowledge and learning who accumulated a library of over 15,000 books. He lived in New Zealand for eight years, where he wrote a book considered a very influential work of political philosophy - The Open Society and Its Enemies. The focus of this book was Plato, Hegel, and Marx, all of whom he criticises for their inability to tolerate informed criticism and thoughts on how societies should be organised. (2,780 words)

Death in the Age of Facebook

Sandy Pool | The Walrus | 23 FEBRUARY 2021

Writer and academic Sandy Pool learnt her mother was dead from a Facebook post by her uncle just as she was about to board an international flight. She asks, "If your mother dies on Facebook, is it true?". After she and her sister got access to her mother's Facebook account, she spent time scrolling and analysing her posts and obsessively rereading her messages. She considers if Facebook is her mother's digital urn while explaining the family struggle and resolution of what would in fact make the perfect vessel for her ashes. Throughout the essay, Pool quotes Roland Barthes and his writing about his mother's death, including: “No sooner has she departed than the world deafens me with its continuance.”. (1,848 words)

How to Build a World

Brent Ryan Bellamy | Public Books | 23 FEBRUARY 2021

Worldbuilding is the process and creation of a fictional world or universe, complete with who inhabits this world, and their politics, governance, culture, social relations and economics. In the university course on worldbuilding taught by the author, it is, in part, essential to understand that all of these factors shape life. Before students commence making their own world, they study existing "storyworlds" to see the lessons to be gained about genre, scope, medium and timeline before working collaboratively on their own worlds. "Thinking about fictional worldbuilding—using frameworks, instruments, and measurements—can help us to understand how we might build better ones in the here and now." (2,169 words)


“I am interested in language because it wounds or seduces me.”
―Roland Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text

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Rand Leeb-du Toit, Conkerer

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