Alibi V.28 No.12 • March 21-27, 2019 

Odds & Ends

Odds and Ends

Dateline: China

A mysterious online database that lists over a million Chinese women and their “BreedReady” status was recently discovered by accident. Forbes reports that a Dutch ethical hacker Victor Gevers was looking for insecure Chinese databases when he found one allegedly set up by an organization to track the “BreedReady” status of 1.8 million Chinese women, most of whom live in Beijing. Each entry reportedly listed the woman's age, phone number, address, education, location, ID number, marital status and a BreedReady number of 1 or 0. “The youngest girl in this database is 15y,” Gevers tweeted. “The youngest woman with BreedReady: ‘1’ status is 18y. The average age is a bit above 32y, and the most aged woman with a BR:1 is 39 and with a BR:0 is 95y. All are single [89%], divorced [10%] or widow [1%]. About 82% lives in [Beijing].” Gevers is the founder of GDI.Foundation, a nonprofit organization that tracks down online vulnerabilities and notifies their owners. Earlier this year, he made headlines for discovering “SenseNet,” an online database that used facial recognition software and GPS metadata to track Xinjiang Muslims. The purpose and owner of the “BreedReady” database are unclear. It was taken offline following Gevers' initial tweet. According to BBC News, China is currently seeing a decline in birth rates. Authorities predict the number of Chinese women aged 23 to 30 will decrease by 40 percent over the next 10 years.

Dateline: New Jersey

Two sons looking to play a birthday prank on their father got more than they asked for when tens of thousands of people responded to their handiwork. According to The New York Times, Michael and Christopher Ferry moved to Florida from New Jersey over five years ago. The two men have been playing birthday pranks on their father, Chris Ferry, since they were children. Last week, the two men executed what they have deemed the “ultimate prank” by paying to place Mr. Ferry's face and phone number on a billboard in Ventnor City, N.J., with the message, “Wish my dad a happy birthday.” The sons said they anticipated a few friends and locals to call the number, but a selfie of their father standing in front of the billboard unexpectedly went viral on social media. The family says Mr. Ferry has received over 20,000 telephone calls and thousands of texts. Well-wishers have hailed from as far away as Germany, the Philippines and Kenya. “He’s actually handled it really well,” said Michael, “but … he was a bit overwhelmed.” Mr. Ferry is reportedly purchasing a new phone line. The billboard will remain up until April 6.

Dateline: Australia

A new study reveals that death metal does not cause listeners to become desensitized toward violence. Researchers at Macquarie University's music lab in Sydney, Australia, used a song by death metal band Bloodbath to test fans' sensitivity to violence. During the experiment, subjects were asked to listen to “Eaten,” a song which describes acts of cannibalism, while two different images were displayed—one to each eye. One image showed a violent scene, while the other showed an inoffensive one. Lead researcher Yanan Sun told BBC News that the technique is called “binocular rivalry.” When most people are shown these conflicting images, they will pay more attention to the violent image. It is presumed that this behavior is based on the biological need to recognize threats in the environment. If death metal caused desensitization to violence in its fans, the theory follows, then they should show a diminished response to the violent images in these pairings. However the study found that they showed the same bias toward processing the violent images as those who don't listen to death metal. As a comparison, the scientists also played the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, for participants. There was no discernible difference in their response. Professor Bill Thompson, another researcher on the team, says the results should help allay parents' fears about their children being exposed to death metal. “If fans of violent music were desensitised to violence, which is what a lot of parent groups, religious groups and censorship boards are worried about, then they wouldn't show this same bias,” he said. “The dominant emotional response to this music is joy and empowerment.”

Dateline: The Simulation (Texas)

The founder of a self-driving startup company says the human race is trapped in a simulation—and he wants to break everyone out. Earlier this month, Comma.ai founder George Hotz told a crowd at SXSW that there is a high likelihood that humanity is unknowingly living in a simulation created and observed by extraterrestrials, supernatural beings or a highly advanced artificial intelligence during a lecture titled “Jailbraking the Simulation.” According to the SXSW schedule of events, Hotz's speech would raise questions like “Can we get out? Meet God? Kill him?” Hotz is not alone in this theory, known widely as “Simulation Theory.” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has famously remarked on numerous occasions that he believes we are probably living in a computer simulation. During a conference in 2016, Musk told those gathered: “If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then [video] games will become indistinguishable from reality … It would seem to follow that the odds that we're in a base reality is one in billions.” Hotz told his audience that not only does he believe that simulation theory is correct, he wants to break humanity out of the game. To do this he plans to start a religion dedicated to freeing humanity from the simulation. “With companies, you only really lose,” he said. “I think churches might be much more aligned toward these goals, and the goal of the church would be realigning society’s efforts toward getting out.”

Compiled by Joshua Lee. Email your weird news to josh@alibi.com.