Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More like a Catch 22, I see.

With more than 600,000 hacking attempts on Facebook every day, one might be forgiven for asking why we're so willing to share the intimate details of our everyday lives. Apparently, we have absolutely no trouble doing so, if whatever we see there looks good.
Some years ago one of my friends, a former photographic model, decided to participate in a documentary that set out to study the advantages enjoyed by the more attractive people in our society. Part of the process involved her dressing down, changing her posture, and adopting a surly, scowling demeanor. Her job was to engage others in helping and supporting her in a variety of situations. She would then transform back into her normal impeccable self and attempt to replicate this exercise.
What did she experience? As a dowdy shadow of her usual self, she only managed to enlist two out of 15 people to help her. But as soon as her usual gorgeous self re-emerged, 12 out of 15 were more than willing to offer whatever assistance she required. The only difference between the two scenarios was her looks.
An interesting conclusion and, now, a scientifically proven fact. Last week, four scientists from the University of British Columbia published a paper on just how willing we are to open even our most private doors to people of beauty. The Canadian academics used hotornot.com; a site designed to sort the beautiful from the not-so-beautiful people. Then, targeting Facebook, they used the "Hottest" photos when they created 102 robots--or "bots"--whose sole mission was to infiltrate the pages of 5,053 random subscribers to the social media site. Initially, 19% of cases accepted the bots, but when the bots changed tactics and plugged into friend networks, the uptake rose to 59%.
Are we really that fickle? It appears so. As such, we should have no trouble at all imagining an outrageously good-looking woman managing to infiltrate an "enemy" network as in, say, a James Bond scenario. After all, this was the downfall of a disaffected Israeli nuclear technician by the name of Mordechai Vanunu. In 1986, he approached the British press with details of Israel's nuclear program. Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, immediately sprang into action. They sent a beautiful, blonde woman to seduce him. Before he knew it, he was kidnapped, whisked out of England and taken back to Israel, where he was charged with treason. {Read on}