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  •                                 NETFUTURE
                Technology and Human Responsibility for the Future
    Issue #30      Copyright 1996 O'Reilly & Associates       October 24, 1996
                Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                         On the Web: http://netfuture.org
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    *** Editor's note
          Death Software
          Interactive Couch Potatoes
    *** Privacy in an age of data (part 3) (Stephen L. Talbott)
          Conviction-driven versus data-driven transactions
    *** About this newsletter

    *** Editor's note

    Death Software

    A couple of items from the news:

    Reuters recently reported that "the computer software and instruction kit for the death machine used in the world's first legal mercy killing will soon be available on the Internet."

    Philip Nitschke, an Australian doctor, describes his machine as a "slicker" version of Dr. Jack Kevorkian's suicide device. After receiving an intravenous line, the patient must respond three times to the computer's question whether he wants to go ahead with the suicide. Then the lethal drugs begin flowing into his open vein.

    The first notch on the machine's keyboard was thanks to an Australian cancer sufferer, on September 22. If you're interested in the software and instructions, you should be able to download them from a web page shortly. Building the equipment will put you out about $160, not covered by most life insurance policies. (I hear rumors that some companies are preparing new death insurance policies to guarantee against failure of the machine, and to lighten the burden on those who unexpectedly find themselves having to endure loved ones.)

    As is typical in the industry, product cycles are short. A new, more user-friendly version is already in beta test. It employs a mask and carbon monoxide. "When people get too old and frail," Nitschke observes, "it can be very difficult to get access to veins, and gas is a much easier way to go."

    No word yet on the ergonomic ratings for the devices.

    [The story is for real. The human suffering it touches upon is immense. The bad taste, unfortunately, is intrinsic to the story.]

    Interactive Couch Potatoes

    For those more interested in a living stupor, the convergence of the Net and television continues apace. Microsoft has announced that its online service is being restructured to present six "channels" and twenty "shows." These will save save you the work of surfing for pages of interest. A pre-selected mix of content and fun activities will be beamed at you. The next year should see $100 million in promotion.

    Meanwhile, a consortion of almost every high-tech company that counts (excluding Microsoft) is working on a "Real Time Streaming Protocol" that will allow television-like graphics to show up on your screen. And, of course, on yet another front networking technology is being brought to the tele