Docket 14-002: Killer Robots, iCloud, and Hobby Lobby

This episode’s a short one, so I can get this damn thing out and move on to Episode Three before all my stories are out of date, so:

A quick publishing note:  The episode was written and recorded (though not edited) prior to yesterday’s court ruling in Wisconsin in which Judge Barbara Crabb declared the state’s ban unconstitutional. Crabb did not order that government officials immediately begin issuing licenses to same-sex couples, but she also did not stay her ruling, and some counties have moved on the issue. Wisconsin brings the total number of states in which same-sex marriages are legal to 21.

  • Paul

    Oliver I was listening to the segment concerning Apple’s terms and agreements in iTunes, and it reminded me about something my dad has always said, I was wondering what your thoughts were:

    Now my father is an attorney, but consumer issues and contract law are about as far as possible from his field (the last decade he’s worked for INS/ICE which is immigration law and before that he was a Jag officer in the navy).

    Anyway, whenever we would be installing some new software and the terms and conditions would pop up, he told us that if there is no hope of us understanding or changing our decision as to installing this, that our best option was to not even attempt to read it. He said that in the insanely unlikely event of it somehow ending up in court some day, we could at least honestly testify that we didn’t read a single word of it and thus had no knowledge of the issue.

    He didn’t make this out as an iron clad defense or anything, more like a mitigating-factor-in-your-favor caveat. He would say that similarly when we’d go to a baseball game, the fine print on the tickets saying that “by entering the stadium with this ticket we are not responsible if you are injured” would likely mean nothing in court, because no one actually reads it so it would likely be trumped by the default assumption of reasonable safety in a public place.

    Essentially the advice was that being able to honestly testify
    “I didn’t read a word of it”
    is better than
    “I tried to read it but didn’t really understand”
    “I read it but it seemed ridiculous and it still seems ridiculous today”

    Or at least that’s the gist. In other words: It’s not that pleading ignorance gets you out of breaking the law, but that a contract must be understood by both parties to be valid, so not reading the contract helps to try invalidate the contract at a later date.

    Is there any merit to this ya think? The reasoning sorta makes sense to me……. but then again, my dad once argued after getting a ticket that just because the sign said “no u-turn” doesn’t mean that he wasn’t allowed to make a u-turn and that if he took it to court he would win. …. My mother and I weren’t convinced and eventually we got him to just take traffic school online. Suffice to say, he can make some pretty crazy illogical arguments sound vaguely plausible when he gets going.

    So, I was curious if you had any thoughts on the matter? The policy you outlined that you use (own your own server and say F off to Apple products) is clearly the best option, but given the situation those not so tech savvy face here, whatcha think?

    • Oliver_W_H

      Thanks for the comment, Paul. Good to know the comment system is working! I’m going to respond to your comment in full in Part b of Episode 4, which should drop late tonight or sometime tomorrow. A bar prep session ended up taking priority over recording today, so I can’t guarantee the episode tonight.

      Thanks for listening!

      • Paul

        Awesome 🙂 I’m stoked! This podcast is excellent by the way. I stumbled over here after hearing you give the Farnsworth quote on the Scathing Atheist.

        I hope you will eventually find a job that leaves enough time for you to continue this podcast while working. I didn’t realize till I started listening, but there was a big gaping hole in the secular humanist podcast community for a show just like this.

        The only real piece of input I’d give as to improving the show is not to shy away from topics just because theyve been covered elsewhere. Not only do you provide an angle (and humor) which can make a topic fresh again, but all the topics you’ve covered have been so incredibly new and different, that you are far far away from needing to worry about being a regurgitation podcast. I guess what I mean is, don’t burn yourself out by holding too high a standard for every topic to be covered. There’s even been a couple times you’ve mentioned widely reported events that you didn’t want to cover as it’d be boring–but a couple times it was something that myself and I think most listeners would actually really enjoy hearing your take on it.

        Anyway, I know if you continue to do outreach onto other like-minded podcasts that listeners who try one episode will definetly want more. Keep on fighting the good fight 🙂

        • Oliver_W_H

          I’m glad you enjoy it. Yeah, I think the Farnsworth quote has sent more listeners my way in the last week than I had all through the month of June. I owe Noah and Heath big for that. 🙂

          My issue with widely-reported is stories isn’t with the stories themselves, but is more a question of my motivation when I know someone else has already made the same points I would have made, and done it as well or better than I would have. Hence my dropping the FCC/net-neutrality piece. Sure, I could have gone into greater depth than John Oliver was able to given the time constraints he works under, but in the end I agreed with him and his segment was far more entertaining than mine would have been. So my motivation to cover it was close to zero, which would have made it boring for me to write, and probably boring for you to sit through. I’d much rather just tell everyone, “Hey, go watch this YouTube clip,” or “Go listen to such-and-such segment on that podcast over there. They did a great job,” and then use the time i save for a topic that I’m more motivated to cover.

          That being said, I will make an effort to cover even widely-reported stories when I think a topic isn’t being given its due. And hey, if there’s something in particular which you (or anyone else out there) want me to touch on, by all means let me know.

          Thanks again for the feedback, Paul. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one getting something out of this. If you haven’t already, leave me an iTunes review. There’s a link under the banner at the top of the page.

          • Paul

            Have done and will do. I’m not familiar with who John Oliver is, but I will go find out and watch the clip. I’m sure you are right about that specific segment, and probably the others as well.

            I only meant to let you know you that as far as podcasters go (I don’t read blogs much, so for the skeptic blogosphere this might not be true), you are providing a quite unique perspective and expertise than what’s currently out there. In other words, unlike the many different SGU clones all discussing the same stories as each other every week, you will have your entire slice of the market to yourself. At least for the time being.

            I remember after finishing my BS in biochemistry a few years ago I was suddenly not surrounded by other chemistry majors all day every day, and I would be surprised sometimes at how poorly most people understood basic things going on in their own body. Not a perfect analogy, but that’s the gist.

          • Paul

            HOLY SHIT! John Oliver I recognized him now, he used to be on the daily show, and WOW that clip was fucking hilarious and effective — I get it now and can totally understand not feeling it worth your time to attempt a followup to that.

    • Oliver_W_H

      I think as a general day-to-day approach to things, there’s nothing really wrong with
      his approach to things like the terms and conditions on software. I mean, most everyone’s going to use software for exactly what it was designed for, so you’re probably not putting yourself at risk as far as getting sued by the software company is concerned. Suing the company is another issue, though. Lately, the courts have been bending over backward to honor the terms of these agreements, particularly if it includes an arbitration clause. It’s an open question just how effective a lot of these things are, so if you learn that, say, Apple has violated your privacy or something by selling your information, you might be able to sue them in court. Then again, you might not.

      As far as tickets and other things where companies try to absolve themselves of all liability like that, I think by and large he’s right on that one, but it’s going to depend a lot on the
      circumstances and the language itself. A court’s going to be less likely to bind the average citizen to pages and pages of dense legalese than a short clear statement of a waiver or notice of risk. That being said, things like insurance policies are pretty much going to be binding.

      Where traffic laws are concerned, that’s a… unique point of view. I mean, maybe the municipal traffic laws where you live were more lax than is normal. That’s not to say he couldn’t win if he challenged the ticket. The government would have to prove he did a u-turn and it would pretty much be the cop’s word against his. And today, depending on where you are, there’s probably a camera pointed at you from somewhere just by random chance.

      Still, those signs are usually there for a reason, so let’s just all agree to obey them, for everyone’s sake.