Tag Archives: China

The Party’s Over: It’s A New Generation Now

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And so the fallout from Edward Snowden continues. As the saga draws on (is he about to become a Russian citizen or not?) we overlook the bigger story: the Internet, as we know it, is dead.

As reported in The Guardian, the Internet is facing several inexorable trends: balkanization along nationalistic lines, the outreach of governments and outright commercial control.

When first instituted, the Internet was regarded as an open, totally free place of informational exchange: an ‘Interzone’ of sorts (to coin William Gibson) but now as time marches on, this is no longer accurate. Now, China and other nations routinely censor and control input and output of Internet access: Twitter is throttled, Google is curbed along with a host of other outlets. In some nations, the notion of a free and open Internet is practically banned outright, while in the so-called bastions of freedom (United States, Great Britain and Western Europe as a whole) internet surveillance is now the norm.

In the meantime, we’re starting to see pricing schemes reflective of the (overlooked) class system: if you want more Internet access (or more speed / faster access) you can expect to pay more for it. Libraries both domestically and internationally are facing cutbacks and thus limiting even more access for those who do not possess a computer, while premiums are being put in place on those who wish to participate on the so-called medium of ‘free exchange’.

In John Naughton’s excellent article, “Edward Snowden’s Not the Story. The Fate of the Internet Is” (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jul/28/edward-snowden-death-of-internet) these issues were illustrated with a striking clarity.

And if you think you’re safe reading this article, better start changing the way you think. Of course, there’s the old chestnut: if you’re doing nothing wrong, then there’s nothing to worry about.

Wrong.

People make mistakes, especially in government, law enforcement and the military. It’s not too uncommon for wrongful arrests to take place; false accusations to spread or outright misunderstandings to take place leaving in the wake of ruined lives, reputations and personal financial disasters.

And now, as recently reported by Glenn Greenwald, low-level NSA (National Security Agency) employees can readily access emails, phone records and other information. (Really? No kidding!) So if you’re a file clerk who happens to be working for the NSA, you can review your family, friends or neighbors phone records, internet trolling history or other information (such as keeping tabs on that girl who dumped you last month).

If you just happen to be involved in a domestic dispute or a lawsuit with a government or corporate entity, expect to see your records accessed and reviewed as a matter of course.

It’s obvious ‘file access’ of these and other types routinely take place in various levels of government within the United States beyond just the federal levels. Sometimes, data accessed is utilized for political purposes: somebody running for office seeking out information about their worthy adversary. Other times, it’s for personal reason: divorce, outright personal hostility and an agenda of revenge. Don’t think it can’t happen: it does – and it happens more often than folks care to admit, taking place beyond just the federal level as well. Local governments and their officials have increasingly been caught reviewing private citizen records, through such supposedly secure information bases as NCIC (National Crime Information Center), credit history lookups, billing histories along with a host of other sources.

But what is remarkable is the lack of public response. You’d think with Glenn Greenwald’s recent expose, they’d be a bigger outcry. In fact, just the opposite: we’re witnessing a generational change. What was once a sacred domain – privacy – is now becoming a thing of the past. Younger generations are surrendering their privacy in a multitude of ways – putting up pictures of their ‘lost’ weekend  on Facebook; running commentary and personal attacks on social boards; personal commentary depicting their sexual activity or other ‘personal ‘ issues on their Twitter accounts – the list goes on.

Although privacy is still a sore point with a number of folks, the younger generation coming up are akin to those old timers who lived during the atomic age: expecting a blow up to happen, the atomic age generation held a diffident viewpoint of life with an expectation of being blown up at some point. Now, in the age of Big Brother, the younger generation is becoming inured to the notion of being watched 24 x 7, going about their business and even posting some of their more intimate scenes in public settings because, well, that’s what a lot of people do.

This one of the fallout of living in the Age of Surveillance: one becomes used to being watched and, in fact, embraces it to the point where they simply let it all hang out. Expecting our records to be reviewed and exposed is something many now expect. Sure, folks aren’t thrilled by it, but what are you gonna do about it? – so goes the argument.

All of this is bad enough, but add into the mix the notion of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and bizarre (disturbing) alliances – such as the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and Amazon coming together (see my prior post on this development), along with Google’s all-out effort’s to develop AI (likewise posting earlier), things are taking on a darker trend: it will soon be more than just being able to read your information, but actually read who you are – and what you’re really about, even if you don’t know yourself.

Prediction: expect to see Internet profiling to become the new norm. Just as we’ve witnessed the distasteful practice of racial profiling undertaking by State law enforcement officials on the national highways, we can expect to see something similar taking place in the coming years via our records, our book and music purchases along with any other activity we undertake.

So next time, if you can, remember to bend over and give the camera a moon; we all could use a laugh.

Let’s all give the AI’s something to mull over.

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The Next Evolutionary Stage of World Economics

world-in-black-and-white-handsWe may be sure that out of the ruins of our capitalist civilization a new religion will emerge, just as Christianity emerged from the ruins of the Roman civilization.
– Herbert Read

Although it’s been nearly twenty-four (24) years since the Berlin Wall fell, presaging the official end of Communism as a viable economic alternative to Capitalism, the fact remains that Capitalism as an economic model faces its greatest challenge (and no, I certainly am not referring to the Occupy Now movement, which has simply fizzled out into total oblivion) nor the Pan-Islamic movement commonly referred to vaguely in its various guises as ‘Al Queda’.

Capitalism’s greatest challenge is itself in the face of limited natural resources and global climate / instability.

It’s a scientific fact: no matter what kind of number you put on it there is only a finite amount of resources with which we can obtain, remold and sell as products for our homes, businesses and societies. Processes which were outlandish notions but thirty years ago are now major economic driving forces (read: Fracking and the economic exploitation of shale for oil) to the point where apartments in the far reaches of the Dakotas and Nebraska in the continental United States are now reaching monthly rental rates similar to midtown Manhattan, New York; these and other actions reflect the quiet desperation our notion of economic life is now undergoing.

Whether you like him or not (ah, I recall the joys of reading ‘Das Kapital’ as required reading back in my college days  – akin to running naked into a cactus repeatedly!) fact is, Karl did make some good points (revolutionary rhetoric aside) standing the test of time – among them that the capitalism is spreading the seeds of its own demise.

But Marx made his primary assumption upon the nature of human’s rebelling against their economic conditions (which, hopefully is not totally forgotten as, after all, even one of our own founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, pointed out a ‘revolution every twenty years is a good thing for a country’). Sadly, though, this is not likely for a variety of reasons, not the least of which Marx did not foresee the strength of technology (1984, anyone?) nor did he anticipate the ‘new’ opium – not of religion as he so denounced – but rather the powerful drug of consumption and the consumer society.

No, the revolution will be coming and it will be televised – but it won’t be pretty.

In recent years, numerous studies display a consistent rise in warming conditions within our global climate. This rise, coupled with growing international tension for ever more limited resources (as but one example, watch the nations of Norway, Canada and the Russian Federation jockey for power within the Arctic Circle as each stakes their claim for untapped oil reserves), we’re likely to see ever greater social dislocations and uncertainty. The ability to rationally control political events is diminishing over time; we’re increasingly faced with a rather precarious and disturbing future, forced to make hard choices at a fast and furious rate with fewer positive outcomes – and potentially without any careful thinking or forethought creating, in turn, a vicious cycle of demanding situations followed by more hurried choices.

But you, as an apologist of capitalistic thought will say, ‘it is human nature to be capitalistic; after all, we are greedy and competitive at heart and thus capitalism is the perfect economic reflection of the human condition’.

Perhaps, but the human condition is not matching up with the bottom line reality of the world: diminishing resources and rising nationalistic tensions hungry for the capture of these resources, coupled with growing social insecurity and climate instability does not bode well for any economic system based upon the survival of the fittest. The losers will not readily capitulate nor are they likely going to go down meekly.  And if you don’t believe that, consider a world in which, twenty years from now, is dominated by, say, China who’s first move as a major global leader is to annex Alaska or make a move on U.S. territorial interests in and around the Panama Canal. Don’t think it could happen? Surprise! For all practical purposes, it already has: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/world/china-eyes-panama-canal-expansion/story-e6frg90o-1225827691243.

And please don’t tell a red-blooded American patriot that they wouldn’t take losing laying down as naturally, such folks would fight back even though by the time such were to come to pass it’d probably be a hopeless fight (recalling the now forgotten quote by one General Douglas MacArthur, former commander of U.S./U.N. forces during the Korean War: “never get involved in a land war in Asia”).

Such is the nature of capitalism: there are always winners and losers – and ironically, what has been assumed all these mere two (2) centuries capitalism existed (just ask Adam Smith) is that most folks think they’re among the winners – when in fact, the intrinsic nature of capitalism demands that most are losers as there can only be but a few owners – if not one – within a capitalistic system. And sadly, most losers don’t even know that they are in fact, among the losers – the exploited – in such a system. Such is the nature of the Capitalist Con: it’s a beautiful thing when you’re on the “inside” but otherwise, it’s best to simply stay ignorant and go about your life.  Catch is, however, the capitalist con is being exposed more and more: witness the recent 2008 market crash and the constant stream of tax payer bailouts and the growing realization that clearly, this is a system which favors the haves over the have-nots – period. Traditionally, folks turned to government to create a sense of balance – even despite the tacitly accepted assumption of corruption and control, but at least there was some measure of keeping up appearances. No more: it’s now pretty much a foregone conclusion that governments operating within a capitalist framework are failures (a thought shared even amongst the die-hard apologists of Capitalism and the Free-Market advocates). Some things you can no longer ignore and simply wave off as mere discussion, not when your price of fuel and food keeps rising and the job opportunities are reduced in value while elected officials ignore you or are too busy dithering with each other to be of any practical governing value.

Capitalism by its inherent nature does not have a long-term future as the human global condition can no longer depend upon this economic approach.

The signs are all about us, just as they were for prior civilizations about to undergo dramatic evolutionary changes.

As for communism – forget it. It failed – period. In the words of Jefferson Davis, first (and only) President of the Confederate States of America when asked what had happened to the Confederacy: “it died of a theory”. Communism rested upon several precepts and assumptions which failed to materialize – among them the willingness of an educated and charged populace to be consistently and actively involved in their own self-governance chief, along with a leadership willing to conduct themselves in a measure of self-sacrifice, along with a whole host of other points which we’ll review later on.

Regardless of how you feel about either Capitalism or Communism, it’s time to check out some viable alternatives; stick around with this blog in the coming weeks and let’s see what’s out there worth checking out.