Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What's all this about?

If you didn't understand a thing I said so far, don't worry... it's because I'm going kuku. All I ask is
1. Continue reading as much as your patience allows.
2. Ask me to clarify whatever it is that I'm not clear about.
3. Hold the ideas and thoughts you come across in your mind, see if they could be somehow possible, stretch your imagination a bit if that might help and just gently play with them... without judging them. The ideas entered your mind for a reason. They want to be held close by you for a few moments and acknowledged. They want to be pondered over.


  1. Over breakfast this morning I got into a debate with a friend about threats to humanity in the near future. I argued that anthropomorphic influence on the environment and climate represented the greatest threat in the 21st century. He, on the other hand, picked up his smartphone and said “these are the greatest threat.” He didn’t mean the phones themselves, but the technology they represented – connectivity that made all vulnerable to snoops.

    That brought to mind Edward Snowden’s recent leaks reported in The Washington Post, showing us that 90% of conversations, texts and emails sent over telecommunications networks are intercepted and have nothing to do with legitimate targeted surveillance. And to make matters worse, the captured data by organizations like the National Security Agency where Snowden worked as a contractor, is being retained. This captured data which you and I would consider personal and private, is now in the hands of an agency that appears to have few limits put on its authority.

    So my friend had a point when he pointed to his smartphone. Every picture you take, every text you send, every phone call you make, is no longer private. And this is not limited to transmissions through mobile networks. Your WiFi home network is as vulnerable. Your land line phone calls which today are converted from analog to digital signals may also be intercepted as they travel from you to the person on the receiving end. Privacy is vanishing rapidly. So should we be worried? Absolutely and when we elect our governments we should be holding them to account on the issue of what is private and should remain so.

    But getting back to our debate on greatest threats, I couldn’t help but think that we have seen cycles of this type of invasive and irrational “fear stoked” behavior in the past by governments. We have had Soviet Communist invasive behavior. We have seen fascist and Nazi invasive behavior. We have had McCarthyism. We have profiled people by the colour of their skin and shape of their eyes and displaced them in times of war. We have discriminated and murdered people because of their cultural heritage and beliefs. So is this behavior today much different than the past? Only in scale because we have the technology to reach further into private lives than ever before all because we are addicted to a telecommunications revolution that makes two-way communication ubiquitous. And with that comes the dark side.

    On the other hand, our influence on the environment is more subtle than eavesdropping on conversations. When sea levels rise they go up in fractions of millimeters per year. You don’t notice the change that much because it is gradual and insidious. Climate scientists like to talk about the frog sitting in pot of water being heated on a stove. The frog doesn’t know to jump out until it boils to death. That’s the threat to humanity that I see as most compelling because we can ignore its insidious effects more easily.

    1. "You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it." - Scott McNealy, Former CEO of Sun Microsystems

  2. LOL. Oddly enough it works both ways, here's an abstract from the mole in the system processing development reports on complex structures on the macro-, micro- and nanoscale is genuinely exciting & scary!

    ( Being able to create new metamaterials, engineered to have properties not usually found in natural materials, could open the door to many new types of tools. Possibilities include new sensors, stretchable electrodes that could be used in robotics or nanomanipulators, tiny machines that can move things around with nanometer precision.

    Stretchable electrodes would allow highly conformable or flexible electronics and sensors to be incorporated into synthetic skin or flesh, such as in robots or artificial limbs, while retaining full functionality. We could even visualize such flexible electrodes and sensors being used in nanobugs.)

    Creepy crawly - get me outta here says the guy who thought GMO Tardigrades might be a good idea. Sadly human extinction might be a good thing before we create another monster that eats 200 other species a day!!! Bombs away