Saturday 5 November 2011

An argument against Chinese economic collapse

Investment in telecommunications & information technology will prevent the economic collapse of the modern Chinese state.  

George Friedman, stratfor founder, has long argued that China is doomed in the long run due to the wealth disparity between the coastal region and the interior. He believes this wealth disparity will lead to political instability and the collapse of China.

His argument: The cost of transporting goods determines how wealthy a region can be, coastal regions on ocean trade routes can be rich while internal regions with no river transportation network will be poor (water is the most cost effective way of transporting goods). He sees the growing wealth disparity leading to political instability (as it has in the past) which can only be resolved with a Maoist type equalisation of wealth, In Mao's case he made everyone equally poor with his bad policies but maintained China's political integrity against western encroachment.

I think Friedman's argument may have overlooked information networks. The internet is a very low cost way of transporting information, furthermore the percentage of GDP which is made up of information goods and services is increasing and will continue to increase. I think the consumption of information goods and services will reach a point where it accounts for over 80% of GDP in the next 20-30 years. I can't back this up with hard facts and this prediction is reliant on an exponential growth in information technology as postulated by Vernor Vinge (accelerating change) and  Ray Kurzweil (law of accelerating returns). These predictions are both to a large part based of Moore's law. My basic argument would be, with the exponential growth in computing power, the proportion of GDP that would be made up of information goods will increase.

China will have 1.3 billion people all speaking the same language as their 'base network' for information creation and propagation, giving them the critical mass to compete with the English speaking west. Metcalfe's law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system meaning the number of human minds generating information on China.Net will become the primary measure of economic strengthIn this case, provided China has a solid internet infrastructure, the quality of life of its inland citizens should not be that much worse than those in the coastal regions. It will be worse in terms of the consumption of tangible goods, but the information goods and services should help alleviate this (at least enough to prevent political upheaval).

China invested a total of 4.3 trillion yuan (630 billion U.S. dollars) in Internet infrastructure construction from 1997 to 2009 (see here), By the end of 2009 the number of netizens in China had reached 384 million, 618 times that of 1997 with an annual increase of 31.95 million users. Furthermore the Chinese white paper on internet policy issued last year states China intends to make the internet accessible to 45% of its population by 2015.

As you can see, provided English continues its colonization of the European Union, West.Net and China.Net will have approximately the same number of people interacting in the same language. A side question: will India.Net be dominated by English or Hindi?

Friday 6 May 2011

US targeted killings: Osama - Yamamoto comparison

Given the recent media fire-storm over the killing of Osama bin Laden, I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the operation to the killing of Admiral Yamamoto, a historic American ‘enemy number one’, during WWII. Both operations involved the targeted killing of a figurehead/leader responsible for an 'unprovoked' attack on the United States. Both killings were for home front propaganda,  and both showcase the exceptional intelligence gathering capabilities of the United States.

Edit: It turns out US Attorney General, Eric Holder has used the same comparison as a legal justification of Osama's assassination (see here). To misquote Voltaire, "God is always on the side of the big battalions."


Isoroku Yamamoto was commander-in-chief of the Japanese Navy and was responsible for planning and executing the Japanese attack on Pearl Habour, which brought America into the WWII. Osama bin Laden was the  founder of al-Qaeda and held overall responsibility for the September 11 attacks, which unleashed America's War on Terror.

Both targeted killings were largely for propaganda / moral boosting purposes, not for any tactical reason. Osama had been so far removed from Al Qaeda command and control he no longer had any tactical significance to the organisation, while in Admiral Yamamoto’s case, the Japanese had already lost the crucial Battle of Midway in which the allies had destroyed a majority of Japan’s carrier fleet, eliminating a large chunk of their capability in the pacific, which lead to Japan’s eventual capitulation. 

Both attacks were executed using an exceptional military intelligence gathering apparatus, which made the tactical execution of both missions as difficult as shooting fish in a barrel:

With Yamamoto, allied code breakers had deciphered a Japanese radio message of the scheduled tour Yamamoto was planning to make to the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, which included his scheduled destinations and flight times. President Roosevelt ordered the Navy to "get Yamamoto.”  and it was only a matter of sending a bunch of fighters to intercept his aircraft and shoot him down.

With Osama, the interrogation of a terrorist got the name of one of Osama’s courier’s. Next a Pakistani spy saw him in Abottabad, spy satellites used facial recognition technology to identify Osama exercising in the back yard [Edit: That might be a load of BS, latest take was it was Osama's oldest wife who snitched, pissed off he only banged his youngest wife]. President Obama ordered the Navy to “get Osama.” once again, the rest was timing. Navy SEALs had been practising the operation over a month before the raid took place, using a custom built replica of his compound! The date chosen had more to do with Obama’s re-election campaign then anything else.


The main difference between the two operations relates again to the desired propaganda / public relations outcomes of the killings. 

The killing of Yamamoto was quite impersonal, fighters shoot down his plane, it crashes, and he dies. The Japanese navy reports he is dead and this cannot easily be hidden as he is not in hiding like Osama was.

Obama wanted proof that Osama he was dead, using a B2 bomber to flatten his house would have achieved the same tactical purpose of killing Osama, but this was a PR campaign and it would not have achieved the right results as it may have been impossible to identify his body,  in which case his death could be denied by Al Qaeda. So instead a hit squad was sent to kill him and bring the body back as evidence.

The problem with the hit squad approach is it can make America seem like the bad guy, when you send 25 SEAL’s in to kill an unarmed man in cold blood in front of his daughter and wife, it doesn’t look right, even if it is Osama.

So that’s when your press spin doctor’s make up a ‘fire fight’ (which didn’t happen), Osama being armed (not true) and using his wife as a human shield (also not true) in order to vilify the man and make a point blank cold blooded execution palatable to the public.

Washington spin doctors probably would have got away with it, if it hadn’t been for the fact one of the SEAL’s helicopters had a technical malfunction and could not take off. The plan had been to use that helicopter to transport the woman and children left behind away so that they could not tell the true story of what happened to the Pakistani intelligence service. The reason the story changed from what was originally told by the US administration to what actually happened has nothing to do with 'fog of war' but is because Osama’s daughter was an eye witness in his execution.

What this means for the future
The irony is if a B2 bomber had flattened the compound, Osama would be dead along with all the women and children (as unfortunate collateral damage) and yet it would sit more cleanly on our collective conscience then if we go in a shoot someone at point blank range. The bombing de-personalises the killing but achieves the same purpose, in the same way Yamamoto's killing was depersonalised by being in a plane that was shot down.

The implications of this are scary, hunter-killer robotic drones such as the MQ-9 Reaper are being used with great tactical success in the Pakistan / Afghanistan region to target militant leaders, and no one bats an eyelid about it. But if you were to think about it in reference to say - The Terminator - as does:

Once we can make humanoid robotic soldiers like the terminator to do our dirty-work we will. If a robot had gone into the compound and mown down Osama and his family you again depersonalise what is happening. Killing of the family could be an ‘unfortunate programming error’. Not only that, you no longer need highly trained troops that while brainwashed into efficient killing machines, still need to believe what they are doing is right. If the governing elite control both the media and the robotic killing machines they can pretty much do anything they want. All the human rights we think we have won can be lost to the doublespeak of the state (espousing human rights and freedoms while taking them away). Human life once again could be on track to being worthless.

Friday 18 February 2011

Unrest in Middle East - history repeating

While looking at Stratfor's map of social unrest in the middle east today, it struck me that ALL of the Arab portions (Iraq and Palestine-Israel are US clients) of the former Ottoman Empire are experiencing unrest:

Former territories of the Ottoman Empire
The Arab portion of the Ottoman Empire was split into nation states by the Allies after World War One. Puppet monarchs friendly to western interests were installed, some of which are still around.

Lets look at the similarities between the Ottoman Empire and the nation states of today:

The Ottoman Empire was divided into a number of administrative units called Eyalets, which are similar to the nation states that now exist, each Eyalet was ruled by a governor appointed by the sultan. These governors were notoriously corrupt as was the rest of the government sector. Bribes were required for everything. Government officials would spend their career building up vast ill-gotten fortunes, often used to 'buy' their next promotion.

So what about social unrest in the Ottoman Empire? From Britannica:

Social Unrest
These conditions were exacerbated by large population growth during the 16th and 17th centuries, part of the general population rise that occurred in much of Europe at this time. The amount of subsistence available not only failed to expand to meet the needs of the rising population but in fact fell as the result of the anarchic political and economic conditions. Social distress increased and disorder resulted.

We have exactly the same conditions in the contemporary Arab states - massive population growth, very high unemployment (especially amongst  the young), stagnating economies and very corrupt governments with leaders amassing vast fortunes from corruption. The recently deposed president of Egypt - Hosni Mubarak - is estimated to be worth between 40 and 70 billion US dollars.

The history of the middle east is that of governors and despots being cyclically overthrown by stronger strongmen. Alexander the Great took over a corrupt Persian state apparatus from Darius. Hannibal got dealt to by Scipio, Mark Antony and Cleopatra got dealt to by Octavian. The Romans held the middle east until they were dealt to by Vandals, Arabs and Turks, who were just as bad. Perhaps geopolitical theory would argue the geography of the middle east favours corrupt dictatorships?

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Trade-off between quality of dream and level of lucidity?

I've been having a number of semi-lucid dreams. These are dreams in which I am aware I am dreaming but still play along with the plot of the dream. I have been wondering why I do this, as opposed to performing experiments on my dream scape.

Dreams can be fun: the have intense plots where you can do outrageous things that you can't do in real life. This I am beginning to believe, is the reason I remain semi-lucid. When thinking about my dream experiences I am beginning to notice the more lucid I am, the less activity there is in the dream. As my lucidity increases the stimulus in my dream environment decreases. I stay only semi-lucid because I want to 'ride the wave' of my dream.

This leads me to think that perhaps as the lucid conscious process ramps up it starves resources from the dream construct, almost like there is a trade-off between the two - only so many brain resources. As in a sense reality is a constructed story, perhaps when we don't have a majority of reality construction outsourced to the real world there has to be a trade-off of what can be achieved with the brains finite resources.

Its almost like the high level constructs the reality and the reptilian experiences it.

My health routine