Tuesday 3 September 2013

Will technology empower the individual or lead to our demise?

What does accelerating technological development mean for us as people? Will our voice still be heard? Or are we becoming mere drones in a civilisation sized hive mind?

On the one hand technology is freeing and allows us not to have to labour to do basic things and meet basic needs, it also reduces our individuality, hence our freedom and control over our own lives. Horkheimer and Adorno see this dialectic clearly:
Technology has changed human beings from children into persons. But all such progress of individuation has been at the expense of the individuality in whose name it took place, leaving behind nothing except individuals' determination to pursue their own purposes alone (Dialectic of Enlightenment p. 125). 
Cody Wilson created a blueprint for the first 3-D gun. He claims the project is aimed at reclaiming some sense of individual autonomy.
Cody Wilson: Well there's a guy named Michel Foucault. And I'd recommend that you read him some time. Really I see the battle as one of just trying to remain human and against you know massive forces, anonymous forces of discipline and control that we can't really understand. I don't think there's a massive conspiracy. But I do think the self is under siege and I think liberty itself is under siege...
A lot of people have commented on these impersonal forces, including Kevin Kelly in his great book -What Technology Wants. I think these massive forces Cody is touching on come from the Kevin Kelly's technium
Kelly focuses on human-technology relations and argues for the existence of technology as the emerging seventh kingdom of life on earth. What Technology Wants offers the anthropomorphic conception that technology is one giant force —the technium — which Kelly describes as "...a word to designate the greater, global, massively interconnected system of technology vibrating around us
Here's a couple of quotes from the book:
Look what is coming: Technology is stitching together all the minds of the living, wrapping the planet in a vibrating cloak of electronic nerves, entire continents of machines conversing with one another, the whole aggregation watching itself through a million cameras posted daily. How can this not stir that organ in us that is sensitive to something larger than ourselves?
Technology amplifies the mind's urge toward the unity of all thought, it accelerates the connections among all people, and it will populate the world with all conceivable ways of comprehending the infinite.
So not only is technology going to take your job, it could take your individuality as well.
In order to provent this, we need to clear understanding what individuality is. We need to understand what consciousness is and how it works.

Here's a great waking life excerpt on this from telescopic evolution:
So we can't just ignore the problem. We have to find room in our contemporary world view for persons with all that that entails; not just bodies, but persons. And that means trying to solve the problem of freedom, finding room for choice and responsibility, and trying to understand individuality.

Syrian crisis - hegemony via chaos

War Tard has put out another great article on what's going on in Syria.

Syria is being torn apart by civil war, western strikes will act to ensure the government is too weak to ever regain control over its own state.

Syria has already been fragmented into four states: Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and 'Syria', not to mention the bit Turkey took, plus I guess you could count the occupied territories as a fifth. Now we get Alawite, Kurdish and Sunni mini states. Don't forget Iraq while still nominally a state is effectively three mini states as well: Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish. The next logical step would be to break up Iran in to more manageable chunks of dirt. 

Divide and rule: The Greeks and Romans did it, the British in many ways mastered it and it is still alive and well today.

Noam Chomsky:
"I mean it reaches to the point that the former editor of Foreign Affairs, the main establishment journal, was able to say with a straight face and with no reaction from anyone that the United States had to destabilize Chile under Allende ... had to destabilize the government of Chile and overthrow it and establish a dictatorship in order to bring about stability. It sounds like a contradiction but it isn't when you understand that "stability" has a meaning. It means US control. So we had to destabilize the country that was out of US control in order to bring about stability, and it's the same problem with regard to Iran. It doesn't follow orders and, therefore, it is destabilizing the regional situation."

Thursday 18 July 2013

Google glasses and our future as Borg

This picture showed up on my Google+ feed the other day. I like it but It doesn't go far enough.  There's no Borg.

Allow me to present prediction number 6!

On the left we have Star Trek's Captain Picard who's been assimilated by the Borg hive mind. On the right we have the beautiful Diane von Fristenberg show casing Google glasses.

Combine The Matrix and The Borg and you have our future. We are all going to have an Internet connection plugged directly into our brains. Laptops, phones, and google glasses are stepping stones but they are still rather inefficient mechanisms for information transfer. Google glasses are simply the next baby step.

Think about it: you read text on a screen, your eyes convert the image to electrical signals and send it to your brain for processing. Same with your ears, and your fingers do the reverse. Why not just remove your senses from the equation and send the electrical signals directly to and from the brain? The Borge do, the matrix does and we will soon.

Don't worry it wont be that bad. The thing the Borg did wrong was its PR campaign. Going around threatening people and using violence to force people into the hive isn't the way you win hearts and minds. You get models and celebrities to wear the stuff and everyone else will follow... this is what Google is getting right!

If on first contact the Borg had rocked up to earth with a dolled up seven of nine telling everyone how great the collective is, earth wouldn't have been so anti-assimilation.

Resistance is futile!

Tuesday 16 July 2013

German colonisation of Europe

I really like this 5th century map showing the settlement of Germanic tribes throughout the former western Roman empire, you can explain all of the major western nations from it. One of the points oft neglected in the history books is that the ruling elite of most nation states in Europe was german if you go back to when the roman empire fell apart.

The Franks (Franci) became the rulers of France, and the French still refer to Germans as the Alaman. The poor old Fresians (Frisi) lost half of the netherlands to the Franks. The Frankish language developed into what we would now refer to as Dutch. The franks who ruled France were assimilated. Louis and Ludwig both derive from the german name Clovis, the name of the first king to unite all the Frankish tribes.

The coloured borders are pretty much where the Germanic people end and the Slavic tribes start. The Germans managed to colonise quite a bit of slavic land in the intermittent centuries, however the russians reset the borders a bit when they single-handedly won world war II.

By and large I am not a huge fan of Thatcher, as neoliberal economics is one of the reasons the world economy is in the mess that it is. But, she did say something I find interesting in retrospect in 1989 when german reunification was being discussed: 
"We defeated the Germans twice! And now they're back!"
And right she was. The french realised this as well:
Mitterrand [president of france] recognized before Thatcher that reunification was inevitable and adjusted his views accordingly; unlike her, he was hopeful that participation in a single currency[17] and other European institutions could control a united Germany.
Nice try france but thanks the the GFC Germany is having to take the reigns of Europe, to save it!

Saturday 27 April 2013

Syrian chemical weapons use, a fraudulent casus belli to justify western intervention?

 I find it highly unlikely that the Syrian regime which is desperately trying to hang on to control of the country, would use chemical weapons on a small scale against its people. This will increase the support that Europe and the United states are willing to give to the rebels and could lead to western intervention. It is a no-brainer, I find it even more amusing that the same WMD argument that was used as a casus belli for invading Iraq... will the public really buy the same spin that was used on them only 10 years beforehand?

If Assad was going to gas people, he would go all out and severely weaken or destroy the Sunni insurgency (and would be killing a substantial number of people!). Anything less is just giving western powers a casus belli for invading, or at the least upping the support they are already giving Sunni insurgents. For once I have to agree with what the Syrian government has said in response to these allegations.
Syria: U.S. manipulating chemical weapons evidence, like it did with Iraq"Everything that the American minister and British government have said lack credibility," Al-Zoubi said. "It's baseless, and it's a new tactic to put political and economic pressure on Syria."
Al-Zoubi said the Syrian government is the one that called for an investigation of an incident in which it claimed chemical weapons were used by "terrorist groups." The government routinely labels rebel fighters as terrorists.
 Jordan king to meet Obama on Syria Has Assad regime crossed 'red line?' McCain: 'The red line has been crossed' Use of sarin gas tricky to prove
Syria does not have chemical weapons and would not use them if it did, he said.
The Americans "want to manipulate the issue, to let whoever used the chemical weapons ... get away (with it), and to repeat the Iraq example," Al-Zoubi said.

Now if the USA wants to go into Syria, they will go in, and there are a number of geopolitical reasons why that could be beneficial. For one it will weaken Iran, which has an alliance with the Alawite led government. Secondly, it would weaken Russia, a supporter of the regime and the country has Russia's only remaining naval base in the Mediterranean sea. 

‘West is using possibility of chemical weapons to encourage intervention in Syria’RT: The US says the data their intelligence has provided, is not irrefutable, meanwhile the Syrian opposition's demanding action from Washington, its allies and the UN. What was behind these unconfirmed statements then? 
LG: I think what’s happening is there are clearly conflicts about whether there should be direct intervention. There’s clearly many people in the opposition who want the US and western powers to intervene. There are politicians in all these countries who might want to, but who fear the consequences. Particularly in Britain, David Cameron knows that any sense that this is connected to the sort of thing that went on with Iraq is very unpopular so they’re nervous about it but at the same time they want regime change, they want to get rid of Assad, they want to be able to change the face of the Middle East so they fundamentally weaken Iran and its allies, which includes Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and so on.

However, the US could get bogged down in Syria, which is probably why it hasn't intervened already compared to the swift intervention against Libya.
U.S.: No Good Options in a Syrian InterventionThe prospect of spillover violence notwithstanding, several other factors restrain U.S. intervention, including the cost of war and a lack of popular support. There is also the distinct possibility that once the al Assad regime falls, Syria could become a haven for transnational terrorists. Add to this the fact that intervention could go a long way in realizing a key American objective: undermining Iranian regional influence. Thus, Washington faces a dilemma: It cannot afford to participate in what may end up being an inevitable intervention. 

My health routine