Monthly Archives: September 2013

Technology is not magic

The online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary tells me that magic is “the use of means (as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces.”

The dictionary also tells me that technology is “the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area: engineering.”
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Syria: the bleeding edge of climate change

Now that the impending attack on Syria for the alleged use of chemical weapons  on its people has somewhat been defused, perhaps now would be a good time for a serious discussion on what drove the country, long thought to be one of the most stable of Arab region, into bloody civil war.

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The cost of being wrong about climate change

Let’s do a little thought experiment. Let’s say the government decides to listen to the world’s climate scientists and begins to aggressively pursue policies designed to reduce the amount of CO2 produced each year. And, let’s say that, by the end of the century, we find out that the climate scientists were completely wrong. What would be the downsides? Cleaner air, cleaner water, perhaps the end of starvation as we learn to feed ourselves more efficiently and sustainably? Doesn’t seem to be a bad outcome to me.

However, let’s say that the government continues to listen to the deniers, and continues with business as usual. And let’s say that the climate scientists were correct, after all. What would be the downsides? Mass extinction of a significant portion of the biosphere, unimaginable misery, and the death of literally billions of people.

So, who would you rather back, even if they are wrong?

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Plan for the worst, hope for the best

There seems to be quite the discussion over at David Brin’s blog concerning a recent blog post by that notorious Archdruid, John Michael Greer. And while I find both arguments to be interesting, I believe they are indicative of the either/or nature of debate that passes for civilized discussion these days; specifically Brin’s incredulity at Greer’s disbelief that mankind will be able to just think its way out of the variety of crises lumbering towards us like giants over the horizon.
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In which we solemnly reflect on this day and realize that our leaders have learned nothing

  • The fallout and loss of life from the “surgical” air strikes against the World Trade towers by manned missiles in the form of airplanes are the perfect example of the fallacy “surgical” air strikes.
  • The rage of the American people against those who flew those airplanes is the perfect example of the unifying force of anger against actions taken against one’s homeland.
  • The subsequent retaliation was and is a perfect example that bombing a country will, indeed, be seen as an act of war by that country’s inhabitants, who will respond accordingly.
  • The number of civilian deaths on that day, and in the subsequent actions against Iraq and Afghanistan, is a perfect example that an air strike, and resulting retaliation, will always be felt most heavily on those not involved in the conflict.
  • The stigma attached by the American people to those who resemble those who perpetuated the attack against the World Trade towers is a perfect example that we will all be held accountable for the actions of a select few.

The list goes on and on. The American people, in their strong resistance to an attack against Syria, have learned these lessons. But, alas, our leaders have not. If we really want to make the memory of this day mean something, then we should remind our leaders, in no uncertain terms, how we all felt that day, and direct them, in no uncertain terms, to stop  creating  reasons to  cause those feelings in anyone else.

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Kabuki

The Wikipedia tells me that Kabuki “is a classical Japanese dance-drama” that is “known for the stylization of its drama and for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.” The three kanji characters the spell out Kabuki in the Japanese language are literally “sing,” “dance,” and “skill.” Or, loosely translated, “the art of singing and dancing.”
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In which the NSA may have finally succeeded in destroying the Internet

There will no doubt be much hand wringing and such with respect to the bombshell dropped by the NY Times today: N.S.A. Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web

Privacy concerns aside, there are at least two major concerns with this. First, if the NSA has, indeed, cracked the encryption behind SSL and VPN, then the Internet is now officially broken as a means of trusted commerce. If you couple the ability to hack the Internet’s most fundamental security protocols with the NSA’s reported information sharing program with other agencies, then it is not outrageous to suggest that any information you transmit via the Internet can and will be viewed by any interested government agency, encrypted or not.
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