Category Archives: Fear

The Circle

I just finished reading The Circle, the highly entertaining and disturbingly thought provoking novel by Dave Eggers, in which the plot concerns a fictional corporation (“the Circle”) that is best described as what would happen if Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and many other social media companies that are now currently disconnected were to merger under one roof. I will not get into great detail about the book in this post, but you can go here and here if you want to read the reviews. Suffice it to say that the brilliance of the book is that it is both simple and entertaining to read, yet very deep on many levels. I would consider it perhaps the most astutely written warning to date concerning the lack of privacy in social media; a thought-provoking meld between 1984 and A Brave New World.
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Filed under Fear, Technology

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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All right we are two nations

The ever poignant Charles Pierce writes of the verdict of the Trayvon Martin shooting, in words I could never match. But in this I disagree: the verdict was indeed about race, because everything in this country is about race when you are not a member of the one race that is, at least in the state of Florida, licensed to kill.

This was never about guns. This was never about the tragic death of a teenager walking home from the store. This was never about hoodies, or stalking, or gated communities. This was never about the law and justice. Because those not of that favored race know very well, every hour of every day, what the words “law” and “justice” really mean in this country.

This case was about fear: fear of losing power; fear of irrelevance; fear of losing the privileged status endowed by membership in that one race; fear that those gates can no longer keep those others out; fear of living in a world of true equality, where all bets are off.

For that is what race is about in this country: not the color of one’s skin, but the color of one’s fear. And what we now know, as if we really needed another lesson, is that the fear of that one, still privileged race is still more important than any concept of “law” and “justice.”

We are indeed two nations, two races. One race living in angst. All others living in perpetual fear of finding themselves on the business end of that angst, at any time, at any place, even as a carefree youth walking home from the store.

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Absolute power corrupts

For once, Peggy Noonan makes an exceptionally lucid and compelling argument (with a modicum of debunking by Charles Pierce), with respect to the ever-growing “surveillance state” and the often false choice between our security as a nation, and the civil rights upon which it was arguably founded. But I think this is less about technology, and more about human nature; specifically the historically well-documented corrosive effects of absolute power.
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Filed under Fear, General Grunting, History

When the alternative is too scary to contemplate

I’ve said before that, when faced with dire circumstances, people will prefer to find solace in worshiping mythology over accepting hard reality. But this is not so much about stupidity or ignorance as it is about coping with untenable situations.
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Filed under Climate Change, Fear, Riding the Curve, Solutions

War drums

What happened yesterday in Boston was a tragedy. But when the edge wears off, and the war drums start to thump, as they surely will, let us not forget the legacy of the last tragedy:

  • 10+ years of war; hundreds of thousands of lives lost (still going).
  • The Gulag at Guantanamo Bay (still open).
  • Civil rights, shredded (still shredding).
  • The loss of our national soul, through torture and shame (rebranded as enhanced interrogation).

And fear. Endless fear.

If we want to honor the souls lost yesterday, then let us allow law enforcement time to find the people who did this, try them in a court, and sentence them by a jury of their peers. Allow the rule of law a chance this time, and not the horror of war.

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Better than human?

One thing that has always fascinated me is this concept that machines are better than human. Certainly, machines can be made that perform very specific tasks, on average, better than a human doing the same very specific tasks, but does this really make them better than the humans they replace? Or is the idea that humans can be replaced with something better merely an offshoot of this?
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Filed under Fear, Robots, Technology