Andalucia Steve the dream

Rockets on the Blockchain

The time has come for missile accountability.

OH-58 firing Hellfire missile during Operation BrownThe recent stories of the Hellfire Missiles turning up on a Serbian passenger airliner and of Cuba returning a missing, albeit dummy Hellfire Missile to the US got me thinking. Governments and arms manufacturers are far too murky in the ownership and movements of weapons and ammunition.

Now there may be some excuse for hiding munitions for reasons of security, but consider this. The argument for nuclear weapons goes along the lines of, "if the other side know we've got them they won't attack us". So point one, it should be a positive boon to promote and publicize a nations armory to scare the pants off the enemy. This is why nearly every country from Russian to North Korea, from Spain to Japan has military parades.

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty was introduced " to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament" which is a worthy aim. This involves weapons inspection and monitoring - point 2, what gets measured gets managed. So why not, given that we have the technology, extend the measuring a monitoring of weapons of mass destruction to weapons that are not massively destructive but can nonetheless make a right mess of a city block?

Initially I can see arms manufactures poo pooing this idea, since arms sales has always been a bit cloak and dagger. However I really think that cleaning up the arms industry and making it more accountable may actually grow their profits.

Lets sketch a scenario as to how this might work, using our $110,000 Hellfire missile as an example. Suppose we legislate such that each missile manufactured has to be given a unique identity number that has an entry on a blockchain specially created for the purpose. When the missile is sold or resold, the transaction is noted on the blockchain so at any time we know who is responsible for the missile. Now suppose we have a means of determining where the missile eventually detonates so this too is recorded on the blockchain. There are a number of ways to do this. I'm sure the technology used to launch the missile records this data anyway, but if not it would be trivial (compared with the cost of the missile) to build in the functionality to transmit the GPS location of the point of the explosion. We then have cradle-to-grave tracking for the life and death of the missile.

Lets consider some of the implications of this. Firstly, because the damage caused by the missile is tied by the blockchain to the current owner, countries and arms dealers will be far less likely to engage in sales to nations with arms embargoes as the identity of the seller will be clear. The manufacturer can point to the blockchain and say nothing to do with us - this missile was sold illegally. Also the owner of the target, be it a country or even a surviving individual (perhaps the absentee owner of a destroyed building) will have redress. The blockchain will allow a victim to see who owned the missile and should the action be illegal, make a claim for damages. If however the weapon is used legally, the owner can use the blockchain to easily get an ROI on each missile. This could play a big part in reducing a nation's arms budget - costing death and destruction against initial outlay to identify the most profitable weapons.

This may at first seem an extreme departure from the haphazard way warfare has been conducted in the past - call it the 'lob it and see' approach. When one thinks about it though, many countries track livestock to counter foot and mouth and BSE, so it seems perverse NOT to track an object such as a missile that costs hundreds of thousands of times more and is capable of wreaking such extensive damage.

My example uses a missile, as these are weighty easily identifiable objects. In the future though similar blockchains could be set up for a whole manner of different types of armament, perhaps one day to the level of individual bullets.

For the arms manufacturers, selling accountability opens up a whole new industry for them. In a way it justifies the sale of weapons in peacetime. They can make the claim that they are being responsible, providing an audit trail that protects innocent civilians from the misuse of their products. The Internet of Things, of which this is really a part, is being described as the next big thing, and security is central to the platform. If we can persuade weapons manufactures that to be early adopters of this technology can not only increase their profits but sanitize and improve the image of their industry, we just may make the world a safer place at the same time!


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Amazon's Mechanical Turk Sucks Unless You're a Yank!

The online retailing giant moves its own money about the world but not mine!

Jeff Bezos 2005Work has been on the scarce side recently, so scarce infact that I turned to Amazon's Mechanical Turk website with a view to making a little cash in time for Christmas.

In case you are not aware, Mechanical Turk is a website that offers work that humans can do that computers can't. It could be tagging items in an image or reviewing a website, taking a survey etc. The jobs don't pay very well. One afternoon, after four hours slaving away in front of my computer I'd made on average $0.56 per hour! It is regarded by many as an online sweatshop, though there is an argument that if you're smart and can figure out which of the higher paying jobs require less time, you can earn $10-$20 dollars a day, which is a living in a third world country. Again on the positive side there are no job interviews, you just grab a job and do it.

So I jumped right in and started working away on these tasks, some of which are incredibly mind numbing. After about ten days I'd earned $30, which I had set myself as the target of my first money transfer.

I had scanned through the instructions before I started working and read that I could either transfer the cash to my bank, or have it transferred to my Amazon gift certificate balance. I wanted to do the former, but when I went to do it, the only option was to have the money in gift certificates. I went through the small print, and sure enough, because I don't live in America (I'm a Brit living in Spain), a bank transfer was not available to me.

So I transferred the money in to gift certificates. Went to - $30 in my gift certificate balance - great!

Then I went to buy something on, got to the check out - no gift certificate balance! Despite appearing as one company and having a single login/password for each international website, after reading the small print, Amazon gift certificates can not be transferred between one of their websites to another. Not impressed. I tried to order something from the US website and the postage was horrendous, so I may try and do a deal with a friend in America to buy something for them in exchange for the cash. It shouldn't be that difficult.

But it doesn't stop there. During my time on Mturk it dawned on my there was money to be made here as an employer. After a few days an idea struck me that I could distribute across multiple workers and sell on (I won't share the idea because it is still possible I'll go ahead with it). So I tried to sign up as a Mechanical Turk employer, rather than an employee. It turns out that... NO - IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO EMPLOY PEOPLE ON MECHANICAL TURK UNLESS YOU ARE AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.

Did you see what I just did there? I went into bold caps. That's because I'm getting angry, or as us Londoners say, "I'm getting the right hump"!

Number 21 on Forbes list of billionaires, Bezos has become one of the richest blokes on the planet by using online globalization to his advantage. Amazon has been criticized for its use of dubious sales practices, sidestepping sales taxes in the US and abroad, and more recently in 2012 being under investigation by the UK tax authorities for paying zero corporation tax on sales of £7 billion by hiving off its profit to another EU country with a lower taxation rate. Yet on Mturk, you cannot take advantage of a global workforce unless you are a yank, you cannot move money around and you can't move your gift balance.

 Times don't change. As ever there is a rule for the rich and a different one for the poor.



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Why Privacy Matters

Excelent Ted Talk About the War in Online Privacy Going on Before Our Eyes

Alessandro AcquistiAn engaging talk by Alessandro Acquisti about the nature of internet privacy and its possible impact on all our lives. I was particularly struck with the concept that advertisers now have the technology to get the images of our most closest friends on say, Facebook, morf them together and construct an advert that would be present by an avatar resembling them. Spooky!

Folowing on from what Richard Stallman was saying in another video I posted the other day, is it worth being on Google Plus and Facebook, or is the risk to our privacy too great. I know a lot of people have taken to adblocker programmes that minimise the damage, but if we all did that, Google and the like would have to end providing services that are essentially free because of the adverts we consume.

Personally I think moving towards paid for services without advertising and without more privacy may be the future, at least for a concerned section of the population.

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Stallman on Privacy

Richard Stallman interviewed about privacy, NSA and why he doesn't have a phone

Interview with Richard Stallman the creator of the free software foundation. He gives his views on Assange, Snowdon, big brother and why he doesn't have a mobile phone. The great thing about Stallman is he saw this coming. He's had this position for ten or fifteen years and has been largely ignored. Now all he has been saying has been completely vindicated.

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Urban decline

How capitalism is an atractor for conglomeration

Several years ago I was living in a town called Cehegin in Murcia, in Spain, about an hours drive inland from the south coast.

My neighbours son was the local vet and over a few beers one day he explained to me that he didn't just work in town, but he had a very wide network of farms that he visited.
The farmers paid into a sort of insurance fund and he would vaccinate herd and inspect sick animals etc. He catchment area extended to the mountains of Albacete. I'd probably had too much beer, because when he asked me if I wanted to go with him on his rounds one day, I accepted. A few days later on one freezing cold morning I was getting into his car a 6am.

Well we drove and drove. As the altitude increased, so the temperature decreased. People think of Spain as a warm country. Don't believe a word of it. Winters here have been know to go down to minus 36 centigrade!

We passed a frozen waterfall and I noticed my companion was sporting a colourful woollen hat whereas I was stupidly bareheaded.

Eventually we arrived at the first farm. Antonio the vet greeted the farmer and was soon in an enclosure doing unmentionable things so yelping goats.

Old farmhouseThe farmer took me to oneside and, with my limited Spanish, seemed to be offering me his farm for sale. The buildings including the sheds and animal enclosures must have totalled about five hundred square meters. Goodness knows how much land would have been included because he gestured as far as the eye could see. His asking price was 6000 euros.

I was quite taken aback. It was a beautiful spot. The farmhouse was old but liveable.

When Antonio and I were back in the car I mentioned the farmer's offer. He chuckled and explained, that the farmer is one of the last people left in what was previously a huge goat herding region. None of the children wanted to herd goats as there was no money in it so over the years they drifted off to Madrid, Barcelona or maybe abroad to find work.

Soon the town has so few people, there is no money to pay for services and everything collapses. We drove past the town, which was on the other side of the river so we couldn't enter, but all was still. It had long since been abandoned. The farmer had to drive twenty miles to the next town for everything he needed, which was crippling any profit he had from the goat farm. He just wanted out.

Today we're looking at a similar situation in Detroit, the largest American city ever to file for bankruptcy. Detroit's population has declined from 1.85 million in the 1950's to just 700k today. Deeply underfunded schools are being shutdown. People are leaving in droves.

The cause is the same in both cases. An economic activity becomes uneconomic. Goat herding in Albacete, building cars in Detroit.

The thing about capitalism is that it takes care of money but not the people who generate it. As long as we leave the care of people to market forces, we're really saying that people are an expendable resource that can be disposed of when no longer needed.

My take on this is that profit is the expendable resource that should be used to take care of people. Today there is more profit than ever before in human history thanks to the automation afford by machines, computers and robotics. Instead of the fruits of those developments going to the benefit of mankind they are sequested by a tiny minority - the rich 1% whose only purpose in life seems to be to make more money and make the rest of us continually poorer.

Unless we start to reorganise the worlds wealth, I do fear towns and cities across the globe will gradually disappear and be replaced by one big city - the only place left to work.

View User Profile for Admin #Andalucia evangelist, social marketer, musician, guitar technician, reformed estate agent, recovering programmer, political disruptor - yup that's me!
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What's the opposite of a Baby Boom?

Recent Report Shows Falling Birth Rate in Europe Due to Recession

In a press-release that got far to little coverage last week, on the 10 July, the Max Planck Institute in Germany announced a demographic research paper demonstrating that there had been a Europe-wide fall in fertility during and as a result of the 'great depression' in Europe.

(I leave you to study the stats and thumb through the graphs)

Perhaps this should come as no surprise. Sensible people are going to try an put off having children until they have money in their pockets. With European joblessness hitting 12.5% in May 2013, there has never been a worse time to procreate.

Yet here is the thing, this high unemployment figure would not be so bad had Europe been set marching on the beat of the austerity drum. A falling population means declining markets, and in fact more austerity because it is more difficult for the next generation of tax payers to provide pensions for the elderly.

Austerity isn't working - how long will it take to get that message across?

View User Profile for Admin #Andalucia evangelist, social marketer, musician, guitar technician, reformed estate agent, recovering programmer, political disruptor - yup that's me!
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US Bugging for Terror or Money

Are the latest revelations about US survailance more commercial?

New NSA leaks revealed by the British media organisation the Guardian indicate the extent to which monitoring has been done to allies of the US, not just it's potential enemies.

German online news-source Der Spiegel said documents and slides from the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden indicating that the NSA bugged the offices of the EU in Washington and at the United Nations in New York.The would have been meetings largely to do with trade.

It also said they enacted an operation from Brussel's NATO headquarters in order to infiltrate phone and email networks at the Council of the European Union's headquarters in Brussels.

To me this is where the breach of trust exhibited by the American's shows its most ugly head. There are indicators here that the information being fished for is commercially sensitive. The Council of the EU controls an annual budget of over 100 billion euros. Having inside information as to where that money is going is of great value to US companies wishing to market into Europe. What safeguards are in place to prevent such information being used by either the govrnment to influence policy or even being sold on to the private sector?

The answer is none which is why it is so dangerous. We must pressure the US now to limit the global reach of it's power to snoop.




View User Profile for Admin #Andalucia evangelist, social marketer, musician, guitar technician, reformed estate agent, recovering programmer, political disruptor - yup that's me!
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I loved Jurassic Park

Michael Archer: How we'll resurrect the gastric brooding frog stimulates a debate on the ethics of evelution

Like so many people I was entranced when Jurassic Park hinted that there will come a time when extinct species will be reanimated. The book and film suggest this will be a bad thing. I've always had a theory that your views on evolution reveal a lot about your politics.

Consider for example that someone breaks into your house and steals something. If the government of the day gave you an option to terminate that persons life so as to stop future burglaries, would you think that is a good or a bad thing? It's interesting because there is no evidence that this person has any genetic code that makes them a burglar nor what degree of social stress or environmental upbringing let them to the action for which you could execute them.

Right wing people tend towards eugenics because of a simplistic view of evolution where nature does her work, the weak are culled and the strong survive.

This is probably how it has been for all of time, the fittest have survived because the have been victims or victors or opportunity. The thing about humans in the 21st century is that we have the power to change that. Our purpose should not be to seek the ultimate survival race but instead chase the ultimate diversity. We need to look at all providing an environment for as many of the variations presented to us by DNA as we can find and populate the universe with the most appropriate lifeforms.

Capitalism really should not be killing the poor in the third world - it should be creating lichens on Neptune.

View User Profile for Admin #Andalucia evangelist, social marketer, musician, guitar technician, reformed estate agent, recovering programmer, political disruptor - yup that's me!
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Capital Eugenics

Are we near a point where the rich have no further need of the poor?

Thanks to Hitler we tend to forget that until he made the concept unfashionable by the systematic murder of a whole spectrum of ethnic minorities, that eugenics was a highly and widely respected social philosophy for many years.

Following on from Darwin's theory of evolution, his cousin Francis Galton first championed the cause and giving the name eugenics to his work. His central premise was that the survival of the fittest should apply to humans as well as animals, and perhaps give a a prod to speed it up a bit. His baton was carried by many governments in the twentieth century who avidly sought to cull numbers by enforce programmes of birth control, genocide, and programmes of ethnic cleansing.

Of course the error here is clear to any reasonable person. The 'prod' is a judgementalism - one human making the decision to end anothers life is always subjective so is wrong. People must have equal opportunity to succeed or fail by their own efforts, and any measures to interfere with that, any human intervention that favours one group against another creates an unlevel playing field which is morally repugnant.

I believe eugenics is still going on, and capitilism is it's weapon. The increasing gap between rich and poor that has taken place over the last thirty years or so is neither an accident, or a natural consequence of greed, but a deliberately orchestrated plan that has a goal.

Our overlords know that automation has a single and inevitable outcome. No more jobs - at least none for the masses. We're seeing at the moment a program by google to do away with car drivers. What is the logical conclusion of that - how many millions of people all over the world will that deprive of work.

Elswhere, the building trade is soon to be overhauled with machines that 3D print directly from architects plans. This will effect millions more. Most manufacturing will be decimated by 3D printing, even fast moving consumer goods when food printing is cracked.

The thing that worries me most about this issue is that the capitalists who have made their money from the labours of the poor no longer have a use for them. They are unlikely to wish to fund vast social programmes so I see only two ways the situation will pan out. Billions of people will get increasingly poor and quietly allowed to die, or as we're seeing with Syria at the moment, an almost deliberate effort will be made to trigger a world war that will eliminate vast numbers of people unneeded by the ruling elite.

What we need to do urgently then is to add capitalism to the dustbin of history where it belongs and make a new start where the efficiencies of automation are shared by all and not the top one percent. I think it will be a much better place to live.

View User Profile for Admin #Andalucia evangelist, social marketer, musician, guitar technician, reformed estate agent, recovering programmer, political disruptor - yup that's me!
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Propellor Safety

I'd like to pledge my support for the campaign to intoduce propeller guards

Recently a story hit the headlines that really upset me. It was of the two people who died and the others who received life changing injuries as a result of a boat propeller. If you not familiar with what happened here is a link

Basically the family enjoying the ride fell overboard, the kill switch was not engaged and so the boat started to circle around them and eventually the propeller of the outboard motor cut them to peices. I thought it was a terrible story that stayed with me for a long time.

I know nothing about boats but while watching a really old James Bond movie and seeing a propeller I was suddenly struck by a thought. Why don't boat propellers have guards. It's too obvious! If you saw an electric fan in an office there is no way you would expect it not to have a guard. Just because the prop is underwater does it logiacally make any difference? I thought not, so I did a quick search on Google to see if I was missing some fundamental point- perhaps they collected seaweed or otherwise malfunctioned with a guard.

Infact the reason boating propellers don't have guards is far more sinister. The industry resist it. According to the there has been a long running debate where the manufactures have thwarted attempts at legislation and come up with some amazingly stupd studies (that people can drown if they get sucked into a guard - like that is worse than getting hacked to bits).

Like many things in the world, this is plain old capitalisms fault. It would drive up costs to add a guard, so the idustry will resist for as long as it can, and in the absence of legislation (which the manufactures lobby against) people will continue to die needlessly.

View User Profile for Admin #Andalucia evangelist, social marketer, musician, guitar technician, reformed estate agent, recovering programmer, political disruptor - yup that's me!
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