Monthly Archives: December 2015

Waging Peace

At this time of year our thoughts turn to Peace and Love.

http://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/peace.html#details23748010

http://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/peace.html#details23748010

Anne Deveson wrote a book called Waging Peace. She’s thinking about waging peace. She’s thinking about Baruch Spinoza, who said, ‘Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.’

She’s thinking about Ariel Dorfman, who said peace was: ‘The deep well of truth of what we all want, each man, each woman, each child on this earth; that the small space that surrounds our fragile bodies be respected, that our right to some minimal territoriality or identity or autonomy be afforded recognition by those who have the power to smash and invade it.’

She’s thinking about Jane Mayer, who wrote an article called ‘Contract Sport: What did the Vice-President do for Halliburton?’  Halliburton, one of the largest oilfield corporations was awarded a US$7.7 billion contract (the only bidder). Dick Cheney, the ‘Vice’ President, won US$44 billion and retired with a US$36million severance package. Big money in 2000. Still big.

http://www.msf.org.uk/country-region/afghanistan-kunduz-bombing-latest

http://www.msf.org.uk/country-region/afghanistan-kunduz-bombing-latest

I’m thinking about the Americans bombing a hospital. In the December 2015 edition of ‘The Pulse’, the quarterly magazine of Medecins Sans Frontieres, Australia, the editorial is entitled ‘Even war has rules’. 42 dead.

MSF are calling for an independent inquiry.

https://twitter.com/MSF_uk/status/651431062250352640/photo/1

https://twitter.com/MSF_uk/status/651431062250352640/photo/1

MSF want combatants to follow the rules. As though it was sport. Is a war a game? What a revolting thought.

It’s more like a business.

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If it’s a game, or even a business, FOLLOW THE RULES!

If it’s a game, pack up your bat and ball and go home.

If it’s a business, change.

Let’s think about Immanuel Kant who wrote Perpetual Peace: A philosophical text. Anne Deveson says that Kant believed that humans were evolving towards peace by embodying moral law through its institutions.

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Evolve.

Wage peace.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/literalsalmon/2213269497

https://www.flickr.com/photos/literalsalmon/2213269497

Where is Tomorrowland?

George ClooneyHugh Laurie! Together!

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/second-trailer-disneys-tomorrowland-shows-768273

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/second-trailer-disneys-tomorrowland-shows-768273

Those guys! More than just doctors, they’re movie stars! And supposedly, thoughtful, intelligent, smart, rich movie stars. Any film they’re involved with must have something to offer, right? So, Tomorrowland. They’re both in it! George and Hugh! Originally called 1952, it’s a big science fiction, adventure film. Optimistic. There’s a lot on offer. All the FUTURE!!

http://www.wearemoviegeeks.com/2015/04/new-imax-tomorrowland-poster-watch-george-clooney-latest-trailer/

http://www.wearemoviegeeks.com/2015/04/new-imax-tomorrowland-poster-watch-george-clooney-latest-trailer/

Brad Bird directed and co-wrote – one of his inspirational items was an original blueprint of Tomorrowland (part of Disneyland). Visible under that blueprint is the map of another land, an idealistic future place, never built by Disney. That’s what Brad Bird wanted to make for his film. A place crafted by artists and creatives without politics or greed. Here are the lead artists: George, Brad, Britt, Raffey and Hugh.

stars

http://madmazreviews.com/blog/2015/08/14/tomorrowland-2015-ambitious-and-fun/

Two old men and two young girls. Let’s not think about that too long.

Saw George, Britt and Hugh on Graham Norton‘s show talking about the film. Sounded great. So we watched it. I hope everyone does watch it. As well as high production levels, amazing art and craft, there are some interesting ideas. But if you do want to watch it don’t bother reading this blog any further because I’ve come up with some spoilers for you!

http://www.flicks.co.nz/movie/the-age-of-stupid/

http://www.flicks.co.nz/movie/the-age-of-stupid/

On the face of it, this film feels like an answer to The Age of Stupid. (Sadly that title doesn’t do much to sell an otherwise provocative and interesting film. If you get a chance, it includes one of the best ‘aha’ moments ever on screen.) This was one of Pete Postlethwaite‘s last films and documents the end of the world as we know it. He plays an archivist trying to understand what went wrong. Why did humans not save themselves when they had the chance?

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Tomorrowland puts forward a theory. Humans are brainwashing themselves into believing they have no chance in this grim global warming and beastly aggression. The end of life as we know it is inevitable because that’s what we’ve been told. The future has been forecast by some high-tech wizardry, that’s it, done and dusted. We succumb.

http://www.slashfilm.com/tomorrowland-movie-photos/

http://www.slashfilm.com/tomorrowland-movie-photos/

It takes a positive young person, Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) a thinker and questioner to ask ‘Why?’ When she raises doubts that the world’s apparently impending destruction is at all necessary, the chance of the world (people and place) ending drops immediately from 100% to 99.94%. Maybe the end is not so inevitable after all. Frank Walker (George Clooney), a retired genius, reluctantly agrees to assist her return to Tomorrowland and save the world. Much hilarity ensues.

Turns out, you have to be invited to Tomorrowland, a place in another dimension, that presumably is on Earth somewhere sometime. It’s a bit like a cult or the chosen few going to heaven. Let’s not think about that too long either.

There is much to enjoy in Tomorrowland, as I hope you find out, but something happened on the way to the shooting script. I’m not sure if the script that enticed Hugh Laurie was the one that got made. Did he have some say in how he wanted his character to be seen in a Disney film?

Because it’s his character, David Nix, who doesn’t have a clear objective. He’s maintaining this system of showing the worst possible outcomes to the people in the vain hope that humans will act to save themselves. And when they don’t, he becomes disillusioned and refuses to assist humans. So on the one hand, he does want to help humanity and the other, when the chips are down, he won’t.

At the start, why wouldn’t Nix, as director of a visionary theme park, eventually Governor, encourage a smart young fellow, Frank Walker, to continue with his clearly ambitious jet pack invention? What is Nix’s drive?

http://madmazreviews.com/blog/2015/08/14/tomorrowland-2015-ambitious-and-fun/

http://madmazreviews.com/blog/2015/08/14/tomorrowland-2015-ambitious-and-fun/

Is Nix’s negativity a result of penny-pinching, greed or something more sinister? Does he Nix any future (see what I did there?) for Tomorrowland just because he’s a misanthrope? He certainly has an interesting jodpher-esque costume, with scales on the sleeve, in the second part of the film which does lead one to think of evil villains.

http://hollywoodmoviecostumesandprops.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/original-tomorrowland-movie-costumes-on.html

http://hollywoodmoviecostumesandprops.blogspot.com.au/2015/05/original-tomorrowland-movie-costumes-on.html

Certainly, part of the vision of Tomorrowland involves guards and full-on weapons – not the innocent Disney peaceful idea one might hope for. But Nix himself is rather nice – he’s not an obvious villain. He doesn’t laugh absurdly and he doesn’t have a strange pet.

http://sobadsogood.com/2015/05/24/these-adorable-pets-are-teaching-star-wars-villains-how-love-again/

http://sobadsogood.com/2015/05/24/these-adorable-pets-are-teaching-star-wars-villains-how-love-again/

As for Frank, he’s invited in to Tomorrowland by a lovely girl robot, gets to develop the cool machine that brainwashes people and is then kicked out violently by violent nasty robots (presumably developed by the creative artist types). This backstory itches to be developed – maybe it was in a draft somewhere – and the story as shot slumps to the end …

Because, why do we want to go to live in Tomorrowland, another land in a different time and place, if we’ve saved the world as we know it? We can presumably, live on and improve the land we’ve got already. Drearyland. Earthland. Realland. Warland. Disasterland. Okay. Let’s not think about that.

http://www.slashfilm.com/tomorrowland-concept-art-guardians/

http://www.slashfilm.com/tomorrowland-concept-art-guardians/

There are amazing fight sequences between robots, lovely CG and fun sequences but with three writers credited – Bird, Lindelof and Jensen – the problems could have been fixed at the computer before the cameras were switched on.

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And why don’t humans fight except in self defence? It’s only robots that do maiming, blowing up and destroying stuff. Asimov’s rules? Let’s not think about that. Hasta mañana!

 

 

Man in charge? Turn-bull? Turn-coat?

Right now there’s an international conference going on in Paris attempting to get some agreement on what should be done to prevent dangerous climate change. Prior to the commencement of the conference Pope Francis made a speech to the UN urging world leaders to act decisively. During the speech he blamed environmental degradation on “a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity”

Australia’s new-ish Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, gave a speech in Paris that promised some Innovation:

We firmly believe that it is innovation and technology which will enable us both to drive stronger economic growth and a cleaner environment.

Then, Turnbull refused to sign an agreement which would reduce subsidies to the fossil fuel industries.

So I guess he’s not all that interested in the clean environment. Looks like he’s more interested in the power and material prosperity the Pope mentioned. Was he listening to his Pope at all?

Just who is this Mal Turnbull? Is he a smooth man of expediency or is he driving a hidden agenda? What is his relationship to nature?

Turnbull says times have changed and there never has been a more exciting time to be an Australian. We’re going to be agile and nimble and we’re going to accept more risk. However most commentators and scientists, even Chris Berg, are hopeful but underwhelmed. This isn’t a lot of money spread over four years and there really isn’t anything very new in the package. It might help some people make some (more) money. And it might not. That’s risky, isn’t it?

Turnbull historically made his money out of Ozemail – risk or good luck? Is his reliance on cheap copper NBN visionary and/or risky? Is this government gambling? And there seems to be no mention of renewable energy in this fountain of Innovation funding. Surely the risk to Australia, to the world, is in continuing to support fossil fuels? How does Turnbull intend to manage that?

I was cutting my hair in the bathroom when I idly looked down at the newspaper spread in front of me. It was The Weekend Australian November 28-9 2015 open at page 20. A hank of hair landed on an edited extract from The Unauthorised Biography of Malcolm Turnbull entitled, ‘Behind Liberal leader’s apparent social conservatism, an embrace of Catholicism‘. The article reports that in 2003, Turnbull gave a speech to the National Population Summit under the catchy title, It’s the Birth Rate, Stupid.

In that speech Turnbull said,

‘The gravest threat to Western society over this century is therefore neither global warming nor international terrorism. Rather, it is the unprecedented, sustained decline in the birthrate in almost all developed countries … ‘

I checked. It really is in the ‘Stupid’ speech.

In 2003 Turnbull was very worried about the survival of Western civilization:

‘Great Western cultures including ‘Italy, Spain, Greece, Japan and Russia (to name but five) could become functionally extinct within this century.’

Turnbull continues:

‘It would be a remarkable irony indeed if at the peak of our prosperity and technological achievement the human race (or at least the most developed parts of it) lost the will to reproduce itself.’

Couple of questions, Malcolm: if the human race was at the peak of our technological achievement in 2003, what’s the point of the Australian government funding Innovation twelve years later?

Secondly, the human race has lost the will to reproduce? Watch the Earth’s population in actionWikipedia puts current population at 7.3 billion. The UN reckons it will be 11.2 billion by 2100. If you don’t like those numbers you could go with The Guardian’s guess that the world’s population would be around 11 billion by then. Here’s a breakdown of current population by country.

Clearly, it’s not ALL the human race Turnbull was worried about. He carefully avoided definitions of undeveloped breeding people leaving that to others. Instead, he concentrates on the reasons that women in developed countries (Western civilization) are choosing not to have babies. They’re educated, they have careers and they are not supported to have more children by the government. So he recommends ‘we’ alter all that with some pro-family policies.

In direct contrast, others try to educate all women everywhere, like Malala who no longer needs a last name, and, why, even the World Bank supports improved learning for girls.

Obviously, this Australian article (collecting my cut-off hair) was a piece to get people interested in reading the biography. Of course, Turnbull must have changed since then, although he hadn’t altered anything for his maiden speech (presumably 2005):

Can it be true that at the peak of our technology and prosperity the western world is losing the confidence to reproduce itself? Are we witnessing the beginning of the dying of the West? Certainly we are at a tipping point in our civilisation’s story. Unless fertility rates dramatically improve then, in a cycle of loss and dislocation matched only by the Black Death in the 14th century, societies with birth rates substantially below replacement level will either dwindle into an insignificant fraction of their current numbers or be swamped by larger and larger waves of immigration.

Paddy Manning, the author of the Turnbull biography mentioned above, is now producing a series of opinion pieces in The Drum about Turnbull’s politics, to help us get to know our new Prime Minister. The first attempts to understand where Turnbull is coming from – best summed-up as warm, green and dry. (A summer lawn?)

I am not heartened by his ‘Stupid’ speech. There are strange echoes today from Tony Abbott and Donald Trump and too much division in the world to feel confident that Turnbull is a true liberal. Mal is a man who protects spies and who spies on his citizens while using encryption himself. And guess who said this in 2010:

We are as humans conducting a massive science experiment with this planet. It’s the only planet we’ve got….

Malcolm Turnbull’s objective is a mystery. Hopefully one of those startups his innovation stimulus manages to innovate will innovate a way to stop using fossil fuels. Otherwise, I can’t see how Turnbull has changed anything from the sad embarrassing days of Tony Abbott. Turnbull may be more urbane, civilised and better spoken but he’s still a clever, educated, rich mystery perceived as left by those in the right – and right by those in the left. So he’s smack bang in the middle? Malcolm in the middle. Does that make him a target?

 

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Cory Doctorow. Was here. Who knew?

The Wheeler Centre had an Interrobang. They invited some speakers to answer tricky questions. Cory Doctorow? Oh yeah. Book those tickets! Next day, the session is sold out!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cory_Doctorow

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cory_Doctorow

But hey, when we got there – place half full – or half empty – depending on your point of view. Whaaaaa … ? We had friends who would have bought tickets. Wheelers Centre fail. Cory Doctorow is an important thinker of our age. More Melbournians needed to hear him. For those who missed out on this, and the other two sessions, let me attempt to sum up.

Doctorow’s a founding editor of Boing Boing and contributor to The Guardian, Wired and Publishers Weekly. He’s one of the founders of Electronic Frontier Foundation. And there’s his take on the Gordian knot that is copyright and DRM. His attitudes to Creative Commons is why my Ektek saga is currently available free of charge. Although, when chatting to him after the session (face-to-face banter!!) his comment, ‘Oh, yeah, you have to have something people want to steal,’ cut deep.

I’ve only read two of his novels – both provocative in their own ways.

craphound.com

craphound.com

Someone comes to town, Someone leaves town gives the reader the bizarre experience of characters coming in and out of focus due to constant name shift. You really do have to read it for yourself. Little Brother is one of those books written in six weeks that just drives the reader (ostensibly a young adult) through a world they need to know about. There’s now a sequel and plenty of other writing to explore.

craphound.com

craphound.com

Doctorow is from Ontario and his dad was a computer scientist. Cory grew up with one of the first connected terminals in his living room. He’s always had the internet in his life. He sees no difference between being in the world and being in the internet. The title of his conversation with Alan Brough was about destroying the internet before it destroys us. Of course, no one is advocating the destruction of the internet but Cory is suggesting we do have a good long hard look at it. Doctorow has long spoken about the dangers inherent in devices with cameras and microphones on your desk that may or may not be within your control. Do you want to be in charge of your computer or be controlled by state or corporate powers that can see your contacts, your searches and you? ‘Yes, Master’ or ‘I can’t let you do that, Dave.’

Doctorow is one of those fluent thinkers and activists who speak very quickly and think very widely so summing up the fifty odd minutes we spent in his presence is impossible. I’ll try.

https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjv9snP57nJAhXBIqYKHUU7AicQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Faetherforce.com%2Ftheory-practice-alchemy%2F&psig=AFQjCNF8_BC3Mep9fRB8FpPNqn0wemQ6dA&ust=1449029960654035

https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjv9snP57nJAhXBIqYKHUU7AicQjB0IBg&url=http%3A%2F%2Faetherforce.com%2Ftheory-practice-alchemy%2F&psig=AFQjCNF8_BC3Mep9fRB8FpPNqn0wemQ6dA&ust=1449029960654035

One of his basic tenets involves disclosure. He likens the way people deal with information on the internet with that of alchemists in the Age of Darkness. That by non-disclosure, we lead into an elite of those who know and those who don’t know. (By chance I happened to hear a fascinating interview with John Le Carre, a spook of high intelligence, in which he comments that the UK went into Iraq as a result of those thinking they knew, knowing wrong. He also remarked that after the Cold War, it became obvious that the USA was always the greater power and that the entire stand-off was a construct by people looking for something to do with the arms they’d built.)

My son's signed kindle.

My son’s signed kindle.

Back with Cory, another of his tenets is around locked dependency. If you can’t open it, is it yours? If you can’t open it you can’t change it, can you. One of the clearest examples is John Deere tractors. The tractors can now carry technology that, as they move around paddocks, collect detailed data such as soil fecundity. This information is valuable to a techsavvy farmer. (You do know that behind every successful farmer is a partner working in town?) But, who else might like this info? What about uploading your priceless data to the cloud to share with corporations who might want to sell you things?  The John Deere agreement is with an organisation called Climate Corporation. From the New Yorker article about this corporation:

The mission statement, “To help all the world’s people and businesses manage and adapt to climate change,” is an explicit echo of Google’s sweeping promise to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Climate Corporation is an insurance agency. They insure farm land against extremes of climate brought on by climate change. And they’ve just been bought by MonsantoWhat about a seed company like Monsanto knowing all the specifics of your farmland? What could possibly go wrong?

Corey also spoke about diabetes data. Diabetes patients increasingly rely on technology to help communicate with doctors and to link with providers of their drugs. They can upload their personal information to the magic cloud; every detail from meals, to measurements of weight, blood sugars, amounts of insulin, wheres and whens … everything. Who owns this information? What do the patients do to protect it from people who might benefit from knowing more? Information. Keep it close or share it?

So there’s content, there’s software and there’s hardware and all those things might have locks at various levels. If a hacker is determined, they will break those locks or, even better, find a flaw that provides access. Once discovered, the flaw has to stay vulnerable, for it to be exploitable. So for spies, ‘no one but us’ – NOBUS – should know about the flaw so that only we can use it to gain access to the secret (commercial or otherwise). Clearly this makes the assumption that we are the only clever spies. (I say we because Australia’s deep connections with the USA are, of course, totally trustworthy. Mr Doctorow didn’t go into that.)

In summary, will we have access to a new Age of Enlightenment? Will everyone share everything or are there reasons to (and can you) keep your activities private?

And does the internet offer international democracy? Allow merit to shine through the obscurity? Maybe. For example, how does a cool band in Rwanda go viral?

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