(Translate this site)
A. Make peace, justice, opportunity, and a clean environment for all the foundation of each and every present and future international agreement.
Folks, there's simply too many of us, and our world economy too mature, for any nation to go it alone anymore in many important matters. For example, pollution is changing from a local or regional problem to a global one. Increasingly, whatever poisons we or someone else dumps into the sea, soil, or sky ends up in everyone's food, water, and air.
|-- Wind-borne pollutants may travel thousands of miles; Contact: Terry Wade, 979-862-2323; ext. 134, firstname.lastname@example.org; Contact: Judith White email@example.com 979-845-4664 Texas A&M University; 19-Sep-2001|
Even worse, besides making us sick or deformed, such pollution also makes us ever dumber. So if we don't get a handle on it soon, it'll literally be too late.
-- Pollution 'makes you stupid' By Alex Kirby, 22 April, 2000, BBC News Sci/Tech
The major causes of cancer (well over 50%) stem from exposure to harmful elements of the environment-- not from genetic causes.
-- Nurture Not Nature Main Cause of Cancer - Report By Gene Emery, Reuters/Yahoo! Top Stories, July 13, 2000
Pollution doesn't have to get inside you to hurt you. It can also damage the Earth's biosphere, thereby allowing in stronger radiation from the Sun, to make skin cancers harder to avoid.
-- Many young Americans risk skin cancer from annual sunburns; EurekAlert
Pollution doesn't even have to exist in the environment during your own lifetime to damage you-- you could end up sick or injured due to the pollution your forebears endured.
-- Air Pollution Damages Across Generations - Study By Maggie Fox, Yahoo! News/Reuters; Dec 09, 2002
-- Toxins in 20% of U.S. Food Supply; WebMD
-- Danger of toxic metals in soils underestimated; New Scientist
-- Global Warming Boosts Crops, Cuts Nutrients -Study; ABC News
-- Pesticides banned many years ago still in some foods; Globe and Mail
-- Mercury Ups Heart Disease Risk; Science Daily
-- Extreme mercury levels revealed in whalemeat ; New Scientist
-- Nature 'pays biggest dividends'; BBC
-- huge economic benefits from conserving wild nature; EurekAlert
-- Gender-bending risk to children; UK Independent
Some people might say the best way to reduce risk is to reduce world population growth-- maybe even reverse it. Maybe even commit genocide on groups we don't particularly like. Keep in mind a sufficiently strong reversal would result in the extinction of the entire human race. Reversals considerably weaker than extinction-provoking events could plunge the world into long-lived economic depressions and perhaps even a new Dark Ages, as our current economic trends and practices depend heavily on growing markets and an accelerating pace of innovation. If lots of folks suddenly died on us, we could lose many new ideas critical to sustaining future innovation, and the ever improving economies of scale which have undergirded much of our progress in the industrial age would suddenly be jerked out from under us. The survivors likely would not be happy campers in such an instance.
It's going to take us a while to learn how to prosper with a stable or even shrinking population. And we might get such shrinkage even with current reproductive trends, over just another generation or two. Hopefully the 30-80 years we have until then will be enough time for us to adapt.
So don't worry population bomb defusers-- your dream seems to be coming true already. Just hope it doesn't happen faster than we can adapt to it.
-- By 2050 global human population may reach somewhere between eight and fifteen billion, and be peaking or plateauing there.
3.4 Human Population History and Future; Geography 210: Introduction to Environmental Issues, Created by Dr. Michael Pidwirny, Department of Geography, Okanagan University College, 12/20/99, Human Population History and Future (http://www.geog.ouc.bc.ca/conted/onlinecourses/geog_210/contents/210~3~3~4.html)
World population may peak and then start a decline of indeterminate length, during our lifetimes. After 2050 world population could conceivably shrink by 25% with each subsequent generation.
In 1995 the populations of less developed nations outnumbered those in developed states by four to one. In the scenario described above that ratio would become seven to one by 2050.
Circa 1900 and before the world population's median age stood at roughly 20. In 1995 it reached 25. In the scenario above, by 2050 it would be 42+. We're talking a world with far fewer children and far more middle-aged and elderly than human civilization has ever seen before.
In such conditions social security and welfare income redistribution systems would have to be completely revamped, or go bankrupt.
The perspective of individuals might also be changed significantly when many or most find themselves possessing no biological relatives younger than themselves. The term "family" for these people will come to mean a group including no biological peers in age.
-- Congressional Briefing 23Feb98, World Population Implosion? Nicholas Eberstadt, Population Research Institute
People forced by circumstances not to have children as young adults end up just as happy as those that did, usually making up the difference by being more socially active in their later years than parents with grown children.
Thus, it would appear that there are few long term impediments to more and more people favoring career or other matters over having children of their own.
-- Childless Adults Just As Content As Parents By Alicia Marie Belchak, Reuters Health/Yahoo! Health Headlines, December 15, 2000
As for those who'd like to wipe out whole strains of the human race to 'solve' various problems, they can relax-- because nature does that routinely. Sometimes in an instant.
The entire human race was almost wiped out at least once around 69,000 BC, by a super volcanic eruption which brought on something like a nuclear winter for the entire world. Humanity's numbers then may have gotten as low as 15,000 total.
-- Paleoanthropology (revised 16 December 1999) by Francis F. Steen, Department of English, University of California at Santa Barbara, http://cogweb.english.ucsb.edu/EP/Paleoanthropology.html
-- "Ancient 'volcanic winter' tied to rapid genetic divergence in humans", News From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, September 1998, News Bureau University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 807 S. Wright St., Suite 520 East Champaign, IL 61820-6219, found on or about 9-10-98
-- "History Of Humans And Great Apes Strikingly Different" University Science, 27-Apr-1999, UniSci Science and Research News, http://unisci.com
Around 1,334 AD - 1,351 AD the Black Death killed a third the population of europe (as well as others throughout Asia and northern Africa)-- maybe more.
-- Could A Nasal Vaccine Finally Get Rid Of The Black Death? New Scientist, 2 DECEMBER 1998, Contact: Claire Bowles firstname.lastname@example.org 44-171-331-2751
80% of the European population was killed by the Black Plague? The article cited below seems to say this, but that figure is much larger than numbers given elsewhere (of which I'm aware). Of course, 80% does seem to better fit the anecdotal information seen below, than 30%. I'll try to narrow this estimate down as more information becomes available.
-- American plague by Jonathan Knight, 19 December 2000, New Scientist Online News
The death toll was staggering; some entire regions suffered severe depopulation. The ground of entire countries was littered with the dead. Coastline populations were devastated. Ships are found drifting in the Mediterranean with their entire crew complement dead.
Religious fanaticism gripped Europe in the aftermath of such widespread death. Extremists became so influential both the church and state joined forces to suppress them.
-- Chapter 18 HISTORIC EPIDEMICS; Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine [apparently by George M. Gould and Walter L. Pyle]; Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library; found on or about 6-23-2000
Indeed, we may soon have to scramble to prevent the entire race from being eliminated, by way of a huge asteroid or comet collision, super-volcanic eruption, nuclear war, disease epidemics, plain old poisoning from pollution, or starvation due to many factors. For details of these and other ongoing and growing threats to us all, refer to the status quo of the world, circa 2000, as well as the timeline in general.
Economics actually became a global issue long before pollution. Remember the Great Depression? It stemmed at least partly from artificial international trade frictions of the time. Even the richest nations can be plunged into misery if we get the economics wrong. And the best deals will be those where as many nations as possible are satisfied with the current arrangements. Rich nations bullying poor nations may have worked pretty well in past history, but doing it today is like a farmer eating the seeds he needs for next season's crops. The richer nations need the poorer nations to mature and develop into new and bigger markets and customers. And the poorer nations need certain kinds of guidance and support from the richer nations to ramp themselves up. Sure, both have their own self-interests driving them, and it wouldn't be wise to tilt the balance too far towards either one on many matters. But healthy compromises between both on many issues have proven mutually beneficial in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.
Remember I mentioned before how our present global economy depends heavily on growing markets? And how growing markets depend a lot on growing populations? Well, another possible growth avenue for markets is scale-- which I somewhat allude to in the text above about our need to help the more backward nations develop and mature economically. But there's another essential nugget here. Namely, the middle-class. The size and education of the middle-class population worldwide really represents the heart of economic growth potential, for everyone. Allow the real growth of the middle-class population to level off, or even dip into negative numbers, and the world economy will take a terrible hit-- at least the way things are set up now.
In my opinion far too few economists, business folks, and politicians consider this issue at all in their various deliberations about growth strategies and policies. But the way we've set up the global economy in the last couple centuries, growth-- both in quantity and quality-- of the global middle-class is essential to economic stability and progress for everyone. For a long while the developed nations themselves had so much room to grow in this manner internally that it didn't much matter about the rest of the world. But those days are drawing to a close. Even we in the developed nations are increasingly dependent upon the growth of the middle-class in developing nations to fuel our own progress towards eliminating poverty and improving living standards for all within our borders. But through neglect, prejudice, and ignorance we may be losing that particular contest.
Note that the change in the status of the middle-class in developing nations may now (or will soon) wield more clout in our own (developed) economic indicators than anything we can easily or quickly change about our own economies. So we ignore or mistreat such struggling nations at our own peril.
It could well be that if and when things take a turn for the decidedly worse for the middle-classes of the developing world, everyone will plunge into deep recession (or even a global depression).
So you might say the current estimates of the present status and future economic potential of all the developed nations (including America) are pretty much just the thin skin of a vast speculative bubble which could burst at any time, and in dramatic fashion.
-- The Payoff for Investing in Poor Countries
-- Report: Human Rights Can Be Good for Business By Evelyn Leopold; Yahoo!/Reuters; December 7, 2000
-- A Fair Deal for the World By Joseph E. Stiglitz; The New York Review of Books; May 23, 2002; review of book On Globalization by George Soros
"In a system of pure capitalism, as people's wealth rises, the financial incentive to serve them rises. As their wealth falls, the financial incentive to serve them falls—until it becomes zero. We have to find a way to make the aspects of capitalism that serve wealthier people serve poorer people as well."
"The genius of capitalism lies in its ability to make self-interest serve the wider interest. The potential of a big financial return for innovation unleashes a broad set of talented people in pursuit of many different discoveries. This system driven by self-interest is responsible for the great innovations that have improved the lives of billions.
But to harness this power so it benefits everyone—we need to refine the system.
As I see it, there are two great forces of human nature: self-interest, and caring for others. Capitalism harnesses self-interest in helpful and sustainable ways, but only on behalf of those who can pay. Philanthropy and government aid channel our caring for those who can't pay, but the resources run out before they meet the need. But to provide rapid improvement for the poor we need a system that draws in innovators and businesses in a far better way than we do today.
Such a system would have a twin mission: making profits and also improving lives for those who don't fully benefit from market forces. To make the system sustainable, we need to use profit incentives whenever we can.
At the same time, profits are not always possible when business tries to serve the very poor. In such cases, there needs to be another market-based incentive—and that incentive is recognition. Recognition enhances a company's reputation and appeals to customers; above all, it attracts good people to the organization. As such, recognition triggers a market-based reward for good behavior. In markets where profits are not possible, recognition is a proxy; where profits are possible, recognition is an added incentive.
The challenge is to design a system where market incentives, including profits and recognition, drive the change.
I like to call this new system creative capitalism—an approach where governments, businesses, and nonprofits work together to stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or gain recognition, doing work that eases the world's inequities.
Some people might object to this kind of "market-based social change"—arguing that if we combine sentiment with self-interest, we will not expand the reach of the market, but reduce it. Yet Adam Smith—the father of capitalism and the author of Wealth of Nations, who believed strongly in the value of self-interest for society—opened his first book with the following lines:
"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it, except the pleasure of seeing it."
Creative capitalism takes this interest in the fortunes of others and ties it to our interest in our own fortunes—in ways that help advance both. This hybrid engine of self-interest and concern for others serves a much wider circle of people than can be reached by self-interest or caring alone. "
"We need similar controls for the confirmation bias in the arenas of law, business and politics. Judges and lawyers should call one another on the practice of mining data selectively to bolster an argument and warn juries about the confirmation bias. CEOs should assess critically the enthusiastic recommendations of their VPs and demand to see contradictory evidence and alternative evaluations of the same plan. Politicians need a stronger peer-review system that goes beyond the churlish opprobrium of the campaign trail, and I would love to see a political debate in which the candidates were required to make the opposite case.
Skepticism is the antidote for the confirmation bias."
-- The Political Brain A recent brain-imaging study shows that our political predilections are a product of unconscious confirmation bias By Michael Shermer June 26, 2006
Note that taking radical actions to reform our own governments and institutions to increase the growth in quantity and quality of our own middle-class could theoretically counteract a significant downturn in the growth of middle-classes elsewhere. But such reforms appear unlikely for many developed nations in the near term. Instead, we seem to be focusing on bettering the lot of the richest 1% or so of our populations at the expense of our middle and lower classes, for some bizarre reason (so I suppose the answer to the question 'what to give someone who has everything' is simply...more).
Unfortunately, many developing nations take their cue from our own policies, and so are presently undercutting the growth of their middle-classes in favor of their richest 1% or so as well. And of course, non-democratic states worldwide have pretty much always done things this way, and will continue on that course. All this likely doesn't bode well for future economic progress.
But maybe technological advancements and entrepreneurship will save us? Alas, the developed nations circa 2002 are strengthening, expanding, and extending big business monopolies by both industrial category and in terms of intellectual property across-the-board, in ways which seem sure to greatly reduce future business competition, and so both technological advancement and entrepreneurial opportunity as well. And again, many of the developing nations are following our lead, thereby amplifying the ultimate potential consequences of our own mistakes, worldwide.
Are education and human rights necessarily global issues today? Sure! The more educated folks worldwide are, the more and stronger democracies we'll have, the more innovation and healthy economic competition, lower prices for goods and services, higher living standards, fewer wars, less terrorism, etc., etc., etc. You name the benefit you want, and it's likely improvements in global education and human rights will give it to us.
-- H.G. Wells, 1,920 AD
|-- Journey to the Center of Jules Verne by EDWIN STEPP|
So how does global justice figure into the equation? Actually, this one may be more potent than several of the items above it on the list, combined. For often even the uneducated can see and understand justice when it's served. And that could defuse huge numbers of conflicts around the globe, perhaps saving the entire race from extinction at some point. Remember, it doesn't take a degree to set a building afire, shoot someone, break open a test tube, or push a button. But the end of the whole world could begin with such a simple action.
Perhaps the biggest changes necessary to accomplish true justice would be enforcing greater accountability and real punishments for the wrong doers among our elite.
-- Big crimes? Maybe. Big punishment? Not likely; Yahoo! Op/Ed - USA TODAY; Gannett Co. Inc.; Feb 5, 2002
-- Crime And (Very Little) Punishment; Arianna Online
-- 'fines, even at the high end, are gnat bites for the banks'; Businessweek
Want more social cooperation and civilized behavior? Then make sure those that don't play by the rules are punished. Those who voluntarily cooperate feel more secure under such conditions, while others are much less likely to break the rules because of fear of punishment.
Of course, much depends here on the perceived fairness of the rules themselves by the majority, and the degree of risk that discovery and punishment look to entail for rule-breakers.
-- Prosperity through punishment by JOHN WHITFIELD; 10 January 2002; Nature News Service / Macmillan Magazines Ltd
What's one result of people feeling the authorities are being unjust in how they mete out punishment? Pretty much a perception that those authorities are rejecting the values those people hold most dear. In effect, rejecting the people themselves.
What happens to those who feel such a powerful sense of rejection? Maybe a plunge in rational thinking, and a greater tendency towards violence and terrorism. A sense of rejection looks to severely reduce intelligence quotients.
-- Rejection massively reduces IQ by Emma Young; 15 March 02; NewScientist.com
-- Exile groups should not be excluded from political dialogue; EurekAlert
Some folks might take this to mean the potential intelligence and expertise available within terrorist organizations will thus be limited in some absolute way, thereby restraining the possible damage they can do to everyone else. In some ways this may well be true. But as the natural physical law of entropy prods all things to collapse into chaos and anarchy over time, and often with only the slightest encouragement from external forces, the power of even the dumbest, poorest, and most clumsy of terrorists will at least on occasion be multiplied by many magnitudes over their innate abilities and ambitions. Note that civilization frequently experiences great and stunning disasters even in matters where everyone involved appears to be working together in a benevolent fashion to avoid them. Entropy is our ultimate enemy-- not our fellow human beings. And encouraging growth in the numbers of human beings seeking to align themselves with such forces only opens up a multitude of new opportunities for cosmic entropy to disrupt our lives and mangle our society, no matter how limited the intelligence or aims of any malevolent people involved in such acts may be.
Note that the absolute measure of real justice within any society will be directly proportional to the level of true transparency of all institutions in that society, and accuracy and comprehensiveness of publically available records for same. It will also be dependent upon the wide availability to the public of raw, unfiltered/uncensored/unslanted news and information stemming from real world events, via a multitude of independent, reliable sources.
A non-informed (or ill-informed) public is much the same as a non-educated public, so far as matters vital to freedom and democracy are concerned.
In light of the above, it is critically important that powerful protections exist to keep mainstream news media free from and independent of government intervention, as well as properly insulated from the possibilities of monopolies or oligopolies of any sort gaining dominance (or undue influence) over the industry as a whole from the business side.
Another essential element to all this is high profile and real encouragement, protection, and rewards for 'whistle-blowers' in both business and government affairs, to aid in the discovery and remedy of mistakes, fraud, theft, corruption, deception, and other ills at all levels of operations, as well as the deterrance of same, merely by the existence and determined enforcement of such policies by all entities of significant size. Whistle-blowers rank among the best champions and defenders of civilization itself, and should be treated accordingly.
Just one of the threats to society to which bold whistle-blowers may be a solution is excessive secrecy. However, excess secrecy is such an enormous threat to the well-being of civilization, and often so difficult to uncover or correct, and so eagerly sought out and utilized by individuals and organizations of ill will, more than strong whistle-blower protections alone will usually be required to root it out and exterminate it.
One way we could boost real accountability and justice in the world is force everyone in positions of power (both business and government) to be as honest as possible in their words and actions. Impossible, you say? It's not. Indeed, it gets ever more technologically feasible each passing day. For example, there'd be nothing simpler than setting up an overlapping, saturated surveillance of our chief executives so that their every word and action relating to their office could be recorded for posterity and after-the-fact analysis.
|-- To Cure Fraud, Start at the Top; Businessweek|
Keep in mind the world would be helped immeasurably more by closely monitoring the actions or detecting the lies of the rich and powerful than doing the same with regard to small-time crooks and criminals. Even serial killers of hundreds of people (or terrorist killers of thousands) can adversely impact society far less than someone like the head of a major corporation or major nation-state can, at this stage in our techological development. The more powerful and influential the person in question, the more urgent the need to insure their honesty and motivations in the position.
|-- 'If we show zero tolerance for mugging or speeding, let's also show zero tolerance for crimes that ruin thousands of lives. Corporate corruption is criminal, and we need to root it out'|
If the first place you use this technology is on people like common thieves and murderers, you're starting at the wrong (and least effective) end of things. If the first place you start is with wholesale surveillance and lie detection measures put into place over apparently innocent citizens or employees en masse, then it would seem you're pursuing a downright sinister course-- as the most effective thing that might accomplish is stopping an innocent whistleblower from revealing wrong doing on the part of the powerful. Is this what the USA and other developed nations are in process of doing as of 2002, with legislation like the U.S.A. Patriot Act? If so, perhaps more people should be re-reading George Orwell's 1984 [shop for this]. Or Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky [shop for this]. Before it's too late.
Overlapping and saturated surveillance of our leaders and other elite would be the simplest, cheapest, and easiest way to ascertain honesty and integrity in the group. But if even more accuracy and granularity was desired in the process, development of more advanced lie detection systems is also possible.
-- Software can spot digital deceivers; BBC News Online; 22 January, 2002
-- Text mining seen as research, security tool By EMERY P. DALESIO, Associated Press/Nando Media/Nando Times; March 4, 2002; AP Online
Perform automated computer translation of spoken or written words into a special language designed for uncovering lies. Then have the original speaker or writer respond to the suspect points discovered via the translation-- and repeat the translation and follow up questioning cycle-- until all the possible deceptions have disappeared, or it becomes obvious the truth is missing-in-action. Does such a language exist? Yes.
The language of the Trio people of Surinam in South America is apparently designed to reveal falsehoods.
-- Language designed to prevent lying; Ananova Ltd ; 21st April 2002
Proper analysis of brain scans from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can reveal a person's dishonesty.
-- The brain operates differently in deception and honesty; 11-Nov-2001; Contact: Ellen O'Brien
University of Pennsylvania Medical Center
-- Going To Lie? Better Avoid fMRI, Study Indicates; [Contact: Ellen O'Brien]; 13-Nov-2001; unisci.com
-- Scientific American: News In Brief: MRI Study Shows Lying Brains Look Different: November 14, 2001 by Sarah Graham
Professional analysis of facial expressions and body language and movements can help the detection of lies. Inconsistencies in dialogue content also help give away liars.
-- Intuitive people worse at detecting lies by Emma Young; 18 March 02; NewScientist.com
-- Some police see through killer's lies by Bruce Bower; Science News Online, March 3, 2001;
Certain victims of a particular kind of brain damage become much better at detecting liars than uninjured people, after they've had at least a year to adjust to their new mental capabilities. Their affliction is called aphasia.
|-- Some Humans Become Lie-Detectors; Discovery.com News/Associated Press; May 11, 2000|
There exists software today capable of analyzing facial expressions for insincerity.
-- University Science Computer Reads Facial Expressions Better Than Humans - By Suzanne Clancy [Contact: Suzanne Clancy] 22-Mar-1999; http://unisci.com
10% of liars can pass coventional lie detector tests. 20% of those telling the truth typically fail the tests. A more accurate way to judge the truth might be computer analysis of micro-expressions; involuntary facial expressions of a person's real emotions which flash across the face too fast for normal human perceptions to reliably catch. However, such technologies are still in the testing phase as of 1999.
-- Liar, Liar, Face on Fire; DISCOVER Vol. 20 No. 7; July 1999; The Walt Disney Company
Thermal imaging cameras appear capable of detecting some lies from changes in blood circulation around the eyes.
-- Scientists: Liars betrayed by their faces; The Associated Press./CNN; URL: http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/01/02/liars.faces.ap/index.html
-- New technology detects lying, paves way for increased security; 2-Jan-2002; Contact: Sara Bakken email@example.com 507-284-5005 Mayo Clinic
-- Thermal camera captures guilty faces by Will Knight; 02 January 02; New Scientist; cite of Nature (vol 415, p 35)
The old conventional lie detection apparatus (polygraph) may be used to gather certain types of information, but is not itself necessarily an infallible detection device.
-- Scientific American: In Focus: Truth or Consequences: October 1999 by Tim Beardsley
-- The truth about the polygraph By Susan McCarthy; salon.com > Health & Body March 2, 2000; URL: http://www.salon.com/health/feature/2000/03/02/polygraph
-- To Tell the Truth. VitalSTATS March 2001
Another technology deemed roughly equivalent to the polygraph in accuracy (but which uses a somewhat different method to get its results) is voice stress analysis.
-- Police increasingly using voice-based lie-detector; 02/11/2002; USA TODAY/The Associated Press
-- "Telling the truth? Truster system can find you out" By Matthew Nelson InfoWorld Electric, 7-31-98
Human memory tends to make mistakes, and even recall events which never took place.
Researchers though have determined a way to differentiate false memories from real ones. The key is brain activity involving sensory experiences related to a given memory. Real memories possess such sensory data, while false ones don't.
-- Telling the Truth About "False" Memory: MU Researchers Discover the Brain Knows Things You Don't; January 22, 2001 Contact: Jason L. Jenkins Information Specialist (573) 882-6217 JenkinsJL@missouri.edu
Note that the enormous cost and effort that would be required to integrate all the above techniques and possibly others into a single, extremely accurate lie detection system at any time in the near future could make it impractical and wasteful to use such a system on anyone in society but the very highest ranking and most influential shapers of business and government.
Secrecy is typically used to shield corruption, conspiracy, unwarranted aggression, and other criminal activities, both in business and government. Used to minimize or destroy accountability. To hide theft of various types. To facilitate coercion. To increase fear and/or uncertainty in a given population or faction. To mislead others in various matters. To manipulate. To slow or impede innovation/competition from certain quarters or within selected industries. Though some might argue there are some secrets legitimately worth keeping for reasons of national security, defense, healthy business competition, or human welfare, all too often those words are called upon in cases where the real truth is closer to the more insidious purposes listed before. And often there's no independent checks and balances placed on those making the decisions regarding secrecy. Thus, it appears that once anyone is given the power to classify things as secret, they tend to go overboard at best (withholding too much information from others), and use it for their own (or allies') benefit at the unethical or criminal expense of others, at worst.
Laws prohibiting 'reverse-engineering' or circumvention research and development likely would have prevented items like the IBM PC from ever being created-- as its design was arguably reverse-engineering of an Apple computer. Likewise the PC clone industry might never have come about, since the critical BIOS upon which they depended was essentially reverse-engineered variants of IBM's code. Thus, laws like these merely stifle innovation and competition, and strengthen existing monopolies.
-- Anticircumvention Rules: Threat to Science by Pamela Samuelson; Computers/Mathematics Volume 293, Number 5537, Issue of 14 Sep 2001, pp. 2028-2031; The American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Shouldn't one of society's general guiding principles be that technology be used for the common good, rather than merely for profit or power?
It appears that excesses in intellectual property protections should, like many other things in life, be avoided. Minimal to moderate protections should exist to encourage the creators to produce and help sustain them. But excessive protections unnecessarily stunt innovation.
One example is the telephone monopoly AT&T enjoyed through much of the 20th century. The idea of helping create what would essentially have been the internet was proposed to AT&T then (sometime after 1956), and the Pentagon even offered to pay all the costs. AT&T refused, partly because they could see the network might become a competitor to their own system.
Similar excesses look to be taking place in USAmerica today, as the government strengthens intellectual property protections to excessive levels, and business exploits these protections to reduce competition in their respective fields. This is slowing innovation and raising costs for consumers.
Some specific examples include:
The FCC is allowing big radio companies to control access to radio spectrum, which is preventing much potential innovation in increasing radio efficiency and allowing advances in wireless devices.
Cable businesses, which currently comprise the mainstream of broadband links for consumers, are being allowed to experiment with ways to control their users' access to web content, and exclude competing services from their networks.
It appears the recent increases in copyright protections should be rolled back again, and programmers allowed to work once more on getting around programming code which prevents the fair use of products. Only patents which prioritize innovation over profit should be granted. Copyrights for artists and authors should only last for five years, but be renewable; thus the content would fall into the public domain once the owners no longer cared enough to retain them.
"If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today." -- Bill Gates, Microsoft, 1991
-- Profit© vs. innovation© By Douglas McGray; The Christian Science Monitor; November 01, 2001; and other sources
It appears that continued prosperity demands progress and progress demands innovation. But if intellectual property protections are made too strong, innovation is reduced or even killed entirely over the long term.
In recent times copyright law has been expanded far beyond its original scope and intent by government, at the behest of major media companies and others.
There should be more constraints placed on what contracts may be imposed by business onto customers in items like software licenses, so that 'fair use' of content by end users is not thwarted. More active promotion and support of the public domain concept would likely improve the environment for future advances.
-- Internet liberation theology By Marc Rotenberg; Nov. 7, 2001; Salon.com
Ergo, in almost all cases it appears considerable constraints should be in place and rigorously enforced on what information can be made secret or withheld from the public. Plus extraordinary care be used in appointing anyone to a position of power regarding where and when the dangerous cloak of secrecy may be applied. And lastly, similar extraordinary care should be used to appoint others to act as a fully independent system of checks and balances on those people selected to place information under lock and key, and each and every decision they make in that role.
Ubiquitous or near-ubiquitous surveillance in a society offers quite a few potential benefits and advantages, as well as some extreme dangers. One-way surveillance of the public en mass is almost certainly the worst and most civilization-threatening way to implement such a system. Two-way surveillance-- with the larger numbers of the public having at least as much monitoring power over the watchers as their watchers do over them-- looks to be the best and least corruptible method to utilize.
Impartial automated systems should comprise the main body of monitors, programmed to tolerate the widest possible variety of human speech, movement, appearances, actions, and interaction which seem consistent with minimal health or physical dangers to themselves or others. Where observed actions appear to go beyond what's acceptable, the machines can take remedial action, often without alerting human observation personnel or even those under its watch. For instance, if the system notices someone driving a bit too fast for the present circumstances on a given highway, it can remotely slow their vehicle to optimal velocity (this scenario will likely be feasible for many urban automobiles a few decades from now).
In other cases, perhaps like a cigarrette smoker lighting up in a room filled with pregnant women, the surveillance system might verbally address the smoker over a public address system in the vicinity (or call them on their cell phone) or alert nearby personnel to advise the smoker to move to a location less harmful to others.
Wherever an urgent and immediate need for assistance is plainly obvious, such as multiple vehicles being involved in a violent collision, there too the machines could automatically and immediately dispatch medical and other assistance without the intervention or related delays of getting real human beings involved in the decision.
Of course, there'll always be a fraction of cases where a human judgment call as to the level of danger or urgency in an observed situation is required, before a decision can be made to ignore the event, or respond in some way. In those cases the automated systems would refer the case to human personnel for their hopefully greater understanding of a given event's implications or possible consequences.
I previously excluded mental illness among the general population as an element to be addressed in this document. But there is one facet of mental illness which should definitely be included here: that possibility among powerful government, military, and business leaders worldwide. Mental illness in this group could have catastrophic results for the world as a whole-- and is much more likely to adversely affect all our destinies than similar illness in less influential people, such as common citizens.
Thus, it would seem only prudent that all our top leaders in both business and government be subject to regular, scientifically credible, and independent mental evaluations, and the results made available in timely fashion to the public. Indeed, it was recently recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that all adults be tested for one particular element of mental illness on a regular basis-- depression.
Believe it or not, the President of the USA's annual medical examination does not currently, and never has, included even a routine psychiatric examination. Virtually all other personnel expected to endure unusual stresses-- such as FBI and CIA agents, and professional pilots-- must at minimum pass a single such exam to begin their jobs. Not so the Presidency circa 2002, even though psychiatric problems there could literally bring on the end of the world.
-- Their Annual Checkups Should Be Complete (washingtonpost.com) By Alen J. Salerian; May 12, 2002; Page B03
-- Federal panel urges screening of adults for depression;The Associated Press/Nando Media/Nando Times; May 21, 2002
-- Fighting Mad Leader Disease (possibly by Rebecca Sloan Slotnick); Science Observer; November-December, 2001
You say you don't believe the items above are as important as I say they are to our own peace, security, and well being? Well, don't take my word for it. Ask all the dead civilizations spread out in our galaxy if such matters should be on our list of priorities. What civilizations, you ask? That's the point. The latest scientific discoveries strongly suggest that life is pretty much ubiquitous throughout the universe. Therefore it follows that highly developed life (like us) has probably sprung up repeatedly in many places over the past several billion years. But where is it? The skies are eerily silent. So silent our own brightest scientists are increasingly worried that something seems to always snuff out civilizations that reach our present stage of development.
From everything we know today, it appears the cause of the average civilization's demise would likely stem from a catastrophic failure in achieving one or more of the goals listed within 'Civlization's Best Defenses'.
|As of 2000 many scientists are becoming concerned at the seemingly glaring lack of results from ongoing searches for extraterrestrial intelligence. Something seems amiss.|