Citizen Drones: Leveling the Surveillance Playing Field

November 19th, 2011 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Citizen Drones: Leveling the Surveillance Playing Field)

With the Occupy movement in full swing, and the increasing surveillance and use of violent suppression by the state, this might shed light where it’s most needed:

YouTube user latajacakamera (“flying camera” in Polish) shot this jaw-dropping aerial footage with a remote control helicopter during Independence Day riots in Poland on November 11, in which anti-fascist groups clashed with nationalists and police. The camera effortlessly glides over lines of riot police to hover high above the tear gas and chaos for a unique perspective.

This incredible shot flies over riot police as they mobilize in formation:


The Coming Leisure Society

January 31st, 2004 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

The last few days I’ve become increasingly obsessed with where the global economy is going and it’s effects on the labor pool. After days of contemplating the large number of variables I now believe that a leisure society is inevitable, short of global catastrophe. Futurist and optimists have been dreaming about it for years, but I think we are likely to see it in our lifetimes, regardless of how bankrupt governments and social programs become in the interim.

One undeniable trend that almost every business guru agrees on, is that companies will have to become increasingly accountable and transparent to their investors and more responsive to their customers if they want to survive. As the power of the network grows, making it possible for more real-time information of a companies operations, the Board of Directors and the CEO are going to increasingly become accountable to investors and customers until they are almost superfluous in the organization. The current juggernaut of centralized and corporate behemoths, obscene executive salaries, and hierarchical organizations cannot withstand the power of the network much longer. I think the massive swindling is happening in part because of fear of their inevitable demise.


Imagine you have two publicly traded companies that are both competing in the same sector.
transparent-accounting One of these companies is completely transparent throughout the entire enterprise – finances, hiring/firing, supply-chain, everything is open for review. One possible way to visualize this is to imagine a sophisticated 2D/3D real-time interactive animation display of every area of the companies operations. You could tell exactly how many people are working where, who is being hired, fired, expenditures for everything from trash bags in the company lunch room, to how much is being spent on advertising. All of it will be completely displayed in dynamical real-time techni-color graphics. The second company is just like most any company now doing business as usual (circa 2003).

In this competitive environment, the first company will be far more likely to attract investors than the second, but more importantly the first company’s functioning will be so transparent to the people running it that clear communication and knowledge will available to everyone, even the customers and investors. Such a company will make it very easy for anyone to communicate, ideas to be exchanged across company lines, problem areas to be easily identified and resolved. The level of innovation and efficiency, not to mention the very attractive capital inflow from investor confidence, will easily out compete a company more worried about keeping things secret – regardless of whether its their books or intellectual property.

With the proliferation of RFID, good or bad, it will enable everyone, you and me to identify every product that we buy and automatically, and in real-time shopping mode, purchase only those products that come from companies who adhere to our ethical/corruption index, details of which I have blogged about earlier:

These types of measurements would be made via decentralized, ad-hoc, smart mobs in conjunction with individual reputation systems. So, not only will you be able to vote with your pocketbook, but also you will be able to make informed, even ethical consumer decisions based on people you trust. I can see this web-of-trust rapidly superceding top-heavy “consumer” capitalism, transforming it into a bottom-up grass-roots participatory capitalism.

As time goes on, and it won’t take long in this nanosecond, increasingly automated and accelerated economy for this ecology of transparent companies to fine tune the very essence of what a company/economy does. By definition the economy itself will become utterly response to investors and customers who increasingly become the same person. These so-called ad-hoc transient companies will increasingly blur the line between one company and another, employees and investors, customers and executives, that such distinction will become meaningless. No longer will we have distinct “solid” and separate companies and consumers, but an evolving complex decentralized ad-hoc network of capital, people, ideas, innovation and wealth responding in real-time to the people it serves. It will mark the end of the corporation as we know it and the beginning of a truly support economy.

These responsive, transparent companies will become the economic and wealth producing engines that take all of us participants, along with their increasing automation into a full-time leisure economy. Already we are seeing massive outflow of labor to India and elsewhere. This unfortunately is the result of the power of the network. However, it’s only a matter of time before even the cheapest of labor will no longer be necessary. More and more of the economic engine will become automated. It’s inevitable, always has been. Initially such displacement could be very painful for a large number of people. However, these transparent companies won’t survive if they are not responding to it’s customer base. And without customers the company itself doesn’t survive. So it will continue to make products cheaper and cheaper, continually improving the ease of investment, making it increasingly easier to move your money where its most needed and where it will provide the largest return. Everyone will be making less money from lack of employment and things getting cheaper, but everything will be getting cheaper at the same rate. So my theory is this time, this inevitable global depression will result in a leisure economy for everyone.

Oh, and green companies will out compete polluting companies, simply because they are more efficient. Such distinctions are not sensitive enough yet to tip the scale, but the real-time transparent economy will make every last shred of efficiency matter. End result, green and environmentally friendly companies win out.


Skype: Truly Private Phone Calls?

October 13th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I think I’m a little late in discovering this, but I just found out about Skype. Skype is a new program from the same people who created Kazaa that allows you to make phone calls to other Skype users with extremely sophisticated encryption. In fact the capability of having private phone calls using VoIP, is so great that the FBI is considering taking them to court because it prevents them from wiretapping. The interesting thing here though is that the these so-called “calls” are just a buch of encrpyted 1’s and 0’s. It’s my understanding that unlimited encryption is allowed for citizens of the US, as long as that technology is not exported overseas. However this technology is not made in the US in the first place, so export restrictions do not apply. So this boils down to two contrary laws – one regarding strong encryption, and the other granting the FBI the ability to wiretap.

This to me also brings up a larger more philosophical point. For the longest time I was a strong advocate of privacy rights, and I still am to a certain extent. However, the problem I’m now having is the unilateral stripping of our privacy rights, while those in power get more privacy. And as I have often repeated this is a recipe for disaster. My feeling is if the FBI wants to wiretap and spy on everyone, then they themselves need to be more accountable and transparent to the people they serve who pay their bills – us. But instead these same people have used the veil of secrecy to conduct themselves in all sorts of unscupulous ways. If they want to make sure we are not a threat, then all I’m asking for is the same ability for us taxpayers to make sure they are not one either. Sounds fair to me, so what am I missing here? Oh thats right, we aren’t really a democracy, or wait, even a republic anymore. We are a corpocracy, a covernment by the corporations for the corporations. Now it’s all starting to make sense.

In either case, this could shape up as one of the more interesting digital rights stories of the coming year.


Augmented/Participatory Freed Markets

April 23rd, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Augmented/Participatory Freed Markets)

Augmented Markets

A new post over at Headmap makes some interesting insights:

the internet is doing some disturbing things it is creating currencies and ecoonomies with no money intermediary

link economies, peer two peer file sharing economies and software development and exchange economies
this seems to suggest that in the absence of friction money makes less and less sense

in fact in the current climate many things are starting to make less and less sense

and these network economic anomalies will soon slip into the real world

destroying huge industries based on friction difficulty seperateness and centralisation

as exchange without money becomes more efficient and reliable

money won’t disappear but will have to start living in parallel with vibrant, aggressive efficient parallel economic forces

the moves towards hardware level copyright controls and crippling copyright legislation

seem more and more like attempts to artificially introduce friction into a system that by its nature is able to remove it entirely

there seems to be the fear that money itself may be on the verge of collapse and that only a radical lockdown can save a civilisation with money at its heart

capitalism is being augmented at a frightening speed.

Indeed. It is my  strong feeling that the real war afoot has nothing to do with Iraq, Oil, WMD, etc. but is instead the beginning moves of a new war between the old guard and the new, powerful, democratic and participatory freed market forces emerging in the trenches of cyberspace. What is perhaps frightening and disturbing about it, is its immediate threat to the power elite, and more specifically the drastic and scary measures they may resort to maintain their power in the face of ever decentralizing forces. Things like the DMCA, the PATRIOT Act, etc are just the first salvos in this war of the ultra-rich against everyone else. Interesting that Alvin Toffler predicted just such a war in 1991 in his book Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century.

Perhaps I’m just having one of my paranoid moments, but I suspect the ultra-rich’s real agenda is the creation of a slave-society where people are more easily controlled, subverted and eliminated as needed. I think our best chances lie in the emergence of wide-spread decentralized democracy and total transparency, rather than top-down surveillance and centralized state backed corporatism. As long as governments/corporations hold the upper hand on surveillance, secrecy and control, I’m not optimistic about humanities chances. Besides, if they’re truly serious about fighting terrorism, then decentralization and transparency are vastly more effective in dealing with it. No, all this secrecy and draconian legislation serves only to make the rich and powerful more so at the expense of everyone else.


Why The Future Does Need Us

January 30th, 2003 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Why The Future Does Need Us)

Freeman Dyson has just published his own review of Michael Crightons Prey in the New York Review. The title of this article is also a response to Bill Joy’s, Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us, which first appeared in Wired Magazine a couple of years ago. This article covers nanotechnology, bioterrorism and censorship.

I would only like to add that despite the dangers of any powerful technology, especially biological and nanotechnological, barring their research outright, as Joy suggests, is the most dangerous path as only those hiding in the dark, and away from accountability, will be developing it – think both government black-budget and privately funded terrorist groups.  Only if this research is open can we hope to thwart its dangers, mitigate its risks, and steer it in a positive direction. The promise of nanotechnology is so great that we must do our absolute best to harness it for good


News: Blogs, Whitstleblowers, Open Spectrum

December 23rd, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on News: Blogs, Whitstleblowers, Open Spectrum)

In todays Wired, Blogs Make the Headlines.

It’s safe to assume that, before he flushed his reputation down the toilet, Trent Lott had absolutely no idea what a blog was. He may have a clue now. Internet opinion pages like Instapundit, run by University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, and Talking Points Memo, from leftie political columnist Josh Marshall — were among the first to latch on to’s brief item on Lott’s racist comments during Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday bash.

I think Blogs are going to do for the left, what talk radio did for the right. I’ve always felt that the so-called “liberal media” was a lie told by the right to justify moving an already conservative media further to the right. But In either case, the importance of this story is that with a sufficient number of blogs, representing a large enough cross-section of society, we’ll get a media that is increasingly balanced and offering more perspectives.

I’m also excited to see Time Magazines Persons of the Year are three women who acted as whistleblowers for large-scale corruption in Enron, Worldcom and the FBI. Hopefully such huge personal risk is recognized for the great service it does for all of us, especially in light of the Homeland Security Act, which now criminilazes such behavior. Perhaps this is Time Magazines way of snubbing their noses at the establishment.

On the technological front, this months Wired Magazine has an article on Open Spectrum by Kevin Werbach.


Citizen Lab

December 4th, 2002 | Posted by paul in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Citizen Lab)

Citzen Lab is a a “hothouse” that brings together social scientists, filmakers, computer scientists, activists, and artists, the Citizen Lab sponsors projects that explore the cutting-edge of hypermedia technologies and grassroots social movements, civic activism, and democratic change within an emerging planetary polity.

Among the projects they are part of are the World Sousveillance Day, and the China Google Proxy – which will empower people in China to bypass their censorship firewalls.