Tag Archives: democracy

Obama’s Greatest Challenge: A Jobs Policy for the Tech Age

It’s not just Obama’s challenge, it’s a challenge for the country and for the world. As more and more jobs are automated how will we as societies handle this? Will we rush to restrict commerce and development? To kill ATMs to save bank teller jobs? Let’s hope not as that would be a recipe for stagnation at best, complete economic disaster at worst.

We are going to have to be more nimble as workers. Things will be less permanent. We must accept this reality or we will fall behind our potential as a country, as a planet. Going retrograde on the job front is not the answer.

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Bitcoin is here baby! And it mystifies many

Relatively early days.
Relatively early days.

I was talking with my wife the other day about how Bitcoin only 3 years ago was an obscure experiment engaged in by cyber-punks and anti-central bank people. It was really an anarchist effort (in the good sense of maximum freedom, not in the bad sense of throwing Molotov cocktails.) Totally on the fringes. It was $3 a Bitcoin back then. Now it’s $758.
Continue reading Bitcoin is here baby! And it mystifies many

Forget Mega-Corporations, Here’s The Mega-Network

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Yes the brain implants are coming. One had better get used to this fact. But it probably won’t be put there by tech developed by a megacorporation. It is more likely that the chip will be developed by a small company working in some cases with other relatively small companies.

Giant corporations are slow to move and for the wealth associated with such firms (currently) smaller firms with access to capital and know-how, via networks, are a much more viable model in the dynamic economic ecosystem which envelops the world.

Of course then there’s Google.

Continue reading Forget Mega-Corporations, Here’s The Mega-Network

Innovation Is the Only Way Forward

We at The Future 500 believe absolutely in the idea that innovation, constant innovation, is a key element to the 21st Century. Those who embrace the chaos of innovation and the the order of disorder will succeed, some beyond their wildest dreams. Those who do not will be left behind. This goes for countries, companies, and individuals. Create and think, or don’t. But the second option is not going to be a pleasant one.

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Nurturing Democracy from the Other Side of the Planet

There is a fledgling democracy in the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan and journalism professors at Stony Brook College are helping the country develop a culture of inquiry and a free press, from the far side of the globe.

This type of work was done largely in person after the Iron Curtain came crashing down and Eastern European countries sought a way forward. But now some of the work in Bhutan is not being done in Bhutan, but in “virtuality.”

As the tiny kingdom opens to the rest of the world, good advice will be vital. Now that advice is just a mouse click away.

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Censorship fallout from the Arab Spring?

Censorship fallout from the Arab Spring?

 

The use of ICT tools to drive reform protest movements captured the imaginations across North Africa and the Middle East. But it has also drawn the attention of repressive governments with an eye on censorship.

The use of Internet-based and other ICT tools to drive reform protest movements captured the imaginations of tech-savvy individuals across North Africa and the Middle East over the last year. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter helped drive street demonstrations in a dozen countries and secure international support for reform efforts around the world. But the trend has also drawn the attention of repressive governments and some within the ICT sector fear censorship battles may heat up in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

Google Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt says his company fully expects to be the focus of disagreements with repressive regimes and fears Google employees may be at risk from detention and torture in some countries.

“I think this problem is going to get worse. The reason is that as the technology becomes more pervasive and as the citizenry becomes completely wired and the content gets localized to the language of the country, it becomes an issue like television,” Schmidt said at the Google-organized Dublin summit on militant violence this week.

“If you look at television in most of these countries, television is highly regulated because the leaders, partial dictators, half dictators or whatever you want to call them understand the power of television imagery to keep their citizenry in some bucket,” he continued.

Governments ramping up their efforts to shut down the information highway is something Internet service providers have been grappling with on and off for the last decade. Experience with China’s censorship efforts in particular has drawn significant attention. Yahoo! Inc. faced serious public backlash after its 2002 provision of user information led to the arrest, abuse and imprisonment of Wang Xiaoning.

Since then ICT sector players have clashed on and off with authorities in China, and elsewhere, as the tide of support for universal access has gained prominence. Both Google and Yahoo! are members of the multi-stakeholder Global Network Initiative, an effort to promote freedom of expression and privacy, and like other major ICT companies have initiated efforts to increase access to services in developing countries.

Earlier this month the United Nations affirmed its support of access to the Internet as a human right, with Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue issuing a report making the case for Internet access to enjoy the same legal protections under international standards as other methods of mass communications.

But the practical truth is that as long as authorities maintain control over networks and infrastructure, fully unhindered access to the Internet, its tools and information is still just dream for hundreds of millions of users worldwide.

The U.S. State Department confirmed shortly after the release of La Rue’s report that American authorities are investing millions to fund efforts to bypass government censorship through the use of “shadow” voice and digital communications networks that allow users to send information, according to the New York Times and other media. The benefit, say proponents of alternative networks, is that even in cases where dissidents can use circumvention technologies to sidestep censors, if authorities have slowed down network speeds users may still be unable to post most content.

A variety of innovative options are being considered – some of which sound like they could have come right out from Q’s workshop in a James Bond movie. Consider the following examples cited by the New York Times and other reports:

  • The suitcase project uses small wireless antennas and base stations disguised as suitcases, boxes or bags to help transform electronic devices like cellular telephones or laptop computers and build a wireless Internet network that is outside official control. If authorities seize a unit once a core network is established in an area the other stations will compensate.
  • U.S authorities are helping develop cellular telephone applications, or apps, such as the “panic button” which will erase a cellular telephone’s contact lists and emit an emergency signal to alert other activists.
  • Another idea seeks to build on the use of Bluetooth headsets, which Iranian dissidents have used to transmit data outside authorities’ control. Developers are looking to create a system that allows users to mark data so that when other trusted individuals come into range their mobile devices automatically get the transfer.

Until governments around the world cease efforts to restrict Internet access and the international community develops a legally enforceable mechanism to compel countries to comply, censorship circumvention efforts will remain at the forefront of the battle for fair, equitable universal global access.