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Wednesday: I don’t like this

Aside from an Occupy march or three, my life is unexciting.  I’ve never had a speeding ticket, never been arrested, don’t do drugs.  But if I *wanted* to smoke a joint in my backyard, I’d like to think I could do so without some drone hovering a mile overhead watching me do it.  Don’t they even make little drones that look like insects and birds and stuff or did I read that in a Michael Crichton book?

This article in The Atlantic should have all of us pretty pissed off.  There’s a limit to how much surveillance we need to keep everyone on the straight and narrow:

Drones, in my mind, make it clear how many of our feelings about privacy rest on the assumption that surveillance is time consuming or difficult. If someone smokes a joint in her backyard, she is making the (pretty good) calculation that a police officer is not watching. In our cars, we assume we can quickly send a text message at a red light or not wear our seatbelts for a few minutes or drive a few miles over the speed limit. We don’t expect that someone is watching our every move and that gives the law some give, a bendiness that reflects it’s a human construction.

But these little flying video and audio recorders, paired with powerful data analysis tools, make previously unthinkable levels of surveillance possible, even easy. Before the Internet, tracking someone’s reading and shopping activities would have been nearly impossible without a private detective. Now, new online tracking tools make it possible to easily capture every page that you visit on the Internet. So companies do. Technology doesn’t create entirely novel privacy questions, but it tilts the playing field towards or away from increased privacy without many citizens (or courts!) really noticing that anything had changed.

Let’s look at one example of how drones change the privacy equation. We tend to think of our homes as having a perimeter. Property maps are two-dimensional, we talk about property lines as if they were burned into the ground. There are access points in two-dimensional space — paths and roads — that channel visitors through a small number of places. We can build fences or plant hedges and they need not be high to mark the territory out.

A flying drone with a zoom lens, though, makes that whole sense of two-dimensional privacy an anachronism. If one wanted privacy from the government or other citizens, one would have to defend the entire volume of airspace reaching up from one’s property to several hundred feet up, if not much farther. This vastly increases the cost of physically hiding one’s activities. And, vis a vis law enforcement, the idea of “plain sight” hardly even makes sense anymore, as Jonathan Zittrain pointed out yesterday:

“The prospect of constant government surveillance of citizens through cheap drones tests the “plain sight” doctrine by which, under our Constitution, police are generally allowed to scope out whatever is in plain view, without requiring a warrant. Supercharged technologies face some limits — extra-sensitive remote microphones, or heat signature detectors of the sort that might be pointed at the wall of a home to detect marijuana-growing lamps in use inside.”

Anyway, the concept of a drone is sort of what my concept of biblical God is.  Doesn’t God have better things to do with his/her time than watch ordinary people do things that shouldn’t be illegal?  And what kind of life do you have when everyone is afraid to step out of line even a fraction of an inch for fear of being fined or jailed?  Isn’t that like being a cow or some other dumb animal?  You get up in the morning, go out to a pasture, chew some cud, go home and go to sleep.  What would be the point? I’m sure the apocalyptic evangelical fundamentalist crowd would see this scenario as some kind of earthly paradise but what about the rest of us?

On the other hand, all of those people who are looking for houses with a lot of “privacy” from their neighbors might as well give it up.  You’re never going to get a chance to have a threesome in the pool with your wife and that personal fitness instructor that you’ve been fantasizing about.

The writer of the Atlantic article thinks the additional surveillance (just because we can) will prompt citizens to run screaming to their legislatures and courts demanding legal protections and that the backlash will include things we don’t even think about now, like various internet giants tracking our every move through the web.  I don’t care if they check out where I’ve been but there is a limit to how much information I’m willing to share with the outside world and the world right now is pushing it.  And giving an entity this much power is an invitation to abuse.

One other thing that’s worth noting is the effect this will have on our most innovative, artistic, and politically useful people.  If everyone is forced to conform as if they live in a fanatical townhouse association with the Staasi for neighbors, then we’ll get the same cookie cutouts running our elected offices too.  Nassir Ghaemi, author of A First Rate Madness says that in times of crisis, the last thing you want is some normal dude or dudess who has no mental abnormalities and has never tested the bounds of what is socially acceptable, which is why it should come as no surprise that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been such disasters. Monogamous, normal, sane, conformity minded people make the worst leaders in times of crisis and make horrendous decisions.  In fact, it helps to have had a mental health crisis of some kind or to have broken some social taboo.  Think Winston Churchill and his cyclical political career, JFK and his affairs and illnesses, Abraham Lincoln and his depression and atheism and finally Steve Jobs and his LSD use.  If there’s a drone watching you and listening in to every conversation, it’s much harder to think out of the box and do what needs to be done without fear of severe reprisals.  In fact, you may never get the chance.  Drones are going to nip a first rate madness in the bud (no pun intended).

Maybe the world works best when there’s a little bit of unravelling, a soupçon of testing the limits.  Sometimes you have to go up in energy to overcome some barrier.  That involves a certain amount of risk taking that others may not approve of.  As Nucky Thompson said, “We all have to decide how much sin we can live with.”  With a drone buzzing up above, that decision may be made for us.  And that’s not a good thing.

**************

The People’s Party considers non-violence:

*************

In other news: Chemists are screwed.  The statistic in this article is old.  The pace of job losses has accelerated in the last two years for chemists.  You know, I can’t think of a more depressing prospect for a chemist than to have spent at least 4 years stuffing my brain with all this complexicated nollij and then be stuck in a CRO lab doing the same damn thing, day after day, like some low level factory worker, never being involved in the design of the compound or asked to participate in a project.  So, maybe it’s better if we just didn’t have American chemists at all.  Yeah, let’s all devolve.

*************

The only guy who could compete with Jon Stewart, George Carlin, takes on the pro-life (actually, the pro-dirty, illegal abortionist) position:

It’s hard to believe he’s been dead for 4 years because he could have written this material yesterday.

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37 Responses

  1. Wait until one of the intelligence gatherers is caught selling information about some new widget being developed by intercepting e-mail or peering through some garage window. It’s not just that kind of info either. What if some company is planning an acquisition of another that will increase the value of its stock or in reverse is about to go down the tubes and fighting to stay afloat.

    I posted over at Joe Cannon’s about AM Hate radio pushing the meme that Obama is using Global Warming as a means of taking away freedom. The people that buy into that are the same that buy into increased surveillance with the ” I have noting to fear because I have done nothing wrong” rationale.

    • I truly and sincerely wish there was/were a way to reach all the global warming deniers and tell them that if they are correct, they have a real contrarian investing opportunity within their reach. They could just think about all the things that global-warming-in-progress will compromise or destroy, and then invest in all those things so that when the warming fails to happen, they will be pre-invested in all those things ahead of the rest of us.

      For example, if the global isn’t warming, then the icecaps are not melting and will not melt, and the ocean is not warming up and will not warm up, which means sea level is not rising and will not rise.
      The global warming deniers should borrow all the money they can against every pledgeable asset they have and invest all that money in oceanside beachfront near-sea-level property. Most especially in coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. If the oceans don’t rise, they will have sown the seeds of future family fortunes.
      If I had the patience, I would try telling that to all of Limbaugh’s listeners.

      • Well, they’d need to buy if and when those land prices actually come down. What if the current owners also are deniers, and don’t lower them? Have any prices come down yet?

        • An Englishman who is here for a while told me that most people in a part of England called East Anglia which is very flat and very near sea level are concerned about sea levels rising. Apparently very few
          people are buying any land or anything to move into in East Anglia anymore (if I understood what he was saying).

          So I offered him the suggestion that if/when he ever gets back to England, he could find people to work with to set up ratfucker squads in “investment opportunity promoter” disguise and they could go to those parts of America where global warming deniers are most prevalent. They could tell the global warming deniers what victims the East Anglians are of the global warming hoax, and how this is the deniers’s big opportunity to buy up land in East Anglia, especially closest to the sea from any East Anglians who are needlessly anxious about rising sea levels. Or closer to home, I bet there are some people who by now have their doubts about living right next to the Gulf Coastal seaside and might be glad to sell for a good price.

  2. If we had honest elections maybe we could do something about this. I’m just so discouraged about our lack of control. Now that invisible people with access to the voting machine data can control who makes these decisions, it seems like we’re vulnerable to ANYTHING.

    I’m back from my trip to Washington, D.C. …. I kept trying to commune with the spirit of the Revolutionaries. But they were pretty quite. Or just intimidated by the docents. So no help there.

    • The one demand that OWS should make: A paper ballot. I don’t care whether it is a real paper ballot, an optical scan ballot or a paper receipt from the voting machine. There should be a hard copy of every vote cast in every election.
      Without a verifiable hard copy, there *is* no legitimate election.

      • I am convinced the 2 parties are keeping the caucus system going to manipulate elections. Some of the same things that happened in the dem primary is happening in the repub camp too (though to a lesser extent) so yep paper ballots and abolish the caucuses!

        These ‘normal’ conformist politicians have never had a philosophical thought in their lives let alone intellictual one. They only know the system, that’s the only way they know how to operate and that’s why the corrupt system keeps repeating itself over and over because they have idea how to break intellictual boundaries.

        • It’s like the consensus reality article on here somewhere (need to go look for it now) all the ‘normal’ ones went along and allowed racism, sexism etc. and just went along working in the system until someone comes along and challenges it.. then you get some changes.

        • In Washington state a few years ago, pre-2008, an initiative passed for the state to run and pay for regular paper ballot primaries. The Democratic party refused to use the results of that primary; they insisted on having and using their own caucuses instead.

          The primary results were about 50/50 Obama/Hillary. The caucus results were about 60-70% for Obama. (This same difference showed up in other states that ran both primary and caucus.)

      • I fully agree. A Legal Paper Ballot as the very first footprint in the trail of footprints would make elections proof against basic balloting fraud and dis-counting. I am thankful to live in an “opti-scan” state. The vote is cast on a physical piece of physical paperboard which is then fed into the opti-scanner and electronically read. If suspicion arises of false reading or false counting, the Legal Paper Ballots can be read and counted by hand, if necessary.
        I suppose if I lived in a fraudulent-by-definition touch-screen voting state, I would stay registered , come to the polling place, stand in the line, and then refuse to cast a ballot with an angry little speech about why. (Of course, I will try to avoid living in a fraudulent-by-definition touch-screen state to begin with).

    • I’ve never known anything but paper ballots and have complete confidence in that system.

      So, recent talk of electronic voting – via personal computers – in the future, worries me quite a bit.

  3. Chemistry as a “profession” is probably finished in the U.S., R.D. Finished.

    American chemists will soon all working in pubs and cafes, where our mixing and pouring skills can be put to good use.

    Still thinking about that drug development company for lupus and other auto-immune disorders…

    • I’ve got a target in mind. It looks druggable. It has structural biology. It’s not in auto-immune disorders though. Could be very lucrative and there is likely already a lot of competition. Nevertheless, this is low hanging fruit. Need funding, project manager, HTS and biology support.
      Interested?

      • It doesn’t have to be in auto-immune disorders to get started. That can be for down the road.

        If I say that I might indeed be interested, I’m going to have to sign one of those NDA thingees, aren’t I?

        • Probably. Operating in good faith and all that.

          OTOH, we could consider this an experiment and a proof of concept of sorts. Mitt Romney says that anyone can start a business. All you need to do is ask your parents for money. And there are *plenty* of venture capitalists out there.
          {{snort!}}
          So, this could be a way to demonstrate just how difficult it is to discover a drug, even when the target looks like a pretty good one with a lot of the basic research already done.

          Hmmm, what we really need is a documentary film maker, a kickstarter page and a good lawyer.

          • Sure. I’ll sign an NDA.

            Besides everything else you’ve mentioned, we’re going to need someone who can serve in the capacity of a CEO. Doesn’t have to be running a company now; he or she could even be “semi-retired” at the moment. But that person needs to have experience running at least a small/medium-size pharma or biotech company. Angel investors will not take us seriously if such a person is not part of the team.

            The idea of being followed around by a documentary filmmaker is good, btw. I don’t believe you can use kickstarter money to launch a for-profit company, but such money can be used to make a film about launching such a company

          • And do you know of someone with that kind of experience?

          • SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives) can be a very helpful resource for obtaining business advice. Most of the business mentoring and services (maybe all of them) are free.

            SCORE

          • This sounds a bit like ENCORE. Are you familiar with that org? It’s supposed to be for experienced, semi-retired professionals. They told me I wasn’t old enough to join, which I took as a compliment.

          • Never heard of ENCORE. The basic concept could very well be similar.

  4. I agree about the paper ballot demand (mentioned in the preceding comment thread).

    Interesting that you should mention Churchill. Although he was not a philanderer, he did have one major affair. His wife had several, if memory serves. He drank a lot, although he was actually drunk rather less than his enemies liked to suppose. He also had bouts of severe depression. “Black dog days,” he called them.

    Aside from all of that, the guy was just plain eccentric.

    He certainly seems not to have held any deep religious beliefs.

    Could a man like that be elected to high office nowadays? No way. Certainly not in the U.S., and probably not in the UK.

    • Yeah, it would be tough. These days, we hound them to death and make a big fricking deal about all of their “eccentricities”.
      Too bad for us. We need a few weirdos.

    • I’m thinking that Dwight Eisenhower wouldn’t stand a chance in today’s republican party. There’s that whole school desegregation thing you know, not to mention the warnings about the military industrial complex.

  5. The only place where I disagree with Carlin is his emphasis on Republicans and Christian conservatives as anti-woman. Democrats showed us in 2008 and are still showing us today that they are anti-woman, just stealthier about it.

    • I think the cat’s out of the bag as of 2008. They had no qualms about ruining a woman’s presidential aspirations probably forever and they used misogyny to do it AND their stupid women party loyalists went along with it. It’s the female collaborators who we should be angry with. They’re their own worst enemies.

      • You know . . . I remember Senator Clinton having voted against the FISA lawsuit-against-ATT-relief bill that Obama voted for. I wonder whether Reid AND Pelosi knew they would be equally co-fingered by all the oozing filth which such a lawsuit would find lurking in their closets. I wonder if they supported Obama beCAUSE of his voting against for the FISA lawsuit suppression bill. In fact, I wonder if they made his voting for it the price he had to pay for getting their support against Clinton.

    • they have no clue they are anti woman. They think they are immune. They see nothing wrong with calling Palin Caribou Barbie. They have no problem believing Clinton would never have been a senator without her husband having been president. They are idiots.

  6. John Robb at Global Guerillas has posted or hosted a lot of articles about drones at Global Guerillas lately. Some of the most recent ones have been about huge flocks of tiny goverdrones and also huge flocks of uncontrolled nosy neighbor drones and so forth.

  7. Riverdaughter and Nakkajima Kikka,

    I am just a lay amateur science buff with little education and no specific training, but over the years some of my random ideas turn out to have been good ones in hindsight. So here is a random idea for you to consider or laugh at as you see fit.

    I have heard and read that in many cancers, the primary tumor calves off cells which lodge in far distant parts of the body. But the primary tumor also secretes some kind of chemical which travels throughout the blood stream and thereby reaches all these far distant daughter cancer cells. That chemical suppresses their activation and growth and keeps them somehow “asleep”. If/when the primary tumor is removed, the distant-daughter-tumor-cell suppressor-chemical is no longer secreted. After a while of recieving no more suppressor chemical inputs, the daughter-tumor cells come out of chemical suppression, “wake up” and “decide to go to work and replicate”.

    If that is true, could that primary-tumor-secreted suppressor-chemical be identified and replicated? And if so, could it be synthesized and given to the cancer patient after the primary tumor has been neutralized? And would steady doses of that daughter-cell-suppressor chemical keep the daughter-metastacells dormant for the rest of the patient’s natural life?

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t already under investigation in some cell signalling project. I could look it up for you if you’d like.
      What I have in mind with Nakajima is more like an open source organization for a drug discovery project. It’s a little tricky though because he may have company obligations and non-compete stuff and as an unemployed person who’s an idea rat, I don’t want to give too much away for fear he’ll run with it.
      It’s sort of a mexican standoff. Or Japanese standoff in this case.
      But it would be cool if we could do it!

      • That’s what NDAs are for. To protect both parties in an exchange of confidential information.

        It is unlikely that any non-compete clauses would be triggered here. But I’m happy to send you my resume if you like, to help you decide.

      • If it would be interesting to you yourself to look this up, I would be interested in what you find. But as a mere layman I probably would not be able to understand any of the details of it. I was more just offering it as an idea for someone to do something about if the idea were any good at all. If someone
        already IS doing something about it, that just goes to show that sometimes I have vaguely good general ideas, even if only by accident. There is nothing I could actually do about any of this.

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