Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pseudonyms, Algorithms and Problems of Human Control

A couple of interesting items from the near future, this time.  But first... Does the Murdoch Hacking Scandal Signify the End of Privacy? - Scientific American interviews 'one of the world thought-leaders on transparency, whistle-blowing, hacking and our future as an "enlightened" civilization.'  (Their words. In fact, the “thought-leader” happens to be me. Gosh.)

Should Facebook and Google+ offer pseudonymic membership?


Still in beta testing, Google-Plus is already a hit, making Facebook nervous with some blatantly better approaches to social networking -- such as the ability to specify your postings to different groups of 'friends'.  One of many fixes we humans have been asking for. (Find me on Google Plus!)

Yet, controversy already simmers.  Take the issue of pseudonymity vs identity.  Just like Facebook, Google+ insists that people use their real names. They've already suspended many accounts found to be in violation.

Complains one blogger: “Allowing pseudonyms could be a way for Google Plus to distinguish itself from Facebook, particularly since Google contends that Google Plus emphasizes personal control over information and sharing. But as it stands, that control is limited to those who choose to go by real names.” Some users, no doubt, merely want to separate their public and private profiles.

Some take their objection even further:  Google+'s "No-Pseudonyms" Policy is Homophobic, Not Just Anti-Social. A snip: “Forcing people to use their real names can be directly damaging to people, especially people who are persecuted for their political views, or persecuted just for being who they are. Like LGBT people — who still face execution in at least three countries.”

A good point.  But Google and Facebook have legitimate counter-points of their own.  First, anonymity and unaccountable pseudonymity are proved to foster some very unpleasant types of online behavior, ranging from predatory to deliberately harmful to just plain nasty. Second, anonymity can open the door to automated personas that sift and collect data for hidden masters, or that might replicate endlessly, clogging the system with multiple, non-real  entities. 


Sure, there should be realms where identity is as open and wild as the old west! But when it comes to those domains that offer themselves up as central fora, where we'll all feel obliged to join and where our children feel they "must" have a presence? These should be subject to norms of accountability, backed by a reputation that rises and falls according to one's deeds - as it always did for our ancestors. 

There are other problems too, described in my book The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom.

The perennial key question: Must we make an either-or choice? Our civilization made most of its real strides by looking for the win-win, the positive sum game. I have been consulting for some folks who believe they see a terrific business offering two items desperately needed online, both reputation management and portable but accountable pseudonyms... 

...pseudonyms that come certified and therefore offer some defense  against abuse, with “follow me” reputations that ensure accountability for specific misbehaviors... but still provide safety from retribution for political or other views.  In fact, the outline for such a system seems remarkably clear, with some surprising added benefits! 

Somebody is going to make a lot of money, providing a win-win-win solution to this problem.

Are Algorithms Going to Take Over? Too late - they have!

Kevin Slavin argues that we're living in a world designed for -- and increasingly controlled by -- algorithms. In this riveting talk from TEDGlobal, he shows how these complex computer programs determine: espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts, and architecture. And he warns that we are writing code we can't understand, with implications we can't control...


Watch the video, then ponder the microsecond trading that he reveals in Wall Street. Stock markets should be driven by people who study a company's details and choose to invest... not by computer programs that detect the ordering patterns of those studious investors and automatically buy up whatever stock they want, before they can type "return."

In what way does that make "markets more efficient?"  How does it allocate investment capital better?  In fact, it deters intelligent investment in promising companies because the system has parasitic organisms sucking gradient energy and flattening opportunity curves.

I never thought of this before.  These awful parasitic trade-programs are the biggest argument FOR insider trading!

You know how I feel about this!

The Securities and Exchange Commission approved rules Wednesday that could make it highly lucrative for Wall Street whistleblowers and other corporate insiders to alert the agency to securities violations. Under the rules, whistleblowers will be entitled to receive 10 percent to 30 percent of the money they help the SEC collect through enforcement actions. Corporations had lobbied intensely for rules that would impose constraints on whistleblowers.  

And this...

Dozens of police departments nationwide are gearing up to use a tech company’s already controversial iris- and facial-scanning device that slides over an iPhone and helps identify a person or track criminal suspects. The so-called “biometric” technology could improve speed and accuracy in some routine police work in the field.  The smartphone-based scanner, named Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, or MORIS, can be deployed by officers out on the beat or back at the station.

An iris scan is significantly more accurate than results from other fingerprinting technology long in use by police, BI2 says. When attached to an iPhone, MORIS can photograph a person’s face and run the image through software that hunts for a match in a BI2-managed database of U.S. criminal records. Each unit costs about $3,000.

Can we get the benefits without paying a steep cost?  Sure... providing we get these things, too!  And we always, always have the right to aim them back at authority.

Briefly back to politics... and murdochs vs eloi...

Got the literary reference? Now dig this.

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal - Rupert Murdoch’s top partner and co-owner of Fox News - said that he wants oil prices to drop so that the United States and Europe don't accelerate efforts to wean themselves off his country's supply. Ask your favorite Fox-watcher what he or she makes of all the facts contained in that sentence.  First get them to read it aloud.  Watch cognitive dissonance and denial go to work. 

And to show who Barry Goldwater or William F. Buckley would be voting for, today? President Obama announces push to train 10,000 engineers yearly.

Science Miscellany

Some black holes may be older than time. 

And the campaign against Uplift begins -- with fear-mongering. See also "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."  This is going to be a hard struggle, with BOTH the right and the left lined up against what could be humanity's greatest and most noble accomplishment.

And more misceallaneous cool/weird science? Can eating “probiotic” bacteria extend health and life? Long considered a beneficial side effect of eating certain types of yoghurt, these “good bacteria” have been studied and even refined a bit by science. Indications are that there’s some truth to it. But do researchers have any literary background? Aldous Huxley wrote of gut bacteria bringing immortality in “After Many a Summer Dies the Swan.” (1939) You only learn it’s scifi on the last page! 

An interesting attempt to create a nonprofit to improve discourse by holding public figures accountable for conflicts of interest.  I’m not at all sure it is well-designed or executed, but some folks should look it over and report back. 

With support from President Barack Obama, NASA’s budget is at an all-time high. Over the next four months, the  division is due to launch three major missions: to the Moon, to  and to Jupiter. And the heliophysics division plans to send a probe plunging into the blistering atmosphere of the Sun, closer than ever before. But because the overall NASA science budget is relatively flat, something had to give. Since 2008, astrophysics funding has plunged relative to other NASA science -- and relative to physics and astronomy funding at other agencies.  Stung by spiraling costs and charges of mismanagement, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) -- Hubble's long-awaited successor -- is now seen by some critics as too expensive to fly. And the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which would hunt for exoplanets and probe the poorly understood phenomenon known as dark energy, may take too long to develop to be worthwhile. 

Don't be like these stupid engineers 

Water appears to be abundant in the universe -- even where we least expect it!  Caltech researchers recently found an immense cloud of water vapor near a quasar  surrounding a black hole. This distant (and ancient) site - the super-blasting center of an ancient galaxy - indicates that water was around from the earliest stages of the universe...


Now to find intelligence... anywhere! Far from Washington, I presume...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Calling Bluff on the Debt Ceiling "Carpocalypse"

Here in Southern California we just survived the "carpocalypse"  - when fevered pundits proclaimed that one stretch of closed LA freeway might wreak gridlock all the way to the Mexican border.  It didn't happen, because people sensibly heeded warnings. As during the so-called "Y2K Crisis," headlines blared: World Fails to End!

Nor will the United States of America collapse, if it slips into an August of No Borrowing.


Oh, the political fight in Washington, over the raising of the debt ceiling, is serious, all right. There's plenty at stake and the rare adults in that town are trying hard to negotiate solutions.  Here I plan to lay out some of the parameters - a few of which you surely haven't seen mentioned in big-media. I will also appraise some of the crazier polemical tricks.

But first, let me reiterate a key starting point: despite chicken-little proclamations pouring from all sides, America won't tumble into hell if there's no budget deal by August 2.


==Jeopardy in the Short-Term?==

The cause of "carpocalypse" level panic in D.C. is fear that the U.S. credit rating will collapse, if the debt ceiling isn't raised in time. America is said to be the only major nation that's never defaulted on its obligations, resulting in easy access to cheap bonds. And indeed, a true default on interest and principle payments could do serious harm, raising risk assessments and borrowing costs for ourselves and for our children. But that won't happen.

Even if August 2 passes without a deal, and the U.S. government abruptly stops borrowing, there will be no reason for our national credit to be damaged, more than a scintilla.

Why? Because there will still be enough money in the till, on August 3 and thereafter, to keep the armed services, FBI, FEMA and most vital services going. And after that, more than enough to pay interest due on all outstanding debts. In other words, no "default."

And if all interest is being paid, exactly what will the credit markets have to complain about? Will their calculations of self-interest really change that much, because of an official state of insolvency - clearly very brief - that won't affect their bottom line a single bit? There is a word for market participants who let symbolism trump calculated self-interest.

Chumps. Sure, speculators will send bond yields on a roller coaster for a couple of days. Then, their place will be taken by calmer, more calculating heads.  Winners.

Oh, don't get me wrong. The August 2 deadline is a serious matter!  The President will be forced to shutter half of the government. Farm subsidy payments and student loans won't go out.  Social Security checks may be cut in half, or they may not go out at all.  That's bad!  But that won't last very long, you can be sure.  No more than days - a couple of weeks, at most. And the difference will be made up, within a month.

The short term victims of this idiocy will be politician-demagogues with careers cut short by self-inflicted wounds. We won't see a collapse of the United States of America.

My real worries extend over the longer term, to the underlying problem of which this is just a hiccup symptom. The same damned curse we've suffered for 20 years. Our grinding decline into phase three of the American Civil War.


==A Primer on the Impossible Politics of Debt Reduction==

Consider the awful position the Republicans find themselves in. They cannot turn around now and simply vote to raise the debt ceiling, as they did 17 times under Ronald Reagan and seven times under George W. Bush, without a squeak, while the national debt skyrocketed under both presidents.  (The ceiling went up four times, by small amounts, under Bill Clinton.)

Never mind history. For the GOP-controlled House to do this for Obama, after all their radical rhetoric, would be political suicide.

President Obama has made it even more difficult to back out.  By seeking a Grand Deal on the deficit, he took on his own party's base to offer major cost-savings in entitlement obligations, such as Medicare and pensions. For the GOP to walk away from a table heaped with budget cuts, efficiencies and spending limits amounting to three trillion dollars over ten years - more than they ever asked for - would be public admission of hypocrisy.

(Secret factoid: the Democratic leadership sees this event as an opportunity to do some major fat-trimming that the country desperately needs, but that they could never justify to their base, under normal conditions. Each side could do this - enact some vital reforms while blaming the other side!  That is, they might, if pragmatic adults filled the room.)

Why can't the GOP accept this offer? Because Obama demands one trillion dollars in revenue to compensate and help pay for it all.  Every penny of new revenue would come from elimination of targeted pork or fatcat tax breaks - like subsidies for the corporate jets that helped the rich to escape the "TSA hell" the rest of us endure in public airports.

Polls show the public overwhelmingly supports this modest set of adjustments, especially since taxes on the rich are at their lowest rates in 50 years. But most of the radicals who recently came into the House of Representatives under the Tea Party banner have signed Grover Norquist's pledge to absolutely never, ever enhance revenue going to the federal government, under any circumstances. Even during times of war.

(How did we go from budget surpluses under Bill Clinton, rapidly paying off the debt, to arterial gushers of red ink under Bush? Could one major factor have been going to war for the first time in the nation's history without a plan for shared sacrifice, or any provision to pay for it? Norquist doesn't try to soft-pedal his aim, which is to "strangle the U.S. federal government to death"... a literal quotation.)

Such a pledge leaves no wriggle room. No space for adjusting to circumstance, to negotiate or deliberate. or to be a delegate for all of your constituents. Even the narrowest exception, one that gets three dollars in budget cuts for every dollar of loophole closing - (which old-sane conservatives like Goldwater or Buckley would deem a huge victory - is absolutely anathema to today's GOP.

Whatever you think of the doctrinal details - wherever you stand along the dismal, lobotomizing "left-right axis" - you've got to admit they are impressive. Reciting exactly the same talking points within hours, sometimes even minutes. The most ideologically pure and stunningly well-disciplined party machine America has seen in two hundred years.


==The McConnell Two-Step==

Now, there are smart people on both sides of the current debt-ceiling mess... even some of those who are out of their freakin' minds... who know they've painted themselves into a corner. As we speak, they are desperately seeking a way out. And some of the imaginative escape plans are downright stunning.

Take the proposal of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell to evade the political mine field by deliberately surrendering to the President the power to raise the national debt ceiling.

Say what? Your party disapproves of red-ink spending, right? (It never bothered you under GOP presidents, when the mantra was "deficits don't matter.) So... your solution is to throw away your Congressional power of say-so over borrowing and hand it over permanently to the wastrels in the Executive Branch?

How does the mind even wrap itself around that one?

Actually, the political legerdemain is pretty clever! Try to follow along.

First, you pass a bill that tosses all power to raise the debt ceiling over to your enemy President Obama. In the long term, this abrogates forever one of Congress's chief powers , to force the nation's focus on the budget (like right now!) But it gets you out of being responsible for a default.

You know Obama will raise the limit, for the sake of the country. And so, Social Security checks will flow. You won't be blamed for stopping them. Phew.

Next, you express outrage that Obama has done exactly what you tossed him the power to do! Great. And then, according to the new law, you pass a resolution through the House blocking the debt-ceiling increase!

But... won't that stop the Social Security checks?

Nope, because you feel safely certain it will fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate, or under the president's veto pen. Thus GOP Congressfolk get to have a win-win! They escape from the debt-limit crisis they triggered. No Grand Deal means the government keeps spending like mad, but without any tax adjustments on the rich. And, above all, you can tell your back-home radicals:

"I voted against any debt-limit raise!  Our fingerprints aren't on it! HE did it!"

It's a fabulous tale, worthy of science fiction. But, um, here's a question for House majority leader Eric Cantor And Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell: Sirs, do you actually think that will work?

Sure, 'he' (Obama) will have raised the debt ceiling. But only because you voted to give him that power... forever! Will your constituents really be too stupid to notice that? Sure, past history suggests you may be right about that. But can you count on stupidity saving you... forever?"

The President should reject this idiotic ploy, in savagely contemptuous terms, even if it means that the debt-raise deadline passes by on August 2. As I said (above) our credit rating will be fine. There will be no permanently credit-damaging "default." And the nation might do well to go without federal checks for one or two weeks. It'll make us think.

He won't do that, of course.  By nature Mr. Obama is a consensus dealer and bridge-builder who tries endlessly to "reason together." He seems congenitally incapable of recognizing that we live in unreasonable times, with our bridges already set aflame by a foreign-owned propaganda machine.  Abraham Lincoln also spent six months trying to find someone in southern states to reason with, to negotiate with. It took multiple, hard shocks before Lincoln realized the harsh, exceptional realities of civil war.


==What's The Worst That Can Happen?==

In fact, we've seen all this before. Back in the 1990s, Republicans in Congress shut down the government... and paid for it politically. But they felt a grand gesture was necessary for ironic reasons. Because, for a brief time, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton actually worked together!

Upon first taking over Congress, in 1995, Gingrich made a lot of bellicose statements. But he also wanted a track record of accomplishment. And so, he sat down with Clinton to negotiate Welfare Reform, a bill that took on many complaints about a system that both right and left found unworkable and destructive.  The result was legislation that simply worked. So well that "welfare" has dropped from the lexicon of top political issues, even among polemical extremists.

And that brief interlude of sane-discussion and compromise had other products. Gingrich and Clinton worked out budget control measures that resulted, soon thereafter, in the first balanced books and black ink in the federal treasury since Eisenhower. Black ink that Clinton diligently applied to debt reduction, even later when they GOP demanded that it all be given to their top 1% sponsors. Even when he was being sprayed by the opening salvoes of Culture War.

It was a remarkably productive year or so. And Republican radicals looked upon what had been wrought by Gingrich and Clinton. And they saw that it had been achieved by pragmatic negotiation and good old American, non-dogmatic problem solving. And they saw that citizens and the nation benefited and the public thought it good.

And they swore that nothing like it would ever happen again.

Whereupon the Great Federal Government Shut-down Crisis commenced, accomplishing nothing but noise and smoke and posturing and harm to conservatism. (Read-up about the eerie parallels to today's big posturing festival over the debt ceiling.)

When that venture flubbed, the GOP decided to try something even more radical, while expecting different results. They crossed another traditional barrier by impeaching a President over matters that had nothing to do with his performance of the job we hired him for... indeed, for doing far less than eight out of the fifteen "House Managers" (prosecutors) had done to earn their own messy divorces.  Only one other president had ever been impeached, in the direct aftermath of Lincoln's assassination. But the turning of trivialities into mega drama seems to be a trait that we must live with, during this phase of our ongoing civil war.

What does this history lesson have to do with the current crisis? It shows what we could have, right now, if adults chose negotiation, yes, even across an ideological divide. And it shows the ultimate futility of partisan rage, when pragmatism is replaced by fevered dogmatism. It shows that Mr. Obama needs to study Clinton and learn to be tough.

He must call... their... bluff.


==Punishing Job Creators==

I want to conclude by getting specific. Some of the polemical nonsense being hurled about seems to come straight out of the corrupt ad agency in "Mad Men." Much of the claptrap is being answered well. But I wrote to a cousin of mine who works in the Executive Office to point out some major Murdochisms that are going unrefuted.  Here is a big 'un.

Deficit-cutting helps the economy. But any revenue increase hurts "job creators."

Here are two points that someone ought to say in reply:

a)  CUTS ALSO COST JOBS: "Every million dollars of spending that we cut means 20 or 30 real-live middle class Americans will lose a job. Obviously.

"Now, in spite of that fact, we're willing to do lots of cutting! Because we have to.  We've spent a decade plunged into land wars of attrition in Asia without doing what all our ancestors did, in time of war - making sacrifices to pay for it.  Well, the bill is due.

"But if several dozen middle class Americans must go jobless to save a million dollars... exactly how is it sacred 'job-creation' to give the same million dollars in special interest tax breaks to some billionaire corporate jet owner?  Do you really believe he'll use that million to hire 30 people?

"Sure, it's happened, now and then. But if the Bush tax cuts had translated into 30 jobs per million given to the rich, we'd have almost no unemployment right now!

"So, why should we swallow that line, this time?"

b)  MONEY VELOCITY:   "When you pay a worker to help fix a decaying bridge or weatherize an apartment building, what does that worker do with his or her weekly check?  These days, it has to go right back out again, paying a grocer, who pays a trucker, who pays a farmer, and so on. It's called Money Velocity and money that goes to the middle class has lots of velocity.

"Now Republicans say we should be stingy to the working class, but generous to the rich, so they can make jobs. But if economists know one thing, it's that the rich don't spend the way middle class folks do. They don't have to!

"Sure a few of them build factories. We'll extend tax breaks for useful capitalist enterprise, for research and investment in job-making capital equipment.

"But this is no time to go into debt preserving huge tax gifts for those who simply hold onto it all, hardly spending.  That's not velocity. It sure isn't job-creation. It's using your friends in Congress to just get richer while the middle class pays."

Okay. Yeah, I know that those concepts - like money velocity - may be dismissed by political operatives as hard for Joe Six Pack to grasp. Well, I don't agree. I think they'll nod, understand, and feel flattered at being explained stuff, like adults.


==What It Boils Down To==

I consider the "Tea Party Movement" to be one of the most brilliant sociological ploys. Perhaps unmatched since a million poor white southern farmers were talked into eagerly and courageously fighting to the death, in order to protect the feudal privileges of a tiny, slave-holding aristocracy. Yes, it is that impressive.  Get them to think they are fighting for one thing, while dying for something else.

Likewise, by holding up and waving an obsolete and irrelevant old "left-right'political-axis," today's feudal lords  have managed to stir Red America into a frenzy of unparalleled rancor toward every single group or profession that has both knowledge and professional skill -- from scientists to teachers, civil servants, academics, medical doctors, attorneys, diplomats, skilled labor... amounting to a "war on smartypants."

Why stir hatred for all of the folks in society who know a lot? Calling them "intellectual elites?"  This program clearly has one aim.

To protect one set of elites from being counterbalanced by other elites.  Pretty simple, actually.

Distract and prevent us from returning to what made the country great... pragmatic negotiation. Calm discussion. A mix of state and enterprise and individual solutions that somehow never tipped into any ideological excess...

...that is, until it was stirred by foreign-owned propaganda machines, with that one goal. To sic us at each others' throats.

==See more articles on The Economy: Past, Present and Future

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Transparency Wars Continue: Some Untold Effects of WikiLeaks and more...


It’s been a productive month. First finishing a major novel(!), then flying off to give speeches and consultations to industrial clients (about the technological future), then keeping busy with journalism about our civilization’s struggle with ongoing change. Which brings us to our top link...

The Silicon Valley Metronews features my article “World Cyberwar And the Inevitability of Radical Transparency.”  The topic is both ongoing and ever-new. I discuss how WikiLeaks ignited the first international cyber war -- and how pro-business laws enacted to promote the growth of Silicon Valley's digital media and technology companies inadvertently nurtured transformation activists shaking up and toppling governments around the world.

With this fresh look at the cyber wars. I zero especially on several main examples... e.g the surprising ways that Julian Assange helped U.S. foreign policy far more than he harmed it... plus the ongoing battle between police and citizens armed with cameras... and much more.

Never before have so many people been empowered with practical tools of transparency. Beyond access to instantly searchable information from around the world, nearly all of us now carry in our pockets a device that can take and transmit images anywhere. Will the  growing power of elites to peer down at us --surveillance-- ultimately be trumped by the rapidly growing power of sousveillance?

=== One-sided Transparency ===

H.P. and Cisco Systems Inc. will help China build a massive surveillance network in the city of Chongqing -- aimed at crime prevention. The technological part of it is impressive, as it will "cover a half-million intersections, neighborhoods and parks over nearly 400 square miles, an area more than 25% larger than New York City." This extensive surveillance system may potentially implement as many as 500,000 cameras, far more even than the 8,000 to 10,000 surveillance cameras currently estimated to exist in cities like New York. Yet -- note that few of those New York cameras report to a centralized system.  

The anti-crime benefits of such systems might be achievable without tyranny -- if citizens were equally empowered to look back at the mighty, via “sousveillance.” But such reciprocality is not likely in the near Chinese future. Human rights activists worry that such extensive surveillance will inevitably be used for other purposes -- to target political protests. 

Are companies responsible for how their products are used? In a recent Wall Street Journal poll, over half responded that U.S. companies should be allowed to sell high-tech surveillance tech to China. Meanwhile, H.P. executive Todd Bradley dodged the issue, commenting that “It’s not my job to really understand thewhat they’re going to use it for.”

Meanwhile, in New York City, there are 238 license plate readers. Many of these are mobile devices, mounted on the back of patrol cars. Others are set up at fixed posts at bridges, tunnels and highways across the city. These license plate readers have helped in the tracking down of major crimes suspects; they have provided also clues in homicide cases and other serious crimes. But they have been used in lesser offenses, such as identifying and locating stolen cars. But there are concerns. The police have established an extensive database tracking citizens' driving patterns. How long is this data maintained and who can access the information?  

Cracked gives us six legit ways cops can screw us over... including the fact Asset Forfeiture is factored into their budget. Or in other words, if cops weren't allowed to seize our stuff and sell it, even without proof of a crime, they'd suffer budget shortfalls.


====Looking toward the Far Future==== 

NASA's Hundred Year Starship and the Yucca Mountain nuclear depository are two examples of "deep time" thinking -- casting our eyes over the next horizon, anticipating the needs of our descendants. While top priority must go to freedom, progress, full brains for all kids and saving the planet -- some ambitious, forward-looking innovation and commitment to our grandchildren must be on the agenda.  

 In June I keynoted the annual Managers’ Conference at PayPal and Qualcomm's Innovation Network (QUIN) "Venture Fest."  Many thanks to Alex Tosheff and Ricardo dos Santos, my hosts for those events, which showcased some marvelous talent in among the world’s best and most inventive technology companies.   

"The World Transformed" is an audio interview series by Fast Forward Radio. They interviewed me, along with P.J. Manney, Thomas McCabe and other visionaries, discussing some of the difficulties and prizes that await us in the years and decades ahead. 
  
=====More News====

Japanese scientists announced that massive deposits of the 17 elements used to produce hybrid cars, laptops, smartphones and other high-tech devices can be extracted from nodules on the floor of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. Nodules were first touted as setting off a sub-sea boom in sci fi stories way back in the 1950s.  I certainly spoke of this in more detail... in EARTH (1989). But will it be economic to retrieve these resources?  

For real? (Someone dig for verification?) Israel will be using new technology to get oil from oil shale in the Shfela Basin. There's an estimated 250 billion barrels vs the Saudi's 260 billion barrels. This article is clearly biased and somewhat polemically exaggerated  - and conveniently ignores Rupert Murdoch’s deep bed-buddyness with certain pretro princes.  Still, if it is even half true....   

The Educational Value of Creative Disobedience: Read this article in Scientific American by Andrea Kuszewski about teaching children how to solve problems creatively, instead of flooding them with memorized information.  It really is worth your time.   

Comparison of the universe: moons, planets, galaxies, and clusters: Play this at full-screen. Enjoy the beauty and majesty of it all. 

Are the Japanese making human clones? Actually, just putting your face on a robot!


====On the Fiction front====== 

I've placed several of my novellas on Kindle: Thor Meets Captain America, The Loom of Thessaly, Tank Farm Dynamo, and Stones of Significance.

Continuing the trend of excellent fiction being turned into an audiobook in the form of a weekly podcast. This one I highly highly recommend!  A wonderful variation on the Harry Potter universe that I consider vastly better than the original, as well as more interesting and fun. 

A cool comparison of today’s tech to Star Trek

Even crude and half-finished, this “trailer” for a movie based on my uplift universe has a lot of fun and thrilling elements. Be sure and view it all the way through, for various versions. 
    
Meanwhile, io9 - the fascinating site for all things marvelous, ran a piece about Famous Sci Fi Dolphins... and featured my Uplift Universe.  I wonder why? 

Nor have I any monopoly on producing cool stuff! My Sci Fi author colleague and sometime collaborator Jeff Carlson has penned a way fun essay about the kinds of kooks and weirdos who wrote in to him about his novel.  Gee whiz, why are my own fans so staid and reasonable!   

See this about global warming. Oy!