Friday, July 18, 2014

Media Challenge FAA Drone Ban -- and drones conveying beauty?

MEDIA-DRONE-BANTomorrow I will offer comments on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.  But first, let's catch up on some important issues.

Drones have already been used on several occasions in the US to document the news. Last week, a storm chaser in Arkansas used a drone to record the havoc wrought by a tornado. But the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been very slow to adopt rules for private and corporate drone use and has taken a draconian zero-tolerance policy on its interim ban on almost all such uses. Now, a number of media companies, including The New York Times and The Associated Press, accused the Federal Aviation Authority of violating the First Amendment.

Is this a difficult problem? Sure! Just imagine a future city scape abuzz with irritating mechanical vultures -- delivery owls and snoopy eye-spies, swooping about, colliding with buildings and each other and power lines, causing blackouts and raining shattered, glowing parts on all below… at minimum, city use should involve devices capable of situational awareness and detection of collision hazards and minimum separation rules. But dig it - we will only get there if the experiments can proceed in a few cities to see what really happens!

Start with Houston. They don't give a darn anyway….

== Drones, androids and robots bring you the news! ==

 Will human journalists become obsolete? I participated in an online (HuffPost) panel discussion about the latest trend... robotizing the news media.  Here are just a few examples of the trend.

Japan Unveils  It's First Android Newscaster. Not exactly uncanny, yet.  But they're busy. With an expected 7% drop in population, their interest in automation is very high.

AP Will Use Robots to Write Some Business Stories.   - 4000 robo stories in the time it takes human writers to do 300. Shades of Max Headroom! The following couch discussion of this is... fluffy and made me want to replace the panel with robots!  Another News Outlet Is Using Robots To Write Stories...

Apparently most sports stories have come to us this way for several years.  (I suspect decades, even generations.)

== And more drones...  ==

Drones… everywhere!  Illustrating what has sometimes been called Brin’s Corollary to Moore’s Law… that cameras get smaller, faster, cheaper, more numerous and more mobile faster than ML. Now… watch how the flying cams are getting far more rugged, using a simple gimbal in a cage approach!  Watchbirds here we come, yippee.

Oh, but see the very end of this blog for one of the best links you'll ever click, brought to you by a drone.

== The insurrectionary recourse? ==

All the ructions and revolutions overseas raise an earnest question: could it happen here? Dialing in closer: is it still even theoretically possible for a mass citizen uprising to topple the government of a modern, western state? Mr. Harry Bentham makes an earnest effort and raises a few interesting points in “Does Modern Tech Render the 2nd Amendment Redundant?

Alas, his appraisal winds up being rather shallow, simply reiterating his arm-waved and evidence-free assertion that a mass uprising, armed with civilian rifles, could naturally and easily overcome forces of the modern state. Mr. Bentham leaves aside any discussion that:

- Any mass civil ruction will likely feature as many armed civilian "tories" as "rebels."

- Local police have lately been heavily up-armed to close to military levels. Their loyalties in a crisis would complicate matters.

Jefferson-rifle   - Everything depends upon the morale and attitudes of the troops. If they retain strong connectivity and identification with the populace, they will be unreliable instruments of repression.

These and other factors were discussed in my own treatment on this issue -- The Jefferson Rifle: Guns and the Insurrection Myth -- where I appraise whether modern westerners -- and Americans in particular -- still retain an "insurrectionary recourse."

Even more important, I explain carefully why attachment to that ideal is THE driver behind the refusal of the Gun Lobby to consider even modest compromises.

Fireworks== Finally... drones and sheer beauty 

I cannot recall when last an item of media so delighted me. I am... for once... speechless. Though proud to live in ...

...oh, just click this. Full screen. 


Acacia H. said...

I pointed out once on another social network about how not only is it pointless to protest against gun registration, but also how the government would respond to the start of rebellion.

First, there currently exists a fairly comprehensive list of gun owners and people who sympathize with gun owners that is possessed by the Federal Government and probably foreign hostile governments. This list is fairly comprehensive and includes fairly current addresses and the like.

It's the subscription information for the National Rifle Association. I very much doubt that the NRA used encryption to protect every single detail of its membership and subscription information, so that information has likely been hacked multiple times. The government can pull up that list, see "such-and-such had a subscription. This is probable cause to owning a gun, search his house."

That's right. The organization that is the strongest advocate for 2nd Amendment Rights, which says "from my cold dead fingers," has in fact provided the government (and foreign powers) with everything it needs to track down gun owners. And a few people who don't own guns but sympathize.

Next. So you think you're going to overthrow the government! It is time to take back the power and give it to the people! And when the cops arrive, you take a few potshots, you managed to disable a couple police vehicles... and let's speculate that the worse-case scenario, Martial Law, has happened.

The military commanders are going to tell the soldiers "we have a terror cell in such-and-such a town. We have confirmed communications between this group and al-Qaeda and these are Muslim extremists who are pretending to be patriots to create dissent and armed revolt in the nation. There are several cells."

So our soldiers are not going to go in thinking "I'm shooting at our own citizens. This isn't what I signed up for!" He or she is going to think "these damn extremists think they can destroy MY country? Fuck that, fuck them, and let's see how they enjoy this rocket-propelled grenade!"

After doing this a few times, the soldiers aren't going to care that it's U.S. citizens. It's just more enemies that need to be put down.

In short, armed rebellion is no longer an option.

Rob H.

Louis Shalako said...

I don't think the recourse to violent overthrow is a very viable prospect. Any government that truly approaches the point of clear-cut tyranny will first disarm the populace anyway. The Obama-haters know they are not faced with tyranny, only a president they don't like. The minute they pulled the trigger, their own destruction is assured. It's too easy to judge the reactions of police in such a situation by Tea Party standards. But ninety-nine percent of cops are good cops, (not bigots and other cretins) and for all of the right reasons. They would, on past performance, support the titular government as long a they could and then switch sides in a heartbeat...when it was safe to do so, or when the inevitable outcome was clear.

Jumper said...

Evidence suggests those shooting at cops won't survive long enough for the military to arrive.

Jumper said...

I see Wikipedia has speculation on results of neutron stars: gold!

Mel Baker said...

The problem with replacing my profession with robots isn't that the robot can't write say a rework of a press release or a quake story off the USGS website. What a robot can't do is figure out what is needs to ask. Who it needs to call and what the most interesting part of the story is, so you don't bury the lead. I won't be surprised to see radio and TV anchors replaced by robots, but some journalist will still have to write the stuff for many decades to come.

Jonathan S. said...

Thing is, Robert, I am strongly supportive of the right to bear arms. The only reason I don't have any firearms in my house is because two people afflicted with severe depression live here, and when one of them has an episode I don't want that option available to them.

On the other hand, I also have a severe problem with stupid people and jingoism. As a consequence, I am not and have never been a member of the NRA, which once supported sane gun laws but has since gone so far overboard that I wouldn't be surprised to find them advocating private ownership of nuclear weapons.

So I for one am not going to be found by any search of an NRA database. I would go so far as to say that such a search would fail to turn of a pretty large number of gun owners. You'd probably do better to get the subscriber list to, say, Guns & Ammo (which still wouldn't find me, but would turn up both of my brothers and one brother-in-law).

Jonathan S. said...

"...would fail to turn up a large number..."

I really wish this software supported an edit function. :)

David Brin said...

Kind of disagree here. The insurrection recourse is a spectrum, ranging from local lunatics, easily crushed, all the way to the opposite extreme, in which case just look at Bosnia. 10,000 dads on rooftops with hunting rifles can resist real hard, even amid shelling. And our troops will not shell US cities. Just 12 divisions would be able to hold maybe 3 major cities against a universally riled population, and many troops would mutiny.

But that is the extremum. Short of that, there would be huge numbers of "tories" who would help the police as militia, as the Shia militias are doing in Iraq. In such a mess, who knows?

Let's never test it. Let's solve our current war as it must be solved. Psychologically, then politically.

I-need-a-good-name said...

I tend not to thunk of guns as a serious political policy issue, but as a sort of metaphor or proxy for all sorts of weird psychosexual stuff that people should just find a way to talk about directly, or better yet just forget about. I tend not to care about this issue, but reading bad logic and falsehoods offend me like smelling a bad smell, and the gun debate is full of them.

If people were serious about guns, they would start with some serious questions.

1. How do guns actually get used in the real world?

2. Has anyone looked at nations with lots of civilian firepower and those with less, to see what the difference is? Any corelations with tyranny and crime?

The answers would completely change the debate:

#1. Is suicide. Guns are suicide devices with some alternate uses.

Alternate question one: think of the most violent or potentially violent moments in your life (including suicidal moments). What would have happened differently if a gun appeared on the scene? If everybody involved had guns? Or, if guns were involved, bigger guns?

I'm no expert on human behaviour, but I think a typical example of what to expect happened with the Trayvon Martin case: two young men meet each other in the dark, and because young men are scary in the dark, they fight. It's a real knock-down drag-out, looks like someone is about to loose a lot of teeth, when suddenly a handgun becomes visible. (Wikipedia: "during the struggle while Martin was on top of Zimmerman, Martin saw the gun Zimmerman was carrying and said something to the effect of "You're gonna die now") Now it's a fight to the death. The appearance of the gun transformed a brawl into an all-out combat to the death. The tactics change from "intimidate him and make him run away, or hurt/distract him so I can run away" to "kill or be killed".

Onto question #2. Let's look at the places that have the most heavily armed populaces. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq (both Under Saddam and in chaos) and parts of rural Pakistan fully-automatic AK-47s are owned by almost every adult male. So much for stopping crime and tyranny. Next there's the USA, followed by Scandinavia (A.K.A. Liberal Utopia). Switzerland has lots of clubs in the same shape as guns, but not many actual guns, because you need bullets to turn a gun-shaped-club into an actual gun. And Switzerland has bullet control.

I-need-a-good-name said...

Robert, excellent point about the NRA having a de facto gun registry. The #1 rule of civil war is "know friend from foe", and by providing your potential enemy with that intel, the NRA proves that either they are the worst proto-insurgents ever in history (and therefore not very threatening to tyrants) or that all their anti-establishment talk is pure marketing. (A true/competant proto-rebel group would also want their government to have less weaponry and power to torture etc. The libertarian ones are consistent here, the republicans just want an arms race for its own sake.) It matches what I've been figuring, that the insurrectionary myth is just a fun daydream that hardly anybody has put serious thought into.

The insurrection myth is popular because it's flattering, it's fun to think that we are so tough and brave that someday we could rise up and engage in a shoot out with The Imperial Stormtroopers. It's also unrealistic.

For the last several centuries artillery has inflicted around 3/4 of combat casualties. Bombardment from aircraft can be included in this category of "stuff small arms are helpless against". Guerrilla warfare has an equivalent with explosives, in the form of mines, booby-traps, suitcase bombs, car bombs, suicide vests, etc. Now that soldiers have body armor rifles are especially obsolete.

The article only talks about advances in government weapons, but insurgents have been innovating even faster, and one innovation is that they use rifles less and less.

So the only organization serious about keeping elites afraid of insurrection isn't the NRA, it's the National Car Bomb Association which I'm pretty certain never even got founded. Because the amount of serious thought being put into Civil War 2 is no greater than the thought put into what WW1 would look like. Spoiler alert: I don't think it will be over by Christmas.

Civil war is not about shootouts, it's mostly not even about combat, it's mostly a contest to see who is better at identifying and murdering the opposing noncombatants. This is what I see the insurrectionary right as: not proto-guerillas, but proto-death squads, ready to do the tyrant's dirty work, the nasty stuff that the military and police will refuse to do. Less "Red Dawn" and more "The Act Of Killing". Not that the NRA are sitting around in smoke-filled back rooms plotting it, because they aren't. More like pre-WW1 arms merchants who found high tensions good for business - and the resulting blunder into war horrible, horrible, horrible, and also extremely good for business.

I-need-a-good-name said...

Responding to the linked article “Does Modern Tech Render the 2nd Amendment Redundant?”

"“modern” states such as Yugoslavia, Somalia, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Mali quickly deteriorate into full scale civil war just because groups of determined citizens took up light weapons (many those rebels have far less skill and technology"

A. None of these states, or their populace, are in any way comparable to the USA.
B. I could could give a similar list of insurgencies that were quickly and quietly squashed, but they tend not to stick in the popular consciousness because, you know, they were quickly and quietly squashed.
C. For "determined citizens" replace with "brainwashed adolescents who are so literally suicidal that many put on friggin' funeral shrouds before they do battle". Less skill and technology than us, maybe, but how about the real work of civil war: enduring unimaginable amounts of horror and suffering. Do we have that? Do we want to have that? Oh, and also our government also has more skill and technology than the Somalian government did.

Let's say rebels really are capable of turning America into Somolia, the elites can always move out. They're jet-setters, they identify more with their fellow elites of all nations than they do with their home nation. Just look at how much of Ukraine's oligarchy lives in London. In short, threatening your own elites with civil war is like playing a game of chicken where your opponent can teleport out their their car at the last moment, or might just use a remote-controlled car in the first place.

"In most civil wars, the use of tanks and warplanes (never mind nukes) only tends to make matters worse for the ruling government..."

That is true in foreign occupations, which almost always lose. It's not so true in civil wars, in that case governments usually don't use tanks and aircraft because they don't need to. Police and death squads are usually enough.

Too many people glibly throw around talk of "uprisings" and "revolution" in vague, childlike terms, without considering just how bleak, destructive, and futile things would be. That would make for an interesting book - it starts with all the insurrection myth tropes spiced with some some leftie revolutionary stuff, then goes on to show what actually ends up happening when those ideas are tried in the real world. Then cue the autonomous bug-sized poison-armed drones and home-made plagues…There could be a happy ending, where, having fought to a standstill, people think about what went wrong and decide to ditch romanticism for modernism. Hollywood could market it as a remake of "Things to Come". Or maybe something like HBO's "Rome", only in a near-future USA that ends up going the way of the Roman republic. Augustus turns out to be a good-guy billionaire so it can have a happy ending.

David Brin said...

"good-name" seems to be an erudite fellow, welcome in this , one of the net's oldest and savviest communities. He does dismiss too blithely the wide range of types of uprisings, which also include many of the "springs" -- some of which worked because the rulers knew they could not depend upon the army to slaughter civilians en masse.

In fact, insurrection is not a palpable deterrent today, simply because nearly all of our civil servants and officers consider themselves to be citizens and not oppressors. Than can change and the GENERAL notion of keeping some uncertainty about the People's ultimate recourse is not something I am willing to dismiss, out of hand.

Especially since rifles are not the tools of the future. Cameras are the major tools of citizen-applied accountability, as I predicted in The Transparent Society and as is coming true on the streets. But if things go Orwellian, the hierarchs will have proved their own stupidity by outraging a vast, educated middle class with access to genetic engineering.


Paul451 said...

Something obliquely related to one of David's ideas:

One of the NoSQL old guard wants to create a digital currency, like bitcoin or dogecoin (wow), but which is based on the reputation of the person issuing the coin, and changes in value based on the situation you are spending it.


Zack Danger Brown (*) created a Kickstarter campaign to make a potato salad. Goal $10.

Seriously, go look.

(* yep.)

David Brin said...

The potato salad: The Potato Salad Kickstarter aimed at fundraising $10. It has passed $62,000. What an age we're in.

Document coin.. I will be posting about it...

David Brin said...


Laurie said...

Another cool drone video:
I'm biased. I have a place there. I'd love to see more like this.