Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Time-Limited Small Arms for Revolutions

The “civil” war in Libya has me thinking about what’s going to happen to all those weapons that have been provided to the rebels by NATO.  Here’s an advertisement from the near future…

We’ve all been there:  You smuggle a few thousand guns to rebel fighters in a country where you’d like to topple a dictator.  Next thing you know, the dictator’s gone but now you have all those guns floating around.  Most of them end up in the hands of insurgents (who were your buddies a couple of weeks ago but are now definitely anti-you), and some of them make their way to the black market and end up getting used against your drug enforcement agents and/or the drug cartels that are propping up your government.

Not anymore!  With our exclusive line of DisposArms™ time-limited weaponry, not only do you minimize the risk of your own weapons being used against you but you can also prevent flooding the lucrative secondary arms markets with spare weapons.

Design and Features

  • Critical components of the weapons are built to fail due to corrosion or use after a predetermined time period or a given number of rounds have been fired.  Special composite materials cause the components to fuse together upon failure, rendering the weapon inoperable.  The components fuse in such a way as to make re-manufacturing/cannibalization of the weapon highly impractical.
  • Non-critical components, such as grips, stocks and other furniture, are made from biodegradable plastics with a predetermined lifespan.
  • The usable lifespan of the weapons can be custom-tailored to your specific revolutionary or counter-revolutionary timetable.
  • Failsafe explosive devices can be implanted in the weapons and remotely detonated should the need arise.  The size, composition and lethality of the explosive can be customized according to your needs.
  • GPS tracking devices are also available to ensure that your guns stay on-task and in-country.
  • We also offer an extra-special feature that ties the self-destruct system into the GPS locator.  If a weapon leaves a boundary area that you have defined, the weapon automatically detonates.  You can even modify the boundary from our convenient phone app!
  • DisposArms™ can be crafted to use a variety of locally-available calibers or you can choose from our line of proprietary, time-sensitive ammunition for even better control of your arsenal.

Smartphones rob us of our introspective time on the can.

The other day I was thinking about how much money I waste every month on my iPhone’s data plan.  It occurred to me that the longest contiguous blocks of time I spend using the device are actually when I’m – what’s an elegant way to put it? – doing a sit-down potty.  Whilst dropping a deuce I’m either playing a game or flipping through the App Store, jealously cursing the insipid one-star wallpaper “apps” that somehow consistently make it to number 3 on the Paid Apps list.  The runner-up time-spendy iPhone activities for me are jotting down notes in Everlook, texting, or looking at maps.

I would say that about 80% of my iPhone time is actually at work while parked in the men’s room.  When I first got the device I’d camp out in there for what seemed like hours – browsing apps, downloading them, trying them out, rating them, reviewing them, sharing my excitement with whoever happened to be in the adjoining stall.  I would leave when I felt my legs getting numb.  I tried to go more often, but it felt strange to go to the bathroom and sit down without actually having some business to take care of.  To make my visits more naturally frequent, at lunch I began eating things that I knew would grant me plenty of trips to the john in the afternoon.  (The Chartroose Caboose earned that name fair and square.  I won’t tell you how.)  My iPhone/crapper addiction was starting to affect my job.

But eventually I got used to having an Internet-connected, touch-controlled, micro-computer in my pocket.  (Think about that…it’s pretty damned amazing.)  Up until very recently I’d still use my phone for a quick game or a quick hate-filled glance at the cesspool they call the App Store.  But yesterday I left my phone charging at my computer and took off for the lavatory.  I actually paused for a second, and wondered if I should grab it and take it with me, but it was nearly dead (from an earlier bowel-n-browse session) and I figured I wouldn’t be gone long.

It was while I was phoneless on the can that I had an epiphany:  Having access to a smartphone pretty much negates any chance of having an epiphany while you’re on the can.

I’m a firm yet malleable believer that the quiet time spent alone on the toilet is necessary for good mental health.  It’s like REM stage sleep.  A person can’t get right with themselves if they’re constantly interrupted by communicating, playing games, or mumbling death wishes for those lazy, opportunistic hacks who somehow manage to get their garbage apps approved by Apple.

Take back your sanity by leaving your phone behind when you visit the loo!

Putting Kids to Work: Thoughts on Making Schooldays Productive

About a hundred years ago, various regions of the United States began banning or limiting child labor.  It was a hard-fought battle.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we turn back the clock to those horrible times.  Before child labor laws, kids would operate dangerous, dirty equipment for 12 hours at a time for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of twelve cents a day and an inflation-adjusted three kicks in the ass.  But hear me out, and I’m not saying this in a satirical Modest Proposal kind of way:  I think children would benefit by performing simple, real-world computer-related tasks during school time and that they should be paid for their efforts.

Apparently the business world needs a lot of menial tasks to be performed, and a lot of it can be done via the Internet.   Amazon’s “Mechanical Turk” is an example of a service that will pay you to do stuff that’s really dull but wouldn’t be cost-efficient to make a computer do it.  I say we should have kids, from say 4th grade on up, get paid to get this work done.  We could give them an allowance for personal expenses, but the majority of the profit would be stashed away in the child’s college fund.

A small percentage of the profits could go to the school.  You talk of “No Child Left Behind” –  how about “No Child Gets A Free Ride”?  But all kidding aside, think about it for a minute:  what better way to make schools more self-sufficient than to have the kids earn as they learn?  You can tell the plan is brilliant because it rhymes.

As a child gains more experience and knowledge, they could perform more complicated – and thus higher-paying – tasks.  Not only would they earn money, but also valuable real-world experience as well as mental exercise.  Imagine if you’d been given the chance to actually apply learned knowledge for a couple of hours per day while you were in school?

In addition to the money and experience, kids would gain perspective, motivation and self-discipline.  “Man, if I nail that algebra test I can step up to Level 6 math tasks…which means more money and experience points.”  Yes, experience points!  Achievements!  Tangible, braggable, look-what-I-did measurements of a child’s progress that would mean a lot more to them than a report card that comes out of nowhere every six weeks.

As the kids enter high school, they could choose from a more varied set of vocational interests.  Imagine trying out a few different jobs before you even get to college?  It might give you more perspective when it comes time to choose a major.

Of course, there would have to be protections put in place to ensure that kids don’t end up working overtime, or letting work get in the way of learning.

You could argue that rich kids wouldn’t have any motivation to participate, or that schools would just become sweatshops, or that any kind of child labor is just exploitation.  I disagree with that last point, naturally, and the other two points are issues that would need to be addressed.  And since there are no other conceivable arguments against my proposal idea, I urge that it be implemented with all speed!  Good day.

Covert and Overt Systems for Networked Uprisings

The recent uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt have shown how important Internet access is to protesters, especially if their goal is overthrowing a government.    Even though the governments of those countries seem to lack the expertise necessary to completely cut off Internet access, they have nonetheless severely hindered it for most of their citizens.

I’m not going to get deep into the politics of these two examples.  As naiive as it may sound,  I think Egypt could benefit from some democracy.  Hell, I think the whole region would benefit .

The Israelis, however, are understandably wary of a power shift that would see a reliably peaceful Egyptian regime tossed into exile – especially if its replacement took a turn toward fundamentalism.  And you can see why the US government is being very non-committal with regard to this push for democracy.  In case Egypt’s dictatorship fails to crumble, we need to appear fully supportive of our Cold War leftovers.  (Remember, we support democracy all over the world, unless somebody we don’t like gets elected.)

So, for the sake of argument, let’s say in the somewhat-near future there’s a regime somewhere in the world that you wanted to get rid of.  The people are ready to revolt.  They need Internet access to communicate their plight to the outside world, and to coordinate and plan their protest activities.  But the government has clamped down on all forms of electronic communication. It’s time to send in the drones.

The first step is to get Internet access in-country.  Unmanned aerial vehicles take position throughout the country, establishing satellite links with fat bandwidth.  Some cut their engines and quietly parachute onto rooftops, disguised as common objects such as smokestacks or HVAC equipment. Some latch onto radio towers or telephone poles.

To extend the reach of these nodes, thousands of tiny, solar-powered routers are deployed by air almost like cluster munitions.  Some are disguised as rocks or other natural objects, while others are enclosed in high-visibility orange or green static-proof bags with instructions on how to activate them, where to distribute them, and how to conceal them.

Since the standard mobile phone service is out of commission, thousands of ruggedized smartphones are airdropped as well.  Though they are rudimentary, each phone has the ability to capture and stream full-motion video.  The phones come pre-loaded with popular social networking apps in the country’s predominant language, as well as instructions on effective protest methods (much like these leaflets in Cairo).  These phones are encased in sturdy foam packaging with instructions for activating them.  About one in ten phones come with a hand-crank charger.

It will be important to ensure that implementers of these overthrow networks don’t scope-creep these toys.  The organic nature of social networks in an uprising must be preserved, lest the participants catch on that they’re just pawns.  Ooops, did I blog that out loud?  How cynical of me.

Anywho, let’s hope that one day we won’t need a UN commission for finding and destroying landmines, but instead a commission dedicated to cleaning up and recycling all the e-trash leftover from popular revolts.