Back in 2008, Vinay Gupta wrote The Second Amendment in Iraq, Combat Robotics, and the Future of Human Liberty. He shortened this long title in his blog sidebar to ‘your liberty will not survive combat robots’. I think he was spot on, but the technology is not robots, but drones.
Over the last couple of days I’ve seen tweets like these about fairly disturbing developments in the news:
I don’t want terrorists threatening the peace and stability of where I live any more than the next person. But I also don’t want a situation where a government I disagree with has the technology to hunt me down and kill me with drones.
As Vinay states in that article:
Developing robotic combat capabilities will have three effects. Firstly, it will enable governments to successfully fight insurgencies abroad… Secondly, those combat robotics capabilities are very similar technologically to the capabilities required to control and oppress the domestic population… Finally, use of these technologies in foreign wars will force those who wish to do battle with the US for their political autonomy to strike at the US civilian population, as there will be no effective way of combatting US foreign policy in the field.
Our liberties are being slowly eroded and chipped away in the name of convenience and the ‘war on terror’. And, right now, I (and many other people like me) feel pretty much powerless to stop it.
I visit Hacker News every day. It’s a great resource of technie-related things – not just code stuff but things that people who work in that kind of area are likely to be interested in.
I’ve created something similar: http://ednews.meteor.com
Eight years ago, Will Richardson tried to create a ‘Digg-like site’. For whatever reason, it didn’t work in the medium to long-term. But his reasoning still stands:
[Th]is is all stemming from a bigger burr in my brain of late that has to do with the seeming randomness of all of the really great work that people in this community are starting to create. It’s just feeling like it’s all over the place, and that if we could in some way get our collective act together, we could start creating an incredibly valuable resource. I know it’s all about small pieces loosely joined, but wouldn’t it be great to point the newcomers to one spot that was a clearinghouse for all of this work? Not to mention the value it would have to us old timers in terms of bringing people in. I mean all of a sudden, it seems like everyone has a wiki, and most all of them have great intent and good content. But there’s also a lot of duplication of effort, and more importantly, dis-connection, at least that what it feels like to me.
Yes, these days we have Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and many other social networks. But if the tech community find value in Hacker News (and they do!) why not one for education? I know there’s sites like Spigot but, while I find them useful, they’re not community-contributed links.
If there’s interest and it gains some traction, then I’ll work together with a few folks to deploy it to its own server/domain. 🙂
Try it! Add some links of your own: http://ednews.meteor.com
PS Let me know in the comments what you think (and if you have any problems with it!) I came up with the idea literally just now and did a quick search to see how I could deploy something today!
In this month’s Wired magazine regular contributor and comic book writer Warren Ellis entitles his column ‘Five things I’m thinking about right now.’
Whilst I often share what I’ve been thinking about in my weeknotes, I thought I’d share what’s been on my mind more generally recently:
Innovation seems to be predicted upon standardisation. This can either be distributed (in the case of Open Source Software) or due to an individual or small group’s previous efforts that have led to a core of good practice.
2. The atomisation of society
Even when events are held and people are gathered together they are increasingly not interacting with others who are physically present. Whilst there is some mediated interaction via social networks most of the interactivity is, in fact, controlled by brands and organisers. These exert power and control even in seemingly-informal situations, such is the power of mediated communication.
That’s not to say that there is anything new to this, per se. It has ever been so through television, books and the power of institutions. People seem to like hierarchies.
3. The media
Whilst a lack of gatekeepers and the extremely low cost of entry allows blogs like this to reach a modest number of people it can, depending on the critical faculties and method of presentation, lead to a situation where all ‘news’ is seen as equal.
Perhaps the zenith of this is newsmap.jp, a service that constructs an uncritical visual representation of the top stories from Google News. Stories from the barrel-scraping TV show ‘X-Factor’ are juxtaposed and, depending on the time of day/week, sometimes overwhelm events of immense historical, political and economic importance.
Unfortunately, it would seem that the public broadly considered believe news to be apolitical and unbiased. One has only to witness the number of people in obviously well-paid jobs crucial to the country’s successful functioning who eschew quality news reporting for the fast-food ‘reporting’ of free newspapers.
There’s a paucity of historical metaphor, especially within the educational sphere. As I hope to point out in a forthcoming post, grasping for new metaphors and making seemingly-tenuous connections is vital for sustaining and enriching language.
I’m currently at the stage of laughing at authors whose imaginations (or perhaps basic knowledge) cannot stretch further than hunter-gatherer or industrial revolution metaphors. That laughter may well give way to frustration sooner rather than later.
Sometimes there’s some articles on the BBC News Education pages that make you wonder who’s paying for the research they’re based upon. Here’s 3 just from yesterday:
- 71% of pupils admit being a bully – and the other 29% are liars if, as I suspect, ‘bullying’ has been very widely defined. Real bullying can blight lives and should not be condoned under any circumstances. Minor name-calling and fallings-out, on the other hand (although some will no doubt disagree), are all part of growing up. It’s the human equivalent of play-fighting in animals.
- Some exams ‘harder than others’ – really? My goodness! Groundbreaking news. And surprise, surprise, they found History GCSE is harder than Geography GCSE. Perhaps historians’ jibes that Geographers do nothing but colour things in have some credence after all… 😉
- Unions ‘protecting poor teachers’ – this is something I feel strongly about. There’s a lot of talented people out there who should be in our schools rather than some of the no-hopers I’ve come across in previous schools. I haven’t (thankfully) come across any in my current school, but that’s why we’re a high-achieving specialist school. Having recently received the latest issue of my union’s magazine it’s clear that a great deal of the time they ‘protect’ whinging teachers who really need to get out of the profession and do something to which they’re more suited. That’s not to say that unions don’t do a good job some of the time – both my Dad and myself have had positive experiences – but they really do need to face up to the fact that some teachers aren’t up to the job. There’s only so much ‘professional development’ people can do! :p
What do you think?
BBC News reports that the Children’s Secretary Ed Balls and Culture Secretary Andy Burnham will today launch an initiative that promises access to ‘high-quality cultural activities’. It proposes visits to theatre shows, museums and galleries and the opportunity to learn how to act and play musical instruments. “Great!!” one would think. I disagree.
The BBC reports that a leaked Green Paper obtained by the Times newspaper suggests the UK government is planning to bring in a ‘3 strikes then out’ policy for ‘illegal’ Internet downloads. First, the user’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) would issue an email warning. Second, the user will undergo a period of suspension. Third, the user will have their Internet access cut off. ISP’s who fail to enforce the rules would be prosecuted.
I think everyone knows my stance on copyright and which side of the fence I sit on. Given that literally millions of people download TV shows, etc. from the USA before they air in the UK (technically illegal) then I think the government could have a bit of a fight on their hands (ID cards anyone?)