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Sunday surprise: concerning scale and zoom

Sunday, January 18th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — A DoubleTweet on earth, air and water, with IS for fire — plus a Gary Snyder poem ]

The ability to scale, including but not limited to ratio, is one of the great human cognitive skills:

The Daily Mail:

John Robb:


Or as Gary Snyder so excellently has it:

As the crickets’ soft autumn hum
is to us
so are we to the trees

as are they

to the rocks and the hills.

Robb on the Networked Age

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

John is en fuego today:

Life in a Networked Age

.….In the last thirty years, we’ve seen a shift in the technological substrate.  This new susbstrate is increasingly a family of technologies related to information networks.

As this new substrate begins to take control, we’re going to need new management forms.  Both bureaucratic and market systems are proving insuffient solutions to the challenges of a networked age.  

In both cases, the emergence of a global network is eroding the efficacy of bureaucracy and markets as solutions.  How?  One reason is scale.  

A global network is too large and complex for a bureaucracy to manage.  It would be too slow, expensive, and inefficient to be of value.  Further, even if one could be built, it would be impossible to apply market dyanmics (via democratic elections) to selecting the leaders of that bureaucracy.  The diversity in the views of the 7 billion of us on this planet are too vast.  

In terms of markets, a global marketplace is too unstable.   Interlinked, and tightly coupled markets are prone to frequent and disasterous failures.  Additionally, a global marketplace is easy for insiders to corrupt and rig, as we saw with the 2008 financial melt-down.   Given instability and unmitigated corruption, markets will fail as a decision making mechanism.  

So, what’s going to replace bureaucracy and markets?

Read the rest here.

In very strong agreement with John. I like markets and think they produce efficient and optimized results for many things ( not all things) but free markets currently face massive (and sadly bipartisan) efforts to rig them by the oligarchy here at home, much less in autocratic states where the  practice of state socialism, kleptocracy and government by mafia or tribal/sectarian minority is the norm.  People will seek work-around structures to adapt, thrive and evade extortionate schemes by elites that have hijacked the state.

Hat tip to Lexington Green

Some unknown calculus

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — thinking inside and outside the pack, Robert Wright, John Robb, Iran, outliers ]


Robert Wright just closed his Atlantic piece on Why Bombing Iran Would Mean Invading Iran with an exchange from a couple of years back between Gen. James Cartwright, then Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Sen. Jack Reed:

Senator Reed: I presume that [a bombing campaign] would not be 100 percent effective in terms of knocking them out. It would probably delay them, but that if they’re persistent enough they could at some point succeed. Is that a fair judgment from your position?

General Cartwright: That’s a fair judgment.

Senator Reed: So that the only absolutely dispositive way to end any potential would be to physically occupy their country and to disestablish their nuclear facilities. Is that a fair, logical conclusion?

General Cartwright: Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, it’s a fair conclusion.


Look, I’m way outside my zone of focus here, but that phrase “some unknown calculus” intrigues me.

Maybe Robert Wright should read John Robb. Maybe that “unknown calculus” is in Robb’s post, Israel, Iran and the Poor Man’s Cruise Missile:

One of the Stratfor research “findings” (culled from the Wikileaks stockpile) is that Israel claimed its upcoming strike on Iran would be “catastrophic enough” to cause a regime change. This claim was made both to dissuade Iran from going forward with its program, physically eliminating their ability to move forward with the program, and persuade the US to act instead of Israel.

Running through all of the potential scenarios, only one emerges that makes sense.

A strike on Iranian oil facilities. A strike so devastating that it disrupts all of its oil production, currently at 4 million barrels a day.

How to do that? Drones.

Look, Robb’s piece came out yesterday, Wright’s piece came out today — and who knows how long the editorial process might have taken. So I don’t blame Wright.


The point is, Robb doesn’t think with the pack. And that means he comes up with ideas the pack is blind to.


Private Drone Wars

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Here’s a legal question:

Do I own any of the airspace above my property?  If so, how high up? If not can somebody float camera-laden drones up to first and second story windows without breaking trespassing laws? How about following a person walking on their private property or in public by hovering uncomfortably  nearby their personal space? Flying over privacy fences or at an angle to peer over them?

Well, this story raised all these questions:

Animal rights group says drone shot down 

A remote-controlled aircraft owned by an animal rights group was reportedly shot down near Broxton Bridge Plantation Sunday.

Steve Hindi, president of SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness), said his group was preparing to launch its Mikrokopter drone to video what he called a live pigeon shoot on Sunday when law enforcement officers and an attorney claiming to represent the privately-owned plantation near Ehrhardt tried to stop the aircraft from flying.

“It didn’t work; what SHARK was doing was perfectly legal,” Hindi said in a news release. “Once they knew nothing was going to stop us, the shooting stopped and the cars lined up to leave.”

He said the animal rights group decided to send the drone up anyway.

“Seconds after it hit the air, numerous shots rang out,” Hindi said in the release. “As an act of revenge for us shutting down the pigeon slaughter, they had shot down our copter.”

He claimed the shooters were “in tree cover” and “fled the scene on small motorized vehicles.”

Read the rest here.

Generally, laws permit you to film (but not always audiotape) people in public but not always where an expectation of privacy exists and certainly not via criminal trespass. If I own thirty acres, and your drone flies up to my house you have negated the value of owning so much property as to keep the public at a reasonable distance.

I can see how people might not find that acceptable and might start using strategies to discourage that. If I “accidentally” crash my drone into yours (Oops! Sorry) a court might perceive that as a risk entailed in such hobbies. I beam your craft with my DIY energy weapon and you are out $300 and can’t legally come on my property to retrieve it.

Or maybe, if I know who you are, I buy a drone and send it out after you. Or, if I have a screw or two loose or are from the shady side of the street, worse.

This could get seriously out of hand.


Signs of the times: complex problems and future drones

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — complex problems and a future with drones graphically depicted ]

A couple of interesting, arresting and relevant signs here…

The top one is a perennial favorite, and is far too simple to represent genuine complexity with any accuracy — but still gets something of the point across.

The lower of the two comes from a post by blog-friend Shlok Vaida today — I’ve cropped the original because the lettering would be illegible in my “specs” format if I hadn’t, but I encourage you to click through and see it — and also to visit John Robb‘s very recent post Drone Swarms are Here: 1 Minute to Midnight?

Shloky is an enterprising fellow — is he already printing up large quantities of those “Authorized Drone Strike Zone” notices, or (more likely because more efficient) waiting a year or four before printing them on a just-in-time basis?


Are we wearing our time-crash helmets yet?

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