Navy Under Attack

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So there was another collision of a U.S. Navy Destroyer.


The Navy destroyer collided early today with an oil tanker off of Singapore. 


10 sailors are missing and there is significant hull damage. 


This is the 4th known accident just this year of our Navy vessels in Asia waters.


And previously I wrote incredulously about the last Navy collision with a massive container ship in June that resulted in 7 dead. 


How do U.S. Navy ships with the most advanced sensors, navigation, weapons, and command and controls systems in the world–that are supposed to be protecting us–just simply collide with other ships like toys in a bathtub?


These Navy ships are a vital projection of U.S. might, and are supposed to be able to keep the worst foes away and keep our dedicated men and women warfighters safe at sea–whether from bomb-laden terrorist attack speed boats to anti-access/area denial missiles and all threats from on, above, or below. 


Yet, they just keep crashing…


There was supposedly some buzz online about a stealthy new cyber weapon that is attacking our ships and making them useless and helpless pieces of (G-d forbid) floating junk at sea or perhaps enabling them to be hacked and electronically commandeered and controlled in order to crash them.


Either way, how many collisions does it take for this to become a concerning problem with our Navy’s ability to manage the ships under their command and be ever war-ready. 


Our ships are a major element of our national strength and security, and loss of control implies a potentially great risk to our nation. 


We need our Navy and their tremendous people, assets, and expertise to safeguard our people, freedom, and democracy.


A few months ago, there was a hackathon to test the Navy’s systems’ security–and most certainly, this is a crucial type of test that we potentially face every day in real life.


These are challenging times for everything cybersecurity, so let’s make sure we have all the capabilities we need and are fully up to the task to defend ourselves and take out our enemies–it’s not just our Navy in the spotlight and at risk. 😉 


(Source Photo: With attribution to CNN and adapted from here)

Giving Voice To The Workers

Giving Voice To The Workers

In light of the recent factory collapse in Bangladesh and another in Cambodia this week, there is an promising crowdsourcing service called LaborVoices for factory workers and other industries.

A former Department of State employee, Kohl Gill, who I do not know, started the service.

LaborVoices collects information from workers by phone polling in the workers native languages.

The service anonymously records information about hazardous working conditions, product quality, and maintenance of equipment.

According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek (13 May 2013), LaborVoices aggregates worker responses and provides the results on a subscription basis through an online dashboard.

Unlike with onsite inspections, where workers can be easily coaxed, cajoled, or threatened to provide positive workplace feedback, the private polling by mobile phones provides for more accurate and timely reporting of workplace issues.

Problems that can be identified early can be remediated sooner and hopefully avoid defects, injuries, and illnesses from poor products and working conditions.

Giving voice to the workforce–anonymously, safely, and in aggregate can provide important information to companies, labor unions, government regulators, and law enforcement to be able to take action to protect people inside the workplace and to users outside.

Like an ever-present inspector general, internal auditor, or tip hotline, LaborVoices can help self-regulate industry, produce safer products, and protect the workers who make it all happen.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to UN Women Asia and The Pacific)

Seesaw, Yeah It’s For Kids

There is an interesting new crowdsourcing application called Seesaw.

And like a seesaw goes up and down, you can take a picture and crowdsource decisions–thumbs up or down for what you should do.

Food, clothes, movies, more–I could imagine people even going so far as to use this for dating–Go out with them or not? Keep ’em or dump ’em?

While the possibility of having others chime in on your everyday life decisions is somewhat intriguing, social and fun…it also seems a little shallow and superficial.

Do you really need to ask your friends about everything you do or can you make simple day-to-day decisions yourself?

And when it comes to big decisions, perhaps you need more than a picture with a thumbs up or down to give the decision context, evaluate pros and cons, think through complex issues, and make a truly thoughtful decision–perhaps some genuine dialogue would be helpful here?

Finally, many decisions in life come at the spur of a moment–should I or shouldn’t I–and you don’t have the benefit of saying hold on “let me take a picture and get some of my friends opinions on this”–life waits for no one and timing is often everything!

It is good to get other people’s opinions (i.e. the proverbial “second opinion”) as well as to do what my father used to tell me which is to “sleep on it,” because things look different over night and in the morning.

But while you should consider what others think–in a meaningful way–in the end, you need to trust your inner self and take responsibility for your own decisions. 😉

Autocomplete: Do Zombies (What)?

The autocomplete feature in search engines can tell us a lot about what people are thinking and asking about.

According to the New York Times (21 November 2012) “sites like Google and Bing are showing the precise questions that are most frequently asked.”

Autocomplete suggests the rest of your search term based on the most popular things that others have asked for, so it speeds up your search selection by anticipating what you are looking for and by reducing spelling errors in your search terms.


Another advantage to seeing popular searches is to understand what the larger population is thinking about and looking for–this gives us insight into culture, norms, values, and issues of the time.

I did a simple google search of “do zombies” and as you can see the most popular searches are about whether zombies: poop, exist, sleep, “really exist,” and have brains. 

Even more disappointing than people asking whether zombies really exist is that the #1 search on zombies is about whether they poop–what does that say about our lagging educational system?

I would at least have imagined that the preppers–those infatuated with the end of the world and with preparation for survival–would at least be searching for terms like:

Do zombies…

pose a real threat to human survival?

have (certain) vulnerabilities?

ever die?

have feelings?

have children?

beat vampires (or vice versa)?

I suppose autocomplete is good at crowdsourcing search terms of what others are thinking about, but it is only as good as those doing the ultimate searching–our collection intelligence at work. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Biowarfare: A Fight At The Molecular Level

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There is a fascinating article in The Atlantic (November 2012) on an emerging bioweapons storm that is brewing that could be used in a decapitation strike to harm anyone, even the President of the United States. 

Advances in genetic engineering, biotechnology, and synthetic biology (Synbio) has been seen from decoding human DNA to the development of “magic bullets”, personalized viral therapies that can target and destroy cancer cells.

However, just as most things can be used for good or evil–so too, can this biotechnology be used to target and destroy cancerous cells or perversely to attack healthy ones.

Bioweapons could be targeted to various parts of the body or brain to cause blindness, memory loss, or death itself. More subtly, it can be used to “fabricate evidence” of affairs, crimes, “cast doubt” as to birthplace or heritage, or as supposed markers for genetic diseases, and even mental disability. 

Moreover, while bioweapons of mass destruction can destroy virtually entire civilizations, personalized bioweapons can be engineered based on the manipulation of a specific person’s DNA to attack that person–then just like a sniper, it becomes one shot, one (targeted) kill. 

Personalized bioweapons can be silent and deadly, difficult to detect, hard to pin on a source, and may even be confused with death by natural causes. 

And the cost is coming down…cell-culturing gear “can be had on eBay for as little as $10,000” or “cobbled together for less than $1,000.”

Even non-weaponized use of this technology, can be extremely dangerous. For example, Synbio, can be used to “cut and paste” genetic code from one species to another, can be mixed from multiple species, and new creatures can be created altogether–all this potentially leading to frightening scenarios of “undesired cross-breeding with other organisms, uncontrolled proliferation, crowding out existing species, and threats to biodiversity.” 

Already, “forty nations now host synbio research” and “The Beijing Genomics Institute…is the largest genomic research organization in the world.”

The article speaks to various approaches to counter the personalized bioweapons threat including scientific task forces, bio-detectors, “Clean DNA” (as biological backup system), conducting biological war games, and open/crowdsourcing for solutions. 

It seems clear that the answers of how to defend against these emerging threats are not as good as the questions raised by them–and we will need to be vigilant and fast-track R&D in these areas, as we are still vulnerable. 

Further, I see some similarities between bioweapons, cyberweapons, and even legions of attack drones/droids, as all areas that are non-conventional and developing quickly and quite lethally. 

Unfortunately, we can’t just put on a coat of armor and be safe from attacks at the molecular level, or from malicious code seeking to cripple our national critical infrastructure, or from robots that can stream across a battlespace attacking without fear, pain, or tiring. 

There is no simple paradigm for killing anymore and we better let our imaginations run wild, so we can figure out new ways to protect everyone–from the President and on down to us all.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Better A Rock Than A Pebble

Pebble is coming out with a Smartwatch that connects via wireless Bluetooth to either iPhone or Android devices.

It can be used for getting messages, including from Twitter and Facebook, as well as for caller id, music controls, GPS, and more.

And you can download more apps from the watch app store.

Pebble uses a high resolution ePaper display technology, has a vibrating motor, microprocessor, accelerometer, and the battery can run for up to 7 days.

It has been crowdfunded through Kickstarter website and has since April sold, pre-order, approximately 85,000 watches at a $115 pop.

While I like the idea of being able to get information in more convenient form factors whether as a watch, glasses (like Google is working on) or other device configuration, I think the Pebble has a way to go in terms of it’s particular design.

Honestly. the Pebble looks cheap and chincy to me. The device looks too plasticy. The colors seem more geared towards kids.

Additionally, the screen looks way too small to be very useful except for the most basic alerts, but maybe this is all to make lighter and more mobile.

I plan to wait for something a little more substantial and with a larger screen.

A ruggedized version would be especially appealing including water, shock, and dust resistant and so on.

Perhaps the crowdfunding model has worked for this smartwatch for people looking to get the latest technology or even make a fast buck, but I think a little more crowdsourcing, in terms of customer requirements and feedback, would make an even better product for all.