Social Media Totalitarianism

The Chinese government has the most brilliant as well as frightening use and control of social media. 


I am not just talking about blocking Internet sites and free information flow. 


They actually have mastered the use of social media for tracking and rewarding or punishing citizen behavior.


Their social credit system rates people’s behavior online for everything they do!


Similar to likes and dislikes, you are either labeled a “model citizen” sought after for jobs and good housing or you can be an “enemy of the state” treated as a social outcast who can’t even leave the country anymore. 


Everything about you is now based on what you are rated (whether true or not)!


Now in China the government has added a snitching tool/app where people are encouraged through a points system that offers rewards like store discounts, coupons for coffee, taxis, and music streaming, in order to get them to report covertly on their neighbors–are their fellow citizens fighting, is there mental illness, are people cheating on their taxes, etc. 


You’re being surveilled not just by the grid system, where every 300 households are watched and checked-in on by a “grid manager,” but you are subject to daily intrusion by anyone that wants to report on you. 


Communication to “Big Brother” is way overvalued, while privacy and respect of the people are no longer important values or concerns. 


Instead of a Security Operations Center to monitor and command response to life-threatening catastrophes and emergencies, now there is a “Social Governance Integrated Command Center” to display video and biometric surveillance from throughout the country as well as to show what are the “moods” and which “issues” are trending. 


Talking about having a finger on the pulse of what’s going on…


I say this is all brilliant and malign, because social media which can be a tool for connecting people and for the free flow of information and progress is instead used for near ultimate control and enslavement of the masses–both their minds and their behaviors. 


People should not be treated as servants of the state and subjected to ever-encroaching social media surveillance and control that is not carefully balanced directly to absolutely necessary national security. 


Rather the state and its levers of people’s supreme power should be subject to the wants and needs of its people who must freely decide on their collective futures and maintaining human rights. 


Totalitarianism by police state, imprisonment, torture and “re-education” is now unfortunately facilitated by social media monitoring,  and credits system where truly you are watched by Big Brother in the flesh and in the bytes. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

No Smartphone, No Life

Disaster.jpeg

So we are utterly and helplessly dependent on our smartphones and mobile communications.


If our enemies strike our communications networks, we are as good as dead. 


Can you imagine the panic and chaos that would ensue?


Cut off from family, friends, and colleagues.


Unable to get unto the Internet!


No eCommerce. 


No online Banking. 


No social networking.

No easily and readily available information.

No online music, videos, or gaming.

No online (fake) news. 


As you see in the photo, under the smashed smartphone…it says, “Disaster”!


We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves. 


And we wouldn’t know how to conduct ourselves by ourself. 


We are completely dependent on mobile communications and connectivity to each other.


Without, we wither and die. 


And G-d created the marvels of the Heaven and Earth in 6 days. 


But we have become so tethered and dependent on our technology, we are toast in just a split second. 


If we don’t get serious about cybersecurity, and fast, there is going to be hell on Earth to pay. 


And not a single shot needs to be fired. 😉


(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)

The Trump Twitter Genius

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President-elect Trump is a Twitter genius!


At 70-years old, he has managed to use a millennial social media tool to take on the world, and despite opponents questioning of his temperament, so far he has unequivocally won with it. 


Using Twitter, Trump defeated candidates from Cruz to Clinton in running for president of the United States and at a fraction the cost.


Using Twitter, Trump has shaped not only policy discussion, but national sentiments around healthcare, over-regulation, tax reform, and even updating our critical nuclear deterrent capability. 


Using Twitter, Trump has strengthened alliances and friendships with nation and states from Israel to Taiwan and decreased escalating tensions with Russia. 


Using Twitter, Trump has put competitors and adversaries on notice about bad behavior from China to North Korea.


Using Twitter, Trump is setting the stage for correcting economic problems and imbalances from unfair trade practices to shipping jobs overseas.


Using Twitter, Trump gets around media bias and messages and connects directly with the people of the world. 


Of course, it is critical to vet important communications and ensure they are accomplishing the goal, but this needs to be weighed with the ability to reach out and get the message out quickly and effectively to the masses…and it’s a most fascinating and delicate balance that needs to be achieved. 


So far though, we are no longer working at the speed of government, but at the speed of the Internet. 


This is an incredible awakening in politics, but also for everyone on the incredible power of social media tools to communicate directly, unvarnished, and with impact, and no one has done it better than Donald Trump. 


The mastery of social media will continue to depend on messaging with speed, significance, and effect balanced with the vigilance as to exactly when to hit that crucial send button to the Twitterverse and the world. 


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Living In A Big F-cking Interconnected World

on-and-off

So I can hardly remember a world without the Internet, television, or travel. 


Yet if the world, as created, is just under 6,000 years old, then we only have these critical interconnections with each other for the last 100 years…that’s only a tiny fraction of world history or less than 2%!


Pervasive and invasive communications and travel like the Internet (1990), television (1927), commercial airplane (1914), and mass produced automobile (1908) have expanded our personal universes. 


Hearing stories as a kid about how people rarely traveled more than 25 miles from their villages and barely got news from far beyond that, it is very hard for me to imagine such a small world to be confined to. 


Yes, some people look back with nostalgia yearning for the simpler times and “the good ‘ol days,” but they forget how on one hand, mundane it was and on the other, how unstable and violent it tended to be. 


Now with social media, smartphones, 24/7 news coverage, and world travel, connecting with people and events irrespective of distance or even language is taken for granted, and we are always on and expected to be (the last part is one downside for sure). 


Still yet to be conquered, but I am sure not that far away, is connecting outside of our own world and irregardless of time…reach forward or back and across the vastness of the stars–it’s all one. 


Frankly, I do not know what I would do in a world limited to just 25 miles and not being able to get connected online, anytime, anywhere…what a boring and small world that must’ve been.


In the same way, once we reach beyond our own world and routinely travel to and settle on other worlds, and can reach beyond the present into the past and the future, I think the next generations will be astonished at how small we too have lived. 


25 miles…what the heck!  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

USA Surrendering The Internet

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So here we go again, we cut off the hand (and arm) despite the face.


We are recklessly giving up control of the Internet, specifically of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Domain Names Servers (including all the DNS root zones like .com, .net, .gov, etc.) that handle all the addressing of our Internet traffic.


Despite repeated cautions from many in industry, academia, and government not to do this, we are moving ahead anyway with tomorrow being the transition date!


Why would we give away anything, let alone control over the awesome technological power of the Internet that we depend on in some way for virtually every activity we do these days?


Aside from non-explanations of “fulfilling historic promises” to cede control (i.e surrender the Internet out of fear that other countries will challenge us and set up their own alternate DNS’s) and nonsensical talk of “protecting Internet freedom” by giving it away to authoritarian regimes and despots–there seems to be no REAL reason to do this drastic action that weakens our country and puts our technology, commerce, critical infrastructure, and national security at risk!


Rather than defend the Internet that the USA invented (specifically DARPA), here we go again in fear and weakness going in the wrong direction–surrendering and giving up control of the web.


If you love the Internet and recognize how important this asset is to us, then like an FCC Commissioner said this week, you should be worried about what the h*ck we are doing to the freedom (vice censorship) of the Internet and to ourselves . 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Computer Luminaries

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I wanted to share these photo that I took at Micro Center, a computer and electronics store, outside Washington DC. 


On the wall are these pretty awesome photos of many of the founders and inventors behind modern-day computing. 


1) Doug Englebart – the GUI and Mouse


2) Dennis Ritchie – C and Unix


3-4) Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston – Visicalc and Spreadsheets


5-6) Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard – HP 


7) Gordon Moore – Intel


8) Grace Hopper – First compiler that led to development of COBOL


9-10) Robert Khan and Vinton Cerf – TCP/IP


11) Steve Wozniak – Apple I and II


Of course, the following deserve a place of the wall of fame as well:


12) Steve Jobs – Apple


13) Bill Gates – Microsoft


14-15) Larry Paige and Sergey Brin – Google


16) Jeff Bezos – Amazon 


17) Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook


On one hand, these are people like you and I, who live, feel joy and pain, and one day die. In the end, we’re all just flesh and blood, plus a soul that is our moral compass. 


But on the other hand, G-d has given some people special gifts to pass to mankind, like a master painter, musician, inventor, or holy person, whose worldly works are as near to G-dly as perhaps we can get outside of Heaven itself.


G-d must have a plan for us as he sends us these people–or more like angels–to guide our development and our destiny. 


Whatever G-d wants from us, we’re definitely on a course to get there and that is comforting and a ray of hope for all of us. 😉


(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

Transitioning To Virtual Ease And Triviality

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I took this photo a few weeks ago on the streets in Washington, D.C.

This was a huge box from eBay coming to someone.

In my building, they recently built an extra storeroom for all the deliveries that are coming everyday–there is no where to put all of them.

Jeff Bezos was recently names the 4th richest person in America, as the stock price of Amazon is up 45% in the last year alone. 

While today in the Wall Street Journal, even the revered retailer of Herald Square, Macy’s, had their stock price shed half it’s value in the last year, and other big box retailers are hurting just as bad. 

eCommerce is threatening the very survival of brick and mortal retailers, as they are seriously eating their lunch–and breakfast and dinner too!

But this is part of a much larger transition occurring from our physical to virtual worlds…

As we abandon department stores and the Mall for online shopping, 

movie theaters and playhouses for home theaters and video streaming, 

physical activities for gaming and virtual reality, 

and even factories and office work for telework and robots

soon we will have no real place to go and nothing to physically do. 

From the bed and couch to the computer and gym, like hamsters on the wheel of triviality, we might as well package ourselves up in the big eBay box and send ourselves to outer space–but only as long as we can get Internet access there. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

I’m Telling You They’re Really New

Swim Fins

So I ordered a pair of swim fins to replace a pair that recently ripped in the pool. 


I went online and ordered a brand NEW pair. 


A few days later, the fins arrive in an envelope (no box). 


Already sort of terrified at what I will find in this strange bag, I slowly open it up, and find a completely disgusting dirty, scuffed, USED pair of fins with no tags or packaging


Ew…I am so grossed out and contact the vendor right away to return these, but instead of customer service, I got a boat load of b.s. and chutzpah.


They made a million excuses, tried to make me feel bad, and basically refused to provide for a return, saying that the product is not really used, that it just got dirty in the mail and on the trucks and all, and I just have to clean them off a little!


When I question them about why there was no box or packaging, they say, “Oh that, well we take it out of the box, so we can ship it more cheaply for you


I said, “What right do you have to take it out of the packaging when I ordered it new–maybe I want the packaging or need to give the item as a gift?”


Then they go on to give me an ear-full about about the high cost of shipping and that I should thank them for removing the packaging to the keep costs down (but the problem is that they were trying to keep costs down in more ways than one here). 


They continue to berate me as well about how I should be more understanding as to the dirt and scuff marks, since it’s no big deal, because when I put it in the pool, the water and the chlorine will wash it off and kill all the germs anyway!


After patiently taking this abuse for a while, I went online and saw that others had the same experience with this merchant–getting sent used goods in the mail that had been advertised and paid for as new.  


Now I had had it up to HERE, and I promptly did my duty and went online to give them an appropriate customer review to help others from getting cheated like this in the future. 


Guess what happens next? 


They email me to tell me that they took note of my feedback and not that they are sorry about what happened and want to fix it, but that “We will never ship to you again.” 


My wife explodes laughing…mwahahahahaha–like who would ever want to go back and do more business with these crooks. 


People are absolutely crazy out there.


Caveat emptor (buyer beware) a million times.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Internet Divide And Conquer

Cut Cable

Remember in the old Western’s when the Indians were about to attack the town, and before they rode in with knives and flaming arrows–what would they do?  


The Indians would cut the telegraph lines–no calls for help out, and no communications in–the town and its people were completely cut off.


The very next scene would be the slaughter of everyone in the town including a bunch getting scalped. 


How have things changed in the 21st century?


Not so much so, as the New York Times reports today on the constant threats to our underground Internet lines being cut–with 16 cuts to the lines in the San Francisco Bay area alone in the last year. 


Similarly just a couple of weeks ago, the media was reporting about the U.S. being worried about Russian subs cutting the undersea Internet cables.


But isn’t the Internet built like a spiders’s web (i.e. the World Wide Web) with redundant routes so that it can withstand even a nuclear attack?


Apparently, if you take out key Internet Exchange Points (IXP) or major international cable lines then the Internet can be seriously disrupted. 


Similar to the impact of an EMP weapon that fries our electronic circuits…poof no more communications. 


If you can cut off our core communications ability–then it’s a simple strategy of divide and conquer.  


Divided we are weak and can’t communicate and organize ourselves to either know what’s going on or to effectively respond. 


Like sitting ducks in the Old West surrounded and cut off–it was a slaughter. 


This is why it is so critical that we not only build redundancy in the cable lines, but that we create alternatives like satellite Internet or Google’s Project Loon for balloon Internet access.


It’s not just the military, law enforcement, and emergency management not that needs to be able to communicate–we all do!


With excellent communications, we can unify ourselves and we are strong–but if we are left in the dark, then divided we fall. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Ricksha With A Worthwhile Message

Ricksha

This guy is pedaling this ricksha around town in Maryland, USA. 


And it carries messages of hope and peace. 


Some examples (visible in the photo):


– “Promote the Olympic spirit.”


– “Hope for world peace.”


– “Protecting mother earth.”


It looks like he could be right off the streets of China or something and transported here to deliver and remind us of these important ideas. 


What is interesting to me is that in this day and age of social media and online advertising where messages are often drowned out amidst the daily deluge we get, that here a simple ricksha can grab people’s attention and perhaps have a positive influence on them.


With just some subtle messaging along the vehicle’s canopy and with pictures and flags around the back.


Perhaps it’s not only how much one advertises and promotes, but how thought-provoking and novel it’s done. 


I don’t know how many miles this guy can pedal a day, but I bet he gets more likes than much of the garbage just being throw up online because it’s so easy and available for everyone to do. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)