A Social System that Inspires Pride and Shame

This story continues to fascinate me. 


China’s social credit system started in 2015. 


China scores individuals based on public data (social media, financial, insurance, health, shopping, dating, and more), and they have people that act as “information collectors” (i.e. neighborhood watchers) who record what their neighbors are doing–good and bad. 


Each individual starts with a 1,000 points. 


If you do good things in Chinese society–helping people, cleaning up, being honest–you get points added. 


If you do bad things in China–fight with people, make a mess, be dishonest–you get points deducted. 


Fail below 1,000 points and you are in trouble–and can get blacklisted!


A good score is something to be proud of and a bad score is something that shames people to hopefully change for the better. 


But more than that, your social score has tangible social impacts–it can determine your ability to get into certain schools, obtain better jobs, homes, loans/mortgages, high-speed internet, and even high-speed train tickets/airplane flights. 


While maybe well intentioned, certainly, this has the very real potential to become a surveillance state and the embodiment of “Big Brother”!


On one hand, it seems like a great thing to drive people and society to be better. Isn’t that what we do with recognizing and rewarding good behavior and with our laws and justice system in punishing bad behavior?


Yet, to me this type of all-encompassing social credit system risks too much from a freedom and privacy perspective. Should the government and all your neighbors be privy to your most intimate doings and dealings?  And should people be controlled to such an extent that literally everything you do is monitored and measured and counted for/against you?


It seems to me that the price of sacrificing your very personal liberty is too high to make in order to push people towards positive social goals.


Guiding people is one thing, and rewarding outstanding acts and punishing horrific ones is understandable, but getting into people’s knickers is another. 


This type of social credit system really borders on social control and moves us towards a very disturbing, dystopian future. 😉

Freedom Is Worth It

Respect.jpeg

This was a photo I took of a sign in my daughter’s old high school.


It says, “Respect for Self, Others, and the Environment.”


That is a great principle, which I was reminded of today in sitting for an IT certification exam–how lucky we are to live in a country that affords us respect to be ourselves…to speak, write, and practice as we believe. 


In this case, the certification exam was typically given on Saturday, but as a Sabbath observer, I was able to provide a request for an accommodation, and was able to take the exam this morning, Sunday.


What was absolutely amazing to me though going for the exam at this designated fancy facility, in Washington, D.C.–and with two proctors–was that I was the only one taking the exam today.


This was not just some lip-service tolerance for differences, but rather true respect for diversity, even when it’s not convenient and it is costly. 


I have got to say, how grateful I am to be part of a society where we are free to be who we are–what can be more amazing than that?


I feel this all the more when we are at a time in history when still so many in the world are battling dictatorships, demagogues, terrorist and corrupt regimes that impose harsh restrictions, censorship, monitoring, and severe punishments on those who don’t follow the dictates of the authority holding power. 


When we fight those restrictive regimes–from ISIS to Communism–that are looking not just to hold, but to spread their clutches on power and abuses of freedom–we are really fighting to be who we are and that is a serious fight worth having. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Smart Electronic Skin

Bug
I liked this concept reported on in BBC Technology about using swarms of sensors to create a type of electronic or “smart skin.”



Like nerves in our human skin, multitudes of sensors placed on anything that we want to monitor, could create a sensing/feeling and reporting mechanism for evaluating the health or condition of that thing. 



Rather than wait for something to fail or break, we could actively collect information on changes in “temperature, strain, and movement” and other environmental impacts to analyze and predict any issues and proactively address them with countermeasures, maintenance, or fixes. 



As human beings, we are architected with regular monitoring and self-healing biological systems to protect ourselves from daily dangers around us, we can develop homes, factories, transport, robots, and everything important around us with similar properties to be more durable, last longer and be more productive.  



When we emulate in our own development efforts what G-d has created for the good in the world, we are on the right track. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

SCADA In Pictures

SCADA In Pictures

SCADA 3 SCADA 4 SCADA

So SCADA are Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition systems.

They are a form of Industrial Control Systems (ICS) that monitor and control major industrial processes from power generation, transmission, and distribution, to water treatment, chemical production, air traffic control, traffic lights, building controls, and more.

These are part of our nation’s critical infrastructure.

In the lab, we are able to use tools to capture and analyze communication packets and edit and re-use them to:

– Turn on and off lights

– Open/close perimeter gates

– Control water and gas pipelines

– And even open and close a bridge

This was very scary!

No one, unauthorized, should be able to do this in real life, in the physical world.

This is a major security vulnerability for our nation:

– SCADA systems should not be openly available online, and instead they should be able to be controlled only either locally or remotely through an encrypted virtual private network (VPN).

– SCADA systems should not be available without proper access controls–there must be credentials for user id and passwords, and even two-step authentication required.

No one but vetted, cleared, authorized, and trained personnel should be able to monitor and control our critical infrastructure–otherwise, we are giving them the keys to disrupt it, destroy it, and use it for terror.

We owe our nation and families better, much better.

(Source Photos from lab: Andy Blumenthal)

A Razor to Apple’s Throat

I love Razer’s Project Christine – a completely modular PC.

There is a stand and you simply attach the components you want: Central Processing Units (CPU), Graphic Processing Unit (GPU), Power Supply Unit (PSU), Solid-State Drive (SSD) storage, and so on.

By making the architecture open and plug and play–just jack in a new module– and change out whatever you want, whenever you want. Obsolescence be gone.

This is a challenge to pure standardization, and a way to make customization cost-effective.

The cooling is done with mineral oil that is pumped throughout from the bottom reservoir.

At the top, you see a module for a command center for adding operating systems, adjusting configurations and settings, or monitoring performance.

A subscription model is planned where for a annual fee you can get the latest and greatest upgrades.

Project Christine PC is the epitome of simple, useful, scalable and beautiful.

Watch out Apple, you have a Razor at your throat–it’s time to seriously up the innovation game. 😉

Halo Arrives To Our Warfighters

So excited about the Army’s experimental Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS).

This is really our fast, strong, and agile fighting force of the future.

The integration of technologies for the individual warfighter, including sensors, exoskeleton body armor, weapon systems, communications, and monitoring of health and power makes this an unbelievable advance.

I think the MIT research on magnetorheological fluids–which convert from liquid to solid body armor in milliseconds (sort of like Terminator 2) with a magnetic field or electric current (controlled, so the enemy doesn’t bog down the forces) is a true game changer for balancing agility and force protection.

In the future, I believe these suits will even incorporate capabilities to drive, dive, and fly.

This will complement unmanned swarms of dumb drones with intelligent human fighters that will take the battlefield on Earth and beyond. 😉

Mayim Chaim

Mayim Chaim

You can only live about 3 days without water–that’s why protecting our water is so critical.

Emergency Management (May/June 2013) says, “There are numerous ongoing threats to our water supply. Some of them [natural or man made] could be catastrophic.”

– Water poisoning: Already in the 1st century, Roman Emperor Nero poisoned the wells of his enemies. These days you’d need a large supply, like “several dump trucks of cyanide or arsenic to poison a reservoir. Plus the water system is monitored and has purification protections such as chlorine, so it’s not that simple. We can also issue “boil alerts” for people to boil the water before drinking it. Then again, we saw what some radiation did to the Japanese water supplies after Fukushima.

– Blowing it up: The water system infrastructure can be disrupted using explosives, so keeping intruders far away from it is important to keeping it safe.

– Earthquakes/Hurricanes: Much of the water system pipes are old–some built during the Civil War–and these can be destroyed by natural disasters or even a construction crew jackhammer hitting in the wrong place.

– Electrical outage: If you shut down the electricity, you shut down the water pumps…and even with generators taking over for a while, your up against the clock, if you don’t get the juice flowing again soon.

– Cyber Attack: Our water systems, like other industrial control systems are vulnerable to cyber attack. A hacker that gets control of the systems could overheat it, overtreat it, flood it, or otherwise break it and shut it down.

Keeping our water infrastructure secure, the water supply safe and potable, the transport pipes intact, the electricity working, and the systems under control–are not little matters–they are the difference between life and death for millions.

As in The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, when the ship gets blown off course into unchartered waters and the crew is thirsty for water and desperate to survive, the poet states, “Water, Water. Everywhere. And All The Boards Did Shrink; Water, Water, Everywhere. Nor Any Drop To Drink.”

In Hebrew, there is a short saying that sums up this topic, “Mayim Chaim”–water is life. 😉

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)