The Value of Pain

Three notables on the value of pain:


1) Pain is a warning of dangerous threats and helps safeguard us.


2) Pain that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!


3) Pain lets you know you ain’t dead yet.


Then again, nothing wrong with a little pain relief. šŸ˜‰


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Losing Deadly Control

Skull

So today we hear that there was a horrible mistake in which at least 52 sites (in 18 states here and 3 other countries) were inadvertently sent LIVEĀ anthrax!!!


This after a prior incident in December whereĀ ebola had been mishandled and a technician potentially exposed.Ā 


Again last August, they announced that a lab had accidentally cross-contaminated benign bird flu virus with a deadly strain of it.Ā 


And there are at leastĀ five other major mishaps just since 2009 including more with anthrax and bird flu as well as with Brucella and botulism–these involved everything from using improper sterilization and handling techniques to inadvertentĀ shipments of deadly live germs.Ā 


Also in July, the CDC discovered six vials of LIVE smallpox in an unused storage room at the NIH.


This isĀ reminiscentĀ of similar gaffes by the military with anĀ inadvertentĀ shipment in 2007 by the Air Force of six nuclear warheadsĀ while the crew was unaware that they were even carrying it.


And here we go again (a doozy this time), information was disclosed in 2013 that we nearly nuked ourselves (specifically North Carolina) with 2 hydrogen bombs (260 times more powerful than that exploded on Hiroshima) in 1961.Ā 


Yes, mistakes happen, but for weapons of mass destructions that we are talking about here, there are layers of safeguards that areĀ supposed to be strictly inĀ place.Ā 


After each incident, it seems that some official acknowledges the mistakes made, says sorry, and claims things are going to be cleaned up now.Ā 


But if the same or similar mistakes are made over and over again, then what are we really to believe, especially when millions of lives are at stake?


We have too much faith in the large bureaucratic system called government that despite how well it could be run, very often it isn’t and is prone to large and dangerous errors and miscalculations.


With all due respect for our experts in these areas, we need to spend a lot more time and effort to ensure the safety of our most dangerous stockpiles–be it of nuclear, chemical, biological, or radiological origin.Ā 


We can’t afford any more mistakes–or the next one could be more than just a simple (not)Ā embarrassment.


What good is all the preparation to win against our enemies, if weĀ are our own worst enemy or we have meet the enemy and it is us! šŸ˜‰


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Drone Warfare: Integration At Its Best

Drone Warfare: Integration At Its Best

I learned a lot about Drone Warfare reading and thinking about “The Killing Machines” in The Atlantic by David Bowden.

The benefits of drones for military use are numerous:

– Stealth: Drones can be relatively small (some are now even the size of bugs) and they can survey from vehicles that are aerial, terrestrial, underwater, or I would imagine, even subterranean. In a sense, even a spy satellite is a type of drone, isn’t it?

– Persistent: They can hover unmanned over enemy territory for not only hours, but also days at a time, and switching in replacement drones can create a virtually continuous stream of surveillance for months or years, depending on the need.

– Powerful: The sensors on a drone can include high-definition cameras, eavesdropping devices, radar, infrared, “and a pixel array so dense, that the device can zoom in clearly on objects only inches wide from well over 15,000 feet above.” Further, with features like Gorgon Stare, multiple cameras linked together can view entire cities in one feel swoop.

– Long-range: Drones can function doing reconnaissance or surveillance far away and deep into enemy territory. With drones, no one is too distant or remote as to be untouchable.

– Lethality: Drones can carry missiles such as The Hellfire, a “100-pound antitank missile” and other weapons that can act expediently on information without the need to call in additional support.

– Precise: Drones can hit targets with amazing precision–“It targets indiscriminate killers with exquisite discrimination.”

– Safety: Drones carry out their work unmanned with (or without) controllers stationed at safe distances away–sometimes thousands of miles back at the homeland.

– Expendable: Drones themselves are throwaway. As with a bee, a drone is more or less useless when disconnected from the hive. Similarly, a military “drone is useless as an eyeball disconnected from the brain,” since drones function only as an extension of back-end satellite links, data processors, intelligence analysts, and its controller.”

Overall, the great value of drones is their integration of technologies: vehicles, global telecommunications, optics, sensors, supercomputers, weapon systems, and more.

To me, between the questions of fairness, legality, and privacy–drones are being given a bum rap.

– Fairness: Just because one side has a technology that the other doesn’t, should not mean it’s wrong to use it. This is what competition and evolution is all about. I remember learning in school, when children would complain to the teacher that something was unfair, and the teacher would reply, “life is unfair!” This doesn’t mean we should use a shotgun approach, but rather use what we got, appropriately.

– Legality: Is it legal to kill targets rather than apprehending them, trying them, and otherwise punishing them? This is where sincere deliberations come in on whether someone is a “lawful target” (e.g. enemy combatant), “imminent threat” (e.g. self-defense), whether other alternatives are viable (e.g. collateral damage assessments), and will killing them do more hard than good to foreign relations, influence, and even possibly breeding new hate and terror, rather than quelling it.

– Privacy: The issue of privacy comes less into play with military matters and more with respect to domestic use for law enforcement and other civilian uses (from agriculture to urban planning). The key is protect citizens from being unduly monitored, tracked, and scrutinized–where freedom itself is under big-brother attack and we all become mere drones ourselves in a national hive of complacency and brainless obedience.

Rather than scaling back drones use, I liked Mary Ellen O’Connell vision of new drones “capable of delivering a warning–‘Come out with your hands up!’ and then landing to make an arrest using handcuffs.”

This is the promise of technology to learn from mistakes of the past and always bring possibilities of making things better in the future. šŸ˜‰

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Don McCullough)

>Wake Up To Advanced Technology

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Yet another air traffic controller asleep on the job today–OMG.
Everyone is upset–as they should be–safety and lives are at stake.

Hello.

Come in…

Is anyone down there?

We need to land.

We have an emergency on board (someone is sick or perhaps the plane is in imminent danger or maybe it’s been hijacked).

I guess we need to call back later.

That’s CRAZY!

Silence is not golden, in these cases.

In the government (as in private sector control rooms), there are a lot of round the clock duty stations–watching our airports, our borders, and critical infrastructure.

We rely on people to be alert for any problems and be prepared to step up to the plate to take necessary action to safeguard our nation.

When people are “asleep at the switch,” they are not only abrogating their basic duty (for which they are getting paid), but they are endangering others and this is obviously unacceptable.

We know this intuitively.

Why has this gotten so out of control lately–Is this a new phenomenon or just one that is coming to light now? Are people taking advantage of the system, genuinely exhausted, or disillusioned with their jobs and giving up–so to say?

There are a lot of questions that need to be explored and answered here and I would expect that these answers will be forthcoming.

Because it is not just a matter of reacting with a doubling of the shift or clamping down on the people involved–although that maybe a good first step to stop the proverbial bleeding; but obviously more needs to be done.

For decades, air traffic control (ATC) has relied on controllers on the ground to guide planes on the ground and in the air, despite new technologies from autopilot to Global Positioning System (GPS) and from on-board transponders to advanced cockpit displays.

Many hardworking government and commercial sector employees have been working to change this through modernization of the processes and systems over the years.

By increasingly leveraging advances in technology, we can do more of what people–like the ATCs and many other of our hardworking watchstanders–are currently being asked to do manually.

This doesn’t mean that there is no human (AWAKE! is the expectation) watching to make sure that everything is working properly, but it does mean that the people may be in some instances an augmentation, rather than the primary doers.

In the end, people have got be in control, but technology should be doing as much of the heavy lifting as it can for us and perhaps, as we are a failsafe for technology, technology can in some instances be a backstop for human error and frailty.

It doesn’t make us weak to admit our limitations and look not only for people and process changes, but also for technology solutions to help augment our personal capabilities.

(Credit Picture: PN.PsychiatryOnline.org)

>City 2.0 Makes City Sense

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They call it City 2.0ā€”that is cities that are IT enabled with all sorts of sensors and smart technology.

  • Cameras monitor traffic flow.
  • Sensors test water quality and monitor sewage runoff.
  • Smart meters keep track of energy usage.
  • Acoustical systems monitor structural integrity of bridges and other infrastructure.
  • Building management systems control ventilation, lighting, power, fire, and security.
  • Environmental monitoring tracks weather, smog, and even potential natural disasters.

And I think this is all probably still just the beginningā€¦

Governing Magazine, April 2010 has an article entitled ā€œThe Sentient Cityā€ by Zach Pattonā€ that describes how systems are helping cities ā€œsend resources to the street corner where gangs are converging, manage traffic before it becomes congested, and respond to emergencies seamlesslyā€”automaticallyā€”before theyā€™re even reported.ā€

With technology, we are able to be not only more aware of our surroundings, but also be more proactive in managing them.

There are many critical technology elements that come into play for a sentient city:

  • Sensorsā€”for awareness of what is going on
  • Networkingā€”for linking together the sensors with the backend systems
  • Storageā€”for housing all the incoming city data
  • Business Intelligenceā€”for making sense of it all
  • Alertingā€”for notifying authorities and citizens of important happenings

According to analyst Rob Enderle, with technologies for a sentient city, ā€œyou can run a city cheaper and have happier and safer citizens.ā€ Further, according to the article, the city ā€œbecomes a more efficient place for people to live and work. It also means a government can do more with less.ā€

Obviously, there is significant investment that needs to be made in city infrastructure, systems, and people to make this next generation of city living a complete reality.

But with the investment will come rewards of more and better information for managing all the people, places, and things interacting with each other in the environs.

The flip side of a sentient city is a certain degree of risk to peopleā€™s privacy. For example, where cameras and other sensors abound, peopleā€™s comings, goings, and doings could become subject to invasive scrutiny.

In this case, a little information can become a dangerous thing without adequate safeguards as to what can be monitored, when, and with how much personally identifiable information. For example, this issue is currently being dealt with at airports full body technology scanners that are programmed to hide a personā€™s facial identity.

The benefits of sensing and monitoring our environment are great in terms of efficiencies, safety, and security of our citizens, and I believe that this capability will grow from discrete sensing systems into more holistic city management systems that monitors all the cityā€™s functions and operations, feeds this information into dynamic knowledge centers, and provides real-time information for managing day-to-day city living more intelligently and proactively.

As our population grows and our major city centers continue to have to deal with the ever greater potential for overcrowding, traffic, dirt, crime, and other facets of close knit metropolitan life, our need for more and better information for managing these will become ever more critical to support the continued livability and likability of our cities that we call home.