Tag Archives: survival

102. The Other Terrorism

28 Apr

Clearly, terrorism has dramatically affected most of Earth’s citizens. Airplane
travel and other modes of transportation are affected, people live in fear, disastrous mass migrations have occurred, and governments have toppled. The cost is at least billions and maybe trillions. We are all familiar with these problems.

There is a similar destructive force, which is not quite as dramatic, but is still very costly and fearful. It is information corruption — including identity theft, Internet hacking, stolen emails, Internet viruses, bogus news web-sites, blatant political lies, and similar. (Note, I include all computer related problems.)

We all love the convenience of trade using money (becoming obsolete), credit cards, and even Internet money like Bitcoin and the future “Blockchain.” But every financial system created by man has been corrupted. There is counterfeit money, bogus and stolen credit cards, and I am certain that even highly-touted future systems like Blockchain will be penetrated.

What brings this all to the forefront for me was a process of canceling an inexpensive fax service and a credit card. A simple email or web-site cancellation was not possible. The reason always given is “security,” and that is because of the scoundrels that corrupt our financial systems. Phone calls are always required and they can take hours to complete. The typical citizen goes through dozens of screens searching for a box that says: “check this to cancel the service.” Boxes like this used to be common, but now are scarce. You need to supply all sorts of security info, and if you cannot find something, you are doomed to eternal monthly service fees, inactivity fees, or maybe phone or email harassment.

Another experience had to do with an investment account of mine that was almost compromised, but saved by security procedures. A criminal attempted to withdraw money from my account, but was blocked. However, I was unable to use the account for a month or two while lawyers figured out what to do. I finally had to close the account.

Here is a list of ways that information corruption can affect us:

1. Identity theft can ruin your life by affecting your credit rating, loss of funds, and even bankruptcy. Legal help for a serious situation can cost thousands.
2. Stolen emails have affected our recent presidential election.
3. Credit card info stolen from a business can cause losses for thousands of people.
4. Bogus news web-sites have affected elections.
5. We have a leader now that re-writes history to suit his needs.
6. Information in personal and business computers is hacked for illegal purposes, or destroyed, by computer viruses, which generally operate in a way similar to biological viruses.
7. Reliable scientific information is challenged by callous politicians for various reasons, but most often to support the needs of rich industrial donors.
8. Perhaps most important, hackers from a foreign nation or terrorist group could disrupt our electrical grid. Widespread and prolonged power loss could have serious, even life-and-death, consequences for millions of people.

Is there a way to solve the information corruption problem? One thing is likely, that in the near future, security measures will increase and people will be even more disturbed by the inconveniences. Is there a long term solution? Maybe not. The ultimate answer,  I suspect, would require a utopian world of complete equality,  devoid of criminals and competition, and luxuries for all.  (Imagine that.)  As long as there is competition, some desperate folks, who feel left out, will be driven to some form of terrorism.

101. Worldwide Chaos?

26 Apr

Is there “worldwide chaos” or is it normal to have a certain amount of danger, struggle and warfare. I feel that recently, chaos has taken a step upward,
and there is more to be concerned with now — particularly in the USA — than in the last several years.

Here is a list of factors that currently are particularly disturbing:
1. Endless war in Syria and the resulting massive migrations.
2. Our current leader, Trump, is unprepared for high office, and lacks “ideals.”
3. Brexit: Britain leaving the European Union.
4. Russian attack of Ukraine.
5. Israel and Palestinian endless conflict.
6. Worldwide terrorism, including the dangers of ISIS, Taliban, others.
7. Failure of many leaders to recognize climate-change danger.
8. In some countries there is assassination of reporters and dissidents.
9. Greedy leaders scam the citizens, promoting personal wealth for a few.
10. Significant interference in USA elections by a foreign power (Russia).
11. Christianity and Islam sometimes are compatible, but often clash.

The search for chaos “causes” can take many forms, and for most important events, there are many factors that can be causal. There are many places to start the search. I believe a good point is the industrial revolution, usually dated from about 1760 to 1830.

As governments and technology developed, there was a parallel evolution of greed and corruption. The basic principle is that in any society or nation, a few aggressive and intelligent citizens will become leaders. As they improve their political skills, they learn how to communicate with citizens to achieve power, and to make use of rich donors. Congressmen are “bribed to help the wealthy with tax breaks and loopholes, and subsidies, creating a financial cycle: rich donors support desirable legislation and in turn, get even richer.

Once in office for a few years, they also can become adept at increasing their personal wealth. It is a matter of “learning” and of the eventual irresistible temptation to become richer. Those in office gradually separate from the people and form what could be called a “royalty” class. In many cases, a leader that starts out with good intentions will eventually fall into corruption.

The end result of this process of corruption is often violent or non-violent revolution. Excessive greed at the top will produce more poverty and more poor people. This has taken place for centuries, but recent improvement in communication, like the Internet, focused on this oppression, and helped with the organization of protest. One result was the “Arab Spring”, which began in Tunisia around 2010. Revolutions in Egypt and several other countries followed. Syria was the worst case, resulting in a disastrous deadlock between rebels and its President.

So a basic cause for much of the current world crisis is the rise of a greedy “Royalty Class” in many countries (even in the USA). The Syrian disaster became a basic cause to many other international problems. War in Syria resulted in a massive migration to other countries. This refugee problem I see as the major cause of BREXIT, the rise of Pres. Trump, and perhaps the rise of ISIS and other terrorist activity. In the US, the fear of refugees was recognized by Donald Trump, and promoted by him.

Here is a summary of some major (not all) causal links:

The rise of technology was accompanied by gradual governmental corruption.
Greedy and corrupt leaders exploit the citizens and increase poverty.
Citizens, helped mostly by the Internet, discover the corruption.
They are able to organize and revolt in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, etc.
The revolution in Syria caused massive migration and associated fears.
Migration fears caused Brexit, the rise of Trump, terrorism, ISIS?, etc.

Final thought. I have condensed what could be a whole book, into a brief blog.
My purpose here, is to promote thought and analysis. As ordinary citizens better understand the world, it can become a better place.

87. GMO Babies and Foods

26 Jan

I recently listened to a TED talk entitled “The ethical dilemma of designer babies”, by Paul Knoepfler. It was a good talk, but I was disappointed by the suggestion of a moratorium on the science involved in the direct genetic improvement of reproduction.
Knoepfler is a scientist working in the field of genetics and GMOs (genetically modified organisms). He discusses the possibility that in 15 years or so, we will be able to make “designer babies” that are free of genetic diseases and may also have improved looks and intelligence. The author is afraid that “natural” children will be upset by the successes of “designer” children.
I think the “designer” idea is great and is not so strange as some think. After all, we affect the success of our children in many ways, including medical methods such as plastic and corrective surgery, good nutrition, the best education, exercise, mental health, etc. — why not give them an even better start by improving their DNA through carefully studied and regulated procedures.

Aside from the talk, I am also concerned about irrational fears of GMO foods, which are really important for the survival of our growing populations. Here is what I wrote about these methods as a comment to the TED talk:

I am a scientist (retired, and not in the field of genetics) but still study many areas of science and am very interested in scientific progress.   My judgment is to forge ahead in any scientific area, but observe certain limitations.  If there is a clear possibility of danger then we need responsible transparency and monitoring, not moratoriums.  I live in and am a citizen of the USA.  It’s foolish for us to stop working on something potentially very beneficial  while all over the world others are progressing and benefiting. At a minimum, just preventing genetic diseases is very worthwhile.  A moratorium here just puts us behind scientists working in other countries, and does not prevent the dangers that the speaker hints at.  Rich people, of course, would be able to take advantage of this overseas, and ordinary people would not.   My idea is to reject timid and fearful limitations and go full force,  using good documentation and studies as guides.  If it becomes clear that advances such as “designer babies” or certain GMO foods are dangerous, then scientists and Congress can regulate or abolish the procedure. 

The speaker is worried that a “natural” child would have to compete with a “designer” child. But even without this method there will always be someone better than you. It is not a good argument. Nature, breeding methods, cosmic rays, and even choice of a spouse all cause genetic (DNA) changes. The advantage of direct DNA changes by scientists is that they CAN be monitored and procedures can be improved or limited.

The innovations and amazing discoveries of science are a great joy. In a world filled with kindness and intelligence, scientists would never have created atomic bombs. Traditions, rigid beliefs, ignorance, and greedy politicians HAVE caused world disasters — Science has not.
After writing the comment, I decided to read more about GMO use. It is hard to do human research on GMO’s, but there are good studies using animals, that, in fact, we eat. Jon Etine (Sept 19, 2014, Forbes) reports:

“Estimates of the numbers of meals consumed by feed animals since the introduction of GM crops 18 years ago would number well into the trillions. By common sense alone, if GMO feed were causing unusual problems among livestock, farmers would have noticed. Dead and sick animals would literally litter farms around the world.”

There also is formal research that shows no negative effects and no effects on humans eating these animals. Irrational fears about GMO’s are unproductive and harmful. Of course, specific findings on particular GMO’s should be acknowledged, but should not influence the whole field. We don’t avoid all doctors, because a few have been convicted of malpractice. We need to use the results of good responsible scientific research wherever it is helpful. It is ignorance and unethical politicians that have caused our widespread dilemmas.

85. We Need Change ?

17 Jan

Trump is the man who will make “change” and deliver us from big, bad government. He is not a politician, he needs no donors, ignore what he says because there is goodness in his heart, he is smarter than the generals (and just about everyone else), all past negotiations are pathetic, and he will rid us of ISIS in a month. He is never wrong and will make you suffer for any criticism. He almost never addresses the criticism itself, but instead attacks the person who made it (even the Pope).

He paints a picture of a failing nation with incompetent leaders and government workers, rampant crime, poor negotiation, widespread poverty, etc. — “things could not be worse.” Black people have not made any progress — an insult to the millions that are doing well and have even achieved the presidency. His motto is “make American great again” without any explanation of when, how, and the meaning of “great.”

.                 False, rigid beliefs interfere with common sense

The Trump movement shows how many people are prisoners of their false and rigid beliefs, and cannot see the obvious and exercise common sense. Sad to say, there are many who voted for Trump just as a protest or just to do something based on frustration. Those persons may be responsible for a new direction leading to our country’s decline. Impulsive superficial voting may be the end of our world leadership and all of the good things developed to date. Trump will make change, but change for the better is unlikely. Here are some possible changes that have been mentioned at least once (but may have been retracted and/or restored at some time):

1. Changed healthcare legislation will cause millions to lose their insurance and many will die.

2. NATO is obsolete. Our long-standing, beneficial, and powerful pact with many nations is under threat.

3. Instead of sanctioning Russia, we will support their authoritarianism, attacks on the press, and take- over of countries like Ukraine. We will ignore their meddling in our elections and their efforts to undermine many nations.

4. We will pull out of the multi-nation “Iran Nuclear Deal”, allowing Iran to go back to making the bombs and delivery systems — prevented by the Deal. We will also pull out of climate-change treaties, which could prevent massive flooding (Florida, NY, etc) and catastrophic human migrations due to massive droughts.

5. Taxes for the very wealthy will be lowered by decreasing the tax rate and by allowing more loopholes. The rich will celebrate while the rest of us will either pay more tax or have reduced benefits — and/or our national debt will surge.

6. We will change trade policies and tariffs so that trade-wars will arise and prices for goods, everywhere, will increase. The chaos will affect our valuable relationships with long-standing allies.

7. Pres. Obama has at times been criticized for inaction, but Trump may impulsively engage us in wars, costing lives and greater national debt.

8. He may generate more terrorists by his abuse of Muslims, various other insults, and dangerous policies.

9. Our valuable press, which is required to keep our democracy honest, may be thrown out of the White House and attacked so viciously that it is ineffective. If Trump’s ideas are so laudable and clearly beneficial, why all the press criticism?

10. Is anyone suspicious of the fact that Trump’s cabinet is filled with extremely rich people and/or persons with questionable histories.

11. Trump would restore vicious torture and wants to keep Guantanamo prison. He also admires the strength of tyrants around the world. Are we setting a good example (under Trump) for the rest of the world? Traditionally the USA has been known for its might, and also its moral authority. Is Trump leading us in the right direction?

After Trump is in office for a while, the appreciation for the positive change that Pres. Obama caused will grow even more.  And the candidate, Hilary Clinton, that Obama so enthusiastically endorsed and was attacked so unmercifully by the GOP will be much more appreciated.  Ironically, she won the national vote count by almost three million.

Just added: I have been working on this blog for several days and at times almost scrapped it, because it may have been too negative. But after hearing Trump’s unnecessary and incorrect abuse of the civil-rights hero and self-sacrificing activist, Congressman John Lewis … well, here it is.

84. DJT Deviates from Norm

7 Jan

I am a behavioral scientist that has spent most of his adult life studying and describing human interactions . Our top government officials have a tradition of polite and respectful communication. But when I turn my attention to the President-Elect, I see features that fall well out of the range of normal adult behavior — and could be disastrous for a U.S. president.

For a long time, I have observed Trump’s bizarre actions and I am pleased to note that many others, such as Joe Biden, Keith Olbermann, Ken Burns, and major newspaper editors, have also made these observations. The possible dangers of a Trump presidency include: unnecessary wars, alienation of our allies, markedly increased national debt, suppression of the press, persecution of political enemies, corruption of elections, weakening of our intelligence agencies, loss of citizen rights, and radical citizen reactions, such as a national strike. Here is what I observed:

1. A common observation is that he is “childish”. Note the uncontrollable petty revenge, the nasty name calling, and “locker room talk.”

2. His rate of lying (or mistakes) is well beyond any normal range; about half of everything he says is either totally false or an extreme exaggeration. Many writers have fact-checked and documented the false statements, so I will not list them here. Whether Trump is actually lying or seriously mistaken, is not important; either way is unacceptable.

3. He states his admiration for various tyrants, such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi. These, of course, were not total endorsements, but in every case he admired how these tyrants were able to control their citizens. Their many abuses and torture of dissidents did not seem to trouble him, his interest was in their ability to win and succeed. Could any normal responsible person express this admiration of tyranny. Trump’s main goal is to “win the game”, not to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.

4. His political candidate speeches mostly emphasize his wins and popularity, rather than his proposed ideas and policies. His proposals are mostly slogans, rather than detailed concrete plans. He knows more than the generals, the intelligence agencies, politicians, etc. Almost always, his main focus is on himself rather than national or global issues.

5. Without sufficient research and without actually being president, he meddles in international relations, such as his contact with Taiwan, which caused an angry response from China.

6. He refuses to comply with traditional presidential rules, such as making public his tax returns and creating a blind trust for his enterprises to avoid conflicts of interest.

7. He supports the torture of political prisoners, even beyond water-boarding. He would “murder” the families of terrorists, without cause or evidence.

I could mention other outlandish things, but I want to start an analysis of how these characteristics came about. The most striking thing about Trump’s development is his access to great wealth, continuously, starting in childhood. He was given huge amounts of money, but also had the ultimate backing of family wealth. I also suspect that his father and others encouraged him to be BOLD. He said almost anything that supported his agenda at the time — whether true or false. Having huge amounts of money caused opportunists to ignore the lies, and others, including the press, were intimidated by his reputation for revenge and his threats of law suits. Up until his recent candidacy there were few punishments for lies and much encouragement for his stated agendas. The very rich live in a different world, with yes-men and obsequious supporters.

He learned that aggressive threats of law suits tended to stop criticism. If he said something obviously wrong, he could say he was being sarcastic or was just joking. Even after he won the primaries, the press and others mostly overlooked the obvious falsehoods and impossible proposals, encouraging the bizarre ideas. After many years of living in this strange world of unrealistic support, he became more and more confident, engaged in bolder endeavors, and felt that his abilities were limitless.

In addition to the behavioral science factors discussed above, the role of inadequate sleep and Alzheimer’s disease should be considered.

81. All Complex Systems are Corruptible

18 Dec

I research medical matters, politics, science, economics, artificial intelligence, manufacturing, and many other topics — mostly because I just enjoy learning. As a result, I see our world as a fascinating collection of complex systems, some natural and some man-made. But in the last few years, I have been impressed by the fact that corruption is everywhere. An interesting and symbolic illustration is contained in a TV series, Life After People showing the deterioration of buildings and other man-made structures — if humans suddenly disappeared. We see how nature insidiously destroys our prized cities, buildings, roads, bridges, etc. Our world is a combination of new amazing structures like the International Space Station, and, all too often, tragic deterioration like the devastation of Aleppo.

Challenge: Name one large complex system without some corruption

Here is my brief list of important corrupted complex-systems:
1. Life. Almost all living species have corruptive elements. Everyone is familiar with the effects on life of viruses, harmful bacteria, and human mismanagement.
Anti-corruption forces: doctors, other healthcare providers, and the people, themselves.
2. Computers. At an early stage, computers and their attackers began to evolve together. They are attacked by a variety of viruses which function very similarly to animal viruses. In both cases, viruses modify existing control elements (DNA for life and circuit logic for computers) to reproduce themselves, and to destroy what they have infected.
Anti-corruption forces: numerous anti-virus commercial programs and government and private agencies.
3. Internet. There are hackers that steal and alter private information, web-sites that promote false political information, various scams, utility disruption, etc. Like the computer topic above, corruption evolved as the Internet evolved.
Anti-corruption forces: specific government agencies, police units, and some commercial and private operatives.

.        Worldwide, governmental systems are replete with corruption

4. Governments. Worldwide governmental systems are replete with minor and major corruption. Aggressive and often ruthless people are able to become presidents, prime ministers, congressmen, agency directors, tribal chiefs, etc. It is a natural process for such people to gradually take more and more for themselves and provide less for the people. In most nations, a greedy royalty class” emerges that is devoted to increased power and wealth. In many of my previous blogs I have discussed various details of this type of corruption. Very rich people find ways to increase their riches by corrupting officials. Corrupted leaders often lie about things that concern them and re-write history according to their agendas. They often discourage public education, education in general, and attack the press.
Anti-corruption forces: The responsible press, bloggers, ethical politicians, and informed voters.
5. Businesses. These have several types of corruption. Within a business, competition for advanced positions can be ruthless, and in order to increase profits, faulty or even poisonous products can be sold. Business leaders often corrupt congressmen to benefit themselves and their organizations. Many lobbyists are the vehicle for corruption. Anti-trust laws, first developed in 1890 and 1914 illustrate ongoing USA private enterprise exploitation. The Enron Corp. disaster of 2001 is a lesson in corruption.
Anti-corruption forces: special police units, ethical businesses and politicians, informed citizens, whistle-blower employees, etc.
6. Sports. A wonderful example of a corrupted complex system is organized sports. Gamblers have bribed athletes to promote their betting. Athletes take potentially harmful drugs to promote their performance. Even governments have participated in this type of inappropriate drug activity. Olympic Game officials have been prosecuted for illegal practices.
Anti-corruption forces: the press, governmental units, police, informed citizens, etc.

.    Corruption is a part of every large system — because it is profitable

There are so many susceptible systems that I cannot cover them all. A few more are healthcare practices, hospitals, schools, and religious organizations. Just added today, foreign interference in elections.

Conclusion. The several examples listed above suggest the universality of complex system corruption. An interesting development is “blockchain” which is a new way of recording and operating almost all financial interactions — and could be effective. It is touted as the ultimate international financial system and as being incorruptible. But history tells us that clever hackers will probably find a way in. It is clear to me that any system created and operated by humans, where it is advantageous to do so, will be negatively exploited. Why is corruption so ubiquitous? — because it is profitable.

After my final editing of this blog, I sense the excessive negativity that I have created. So I want to encourage the reader by saying that the world is also full of safe and enjoyable experiences that we can explore and must expand.

78. Science Forges Ahead of Citizens

2 Dec

Scientific knowledge and achievement is moving so fast that it is leaving the average citizen behind and a little confused.  Most ordinary people have a poor understanding of scientific principles.  So when important functions like voting arise, the lack of understanding can lead to serious consequences.  Here are three relevant issues, and there are many more:
1.  Clean Coal.  Some dangerous toxins can be removed while burning coal, but coal-burning is NOT free from producing dangerous levels of CO2  (carbon dioxide).  CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere reflect heat back to the surface of the earth and cause a general heating effect (climate change).  The key factor is that the history of burning fossil fuels is closely related to CO2 levels and to a small degree (so far) of general warming.  It is clearly man-made because the changes are much too fast to be a natural earth cycle.
2. Understanding Climate Change.  Please see above, and also my blog-34 that gives more detail on this topic.
3.  Nuclear Power.  This is a valuable source of clean energy that is under-used because people really do not understand it.  It does take a certain amount of scientific knowledge to assess safeguards and other progress in this field.  Industrial use of nuclear reactors has been around for at least 50 years and has developed into a very safe system.  It is only scary because humans cannot detect dangerous radiation.
Understanding science also plays a major role in such areas as: abortion legislation, stem cell research questions, different types of pollution, and funding for research projects.  The world could function better if government leaders (such as congressmen) and citizens were better educated.  I would venture to guess that education will gradually improve and reach a good level at about the same time that Florida is submerged by warm and rising oceans.
And even if people were not required to learn a lot of science, at least there could be more emphasis on learning to evaluate and use reliable sources of scientific facts and other information.  A good start in this endeavor is to consult scientists about science and not politicians.