Paris

16. November, 2015

The foundation of civilization is the ability of the community to withstand their own death wishes and murderous instincts — André Glucksmann (source; my own translation)

There are people who will tell you that it’s a dog-eat-dog world. That’s a white lie. The building in which you sit while you read this, is the result of cooperation of hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of people. They dug the earth for ore and cement. They build trucks to transport them. They built factories to refine them and turn them into steel and tools. The process of smelting and forging steel has been developed by thousands of people over ten thousand years. Thousands of people all over the globe worked to build the device(s) which you use to read this.

Civilization is a result of cooperation by millions of people who have never met. Cooperation is the foundation on which we all stand. No bomb can change that – unless we allow ourselves to be manipulated by people that we despise.


Riddle

11. November, 2015

It takes years and hundreds, sometimes thousands of people to build but only one person and a moment to destroy me. What am I?

Answer (link goes to Wikipedia)


How Much do You Have to Hide?

16. September, 2015

When confronted with surveillance the usual reply is “nothing to hide.”

This answer is wrong. Let me tell you a story.

For over one hundred years, the city of Amsterdam had a census. They know your gender, relation ship status, number of children, parents, where you lived. All this information was used to make life better for everyone. And it worked. People were happy. The city government was efficient. It could base decisions on statistics and data instead of gut feelings. They were the first ones to use computers to efficiently store and handle the data.

May 10, 1940, the Nazis took the city. Suddenly, one bit of information – faith – decided over life and death. The Nazis took the data which had been collected and efficiently rounded up all the people they wanted to murder.

Surveillance is not about what you have to hide, it’s about how you can be hurt. It’s the question how much someone hiding in a faceless organization wants to ruin with your life.


The Quest to End Poverty

25. June, 2015

Poverty is a huge problem, even for those not affected. At best, the sight is disturbing, at worst, the sicknesses bred by many people crammed together don’t care much for bank accounts – even when it might help that you can pay doctor’s bills and meds.

In 2011, over $150 billion were spent on development aid. That sum sounds staggering if you look at the number alone. Keep in mind that the world’s GDP in 2011 was 75’621 billion (use the table view to see per country numbers) – aid is 0.2% of that. The US military budget alone was $610 billion. World-wide aid was just a quarter of what the US spends on its military.

What’s more, a lot of that money never leaves the donor country – it’s used to “pay” for debt which the receiving country already has towards the donor – or it’s vouchers for goods which the donor produces (like guns and other military equipment). As odd as that may sound at first: Development aid is often another tool to develop your own country. If it helps a struggling third world place, all the better.

But the problem runs deeper. Too deep to explain in a blog post but TED compiled a list of 11 through provoking talks how we could end poverty. My favorite didn’t make it into the list: Gary Haugen: The hidden reason for poverty the world needs to address now.

Think!


Trouble Sleeping?

21. May, 2015

There are people who are proud that they don’t need much sleep.

Don’t listen to them. People who don’t sleep enough make more mistakes, they are dumber than they could be, they ruin their health, their sex life, to name just a few of the most important downsides.

Yes, it’s easy to reduce the amount of time you’re sleeping every day and the negative effects aren’t obvious. People sleep just a few hours every night feel powerful and agitated – mostly because of the adrenaline levels you get from the stress of lack of sleep. But adrenaline also makes reckless and unreliable. It bends you towards risky behavior which causes accidents and disasters like the world financial crisis.

If you’re one of these people, stop it. The additional hours don’t really make you more productive, no matter how much you would like to make yourself believe. Your ruler is broken – a sleep-deprived brain isn’t able to notice just how tired it really is. And even at the best of times, it costs your company almost $2’000 every year for every employee.

Richard Wiseman has put together a short list of tips to help you sleep. Plus he has created the World’s Most Relaxing Music. One hour of sound that has been scientifically engineered to relax you.

Related:


Surveillance Produces Blackmail Instead of Security

1. March, 2015

They say that “good” people have nothing to hide and, therefore, nothing to fear from surveillance.

Everyone of us has something to hide. When we are confronted with out dark side, immediate, temporary loss of memory sets in and we say “I have nothing to hide” because we can’t remember on the spot. The source of this behavior isn’t “being good”, it’s peer pressure and guilt.

Everyone reading these lines has hidden something. Maybe you were not 100% honest when filing your last tax return. Or you lied to the police how many drinks you had. You lie to yourself when you’re speeding, thinking that you’re such a great driver, you can’t possible cause an accident. Maybe you had an affair, or a “harmless” flirt or maybe you visit a brothel. A few years ago, it was social suicide to let anyone, even your best friends, know that you’re homosexual. It still is in many parts of the world. In the “first world,” it’s what has happened during the last party, an awkward sickness, embarrassing thoughts, which odd web sites you’re visiting.

Everyone of us has something to hide. The average person, perfect in sync with the medium of society, is a myth.

People lose jobs over Twitter posts, party photos on Facebook. Some never get a job because of a criminal record or their family name. Police officers with access to surveillance equipment spy on their spouses or look into women’s bathrooms. Many partners of NSA agents were under surveillance without any official mandate.

Which brings us to the core of surveillance: The main product of surveillance isn’t security – it’s extortion.

When secret services pile up incriminating evidence against someone, they don’t tell the police. In most states, they aren’t allowed to. They keep it. For when it’s needed. When “someone” decides that “something” needs to be done and there is no legal way.

Not convinced? Well, if “nothing to hide” was true, then why do politicians, agencies and companies absolutely and firmly reject to let us see what they are doing? “Nothing to hide” is always only used as an argument to watch someone else. It implies “I have nothing to hide, so you don’t need to even try. Go away. Nothing to see here.” (Adam D. Moore, author of Privacy Rights: Moral and Legal Foundations, from “Nothing to hide argument“)

That’s why we need to be concerned about surveillance. We need to discuss what we want to achieve and what the costs are.

Do we want to make mass surveillance illegal? We could but we’d have to close down Google and Facebook.

Do we want total surveillance? Can we evolve all the societies on planet Earth to an extent where we can be honest with anyone about absolutely anything? Do we want to? How many people would get that killed?

Or do we have to strike a balance, find out how much surveillance is healthy, what the open and hidden costs are, how to control the people who use it – because it’s in the nature of most humans to do anything as long as they can get away with it.

It’s not a discussion many people want to have, we have so many things on our minds, but as usual: If we don’t make up our minds, someone else will do it for us. Only with out best interests in mind, of course.


What Police Work Can Be Like

13. December, 2014

Police violence gets a lot of attention lately but that’s not a solution (neither the violence nor the media heating it up). Here is one solution:

Remember: Helping people before they commit crime is much better (and cheaper and more rewarding and more successful) than arresting them.


Balancing Security

3. October, 2014

For your IT security, you want

  • Security
  • It must be cheap
  • And comfortable

Now choose at most two.

As always in life, everything has a cost. There is no cheap way to be secure which is also comfortable. Home Depot chose “cheap” and “comfort” – you’ve seen the result. Mordac would prefer “secure” and “cheap“.

Those example show why the answer probably is “secure” and “comfortable”. Which means we’re facing two problems: “cheap” is out of the question and the two contradict each other. Secure passwords are long, hard to remember, contain lots of unusual characters (uncomfortable the first time you travel to a different country – yes, people there use different keyboard layouts). Turns out there is a “cheap” part in “comfortable”.

Taking this on a social level, the price for security is freedom. To quote Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” I don’t know about you but I feel bad about terrorists dictating us how much of our freedom we have to give up.

In a similar fashion, you can either punish criminals or prevent future crimes but you have to choose one. We have learned through bad experience (witch hunts, flaws of the US penal system) or good (like the Norwegian system) that punishment doesn’t always help nor does it make victims happy. Which leaves us with the only conclusion: We, as a society, pay money to prevent future crimes because that’s the most reasonable thing to do.

Even if it leads to people mistakenly attribute modern penal system as “holiday camps.”


Handicapped

3. May, 2014

Disabled people aren’t handicapped, they are getting obstructed.


How We See Things

1. February, 2014

We don’t see things how they are, but how we are.

As Sheldon from Big Bang Theory said: “Text adventures run on the world’s most powerful graphics chip: Imagination!

Everything you see or hear happens in your brain.

Think about it.

That insult that really hurt? Only in your brain.

Interesting, isn’t it?

Just beware of the “everything is my fault” concept. There is no point in trying to take responsibility for everything.