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Jun 26, 2012

A Brief Analysis of the Future of US — China Relations

Posted by in categories: business, defense, economics, ethics, geopolitics, military, policy

ENVIRONMENT & BACKGROUND

China is a rising world power with: increasing international economic power; improving military strength; tumultuous social issues. Exiting from the recent global economic and financial crisis, China sees itself strengthening and growing while America (and much of the ‘Western’ world) struggles to recuperate. This recovery disparity has given support to Chinese sentiment suggesting the superiority of Chinese policy and social culture.

China’s newfound (or newly revived) superiority complex has complicated American interaction with the government, where China now appears to be doing everything it can to avoid looking weak and to resist US/Western influence. With China’s rise, incentives for America to pressure democratization, establishment of free market economics, and improvement of human rights have grown in intensity. The US has very direct interests in the ‘Westernization’ of China and China does see benefits to cooperation, however they seem to resist or avert most American challenges to the Sino-status quo.

AVAILABLE OPTIONS

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Jun 24, 2012

The Importance of NASA

Posted by in categories: business, economics, education, engineering, policy, space

America has been a spacefaring nation since 1958. Over the past fifty-three years, America overtook its first rival, the Soviet Union (spacefaring since 1957), and maintained its supremacy in the aerospace and aeronautical industries, having the most developed and successful space program, the strongest private aerospace/aeronautical industry, and the most intelligent engineers and scientists. During times where space exploration and advanced scientific research programs seem inappropriate to publicly fund and continue where economic difficulties, contested military actions, and other civil/financial issues seem to demand precedence, it needs to be promoted that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is of immense importance to the security and welfare of the United States of America and must remain a national priority. NASA drives STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education as well as the development of commercial and defense technologies and works with private engineering and science companies across the country, employing thousands of brilliant engineers, scientists, and technicians to ensure the safety of the American people and maintain the technological and explorational prestige this country has always possessed.

NASA’s accomplishments are inspirational to students. It is capable of orbiting people around the planet in minutes, building a space station, and placing man on the moon, and in doing so powerfully inspires individuals to aspire for careers with the organization. In order to become involved with NASA, a student must study science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics, and by creating a strong incentive for people to study these topics, demand for STEM education increases. As demand increases, more STEM programs will develop and more people will become involved in STEM disciplines. Students studying STEM subjects develop critical thinking skills and strong senses of logic to overcome various problems and conflicts. New generations of engineers and scientists will rise to replace the retiring generations and surpass them in their accomplishments, but only will do so if opportunities to take such careers exist. Should NASA decay, it won’t only be NASA careers disappearing. Jobs at firms like Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and SpaceX among others will be lost as well and some of these firms will face immense downsizing or possibly even be forced to shut down, severely harming motivation for younger American students to pursue a degree or career in STEM related fields.

One of the greatest positive externalities of NASA is the technology developed as ‘spin-off’ used in the commercial and defense industries. When NASA was tasked with putting man on the moon, NASA realized the Apollo capsule would need computing systems installed within it that were far greater in power and far smaller than those currently in use and therefore tasked private industry with the development of compact computing devices that later became the PC and laptop. Without NASA funding, heart rate monitors, thermal video imaging, light emitting diodes, and velcro among many other technologies would not have been developed. While current domestic debate surrounds whether or not NASA should be downsized, enlarged, or completely phased out over time, foreign countries and blocs such as China, India, and the European Space Agency are investing even more time and money into improving their programs, their educational efforts, and plan to surpass American capabilities within the near future. Technological innovation, though still very prevalent within the United States, is beginning to grow very rapidly in foreign countries and more new technologies are being imported rather than exported every day. Instead of questioning whether or not NASA is necessary, America should be questioning what seemingly impossible task NASA should be working on next. Originally, the Apollo project seemed insurmountably difficult. But when national security threats (Soviet technological capabilities during the Cold War) met technological challenges (the Apollo program), NASA proved to be an irreplaceable source of innovation and wonder that united a nation, inspired a generation with dreams of space exploration, and provided a feeling of security to millions of people who feared another devastating war.

Which is also why NASA is critically important in the defense industry as a customer. NASA helps improve private and public defense and communication technologies. The relationship between NASA and the private industry is very symbiotic. NASA develops a plan or project and administers/contracts production and testing tasks out to the private industry, challenging thousands of engineers and scientists to improve their designs and inspires technological and manufacturing developments, which in turn allow NASA to complete its mission in an efficient and effective manner. China has proven it is capable of destroying our satellites by destroying one of its own and has announced its desire to develop a space program separated from America’s influence and plans to land on the moon in 2020. India, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, Romania, Japan, and Ukraine among others have all had confirmed launches and are working to become space powers themselves, developing their own aerospace industries and programs. Iraq and North Korea have also both touted successful launches, though their success are unconfirmed. NASA helps to keep America competitive by constantly challenging private industry and by making sure its goals for space and technological development are always beyond those of other countries, which helps to prevent enemies from defeating our technologies, thus keeping us safe.

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May 29, 2012

Spiralling Debt & The Road to Breaking Point

Posted by in categories: business, economics, ethics, finance, sustainability

The biggest challenge to the ‘ecosystem’ of world economics that keeps society ticking over is how to overcome our inability to regulate a sustainable economic model. In Europe at present we are undergoing the difficult measures in setting about rules of austerity to ensure that government borrowing never gets as out of hand as it has done on our watch. I post on this topic now as it is topical to me — back home here in my native Ireland we are voting on a referendum this week to ensure we no longer borrow from our children to fuel indulgences today — a referendum on rationality and responsibility.

The topical of austerity reminds me of an opinion I blogged on a crisis in the Obama administration last August on national debt in the light of striking comments from foreign figureheads amid the storm from the ‘Tea Party Taliban’. I share with you for to see if anyone cares to comment on an operandi of living like parasites off the global economy:

Living Like Parasites Off The Global Economy, originally written 3 Aug 2011:

With the US in turmoil over its national debt, and held to ransom by a ‘Tea Party Taliban’, last week China publicly mocked American democracy. Yesterday, the world witnessed the humbling of America after a trillion-dollar deal marked the end of an era for the US. The US now faces a shift in its relations with creditor nations, and it was not all too surprising to hear Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, yesterday accusing Americans of living “like parasites off the global economy”. If America had defaulted on its international debt obligations, that is exactly what it would be. While America continues to service it’s debt, it is quite the opposite — for now at least- as is perpetually paying interest to its creditors.

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Apr 16, 2012

One Key to The Future is Financial Clarity

Posted by in categories: business, economics, education, finance

On the cusp of graduation, I’ve had two major realizations in college.

One: most of America’s worst economic crises have been a result of financial obscurity. The first major crash in my lifetime was in the tech bubble of the early 2000s, where Wall Street traders were overrating the quality of Internet stocks. Once the broader market realized this, the values of many tech companies were obliterated. Millions of investors exposed to this sector lost their entire investments because they were unaware of these misrepresentations. In the most last recession, where lenders were underrating the riskiness of homeowners and financial institutions were securitizing riskier-than-advertised mortgages, millions of investors lost their entire investments yet again because they were unaware of further misrepresentations.

Two: economic history repeats itself, even if as a society, we might be aware of this pattern. Taking these two market crises as an example of this bleak fact about our species, it seems that we’ll always have the shortest of memories. In this case, history repeated rather quickly – twice in the span of a decade. Is it possible that people are cognizant of a recurring mistake before it happens, even if it’s happened before in their lifetimes? Most likely not, if the last recession is any example. A significant number of real estate professionals, banking gurus, and regulators were responsible for inflating a price bubble in the housing market, even though some fraction should have been economically conscious enough to understand the problems that would eventually arise.

The question then remains: is there a way to solve both of these problems, assuming the best of all possible worlds? Yes. Imagine a place where peoples’ understandings of basic economics and financial practices was commonplace, where a homeowner and a lender had an equal comprehension of a mortgage, where a hard-working breadwinner knew the dangers of payday loans, and where a child could sit side-by-side with his or her parents while overseeing family finances. All of these possibilities – and more – can come into fruition if we as individuals place a greater emphasis on financial awareness. Note: I don’t say “financial learning” because all of these concepts are innate to us, though hidden by verbiage and stigma. Whether we like it or not, if our career is in finance or not, we must come to terms with the economic world that surrounds us.

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Jan 13, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, business, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, space

I am taking the advice of a reader of this blog and devoting part 2 to examples of old school and modern movies and the visionary science they portray.

Things to Come 1936 — Event Horizon 1997
Things to Come was a disappointment to Wells and Event Horizon was no less a disappointment to audiences. I found them both very interesting as a showcase for some technology and social challenges.… to come- but a little off the mark in regards to the exact technology and explicit social issues. In the final scene of Things to Come, Raymond Massey asks if mankind will choose the stars. What will we choose? I find this moment very powerful- perhaps the example; the most eloguent expression of the whole genre of science fiction. Event Horizon was a complete counterpoint; a horror movie set in space with a starship modeled after a gothic cathedral. Event Horizon had a rescue crew put in stasis for a high G several month journey to Neptune on a fusion powered spaceship. High accelleration and fusion brings H-bombs to mind, and though not portrayed, this propulsion system is in fact a most probable future. Fusion “engines” are old hat in sci-fi despite the near certainty the only places fusion will ever work as advertised are in a bomb or a star. The Event Horizon, haunted and consigned to hell, used a “gravity drive” to achieve star travel by “folding space.” Interestingly, a recent concept for a black hole powered starship is probably the most accurate forecast of the technology that will be used for interstellar travel in the next century. While ripping a hole in the fabric of space time may be strictly science fantasy, for the next thousand years at least, small singularity propulsion using Hawking radiation to achieve a high fraction of the speed of light is mathematically sound and the most obvious future.

https://lifeboat.com/blog/2012/09/only-one-star-drive-can-work-so-far

That is, if humanity avoids an outbreak of engineered pathogens or any one of several other threats to our existence in that time frame.

Continue reading “Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 2” »

Jan 10, 2012

Verne, Wells, and the Obvious Future Part 1

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, business, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, fun, futurism, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, philosophy, physics, policy, robotics/AI, space, transparency

Steamships, locomotives, electricity; these marvels of the industrial age sparked the imagination of futurists such as Jules Verne. Perhaps no other writer or work inspired so many to reach the stars as did this Frenchman’s famous tale of space travel. Later developments in microbiology, chemistry, and astronomy would inspire H.G. Wells and the notable science fiction authors of the early 20th century.

The submarine, aircraft, the spaceship, time travel, nuclear weapons, and even stealth technology were all predicted in some form by science fiction writers many decades before they were realized. The writers were not simply making up such wonders from fanciful thought or childrens ryhmes. As science advanced in the mid 19th and early 20th century, the probable future developments this new knowledge would bring about were in some cases quite obvious. Though powered flight seems a recent miracle, it was long expected as hydrogen balloons and parachutes had been around for over a century and steam propulsion went through a long gestation before ships and trains were driven by the new engines. Solid rockets were ancient and even multiple stages to increase altitude had been in use by fireworks makers for a very long time before the space age.

Some predictions were seen to come about in ways far removed yet still connected to their fictional counterparts. The U.S. Navy flagged steam driven Nautilus swam the ocean blue under nuclear power not long before rockets took men to the moon. While Verne predicted an electric submarine, his notional Florida space gun never did take three men into space. However there was a Canadian weapons designer named Gerald Bull who met his end while trying to build such a gun for Saddam Hussien. The insane Invisible Man of Wells took the form of invisible aircraft playing a less than human role in the insane game of mutually assured destruction. And a true time machine was found easily enough in the mathematics of Einstein. Simply going fast enough through space will take a human being millions of years into the future. However, traveling back in time is still as much an impossibillity as the anti-gravity Cavorite from the First Men in the Moon. Wells missed on occasion but was not far off with his story of alien invaders defeated by germs- except we are the aliens invading the natural world’s ecosystem with our genetically modified creations and could very well soon meet our end as a result.

While Verne’s Captain Nemo made war on the death merchants of his world with a submarine ram, our own more modern anti-war device was found in the hydrogen bomb. So destructive an agent that no new world war has been possible since nuclear weapons were stockpiled in the second half of the last century. Neither Verne or Wells imagined the destructive power of a single missile submarine able to incinerate all the major cities of earth. The dozens of such superdreadnoughts even now cruising in the icy darkness of the deep ocean proves that truth is more often stranger than fiction. It may seem the golden age of predictive fiction has passed as exceptions to the laws of physics prove impossible despite advertisments to the contrary. Science fiction has given way to science fantasy and the suspension of disbelief possible in the last century has turned to disappointment and the distractions of whimsical technological fairy tales. “Beam me up” was simply a way to cut production costs for special effects and warp drive the only trick that would make a one hour episode work. Unobtainium and wishalloy, handwavium and technobabble- it has watered down what our future could be into childish wish fulfillment and escapism.

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Jan 6, 2012

The Internet is a Human Right, VINTON G. CERF is Mistaken

Posted by in categories: business, ethics, philosophy, policy, rants

Wednesday on the Opinion Pages of the NY Times the renowned Vinton Cerf “father of the internet” published an article titles Internet Access Is Not A Human Right. It could be argued that the key word here is “access”, but before I address access again, I should start with the definition of the internet. I had this debate while at Michigan State in October of 2010 with the philosopher Andrew Feenberg. I’ll do my best not to be redundant while everything is still live via the links in this article.

Perhaps the internet requires much more definition, as the roots of the word can be confusing. Inter: situated within – Net: any network or reticulated system of filaments or the like. Its terminology is synonymous with the “web” or a web, which requires multiple linkages to points of initiation in order to exist well. If this is the internet that Feenberg is referring to then I’d think it accurate. However, the internet is not actually a web of ever connected points. Information destinations are not required.

The internet is analogous to space. Regardless of whether or not we access space, its potential exists – we can access or insert entities of sorts into the space regardless of, if another user were present to receive information of sorts from the distributed. Space is a dynamic system of expanding material potential as is the internet’s material potential. The potential of the internet expands as users (or rather, potential users) access to the internet expands – access could come in many forms including, user population(s) growth or by computing speed or by computing power… The internet, regardless of the constraints of the word, it cannot be identified as a specific technology.

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Jan 4, 2012

Journal for Biological & Health Innovation

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, education, futurism, life extension, philosophy

The Journal for Biological & Health Innovation is accepting papers for peer review now. This journal is specific to Africa and our thoughts, theory, research, practice could have a huge impact on the expeditious development of the rest of the world technologically.

Nov 28, 2011

Video — U.S. Job Market — People Staying in Jobs Longer

Posted by in categories: business, economics, philosophy

Video — U.S. Job Market — People Staying in Jobs Longer — WSJ.com.

The Cleveland Fed shows research that people staying in jobs for longer periods of time is requiring adding the economic shock of any crisis where lay-offs or retraction is involved. The problem with this is that research also shows that people out of work are less likely ever re-enter the work force.

While economists (per the this interview) wouldn’t look at this as a “structure problem” because of the forecasted potential for worker volume to return, it is likely that their opinions are a bit too faithful in the existing model of compensating laborers for a honest days work. The enduring jobs crisis can and should of course be looked at as an economic issue and even a political issue, but it would likely be better pursued as a socio-cultural and a legal issue.

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Nov 13, 2011

D’Nile aint just a river in Egypt…

Posted by in categories: business, complex systems, cosmology, economics, education, ethics, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, human trajectories, humor, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, neuroscience, open access, open source, philosophy, policy, rants, robotics/AI, space, sustainability

Greetings fellow travelers, please allow me to introduce myself; I’m Mike ‘Cyber Shaman’ Kawitzky, independent film maker and writer from Cape Town, South Africa, one of your media/art contributors/co-conspirators.

It’s a bit daunting posting to such an illustrious board, so let me try to imagine, with you; how to regard the present with nostalgia while looking look forward to the past, knowing that a millisecond away in the future exists thoughts to think; it’s the mode of neural text, reverse causality, non-locality and quantum entanglement, where the traveller is the journey into a world in transition; after 9/11, after the economic meltdown, after the oil spill, after the tsunami, after Fukushima, after 21st Century melancholia upholstered by anti-psychotic drugs help us forget ‘the good old days’; because it’s business as usual for the 1%; the rest continue downhill with no brakes. Can’t wait to see how it all works out.

Please excuse me, my time machine is waiting…
Post cyberpunk and into Transhumanism