Archive for March 2013
Normally Vision Aforethought is primarily focused on issues outside the scope of my work, but after deliberation with my crew (intellectual property professionals included who often say “Alex, just get out there!”) and some thinking, the time has come to use social media to announce our ideas as soon as we can, in particular if it is unlikely we will patent the concept for whatever reason.
This blog also attempts to actually deal with matters it discusses, whether it be forwarding design proposals to our transport authorities or suggesting ways in which you, dear reader, can fight back against the march towards dystopia.
In this case, the subject is a frequent subject of VA, (clean) sustainable energy, and in particular, less reliance on the grid. For a while now, behind the scenes, my employers mathematics intern and I have been discussing my several year old idea of using solar (and other local clean energy sources, such as small wind turbines) to charge large capacity batteries (preferably next generation capacitive types as evangelised by Elon Musk) that would be located in your own home or premises to provide an alternative/backup to the grid – or one could consider the grid being the backup! The batteries would be constantly trickle charged and used to power an increasing number of devices and appliances as the power to price ratio improved. Meaning, currently, whilst we can charge and power low energy devices such as mobile phones using solar energy or solar charged batteries, such devices uses a tiny proportion of the energy of even the most basic home appliance. Consider just ONE low energy LED light bulb, possibly the lowest energy consuming ‘fixed’ item in your home or business. That draws about 5 watts. A regular mid power light bulb, 40 watts, a laptop or modern (low energy!) TV or monitor, 30 to 60 watts. And if we take things further, a kettle or toaster, anything from 1000 to 3000 watts! And then there are heaters and white goods, with the fridge that silent yet ‘deadly’ invention that has been quietly eating away at your electricity supply for a lifetime! (Think about it, the fridge is the ONLY device or appliance in your home that is ALWAYS on.)
We have along way to go before it will be practical to use batteries to totally extract oneself from the grid, but as with anything like this, baby steps are what count. In one of our family homes I have switched the whole house to LED lighting and one porch light is 100% solar powered, using a built in lithium battery trickle charged during the day. It is quite interesting to consider that if civilisation does collapse, that one light will remain in action until it’s components wear out! (The switch to LED lighting has recuced the energy bill by 40%).
My employer is researching how to bring about a practical realisation of the off grid powered premises, and as I type this, I am claiming this to be my idea, although the execution will be what counts, so if someone else does it first, so be it, the world will benefit!
Note that Toshiba have developed a compact nuclear reactor for use ‘in the home’. However, one does not need to dwell on the safety issues.
When a lad, our parents would, like most middle class families, send us on exchange trips to stay with families abroad. I remember visiting some close friends and their extended family up in the lovely hills above Alsace. As is French custom (and something we should get back to here), at meal times, we would all sit around a large table and enjoy a long lively meal, with the odd bottle of heart warmer shared between us, – kids included!
I shall never forget the respectable Grandma of the family. She hated having her photo taken. So much so, when a camera was raised to the eye to capture the bubbly scene, she would duck under the table – or even get up and leave altogether. At the time, I thought this odd, it was decades before the Internet and social media, but years later, I understand. Her reasons were not my business, but totally justified. All said, at the time, this was a very rare reaction.
As my photography and videography hobby (and use to document the history of my business) progressed and social networking services blossomed, some people, understandably, became more sensitive to being recorded. I have in fact been told off for taking what were even innocent photos as part of my hobby or as evidence of something. The former one can understand, being we all like to control our image online (I don’t publish photos online unless given permission) or simply don’t want our lives to be documented, in particular if we’re compromised at the time. (Drunk, kissing an unofficial ‘partner’ etc.)
No matter what the reasons, like all sentient beings, most of us have and value our personal space – and have a God given right to do what we like in that space with the assumption that we are innocent of any wrong doing and that after whatever we have done or said, no evidence of that period in time, beyond foot prints should be left behind for others to examine. And only then with good intention.
I saw what you did there!
…and it’s all being archived
As this blog has covered countless times, in particular here in the UK, and some of this appalling behaviour thankfully lead to the Leveson enquiry, the way that CCTV footage (such as in hotel corridors) and people’s voicemail recordings where consumed by others for gain (newspaper sales/voyeurism) is what happens when ones life is recorded or ‘spied’ upon without your express permission.
With the advent of drones (a technology I took much interested in when young, dabbling in robotics and model aircraft – and more recently (1993 – ooh, twenty years ago!), writing a short story predicting their misuse on the battlefield) and image processing technology so advanced, it can be used to spot a face in a crowd of thousands from a mile away, it is now too easy for authorities to over extend their counter terrorism policy to such an extent that (as some councils in the UK have proven) they will be tempted, as will the media, to spy on people in a manner similar to that predicted in Minority Report.
Like many, I find this unacceptable, because beyond the breach of privacy, any dubious entity, a large corporation in particular, could easily tap into footage and use it to monitor protestors who don’t like what said large corporation is doing to the planet and get up to no good.
A few months ago, I coined the phrase, right to Live A Life Unrecorded, or LALU, and believe this is a priceless right that should be defended to the hilt.
If those members of the public supporting surveillance have a problem with this, then they should move elsewhere and start a new society based on such dystopian principles. I think we should invest as much money that is being put into this technology into huge sustainable energy ventures so that we can stop acquiring our energy sources from areas that need our military to defend that in turn upsets the locals (whose culture is diametrically the opposite to ours) to such an extent that they send the very terrorists over that these drones are supposed to hunt down. What a mess we are in. The ‘bad guys’ are winning in a way.
Update: June 10 2013 – Well, in view of revelations of 9 June 2013, that may go down in history as when the right to LALU got a tad more exposure, hopefully, things will change such so that, to quote, those “with nothing to hide” may be assured that if a 3rd party offers a politician/member of the security services/NSA insider a nice little bank hander that our photos/confidential business documents/communications/personal diary/browsing habits cannot and will not, under any circumstances, ever be released to a 3rd party without the express written permission of the owner – namely, YOU, in particular if any of that content has been erased. And if such information does cause embarrassment or other harm to the ‘owner’, then that person or entity will have full recourse to seek significant damages for any harm caused, and be offered legal advice for no fee. Don’t forget, the whole point of my argument is not to stop the security services from going after those breaking or planning to break the law, but to ensure that it is both illegal and impossible for the public to ever suffer as a result of flaws or corruption in the system. Fair dinkum?
Fight back club: Defend your right to Live A Life Unrecorded, (#LALU). United Nations: Can we update the law such that the citizen has to give permission to be recorded and is made aware of precisely what is recording them, position of cameras, drones etc? Service providers – Succinct clear text in your T’s & C’s please. (Note, my employer has for over 15 years clearly displayed our privacy policies and complied with US and UK data protection laws.)
My concerns over all this do not stem from any personal paranoia I am technically competent enough (and am advised by those with significant understanding of online security) to ‘wear protection’, however, like others who have a conscience, it ha been shocking and upsetting to learn of the misuse of personal information for profit by those who have no right to do so.