It’s Never Going to End


It has been the bane of the U.S. for a long, long time. And, it continues even more aggressively in the 21st Century, wherein we are all supposed to be living in an evolved social civilization of cultured, refined and civilized human beings living together amicably.

And, it is happening in the most economically and militarily advanced nation on the planet, which is considered to be the only “super power” left after the complete domination and total ascendancy of one single country leaving all the others far behind.

I am referring here to the mutual killings of American citizens by each other, the latest being the mass killing of 12 people in a municipal office building on Virginia Beach on the East Coast of the U.S.

Terrible, and completely avoidable.

Why do civilized people need guns to protect themselves? The U.S. has a very large, dispersed and credible law enforcement department in all its states to guard and protect the people. There should really be no need for weapons, even of the milder variety. In this case of mass shooting, the killer used a high-capacity magazine (to provide him with many more bullets) and a silencer. In previous killings in the U.S., the killers have used military style weapons, which should not have been made available to normal citizens in any case.

As I was watching the episode being played out on CNN yesterday, and then on Michael Smerconish show late in the evening Singapore time, I could feel that this issue of guns and gun violence is not going to go away in the U.S. Smerconish revealed at the end of his session that 73% of the viewers who took part in an online survey which he initiated at the beginning of his show felt the same way. Only 27% of his viewers who participated in the survey felt that something could be done. This shows that the U.S. is inextricably entangled in the gun issue, and the killings that ensue which are unlikely to stop, irrespective of any government legislation.

Why will the most advanced nation on earth allow such unnecessary killings to happen? This was not a terrorist act. The killer was a disgruntled long time municipal employee. Apart from the easy availability of legal guns, the U.S. also has to contend with a more serious issue: that of mental health in a population that is considered to be generally prosperous as per world standards. The per capita income exceeds USD 60,000 and in comparison, India’s per capita income is around USD 2,000 and China’s is around USD 8,000.

If incomes are a determinant of crime in a society, then low incomes in poorer countries should be a leading indicator of endemic violence but that does not seem to be the case. So, it is not income per se that is the cause of violence in society – higher incomes would then have meant a drop in violence and crime. The U.S. is suffering from a combination of mental health problems, segmented unemployment, and very easy availability of weapons. If problems at home can be taken out on one’s colleagues, that is a very bad indication of deteriorating mental stability. It is very difficult to monitor such developments in an individual, unless his or her colleagues report on behavioural changes to the negative extent to their superiors. Oftentimes, the superiors and the HR department ignore such issues as they probably think these will eventually get resolved and should not be bothered with as long as there is no measurable impact on the business.

However, in a developed country with “affluenza”, it becomes critical to observe how employees behave and conduct themselves. Imagine what would be the impact if a large Silicon Valley company or a large Wall Street Bank had a disgruntled, totally frustrated employee who takes out an assault weapon and starts shooting his or her colleagues. Is it unlikely? No, it is not. It can very well happen anytime. We have seen a series of school shootings in the U.S. and the huge psychological and traumatic impact these shootings have had on school going children.

Does any other advanced and civilized nation has this kind of gun problem?

The answer is an emphatic NO. There might be occasional violence and petty crimes, and terrorist attacks in countries such as France and elsewhere. The recent mosque shooting in New Zealand is clearly a terrorist attack. But there is hardly any developed country wherein a guy pulls out his gun from his person and shoots at others in a bar, and these kind of shootings have happened multiple times in the U.S.

The U.S. has a real serious problem on which the government is not paying any attention. The Congress is not paying attention either. Gun violence is coming up only as part of the Presidential Campaign primaries, and even the Democratic hopefuls are tentative as no one wants to take on the most powerful NRA (National Rifle Association) which funds many politicians in the U.S. There are other very powerful Conservative Political Thinktanks and Political Action Committee Funds which keep influencing and funding politicians on the right and the extreme right, and this only means that there will be no legislative solution to the gun violence problem in the U.S. anytime soon. This problem will persist and innocent Americans will keep dying for no fault of theirs.

Is the U.S. setting up a role model on this matter for the rest of the world? I am afraid that such happenings will influence not only the potential gun killers hiding in the U.S. waiting for their turn to unleash their weapons on the slightest pretext, but will also influence killers elsewhere even in better gun-free societies.

And, that is the worst part of the emerging scenario on gun violence in the U.S. It is really high time that the U.S. Government, the Congress and the Supreme Court get together in a non-political manner and launch a new gun violence reduction initiative, part of which should be targeted at offering a gun amnesty program like what Australia executed in the Nineties.

If innocent people continue dying because of gun violence in a peaceful society environment, and not in war or conflict, then the government should ask itself some serious questions. And, take some serious actions.

Will the U.S. government do that?

Surely NO.

Have a great week ahead, folks,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 June 2019

Social Media and Privacy


I was dismayed to read the following article from CNBC today. And I am sure you will be as well, if you use any Google service at all. I am sure all of you use one or the other type of Google service, such as Gmail, YouTube, etc.,

Read the article written by Todd Haselton on 25th April 2019 at https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/25/how-to-stop-google-from-storing-your-location-history.html?&qsearchterm=how%20to%20stop%20google

You will be shocked to see the level of detail that Google keeps about you on its servers. Especially if you have turned on the location services, you will be surprised to find out that every movement of yours is being tracked by Google.

Is this the right thing for the user of Google services? The jury is totally out on this issue as we have seen a series of data scandals affecting these famous social media companies. I do not think that users can totally trust them anymore. While Google says that only you can see your data, it takes just one more data breach by yet another fantastic hacker out there.

Even democratic governments the world over are now going after these companies to control privacy, fake news, spread of hate news, and terrorist preachings. Almost anyone can maintain a Facebook page and propagate his hate agenda against the rest of us. Where does it stop?

Previously, such bad guys were running their own websites which were tracked by law enforcement and taken down if they ever crossed the limits. Now we have to depend on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google to enforce mechanisms of law enforcement on a voluntary basis, which have not worked out to the satisfaction of governments, individual users, corporate users, and law enforcement officials. The European Union has taken the hardest stand against social media companies especially when it comes to safeguarding the privacy of individual users located in EU countries. Large fines have been imposed (in various cases).

Notwithstanding all the turmoil surrounding them, these companies are still flourishing in the U.S. and globally as well. Look at their stock prices! As individuals, we may not be able to make our protest heard loudly when it comes to our own privacy, as we are not part of any social movement against social media. So, I took the next best action: I followed the recommendation by Todd Haselton in his above article, and deleted all history in various categories such as “Web & App Activity”, “Location History”, “Device Information”, “Voice & Audio Activity”, “YouTube Search History”, “YouTube Watch History”, etc., Just go to https://myaccount.google.com/privacycheckup
and do the needful for yourself!

I suppose we cannot ignore the possibility of such data being made available to a third party, or sold to a third party, or hacked by external agencies or hackers. This is simple common sense to control data about ourselves. There should be no excuse for not doing this – in fact, now I have started looking at all IT services that I use as an avid web user, specifically focusing on privacy and the kind of data about myself that I am willing to share with these services.

I was not surprised at all when the Sri Lankan Government decided to turn off social media access to its citizens. It was an unprecedented step, but much warranted in the aftermath of the recent terror attack on churches and hotels which killed 253 people last weekend. We cannot cry hoarse on the matter of freedom and liberty, when terrorism is spawned by leveraging access to social media. Governments have to take actions, and sometimes (not always) such actions might infringe on the fundamental rights of social media companies. I am sure the Sri Lankan citizens will understand why their government enforced such a ban on social media. The argument that social media are crucial for communication during disasters is of course valid, and the world has moved on from mobile SMS text messages to WhatsApp and other such effective tools. However, the decision on what to do in any specific situation has to be left to the best judgement of the law enforcement agencies, and not to libertarians and social media companies.

Increasingly, the battle field on social media is shaping up around the world. People do recognise the positive aspects of social media for various purposes, especially communication one-to-one or to a socially connected private community. I use WhatsApp extensively every day – it takes up most of my mobile screen time. I stopped using Facebook couple of years ago (prescient, it appears!), and do not use any of the other social media except LinkedIn for corporate and business use. I got out of even Google Plus services quite some time ago. However, I cannot be complacent – I am investigating all my “touch” points with the web via any kind of app, to see what kind of personal information is “forcibly” or “unconsciously” being shared. Of course, this is my own website on WordPress platform, and I am not censoring it!

On privacy matters, I tend to side more with the EU than with the U.S., except on matters involving crime or violence. Privacy should remain sacrosanct, except when law enforcement seeks access to your personal data with appropriate legal warrants for a justifiable purpose – it cannot be on a fishing expedition. I am against community or sectarian policing – one bad apple is still one bad apple only, and an entire community cannot be blamed, monitored or tracked because that one bad apple is a violent criminal or murderer or a terrorist. It is pertinent to point out in this context that the specific community or sect will do well to identify bad apples in the midst of them, and try to correct their ill-advised ways, and if that does not work, report them to law enforcement. Even tacit silence will be construed as support for the bad apples in their midst, and these bad elements could then feel encouraged.

The U.S. government believes that it can and should access ANYBODY’s personal devices, irrespective of whether that person is a suspected criminal or not. Even ordinary, regular travellers to the U.S. have been subjected to this particularly overbearing exercise of border protection officers. What the government does with the data that they retrieve from those devices is anybody’s guess. This does not happen in any other country, to the best of my knowledge.

Turning “off” social media in very serious situations like a terror attack, as recently happened in Sri Lanka”, is to be supported due to various reasons, the most critical being the spread of intentionally malicious information which could cause panic amongst the general public, and aggravate an already worse situation for the government and law enforcement. I entirely agree that it is the right thing to do under the special circumstances, and I am sure that the Sri Lankan government will turn “on” the social media that it switched off very soon, once investigations are completed.

The inconvenience caused due to such a ban will be best understood by the affected citizens, and should not be misconstrued as censorship.

I think it is high time for social media companies to increase their own self-censorship and prove that they are responsible corporate citizens in the very near future. Otherwise, they will be fined, regulated and controlled by the government(s), and deserted by users such as myself!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

28th April 2019

The Sri Lankan Massacre


It was totally avoidable.

What happened on Easter Sunday 21st April 2019 at several locations in Sri Lanka is a prime example of how governments and law enforcement authorities ignore actionable intelligence on impending terrorist attacks. 253 people were dead and over 500 injured due to the Sri Lankan government’s apathy towards valuable and credible intelligence provided to them by the U.S. and Indian intelligence agencies.

May be the Sri Lankan government thought that they knew better about their own citizens. May be they thought that military style terrorist attacks were not possible in Sri Lanka after the total elimination of the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamile Eelam) movement in 2009. May be they thought that their country has now reclaimed its spot as one of the most tranquil and peace-loving tourist destinations of Asia.

All such assumptions were totally shattered last weekend when several churches and five star hotels were attacked by unconscionable terrorists. Some of them were known to Sri Lankan intelligence and the police and ought to have been closely monitored and tracked. But obviously they were not.

It is not about the clash of religions or civilizations anymore. It is pure terrorism against common innocent citizens who pursue their daily chores in the most routine, mundane, peaceful manner in any society. It is the total responsibility of an elected government to protect its people from such mindless violence. If the government fails in this most critical duty, there is only one thing to do – resign. The Sri Lankan government should have immediately resigned once it was established that they had received actionable intelligence but on which they did nothing – they abdicated their most important responsibility. Incompetence should not be tolerated by the citizens who elect their governments in a democracy (they have no such freedoms in an authoritarian form of government). Citizens pay taxes and fund the government, so they have the right to expect performance from their government.

However, as an external observer, I should commend the Sri Lankan government for certain quick actions it took in the aftermath of this sad attack. It imposed dusk to dawn curfews, suspended certain civic rights, aggressively moved against certain places known to be harbouring terrorist agenda, sent out the right kind of messages to the citizens who were panicky and anguished, arrested scores of suspicious people, refused to announce their names even, and declared a national emergency. It also suspended social media like Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, etc., which is considered an unprecedented step. These are the actions which a determined and very upset government will and should take.

Suspension of civil rights of suspected terrorists is entirely acceptable given the innocent victim toll that has occurred, which is at least partially attributable to the sympathies and support of sections of society, thereby encouraging the perpetrators to commit such mindless atrocities. However, all these governmental actions do not let the ministers and the bureaucrats off the hook. Their total inaction is what led to this massacre in the first place.

Given that Catholic Churches were targeted on a Easter Sunday, the religious implication cannot be missed. However, I believe that it would be futile to emphasize religious conflicts as the basis for this tragedy. As long as there are many different kinds of religious faiths, tensions are bound to exist. But we as human beings first, should try to celebrate our differences rather than exacerbate the differences and get into a conflict. After all, everyone has got to live. The inalienable right to live is more critical and much more important than a simple allegiance to one’s own faith which could lead to monumental blunders due to blind teachings, which the victims cannot even contest.

No religion is going to condone violence against fellow humans who have an absolute right to live the way they deem fit. No one can be forced to follow a way of living or a way of religious faith. That should be left to individuals. Anger and irrational thinking driven by extreme forms of faith should not be allowed to flourish and should be nipped in the bud. This would mean some sacrifices of personal and religious freedoms, which are a better way to resolve potential conflicts and violence.

And, finally, an elected government can never abdicate its responsibility towards protecting the lives of its citizens. The Sri Lankan massacre tragedy has proved beyond doubt that government should eternally be vigilant, monitor its own citizens, watch religious schools which tend to impart some kind of extremist thinking, take foreign intelligence seriously, strengthen its own intelligence apparatus, invest more on law and order, etc.,

Of course, there will be loss of privacy. There will be some inconvenience. There will be some restrictions in free speech and movement. There will be push back from powerful global social media companies. There will be some loss of freedom. There will be more government controls on what is happening in society.

But then, who is responsible for national security? Social media companies or the government?

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

27th April 2019

The terrible loss of privacy


Privacy is a funny aspect of life.

Most institutions and corporations we deal with in our lives demand that we sign off on dotted lines when it comes to providing them access to our very personal data. Most consumer companies do the same thing. Governments have always asked for our data. However, the phenomenon of giving away our total freedom and personal data to social media giants did not bother us for a long time. Until last week.

I am referring to the data breach on 50M Americans who have accounts with Facebook. Well, this is not the first instance, but in terms of scale it is the biggest ever. There have been hacks on Apple’s iCloud, releasing personal data of celebrities. There have been other hacks such as the bad one on Yahoo mail.

But, people forget and forgive, the reason being that they still need the services of the social media companies, cloud service providers and email operators. There is just no alternative to leading one’s life today – if an individual is not on Facebook, he does not exist – not just virtually, but physically as well! He or she is ignored for lack of digital savviness, or inability to be in sync with the rest of the world which seems to be rushing into Twitter, Instagram, Snap, WeChat, WhatsApp, Line, Google’s variety of offerings including of course Search, and so many such digital tools.

So, things will be back to normal after a few months for Facebook. They will undergo detailed investigation that is reserved for Russian hackers, questioned on Capitol Hill, excoriated in the “adult” networking circuit, and punished in some way, like being forced to implement tougher security measures. Facebook’s reputation currently is in the dumps, and they should not be trusted as they have traded their users’ data. But apart from all this, do you think that anything substantive will happen to them? There are more than 2B users who depend on Facebook for communication. Not me however – I never seriously used the consumer version of Facebook, though I have an account with very sparse data on myself (I however use a corporate version of Facebook behind my company’s firewall for internal teamwork and collaboration, along with other tools such as Microsoft Teams and Yammer).

So here I am – not a regular user of the consumer version of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al, but a serious blogger on this WordPress platform and LinkedIn user. I select what I wish to do, and cannot be led to use some tool that I do not wish to use. Further, I am careful not to accept terms and conditions of these tool makers and platform owners, and do not click to give access to all my data voluntarily. Neither do I agree for unsolicited marketing communications from these folks or their marketing collaborators, though sometimes it is made difficult not to agree.

The question is – what is more important: maintain privacy or lose it due to either the lack of security of the provider or his desire to sell off my data for money? In my case, the answer is crystal clear – I would rather forego the convenience of “checking into” Facebook and detailing what I am up to, or posting my photographs enjoying a vacation with my family, but safeguard whatever little privacy that I still have. It is not necessary for the entire world or my friends and relatives, or for any government, to know what I am doing at this moment (I am blogging now!). It is irrelevant to them, but it is critical for maintaining my sanity. It is not that I am anti-social – I am in multiple WhatsApp groups – but I wish to remain private. I do not respond to LinkedIn invites from people who I have not yet met. I should know the person through a referral or I should have met that person before I would even consider accepting the invite.

Nothing wrong with wanting to be a private individual. However, we know that most teenagers willingly give away their most personal data on the Facebook platform. The issue is that Facebook cannot be trusted to keep that data totally private and secure.  We do not know for sure that the data is safe and secure. We also do not know if they had traded our data for money. We never knew that Facebook gave away the data on 50M Americans to a U.K. Professor for some vague research, who in turn handed that out to the now infamous Cambridge Analytica.

It is more important to spend F2F (“Face to Face”) time with friends, relatives and family, like in the old times. It is more important not to be influenced by hate speech and lectures that are posted on all social media platforms. Did we live without a mobile phone or social media platforms in the past? Did we live a life without networking? We did live well, but I believe we did not learn to adopt technology well in the 21st Century. We just blindly jumped into all that is new without much analysis.

I am not against any of these innovative tools and platforms which have created enormous value to equity investors and users. I think we need to be extra careful in how and why we use these in our lives. Do we give our date of birth or place of birth to our neighbours or strangers? We don’t. We do not share any personal data in public. The same caution applies when we venture into digital space. We cannot ignore the fact that digital platforms are fast proliferating across our lives, and will come to dominate all facets of our existence. We may not be able to order ice cream without a social media account in future, or something as ridiculous as that.

Welcome to a world less private, more intrusive, less secure, and more dangerous as a result.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend.

I am happy to share the fact that I am now allowed one glass of wine, and I will soon be posting on the wine I had and the experience of de-addiction to wine.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

25th March 2018

Falling Markets


We saw that the major equity markets around the world suffered steep losses during the week which just ended.

There are always multiple reasons why the equity investors fret at times and start a major selling operation of their holdings. Mostly it is sentiment, sometimes emotions, but almost always there is a reason or many reasons why the market sell-off happens.

In the current scenario, the negative sentiment is driven by multiple factors afflicting the U.S. economy, aggravated by bad government policies which appear to keep shifting all the time under the wise administration of President Trump. To start with, there has been a series of exits of experienced people from the administration – the latest being General McMaster who was the National Seecurity Advisor to the President. He has been replaced by the rather hawkish hothead – John Bolton, who is likely to plunge the U.S. into another back-breaking war, either with Iran or North Korea.

So, you have a combination of the following factors:

  • a huge deficit budget of USD 1.3T which has just been signed off by the President, necessary to keep the government running till end of September 2018, which has a massive allocation for the military (not all of that is necessary);
  • a possible credit squeeze, with the Federal Reserve planning to raise the interest rates at least twice if not more times during this calendar year;
  • a high dependency on China which buys most of the U.S. Treasury Bills;
  • a looming trade war primarily with China, with the President planning to impose tariffs worth USD 50/60B on imports from China, and the already planned retaliation by China;
  • a strong noose tightening around the President’s neck – the Russia investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller – Trump cannot fire Mueller as that would lead to unforeseen consequences, but he might still do it, plunging the U.S. into uncertainty;
  • more potential exits from the Trump administration – Jeff Sessions is one clear possibility;
  • sex scandals threatening Trump from a series of women – the courts are admitting the cases against the wishes of Trump and his lawyers;
  • the clear possibility that Kim Jong Un might refuse to enter into talks with the U.S. if John Bolton is involved; North Korea termed Bolton as a “scum” and a “blood sucker” in 2003/04 and is unlikely to talk to him if Trump deputes him or brings him along to threaten Kim Jong Un, which will very likely happen;
  • the Iran nuclear deal imbroglio; Trump might refuse to certify the continuance of the deal when it comes for his quarterly certification signature as required by the U.S. Congress, in which case Iran will be free to walk away from the deal, and that might lead to Bolton arguing his case to bomb all of Iran’s nuclear facilities;
  • the continuing loss of elections to the Democratic Party as just happened in Pennsylvania – the potential loss of both the House and the Senate majority, which is not likely, but appears possible now;
  • and, so on and so forth…………there are many such factors

So, the equity markets falling was expected by all and sundry. If I recollect, the U.S. market ran up by more than 6,500 points (DOW) in about 14 months from the time Trump took office, allowing him to tout the market gain as one of his signature achievements. Now out of this increase, 3,000 points are gone, and it is likely that the sell off will continue into next week.

A government that is so critical for world peace and stability cannot be tottering every day. One has to just see CNN News and the U.S. Talk Shows by major news organizations, to get the full import of what is going on in Washington D.C. The Trump administration has become a laughing stock, even within the U.S.

The only silver lining is that Trump is the first U.S. President who has succeeded in pushing North Korea to the negotiating table (mostly by harsh tweets from Trump!), though both Koreas claim that they decided to play the Olympic game together and cool off the rhetoric. The other achievement of Trump is that he is the first U.S. President to stand up to China without any fear of repercussions and challenge them to a trade war.

While these are great to see and hear about, we have to recognize that Trump has still not won any battle with either one of these countries. He could not even win the Border Wall case against Mexico, which refused to foot the bill. It is going to be very tough for the U.S. to negotiate when Trump has surrounded himself with foreign policy and military hawks such as Mike Pompeo (the new Secretary of State, yet to be confirmed by the Congress), John Bolton (the new National Security Advisor who does not need Congress confirmation), Gina Haspel (the new CIA Director nominee who needs to be confirmed by the Congress), and the perennial lady hawk Nikki Haley who is the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. A war is surely looming with such hot heads around the President, who himself is a strong hot head who will not take a slight from anyone, or advice from anyone. All the major departures have happened apparently due to the fact that the concerned person begged to differ from the views of the President.

So, here we are, with markets having fallen all around the world, including India’s SENSEX. We are entering an uncertain phase in world history and diplomatic relationships. Everything can come off unhinged. No relationship is going to remain sacred. Continuous drama at the White House is going to rock the markets on a daily basis. The markets can no longer afford to do their own business disconnected from political and economic realities.

So, we are all in for a rocky ride, folks.

Enjoy the ride however.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th March 2018

Humans Losing out to Technology


There are countless ways in which advanced technologies have helped mankind over the years. The current (and future, for sure) rapid pace of technological development, will, no doubt, continue to render advanced capabilities to people, businesses and governments like what we could not have imagined even yesterday.

Technology is almost on a free roll now – nobody can stop its non-stop progress and achievements, and it is the way it should be. The challenge now is adoption and ongoing utilization of technologies – let us not forget the actual fact on the ground that over 3B (yes, billion) people in this planet do not have access to the internet (most of them do not have access to electricity or clean water or sanitation either). There is a lot of work to do before we get everyone in the world connected.

In the meanwhile, the military applications of technology are proceeding at a faster pace, as the world’s super powers race against each other to get the upper hand, which will never be used as there will be no global war between or amongst the super powers due to the possibility of total annihilation of this world as we know it today.

In this context, I was horrified to view the video of the huge destructive impact of tiny drones launched in a warfare situation, put up on social media by Stuart Russell, a University of California Berkeley Computer Science Professor.

Take a look at Future of Life Institute Autonomous Weapons Ban and

Slaughterbots Video CNN article and YouTube video

QUOTE

Professor Russell says “Trained as a team, [the drones] can penetrate buildings, cars, trains, all while having the capacity to evade any countermeasure. They cannot be stopped,”.

He noted that “a $25 million order” can now buy a swarm of such tiny “slaughterbots” that could kill half a city.

Professor Russell said that although A.I.’s “potential to benefit humanity is enormous, even in defense,” allowing the widespread use of machines that “choose to kill humans will be devastating to our security and freedom.”

UNQUOTE

These tiny mini-drones which have destructive military uses are now called “autonomous slaughterbots” and are unleashed in a “drone swarm” from the underbelly of a bomber plane. These are now rightfully characterized as “weapons of mass destruction” as a small band of military men can essentially bring a country to its knees by launching a slaughterbot attack which will raze an entire city to the ground and kill millions of people at one go – more effective than a nuclear weapon which is much more expensive to build, maintain and use. In today’s world, even a kid knows what a drone is, but do we really understand how nations can get completely out of control with this technology which is like a powerful machine gun or multi-barrelled missile launcher, the only difference being that the slaughterbots can come in thousands to obliterate an entire battlefield or a city.

There is no current counter-attack mechanism against an attack by slaughterbots. Even more worrying is the fact that the “attacked” cannot easily figure out who is the “attacker”, or where they are located. How do you attack someone who you do not know, or whose location cannot be determined. So, we are now in faceless military attacks, and all that it takes is one small band of rogue folks who know this technology. Let us not forget that both “good” and “bad” guys now have drones, and also that the “good” guys could be indiscriminate in their plans and attacks sometimes.

So, the world is getting to be a deadlier place than it ever was in its history. Drones can target individulas anywhere in the world, and are being enhanced to penetrate any kind of structure to reach to the designated target. Further, drone swarms “act” like a swarm, in the sense that they will coordinate their attack plan with each other, leading to a scalability that does not exist today. We are essentially looking at the collective brain power of a slaughterbot drone swarm, which could be as deadly as a nuclear weapon without incurring all the risks of a war.

Welcome to the slaughterbot era, friends. It is critical that we protest against such weapons of mass destruction, these are much worse than land mines.

Cheers (and No Cheers!),

Vijay Srinivasan

26th November 2017

 

Europe under siege


Week after week, Europe seems to be encountering terrorist attacks.

I would not be surprised if European Union decides to close its borders against any immigration, and tightens the country borders vigorously in the coming months. May be it is time for Europe to adopt and implement some of the national security initiatives which have secured the U.S. borders more or less effectively against foreign threats.

France has suffered the most with three serious attacks in the past 18 months. Now comes Munich, considered to be generally safe. Germany has been the most lenient country in Europe when it comes to receiving and handling immigrants. Now it has to rethink. France has already assumed emergency powers of search and arrest.

One could not have imagined that European countries would come under terrorist attacks, as here was a collection of countries that became more welcoming of immigrants (unfortunately terrorists are hidden amongst the flow of immigrants) and have treated their foreign-born population more or less well. However, now it has become amply clear to the governments of the Netherlands, France, Germany, and other countries that their laissez faire approach to security, investigation, and law enforcement would no longer continue to work.

I am a supporter of ruthless law enforcement actions when faced with terrorism. I believe that India has become a good example of not willing to accept usual practices in law enforcement in various parts of the country, surely against the Maoist insurgents in the North East and Jammu & Kashmir militants in the North. It cannot be business as usual when the country is under constant attack and normal business activities have to be suspended and the normal life of law-abiding citizens is being threatened. One would need a lot of steely nerves when it comes to handling home-grown terrorism, and part of Europe’s problems is that it does not have a strategy to deal with that threat.

All citizens are unfortunately NOT equal, and it is critical for governments to monitor ALL citizens and all immigrants today, irrespective of race, religion, ethnic origin or gender. All tourists have to be monitored as well. This would necessitate complete control over airwaves, and full coverage of the country with eavesdropping and monitoring technologies. There is no choice, as the first priority of ANY government is to save the lives of its law-abiding citizens.

If such actions threaten human right activists, so be it. Human rights have to wait longer to attain their fulfillment when more serious and threatening priorities take over. I agree it would require a well-meaning government not to start trampling on human rights of ordinary citizens. The example being set by a democratic government in Turkey is not a good one, but let us remember that Turkey is acting against coup plotters and not terrorists. May be both categories are the same in the eyes of a government, but Turkey has all but ensured that it would not get admittance into the European Union. But that is exactly the point. The European Union needs to review its charter of Human Rights. Not all is well with Europe, and it is high time the EU starts paying attention and committing resources towards its home-grown terrorism threat. It would certainly mean that the EU has to take bold, tough and aggressive actions – may not all in line with its ideals and principles.

Terrorism is a present danger and will continue in all parts of the world if governments do not collaborate and take collective action against is insidious threat to civilization. Let us forget about attributing reasons for the growth in terrorism. There are no good or bad terrorists – ALL terrorists are just bad. No religion permits carnage against innocent civilians and children. No government should also authorize attacks against civilians.

People like us should send our suggestions to our governments or to the United Nations. There should be vigorous action and support for eliminating (may not be entirely possible however) or at least reducing the threat of terrorism, and that would also mean entirely removing access to weapons for the common man on the street. We should all accept more limits on our personal freedoms, to ensure the safety of ourselves and our fellow human beings.

Radical, but required necessity in today’s world. Europe needs to do its bit, to save Europeans, and preserve their values for the future.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

24th July 2016