A 70 year old video is more important than ever

A tweet by @OmanReagan lead me to an amazing video from 1947. The movie is only 17 minutes long, but this 70 year old video needs to be re-broadcast right now.

Take a moment and watch. Jump ahead to the 2 minute 2 second mark to get the main story.

 

Sound familiar?

White supremacy is evil. Racism is evil. Nazis are evil. End of discussion.

 

Congress’ basic guidelines for automated vehicles miss the potential problems

In a recent article on Government Tech’s website, Congress announced they have already come up with six basic guidelines to regulate the future of autonomous vehicles.

The six legislative principles that have been defined are…

  • Prioritize safety
  • Promote continued innovation and reduce existing roadblocks
  • Remain tech neutral
  • Reinforce separate federal and state roles
  • Strengthen cybersecurity
  • Educate the public to encourage responsible adoption of self-driving vehicles

While the government is starting off some very generic principles to regulate the industry and have some other concerns they are starting to look into, I see a few very significant problems that must be addressed before fully autonomous vehicles become the nationwide standard.

  1. Since non-automated vehicles as stated in the article are already responsible for “94 percent of crashes” due to “human error or decision”, ownership of a non-connected vehicle will eventually be vilified (if not seen as an outright criminal liability). This issue may play out through a heavy “tax” and/or insurance levy on those individuals who wish to retain their non-automated vehicles, or an outright ban on the manufacture of “human driven” vehicles after a certain date. Will automated vehicles and “human driven” vehicles be allowed to co-exist? Or will there be a mandatory phase-out period in the coming decade?
  2. Navigating any city using an outdated GPS system is already a problem with “human driven” vehicles. What will happen if an automated vehicle is allowed to operate with an outdated GPS system? To avoid a potentially lethal outcome, I expect the government to create an oversight agency to mandate all autonomous vehicles have the most recent firmware and software updates at specific intervals. This may play out through updates as infrequently as every “state inspection”, or be more strict via mandatory updates at every refueling (with the option to penalize or completely restrict owners who continue to use a vehicle with outdated software). This, by proxy, also brings up the issue of standardization of GPS systems. While the government has so far been hesitant to declare a standard for automated vehicles to use, this could soon be a pressing safety issue that will not wait for a consumer verdict.
  3. When automated vehicles can be sent home at any time, as stated in the article, “this could create significantly more vehicle-miles traveled, ultimately causing worse congestion. People could potentially send their car home rather than paying for expensive parking in an urban core.” Cities would lose income on previously reliable parking garage and meter fees and will also have to address the sudden glut of unused parking buildings across their downtown areas. I don’t expect any city to gracefully accept this loss of income, and will instead create toll lanes on previously “free” roads as well as a new universal “miles usage” tax for increased “wear and tear” on the roads. Will the federal government allow this?
  4. When automated vehicles become the majority, what is to stop overreach from non-traffic related issues once vehicles become fully interconnected? If you owe the IRS, a court judgement, have overdue child support payments, or even a late credit card payment, what is to stop a restriction from being placed on a connected vehicle’s use since it will be readily available online? Is driving still a privilege and not a right in the coming era of automated vehicles?
  5. Uber is already a nightmare for city taxi services. What is to stop Uber (or a similar company) from purchasing several automated buses that pick up and drop off passengers at designated areas defined by the users themselves? Instead of losing their bus/subway/transport base (IE: income), I expect a hard push back on Uber-style companies through city-based lawsuits and insurance bribes concerns on the safety of a peer-controlled company with no external oversight.

While self-driving cars sound like a futuristic utopia we might actually see in our lifetimes, once the industry makes it to the “real world”, I think the early winners won’t be the consumers, but the attorneys who will be litigating every step of the way.

Wouldn’t a Universal Basic Income depend heavily on the “kindness of strangers” to work?

So here I am, late on Saturday night, waiting from remote for one final server to reboot, when I started thinking about Universal Basic Income.

Maybe it’s the coffee.

Anyhow, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered how a Universal Basic Income would work without the “kindness of strangers”.

Here’s my two cents… and five big problems.

Problem #1: Assuming UBI is granted for everyone who makes under $500k annually, and let’s say just as a hypothetical the UBI is set at $12,000 annually, what’s going to stop employers from deducting the total UBI ($12k in this scenario) from all employee paychecks? I can already hear the… “You’re still making $40k annually! What’s the problem? So we’re paying you $28k instead of $40k, but what’s the big deal? You’re still getting $40k annually with UBI factored in. And, hey, you now pay less taxes since your take-home is less! We need that $12k per to invest and build our business!” Companies will get a spike in their bottom line deducting the UBI rate per employee and the employees are gaslighted into thinking that’s OK.

Problem #2: Again, assuming the UBI is set at $12k, what’s to stop rent and housing increases? Landlords can set the low-end roach infested hole in the walls that were around $400 to the current small one-bedroom rate ($800-$1k) since “everyone can afford that with UBI”, and everything above that level will skyrocket in price. Home ownership will also be affected by this renting spike to keep the “investment” of owning a home more valuable than renting.

Problem #3: Taxation. Let’s say someone invests a significant percentage of their UBI in a profit making enterprise. Does the government get to collect tax assuming the UBI was non-taxable to start with? Or will the proceeds from a UBI funded enterprise be treated as “additional income”?

Problem #4: UBI scams. You see all the title company loan and “settlement cash now” kinds of commercials all over the place. A borrow-against futures industry that’s not well regulated and geared toward taking advantage of the uninformed and those with poor money management skills. What’s to stop this industry from focusing on setting up a “borrowing against the UBI” system? I can hear this too… “We will advance you $24k for your next two years of UBI today! Get the money you deserve now! Don’t worry about the 170% interest.” A much deeper financial trap will be possible with the existing non-regulated borrow-against the futures industry still running wild.

Problem #5: Retirement and death. Would a UBI be factored into retirement / social security plans? Assuming someone works to retirement age and draws from their Social Security fund as well as any Roth or 401k investments, will that individual still be eligible for UBI? And if someone dies before retirement age or of unnatural causes, would UBI be treated as a benefit to their surviving family as social security is now? Or would UBI be a “living” benefit only?

Of course, none of these things might happen, but they all tie into my original “kindness of strangers” (IE: employers and the government) concern. With automation and AI gaining traction at an exponential rate, though, something like UBI needs to be in the works to stave off the mass unemployment rate that will arrive in our lifetime.

It’s time for a TRUTH : CLIMATE ad campaign

I remember the days when smoking a cigarette was very common. Lighting up in a bar or at a restaurant was no big deal. You could even smoke at your desk at work! 

Try lighting a cigarette in any of those places now. 

In today’s society, smoking is seen as something completely unacceptable. A big of that shift was a relentless barrage by the American Lung Association and the “truth” ad campaign.

Despite the dominant shift in the acceptance of social smoking, the “truth” ad campaign is still ongoing, with this as one of their most recent commercials.

With all the recent problems on climate change, I think it’s time for a “Truth : Climate” ad campaign.

Too many people are entrenched on both sides of the climate change issue, with neither side willing to budge. Aside from the problem of the widening chasm and open hostilities, the core problem is that until there is a clear and overwhelming majority on one side, no progress can be made. The stalemate will fester and rot away part of our collective souls.

NY, WA and CA just announced a pact among their states to back the Paris Climate Accord of their own volition. Seed money for a nationwide  “Truth : Climate” ad campaign could start with them. Create and release a relentless nationwide onslaught of hard fact ads with a focused single point in each to inform and educate those who are against the Paris Climate Accord.

Of course, those that believe the climate change is all a big worldwide hoax should form their own group to inform and educate scientists and climatologists on their folly. Like the old saying goes, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Until there is a complete and overwhelming societal shift on how climate change is (or is not) affecting us, we will be stuck at a stalemate that benefits neither side. It can be done. Just try lighting a cigarette in a restaurant to see what happens with a persistent educational push for societal change.

What the iPhone 7 could have done to be different

The iPhone 7 is a definite “meh”. Same look, same system, same Apple repackaging of last year’s tech.

Apple keeps missing opportunities to innovate, and if they keep this trend going, more and more Apple fanatics are going to jump ship.

Off the top of my head, here some things I would like Apple to do with their iPhone line…

  • Move the top camera behind the front screen so selfies and Facetime chats are “centered” and not focused on someone’s chin or forehead. The camera would “read” the colors in front of it (whatever pixels are on the display) and correct (ie: remove) them in the output. The camera would be invisible to the user and there would be no “black dots” on the screen. Video chats would finally look like they do in the movies where people look at the screen and not at the camera four inches over it.
  • Open a mid-level API so advanced developers could make “high end” apps for the iPhone. Nothing that would tweak the core iOS, but things like real system theme changes, control over zooming and scaling, changing the mail fetch interval, reading tower signal strength, etc. All the new apps that use the mid-level API would be in an “advanced” section of the app store. If any of the apps caused problems, mid-level apps could be disabled in SETTINGS.
  • Offer a battery enhanced model of all iPhones. They would be thicker than the “normal” versions, but with 300% more battery life. Bonus points if the battery could be hot-swapped for a “new” battery and a smaller internal battery would keep the iPhone working during the switch.
  • On a related note, wireless charging for “standard” iPhones would be a long-overdue addition, but also add charging transfer for the battery enhanced iPhones to “standard” iPhones. Imagine being able to transfer power from one fully charged iPhone to another iPhone if they were touching back to back.
  • Keep the existing microphone on the bottom of the iPhone, but add one microphone on the top to allow for “stereo” recordings. Put a built-in app that shows “left channel/right channel” sound editing for extra credit.
  • Add a micro SD card port for storage and photo/file transfers already.
  • Boost iCloud’s storage to half the iPhone’s current capacity. By default, 128s would get 64 gigs of cloud storage, 64s would get 32 gigs of storage and 16s would get 8 gigs of storage.
  • Color changing LEDs have been around for awhile, so why not have the LED on the back of the phone that’s just a “white flash” change color too? Blue, yellow, soft white, etc. Add intensity control and the ability to specify color changes in the camera as the photo is being taken and Instagrammers will go bananas.
  • Open AirDrop to all phone manufacturers so it becomes the standard for phone-to-phone wireless exchanges.
  • Finally, a minor tweak to the iTunes store – allow for apps, movies and music purchased online to be completely transferred to another account once every five years.

Like I said, just off the top of my head, there’s a lot of things Apple can do to keep their iPhones popular and far ahead of their competitors. Releasing the same design with trivial changes isn’t going to be a sustainable business model no matter how much liquid cash they have in reserve.

Much ado about nothing : why no law enforcement agency needs a “master backdoor”

The FBI has made no secret recently about their “need” to get into a recent terrorists’ iPhone, and have currently demanded the source code for the entire iPhone system in order to access a particular device as part of their investigation.

Here’s the problem. There’s already a legal system in place for problems like this.

When a law enforcement agency has a warrant, they get the right to obtain the stated information from that specific individual or group that is listed in the warrant. For example, if there is a warrant for John Doe to open the safe in his home, John Doe has to to open the safe in his home. If John Doe refuses to act on a legally served warrant. he is jailed until he does surrender the information and fully complies with the warrant.

There’s no onus on the safe company to provide a master key. There’s no mandate for all homes to have a master key on their deadbolt so warrants can be served. It is the legal obligation of the individual(s) named in the warrant to surrender the specifically stated information to law enforcement or face severe criminal consequences.

Think about how many times you have heard about reporters being jailed for refusing to disclose their sources. How many times informants are jailed for refusing to disclose their sources. There is no trial or judge for these people, and there is no release for them until they disclose what is specifically stated in the warrant. It is a perpetual prison for the individuals that does not end without compliance or a complete overturn of the original warrant.

If the FBI has a warrant to search the terrorist’s phones and they have refused to disclose their password, then the FBI can indefinitely hold the terrorists until they disclose the password needed to access their devices.

So what’s the problem here? Wasn’t that the original intent? Jail these vermin and wait them out.

The problem is too many politicians and knee-jerk reactionaries haven’t thought the reasons a “master password” or “law enforcement backdoor” is like putting a master key for all home deadbolts in place. Sure, a master key will give you the ability to get into any door you want, but then the “oh no, Godzilla!” part is if that master key gets out, it can be used by ANYONE. Anywhere. Anytime. You can’t control who copies it. You can kiss EVERYTHING that master key is attached to goodbye forever.

Like I ranted earlier, there’s no resetting a embedded backdoor and/or “master password” software on systems without “hands on” access. Once it’s out, there’s no way to erase it, no way to change it and no way to block it. Once a master password is out in the open, it’s fair game. To everyone.

Even if the government manages to keep a master password on a For-Your-Eyes-Only-Roger-Moore level, look how often the government itself gets hacked. The IRS. The FBI. Take your pick. Target A-1 is going to be that master password, and whatever hacker finds it will gain peer immortality.

A master password on a mass-produced consumer device is a critical national security risk. This idea needs to die right now.

 

“AFTER THE POST” EDIT: For argument’s sake, let’s say a master password / backdoor does get installed in the iPhone system to “keep us safe”.

  • Does every law enforcement agency get the master password / backdoor? All the way down to the local two-officer town level?
  • Who is to judge the need of an investigation to get the master password / backdoor? Will it be for all investigations? Or just ones of a certain type?
  • How can the use of this master password / backdoor be tied to properly issued warrants and not abused as part of a “fishing” investigation?
  • What happens when a law enforcement individual leaves their employer and enters the private sector? Does their knowledge of this master password / backdoor cease to exist for them? What restrictions could possibly be put in place to ensure they do not use the master password / backdoor for their own benefit?
  • Will this master password / backdoor be shared with foreign countries? If so, how?
  • Can the use of a master password / backdoor to obtain information in a criminal case be used in a civil case?

With all the fireworks, you would think it’s Jesus’ Independence Day

I understand fireworks on the 4th of July. I understand fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I don’t understand fireworks on Christmas Eve. 

Especially around midnight. 

This isn’t Jesus’ Independence Day, people! The three wise men didnt bring gifts of Glock, H&K and Sig. There’s no “fweeeeee….. POOOM” in “Silent Night”. 

Keep the small explosives locked up until the 30th. Try that “peace on earth” thing just for today.

A sincere Merry Christmas to all from the Christmas fireworks Grinch.

CISA as explained by the Joker

CISA as explained by the Joker

CISA was just signed into law on the same day the new Star Wars movie came out.

CISA was attached to the Omnibus “keep the lights on” spending bill, flew through congress and was signed by the president. Few people knew about it, and even fewer people said anything online as it was happening.

Meanwhile, the Star Wars movie has hundreds of thousands of people rage posting on social websites in a relentless and concentrated attempt to block “spoilers” from getting out.

And, once again, to everyone mad at Obama for sneaking CISA into the Omnibus bill, you do realize this was done by a Republican controlled congress, right? Both congress and/or Obama could have raised hell about CISA in the Omnibus bill and the gross loss of our online privacy. Neither did.

Welcome to the new world of no online privacy and warrant-less searches. Enjoy the movie.