Friday, December 31, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
1. Steve Jobs dies. This is actually a prediction that I would never want that come truth. Yes, we are all mortal and will die some day. Every year, there will be celebrity deaths. Some of them are shocking because of the cause of death and the bigger the names are, like Michael Jackson, Princess Diana, etc, the sensational their deaths were. For the celebrities that I’m interested in, there is nobody bigger than Steve Jobs. Given his health records, I wish him to be healthy in years to come, so he can continue to come up with amazing products and services for regular folks like me. However, I think it will still be a great shock to the world if he dies next year or in few years in the absence of decent successor of him. Cuz, his deep impacts on business, technology, creativity, and culture are just second to none in the past decade. I just think that there will never be Steve Jobs the Second, period.
2. Margaret Thatcher and Jimmy Carter die. As I said, people die. During these day and age, most great leaders die of old age and some terminal illnesses like cancer. Both these 2 leaders are major players during the Cold War which was over in 1990. With 2 decades have passed, they are in their twilight years. I think their deaths are logically imminent, particularly for Margaret Thatcher, given reports of her poor health. Jimmy Carter looks healthy still; he is one of the five living U.S. Presidents. Usually, based on history, there are very rare to have more than 5 living U.S. presidents at any given time. So, he may still live next year, but more unlikely through Obama this first term I guess. So, that’s my prediction, the third candidate is Nelson Mandela, who is in his 90s already. However, I just have a weird impression that blacks are usually short-lived than most people, but those who can ‘make it’, will live much longer than the average. So, he is just a back-up candidate.
3. Steve Ballmer will be fired at his post as CEO of Microsoft. I think 2011 will be a make-or-break year for Microsoft. In spite of the success of Window 7 and Office and the stable business on the corporate side, MS is still very lacking on the mobile, advertisements, and tablet businesses. Those are the hot fronts for future growth for most tech companies. Looking at what MS is doing and its upcoming plans in those areas, I don’t think MS can break through its mode. I don’t know if all the logistics behind in the MS’s board would make firing Steve ‘big mouth’ Ballmer a realistic option. However, I think putting him on a consulting post and getting someone to take over his post shouldn’t be rule out in this coming year.
4. Nintendo 3DS and PSP phone will be flops. Everybody on CES this year are waiting to see when will Nintendo 3DS be released and any update will be shown after its surprising depute last year. It was reported that the 3D technology of this gadget is quite impressive. However, I will apply same reasons to it as well as the PSP phone which should also be out in 2011 that both will be flops. Cuz, I think the gadget market has bypassed Nintendo and Sony. They have their moments in the pre-Android, pre-iPhone4 world. Don’t get me wrong that the Nintendo 3DS and PSP phone don’t have great technology. However, there are other factors that will go against their success. First of all, technology can be replicated, given Google and Apple’s war chest of cash, they can easily pay for any license fee or patent fee involved for those 3D technology. Secondly, the most important thing is the business operation model that comes with the gadget. The creation, distribution, advertising, charging of apps (i.e. games) that Apple and Google have just superior than what Nintendo or Sony currently have, both of the latter will only be playing catch up. When Microsoft is still having trouble catching up with Google and Apple in those areas, I don’t have much hope for Sony and Nintendo to do that any time soon if ever. As such, Nintendo 3DS and PSP Phone for being less multi-functional as iPhone or Android phones, their demises in competition are written on the wall to me.
5. Collapse of North Korea communist regime. The U.S. and China as the big brothers in the Northeast Asian regional politics don’t want to go to war on the Korean Peninsula. However, the fate of North Korean is still in the hand of the people there. Koreans are tough people who can withstand all kinds of adversity throughout its history. However, everything has a limit, I think the handover of power from the second to third generation of Kim dynasty is just not gonna be successful. Korean people would be too dumb to put their faith on a twenty something years old fat slob who has done nothing to deserve the power and the faith of the 20 plus million starving people. Adding to that, I would predict Kim Jung IL will die in 2011 and his son is not gonna be able to takeover. Deep in my heart, that may not happen in 2011, but more likely within next 3 years.
I don’t have any other predictions. Cuz, natural disasters like earthquakes are gonna happened. Releases of iPad2, iPhone5 are givens. Market predictions would be nice, but what market specialists did in the past so far was not much better than darts flew by monkey. So, I’m not gonna play assist monkey myself. So, this’s it. I’m gonna look back this time next year to see how right/wrong I am then. Cheers.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
That lists includes:
1. VCRs And VHS Tapes
2. Travel Agents
3. The Separation Between Work Life And Personal Life
6. Phone Sex Via 1-900 Numbers
9. Classifieds In Newspapers
10. Dial-Up Internet
13. Landline Phones
14. Film (And Film Cameras)
15. Yellow Pages And Address Books
17. Fax machines
19. Hand-Written Letters
Certainly, this list is quite U.S. centric. From a global perspective, the list may not be totally applicable. E.g. Phone Sex Via 1-900 Numbers is very U.S. For some countries, VCDs would be added along with VHS. Travel agencies are still very widely popular. Also, calling is declining in the U.S. and some other countries like Singapore because calling is more expensive than texting, otherwise, I don’t see verbal conversation as a natural part of our human communication for last million year would diminish at all.
For the other items, they become obsolete as a result of ‘natural’ technology enhancement. Video Tapes, CDs, Watches, Maps , Dial-up internet, encyclopedias, landline phones, film and film camera, yellow pages and address books, catalogs, fax machines, wires, hand-written letters could all pretty much be replaced by smartphones. It doesn’t mean that our needs of voice and text communication, imaging, audio and visual entertainment, information access are any less these days if not more than before. Those needs are just being fulfilled by a more portable, multi-functional device with data in different format. Regarding bookstore, travel agency, classified ads in newspaper and catalog, their demise is basically a change of business model as a result of technology enhancement. The Separation Between Work Life And Personal Life has been blurred is a sad and unfortunate effect that affect most white collar workers. On the other hand, it could be blessing that we can keep check of our personal life while we are at work. It is a double edged sword indeed.
What I am most amazed of the 20 items is the remaining one – ‘forgetting’. It is something I’ve never really thought of, comparing with the rest 19. What the article said is that:
"The web means the end of forgetting," wrote the New York Times earlier this year. "The Internet records everything and forgets nothing." Indeed, increasingly there's a digital copy of everything we do: the emails we send, the phone calls we make, the places we go, the pictures we take, the opinions we write. Google CEO Eric Schmidt even suggested (in what he later said was a joke) that young people ought to be able to change their names when they hit adulthood in order to escape their "permanent record" on the Internet. We can collect data on everything from our sleep habits to our spending, making it harder than ever for us--and the Internet--to forget what we've said, purchased, or done. "
Talking about the double-edged sword again, this is even equally scary and amazing at the same time. The upside is that truthful and accurate information, historical records and evidence can be genuinely and conveniently stored these days literally forever for future access. Myth, lies, miracles are harder to be created these days. More truths can be told and justice can be served theoretically. Of course, the most technological elites and the governmental authorities with vast resources can still create elaborate scams or cover-ups if they want to, but it is getting more difficult, that’s for sure. The flip side of the coin is that lying and disguise are part of human nature. Many of us are not that bright in handling our information, either speaking our mind too openly or doing stupid things every now and then. Those things would become public records down the road that may come back to haunt us unexpectedly. For examples, telling a sweet white lie to your love one about where you have been? No, your GPS records and some video clips with face reconition would tell the truth. Wanna hide your words or activities in your wild party college days when you wanna run for any public offices, seeking employments of certain sensitive posts, or from your future father-in-law? Not gonna happen with the easy access of almost everything about you. If people wanna dig, they will sure find something about you, regardless it is gold or shit, they can be found. Secrets are hard and costly to be maintained, so do the cover-ups of scandals. I think the consequences would be
To me, forgetting has been something very natural. We accept that we do forget things and like to do so, especially unhappy or painful memory. As it is said that ‘Time heals’, it means that we will be occupied by new acquintainces and issues, they will make us naturally put our past in the back-burner. Soon or later, we may forget them and move on. However, it would be harder to do that these days. The past, no matter how joyful or painful, is so ready to be retrieved. Just imagine if digital, high-definition, 3D images of holocaust, massacres, and all types of accidents, disasters and destructions can be access at our finger tips instantly, how the victims would be able to heal?
It really gives me something to think about…
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I’ve just finished reading Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture yesterday. Given my hectic schedule, it is just hard to find time to read, particularly books. This 229 paged book is actually quite easy to read, but the content of which is just heart ranching for me. For those who don’t know about this book. It is written by Randy Pausch, a 47 years old professor at Carnegie Mellon, a father of 3 kids, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer with few months to live. The book is about his journey of preparing his last lecture and it contains most of the content about that lecture itself.
I don’t think I would be as indulged in this book if I came across this book, let’s say ten years back. Paradoxically, that wouldn’t happen, since that book wasn’t that old, i.e. the author was still healthy back then. My point is that the content of the book really make sense to me for being a parent of a young kid myself. I could easily improvise myself in the author’s place. God forbid if such horrendous thing would ever happen to me. Cuz, cancer is such a bitch that the cause of which is still unknown. Many so-called preventions or cures are still work-in-progress at best. So, we just never know….
Anyway, I think reading this book is like riding an emotional coaster, but the general feeling is uplifting and giving us hope. This book actually reminds me of a movie – My life, starring Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman. It was about how Michael Keaton dealing with his final months of his life. Though I saw that more than 10 years ago when I was still a bachelor, the theme of the movie has memorable and timeless, the scenes of Michael Keaton making video clips for his baby daughter just stuck in my mind ever since.
There are plenty of lessons being conveyed in the book. I’m not gonna list them all out here. There are many lines in the book that I would certainly revisit down the road. Themes of those lessons include fulfilling your childhood dreams, what do we want to leave behind after we are gone, the importance of planning, karma of pay it forward, etc. These are things that are applicable to all of us. I think this book is certainly worth repeat reading and definitely not a waste of time reading it. I would strongly recommend this book to everyone.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Based on what I’ve seen in recent months, I can see that augmented reality with few other technologies are gonna merged or crossed with each other in near future, and they will produce some amazing user experience and business opportunities in the coming years down the road. What I’m saying are:
1. Visual search – Google lets users to take pictures of certain image and offer search results that way. E.g. you take a picture of the Statue of Liberty instead of typing ‘Statue of Liberty’, Google can search all information related to Statue of Liberty.
2. Audio text input and Audio search – We can speak words in various languages into the Google search on our mobile phone, words will be put into text for search. While another app (I forget the name) let users to hymn few verses of a song to search the name of the song. I don’t see any stoppage from some people building a comprehensive audio library of all sorts of sound (besides music) which can be used to tie in with visual image as well.
3. Facebook Voice – we can chat with our friends on Facebook.
Just with all these 3 technology plus the augmented reality technology, guess what can be come up? These are my thoughts so far:
Facebook can record our voice to build up our audio profiles, and use our voice as part of our identity. Imagine we spoke to our friends about planning a trip to France, do you think Facebook with its tie-in vendors would be able to come up with target ads to us?
On the one hand, Google has a vast image and text library of search results. On the other hand, Google already has the biggest video clip library in the world of YouTube. On top of them, Google has Google Earth and GPS access. Imagine if they somehow also has access to the audio library that I mentioned above as well, and tie all these together with augmented reality technology. Google search will become omnipotent for sure! For examples…
When you type ‘dolphin’ or point your phone to a dolphin in Sea World, Google search in future may produce images, sounds, and clips of YouTube that feature the type of dolphin your are pointing at.
If you are pointing your phone to a stranger on the street at random, you may get instant information about that person. What school he went to, what music he likes to listen to, who are his friends, what clips he has posted on Google or Facebook. What he bought for his girlfriend’s last birthday, etc. On top of that, if we are not talking about a phone, instead that technology is put on a pair of sunglass. You know what I see? We will become ‘Terminators’! Remember the movie, when Arnold looks at any image through his robotic eyes? Instant data of the image is popping on the left and right in his vision. We may someday be able to do that as well!
Commercially, the opportunity is endless. We saw a woman wearing a purple blouse on the street, we will know what fabric it was made of, where we can buy that in the closest proximity, what would their prices in various stores, who is the designer of the blouse, would that blouse require dry clean or machine wash, etc. Furthermore, I can see that RFID and NFC can be tied in as well in product placement and advertising.
Also, when we are reading a magazine on iPad, the ads that will show to us will be personalized as it will know who is reading the magazine and what we are interested in, then show ads accordingly. I’m not saying it is based on who login a certain account on iPad. I’m saying who is ‘holding’ the damn template! The cameras can read the face of the reader, at the same time what are in front of the reader. It can detect the voice of the reader if he/she speaks, and the sound/noise of the surrounding. It will know where the reader is and what stores are closed by based on GPS. All these are ‘Ads’ opportunities!
Are all of these both amazing and scary? I can further imagine along this line that our world will become bipolar from the standpoint of technology. We will become those who are either fully connected to the information world or opt out completely.
For the former, our privacy will be compromised. Namely, our personal profile will be built, maintained, and exploited. But, we can enjoy all the convenience that technology would be able to offer.
For the latter, we will be out of the loop, becoming some kind of tech nomad, outcast of the tech world, being left out of the information world.
Certainly, there will be some people who will try to maneuver between those two worlds – the hackers!
Am I thinking too much? I guess my imagination is running on high gear a little too much. Anyway, just wanna share some thoughts of mine. That’s all.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Being an avid reader of tech news, I can’t help but getting a little bit sick recently of reading the same old comments from various bloggers/journalists/columnists on few topics over and over again. The items that I’m talking about are the iPad 2 prediction, Microsoft’s mobile and tablet strategy, and Chrome vs. Android situation in Google. Well, for people who are not familiar with those hot tech topics, I would like to put my two cents on them once for all. Also, it is almost the end of the year and many people are gonna make New Year predictions. The following would kinda be what I think are gonna happen in the tech world next year or so.
Everybody agrees that Apple is working on iPad2. Announce/release dates are predicted to be in 1Q more or less(Feb/Apr 2011), that’s logical given Apple’s past records of product release. Actually, since Apple products prediction has become a favorite pastime of tech media. Those predictions themselves have become ‘predictable’ as well. Apple usually conducts few keynotes throughout the year. 1Q or 2Q for iPhone which would be release in mid-year, Sep event for iPod, and Nov event for Mac, what’s new last year was the addition of iPad. So, the current topic in media is mostly about what iPad2 will be like. Once Apple raises the curtain for iPad2, media is gonna jump on iPhone 5 subsequently. Just so predictable…
Anyway, getting back to the product itself, these are what I read from the media so far about the predicted features for iPad2 and I put my comment on them in blanket:
1 - Retina display (yes, cuz iPhone4 has it and iPad is sold for its nice display for video, pictures, and text, I doubt Steve Jobs will stray away from his art instinct)
2 - Rear and front cameras (yes for front, 50% for rear cuz it is really kinda weird to hold the big thing to take pictures, Apple is famous for usability, I doubt they would put the rear camera on it just because they can do it. I remember Steve Jobs did commented on Apple’s decision on its product design with something like…it is easy to add something but it is actually more important to decide what ‘not’ to add…, I think rear camera would fit that category)
3 - Facetime ready (yes, absolutely, especially for corporate usage. And the most important thing is that, you DON’T need a rear camera to conduct virtual meeting. For example, if I gonna show a product to the client, I can show that by using the front camera)
4 - iPad-mini of 7 inches in diagonal (no, though Steve Jobs have flipped flop on his words before, i.e. no video on iPod, I do think that he will hold his ground on smaller screen iPad for at least 2 more years before making smaller one if the market is really asking for that)
5 - Ceramic/flat back (yes for flat back, just wanna have a change of look)
6 - Doubling of capacity (same capacity, cuz it would lower the margin if they want to keep the price unchanged)
7 - Longer battery life (yes, for 20% more or less, given past records)
8 - USB or mini-USB (no, but it may officially let 3rd party to make gear that come with USB. In fact, a Chinese firm already has that in the market for US$30 a piece that come with micro-SD slot as well)
9 - SD card slot (no, see above)
10 - Gyroscope (yes, for game apps development)
11 - Same prices (yes, see past records)
Microsoft’s mobile strategy
Almost everybody in the press hates Steve Ballmer who likes to make cocky and sometimes empty statements in interviews. It was told that he actually was a capable CEO to manage the company given its size, history and complexity. There were suggestions to break up Microsoft in order to make it better. Anyway, what are good about Microsoft right now are Xbox, Kinnect, Bing, backend servers business, Window 7, and Office for now, but Window 7 mobile and Zune are not doing well, its tablet strategy is murky particularly when they say that Window 7 rather than Window 7 mobile be the OS for the tablet. So, the general impression to the media is that teams in MS are not talking or working with each other. Well, I think that’s quite true if you look at all the ‘what if’ comment in the press about their products can/should do. Anyway, I do agree with few points from the media about what MS should do.
1 - Consolidate teams of XBOX, Zune, Kinect, with those working on Window mobile 7 OS. So, those products can all sync to generate synergy.
2 - Use Window Mobile 7 as prime OS for tablet, not Window 7 which is not fit for multi-touch, instant booting, etc. Window 7 is good but too bulky for tablet.
3 - Put lots of $$$ on Cloud computing, I think this is gonna be the magic bullet to keep MS afloat in future
4 - Enhance Window Mobile 7 ‘quickly’ to catch up with all features that Android and iOS4 are offering to customer for grant, i.e. copy & paste, multi-tasks, etc. I think Window Mobile 7 can only beat RIM at best, it is not gonna beat Apple or Google in the mobile field for sure.
People keep saying MS still has lots of cash to buy companies. But, so do Google and Apple. Also, they are more innovative as harbinger in incorporate functionalities in their OS than the slow moving, always-playing-catch-up MS. I think that if MS can’t bit RIM in mobile field in 2 years. MS will be game over in this field. Also, for tablet, they have a 2 years window as well. If they can match 80% of Android by then, game over as well.
Chrome OS vs. Android
Chrome OS for netbook is temporary. I would say that Chrome OS and Android will merge within next 2 years. It is just too confusing for customer and doesn’t make sense for Google to have 2 OS which can overlap in functions. I think Google is in a great position and keeps coming up with good products. They are neck to neck with Apple and I won’t be surprise they can beat Apple in next 5 years cuz Steve Jobs is… mortal and his successor is NOT another Steve Jobs!
Last but not least, iPhone5 should logically be announced soon and be released in mid year 2011 simply based on previous 2 years’ records. However, there are additional complications that cloud this prediction. First of all, what happens to white iPhone4 which still has not seen the release date (rumor to be 1Q 11)? Would Apple release iPhone5 few months after iPhone4? Would Apple simply dropped the release of white iPhone4 altogether? What about Verison iPhone? Would that be an iPhone4 or iPhone5 on CDMA? Honestly, I’ve no clue on any of these. What I would predict is that iPhone5 will have different design from iPhone4 for sure, given the antennagate. Also, what features would iPhone5 have? I think, besides the usual: greater capacity, longer battery life, higher megapixel of the cameras and same price, Near Field Communication (NFC) should be added, not just because Android has it, it simply makes senses to Apple in the direction of electronic commerce. Other than that, I don’t know what would be added.
Well, I guess I will look back of this blog a year later to see what will come true.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
I’m too young to remember anything about Bruce Lee during his short 33 years of life. However, with his 70th birthday this year, media has come back again to revisit the life and death of this global icon once again. I’m a fan of him, not a crazy one that collect his memorabilia all over the world or going to learn kung fu after watching his movies, but I do appreciate his success as a person for what he was able to accomplish in his lifetime. It is undisputable that he is really an unprecedented figure that has both substance and credential to become a very unique global icon since his death in 1973. However, just playing as a devil’s advocate, I would like to share about my feeling about who he is (based on public records available) and what the media/world views about him.
Is Bruce Lee really a true Chinese hero?
Chinese media all these years loves to proclaim that Bruce Lee is a Chinese hero, who stood up for fellow countrymen against foreigners and telling them that Chinese is not the ‘Sick man of the Orient’. Well….. I don’t think that is really the case.
Firstly about the ‘Chinese’ part, few Chinese media would point out that Bruce Lee is not ‘pure’ Chinese in blood. His mom is a Eurasian of half Chinese, half German. So, Bruce Lee is actually ¾ Chinese, and ¼ German. He was born in San Francisco while his dad, a stage artist, was performing there on tour. His mom travelled along and gave birth to young Bruce in the hospital there on Jackson Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown. So, he is a natural born U.S. citizen of Chinese decent. Certainly, he was also a legal resident of Hong Kong, a British colony then. As such, I don’t see how much more (if not less) Chinese he was compared with many other Hong Kong residents at that time.
In terms of being a ‘hero’, before he went to the States for college, he was an average student with poor discipline. Namely, he got in fight with others in many occasions. He was also an actor on silver screen, mostly in drama movies. He was very into martial arts and learnt dancing as well. So, he was actually very ‘normal’ teenager and had done nothing heroic at that time. During his time in the States, he became a college student, practiced and even taught martial arts to anyone willing to learn and pay. He then became an actor, fighting his way into the Caucasian Hollywood establishment, and finally got a part on Green Hornet. In spite of the mask that partially hidden his Asian identity, his role of Kato shined in that short-lived TV series. He showed his martial art skill in the Long Beach Karate Competition in California, though he didn’t compete in that tournament himself. His impressive skills later attracted Hollywood stars to become his students. He married a Caucasian girl and had 2 kids. He wrote a book that portrait his martial art practice as well as his created martial art philosophy – Jeet Kune Do. He had fought his way on his personal career path, becoming an ambassador of Chinese martial arts. His willingness to teach Kung Fu to non-Chinese stirred up criticisms among traditional Chinese Kung Fu masters. However, he was later highly regarded as a bridge of marital art culture between the East and the West. All of the above definitely qualified him as a successful person in more than one aspect. But, what he did was still nothing really heroic from my point of view.
After he went back to Hong Kong, he became a real martial art superstar on screen. Breaking down the traditional image and mold of old martial art stereotypes in movies and did 3 ½ movies before his tragic and mystery death at the age of mere 33. He did portrait some heroic characters in his movies. However, perhaps he is a very good martial art practitioner in real life, many people and the media kinda mix up with the roles in his movies with the real person himself. His early and sudden death escalated his status and magnified his imagery in the public consciousness to an unprecedented level. The combination of his experience, background and success are so unique that it had been failed to be replicated all these years since his death. His iconic and legendary status and the mix-up of his movie characters with his real self have been further solidified rather than diluted across the globe as time goes by. Besides the commercial factor, the most important reason why he is regarded as a Chinese hero is that most Chinese people really want him to be a Chinese hero.
There are plenty of heroic figures throughout the long Chinese history. Nevertheless, besides being recorded in texts, sculptures, or on painting, their heroic stories are seemed to be too remote for modern day Chinese to relate to. In these days and age, people are more prone to modern media, i.e. audio and visual for information. Other Chinese famous figures in relatively modern times who might have done heroic acts, do also came with more controversial political background and other debatable elements for what they have else accomplished or associated with. Therefore, it was actually really hard to come up with heroes that are widely agreeable and accepted among most Chinese. But, Chinese people who are no different from most other ethnic groups do love to have heroes of their own to be looked up to. Somehow, Bruce Lee fits the bill. He was a handsome, strong and charismatic young man. What he did on screen was very direct, simple and matches our natural instinct: just physically beat the shit of the bad guys. There were no complicate, difficult to understand, political sensitive motive behind his motives. His short life also indirectly stopped him from doing anything in real life that might contradict his image.
Bruce Lee’s legacy was captured by media and became easier access for millions. We can find thousands of his clips on YouTube and hundreds of websites dedicated to him. Also, with CG technology is getting better and better, artists use his image to create imaginary clips of what Bruce Lee can do but never actually did. His early death at his physical prime was able to leave him that forever young and fierce image in our mind.
I think that Bruce Lee’s public image will live on for foreseeable future, definitely way pass our lifetime.
Monday, December 13, 2010
1. Happy childhood
2. No large regret of wrong doings while looking back.
3. Good health
4. Good exposure to advancing level of education.
5. Access to a wide variety of healthy and fresh foods
6. Sufficient clothing for different occasions
7. Sufficient living space
8. Access to environmental-friendly means of transportation
9. Enjoy maximum but equal personal level of freedom in the society
10. Living under democracy
11. Visits to various famous landmarks/natural wonders/historical heritage sites all over the world
12. To love and to be loved
13. Have started my own family
14. Access to favorite personal entertainments on demand, e.g. movies and music
15. Read good books
16. Knowledge and ability to appreciate certain types of art
17. Good BMI
18. Die naturally and peacefully in old age
19. Sense of humor
20. Small group of life-long friends
21. Experience in voluntary works/charity
22. Capability to learn new skills throughout my life
23. Unlimited access to information
24. Ability to sleep through the nights and dream
25. Religious experience
26. Experience to teach
27. Experience to perform
28. Done no harm to others
29. Witness birth and death
30. Experience in painting/making sculpture
31. Experience to forgive
32. Ability to cook decent meals
33. Enjoy some sport activities, like jogging, dancing, biking, etc
34. Experience as a pet owner
35. Experience in gardening
Friday, December 10, 2010
In the center of this storm is the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, who is now getting the top vote for being the Man of the Year in Times. Like most regular folks, I don’t know this man until recent days of news bombarded by his whereabouts, his surrender to British Police for his alleged crime of rape charged by the Swedish government. The whole saga is still unfolding. The world is staying tune for his fate in the coming months. I guess I’m gonna keep track of his news in due course.
Well, the whole Wikileaks saga will certainly be written in books in future. Assange is though reported to be the founder of Wikileaks, I think that he has become the figurehead of a greater technological movement (revolution?) that is due to happen no matter what.
Back in the old days, secrets of government were kept in physical hardcopy which could be secured by locks and bolts. Those information would not be disclosed until the government deems suitable, if ever. Like in the U.S., government records can’t be openly access by the public until 30 years later from the occurrence of the incidents, the content of many of them would still be scratched with black inks. For other governments, that may never open at all. I can understand that for some non-democratic governments as they sought power through various dirty means. While they were in power, they abused their powers and did many bad things to their people. Granting access to those government secrets simply invites investigation, compensation, and punishment of the wrongdoers, and many of them are probably still in power and have significant influence behind the scene. Thus, in order to get access to those secrets, you would need thieves, spies, and probably insiders. Also, obtaining the information is one thing; subsequent transportation, storage, and distribution were also substantial tasks themselves.
Fast forward to these days and age, internet changes everything. Web 2.0 and the upcoming 3.0 level the playing fields for all cyber netizens to be involved. Government secrets are kept in digital form and the cyber-security development is still the cat chasing the mice. Hacking technology is widely spread. On top of the reality that governments are still conducting activities that they want to keep from the public. The whole Wikileaks saga is destined to happen soon or later.
The disclosure of government records itself is not a bad thing. It holds the government to be accountable for its activities. We all know that lying and disguise are part of human nature, that applies to governments as well. Nobody would like their disguise being pull down to show what is hidden behind. However, as governments are getting more and more powerful, it would be hard for them to voluntarily tell people what they have been doing unless they are under pressure to do so. Technology is certainly a timely and effective tool to do just that. I would not defend any person in particular, Julian Assange in this case. But, the cause of disclosing government activities itself should be supported on the basis that governments should be accountable for its activities since they would directly affect the people who are being governed.
There were saying that some of the disclosures with names attached would put some ‘spies’ in personal threat and disclosures of some military activities would put troops in danger. Well, I’m not sure that would necessary be true. Since those who so-called would be threatened are under the strong protection of governments. Whereas, Wikileaks and its informants in this case are more likely to be threatened for real. Just read the news that Julian Assange has been charged by some ‘alleged’ sex ‘crimes’ which sounds to be more being ‘fabricated’ than for real. Also, Wikileaks’ technical and financial supports have been blocked, and the image of this organization is being attacked by some politicians and mainstream media. You can see how the whole international government and financial structure is trying to squeeze this tiny organization to death. Yes, there are some ‘anonymous’ hackers are carrying out counter cyberattacks on sites of Sweden Government, PayPal, Visa and MasterCard, etc. I don’t think they would do much real damage to those powerful entities. The biggest arsenal on Wikileaks’ side is the not-yet-disclosed documents that they still have on hand, in which contain what more explosive secrets. Nevertheless, I really doubt how much actual realistic damage such so-called ‘Information nuke’ can really do.
There is one thing that I really want to raise that I consider to be the most important but there seems to be missing in the news. i.e. what are the follow-up actions or repercussion of the disclosure so far to those who have been reported with wrongful activities? For example, Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of States was reported to instruct staff of embassies to collect personal information and even DNA from diplomats in various countries and organization. It was reportedly against the law or something. But, I’ve not heard that anyone has raised any investigation or file any charges to her. How about the U.S. military’s assaults to civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq? Same thing is happening. Namely, nothing happens!
I would say that down the road when we will look back the whole saga. It will be concluded as: Truth was told, shame was casted on the wrongdoers (if they ever care), history recorded these activities in open records, some moral lessons can be taught, but justice wasn’t served.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
How America will collapse (by 2025)
Four scenarios that could spell the end of the United States as we know it -- in the very near future
By Alfred McCoy
This piece originally appeared on TomDispatch.
A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.
Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.
Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America's downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.
But have no doubt: when Washington's global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.
Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.
Significantly, in 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted for the first time that America's global power was indeed on a declining trajectory. In one of its periodic futuristic reports, Global Trends 2025, the Council cited "the transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way, roughly from West to East" and "without precedent in modern history," as the primary factor in the decline of the "United States' relative strength -- even in the military realm." Like many in Washington, however, the Council’s analysts anticipated a very long, very soft landing for American global preeminence, and harbored the hope that somehow the U.S. would long "retain unique military capabilities… to project military power globally" for decades to come.
No such luck. Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind China (already the world's second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America's current supply of brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger generation.
By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying empire. It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents Washington's last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence. By that year, however, China's global network of communications satellites, backed by the world's most powerful supercomputers, will also be fully operational, providing Beijing with an independent platform for the weaponization of space and a powerful communications system for missile- or cyber-strikes into every quadrant of the globe.
Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d'Orsay before it, the White House still seems to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle, and partial. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that "I do not accept second place for the United States of America." A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea that "we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy's prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended." Similarly, writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China's economic and military rise, dismissing "misleading metaphors of organic decline" and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power was underway.
Ordinary Americans, watching their jobs head overseas, have a more realistic view than their cosseted leaders. An opinion poll in August 2010 found that 65 percent of Americans believed the country was now "in a state of decline." Already, Australia and Turkey, traditional U.S. military allies, are using their American-manufactured weapons for joint air and naval maneuvers with China. Already, America's closest economic partners are backing away from Washington's opposition to China's rigged currency rates. As the president flew back from his Asian tour last month, a gloomy New York Times headline summed the moment up this way: "Obama's Economic View Is Rejected on World Stage, China, Britain and Germany Challenge U.S., Trade Talks With Seoul Fail, Too."
Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington's wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council's own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today). The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III. While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.
Economic Decline: Present Situation
Today, three main threats exist to America’s dominant position in the global economy: loss of economic clout thanks to a shrinking share of world trade, the decline of American technological innovation, and the end of the dollar's privileged status as the global reserve currency.
By 2008, the United States had already fallen to number three in global merchandise exports, with just 11 percent of them compared to 12 percent for China and 16 percent for the European Union. There is no reason to believe that this trend will reverse itself.
Similarly, American leadership in technological innovation is on the wane. In 2008, the U.S. was still number two behind Japan in worldwide patent applications with 232,000, but China was closing fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400 percent increase since 2000. A harbinger of further decline: in 2009 the U.S. hit rock bottom in ranking among the 40 nations surveyed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation when it came to "change" in "global innovation-based competitiveness" during the previous decade. Adding substance to these statistics, in October China's Defense Ministry unveiled the world's fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A, so powerful, said one U.S. expert, that it "blows away the existing No. 1 machine" in America.
Add to this clear evidence that the U.S. education system, that source of future scientists and innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. After leading the world for decades in 25- to 34-year-olds with university degrees, the country sank to 12th place in 2010. The World Economic Forum ranked the United States at a mediocre 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly half of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are now foreigners, most of whom will be heading home, not staying here as once would have happened. By 2025, in other words, the United States is likely to face a critical shortage of talented scientists.
Such negative trends are encouraging increasingly sharp criticism of the dollar's role as the world’s reserve currency. "Other countries are no longer willing to buy into the idea that the U.S. knows best on economic policy," observed Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. In mid-2009, with the world's central banks holding an astronomical $4 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes, Russian president Dimitri Medvedev insisted that it was time to end "the artificially maintained unipolar system" based on "one formerly strong reserve currency."
Simultaneously, China's central bank governor suggested that the future might lie with a global reserve currency "disconnected from individual nations" (that is, the U.S. dollar). Take these as signposts of a world to come, and of a possible attempt, as economist Michael Hudson has argued, "to hasten the bankruptcy of the U.S. financial-military world order."
Economic Decline: Scenario 2020
After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2020, as long expected, the U.S. dollar finally loses its special status as the world's reserve currency. Suddenly, the cost of imports soars. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under pressure at home and abroad, Washington slowly pulls U.S. forces back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter. By now, however, it is far too late.
Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying the bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers, great and regional, provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace. Meanwhile, amid soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in real wages, domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over remarkably irrelevant issues. Riding a political tide of disillusionment and despair, a far-right patriot captures the presidency with thundering rhetoric, demanding respect for American authority and threatening military retaliation or economic reprisal. The world pays next to no attention as the American Century ends in silence.
Oil Shock: Present Situation
One casualty of America's waning economic power has been its lock on global oil supplies. Speeding by America's gas-guzzling economy in the passing lane, China became the world's number one energy consumer this summer, a position the U.S. had held for over a century. Energy specialist Michael Klare has argued that this change means China will "set the pace in shaping our global future."
By 2025, Iran and Russia will control almost half of the world's natural gas supply, which will potentially give them enormous leverage over energy-starved Europe. Add petroleum reserves to the mix and, as the National Intelligence Council has warned, in just 15 years two countries, Russia and Iran, could "emerge as energy kingpins."
Despite remarkable ingenuity, the major oil powers are now draining the big basins of petroleum reserves that are amenable to easy, cheap extraction. The real lesson of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was not BP's sloppy safety standards, but the simple fact everyone saw on "spillcam": one of the corporate energy giants had little choice but to search for what Klare calls "tough oil" miles beneath the surface of the ocean to keep its profits up.
Compounding the problem, the Chinese and Indians have suddenly become far heavier energy consumers. Even if fossil fuel supplies were to remain constant (which they won’t), demand, and so costs, are almost certain to rise -- and sharply at that. Other developed nations are meeting this threat aggressively by plunging into experimental programs to develop alternative energy sources. The United States has taken a different path, doing far too little to develop alternative sources while, in the last three decades, doubling its dependence on foreign oil imports. Between 1973 and 2007, oil imports have risen from 36 percent of energy consumed in the U.S. to 66 percent.
Oil Shock: Scenario 2025
The United States remains so dependent upon foreign oil that a few adverse developments in the global energy market in 2025 spark an oil shock. By comparison, it makes the 1973 oil shock (when prices quadrupled in just months) look like the proverbial molehill. Angered at the dollar's plummeting value, OPEC oil ministers, meeting in Riyadh, demand future energy payments in a "basket" of Yen, Yuan, and Euros. That only hikes the cost of U.S. oil imports further. At the same moment, while signing a new series of long-term delivery contracts with China, the Saudis stabilize their own foreign exchange reserves by switching to the Yuan. Meanwhile, China pours countless billions into building a massive trans-Asia pipeline and funding Iran's exploitation of the world largest percent natural gas field at South Pars in the Persian Gulf.
Concerned that the U.S. Navy might no longer be able to protect the oil tankers traveling from the Persian Gulf to fuel East Asia, a coalition of Tehran, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi form an unexpected new Gulf alliance and affirm that China's new fleet of swift aircraft carriers will henceforth patrol the Persian Gulf from a base on the Gulf of Oman. Under heavy economic pressure, London agrees to cancel the U.S. lease on its Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia, while Canberra, pressured by the Chinese, informs Washington that the Seventh Fleet is no longer welcome to use Fremantle as a homeport, effectively evicting the U.S. Navy from the Indian Ocean.
With just a few strokes of the pen and some terse announcements, the "Carter Doctrine," by which U.S. military power was to eternally protect the Persian Gulf, is laid to rest in 2025. All the elements that long assured the United States limitless supplies of low-cost oil from that region -- logistics, exchange rates, and naval power -- evaporate. At this point, the U.S. can still cover only an insignificant 12 percent of its energy needs from its nascent alternative energy industry, and remains dependent on imported oil for half of its energy consumption.
The oil shock that follows hits the country like a hurricane, sending prices to startling heights, making travel a staggeringly expensive proposition, putting real wages (which had long been declining) into freefall, and rendering non-competitive whatever American exports remained. With thermostats dropping, gas prices climbing through the roof, and dollars flowing overseas in return for costly oil, the American economy is paralyzed. With long-fraying alliances at an end and fiscal pressures mounting, U.S. military forces finally begin a staged withdrawal from their overseas bases.
Within a few years, the U.S. is functionally bankrupt and the clock is ticking toward midnight on the American Century.
Military Misadventure: Present Situation
Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military misadventures. This phenomenon is known among historians of empire as "micro-militarism" and seems to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically. These operations, irrational even from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the loss of power.
Embattled empires through the ages suffer an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle. In 413 BCE, a weakened Athens sent 200 ships to be slaughtered in Sicily. In 1921, a dying imperial Spain dispatched 20,000 soldiers to be massacred by Berber guerrillas in Morocco. In 1956, a fading British Empire destroyed its prestige by attacking Suez. And in 2001 and 2003, the U.S. occupied Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. With the hubris that marks empires over the millennia, Washington has increased its troops in Afghanistan to 100,000, expanded the war into Pakistan, and extended its commitment to 2014 and beyond, courting disasters large and small in this guerilla-infested, nuclear-armed graveyard of empires.
Military Misadventure: Scenario 2014
So irrational, so unpredictable is "micro-militarism" that seemingly fanciful scenarios are soon outdone by actual events. With the U.S. military stretched thin from Somalia to the Philippines and tensions rising in Israel, Iran, and Korea, possible combinations for a disastrous military crisis abroad are multifold.
It’s mid-summer 2014 and a drawn-down U.S. garrison in embattled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is suddenly, unexpectedly overrun by Taliban guerrillas, while U.S. aircraft are grounded by a blinding sandstorm. Heavy loses are taken and in retaliation, an embarrassed American war commander looses B-1 bombers and F-16 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of the city that are believed to be under Taliban control, while AC-130U "Spooky" gunships rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire.
Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques throughout the region, and Afghan Army units, long trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse. Taliban fighters then launch a series of remarkably sophisticated strikes aimed at U.S. garrisons across the country, sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S. helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops in Kabul and Kandahar.
Meanwhile, angry at the endless, decades-long stalemate over Palestine, OPEC’s leaders impose a new oil embargo on the U.S. to protest its backing of Israel as well as the killing of untold numbers of Muslim civilians in its ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East. With gas prices soaring and refineries running dry, Washington makes its move, sending in Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf. This, in turn, sparks a rash of suicide attacks and the sabotage of pipelines and oil wells. As black clouds billow skyward and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back into history to brand this "America's Suez," a telling reference to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of the British Empire.
World War III: Present Situation
In the summer of 2010, military tensions between the U.S. and China began to rise in the western Pacific, once considered an American "lake." Even a year earlier no one would have predicted such a development. As Washington played upon its alliance with London to appropriate much of Britain's global power after World War II, so China is now using the profits from its export trade with the U.S. to fund what is likely to become a military challenge to American dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.
With its growing resources, Beijing is claiming a vast maritime arc from Korea to Indonesia long dominated by the U.S. Navy. In August, after Washington expressed a "national interest" in the South China Sea and conducted naval exercises there to reinforce that claim, Beijing's official Global Times responded angrily, saying, "The U.S.-China wrestling match over the South China Sea issue has raised the stakes in deciding who the real future ruler of the planet will be."
Amid growing tensions, the Pentagon reported that Beijing now holds "the capability to attack… [U.S.] aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean" and target "nuclear forces throughout… the continental United States." By developing "offensive nuclear, space, and cyber warfare capabilities," China seems determined to vie for dominance of what the Pentagon calls "the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battlespace." With ongoing development of the powerful Long March V booster rocket, as well as the launch of two satellites in January 2010 and another in July, for a total of five, Beijing signaled that the country was making rapid strides toward an "independent" network of 35 satellites for global positioning, communications, and reconnaissance capabilities by 2020.
To check China and extend its military position globally, Washington is intent on building a new digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and electronic surveillance. Military planners expect this integrated system to envelop the Earth in a cyber-grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield or taking out a single terrorist in field or favela. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of space drones -- reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance.
Last April, the Pentagon made history. It extended drone operations into the exosphere by quietly launching the X-37B unmanned space shuttle into a low orbit 255 miles above the planet. The X-37B is the first in a new generation of unmanned vehicles that will mark the full weaponization of space, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before.
World War III: Scenario 2025
The technology of space and cyberwarfare is so new and untested that even the most outlandish scenarios may soon be superseded by a reality still hard to conceive. If we simply employ the sort of scenarios that the Air Force itself used in its 2009 Future Capabilities Game, however, we can gain "a better understanding of how air, space and cyberspace overlap in warfare," and so begin to imagine how the next world war might actually be fought.
It’s 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday in 2025. While cyber-shoppers pound the portals of Best Buy for deep discounts on the latest home electronics from China, U.S. Air Force technicians at the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) on Maui choke on their coffee as their panoramic screens suddenly blip to black. Thousands of miles away at the U.S. CyberCommand's operations center in Texas, cyberwarriors soon detect malicious binaries that, though fired anonymously, show the distinctive digital fingerprints of China's People's Liberation Army.
The first overt strike is one nobody predicted. Chinese "malware" seizes control of the robotics aboard an unmanned solar-powered U.S. "Vulture" drone as it flies at 70,000 feet over the Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan. It suddenly fires all the rocket pods beneath its enormous 400-foot wingspan, sending dozens of lethal missiles plunging harmlessly into the Yellow Sea, effectively disarming this formidable weapon.
Determined to fight fire with fire, the White House authorizes a retaliatory strike. Confident that its F-6 "Fractionated, Free-Flying" satellite system is impenetrable, Air Force commanders in California transmit robotic codes to the flotilla of X-37B space drones orbiting 250 miles above the Earth, ordering them to launch their "Triple Terminator" missiles at China's 35 satellites. Zero response. In near panic, the Air Force launches its Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle into an arc 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and then, just 20 minutes later, sends the computer codes to fire missiles at seven Chinese satellites in nearby orbits. The launch codes are suddenly inoperative.
As the Chinese virus spreads uncontrollably through the F-6 satellite architecture, while those second-rate U.S. supercomputers fail to crack the malware's devilishly complex code, GPS signals crucial to the navigation of U.S. ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised. Carrier fleets begin steaming in circles in the mid-Pacific. Fighter squadrons are grounded. Reaper drones fly aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. Suddenly, the United States loses what the U.S. Air Force has long called "the ultimate high ground": space. Within hours, the military power that had dominated the globe for nearly a century has been defeated in World War III without a single human casualty.
A New World Order?
Even if future events prove duller than these four scenarios suggest, every significant trend points toward a far more striking decline in American global power by 2025 than anything Washington now seems to be envisioning.
As allies worldwide begin to realign their policies to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the cost of maintaining 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington. With both the U.S. and China in a race to weaponize space and cyberspace, tensions between the two powers are bound to rise, making military conflict by 2025 at least feasible, if hardly guaranteed.
Complicating matters even more, the economic, military, and technological trends outlined above will not operate in tidy isolation. As happened to European empires after World War II, such negative forces will undoubtedly prove synergistic. They will combine in thoroughly unexpected ways, create crises for which Americans are remarkably unprepared, and threaten to spin the economy into a sudden downward spiral, consigning this country to a generation or more of economic misery.
As U.S. power recedes, the past offers a spectrum of possibilities for a future world order. At one end of this spectrum, the rise of a new global superpower, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out. Yet both China and Russia evince self-referential cultures, recondite non-roman scripts, regional defense strategies, and underdeveloped legal systems, denying them key instruments for global dominion. At the moment then, no single superpower seems to be on the horizon likely to succeed the U.S.
In a dark, dystopian version of our global future, a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral forces like NATO, and an international financial elite could conceivably forge a single, possibly unstable, supra-national nexus that would make it no longer meaningful to speak of national empires at all. While denationalized corporations and multinational elites would assumedly rule such a world from secure urban enclaves, the multitudes would be relegated to urban and rural wastelands.
In "Planet of Slums," Mike Davis offers at least a partial vision of such a world from the bottom up. He argues that the billion people already packed into fetid favela-style slums worldwide (rising to two billion by 2030) will make "the 'feral, failed cities' of the Third World… the distinctive battlespace of the twenty-first century." As darkness settles over some future super-favela, "the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression" as "hornet-like helicopter gun-ships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts… Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions."
At a midpoint on the spectrum of possible futures, a new global oligopoly might emerge between 2020 and 2040, with rising powers China, Russia, India, and Brazil collaborating with receding powers like Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States to enforce an ad hoc global dominion, akin to the loose alliance of European empires that ruled half of humanity circa 1900.
Another possibility: the rise of regional hegemons in a return to something reminiscent of the international system that operated before modern empires took shape. In this neo-Westphalian world order, with its endless vistas of micro-violence and unchecked exploitation, each hegemon would dominate its immediate region -- Brasilia in South America, Washington in North America, Pretoria in southern Africa, and so on. Space, cyberspace, and the maritime deeps, removed from the control of the former planetary "policeman," the United States, might even become a new global commons, controlled through an expanded U.N. Security Council or some ad hoc body.
All of these scenarios extrapolate existing trends into the future on the assumption that Americans, blinded by the arrogance of decades of historically unparalleled power, cannot or will not take steps to manage the unchecked erosion of their global position.
If America's decline is in fact on a 22-year trajectory from 2003 to 2025, then we have already frittered away most of the first decade of that decline with wars that distracted us from long-term problems and, like water tossed onto desert sands, wasted trillions of desperately needed dollars.
If only 15 years remain, the odds of frittering them all away still remain high. Congress and the president are now in gridlock; the American system is flooded with corporate money meant to jam up the works; and there is little suggestion that any issues of significance, including our wars, our bloated national security state, our starved education system, and our antiquated energy supplies, will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might maximize our country's role and prosperity in a changing world.
Europe's empires are gone and America's imperium is going. It seems increasingly doubtful that the United States will have anything like Britain's success in shaping a succeeding world order that protects its interests, preserves its prosperity, and bears the imprint of its best values.
Alfred W. McCoy is the J.R.W. Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, "From the Cold War to the War on Terror." Later this year, "Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State," a forthcoming book of his, will explore the influence of overseas counterinsurgency operations on the spread of internal security measures here at home. More: Alfred W. McCoy
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Few weeks back when I was catching up with an old friend for lunch, one topic got picked up was about my current hobby of collecting ‘things’. Come to think of it, I would say that object-collection is one of the oldest activities of human beings. Our ancestors collected nuts, grains for foods, rocks, bones for weaponry. As we have higher intelligence to develop and appreciate art, we began with collecting things from nature, like feathers, sea-shells, rocks, to handmade stuff like crafts, ceramics, etc as gifts or symbol of wealth. Such activity of collection has never stopped regardless of race or wealth. Actually, there are still people collecting those old things like sea-shells these days and became expert of it.
Why do we like the activity of collecting? I think the joy of ownership is a key point. One of the most important things that any collector will do is to liaise with other collectors to compare as well as exchange their knowledge of their collections. To be able to claim the ownership of certain hard-to-find hidden gems, to become and being recognized an expert of certain things as a result of growing collection are what most collectors are striking for.
Well, about things that being collect, the list is endless. For me, I collected stamps when I was a kid. I would collect all kind of stamps, regardless of their countries or history. I would count how many I have and wouldn’t mind getting same stamps over and over. From that hobby, I began building my knowledge in Geography and Nations, then further expanded to national flags and other information about countries in general. After I got to high school, I had given up collecting stamps, cuz I began to have other hobbies that cost money and got my attention. For example, I began to read comics, novels and became a music-lover. I would borrow and rent novels, buy and trade comics. I also loved to buy cassette tapes of songs or blank cassettes to record songs from others. Nevertheless, I could say that I was never an idol-chaser myself, so I was never compulsive to collect all songs of my favorite groups or singers. So, I became more a consumer rather than a collector of any sort.
All these years of purchases, I couldn’t help but end up with pile of things from my hobbies in books, CDs, etc. I enjoyed them quite a bit when I was still single. After I got married and became a parent, I just don’t have the time anymore to enjoy my collections as much as I want to. Therefore, I rarely buy any of those things these days. For example, I stopped to go to any book fair for almost ten years since the last time that I recalled that I still had unread books purchased in book fair two years back. Then, I realized that I should not go to book fair anymore, cuz book fair is indeed a very seductive place for purchasing books. In addition, few house-moving experiences gave me very vivid account of how many stuff I’ve collected all through those years. The boxes of books and discs were heavy to move, and they take up so much living space. Also, as I bought those things after careful selection, many of them do mean something to me. I can recall how difficult they were found, how lucky I was able to come across them, and how much I enjoy them back then. I didn’t want to give them up unless I have to. As my space is limited, I can’t help but face the music, i.e. have to put off buying as many books or CDs, DVDs as I want to in recent years.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t stop me from collecting those things. I just do that digitally! Digital files in the formats of Mp3, pdf, mov, etc are just beauties. The best thing about them is that they don’t take up much space, cost of hard drive is getting lower and their capacity is greater as time goes by. Before chatting with my friend, I was always thinking that my downloading activity of those files was simply a way of instant acquisition for later consumption because I was too busy to enjoy them. In many cases, my belief does apply. However, after I told my friend the size of my collection, I began to realize how ridiculously big my collection is and I may have under a condition of a slightly compulsive behavior of collecting files. I might actually enjoy the process of searching and downloading those files, rather than really enjoying them.
Cuz, comparing with other book lovers or music lovers, their collections may be more reasonable in sizes which are fitted for a hobby. Namely, as music lovers, they may have few thousands songs of the favorite genres or musicians. As book-readers, they may have one to two hundred books on their selves that they would actually read. However, my mp3 collection is well in 5 figures and my eBook collection is surging in recent weeks to many GBs. I don’t think I would have the chance to listen and read all of them any time soon if ever given my hectic busy life. That still hasn’t stopped my desire to continue search and download. I think owning collections of songs as a mini-radio station or owning books as many as a section in library is something fun.
I don’t think I’m an expert of my collections since I really don’t have the chance to really enjoy them. But, I do have gratification in sharing my collection with others. Fortunately, this current hobby so far is not hurting anyone, me included, and it doesn’t cost me too much. Thus, come to think of the limited time I have to enjoy any hobby, given that this digital file collection hobby only requires few clicks away, I think I will continue to keep this hobby in foreseeable future.