Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Heterotechnology: Improvised Weapons

In recent news, there is a man who assembles guns, explosives, and other weapons from items beyond airport security. Of interest was the fact basic chemistry is used for an explosive charge, by combining water and lithium. While this differs from conventional black powder and propellants, it is still the use an explosive reaction to propel a projectile. As new security measures arise, so to do new ways around them. A better pro-active response may seek to discourage certain types of behavior (such as attention seeking and denial of infamy) than bans on toenail clippers.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Decriminalization and Relegalization

"The more laws and order are made prominent, the more thieves and robbers there will be." -Laozi


As the total body of laws expand, selective interpretation of laws can be used against anyone. As surveillance infrastructure expands around the world, and into the future, becoming truly invisible is increasingly impossible.

A proper response, I believe, is not to double down on prosecuting nonviolent criminal offenses, but repeal bodies of law that are increasingly troublesome to enforce. Dr. David Brin suggested something similar with the US tax code. The problem with centuries of legalism is that only lawyers (and those that can successful hire lawyers) can successfully navigate the system.

Examples can be found in places from removing traffic signs (and reducing accidents) to countries stepping back from the drug war (or treating addictions as medical issues rather than criminal ones). Even weapons laws could be repealed (or at least made simplified), as socio-economic factors contributing to crime and attention-seeking spree murders could be more easily handled.

Smaller countries, such as Iceland, Switzerland, New Zealand, and Singapore, may be able to do this much faster. In the US, the solution is already in the name: United "States." The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution essentially gives individuals and states powers and rights that had not been considered yet. I believe that future generations will not seek legal permission for something (marriage, lifestyle, etc.), but instead simply do it. "Do what you want, so long as you do not hurt others," becomes easier when there is less bureaucratic red tape. With relocalization and information technology reducing the needs of industrial age bureaucracy, networked structures emerge faster than bureaucracies can adapt.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Heterotech Computing and Electronics

One issue that could adversely affect the widespread adoption and use of electronics is disruption of supply chains of the conventional commercial entities manufacturing them. Despite the potential reuse of materials and e-waste from landfills and second hand shops, there are heterotechnical alternatives (if less efficient for now).

Now, computers and electronics are two separate things, as Babbage engines and the abacus are both computing technologies that do not require electrical energy. More exotic alternatives, such as biocomputers, may integrate other forms, but for purposes of this entry, we will focus on electronic computers.

Copper and iron may be used to make rudimentary analog components, even with antiquated manufacturing techniques (e.g. blacksmithing). Even microcircuitry might be manufactured in similar ways, such as with silver nanoparticle using 3D printers and that's before considering graphene.

The primary issues of these heterotechnologies relative to conventional CMOS are power, scale, and computing time required. They would be bulkier and require exotic feedstocks (in the case of bacterial computing), making information recovery and storage a bit more of a hassle. Likewise, the risk of utilizing bacteria is an unexpected die-off or competitor could wipe out your data. The solution, therefore, would likely involve directing them to make lots of backups.

The flip side, though, is they'd need less electrical power. Maybe a small turbine by a stream, windmill, crude chemical battery, or even hand crack could be sufficient (alongside glucose or lactate for our single-celled friends). The resultant apparatus would resemble a byzantine mess of vats, tubes, wires, and boxes, like something from a mad scientist's lab. Perhaps combined with a similarly bizarre ham radio, it could be connected with others. One possibility is perhaps a computer virus infecting a network becomes quite literal. It certainly is a fun sci-fi concept.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Abuse of Authority

One of the trademarks of supervillainy, as opposed to mere corruption, is the institutionalization of what we typically call abuse of power. Power becomes exercised for its own sake, rather than any constructive or even feigned positive use. Case in point: abuse of eminent domain to benefit real estate developers at the expense of locals. Given the trends around the world, this can and will continue to get worse.