Page tree

Versions Compared


  • This line was added.
  • This line was removed.
  • Formatting was changed.

Please note that the links here are intended to inspire to think about these topics - they are not necessarily the best or most informative. You can surely find better materials by searching the internet.


Human life on planet earth is facing great challenges. It is clear that we can not continue to live according to our current lifestyles for a very long period into the future, for many reasons.

As an example, all societies depend on the use of fossil fuels that we know will be depleted soon. In addition, the use of fossil fuels is causing global warming which will cause many changes in the earth's climate that we do not yet even understand. The lifestyles and business mechanics that are practiced today are also causing many other large changes that can not be sustained over time. There are also many societal problems that need to be solved for a sustainable future.

Because of these pressures, we know that in the future, the society will be different - it will have a different design. If we can not find good solutions, we will drift into changes, possibly through bad catastrofies, may end up with really bad designs that present very large problems. The aim of the Redesign of Society initiative is to engage everyone to begin to think about the future of society, to become aware of the problems we are facing, and to think about the direction where we should be heading - both in our roles as individual citizens as well as professional experts.

This page is a collection of topics that we should take into account as issues and problems that we are facing, and that we should find a way to deal with in our utopia of 2040.


Please note that the links here are intended to inspire to think about these topics - they are not necessarily the best or most informative. You can surely find better materials by searching the internet.

 Climate change, global warming, melting glaciers, sea level rise, extreme weather

  • climate change -
  • global warming -

  • United Nations Environment Programme
    • "There is alarming evidence that important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major ecosystems and the planetary climate system, may already have been reached or passed. Ecosystems as diverse as the Amazon rainforest and the Arctic tundra, for example, may be approaching thresholds of dramatic change through warming and drying. Mountain glaciers are in alarming retreat and the downstream effects of reduced water supply in the driest months will have repercussions that transcend generations. Climate feedback systems and environmental cumulative effects are building across Earth systems demonstrating behaviours we cannot anticipate."
  • "The world is warming faster than we thought - It's worse than we thought. Scientists may have hugely underestimated the extent of global warming because temperature readings from southern hemisphere seas were inaccurate."

  • Leonardo DiCaprio at the UN: 'Climate change is not hysteria – it's a fact'
    • "As an actor I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems.

      I believe humankind has looked at climate change in that same way: as if it were a fiction, happening to someone else’s planet, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.

      But I think we know better than that. Every week, we’re seeing new and undeniable climate events, evidence that accelerated climate change is here now. We know that droughts are intensifying, our oceans are warming and acidifying, with methane plumes rising up from beneath the ocean floor. We are seeing extreme weather events, increased temperatures, and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice-sheets melting at unprecedented rates, decades ahead of scientific projections.

      None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria. It is fact. The scientific community knows it, Industry and governments know it, even the United States military knows it. The chief of the US navy’s Pacific command, admiral Samuel Locklear, recently said that climate change is our single greatest security threat."

    • "I am not a scientist, but I don’t need to be. Because the world’s scientific community has spoken, and they have given us our prognosis, if we do not act together, we will surely perish.

      Now is our moment for action.

      We need to put a pricetag on carbon emissions, and eliminate government subsidies for coal, gas, and oil companies. We need to end the free ride that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free-market economy, they don’t deserve our tax dollars, they deserve our scrutiny. For the economy itself will die if our ecosystems collapse."

  • "CHASING ICE" captures largest glacier calving ever filmed

    • "On May 28, 2008, Adam LeWinter and Director Jeff Orlowski filmed a historic breakup at the Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland. The calving event lasted for 75 minutes and the glacier retreated a full mile across a calving face three miles wide. The height of the ice is about 3,000 feet, 300-400 feet above water and the rest below water."
  • NASA - Vital Signs
  • "Unprecedented shift in temperature will begin to hit tropics in less than a decade"

Use of non-renewable and unsafe energy

Depletion and destruction of resources such as water, raw materials, rainforests, or fisheries

Unhealthy, unethical and unsustainable food production

The illegal and unethical misuse and terrible security condition of the global digital infrastructure

  • illegal mass surveillance
    • "UN Report Finds Mass Surveillance Violates International Treaties and Privacy Rights"

    • Mass surveillance in New Zealand - "The Questions for New Zealand on Mass Surveillance"
      • "The full facts remain murky, there is no doubt about that. But we have learned a huge amount in the last few days about New Zealand’s surveillance apparatus. The Key government has been forced to admit that it secretly considered implementing a mass surveillance program that would have collected metadata on its own citizens (in the words of Key, it was “mass protection“). The government has also now acknowledged for the first time that it has granted GCSB access to large streams of data under the Cortex project under the auspices of cybersecurity. Crucially, it is clear that this same access could easily be exploited for a broader internet surveillance purpose under other programs, such as XKEYSCORE, a dragnet spying tool that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden alleges GCSB has access to. Even if Speargun were cancelled, Cortex is only a fragment of the full picture. The curious reference in the Cortex documents to technology that “has been in use for some time,” for instance, is just one striking example of this."
    • "Snowden: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Isn’t Telling the Truth About Mass Surveillance"
      • "Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called “XKEYSCORE.” It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance. It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals’ private email, text messages, and internet traffic. I know this because it was my full-time job in Hawaii, where I worked every day in an NSA facility with a top secret clearance."
      • "they have the ability see every website you visit, every text message you send, every call you make, every ticket you purchase, every donation you make, and every book you order online. From “I’m headed to church” to “I hate my boss” to “She’s in the hospital,” the GCSB is there. Your words are intercepted, stored, and analyzed by algorithms long before they’re ever read by your intended recipient."
      • "What we’re seeing today is that in New Zealand, the balance between the public’s right to know and the propriety of a secret is determined by a single factor: the political advantage it offers to a specific party and or a specific politician. This misuse of New Zealand’s spying apparatus for the benefit of a single individual is a historic concern, because even if you believe today’s prime minister is beyond reproach, he will not remain in power forever. What happens tomorrow, when a different leader assumes the same power to conceal and reveal things from the citizenry based not on what is required by free societies, but rather on what needs to be said to keep them in power?"
    • surveillance proposal in Japan - "Japan Proposes NSA Equivalent, Advanced Snooping"
  • privacy
    • "Why Privacy Matters: A TED Talk by Glenn Greenwald" - "Glenn Greenwald was one of the first reporters to see — and write about — the Edward Snowden files, with their revelations about the United States' extensive surveillance of private citizens. In this searing talk, Greenwald makes the case for why you need to care about privacy, even if you’re “not doing anything you need to hide." "
  • data gathering by companies
    • "Adobe is Spying on Users, Collecting Data on Their eBook Libraries"

      • "Adobe is gathering data on the ebooks that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order. All of this data, including the title, publisher, and other metadata for the book is being sent to Adobe’s server in clear text.

        I am not joking; Adobe is not only logging what users are doing, they’re also sending those logs to their servers in such a way that anyone running one of the servers in between can listen in and know everything,

        But wait, there’s more.

        Adobe isn’t just tracking what users are doing in DE4; this app was also scanning my computer, gathering the metadata from all of the ebooks sitting on my hard disk, and uploading that data to Adobe’s servers."

    • "How Much Does Google Really Know About You?"
      • "Taken as a whole, the information Google collects about users is shockingly complete. The company can mine your emails and Drive documents, track your browsing history, track the videos you watch on YouTube, obtain your WiFi passwords and much more.

        None of this is meant to be insidious, of course. Google’s interest is serving ads, and in this sense an accurate profile might be perceived as a boon; if you’re going to see ads, they might as well be ones that interest you. The reveal of the NSA’s PRISM program, however, has proven that data collection is always a privacy issue because there are organizations that can compel data from those who hold it, either through legal finagling or by force."

    • "It's Time To Admit The Amount Of Information Google Gathers About Us Is Terrifying"

      • "Google has achieved its dominance in our lives fairly. Its products are generally superior to those of its competitors. And they are often free to use. But now Google has access to way more information and data than it did 10 years ago. It's actually difficult to imagine what it would take to not choose Google.

        Google has the No.1 smartphone platform, with Android owning 52% market share in the U.S. Worldwide,  Android owns more than 80% of the smartphone market. Even on non-Android devices, Google offers its search app, Chrome, maps, and email. It has a massive audience of 187 million unique visitors on desktop alone, making it the most-visited web property in the U.S. Meanwhile, Google owns 67.6% of the search market in the U.S.,  according to the latest comScore report.

        From the consumer side, you could stop using all of Google's products, but living without Google is genuinely hard — there just aren't many better alternatives for search, web browsers, and email.

        Even if you were to completely cut out Google from your life, that wouldn't stop Google from taking high-resolution satellite images of your house. It also wouldn't stop Google Glass wearers from filming you.

        So it's not just that Google knows a lot about us, it's that we're at a point where our ability to not let Google know about us has serious consequences. It would be very difficult — for some people impossible — to live life without Google."

    • "How Your Data Are Being Deeply Mined"

      • "The recent revelations regarding the NSA’s collection of the personal information and the digital activities of millions of people across the world have attracted immense attention and public concern. But there are equally troubling and equally opaque systems run by advertising, marketing, and data-mining firms that are far less known. Using techniques ranging from supermarket loyalty cards to targeted advertising on Facebook, private companies systematically collect very personal information, from who you are, to what you do, to what you buy. Data about your online and offline behavior are combined, analyzed, and sold to marketers, corporations, governments, and even criminals. The scope of this collection, aggregation, and brokering of information is similar to, if not larger than, that of the NSA, yet it is almost entirely unregulated and many of the activities of data-mining and digital marketing firms are not publicly known at all.

        Here I will discuss two things: the involuntary, or passive, collecting of data by private corporations; and the voluntary, or active, collection and aggregation of their ownpersonal data by individuals. While I think it is the former that we should be more concerned with, the latter poses the question of whether it is possible for us to take full advantage of social media without playing into larger corporate interests."

  • hacking
    • hacking personal info
      • 2014 celebrity photo leaks -

        • "The Police Tool That Pervs Use to Steal Nude Pics From Apple’s iCloud"
          • "On the web forum Anon-IB, one of the most popular anonymous image boards for posting stolen nude selfies, hackers openly discuss using a piece of software called EPPB or Elcomsoft Phone Password Breaker to download their victims’ data from iCloud backups. That software is sold by Moscow-based forensics firm Elcomsoft and intended for government agency customers. In combination with iCloud credentials obtained with iBrute, the password-cracking software for iCloud released on Github over the weekend, EPPB lets anyone impersonate a victim’s iPhone and download its full backup rather than the more limited data accessible on And as of Tuesday, it was still being used to steal revealing photos and post them on Anon-IB’s forum."
        • "Inside the strange and seedy world where hackers trade celebrity nudes"
          • "A lengthy blog post from security researcher Dan Kaminsky has some details on what we’re probably looking at: information trading networks on the so called "darknet" — a term for private networks where connections are made only between trusted peers — where users exchanged nude images of celebrity targets and built up massive collections over years. You couldn’t buy your way into the group or pay to view images, Kaminsky says. According to members he communicated with, to get in you needed to bring your own stolen material, something new and valuable the group didn’t already have."
          • "These invasions are all the more disturbing because they were probably happening long before the victims ever noticed. There was no public market for these images, so they likely circulated in private for months or even years before accidentally breaking into public view. And researchers say there may be a far greater number of images from other celebrities that have yet to be exposed. Messages from some of the underground boards Kaminsky studied mentioned returning to compromised accounts again and again to harvest new photos. "This is one of the major stories in all of information security over the last decade," says Kaminsky. "You don’t smash your way in and make a big noise grabbing everything you can and selling it. You look to establish a persistent threat. That is an important thing for people to realize, you don’t know when you’ve been hit, and they will come back and visit you again and again.""
        • "Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft"

          • "1.What we see in the public with these hacking incidents seems to only be scratching the surface. There are entire communities and trading networks where the data that is stolen remains private and is rarely shared with the public. The networks are broken down horizontally with specific people carrying out specific roles, loosely organized across a large number of sites (both clearnet and darknet) with most organization and communication taking place in private (email, IM).

            2. The goal is to steal private media from a targets phone by accessing cloud based backup services that are integrated into iPhone, Android and Windows Phone devices. To access the cloud based backup requires the users ID, password or an authentication token."

        • "You Don’t Necessarily Know When You’ve Been Hit, Let Alone What’s Gone"

          • "There’s a peculiar property of much criminality in the real world:  You notice.  A burgled home is missing things, an assaulted body hurts.  These crimes still occur, but we can start responding to them immediately.  If there’s one thing to take away from this compromise, it’s that when it comes to information theft you might find out quickly, or you may never find out at all. "

          • "We have, at best, a partial explanation.  Much as we desperately would like this to be a single, isolated event, with a nice, well defined and well funded defender who can make sure this never happens again – that’s just not likely to be the case.  We’re going to learn a lot more about how this happened, and in response, there will be improvements.  But celebrity (and otherwise) photo exploitation will not be found to be an isolated attack and it won’t be addressed or ended with a spot fix to password brute forcing."
        • Apple is warning its iCloud users over heightened spying risks following the discovery of attackswhich security watchers have claimed are down to crude snooping by the Chinese government.

          Without naming China directly, Apple said it was "aware of intermittent organised network attacks" on its iCloud service designed to obtain user information. A support page article published on Tuesday advises users to pay close attention to browser warnings about fake certificates and never to enter passwords into sites that push out certificate warnings."

    • vulnerability to attacks
      • "You Can Get Hacked Just By Watching This Cat Video on YouTube -

        Many otherwise well-informed people think they have to do something wrong, or stupid, or insecure to get hacked—like clicking on the wrong attachments, or browsing malicious websites. People also think that the NSA and its international partners are the only ones who have turned the internet into a militarized zone. But according to research I am releasing today at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, many of these commonly held beliefs are not necessarily true. The only thing you need to do to render your computer’s secrets—your private conversations, banking information, photographs—transparent to prying eyes is watch a cute cat video on YouTube, and catch the interest of a nation-state or law enforcement agency that has $1 million or so to spare.

        To understand why, you have to realize that even in today’s increasingly security-conscious internet, much of the traffic is still unencrypted. You might be surprised to learn that even popular sites that advertise their use of encryption frequently still serve some unencrypted content or advertisements. While people now recognize that unencrypted traffic can be monitored, they may not recognize that it also serves as a direct path into compromising their computers.

        Companies such as Hacking Team and FinFisher sell devices called “network injection appliances.” These are racks of physical machines deployed inside internet service providers around the world, which allow for the simple exploitation of targets. In order to do this, they inject malicious content into people’s everyday internet browsing traffic. One way that Hacking Team accomplishes this is by taking advantage of unencrypted YouTube video streams to compromise users. The Hacking Team device targets a user, waits for that user to watch a YouTube clip like the one above, and intercepts that traffic and replaces it with malicious code that gives the operator total control over the target’s computer without his or her knowledge."
    • identity theft or impersonation
    • personal data aggregation

The capture and domination of our digital ecosystems by large corporations

    • lock-in
      • Bruce Schneier -
      • "The state of Apple’s ecosystem lock-in, and where we’re at today"
        • "Every couple of months articles crop up on the Internet calling Apple’s ecosystem a “walled garden” or a “golden cage” (1, 2, 3). These articles usually try to convince the reader that Apple has lured users into a trap using design/popularity/marketing, shut the door behind them and thrown away the key. The company’s recent foray into the education market, coupled with the controversy surrounding the badly worded and thus promptly misinterpreted licence agreement of its iBooks Author application, made the topic of Apple’s “draconian control” crop-up on the radar of the tech press again.

          This article is supposed to serve as a dispassionate evaluation of the current situation."

    • stopping development and abandoning users, forcing them to move to new software
      • "Apple To Cease Development Of Aperture And Transition Users To Photos For OS X"
      • "With the release of OS X Yosemite later this year, Apple will cease the development of its ‘pro’ photo editing app Aperture. Users of that program will be transitioned to Photos, a new app that was introduced during the WWDC keynote and that will be released next year.

        Photos integrates many of the advanced photo editing features that were previously found in Aperture and will replace iPhoto on the new OS X as well.

        “With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. “When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X.”"

      • Example of reader comment: "It really annoys me that Apple created this pro app that I love and bought into, hook, line and sinker, and now they're pulling the plug. I think what they're trying not to do is segment their business into too many small pieces, but they have a track record of not following through on projects if they aren't that interested in them or they don't see a big upside to them. This is just another example. Adobe has the market cornered on photo tools, but Apertures workflow is so far superior to Lightroom's it just bugs me that I'm probably going to have to switch."
    • strict control over application development
      • "All Your Apps Are Belong to Apple: The iPhone Developer Program License Agreement"

        • "The entire family of devices built on the iPhone OS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) have been designed to run only software that is approved by Apple—a major shift from the norms of the personal computer market. Software developers who want Apple's approval must first agree to the iPhone Developer Program License Agreement."
        • "Overall, the Agreement is a very one-sided contract, favoring Apple at every turn. That's not unusual where end-user license agreements are concerned (and not all the terms may ultimately be enforceable), but it's a bit of a surprise as applied to the more than 100,000 developers for the iPhone, including many large public companies. How can Apple get away with it? Because it is the sole gateway to the more than 40 million iPhones that have been sold. In other words, it's only because Apple still "owns" the customer, long after each iPhone (and soon, iPad) is sold, that it is able to push these contractual terms on the entire universe of software developers for the platform. "
        • "If Apple's mobile devices are the future of computing, you can expect that future to be one with more limits on innovation and competition (or "generativity," in the words of Prof. Jonathan Zittrain) than the PC era that came before. It's frustrating to see Apple, the original pioneer in generative computing, putting shackles on the market it (for now) leads. If Apple wants to be a real leader, it should be fostering innovation and competition, rather than acting as a jealous and arbitrary feudal lord. Developers should demand better terms and customers who love their iPhones should back them."
    • "Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems"
      • "Google is perceived as an essentially philanthropic enterprise—a magical engine presided over by otherworldly visionaries—for creating a utopian future. The company has at times appeared anxious to cultivate this image, pouring funding into “corporate responsibility” initiatives to produce “social change”—exemplified by Google Ideas.

        But as Google Ideas shows, the company’s “philanthropic” efforts, too, bring it uncomfortably close to the imperial side of U.S. influence. If Blackwater/Xe Services/Academi was running a program like Google Ideas, it would draw intense critical scrutiny. But somehow Google gets a free pass.

        Whether it is being just a company or “more than just a company,” Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed within the foreign-policy agenda of the world’s largest superpower. As Google’s search and Internet service monopoly grows, and as it enlarges its industrial surveillance cone to cover the majority of the world’s population, rapidly dominating the mobile phone market and racing to extend Internet access in the global south, Google is steadily becoming the Internet for many people. Its influence on the choices and behavior of the totality of individual human beings translates to real power to influence the course of history."

Robots, drones, new technology

  • "Will robots take our jobs? Experts can't decide"

    • "The optimists envisioned “a future in which robots and digital agents do not displace more jobs than they create,” according to Aaron Smith, the report’s co-author. But the pessimistic view was that automation “will displace significant numbers of both blue- and white-collar workers.

      “A number of the respondents warned that this aspect of technical evolution will lead to vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are effectively unemployable and the possibility of breakdowns in the social order.”

      Almost all of the respondents are united on one thing: the displacement of work by robots and AI is going to continue, and accelerate, over the coming decade. Where they split is in the societal response to that displacement."

    • "But the pessimists worry that the benefits of the labor replacement will accrue to those already wealthy enough to own the automatons, be that in the form of patents for algorithmic workers or the physical form of robots.

      The ranks of the unemployed could swell, as people are laid off from work they are qualified in without the ability to retrain for careers where their humanity is a positive. And since this will happen in every economic sector simultaneously, civil unrest could be the result.

      “Unlike previous disruptions such as when farming machinery displaced farm workers but created factory jobs making the machines, robotics and AI are different,” says Nasa’s Mark Nall.

      “Due to their versatility and growing capabilities, not just a few economic sectors will be affected, but whole swaths will be. This is already being seen now in areas from robocalls to lights-out manufacturing. Economic efficiency will be the driver. The social consequence is that good-paying jobs will be increasingly scarce.”"

  • "Robots Will Take Our Jobs"
  • self-driving cars
    • "How Driverless Cars Will Work"
    • "Driving in Circles - The autonomous Google car may never actually happen."

      • "A good technology demonstration so wows you with what the product can do that you might forget to ask about what it can't. Case in point: Google's self-driving car. There is a surprisingly long list of the things the car can't do, like avoid potholes or operate in heavy rain or snow. Yet a consensus has emerged among many technologists, policymakers, and journalists that Google has essentially solved—or is on the verge of solving—all of the major issues involved with robotic driving. The Economist believes that "the technology seems likely to be ready before all the questions of regulation and liability have been sorted out." The New York Times declared that "autonomous vehicles like the one Google is building will be able to pack roads more efficiently"—up to eight times so. Google co-founder Sergey Brin forecast in 2012 that self-driving cars would be ready in five years, and in May, said he still hopedthat his original prediction would come true.

        But what Google is working on may instead result in the automotive equivalent of the Apple Newton, what one Web commenter called a "timid, skittish robot car whose inferior level of intelligence becomes a daily annoyance." To be able to handle the everyday stresses and strains of the real driving world, the Google car will require a computer with a level of intelligence that machines won't have for many years, if ever."

  • drones
    • "Amazon's drone delivery: How would it work?"
    • "Domestic drones and their unique dangers"
    • "A dangerous new world of drones"
      • "A decade ago, the United States had a virtual monopoly on drones.

        Not anymore. According to data compiled by the New America Foundation, more than 70 countries now own some type of drone, though just a small number of those nations possess armed drone aircraft.

        The explosion in drone technology promises to change the way nations conduct war and threatens to begin a new arms race as governments scramble to counterbalance their adversaries.

        Late last month, China announced that it would use surveillance drones to monitor a group of uninhabited islands in the South China Sea that are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.

        In August 2010, Iran unveiled what it claimed was its first armed drone. And on Tuesday, the country's military chief, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, disclosed details of a new long-range drone that he said can fly 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), which puts Tel Aviv easily in range.

        But without an international framework governing the use of drone attacks, the United States is setting a dangerous precedent for other nations with its aggressive and secretive drone programs in Pakistan and Yemen, which are aimed at suspected members of al Qaeda and their allies.

        Just as the U.S. government justifies its drone strikes with the argument that it is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates, one could imagine that India in the not too distant future might launch such attacks against suspected terrorists in Kashmir, or China might strike Uighur separatists in western China, or Iran might attack Baluchi nationalists along its border with Pakistan."

    • "Drone strikes kill, maim and traumatize too many civilians, U.S. study says"
      • "U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, have traumatized innocent residents and largely been ineffective, according to a new study released Tuesday.

        The study by Stanford Law School and New York University's School of Law calls for a re-evaluation of the practice, saying the number of "high-level" targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low -- about 2%.

        The report accuses Washington of misrepresenting drone strikes as "a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer," saying that in reality, "there is significant evidence that U.S. drone strikes have injured and killed civilians."

        It also casts doubts on Washington's claims that drone strikes produce zero to few civilian casualties and alleges that the United States makes "efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability.""

    • "Small drones could launch 'chemical and biological attacks' during football games and rallies, warns former head of GCHQ "
      • "The increasing use of hobby drones in the UK will pose a “serious security risk” over the next 20 years, a new report has warned, with public events such as sporting fixtures and rallies at risk from airborne chemical and biological attacks.

        Research into Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) by the University of Birmingham Policy Commission Report has called for “urgent” new measures to protect the safety and privacy of British citizens, adding that the technology could bring “significant benefits” to the UK’s economy and security.

        The report was led by Sir David Omand, a former director of the UK’s digital intelligence agency GCHQ, who also warned that the UK’s use of military drones could be breaking international law.

        The report suggested that lightweight drones (only those under 20kg are allowed to be used in British airspace by the Civil Aviation Authority) could become the “weapon of choice” for paparazzi hunting celebrities and would be “ideal lookouts for burglars, train robbers and poachers.”

        The report said: "Vulnerable targets might be hardened to withstand attack from outside, but it is entirely possible that in a public space like a shopping centre or sporting stadium, an attack could be launched from within.

        "Crowds at sporting events or rallies could be vulnerable in a similar way if a future terrorist group were to look for means of dispersing chemical or biological agents.

        "While such a scenario has so far not posed a real danger to UK citizens [...] it is a threat that the UK authorities took seriously during the 2012 Olympics."

        The report comes after a 41-year-old man was arrested near Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium on suspicion of flying a drone over the pitch during a match against Tottenham Hotspur. A similar stunt during a match between Serbia and Albania last week ended in a mass brawl between players and fans.  "

    • "Roaches, Mosquitoes and Birds: The Coming Micro-Drone Revolution"
      • "At one time, there was a small glimmer of hope that these aerial threats to privacy would not come home to roost, but that all ended when Barack Obama took office and made drones the cornerstone of his war efforts. By the time President Obama signed the FAA Reauthorization Act into law in 2012, there was no turning back. The FAA opened the door for drones, once confined to the battlefields over Iraq and Afghanistan, to be used domestically for a wide range of functions, both public and private, governmental and corporate. It is expected that at least 30,000 drones will occupy U.S. airspace by 2020, ushering in a $30 billion per year industry.

        Those looking to the skies in search of Predator drones will be in for a surprise, however, because when the drones finally descend en masse on America, they will not be the massive aerial assault vehicles favored by the Obama administration in their overseas war efforts. Rather, the drones coming to a neighborhood near you will be small, some nano in size, capable of flying through city streets and buildings almost undetected, while hovering over cityscapes and public events for long periods of time, providing a means of 24/7 surveillance."

Inequality, unsustainable economy, financial crises, structural unemployment, decaying rural areas

  • inequality
    • "Income gap poses biggest threat to global community, warns WEF"
      • "The large and growing income gap between rich and poor is the biggest risk to the global community in the next decade, the World Economic Forum said on Thursday as politicians, business leaders and academics prepared to gather in Davos.

        Reflecting mounting concern about the risk to societies from inequality, the WEF said the need to tackle disparities in income and wealth had to be addressed at WEF's annual gathering in the Swiss ski resort of Davos next week.

        The WEF said its annual survey of 700 opinion formers had identified the income gap, extreme weather events and unemployment or underemployment as the three threats most likely to cause major cross-border damage in the next 10 years."

      • "Jennifer Blanke, the WEF's chief economist, said that although incomes gap between countries had been narrowing, the gulf between rich and poor had widened within countries. "The message from the Arab spring, and from countries such as Brazil and South Africais that people are not going to stand for it any more."

        The Davos meeting has often been targeted by anti-globalisation campaigners for being an exclusive club for a small, powerful elite but Adrian Monck, the WEF's head of communications, said inequality and the wealth gap was on the agenda. "We need to mobilise people around these issues and make people aware of them", he said.

        Philip Jennings, general secretary of UNI Global Union, said: "The report should act as a wake-up call to the influencers and leaders at Davos next week. These are global issues we can do something about: we can twist the global economy back into shape – this includes a new commitment to create jobs, address income inequality and falling living standards. Since the global financial crisis it's been a race to the bottom in jobs, wages and living standards.""


    • "Technology and Inequality"
      • "As Piketty points out, it is a radical departure from how we have thought about progress. Since the 1950s, economics has been dominated by the idea—notably formulated by Simon Kuznets, a Harvard economist and Nobel laureate—that inequality diminishes as countries become more technologically developed and more people are able to take advantage of the resulting opportunities. Many of us suppose that our talents, skills, training, and acumen will allow us to prosper; it is what economists like to call “human capital.” But the belief that technological progress will lead to “the triumph of human capital over financial capital and real estate, capable managers over fat cat stockholders, and skill over nepotism” is, writes Piketty, “largely illusory.”"
      • "Brynjolfsson lists several ways that technological changes can contribute to inequality: robots and automation, for example, are eliminating some routine jobs while requiring new skills in others (see “How Technology is Destroying Jobs”). But the biggest factor, he says, is that the technology-driven economy greatly favors a small group of successful individuals by amplifying their talent and luck, and dramatically increasing their rewards.

        Brynjolfsson argues that these people are benefiting from a winner-take-all effect originally described by Sherwin Rosen in a 1981 paper called “The Economics of Superstars.” Rosen said that such breakthroughs as motion pictures, radio, and TV had greatly broadened the audiences—and hence the rewards—for those in show business and sports. Thirty years later, Brynjolfsson sees a similar effect for high-tech entrepreneurs, whose ideas and products can be widely distributed and produced thanks to software and other digital technologies. Why hire a local tax consultant when you can use a cheap, state-of-the-art program that is constantly being updated and refined? Likewise, why buy a second-best program or app? The ability to copy software and distribute digital products anywhere means customers will buy the top one. Why use a search engine that is almost as good as Google? Such economic logic now rules a growing share of the marketplace; it is, according to Brynjolfsson, an increasingly important reason why a few entrepreneurs, including the founders of such startups as Instagram, are growing rich at a staggering rate."

    • "Why is Thomas Piketty's 700-page book a bestseller? "
      • "Piketty’s main argument is this: that invested capital – in the stock market, in real estate – will grow faster than income.

        The implications of that are deep: to have invested capital, you must have money already. If you rely on income, as most people do, you will likely never catch up to the wealth of people who are already rich. The 1% and the 99% enshrined by Occupy are not an anomaly of our time, Piketty’s research suggests. It’s a structural feature of capitalism. Piketty’s work – which has been in progress for over a decade – is a natural pairing with the Occupy movement, which also questions the premises of capitalism."

  • heterodox economics
    • "What you Won’t Learn in an Economics Degree"
      • "This is a series of lectures that ran in the 2013/2014 academic year to try and introduce students to economic schools of thought that aren’t present on the syllabus. It was done with support from the University of Manchester’s Political Economy Institute which enabled us to bring in experts from around the UK and Europe. PCES argues that economics education at the University of Manchester has raised neoclassical economics to be the sole object of study. Our aim was to try and show students that economics is actually a discipline which encapsulates a broad variety of perspectives and approaches that are worth studying. No one school of thought should have monopoly on what constitutes scientific or true economics, and fundamental debate should rest at the heart of the discipline"
  • debt and money
    • "The truth is out: money is just an IOU, and the banks are rolling in it "
      • "Last week, something remarkable happened. The Bank of England let the cat out of the bag. In a paper called "Money Creation in the Modern Economy", co-authored by three economists from the Bank's Monetary Analysis Directorate, they stated outright that most common assumptions of how banking works are simply wrong, and that the kind of populist, heterodox positions more ordinarily associated with groups such as Occupy Wall Streetare correct. In doing so, they have effectively thrown the entire theoretical basis for austerity out of the window.

        To get a sense of how radical the Bank's new position is, consider the conventional view, which continues to be the basis of all respectable debate on public policy. People put their money in banks. Banks then lend that money out at interest – either to consumers, or to entrepreneurs willing to invest it in some profitable enterprise. True, the fractional reserve system does allow banks to lend out considerably more than they hold in reserve, and true, if savings don't suffice, private banks can seek to borrow more from the central bank.

        The central bank can print as much money as it wishes. But it is also careful not to print too much. In fact, we are often told this is why independent central banks exist in the first place. If governments could print money themselves, they would surely put out too much of it, and the resulting inflation would throw the economy into chaos. Institutions such as the Bank of England or US Federal Reserve were created to carefully regulate the money supply to prevent inflation. This is why they are forbidden to directly fund the government, say, by buying treasury bonds, but instead fund private economic activity that the government merely taxes.

        It's this understanding that allows us to continue to talk about money as if it were a limited resource like bauxite or petroleum, to say "there's just not enough money" to fund social programmes, to speak of the immorality of government debt or of public spending "crowding out" the private sector. What the Bank of England admitted this week is that none of this is really true. To quote from its own initial summary: "Rather than banks receiving deposits when households save and then lending them out, bank lending creates deposits" … "In normal times, the central bank does not fix the amount of money in circulation, nor is central bank money 'multiplied up' into more loans and deposits."

        In other words, everything we know is not just wrong – it's backwards. When banks make loans, they create money. This is because money is really just an IOU. The role of the central bank is to preside over a legal order that effectively grants banks the exclusive right to create IOUs of a certain kind, ones that the government will recognise as legal tender by its willingness to accept them in payment of taxes. There's really no limit on how much banks could create, provided they can find someone willing to borrow it. They will never get caught short, for the simple reason that borrowers do not, generally speaking, take the cash and put it under their mattresses; ultimately, any money a bank loans out will just end up back in some bank again. So for the banking system as a whole, every loan just becomes another deposit. What's more, insofar as banks do need to acquire funds from the central bank, they can borrow as much as they like; all the latter really does is set the rate of interest, the cost of money, not its quantity. Since the beginning of the recession, the US and British central banks have reduced that cost to almost nothing. In fact, with "quantitative easing" they've been effectively pumping as much money as they can into the banks, without producing any inflationary effects.

        What this means is that the real limit on the amount of money in circulation is not how much the central bank is willing to lend, but how much government, firms, and ordinary citizens, are willing to borrow. Government spending is the main driver in all this (and the paper does admit, if you read it carefully, that the central bank does fund the government after all). So there's no question of public spending "crowding out" private investment. It's exactly the opposite."

    • video: "Authors@Google: David Graeber, DEBT: The First 5,000 Years"

      • "DEBT: The First 5,000 Years


        While the "national debt" has been the concern du jour of many economists, commentators and politicians, little attention is ever paid to the historical significance of debt.


        For thousands of years, the struggle between rich and poor has largely taken the form of conflicts between creditors and debtors—of arguments about the rights and wrongs of interest payments, debt peonage, amnesty, repossession, restitution, the sequestering of sheep, the seizing of vineyards, and the selling of debtors' children into slavery. By the same token, for the past five thousand years, popular insurrections have begun the same way: with the ritual destruction of debt records—tablets, papyri, ledgers; whatever form they might have taken in any particular time and place.


        Enter anthropologist David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years (July, ISBN 978-1-933633-86-2), which uses these struggles to show that the history of debt is also a history of morality and culture.


        In the throes of the recent economic crisis, with the very defining institutions of capitalism crumbling, surveys showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans felt that the country's banks should not be rescued—whatever the economic consequences—but that ordinary citizens stuck with bad mortgages should be bailed out. The notion of morality as a matter of paying one's debts runs deeper in the United States than in almost any other country.


        Beginning with a sharp critique of economics (which since Adam Smith has erroneously argued that all human economies evolved out of barter), Graeber carefully shows that everything from the ancient work of law and religion to human notions like "guilt," "sin," and "redemption," are deeply influenced by ancients debates about credit and debt.


        It is no accident that debt continues to fuel political debate, from the crippling debt crises that have gripped Greece and Ireland, to our own debate over whether to raise the debt ceiling. Debt, an incredibly captivating narrative spanning 5,000 years, puts these crises into their full context and illuminates one of the thorniest subjects in all of history."

    • "The future of jobs - The onrushing wave"

    • "Bill Gates on the Future of Employment (It's Not Pretty)"

      • "With all of his good works, Bill Gates's recent comments about the future of employment are enough to spark fear in the hearts of anyone who depends on a salary to keep the lights on and food on the table.

        The famed Microsoft co-founder was recently quoted by Business Insider as saying: "Software substitution, whether it's for drivers or waiters or's progressing.... Technology over time will reduce demand for jobs, particularly at the lower end of skill sets... Twenty years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower. I don't think people have that in their mental model."

        Business Insider calls this a "gloomy scenario" and includes a link to a list of jobs that will likely be going away due to technology in the next 20 years. At the top of the list, with 99 percent certainty? Telemarketers. I know you're crushed because that's your dream job. Accountants and auditors come next, at 94 percent, and retail sales people have a 92 percent probability of finding themselves out of work."


War, terrorism, oppression of minorities, suppression of rights, militarization of police, conflicts with refugees and immigrants