Second Short Quiz Suggested Answers

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Second Short Quiz Suggested Answers

Post by johnkarls »

Question 1

Many of the predictions of our authors can be classified into either the Optimistic View or the Pessimistic View -- what are these views? Is this what Bill Clinton was talking about when, with respect to The New Digital Age, he stressed the importance of “making the right choices today”?

Answer 1

The optimistic view is that The New Digital Age means greater political awareness on the part of the masses, making democracy almost inevitable and dictators as extinct as dinosaurs.

The pessimistic view is that The New Digital Age means that the tools enabling George Orwell’s Big Brother have finally become a reality and it will not be long before Orwell’s vision of a worldwide totalitarian government based on complete thought control is a reality.

It would appear that this contrast is what Bill Clinton was talking about. Though it would also seem obvious that Bill Clinton can’t possibly mean that the “right choices today” will suffice for all time, but rather that this will be a perpetual battle during which the “wrong choices tomorrow” would also spell doom.

Question 2

What is Sina Weibo?

Answer 2

Sina Weibo is China’s social media network enabling 600 million people (per the Huffington Post interview of our authors posted in the Reference Materials section of this bulletin board) to “criticize the government through microblogs on every issue from tainted milk to train wrecks and pollution to corrupt officials.”

However, it is respectfully suggested that this description of Sina Weibo should be read as evidence that the Chinese government is more interested in being popular and relatively benign, rather than focused on Orwellian-style repression. And it is respectfully suggested that this appears to be a choice the Chinese government has made, rather than one that is/was forced on it.

[If anyone would like to noodle this further on her/his own, it is respectfully suggested that s/he consider whether Stalin would have been able to play the role of Big Brother in Schmidt/Cohen’s New Digital Age.]

Question 3

Does its existence support the Optimistic View of our authors?

Answer 3

Please see the parenthetical at the end of Answer 2 and Answer 7 in its entirety.

Question 4

What is internet Balkanization? Was it developed by Google to accommodate China? Does it portend the ability of repressive regimes to maintain their control?

Answer 4

Balkanization, both geographically throughout history and in terms of The New Digital Age, means separate with little or no connectivity.

Google famously accommodated the Chinese government by Balkanizing their internet so that Chinese citizens have little or no access to many Western websites.

Who knows what Balkanization portends since technology, whether enabling citizens to access information and organize together, or whether enabling governments to play the role of Big Brother effectively, will probably be decisive.

Question 5

Our authors spend a great deal of time talking about P-2-P communications: What is it? Is it really the panacea that they seem to think?

Answer 5

P-2-P is shorthand for Person-To-Person. Our authors, for example, include Skype in this category.

Skype is nothing more than Vonage, a now-old internet-based telephone service, but with a video capability added so that you can now see the other party as well as converse together.

But whether or not Skype/Vonage use the internet, or large corporations and governments use private or co-op satellites, all P-2-P systems have to exist in the physical world which invokes the age-old possibility of interception.

In this regard, should we be surprised to learn in the future that, say, at least NSA has been intercepting everything transmitted by all satellites and everything sent over every fiber-optic cable for years and, just like Google which has long-since admitted that all of your G-Mail is preserved permanently in their databases where it is subject to future searches, NSA has been doing the same thing with regard to everything?

Accordingly, the assumption that P-2-P solves very much would seem naïve.

Question 6

Our authors spend a great deal of time talking about encryption: What is it? Is it really the panacea that they seem to think?

Answer 6

When Yours Truly served as a U.S. Naval Officer 1967-1969, he had a Top Secret Clearance with Cryptographic Access because, as a collateral duty, he stood Communications Watches. This meant, inter alia, being cleared to read anything sent to our skipper while he was asleep concerning our nuclear weapons.

Although it would not be proper to discuss even today the encryption techniques for encoding messages 45 years ago, it is impossible to conceive that even a large corporation or the world’s most wealthy individuals would be able to obtain/develop encryption techniques that a large governmental agency such as NSA would not find to be amusing child’s play to break.

The most a large corporation or wealthy individual could hope for would be an encryption system that was developed by some techies that had left NSA and that might have limited effectiveness against small corporations and poor individuals.

But the assumption that encryption will really solve anything, particularly vis-à-vis the NSA’s of the world, is naïve.

Question 7

What is Boulean logic? Do Boulean-logic searches mean that a repressive government would have to spend very little time monitoring its citizens in order to weed out virtually all of the trouble makers effectively?

Answer 7

Over the years, Google has vastly improved its Advanced-Search capability (you can access it by typing Advanced Search in the Google search box and then clicking on the top hit).

With Advanced Search, you can now specify, for example, that a website must (1) include all of a list of specified words, (2) contain an exact phrase, and/or (3) contain none of a list of specified words.

However, this still does not hold a candle to a Boulean-logic search.

For anyone beginning a legal career in the 1960’s, Lexis-Nexis was already on the scene for conducting searches of data bases containing all legal cases, all law-review articles, etc., etc. using Boulean-logic searches.

A Boulean-logic search looks almost like a mathematical formula which contains many more relationships than the Advanced Google Search (for example, “assault” within three words of “conspir!” where the exclamation point means any word beginning with “conspir” such as “conspire,” “conspiracy” or “conspirator”). And adding parentheses around “assault w/3 conspir!” makes it simultaneously a unit with respect to which other relationships (within, and, not, etc.) can be specified in a never-ending cascade of nested parenthetical relationships.

So all our future Stalin needs is one savvy programmer who can specify a Boulean-logic search that will identify every potential trouble maker from all of the NSA databases of all messages that every citizen has ever transmitted, and a Praetorian guard ready to execute all such dissidents when the signal for the coup is given in the middle of some night, and Big Brother is now in charge. [With, of course, the Praetorian Guard being highly remunerated as befits the inner military/police circle of any effective dictator.]

And if anyone wonders how many potential trouble makers might have to be eliminated, the old Soviet Union provides an interesting study. Stalin’s famous Gulags had a capacity for killing 7 million people per year.

[Soviet apologists will often try to dispute this fact by citing official governmental statistics which, for example, showed that by the 1930’s Stalin had NOT killed 50 million more people that even the most cynical observers had thought possible and landed the uncooperative Soviet census takers who refused to certify Stalin’s higher official population numbers in the Gulags themselves where they were promptly liquidated.]

The reason why the Gulags are instructive?

Because they were actually constructed by Lenin immediately after the revolution to kill 7 million intelligentsia and aristocracy per year.

So why should we think for a moment that the world is incapable of producing another Lenin or Stalin? Or that the capabilities of The New Digital Age in the hands of the new Lenin or Stalin could not produce Big Brother?

Question 8

How easy would it be in the future for the leader of a democracy to stage a coup against her/his own government in order to become a dictator?

Answer 8

Please see Answer 7.

Question 9

Does the future of the physical world look bright, so long as the dangers of the cyber-world do not screw things up (please pardon “my French”)?

Answer 9

A future based on thorium-reactors for energy at virtually no cost (please see the materials on this bulletin board for our 10/10/2012 meeting and the Six-Degrees-Of-Separation E-Mail Campaign that resulted) means that not only fossil fuels but even wind and solar will consigned to history. And energy will effectively be free (as well as safe and environmentally sound).

And using the oceans to cultivate plant food for the increased billions of human beings occupying our earth is also a challenge that can be met.

Accordingly, it would seem that only the possibility of Big Brother (please see Answer 7) would be likely to screw things up (please pardon “my French”).

Though admittedly this does assume that the political problems of the real world such as terrorism and weapons of mass destruction can be addressed effectively.

And, to finish with some comparatively-irrelevant but hopefully-amusing tidbits --

Question 10

Does Germany discriminate against its senior citizens? Do our authors inadvertently promise such discrimination will be overcome?

Answer 10

Germany does not permit its citizens to drive after they have reached age 70.

Our authors talk about diver-less cars of the future that will chauffer us including (without our authors focusing on the issue) German senior citizens.

Question 11

Even though our authors did not promise to help classical-music connoisseurs (please see Q&A-12 of the First Short Quiz), have they inadvertently “promised the world” to balletomanes?

Answer 11

Our authors talk quite a bit about holograms (three-dimensional images) that can be produced in your own office or home.

And in connection with your home, they describe the action of a movie appearing to take place in your own living room in what would appear to be a Broadway play or even appear to be real life.

Most ballet lovers are smitten with the beauty of movement and don’t care that much whether it is accompanied by Low Fidelity digital music rather than the old Hi Fi analog recordings of a now-distant Golden Age or the Hi Fi that is a live performance (please see Q&A-12 of the First Short Quiz).

Accordingly, it would now appear that balletomanes are about to enter The Promised Land, unlike classical music and opera aficionados who appear to be condemned to wander perpetually in The Wilderness.

Question 12

The London Telegraph reviewer of The New Digital Age twitted our authors about their alleged ignorance regarding their usage of the phrase “brave new world,” but in doing so did Matt Warman really disgrace himself instead?

Answer 12

Matt Warman twits our authors with: “Schmidt and Cohen call that future ‘brave new world’ without awareness of the irony of Shakespeare’s phrase from The Tempest.”

Warman’s attempt at being a pedant is laughable because he is turning a blind eye to the fact that this phrase was made famous as the title of a famous book by Alduous Huxley in 1931 which for many decades was compared to, and contrasted with, George Orwell’s 1984 which introduced the concept of Big Brother. The uncharitable view would be that wannabe pedant Warman has never heard of Huxley. The charitable view would be that Warman was attempting for supreme pedantry by maximizing obscurity (though among intellectual snobs, the Shakespearean origin of the phrase is a popular trivia Q&A because of the Huxley novel).

Nonetheless, Warman’s attack is still silly because he is really saying that our authors should have garbaged their book with this (and, therefore, presumably many other) true but irrelevant facts.

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