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Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

#1,537 – Neom

Saudi Arabia is said to be planning a large-scale futuristic city in the desert that will be the size of Massachusetts and feature all kinds of quirky technological wonders.  According to Business Insider, “The city will be known as Neom, a portmanteau of the Greek word neos, meaning ‘new,’ and mustaqbal, the Arabic word for ‘future.’”  It will be a place for the “dreamers of the world” and will be about all things “future-oriented and visionary”.  Sounds like my kind of place! 

But what exactly are we talking about?  Futuristic cities aren’t a new idea.  There are several “smart cities” wired from head to toe that already exist.  Data driven places that exhibit the very best that the Internet of Things has to offer.  But Neom will be much more than just your average run of the mill futuristic city.  Instead, it will take what it means to be futuristic to a whole new level as it is likely to include a lot of wild ideas and concepts, some of which will sound like science fiction, others like they came from a child’s overactive imagination.  

Some of these will be technologically possible in the near future while others are purely theoretical for now.  But either way, Neom is likely to deliver on its promise as being the place to be for those interested in living on the cutting-edge of society.  Among the technologies currently being considered are flying taxis, driverless cars, an artificial moon to illuminate the night sky, cloud seeding technology to control the weather, and holographic teachers to create a world-class education system. But of course no futuristic city would be complete without a Jurassic Park-like island populated by robotic dinosaurs!!

As the Verge puts it, “Taken together, the plans remind of you what a dedicated nine-year-old can achieve in Minecraft. Yes, the scale and ambition are impressive, but it’s not like you could do this in real life, right?” 

But doing this in real life is exactly what Saudi Arabia is planning on doing even if the funding isn’t clear and the logistics murky.  So much so, that they even want to push the envelope as far as humanly possible as they look to populate the futuristic city with genetically enhanced people that will have increased strength and IQ.  Enhanced people that will get waited on hand and foot by robotic maids that do all of their chores for them. 

As crazy as all this sounds, as unlikely as it all may be, I’m still all in on this idea.  With an area the size of Massachusetts there is a lot that you can accomplish.  Especially if Neom lives up to its billing as a future focused place that would attract the world’s dreamers.  A place like that could do a lot to inspire the rest of the world to work harder, to dream bigger, to reach for the stars like never before.  Which is exactly the kind of place that we need in a world that is likely to face a lot of tough technological challenges in the decades to come as we face down Climate Change and everything that comes along with it.

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Is Neom, a futuristic city with robotic dinosaurs and an artificial moon, the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Andrew Yang gets it.  The Founder of Venture for America, Yang is perhaps the most tech savvy candidate out there in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.  He’s on record as being on board with the idea of Universal Basic Income in which citizens would receive a government sponsored stipend to free them up to spend their time on creative pursuits. And now he’s proving that when it comes to tech he’s a man of action as well, stating his intentions to use state of the art holographic tech to help him campaign.  That’s right. When Andrew Yang pounds the pavement next year he’ll be doing so from the comfort of his living room.

As Futurism puts it, “The 2020 race for the White House is already teeming with drama and intrigue, as happens when there are 20 — and possibly more — candidates.

Each is looking to stake a claim and make their mark. But with many states to campaign in, and little time to do so, how can politicians be in more than one place at a time? Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has an idea: stump speech via hologram.”

Instead of being enslaved by our technology, as we constantly have our attention and heart strings tugged by notifications fine-tuned to grab and hold onto our attention, we could instead put technology to use for us as Yang has chosen to do.  Enabling him to travel to more places and reach more people than would otherwise be possible.  And best of all using technology in this manner actually makes politics interesting.  The novelty of the act might even bring more attention to Yang’s platform than traditional stumping and grassroots campaigning ever could have.

The force is strong with this one.  Not since Selina Meyer hit the campaign trail has there been a more interesting candidate.  Let’s just hope the rest of his message resonates with voters the way his chosen method of communication has resonated with me.

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Is using holograms to campaign the Greatest Idea Ever?

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When I heard that the federal government was indeed shutting down late on Friday night my first thought was, “wow, this really sucks for anyone who was planning a trip to a National Park over Christmas break.”

However, it now looks like National Parks will remain open.  On the surface that seems like great news.  However, there is a caveat: there won’t be any staff.  That means that roads won’t be maintained, bathrooms won’t be operational, visitor centers will be closed, and most importantly, park rangers will be sidelined.  Like swimming in the ocean with no lifeguard on duty, anyone attending a National Park during the shutdown will be on their own.

Some people make think this is good news.  No staff means no one to collect entrance fees.  No one to ticket you for creating your own parking spot.  No one to yell at you when you do something that you shouldn’t.  Like hunt endangered species, deface national monuments, pollute, go off trail, operate drones or electric vehicles in areas that you shouldn’t, etc..  It’s essentially a total free for all.  It’s also a giant cluster fuck.

According to The Hill, “Interior similarly kept its park gates open during the shutdown back in late January of this year, which led to a number of land misuses including the illegal hunting of a pregnant elk in Utah’s Zion National Park and a snowmobiler who got a little too close to Yellowstone National Park’s iconic Old Faithful geyser.”

This is not going to end well for anyone.  People are definitely going to get hurt during the shutdown.  Or worse.  Which is why I’d like to propose that we create a network of National Park volunteers.  Similar to volunteer firefighters these would be trained “professionals” who can step up in times when there is great need like during natural disasters, government shutdowns, or other crisis.

They don’t even have to get the park fully up and running.  If the bathrooms can’t be opened and the garbage can’t be picked up, fine.  So be it.  But at the very least perhaps the volunteers could still be on hand to guide visitors, provide medical assistance, alert authorities to any issues, and keep a watchful eye over restricted areas.

Granted this isn’t a perfect plan.  It may not even be possible to get enough volunteers to cover every national park and monument.  But at the same time it sure seems like a better idea than shutting down parks entirely or leaving them open without staff.

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Is a network of National Park volunteers the Greatest Idea Ever?

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A while back I wrote about my idea for an AI based elected official that would make decisions for us after analyzing all of the relevant information, whether that was voting records, poll results, census data, or the latest news.  Well, as it turns out, I may finally be getting my wish for a robot, known as Michihito Matsuda, is now running for mayor in Tokyo.

According to the Mirror:

“In a bid to offer ‘fair and balanced opportunities for everyone’, the robot mayor promises to analyze petitions put forward to the council, statistically breaking down the positives and negatives of its effect, as reported by Otaquest.

Michihito Matsuda also claims it can intake the dialogue and wishes of residents, before calculating the best course of action.

Finally, the artificial intelligence candidate claims to rationally compromise when conflicts arise between residents.”

The idea of turning over our policy decisions to a robot may have seemed far-fetched just a few years ago. But now?  Not so much.  When you’ve already turned over your decision making process to a failed reality TV star is it really that much of a stretch to then turn it over to a robot?  In fact, if Donald Trump was to run in 2020 against Michihito Matsuda who would you vote for?  For me, the choice would be easy.

Image result for michihito matsudaIs a robot politician the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Blockchain mania is officially upon us.  You can use it to trade digital cats, collect your favorite celebrities, and now…create your own government.  That’s the premise, at least, behind a new Blockchain application known as BitNation, that aims to give people freedom of choice when it comes to selecting which government services they prefer.

On the surface, BitNation, is more about providing legal services than creating entirely new forms of government.  What they are offering are essentially the same services that nations already provide such as dispute resolution, insurance, creating marriage certificates, issuing land deeds, etc.  Any time of government or legal service that you can think of, using any type of legal code already in existence.  Citizens maintain their sovereignty at all times and are free to join or leave a micro-nation as they wish.

The hope is that BitNation can help us resolve our conflicts in a more humane manner without having to resort to violence or back-handed politics, like we do when we’re back into corners by the archaic systems we currently have in place.

As The Next Web puts it, “In the real world individuals are forced to compete with each other in order to achieve their desired governance outcomes. However, this can often lead to violence, coercion, and conflict. With Bitnation’s Pangea software, a Decentralized Opt-In Jurisdiction, citizens can create nations, join voluntary nations on the Ethereum blockchain, and conduct peer-to-peer negotiations. It is aiming to reduce competition between citizens and increase competition among nations for citizens to improve the quality of governance.”

I’ve always wondered what the world would look like if we weren’t forced to adhere to strict boundaries.  If we were all basically citizens of one nation of Earth.  And while BitNation doesn’t share in that vision of unity it’s still a fresh start on the idea of governance.  An idea that we’ve already seen play out with Asgardia, the world’s first space-nation, and with Estonia’s push to allow anyone in the world to become a digital citizen.

The trend shows no signs of slowing down either.  According to The Next Web, “Bitnation’s technology already has over 200 new nations registered, more than 100 embassies and consulates, as many as 150,000 citizens on all five continents, and a positive open source community of over 2,000 contributors.”

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Is BitNation the Greatest Idea Ever?

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Between Black Mirror and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams there is plenty of science fiction fodder on TV right now.  But what I want to focus on is an idea that was spotlighted a few months ago on an episode of The Orville.  In this episode the crew encountered a society on another planet that was built around the concept of a social credit score.  To the point where if you score was too low, the local coffee shop wouldn’t even serve you.

That idea of a social credit score isn’t just reserved for science fiction anymore.  It’s a real thing right here on Earth, happening right now in China.  It all started a few years ago with the proliferation of mobile payments and social apps such as AliPay and WeChat.  As people got use to using their phones to pay for things they began to use them more and more.  To pay for groceries.  To hail an Uber.  To even pay parking tickets or order food for delivery.

At this point the Network Effect began to take effect.  The more people used these services the more they became comfortable with the idea of giving up control of their data and the more willing they were to sign up for even more services.  And the more people that used these services, the more that other people also wanted to use them.

These tech companies could now know a lot about their users.  The purchases they made, the trouble they got into with the court system, their credit score, who they were friends with, where they were traveling to.  With all of that information at their disposal there was only one logical step to take.  Combining it all in a useful way.

Useful could be a dirty word though.  In the hands of the Chinese government useful data could be a bad thing as they would invariably want to keep tabs on their citizens and root out dissident.  But useful could also be a good thing in the hands of a tech company that wants to reward people for good behavior.

And that’s exactly how things have played out so far.  Citizens in China are receiving a social credit score, three digits, just like a real credit score.  Depending on what actions a person takes this score could go up or down.  If you get good grades in school, volunteer your time, shop for items that improve your health, etc. your score will go up.  Fail to pay a parking ticket, however, and your score could plummet.  So much so, that you might lose access to basic services.  In fact, you might even be denied a visa to travel to another country or lose out on certain job opportunities.

Is this a world that you’d want to live in? That depends on how much of a law abiding citizen you are.  If you sometimes forget to pay a bill on time this society is not for you.  If you do everything you’re supposed to you’d probably love living in a society like this, especially when you hear about all the perks and rewards you’d get for good behavior.  Such as being able to skip security lines at airports, receiving discounts on hotels, getting streamlined access to government services or receiving preferential profile placement on dating apps.

Now here’s where things get tricky.  Your social credit score isn’t just about you.  It also takes into account who your friends with and what their scores are.  In some regards, this makes sense.  You’d want to reward someone who travels in well respected circles, who uses good judgment when picking who to associate with.  But then again it’s also a little bit extreme.  People with low scores could essentially be ostracized from society because no one would want to be friends with someone who has a low score that could drag them down by association.

Could you imagine walking away from a life long friend just because they have a low score?  Would you be willing to do that to someone you care about?  Think long and hard about your answer.  You may have to decide that for real in just a few years.  The age of social credit is almost fully upon us.

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Is Social Credit the Greatest Idea Ever?

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