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Final barriers to life-like robots overcome – US scientists (VIDEO)

Published time: 20 Sep, 2017 10:05 Edited time: 20 Sep, 2017 10:06 A 3D-printed “synthetic soft...

The Rise of the Robots and the End of Capitalism?

Photo by Nick Amoscato | CC BY 2.0 Recently, there has been much speculation concerning automation and its anticipated effects on human life. This philosophical...

Britain fights for right to field ‘killer robots’ in direct defiance of UN

The UK will oppose a preemptive ban on ‘killer robots’, despite widespread calls in the...

Robots set to divide British society, report warns

Published time: 10 Jul, 2017 15:30 The rise of robots taking over jobs threatens to...

Sex robots could provide therapy and treat loneliness in care homes

Elderly people living in care homes could soon be enjoying the company of specifically designed...

For Whole Foods Workers, Fears of Robots, Drones and Culture Clash

The merger that shook food and retail stocks on Friday - Amazon.com Inc's proposed deal to buy Whole Foods Market Inc -...

Robots that think and feel like humans will live among us in 10 years,...

Daily Mail | Robots that can think and feel like people could soon be living among us, according to one expert. Read more

Future of beach warfare: US Marines test ‘HyperSub,’ machine-gun toting robots & more (VIDEOS)

Published time: 28 Apr, 2017 10:46Edited time: 29 Apr, 2017 18:59 Around 50 advanced weapons are being...

Farmers could turn to robots to make up shortage of human workers after Brexit

A new generation of robots is being readied to fill a labor shortage on Britain’s...

Robots could take over millions of jobs in the next 15 years – report

Millions of jobs in the UK are in jeopardy because of robots taking over various...

It’s no R2D2, but Knightscope’s crime-fighting robots aid police

Maybe someday it will menacingly order citizens to drop their weapons — or else, a la Robocop. But for now, the Knightscope crime-fighting robots, demonstrated...

Robots could take 250,000 public sector jobs by 2030, think tank warns

Robots could soon replace up to 90 percent of the British government’s administrative staff, sparking...

Robots with ‘cultural awareness’ could soon be looking after your granny

Humanoid robots programmed to be culturally aware and have a good bedside manner could help solve the crisis in care services for the elderly,...

Robots Will Start Delivering Food to Doorsteps in Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C.

Starting today, residents and businesses in Redwood City, Calif., and Washington, D.C., can get food delivered right to their doors — via...

Robots could erode the right to privacy, Britons fear

Artificial intelligence could erode privacy, make face-to-face contact a thing of the past, and stop...

Robots Could Replace Almost Half of US Jobs by 2036

Automation through robots and other artificial intelligence could affect nearly half of all US jobs, a report from the Obama administration has...

Robots could replace almost half of US jobs by 2036

Automation through robots and other artificial intelligence could affect nearly half of all US jobs, a report from the Obama administration has found. Education...

Celebrity sex robots could thrust human intercourse aside, experts predict

According to a new study, intercourse between long term couples is expected to dwindle in the not so distant future, being saved only for...
video

Video: Battle of the machines: Robots compete in football final at World Robotics Olympiad...

Robots are competing in the football final of the World Robotics Olympiad on the outskirts of New Delhi, the capital of India. RT LIVE...

Robots could put more than 1mn Brits out of work by 2030 – study

More than 1 million jobs could be automated by 2030 as part of a fourth...

Robots could be the worst thing ever for humanity, warns Stephen Hawking

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the worst thing to ever happen to humanity, acclaimed physicist...

Robots are coming… and will ‘fundamentally’ change human life, UK MPs warn

The UK government is not prepared for the imminent arrival of robots, which will “fundamentally” change lives, take over jobs and raise serious ethical...

Make way for our future overlords: Robots to take 6 percent of jobs by...

Robots are poised to replace interns as the unrewarded and unpaid worker ants of industry. A study by Forrester Research has projected that by...

Robots aid Army in destruction of mustard-gas stockpile

US Army robots are set to destroy 78,000 mustard-gas artillery shells in a specially made $4.5...

Robots will ‘liberate’ 25% of business service workers by 2035, claims Deloitte

A quarter of jobs in Britain’s business services sector will be taken over by robots in the next 20 years because of falling technology...

Rise of the love machines? People will soon be losing their virginity to robots,...

Teens may soon have their first sexual encounters with specially-designed robotic dolls, an expert has...
video

Video: Keiser Report: Robots on the rise (E922)

In this episode of the Keiser Report, Max and Stacy discuss whether 'the system' can survive robots and whether a man can stand on...

Buying robots would be cheaper than hiring at $15 an hour – former McDonald’s...

A robotic revolution is set to happen in the fast food industry if a $15 minimum...

Multi-gendered robots? Custom traits help humans decide their household uses (VIDEO)

Giving a robot multiple gender traits through custom screens helps create “multi-functional” roles for the household,...

Robots to replace middle class professionals within 20yrs – scientists

Scientists predict traditionally middle class jobs in law, medicine and architecture will soon be performed...
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Video: ‘End of Labour day’: ‘Robots’ protest to introduce basic income in Zurich

Activists from the 'Unconditioned Basic Income' movement held a protest in Zurich, Switzerland, during which they marched wearing cardboard robot costumes. Via Youtube

Drone chic? Think tank blasts trendy myth of killer robots’ precision

The myth of the effectiveness and flawless precision of drone technology in modern warfare that...

Get on up like a sex machine: Touching robots’ ‘private parts’ turns on humans...

Touching robots in their “private parts” arouses humans in a “primitive, social way”, according to researchers...
video

Video: Yale Professor Wendell Wallach On Killer Robots, Smart Technology & The Need For...

Please Support The Show – http://richieallen.co.uk/ https://www.facebook.com/therichieallenshow http://www.youtube.com/RichieAllenShowMedia Tune in at ... Via Youtube

British Military wants robots to make life-or-death battlefield decisions

Identifying threats on the battlefield could soon be a decision made by artificially intelligent machines...
video

Video: Russia to send robots and engineers to Syria to help demine Palmyra

Russia says it will deploy bomb disposal experts and technology into Syria in the next few days to help defuse explosives in the city...

Order up: Robots may take over Carl’s Jr.

More concerned with an increase in the minimum wage than an apocalyptic robot uprising, one major...

Robo-geddon? 6 microrobots move a car 18,000 times their weight (VIDEO)

We don’t want to alarm you, but researchers appear to have come a step closer to...

Robots rising: Tories unprepared for economic impact of automation, say Labour

(RT) - Deputy Labour leader TomWatson has called on Chancellor George Osborne to establish a...

When Robots Commit War Crimes

The use of robots in combat will be accompanied by a lengthy learning curve – and, likely, many civilian casualties. (Pictured: Modular Advanced Armed...

Another Reason Economists Don’t Know Much About the Economy: The Story of the Robots

(Photo: Robotic Arm via Shutterstock) The public's confidence in economists was rightly shaken by the fact that almost no economists recognized the housing bubble and...
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Video: Real-life military robots & more: Russian Defense Ministry Innovation day

Russia's Defense Ministry is showing off the results of its research aimed at creating advanced military machines at an exhibition in Kubinka near Moscow...
video

Video: 100% manmade roaches: Russian scientists create miniscule robots to tackle great tasks

If something looks like a cockroach and behaves like a cockroach — well, don't be so sure. It could be a Russia-created miniature robot...

Robots will cut 25% of US jobs in 4 years, transform workforce — report

The encroachment of self-help kiosks and grocery store scanners has led doomsayers to suggest automation threatens the workforce of the future. A new report...
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Video: Robots will create art & may even fall in love – AI engineer

The quest for creating AI (Artificial Intelligence) is on. Two decades ago it all sounded like a far-fetched plot in a science fiction novel....
video

Video: Time Traveling Robots Punish Future Crimes

Artificially intelligent robots could one day comb through digital data left by Internet users and retroactively punish them for “future crimes” that were not...

The Robots Are Coming, And They Are Replacing Warehouse Workers And Fast Food Employees

There are already more than 101 million working age Americans that are not employed and 20 percent of the families in the entire country do not have a single member that has a job.  So what in the world are we going to do when robots start taking millions upon millions more of our jobs? [...]

HazMat alert: use robots to approach Froot Loops

HazMat alert: use robots to approach Kellogg’s Froot Loops by Jon Rappoport March 10, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com Actionnetwork.org describes Kellogg’s Froot Loops: “We sent a box of Froot Loops to a lab for genetic testing and found the corn and soy are 100% Roundup Ready GMO. Sugar is also a Roundup Ready GMO. “Roundup Ready means […]

US Army to Replace Human Soldiers with “Humanoid Robots”

What will a robot army look like? Or more important, how will it behave? These questions are timely ones given the Army general who in...

Robots sent into U.S.-Mexico drug tunnels as border patrol unveils latest weapon in war...

dailymail.co.uk January 15, 2014 Robots are being sent into drug tunnels used for smuggling narcotics into...

‘Sorry, Dave, I can’t let you do that’: Robots learn, network without humans

RTJanuary 15, 2014 A World Wide Web for robots just got more real as scientists ready...

U.S. Border Patrol to demonstrate new tunnel robots

The Voice of RussiaJanuary 13, 2014 Border Patrol agents are using new robot technology to catch...

Autonomous Terminator Like Robots will Decide Your Fate

Infowars.comJanuary 4, 2013 The U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) revealed its Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap, setting...

Rise of the TSA Robots At Airports

Jack Nicas Next to have their jobs automated: airport-security screeners? Aviation and government authorities are starting to use machines in lieu of people...

Robots are the not-too-distant future of war

Chris TilburyThe KernelDecember 18, 2013 The need for humans to participate in armed conflicts could soon...

Literal Android: Google develops robots to replace people in manufacturing, retail

Now that the mystery surrounding the elusive Google barges in the San Francisco Bay reported last month has been brought to light, the Silicon...

Professor Warns of Robots Armed With Tasers

Campaign to ban killer robots achieves success at UN Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comNovember 28, 2013 Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Noel Sharkey warns that autonomous...

Metro Detroit Hospital Gets Germ Zapping Robots

CBS Detroit November 20, 2013 A Metro Detroit hospital has a powerful new weapon in the war against germs. St. Joseph Mercy Oakland is the first hospital...

‘Killer Robots’ could be outlawed

Harriet Alexander Telegraph.co.uk BAE Systems' Taranis, a semi-autonomous unmanned warplane, that will use stealth technology and can fly intercontinental missions and attack both aerial and ground...

Robots to counter soaring labor costs’ in China

China Daily November 13, 2013 Zhejiang province is to invest 500 billion yuan ($82 billion) over the next five years to encouragemanufacturers to adopt more robots to overcome the short supply and high cost of labor. The program is underway and will help at least 5,000 companies a year, a source with theinvestment division of the Zhejiang Economic and Information Commission told China Daily,without giving details. Replacing humans with robots is the most effective way to tackle the labor shortage and risinglabor costs, the commission said. From 2005 to 2012, average labor costs in Zhejiang, a hub for private manufacturing enterprises,almost tripled from 14,847 yuan to 41,370 yuan a year, with an annual increase of nearly 16percent. In a survey conducted by the commission in May, 75 percent of respondents said rising costswere the main reason for switching to robots. As factories used more robots, the proportion of surveyed enterprises with labor shortagesdropped from 80 percent last year to 56.4 percent. The survey was based on replies from 515enterprises that have introduced robot workers. More than 60 percent of the enterprises surveyed have reduced production line employees by atleast 10 percent, while 16 percent of the firms have cut their production jobs by more than 30percent. Meanwhile, robot workers have helped these factories improve productivity by morethan 10 percent. If such a strategy is adopted by large enterprises throughout the province, the labor shortage willbe reduced by 700,000 workers, saving 29 billion yuan in labor costs a year, the commissionsaid. Li Gang, president of the robotics sector in China at ABB, a leading supplier of industrial robots,said China has become a "world factory", but with increasing awareness of health and safety themanufacturing sector faces challenges in the workplace. "Replacing workers with robots in dangerous and unhealthy working environments and usingthem for more creative jobs will be an inevitable choice for China's manufacturing sector," Lisaid. He was speaking at a forum during the 15th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai lastweek. Li said robot sales in China accounted for 21 percent of the world's total in 2012, and heestimates that the country will become the largest robot market in the next year or two. Experts ruled out the possibility of robots triggering job losses. Feng Xiliang, deputy dean of the school of labor economics at Capital University of Economicsand Business in Beijing, said using more robots is a rational choice made by companies totackle the labor shortage. "But there are jobs that cannot be managed by robots at the moment," Feng said, adding thatfewer jobs for humans in the industrial sector could release extra labor for the booming servicesector, which has a much greater capacity for employment. However, using robots still doesn't appear to be a cost-effective choice for some enterprises,with the high initial investment remaining a main concern for business owners in Zhejiang,especially for cash-strapped smaller companies. The commission's survey found that only 17 percent of enterprises are willing to pay more than10 million yuan to implement the robot substitution strategy, with most expecting to recover theinvestment within two to three years. More than 80 percent believe government subsidies should be granted for robot purchases,while more than half the respondents said they will only consider buying robots if such anincentive is introduced. Most said robots are the choice for large companies and that using human labor is still generallycheaper than buying robots. "Demand for robots will be strong in China," said Wang Tianmiao, head of the expert panel onrobot technology under the State High-Tech Development Plan. "We've only seen the tip of theiceberg. Use of robots will penetrate many sectors, such as telecommunications and healthcare." With a flourishing robot market, Wang said, prices will be more transparent and acceptable forbuyers as domestic robot companies emerge. Ma Longguan, president of Shenyin and Wanguo Securities, said the number of robots sharedper 10,000 workers averages 55 globally, nearly 350 in South Korea and Japan, but in China it isonly 21. "South Korea's industrial robot market developed quickly when the country's per capita GDP hit$6,000," Ma said. "China's per capita GDP is now $6,700, so we are just at the start of a marketboom."

Do You Trust Robots?

Tiffany Shlain and husband Ken Goldberg, Professor of Robitics at UC Berkeley, share some thoughts about robots in a new short film “Why We...

US healthcare and flying death robots

Hey, remember that time when the U.S. had a Predator drone hovering over a suspected terrorist's house in Yemen for four hours, and nothing...

The U.S. Military Is Creating Iron Men, Super Soldiers And Terminator Robots To Fight...

The wars of the future are very likely going to resemble many of the science fiction movies that we are watching right now. ...

The U.S. Military Is Creating Iron Men, Super Soldiers And Terminator Robots To Fight...

Terminator - Photo by Stephen Bowler

The wars of the future are very likely going to resemble many of the science fiction movies that we are watching right now.   The U.S. military is in a global race to create the “technologies of the future”, and some of the things that they are coming up with are disturbing to say the least.  Are you ready for future conflicts where “Iron Men”, “super soldiers”, “Terminator robots”, and autonomous drones do most of the killing?  Are you ready for American soldiers that have been genetically modified to perform superhuman feats of strength, run at superhuman speeds and even regrow limbs?  The truth is that all of this stuff is being developed right now and most Americans have no idea that it is happening.

Have you enjoyed watching the “Iron Man” movies that have come out in recent years?  Tens of millions of Americans have flocked to see those films, and now they are being used as inspiration to create a new generation of “exoskeletons” for U.S. soldiers.  In fact, it is being reported that this revolutionary new “smart armor” was specifically “inspired by Tony Stark’s legendary nano suit used in the Iron Man movie series“.  This armor is currently being developed at MIT, and according to the BBC this armor will give U.S. troops “superhuman strength”…

The US Army is working to develop “revolutionary” smart armour that would give its troops “superhuman strength”.

It is calling on the technology industry, government labs and academia to help build the Iron Man-style suit.

Other exoskeletons that allow soldiers to carry large loads much further have already been tested by the army.

The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (Talos) would have such a frame but would also have layers of smart materials fitted with sensors.

The suit would also need to have wide-area networking and a wearable computer similar to Google Glass, the US Army said.

Most people would not object to high tech armor for the military, but what about genetically modifying soldiers themselves?

That is an entirely different thing altogether.

In a previous article, I included a quote from a Daily Mail article that discussed how DARPA is now working on ways to create “super soldiers” that will be able to run at Olympic speeds and regrow limbs that have been blown off…

Tomorrow’s soldiers could be able to run at Olympic speeds and will be able to go for days without food or sleep, if new research into gene manipulation is successful.

According to the U.S. Army’s plans for the future, their soldiers will be able to carry huge weights, live off their fat stores for extended periods and even regrow limbs blown apart by bombs.

The plans were revealed by novelist Simon Conway, who was granted behind-the-scenes access to the Pentagon’s high-tech Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.

How in the world could those things possibly be accomplished?

Through genetic modification of course.

A different Daily Mail article explained how this might work

Most gene modification techniques involve placing genetically modified DNA inside a virus and injecting it into the human body. The virus then enters human cells, and its modified DNA attaches itself to the human DNA inside those cells.

But should we really be using viruses to modify the DNA of our soldiers?

Should we really be modifying the DNA of anyone?

Of course not.

This is very dangerous territory.  Just because we now have the ability to “play God” and alter human DNA does not mean that we should.  If our scientists are not careful, they could end up creating monsters far beyond what anyone could imagine right now.  And once Pandora’s Box is opened and these super soldiers start spreading their DNA around, it simply will not be possible to put the genie back into the bottle.

Another area where the U.S. military is pushing boundaries is in the field of robotics.  For example, Northrop Grumman has developed a 1 1/2-ton unmanned killing machine that is known as MADSS

The MADSS is one mean robot. Developed by defense industry leader Northrop Grumman and currently being showcased at the Fort Benning, Ga. “Robotics Rodeo,” the MADSS is a 1 1/2-ton unmanned ground vehicle designed to provide soldiers with covering fire while cutting down targets.

Make no mistake, it’s an automatic shooting machine, But it requires people to operate it and set targets. The MADSS — Mobile Armed Dismount Support System — tracks and fires on targets only once it gets the green light. It won’t shoot unless a soldier is directing it.

It’s half killer robot, half killer giant remote-control car. While its top speed hasn’t been stated, Northrop Grumman has said that it can follow troops on foot at about five miles an hour over rough terrain that conventional combat vehicles would find impassable.

But a remote control vehicle is one thing.

A “Terminator-like Atlas robot” is another.

Right now, Boston Dynamics is working on a 330 pound humanoid robot that looks like something out of a bad science fiction movie…

Finally, there’s fresh footage of Boston Dynamics’ Terminator-like Atlas robot, which was unveiled earlier this year. The 6-foot, 330-pound humanoid, which may or may not be a future robot infantryman, is designed to use tools and walk over rough terrain.

Check it out stomping over several boxes of rocks like nobody’s business, and then standing on one foot while being hit with a swinging weight.

Of course, it laughs on the inside at these pathetic human challenges.

You can view Atlas in action right here

And personally, I think that the very human-looking robot known as “Petman” is even creepier.

You can see “Petman” in action right here…

As long as humans are controlling this kind of technology, at least there are some safety checks.

But what if we started creating killing machines that made their own decisions?

That sounds crazy, but according to a recent National Journal article that is exactly what is being developed.  As you read this, scientists are working on ways to enable drones “to make even lethal decisions autonomously”…

Scientists, engineers and policymakers are all figuring out ways drones can be used better and more smartly, more precise and less damaging to civilians, with longer range and better staying power. One method under development is by increasing autonomy on the drone itself.

Eventually, drones may have the technical ability to make even lethal decisions autonomously: to respond to a programmed set of inputs, select a target and fire their weapons without a human reviewing or checking the result. Yet the idea of the U.S. military deploying a lethal autonomous robot, or LAR, is sparking controversy. Though autonomy might address some of the current downsides of how drones are used, they introduce new downsides policymakers are only just learning to grapple with.

The basic conceit behind a LAR is that it can outperform and outthink a human operator. “If a drone’s system is sophisticated enough, it could be less emotional, more selective and able to provide force in a way that achieves a tactical objective with the least harm,” said Purdue University Professor Samuel Liles. “A lethal autonomous robot can aim better, target better, select better, and in general be a better asset with the linked ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] packages it can run.”

Would you be comfortable with unmanned drones flying over your neighborhood that are able to decide on their own whether to kill you or not?

I certainly would not be.

This kind of reminds me of the killer drones in the new movie “Oblivion” that Tom Cruise starred in.  I certainly would never want such technology being used to patrol the streets of America.

And what if we lose control over this kind of technology once it becomes widespread someday?

In the past, such notions where laughable.  They were used as plots for bad science fiction movies and that was about it.

But now we are moving into a time when science fiction is becoming science reality.

Are you ready for that?

About the author: Michael T. Snyder is a former Washington D.C. attorney who now publishes The Truth. His new thriller entitled “The Beginning Of The End” is now available on Amazon.com.

Michael T. Snyder's Shocking New Novel About The Future Of America

The U.S. Military Is Creating Iron Men, Super Soldiers And Terminator Robots To Fight...

The wars of the future are very likely going to resemble many of the science fiction movies that we are watching right now.   The U.S. military is in a global race to create the “technologies of the future”, and some of the things that they are coming up with are disturbing to say the [...]

Oxford Professors: Robots And Computers Could Take Half Our Jobs Within The Next 20...

What are human workers going to do when super-intelligent robots and computers are better than us at doing everything? That is one of the...

Killer robots and crippling cyber attacks: How the world is going to end

According to super brains such as Stephen Hawking NICK MCDERMOTT Daily Mail September 13, 2013 They are an improbable group of superheroes. But some of...

Israel’s Killer Robots

An exposé from VICE examines the world of drones in Israel: "Israel is the world's biggest exporter of military drones, used around the world...

Israel’s Killer Robots

An exposé from VICE examines the world of drones in Israel: "Israel is the world's biggest exporter of military drones, used around the world...

Flying Robots: Songify the News

Infowars.comAugust 9, 2013 Joe Biden and his press secretary, Darren Criss, educate the public on shotgun...

Russian Military Joins Race to Engineer Killer Robots

Infowars.comAugust 8, 2013 A Russian general, Oleg Ostapenko, told reporters on Wednesday that the...

Skynet factories to churn out test tube beef as ‘Bloomburgernator’ robots force humans to...

Mike AdamsNaturalNewsAugust 6, 2013 The era of robotic, factory-produced test tube hamburger meat is nearly here....

Skynet factories to churn out test tube beef as ‘Bloomburgernator’ robots force humans to...

Mike AdamsNaturalNewsAugust 6, 2013 The era of robotic, factory-produced test tube hamburger meat is nearly here....

Professor: Robots to Patrol Cities by 2040

“What is your ID number? What are you doing here?” Paul Joseph WatsonInfowars.comJuly 25, 2013

Professor: Robots to Patrol Cities by 2040

“What is your ID number? What are you doing here?” Paul Joseph Watson Infowars.com July 25, 2013 Robots will be patrolling cities...

Robots Are Starting To Take Over Fast Food Jobs

In many cases, customers complete their orders through a touchscreen, which then alerts the robot how to prepare the meal. No humans needed.

'Historic' Drone Landing Paves Way for 'Killer Robots'

The landing of the X-47B pilotless drone is just the 'precursor' to the future of warfare. (Photo: Timothy Waller/ USNavy/ AP)In an event sure...

'Mechanical Slaughter' Likely If No Ban on Killer Robots, UN Official Warns

A soldier looks at a remote controlled military robot, armed with a machine gun and up to four grenade launchers--a precursor to “fully autonomous...

UN warns states about 'killer robots'

An X-47B demonstrator drone launches from an aircraft carrier off the coast of Virginia.The United Nations has warned the worldâ„¢s leading military powers that...

UN warns states about 'killer robots'

An X-47B demonstrator drone launches from an aircraft carrier off the coast of Virginia.The United Nations has warned the worldâ„¢s leading military powers that...

Militaries’ growing use of ground robots raises ethics concerns

Andrew Contestripes.comMay 20, 2013 If North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un ever orders troops into the...

Hedonistic Robots Could Destroy Humanity

Marshall HonorofLive ScienceMay 17, 2013 Complex robots are like animals: They learn by doing. Future robots...

Autonomous Robots Coming Soon to a Hospital Near You

Autonomous Robots Coming Soon to a Hospital Near You

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Posted on Feb 8, 2013

FDA has approved the use of autonomous telemedicine robots in U.S. hospitals; although President Obama’s second term inaugural speech was inclusive and liberal, it failed to mention the growing crisis of inequality our nation faces; meanwhile, a new book details the scandalous antics of hard-partying authors. These discoveries and more below.

On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that have found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

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AlterNet Comics: Tom Tomorrow on Platinum Coins and Flying Killer Robots

What does it take to be a very serious person these days?

January 18, 2013  |  

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A New Industrial Revolution: The Rise of the Robots

(Photo: CartoonArts International / The New York Times Syndicate).(Photo: CartoonArts International / The New York Times Syndicate).It's taken me a while to get around to Bob Gordon's stimulating essay suggesting that the great days of economic growth are behind us. It's not that different from things he's been saying before, and I have in the past had a lot of sympathy for that view. I now believe, however, that his technological pessimism is wrong — or if you prefer, it's the wrong kind of pessimism. But this is definitely a discussion worth having.

Mr. Gordon, an economics professor at Northwestern University, argues, rightly in my view, that we've really had three industrial revolutions so far, each based on a different cluster of technologies. In an essay published in September by the Center for Economic Policy Research, Mr. Gordon writes:

"The analysis in my paper links periods of slow and rapid growth to the timing of the three industrial revolutions: IR #1 (steam, railroads) from 1750 to 1830; IR #2 (electricity, internal combustion engine, running water, indoor toilets, communications, entertainment, chemicals, petroleum) from 1870 to 1900; and IR #3 (computers, the Web, mobile phones) from 1960 to present."

M. Gordon then argues that IR#2 was by far the most dramatic, which again seems right. Think of the America shown in the film "Lincoln," which is a society shaped by IR #1 but not yet transformed by IR #2. It was a society in which people could travel much farther and faster than ever before — but when they got to their destinations, they were still living in a horse-drawn society. Most people still lived on farms and the cities were cruder and dirtier than we can easily imagine. By the 1920s, however, urban America was already recognizably a modern society. What Mr. Gordon then does is suggest that IR #3 has already mostly run its course, that all our mobile devices and so on are new and fun but not that fundamental.

It's good to have someone questioning the tech euphoria, but I've been looking into technology issues a lot lately, and I'm pretty sure he's wrong: the information technology revolution has only begun to have its impact. Consider for a moment a sort of fantasy technology scenario in which we can produce intelligent robots able to do everything a person can do. Clearly, such a technology would remove all limits on per-capita gross domestic product, as long as you don't count robots among the capitas. All you need to do is keep raising the ratio of robots to humans, and you get whatever G.D.P. you want.

Now, that's not happening — and in fact, as I understand it, not that much progress has been made in producing machines that think the way we do. But it turns out that there are other ways of producing very smart machines. In particular, Big Data — the use of huge databases of things like spoken conversations — apparently makes it possible for machines to perform tasks that even a few years ago were really only possible for people. Speech recognition is still imperfect, but it is vastly better than it was and it's improving rapidly, not because we've managed to emulate human understanding but because we've found data-intensive ways of interpreting speech in a very nonhuman way. And this means that in a sense we are moving toward something like my intelligent-robots world; many, many tasks are becoming machine-friendly. This in turn means that Mr. Gordon is probably wrong about diminishing returns from technology.

Ah, you ask, but what about the people? Very good question. Smart machines may make higher G.D.P. possible, but they will also reduce the demand for people — including smart people. So we could be looking at a society that grows ever richer, but in which all the gains in wealth accrue to whoever owns the robots. And then eventually Skynet decides to kill us all, but that's another story.

Anyway, interesting stuff to speculate about — and not irrelevant to policy, either, since so much of the debate over entitlements is about what is supposed to happen decades from now.

© 2013 The New York Times Company

Truthout has licensed this content. It may not be reproduced by any other source and is not covered by our Creative Commons license.

Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008. Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including "The Return of Depression Economics" (2008) and "The Conscience of a Liberal" (2007).

Copyright 2013 The New York Times.

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“No one is more of a slave than he who thinks himself free without being so.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Robert Bonomo  RINF Alternative News Contemporary baptized,...

The Seven Pillars of the Matrix

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Contemporary baptized, corporatized and sanitized man rarely has the occasion to question his identity, and when he does a typical response might be, “I am product manager for a large retail chain, married to Betty, father of Johnny, a Democrat, Steelers fan and a Lutheran.”
His answers imply not only his beliefs but the many responsibilities, rules and restrictions he is subjected to.  Few if any of these were ever negotiated-  they were imposed on him yet he still considers himself free.
But is free the right adjective for him, or would modern domesticated simian be more apt?  He has been told what to do, believe, think and feel since he can remember.  A very clever rancher has bred billions of these creatures around the globe and created the most profitable livestock imaginable.  They work for him, fight for him, die for him, believe his wildest tales, laugh at his jokes and rarely get out of line.  When domesticated man does break one of the rules there are armies, jailers, psychiatrists and bureaucrats prepared to kill, incarcerate, drug or hound the transgressor into submission.

One of the most fascinating aspects of domesticated man’s predicament is that he never looks at the cattle, sheep and pigs who wind up on his plate and make the very simple deduction that he is just a talking version of them, corralled and shepherded through his entire life.  How is this accomplished?  Only animals that live in hierarchical groups can be dominated by man. The trick is to fool the animal into believing that the leader of the pack or herd is the person who is domesticating them.  Once this is accomplished the animal is under full control of its homo sapien master. The domesticated man is no different, originally organized in groups with a clear hierarchy and maximum size of 150-  it was easy to replace the leader of these smaller groups with one overarching figure such as God, King, President, CEO etc.  
The methodology for creating this exceptionally loyal and obedient modern breed, homo domesticus, can be described as having seven pillars from which an immense matrix captures the talking simians and their conscious minds and hooks them into a complex mesh from which few ever escape.  The system is so advanced that those who do untangle themselves and cut their way out of the net are immediately branded as mentally ill, anti-social, or simply losers who can’t accept the ‘complexity of modern life’, i.e. conspiracy nuts.
Plato described this brilliantly in his Allegory of the Cave, where people only see man made shadows of objects, institutions, Gods and ideas:
 “--Behold! human beings living in an underground cave...here they have been from their childhood...necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance...the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets... and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall...”
It began with the word, which forever changed the ability of men to manipulate each other.  Before language, every sensation was directly felt through the senses without the filter of words.  But somewhere around 50,000 years ago language began to replace reality and the first pieces of code were put in place for the creation of the Matrix.  As soon as the words began to flow the world was split, and from that fracturing was born man’s angst and slavery.  The words separated us from who we really were, creating the first screen onto which the images from Plato’s cave were cast.  Gurdjieff said it well, “Identifying is the chief obstacle to self-remembering. A man who identifies with anything is unable to remember himself.”
It’s no accident that in Hesiod’s ages of man the Golden Age knew no agriculture, which appeared in the Silver age, and by the time we reach the Bronze age the dominant theme is toil and strife.  The two key elements to the enslavement of man were clearly language and agriculture.  In the hunter gatherer society, taking out the boss was no more complicated than landing a well placed fastball to the head.  Only since the advent of farming was the possibility of creating full time enforcers and propagandists made possible, and hence enslavement inevitable.
The search for enlightenment rarely if ever bears fruits in those temples of words, our schools and universities.  Almost all traditions point to isolation and silence as the only paths to awakening;  they are the true antidotes to modern slavery.  As Aristotle wrote, “Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”
So from the institution from which we are mercilessly bombarded with words and enslaved to time, we begin our descent through the seven layers of the Matrix.


Education



There are things we are born able to do like eating, laughing and crying and others we pick up without much of an effort such as walking, speaking and fighting, but without strict institutional education there is no way that we can ever become a functioning member of the Matrix. We must be indoctrinated, sent to Matrix boot camp, which of course is school.  How else could you take a hunter and turn him into a corporate slave, submissive to clocks, countless bosses, monotony and uniformity?

Children naturally know who they are, they have no existential angst, but schools immediately begin driving home the point of schedules, rules, lists and grades which inevitably lead the students to the concept of who they aren't.  We drill the little ones until they learn to count money, tell time, measure progress, stand in line, keep silent and endure submission.  They learn they aren't free and they are separated from everyone else and the world itself by a myriad of divides, names and languages.

It can’t be stressed enough how much education is simply inculcating people with the clock and the idea of a forced identity.  What child when she first goes to school isn't taken back to hear herself referred to by her full name?

It’s not as if language itself isn't sufficiently abstract- nothing must be left without a category.  Suzy can’t just be Suzy-  she is a citizen of a country and a state, a member of a religion and a product of a civilization, many of which have flags, mascots, armies, uniforms, currencies and languages.  Once all the mascots, tag lines and corporate creeds are learned, then history can begin to be taught.  The great epic myths invented and conveniently woven into the archetypes which have come down through the ages cement this matrix into the child’s mind.

Even the language that she speaks without effort must be deconstructed for her.  An apple will never again be just an apple-  it will become a noun, a subject, or an object.  Nothing will be left untouched, all must be ripped apart and explained back to the child in Matrixese.

We are taught almost nothing useful during the twelve or so years that we are institutionalized and conditioned for slavery- not how to cook, farm, hunt, build, gather, laugh or play.  We are only taught how to live by a clock and conform to institutionalized behaviors that make for solid careers as slaveocrats. 

Government


In the countries that claim to be democratic the concept of a government created to serve the people is often espoused.  Government, and the laws they create and enforce are institutionalized social control for the benefit of those who have seized power.  This has always been the case and always will be.  In the pre-democratic era it was much clearer to recognize who had power, but the genius of massive democratic states are the layers upon layers of corporatocracy and special interests which so brilliantly conceal the identify of those who really manage the massive apparatus of control.
The functions of the state are so well ensconced in dogmatic versions of history taught in schools that almost no one questions why we need anything beyond the bare essentials of government to maintain order in the post-industrial age.  The history classes never point the finger at the governments themselves as the propagators and instigators of war, genocide, starvation and corruption.  In Hollywood's version of history, the one most people absorb, 'good' governments are always portrayed as fighting 'bad' ones.  We have yet to see a film where all the people on both sides simply disengage from their governments and ignore the calls to violence.

The state apparatus is based on law, which is a contract between the people and an organism created to administer common necessities- an exchange of sovereignty between the people and the state.  This sounds reasonable, but when one looks at the mass slaughters of the 20th century, almost without exception, the perpetrators are the states themselves.
The loss of human freedom is the only birthright offered to the citizens of the modern nation.   There is never a choice.  It is spun as a freedom and a privilege when it is in fact indentured servitude to the state apparatus and the corporatocracy that controls it.

Patriotism is pure abstraction, a completely artificial mechanism of social control.  People are taught to value their compatriots above and beyond those of their own ethnic background, race or religion.  The organic bonds are to be shed in favor of the great corporate state.  From infancy children are indoctrinated like Pavlov’s dogs to worship the paraphernalia of the state and see it as a mystical demigod.
What is a country?  Using the United States as example, what actually is this entity?  Is it the USPS, the FDA, or the CIA?  Does loving one's country mean one should love the IRS and the NSA?  Should we feel differently about someone if they are from Vancouver instead of Seattle?  Loving a state is the same as loving a corporation, except with the corporations there is still no stigma attached to not showing overt sentimental devotion to their brands and fortunately, at least for the moment, we are not obligated at birth to pay them for a lifetime of services, most of which we neither need nor want.
Flags, the Hollywood version of history and presidential worship are drilled into us to maintain the illusion of the 'other' and force the 'foreigner/terrorist/extremist' to wear the stigma of our projections.  The archaic tribal energy that united small bands and helped them to fend off wild beasts and hungry hoards has been converted into a magic wand for the masters of the matrix.  Flags are waved, and we respond like hungry Labradors jumping at a juicy prime rib swinging before our noses.  Sentimental statist propaganda is simply the mouthguard used to soften the jolt of our collective electroshock therapy. 

Religion



As powerful as the patriotic sects are, there has always been a need for something higher.  Religion comes from the Latin 're-ligare' and it means to reconnect.  But reconnect to what?  The question before all religions is, what have we been disconnected from?  The indoctrination and alienation of becoming a card carrying slave has a cost;  the level of abstraction and the disconnect from any semblance of humanity converts people into nihilistic robots.  No amount of patriotic fervor can replace having a soul.  The flags and history lessons can only give a momentary reprieve to the emptiness of the Matrix and that's why the priests are needed.
The original spiritual connection man had with the universe began to dissolve into duality with the onset of language, and by the time cities and standing armies arrived he was in need of a reconnection, and thus we get our faith based religions.  Faith in the religious experiences of sages, or as William James put it, faith in someone else's ability to connect.  Of course the liturgies of our mainstream religions offer some solace and connection, but in general they simply provide the glue for the Matrix.  A brief perusal of the news will clearly show that their 'God' seems most comfortable amidst the killing fields. 
If we focus on the Abrahamic religions, we have a god much like the state, one who needs to be loved.  He is also jealous of the other supposedly non-existent gods and is as sociopathic as the governments who adore him.  He wipes out his enemies with floods and angels of death just as the governments who pander to him annihilate us with cultural revolutions, atom bombs, television and napalm.  Their anthem is, "Love your country, it’s flag, its history, and the God who created it all"-  an ethos force fed to each new generation. 

Circus

The sad thing about circus is that it's generally not even entertaining.  The slaves are told it's time for some fun and they move in hordes to fill stadiums, clubs, cinemas or simply to stare into their electrical devices believing that they are are being entertained by vulgar propaganda.  
As long as homo domesticus goes into the appropriate corral, jumps when she is told to and agrees wholeheartedly that she is having fun, than she is a good slave worthy of her two days off a week and fifteen days vacation at the designated farm where she is milked of any excess gold she might have accumulated during the year.  Once she is too old to work and put to pasture, holes are strategically placed in her vicinity so she and her husband can spend their last few dollars trying to get a small white ball into them.

On a daily basis, after the caffeinated maximum effort has been squeezed out of her, she is placed in front of a screen, given the Matrix approved beverage (alcohol), and re-indoctrinated for several hours before starting the whole cycle over again. God forbid anyone ever took a hallucinogen and had an original thought.  We are, thankfully, protected from any substances that might actually wake us up and are encouraged stick to the booze.   The matrix loves coffee in the morning, alcohol in the evening and never an authentic thought in between.
On a more primal level we are entranced with the contours of the perfect body and dream of ‘perfect love’, where our days will be filled with soft caresses, sweet words and Hollywood drama.   This is maybe the most sublime of the Matrix’s snares, as Venus’s charms can be so convincing one willingly abandons all for her devious promise.  Romantic love is dangled like bait, selling us down the path of sentimentally coated lies and mindless consumerism. 


Money



Money is their most brilliant accomplishment.  Billions of people spend most of their waking lives either acquiring it or spending it without ever understanding what it actually is.  In this hologram of a world, the only thing one can do without money is breath.  For almost every other human activity they want currency, from eating and drinking to clothing oneself and finding a partner. Religion came from innate spirituality and patriotism from the tribe, but money they invented themselves-  the most fantastic and effective of all their tools of domestication.
They have convinced the slaves that money actually has some intrinsic value, since at some point in the past it actually did.  Once they were finally able to disconnect money completely from anything other than their computers, they finally took complete control, locked the last gate and electrified all the fences.  They ingeniously print it up out of the nothing and loan it with interest in order for 18-year-olds to spend four years drinking and memorizing propaganda as they begin a financial indebtedness that will most likely never end.  
By the time the typical American is thirty the debt is mounted so high that they abandon any hope of ever being free of it and embrace their mortgages, credit cards, student loans and car loans as gifts from a sugar daddy.  What they rarely asks themselves is why they must work to make money while banks can simply create it with a few key strokes.  If they printed out notes on their HP's and loaned them with interest to their neighbors, they would wind up in a penitentiary, but not our friends on Wall Street-  they do just that and wind up pulling the strings in the White House.  The  genius of the money scam is how obvious it is.  When people are told that banks create money out of nothing and are paid interest for it the good folks are left incredulous.  “It can't be that simple!"  And therein lies the rub- no one wants to believe that they have been enslaved so easily .
“Culture is the effort to hold back the mystery, and replace it with a mythology.”
As Terence loved to say, “Culture is not your friend.”  It exists as a buffer to authentic experience.  As they created larger and larger communities, they replaced the direct spiritual experience of the shaman with priestly religion.  Drum beats and sweat were exchanged for digitized, corporatized noise.  Local tales got replaced by Hollywood blockbusters, critical thinking with academic dogma.
If money is the shackles of the matrix, culture is its operating system.  Filtered, centralized, incredibly manipulative, it glues all their myths together into one massive narrative of social control from which only the bravest of souls ever try to escape.  It's relatively simple to see the manipulation when one looks at patriotism, religion or money.  But when taken as a whole, our culture seems as natural and timeless as the air we breathe, so intertwined with our self conception it is often hard to see where we individually finish and our culture begins.

Escaping the Grip of Control

Some might ask why this all-pervasive network of control isn't talked about or discussed by our ‘great minds’.  Pre-Socratic scholar Peter Kingsley explains it well:
“Everything becomes clear once we accept the fact that scholarship as a whole is not concerned with finding, or even looking for, the truth. That’s just a decorative appearance.  It’s simply concerned with protecting us from truths that might endanger our security; and it does so by perpetuating our collective illusions on a much deeper level than individual scholars are aware of.”

Whoever discovered water, it certainly wasn't a fish.  To leave the ‘water’, or Plato's cave takes courage and the knowledge that there is something beyond the web of control.  Over 2,300 hundred years ago Plato described the process of leaving the Matrix in the Allegory of the Cave as a slow, excruciating process akin to walking out onto a sunny beach after spending years in a basement watching Kabuki.

How can this awakening be explained?  How do you describe the feeling of swimming in the ocean at dusk to someone who has never even seen the sea?  You can't, but what you can do is crack open a window for them and if enough windows are opened, the illusion begins to lose its luster. 

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Amazon, Domino’s and Big Brother: Drones Flying the Not-So-Friendly Surveillance Skies

“The privacy and dignity of our citizens [are] being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole, there begins to emerge a society quite unlike any we have seen–a society in which government may intrude into the secret regions of a [person's] […]

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The True Price of Great Holiday Deals

The most important website last weekend and in weeks to come — on which the hopes and fears of countless Americans are focused (and the President’s poll-ratings depend) – is not HealthCare.gov. It’s Amazon.com.

Even if and when HealthCare.gov works perfectly, relatively few Americans will be affected by it. Only 5 percent of us are in the private health-insurance market to begin with. But almost half of Americans are now shopping for great holiday deals online, and many will be profoundly affected — not because they get great deals, but because their jobs and incomes are at stake.    

Online retailing is the future. Amazon is the main online shopping portal this holiday season but traditional retailers are moving online as fast as they can. Online sales are already up 20 percent over last year, and the pace will only accelerate.Target and many other bricks-and-mortar outlets plan to spend more on technology next year than on building and upgrading new stores.

Americans are getting great deals online, and they like the convenience. But there’s a hidden price. With the growth of online retailing, fewer Americans will have jobs in bricks-and-mortar retail stores.

Amazon announced last summer it would add 5,000 new jobs to the 20,000 it already has. But not even 25,000 Amazon jobs come near to replacing the hundreds of thousands of retail jobs Amazon has already wiped out, and the hundreds of thousands more it will eliminate in the future. 

To put this in some perspective you need to know that retail jobs have been the fastest growing of all job categories since the recession ended in 2009. But given the rapid growth of online retailing, that trend can’t possibly last. What will Americans do when online sales take over?

Add to this the fact that most of what’s being sold this holiday season – online and off-line —  is no longer made by Americans. Vast shipping containers of gadgets, garments, and other goodies are fabricated or assembled or sewed together in Asia for the American market.  

Online retailers are facilitating this move by having these goods shipped directly from Asian factories to distribution centers in America and then to our homes, without ever having to go to an American retail store or even a wholesaler. This means even lower prices and better deals. But it also means fewer jobs and lower pay for many Americans.

Some manufacturing is coming back to America, to be sure, but not the assembly-line jobs that used to be the core of manufacturing employment. Computerized machine tools and robots are doing an increasing portion of the work — which is why many companies can afford to bring their factories back here.

Get it? Technology and globalization are driving the good deals American consumers are getting this holiday season. But the same forces are keeping wages down, and are even on the verge of eliminating many of the low-wage retail and related service jobs many Americans now need to make ends meet.

To put it another way, American consumers getting great shopping deals are also American workers on the losing end of those same deals.

The biggest reason holiday shopping is especially frenzied this season is so many Americans are already stretched to the breaking point that they’re more desperate than ever for bargains. Sixty-five percent of today’s shoppers are living paycheck-to-paycheck. That’s up from 61 percent last year, according to consumer research by Booz and Company.

Median household income in America continues to drop, adjusted for inflation, because low-wage jobs are the major ones available. Lower-wage occupations accounted for only 21 percent of job losses during the Great Recession. They’ve accounted for 58 percent of all job growth since then.

The President’s dropping poll-ratings are only partly due to the bumbling roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. The computer glitches at HealthCare.gov aren’t the most important reason why Americans are grumpy this holiday season. The bigger problem is the economy remains lousy for most people.

Technology and globalization are taking over more and more American jobs. There’s no easy fix for this, and it’s hardly the President’s fault. But the sobering reality is the United States has no national strategy for creating more good jobs in America. Until we do, more and more Americans will be chasing great deals that come largely at their own expense.

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Gaza: Life and death under Israel’s drones

Al-Jazeera – 28 November 2013

There are many things to fear in Gaza: Attacks from Israel’s Apache helicopters and F-16 fighter jets, the coastal enclave’s growing isolation, the regular blackouts from power shortages, increasingly polluted drinking water and rivers of sewage flooding the streets.

Meanwhile, for most Palestinians in Gaza the anxiety-inducing soundtrack to their lives is the constant buzz of the remotely piloted aircraft – better known as “drones” – that hover in the skies above.

Drones are increasingly being used for surveillance and extra-judicial execution in parts of the Middle East, especially by the US, but in nowhere more than Gaza has the drone become a permanent fixture of life. More than 1.7 million Palestinians, confined by Israel to a small territory in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, are subject to near continual surveillance and intermittent death raining down from the sky.

There is little hope of escaping the zenana – an Arabic word referring to a wife’s relentless nagging that Gazans have adopted to describe the drone’s oppressive noise and their feelings about it. According to statistics compiled by human rights groups in Gaza, civilians are the chief casualties of what Israel refers to as “surgical” strikes from drones.

“When you hear the drones, you feel naked and vulnerable,” said Hamdi Shaqura, deputy director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, based in Gaza City. “The buzz is the sound of death. There is no escape, nowhere is private. It is a reminder that, whatever Israel and the international community assert, the occupation has not ended. We are still living completely under Israeli control. They control the borders and the sea and they decide our fates from their position in the sky,” said Shaqura.

The Israeli military did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.

Suffer the children

The sense of permanent exposure, coupled with the fear of being mistakenly targeted, has inflicted deep psychological scars on civilians, especially children, according to experts.

“There is a great sense of insecurity. Nowhere feels safe for the children, and they feel no one can offer them protection, not even their parents,” said Ahmed Tawahina, a psychologist running clinics in Gaza as part of the Community Mental Health Programme. “That traumatises both the children and parents, who feel they are failing in their most basic responsibility.”

Shaqura observed: “From a political perspective, there is a deep paradox. Israel says it needs security, but it demands it at the cost of our constant insecurity.”

There are no statistics that detail the effect of the drones on Palestinians in Gaza. Doctors admit it is impossible to separate the psychological toll inflicted by drones from other sources of damage to mental health, such as air strikes by F-16s, severe restrictions on movement and the economic insecurity caused by Israel’s blockade.

But field researchers working for Palestinian rights groups point out that the use of drones is intimately tied to these other sources of fear and anxiety. Drones fire missiles themselves, they guide attacks by F-16s or helicopters, and they patrol and oversee the borders.

A survey in medical journal The Lancet following Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s month-long attack on Gaza in winter 2008-09, found large percentages of children suffered from symptoms of psychological trauma: Fifty-eight percent permanently feared the dark; 43 percent reported regular nightmares; 37 percent wet the bed and 42 percent had crying attacks.

Tawahina described the sense of being constantly observed as a “form of psychological torture, which exhausts people’s mental and emotional resources. Among children at school, this can be seen in poor concentration and unruly behaviour.” The trauma for children is compounded by the fact that the drones also disrupt what should be their safest activity – watching TV at home. When a drone is operating nearby, it invariably interferes with satellite reception.

“”It doesn’t make headlines, but it is another example of how there is no escape from the drones. Parents want their children indoors, where it feels safer and where they’re less likely to hear the drones, but still the drone finds a way into their home. The children cannot even switch off from the traumas around them by watching TV because of the drones.”

Israel’s ‘major advantage’

Israel developed its first drones in the early 1980s, during its long occupation of south Lebanon, to gather aerial intelligence without exposing Israeli pilots to anti-aircraft missiles. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University, said drones help in situations where good, on-the-ground intelligence is lacking. “What the UAV gives you is eyes on the other side of the hill or over the border,” he said. “That provides Israel with a major advantage over its enemies.”

Other Israeli analysts have claimed that the use of drones, with their detailed intelligence-collecting abilities, is justified because they reduce the chances of errors and the likelihood of “collateral damage” – civilian deaths – during attacks.

But, according to Inbar, the drone is no better equipped than other aircraft for gathering intelligence or carrying out an execution.

“The advantage from Israel’s point of view is that using a drone for these tasks reduces the risk of endangering a pilot’s life or losing an expensive plane. That is why we are moving towards much greater use of these kinds of robots on the battlefield,” he said.

‘Mistakes can happen’

According to Gaza human rights group al-Mezan, Israel started using drones over the territory from the start of the second intifada in 2000, but only for surveillance.

Israel’s first extra-judicial executions using drones occurred in 2004, when two Palestinians were killed. But these operations greatly expanded after 2006, in the wake of Israel’s withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza and the rise to power of the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas.

Drones, the front-line weapon in Israel’s surveillance operations and efforts to foil rocket attacks, killed more than 90 Palestinians in each of the years 2006 and 2007, according to al-Mezan. The figures soared during Operation Cast Lead and in its aftermath, with 461 Palestinians killed by drones in 2009. The number peaked again with 199 deaths in 2012, the year when Israel launched the eight-day Operation Pillar of Defence against Gaza.

Despite Israeli claims that the intelligence provided by drones makes it easier to target those Palestinians it has defined as “terrorists”, research shows civilians are the main victims. In the 2012 Pillar of Defence operation, 36 of the 162 Palestinians killed were a result of drone strikes, and a further 100 were injured by drones. Of those 36 killed, two-thirds were civilians.

Also revealing was a finding that, although drones were used in only five percent of air strikes, they accounted for 23 percent of the total deaths during Pillar of Defence. According to the Economist magazine, the assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari, which triggered that operation, was carried out using a Hermes 450 drone.

Palestinian fighters report that they have responded to the constant surveillance by living in hiding, rarely going outdoors and avoiding using phones or cars. It is a way of life not possible for most people in Gaza.

Gaza’s armed groups are reported to be trying to find a way to jam the drones’ navigation systems. In the meantime, Hamas has claimed it has shot down three drones, the latest this month, though Israel says all three crashed due to malfunctions.

Last week, on the anniversary of the launch of Pillar of Defence, an Israeli commander whose soldiers control the drones over Gaza from a base south of Tel Aviv told the Haaretz newspaper that “many” air strikes during the operation had involved drones. “Lt Col Shay” was quoted saying: “Ultimately, we are at war. As much as the IDF strives to carry out the most precise surgical strikes, mistakes can happen in the air or on the ground.”

Random death by drone

It is for this reason that drones have become increasingly associated with random death from the sky, said Samir Zaqout, a senior field researcher for Al-Mezan.

“We know from the footage taken by drones that Israel can see what is happening below in the finest detail. And yet women and children keep being killed in drone attacks. Why the continual mistakes? The answer, I think, is that these aren’t mistakes. The message Israel wants to send us is that there is no protection whether you are a civilian or fighter. They want us afraid and to make us turn on the resistance [Palestinian fighters].”

Zaqout also points to a more recent use of drones – what has come to be known as “roof-knocking”. This is when a drone fires small missiles at the roof of a building to warn the inhabitants to evacuate – a practice Israel developed during Operation Cast Lead three years earlier, to allay international concerns about its repeated levellings of buildings with civilians inside.

In Pillar of Defence in 2012, 33 buildings were targeted by roof-knocking.

Israel says it provides 10 minutes’ warning from a roof-knock to an air strike, but, in practice, families find they often have much less time. This, said Zaqout, puts large families in great danger as they usually send their members out in small groups to be sure they will not be attacked as they move onto the streets.

One notorious case occurred during Cast Lead, when six members of the Salha family, all women and children, were killed when their home was shelled moments after a roof-knocking. The father, Fayez Salha, who survived, lost a case for damages in Israel’s Supreme Court last February and was ordered to pay costs after the judges ruled that the attack was legitimate because it occurred as part of a military operation.

A US citizen who has lived long-term in Gaza, who wished not be named for fear of reprisals from Israel, said she often heard the drones at night when the street noise dies down, or as they hover above her while out walking. “The sound is like the buzz of a mosquito, although there is one type of drone that sometimes comes into view that is silent,” she said.

She added that she knew of families that, before moving into a new apartment building, checked to see whether it housed a fighter or a relative of a fighter, for fear that the building may be attacked by Israel.

Shaqura said the drones inevitably affect one’s day-to-day behaviour. He said he was jogging early one morning while a drone hovered overhead.

“I got 100 metres from my front door when I started to feel overwhelmed with fear. I realised that my tracksuit was black, the same colour as many of the fighters’ uniforms. I read in my work too many reports of civilians being killed by drones not to see the danger. So I hurried back home.”

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A Chip In The Head: Brain Implants Will Be Connecting People To The Internet...

The Future - Cartoon By WellemanWould you like to surf the Internet, make a phone call or send a text message using only your brain?  Would you like to “download” the content of a 500 page book into your memory in less than a second?  Would you like to have extremely advanced nanobots constantly crawling around in your body monitoring it for disease?  Would you like to be able to instantly access the collective knowledge base of humanity wherever you are?  All of that may sound like science fiction, but these are technologies that some of the most powerful high tech firms in the world actually believe are achievable by the year 2020.  However, with all of the potential “benefits” that such technology could bring, there is also the potential for great tyranny.  Just think about it.  What do you think that the governments of the world could do if almost everyone had a mind reading brain implant that was connected to the Internet?  Could those implants be used to control and manipulate us?  Those are frightening things to consider.

For now, most of the scientists that are working on brain implant technology do not seem to be too worried about those kinds of concerns.  Instead, they are pressing ahead into realms that were once considered to be impossible.

Right now, there are approximately 100,000 people around the world that have implants in their brains.  Most of those are for medical reasons.

But this is just the beginning.  According to the Boston Globe, the U.S. government plans “to spend more than $70 million over five years to jump to the next level of brain implants”.

This new project is being called the Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS), and the goal is to be able to monitor the “mental health” of soldiers and veterans.  The following is how a recent CNET article described SUBNETS…

SUBNETS is inspired by Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a surgical treatment that involves implanting a brain pacemaker in the patient’s skull to interfere with brain activity to help with symptoms of diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson’s. DARPA’s device will be similar, but rather than targeting one specific symptom, it will be able to monitor and analyse data in real time and issue a specific intervention according to brain activity.

This kind of technology is being developed by the private sector as well.  In fact, according to Scientific American scientists are becoming increasingly excited about how brain implants can be used to “reboot” the brains of people with depression…

Psychological depression is more than an emotional state. Good evidence for that comes from emerging new uses for a  technology already widely prescribed for Parkinson’s patients. The more neurologists and surgeons learn about the aptly named deep brain stimulation, the more they are convinced that the currents from the technology’s implanted electrodes can literally reboot brain circuits involved with the mood disorder.

Would you like to have your brain “rebooted” by a chip inside your head?

And of course this is how brain implants will be marketed to the public at first.  They will be sold as something that has great “health benefits”.  For example, one firm has developed a brain implant that can detect and treat epileptic seizures

The NeuroPace RNS is the first implant to listen to brain waves and autonomously decide when to apply a therapy to prevent an epileptic seizure. It was developed by a company with a staff of less than 90 people, only about 30 on the core electronic, mechanical, and software engineering teams.

A different team of researchers has discovered that it can stimulate the repair of brain tissue in rats using brain implants

Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease patients may benefit from a controversial experiment that implanted microchips into lab rats. Scientists say the tests produced effective results in brain damage research.

Rats showed motor function in formerly damaged gray matter after a neural microchip was implanted under the rat’s skull and electrodes were transferred to the rat’s brain. Without the microchip, rats with damaged brain tissue did not have motor function. Both strokes and Parkinson’s can cause permanent neurological damage to brain tissue, so this scientific research brings hope.

Most of us won’t need brain implants for medical reasons though.

So how will they be marketed to the rest of us?

Well, what if you were told that they could give you “super powers”?

Would you want a brain implant then?

The following is a short excerpt from a recent Scientific American article

Our world is determined by the limits of our five senses. We can’t hear pitches that are too high or low, nor can we see ultraviolet or infrared light—even though these phenomena are not fundamentally different from the sounds and sights that our ears and eyes can detect. But what if it were possible to widen our sensory boundaries beyond the physical limitations of our anatomy? In a study published recently in Nature Communications, scientists used brain implants to teach rats to “see” infrared light, which they usually find invisible. The implications are tremendous: if the brain is so flexible it can learn to process novel sensory signals, people could one day feel touch through prosthetic limbs, see heat via infrared light or even develop a sixth sense for magnetic north.

And some very prominent Internet firms simply take it for granted that most of us will eventually have brain implants that connect us directly to the Internet…

Google has a plan. Eventually it wants to get into your brain. “When you think about something and don’t really know much about it, you will automatically get information,” Google CEO Larry Page said in Steven Levy’s book, “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives.” “Eventually you’ll have an implant, where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.”

At this point you might be thinking that this will never happen because getting a brain implant is a very complicated and expensive procedure.

Well, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, that is not actually true.  In fact, the typical procedure is very quick and often only requires just an overnight stay in the hospital…

Neural implants, also called brain implants, are medical devices designed to be placed under the skull, on the surface of the brain. Often as small as an aspirin, implants use thin metal electrodes to “listen” to brain activity and in some cases to stimulate activity in the brain. Attuned to the activity between neurons, a neural implant can essentially “listen” to your brain activity and then “talk” directly to your brain.

If that prospect makes you queasy, you may be surprised to learn that the installation of a neural implant is relatively simple and fast. Under anesthesia, an incision is made in the scalp, a hole is drilled in the skull, and the device is placed on the surface of the brain. Diagnostic communication with the device can take place wirelessly. When it is not an outpatient procedure, patients typically require only an overnight stay at the hospital.

In the future, the minds of most people could potentially be connected to the Internet 24 hours a day.  Imagine sending an email or answering your phone by just thinking about it.  According to the New York Times, this is where we are eventually heading…

Soon, we might interact with our smartphones and computers simply by using our minds. In a couple of years, we could be turning on the lights at home just by thinking about it, or sending an e-mail from our smartphone without even pulling the device from our pocket. Farther into the future, your robot assistant will appear by your side with a glass of lemonade simply because it knows you are thirsty.

Researchers in Samsung’s Emerging Technology Lab are testing tablets that can be controlled by your brain, using a cap that resembles a ski hat studded with monitoring electrodes, the MIT Technology Review, the science and technology journal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported this month.

The technology, often called a brain computer interface, was conceived to enable people with paralysis and other disabilities to interact with computers or control robotic arms, all by simply thinking about such actions. Before long, these technologies could well be in consumer electronics, too.

So how far away is such technology?

According to a Computer World UK article, Intel believes that they will have Internet-connected brain implants in people’s heads by the year 2020…

By the year 2020, you won’t need a keyboard and mouse to control your computer, say Intel researchers. Instead, users will open documents and surf the web using nothing more than their brain waves.

Scientists at Intel’s research lab in Pittsburgh are working to find ways to read and harness human brain waves so they can be used to operate computers, television sets and cell phones. The brain waves would be harnessed with Intel-developed sensors implanted in people’s brains.

The scientists say the plan is not a scene from a sci-fi movie, Big Brother won’t be planting chips in your brain against your will. Researchers expect that consumers will want the freedom they will gain by using the implant.

And that would only be the tip of the iceberg.  Futurist Ray Kurzweil is actually convinced that we will all eventually have hordes of nanobots running around our bodies monitoring our health and looking for disease…

‘Bridge two (is) the biotechnology revolution, where we can reprogram biology away from disease.

‘And that is not the end-all either.

‘Bridge three is to go beyond biology, to the nanotechnology revolution.

‘At that point we can have little robots, sometimes called nanobots, that augment your immune system.

‘We can create an immune system that recognizes all disease, and if a new disease emerged, it could be reprogrammed to deal with new pathogens.’

Such robots, according to Kurzweil, will help fight diseases, improve health and allow people to remain active for longer.

Are you ready for this kind of a future?

These technologies are being developed right now, and they will be enthusiastically adopted by a large segment of the general public.

At some point in the future, having a brain implant may be as common as it is to use a smart phone today.

And of course the mainstream media will be telling all of us how wonderful it is to have a brain implant.  If you doubt this, just check out the following NBC News report where we are all told that we can expect to have microchip implants by the year 2017…

So are you ready for this brave new world?

Will you ever let them put a chip in your head?

Please share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

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The Iraq War Wouldn’t Have Happened Under President Al Gore, That’s for Sure

Former Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore during his speech on energy at Constitution Hall in Washington, Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / The New York Times) Former Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore during his speech on energy at Constitution Hall in Washington, Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / The New York Times) Denied the presidency by the United States Supreme Court (in a 5-4) vote, Al Gore became a Jeremiah for awhile during the worst of the Bush years. Generally, the mainstream media ignored him or derided him, even as he spoke truth to power about the War in Iraq and the threats to democracy.

Since then he's become an apostle about the crisis of climate change, an entrepreneur, and a visionary.

In his latest book, "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change," Gore offers a futurist manifesto. As with most chroniclers of the human condition and the debate over the challenges ahead for our species, Gore has his advocates and detractors.

Gore considers himself an optimist, as he notes at the end of his introduction:

"Indeed, I am an optimist—-though my optimism is predicated on the hope that we will find ways to see and think clearly about the obvious trends that are even now gaining momentum, that we will reason together and attend to the dangerous distortions in our present ways of describing and measuring the powerful changes that are now under way, that we will actively choose to preserve human values and protect them, not least against the mechanistic and destructive consequences of our baser instincts that are now magnified by technologies more powerful than any that those in previous generations, even Jules Verne, could have imagined."

When you read that Gore hopes that "we will reason together," you can tell that he has been away from Washington DC for a long, long time.

But his book is not about the circus of politics; it is about the survival of the planet and the co-existence of people that transcends national boundaries.

Support Truthout's mission. "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change" is yours with a minimum donation to Truthout of $40 (which includes shipping and handling) or a monthly donation of $15. Click here.

The following excerpt is the introduction to "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change":

Like many fulfilling journeys, this book began not with answers but with a question. Eight years ago, when I was on the road, someone asked me: “What are the drivers of global change?” I listed several of the usual suspects and left it at that. Yet the next morning, on the long plane flight home, the question kept pulling me back, demanding that I answer it more precisely and accurately—-not by relying on preconceived dogma but by letting the emerging evidence about an emerging world take me where it would. The question, it turned out, had a future of its own. I started an outline on my computer and spent several hours listing headings and subheadings, then changing their rank order and relative magnitude, moving them from one category to another and filling in more and more details after each rereading.

As I spent the ensuing years raising awareness about climate change and pursuing a business career, I continued to revisit, revise, and sharpen the outline until finally, two years ago, I concluded that it would not leave me alone until I dug in and tried to thoroughly answer the question that had turned into something of an obsession.

What emerged was this book, a book about the six most important drivers of global change, how they are converging and interacting with one another, where they are taking us, and how we as human beings—-and as a global civilization—-can best affect the way these changes unfold. In order to reclaim control of our destiny and shape the future, we must think freshly and clearly about the crucial choices that confront us as a result of:

• The emergence of a deeply interconnected global economy that increasingly operates as a fully integrated holistic entity with a completely new and different relationship to capital flows, labor, consumer markets, and national governments than in the past;

• The emergence of a planet--wide electronic communications grid connecting the thoughts and feelings of billions of people and linking them to rapidly expanding volumes of data, to a fast growing web of sensors being embedded ubiquitously throughout the world, and to increasingly intelligent devices, robots, and thinking machines, the smartest of which already exceed the capabilities of humans in performing a growing list of discrete mental tasks and may soon surpass us in manifestations of intelligence we have always assumed would remain the unique province of our species; 

• The emergence of a completely new balance of political, economic, and military power in the world that is radically different from the equilibrium that characterized the second half of the twentieth century, during which the United States of America provided global leadership and stability—-shifting influence and initiative from West to East, from wealthy countries to rapidly emerging centers of power throughout the world, from nation--states to private actors, and from political systems to markets;

• The emergence of rapid unsustainable growth—-in population; cities; resource consumption; depletion of topsoil, freshwater supplies, and living species; pollution flows; and economic output that is measured and guided by an absurd and distorted set of universally accepted metrics that blinds us to the destructive consequences of the self--deceiving choices we are routinely making;

• The emergence of a revolutionary new set of powerful biological, biochemical, genetic, and materials science technologies that are enabling us to reconstitute the molecular design of all solid matter, reweave the fabric of life itself, alter the physical form, traits, characteristics, and properties of plants, animals, and people, seize active control over evolution, cross the ancient lines dividing species, and invent entirely new ones never imagined in nature; and 

• The emergence of a radically new relationship between the aggregate power of human civilization and the Earth’s ecological systems, including especially the most vulnerable—-the atmosphere and climate balance upon which the continued flourishing of humankind depends—-and the beginning of a massive global transformation of our energy, industrial, agricultural, and construction technologies in order to reestablish a healthy and balanced relationship between human civilization and the future.

This book is data--driven and is based on deep research and reporting—-not speculation, alarmism, naïve optimism, or blue--sky conjecture. It represents the culmination of a multiyear effort to investigate, decipher, and present the best available evidence and what the world’s leading experts tell us about the future we are now in the process of creating.

There is a clear consensus that the future now emerging will be extremely different from anything we have ever known in the past. It is a difference not of degree but of kind. There is no prior period of change that remotely resembles what humanity is about to experience. We have gone through revolutionary periods of change before, but none as powerful or as pregnant with the fraternal twins—-peril and opportunity—-as the ones that are beginning to unfold. Nor have we ever experienced so many revolutionary changes unfolding simultaneously and converging with one another.

This is not a book primarily about the climate crisis, though the climate crisis is one of the six emergent changes that are quickly reshaping our world, and its interaction with the other five drivers of change has revealed to me new ways to understand it. Nor is it primarily about the degradation of democracy in the United States and the dysfunctionality of governance in the world community—-though I continue to believe that these leadership crises must be resolved in order for humankind to reclaim control of our destiny. Indeed all six of these emergent revolutionary changes are threatening to overtake us at a moment in history when there is a dangerous vacuum of global leadership.

Neither is this a manifesto intended to lay the groundwork for some future political campaign. I have run for political office often enough in the past. The joke I often use to deflect questions about whether I have finally surrendered any intention to do so again is actually as close to the truth as any words I can summon in describing my attitude toward politics: I am a recovering politician and the chances of a relapse have been diminishing for long enough to increase my confidence that I will not succumb to that temptation again. In the Conclusion, however, you will find a recommended agenda for action that is based on the analysis in this book.

A New Law of Nature

As a young freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives elected in 1976, I joined a new bipartisan group of congressmen and senators known as the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future, founded by the late Charlie Rose of North Carolina. In my second term, Rose asked me to succeed him as chair of the group. We organized workshops on the implications of new technologies and scientific discoveries and met with leaders in business and science. Among our other initiatives, we persuaded all 200 subcommittees in the Congress to publish a list of the most important issues they expected to emerge over the following twenty years and published it as “The Future Agenda.” Most of all, we studied emerging trends and met regularly with the leading thinkers about the future: Daniel Bell, Margaret Mead, Buckminster Fuller, Carl Sagan, Alvin Toffler, John Naisbitt, Arno Penzias, and hundreds of others.

The visiting scholar who made perhaps the biggest impression on me was a short and balding scientist born in Russia a few months before the 1917 Revolution but educated in Belgium: Ilya Prigogine, who had just won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of a major corollary to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Entropy, according to the Second Law, causes all isolated physical systems to break down over time and is responsible for irreversibility in nature. For a simple example of entropy, consider a smoke ring: it begins as a coherent donut with clearly defined boundaries. But as the molecules separate from one another and dissipate energy into the air, the ring falls apart and disappears. All so--called closed systems are subject to the same basic process of dissolution; in some, entropy operates quickly, while in others the process takes more time.

Prigogine’s discovery was that an open system—-that is, a system that imports flows of energy from outside the system into it, through it, and out again—-not only breaks down, but as the flow of energy continues, the system then reorganizes itself at a higher level of complexity. In a sense, the phenomenon described by Prigogine is the opposite of entropy. Self--organization, as a law of nature and as a process of change, is truly astonishing. What it means is that complex new forms can emerge spontaneously through self--organization.

Consider the increased flows of information throughout the world following the introduction of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Elements of the old information pattern began to break down. Many newspapers went bankrupt, readership sharply declined in most others, bookstores consolidated and closed. Many business models became obsolete. But the new emergent pattern led to the self--organization of thousands of new business models, and volumes of online communication dwarfing those that characterized the world of the printing press.

The Earth itself, when viewed as a whole, is also an open system. It imports energy from the sun that flows into and through the elaborate patterns of energy transfer that make up the Earth system, including the oceans, the atmosphere, the various geochemical processes—-and life itself. The energy then flows from the Earth back into the universe surrounding it as heat energy in the form of infrared radiation.

The essence of the emergent crisis of global warming is that we are importing enormous amounts of energy from the crust of the Earth and exporting entropy (that is, progressive disorder) into the previously stable, though dynamic, ecological systems upon which the continued flourishing of civilization depends. These new flows of energy, originally imported to the Earth from the sun ages ago, have been stabilized underground for millions of years as inert deposits of carbon.

By mobilizing them and injecting the waste products from their combustion into the atmosphere, we are breaking down the stable climate pattern that has persisted since not long after the end of the last Ice Age ten millennia ago. This was not long before the first cities and the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution, which began to spread in the valleys of the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, and Yellow rivers 8,000 years ago after Stone Age women and men patiently picked and selectively bred the plant varieties on which our modern diet still depends. In the process, we are forcing the emergence of a new climate pattern very different from the one to which our entire civilization is tightly configured and within which we have thrived.

While Prigogine’s discovery of this new law of nature may seem arcane, its implications for the way we should think about the future are profound. The modern meaning of the word “emergence,” and the entire field of knowledge known as complexity theory, are both derived from Prigogine’s work. The motivation for his exploration of emergence was his passion for understanding how the future becomes irreversibly different from the past. He wrote that, “given my interest in the concept of time, it was only natural that my attention was focused on . . . the study of irreversible phenomena, which made so manifest the ‘arrow of time.’ ”

The History of the Future

The way we think about the future has a past. Throughout the history of human civilization, every culture has had its own idea of the future. In the words of an Australian futurist, Ivana Milojevi´c, “Although the conception of time and the future exist universally, they are understood in different ways in different societies.” Some have assumed that time is circular and that past, present, and future are all part of the same recurring cycle. Others have believed that the only future that matters is in the afterlife. 

The crushing disappointments that are so often part of the human condition have sometimes led to crises of confidence in the future, replacing hope with despair. But most have learned from their life experiences and the stories told by their elders that what we do in the present, when informed by knowledge of the past, can shape the future in objectively better ways. 

Anthropologists tell us of evidence dating back almost 50,000 years of humans trying to divine the future with the help of oracles or mediums. Some attempted to see into the future by reading clues to the unfolding patterns of life in the entrails of animals sacrificed to the gods, by studying the movements of fish, by interpreting marks on the Earth, or in any of a hundred other ways. Some still read the patterns of palms or Tarot cards for the same purpose. The implicit assumption in such searches is that all reality is of one fabric encompassing past, present, and future, according to a design whose meaning can be divined from particular portions of the whole and applied to other parts of the fabric in order to interpret the unfolding future. 

Doctors and scientists now divine clues about the future of individuals from the pattern of DNA that is found in every cell. Mathematicians discern the nature of fractal equations—-and the geometric forms derived from them—-by observing the “self--sameness” of the patterns they manifest at every level of resolution. Holographic images are contained in their entirety in each molecule of the gaseous cylinders onto which the emergent larger image is projected.

According to historians, astrologers of ancient Babylon used a double clock—-one for measuring the timescale of human affairs, and another for tracking the celestial movements they believed had an influence on earthly events. In divining our own future, we too must now pay due attention to a double clock. There is the one that measures our hours and days, and the other that measures the centuries and millennia over which our disruptions of the Earth’s natural systems will continue to occur. 

Even as teams of scientists race against the clock to compete with other teams in making new genetic discoveries that may cure diseases and lay the foundation for multibillion--dollar products, we must consult another clock that measures the timescales over which evolution operates—-because the emergent capabilities bursting forth from the revolutionary advances in the life sciences are about to make us the principal agent of evolution.

Because of the new power that seven billion of us collectively wield with our new technologies, voracious consumption, and outsized economic dynamism, some of the ecological changes that we are setting in motion are going to unfold, the scientists tell us, in geologic time, measured by a planetary clock that tracks timespans that strain the limits of human imagination. Roughly a quarter of the 90 million tons of global warming pollution we put into the atmosphere each day will still linger there—-still trapping heat—-more than 10,000 years from now.

Consequently, in reconciling the difference between what “is” and what “ought to be,” we are faced with an existential conundrum. Though we have great difficulty conceiving of geologic time, we have nevertheless become a geologic force; though we cannot imagine evolutionary timescales, we are nevertheless becoming the chief force behind evolution.

The idea that human history is characterized by progress from one era to the next is not, as some have long thought, an invention of the Enlightenment. The explosion of philosophy in ancient Greece marked the beginning of recorded contemplations about the future of humankind. In the fourth century bce, Plato wrote about progress as “a continuous process, which improves the human condition from its original state of nature to higher and higher levels of culture, economic organization and political structure towards an ideal state. Progress flows from the growing complexity of society and the need to enlarge knowledge, through the development of sciences and arts.”

In the fourth century ce, St. Augustine, who frequently quoted Plato, wrote, “The education of the human race, represented by the people of God, has advanced, like that of an individual, through certain epochs, or, as it were, ages, so that it might gradually rise from earthly to heavenly things, and from the visible to the invisible.”

Nor is progress exclusively a Western invention. Many interpret the Tao of ancient China as a guide for those who wish to progress as they make their way forward in the world—-though its conception of progress is very different from what emerged in the West. The eleventh--century Islamic philosopher Muhammad al--Ghazali wrote that Islam teaches that “Sincere accomplished work towards progress and development is, therefore, an act of religious worship and is rewarded as such. The end result will be a serious, scrupulous and perfect work, true scientific progress and hence actual achievement of balanced and comprehensive development.” 

At the beginning of the Renaissance, the rediscovery of the Aristotelian branch of ancient Greek philosophy—-which had been preserved in Alexandria in Arabic and reintroduced to Europe in Al--Andalus—-contributed to a fascination with the physical as well as the philosophical legacies of both Athens and Rome. The legacies of that recovered past nourished dreams that would find fruition in the Enlightenment, when a strong consensus emerged that secular progress is the dominant pattern in human history.

The discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and the others who launched the Scientific Revolution helped to ignite a belief that, whatever God’s role or plan, the growth of knowledge made progress in human societies inevitable. Francis Bacon, who more than any other emphasized the word “progress” in describing humanity’s journey into the future, was also among the first to write about human progress with a special emphasis on subduing, dominating, and controlling nature—as if we were as separate from nature as Descartes believed the mind was separate from the body.

Centuries later, this philosophical mistake is still in need of correction. By tacitly assuming our own separateness from the ecological system of the planet, we are frequently surprised by phenomena that emerge from our inextricable connections to it. And as the power of our civilization grows exponentially, these surprises are becoming increasingly unpleasant.

The cultural legacy that still influences the scientific method is reductionist - that is, by dividing and endlessly subdividing the objects of our research and analysis, we separate interconnected phenomena and processes to develop specialized expertise. But the focusing of attention on ever narrower slices of the whole often comes at the expense of attention to the whole, which can cause us to miss the significance of emergent phenomena that spring unpredictably from the interconnections and interactions among multiple processes and networks. That is one reason why linear projections of the future are so often wrong.

A New Vision of the Past and the Future

The invention of powerful new tools and the development of potent new insights - and the discovery of rich new continents - led to exciting new ways of seeing the world and expansive optimism about the future. In the seventeenth century, the father of microbiology, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, fashioned new lenses for the microscope (which itself had been invented in Holland less than a century earlier), and by looking through them discovered cells and bacteria. Simultaneously, his close friend in Delft, Johannes Vermeer, revolutionized portraiture with the use (most art historians agree) of the camera obscura, made possible by the new understanding of optics.

As the Scientific Revolution accelerated and the Industrial Revolution began, the idea of progress shaped prevailing conceptions of the future. In the years before his death, Thomas Jefferson wrote about the progress he had witnessed in his life and noted, “And where this progress will stop no one can say. Barbarism has, in the meantime, been receding before the steady step of amelioration, and will in time, I trust, disappear from the earth.”

Four years after Jefferson’s death, the publication by Charles Lyell of his masterwork, Principles of Geology, in 1830, profoundly disrupted the long prevailing view of humanity’s relationship to time. In the Judeo--Christian world especially, most had assumed that the Earth was only a few thousand years old, and that humans were created not long after the planet itself, but Lyell amply proved that the Earth was not thousands, but at the very least millions of years old (4.5 billion, we now know). In reshaping the past, he also reshaped the idea of the future. And he provided the temporal context for the discovery by Charles Darwin of the principles of evolution. Indeed, as a young man Darwin took Lyell’s books with him during his voyage on the Beagle. 

The previously unimaginable longevity of the past revealed by Lyell inspired symmetrical dreams of distant futures in which the progress of man might reach limitless heights. In the generation that followed Lyell, Jules Verne conjured a future with rockets landing on the moon, a submarine traversing the oceans’ depths, and men traveling to the center of the Earth.

The exuberant optimism of the nineteenth century was dampened for many by the excesses of the Second Industrial Revolution, but was revivified during the first decade of the twentieth century with the birth of a political movement based on the belief that progress required governmental policy interventions and social changes in order to ameliorate the problems accompanying industrialization and consolidate its obvious benefits. As the scientific and technological revolution brought some of the visions conjured by Verne and his successors into reality, optimism about the future gained further momentum.

But the balance of the twentieth century brought two world wars and the murder of millions by totalitarian dictators of the left and right to serve their own twisted conceptions of progress—-and our view of the future began to change. The malignant nightmare of the Thousand Year Reich, the Holocaust, and the cruelties of Stalin and Mao came to be emblematic of the potential for emergent evil emanating from the use of any means, however horrific, in an effort to impose grand designs for the future of humanity that conformed to the visions of twisted men with too much power.

In the aftermath of World War II, the lingering dismay at the way totalitarian governments had used the wondrous new communications technologies of radio and film to persuade millions to suppress their better instincts and conform their lives to an evil design—-coupled with the deep emotional and spiritual impact of the atomic sword of Damocles that the emergence of the nuclear arms race left hanging over civilization—-reawakened concerns that new inventions might be double--edged. The uneasiness in the popular mind that powerful technologies—-whatever their benefits—-might also magnify the innate human vulnerability to hubris deepened for many the loss of their confidence that progress was a reliable guiding star.

The prophecies of Jules Verne were replaced by those of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and H. G. Wells, and popular movies about destructive monsters from the ancient past—awakened by nuclear testing or dangerous creatures modified by genetic engineering gone awry—and malevolent robots from the distant future or distant planets, all seemingly bent on ravaging humanity’s future.

And now many wonder: who are we? Aristotle wrote that the end of a thing defines its essential nature. If we are forced to contemplate the possibility that we might become the architects of our own demise as a civilization, then there are necessarily implications for how we answer the question: what is our essential nature as a species? As a scientist once reframed the question: is the combination of an opposable thumb and a neocortex viable as a sustainable form of life on Earth?

Our natural and healthy preference for optimism about the future is difficult to reconcile with the gnawing concerns expressed by many that all is not well, and that left to its own devices the future may be unfolding in ways that threaten some of the human values we most cherish. The future, in other words, now casts a shadow upon the present. It may be comforting, but of little practical use, to say, “I am an optimist!” Optimism is a form of prayer. Prayer does, in my personal view, have genuine spiritual power. But I also believe, in the words of the old African saying, “When you pray, move your feet.” Prayer without action, like optimism without engagement, is passive aggression toward the future.

Even those who understand the different dangers we are facing and are committed to taking action often feel stymied by a sense of powerlessness. On the issue of climate, for example, they change their own behaviors and habits, reduce their impact on the environment, speak out and vote, but still feel they are having precious little impact, because the powerful momentum of the global machine we have built to give us progress seems almost independent of human control. Where are the levers to pull, the buttons to push? Is there a steering mechanism? Do our hands have enough strength to operate the controls?

More than a decade before writing Faust, Goethe wrote his well--known poem “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” about a young trainee who, left to his own devices, dared to use one of his master’s magic spells in order to bring to life the broom he was supposed to be using to clean the workshop. But once animated, the broom could not be stopped. Growing desperate to halt the broom’s increasing frenzy of activity, the apprentice split the broom with an axe—-which caused it to self--replicate, with each half growing into another new animated broom. Only when the master returned was the process brought back under control. 

Democratic Capitalism and Its Discontents  

The idea of making truly meaningful collective decisions in democracy that are aimed at steering the global machinery we have set in motion is naïve, even silly, according to those who have long since placed their faith in the future not in human hands, but in the invisible hand of the marketplace. As more of the power to make decisions about the future flows from political systems to markets, and as ever more powerful technologies magnify the strength of the invisible hand, the muscles of self-governance have atrophied.

That is actually a welcome outcome for some who have found ways to accumulate great fortunes from the unrestrained operations of this global machinery. Indeed, many of them have used their wealth to reinforce the idea that self-governance is futile at best and, when it works at all, leads to dangerous meddling that interferes with both markets and technological determinism. The ideological condominium formed in the alliance between capitalism and representative democracy that has been so fruitful in expanding the potential for freedom, peace, and prosperity has been split asunder by the encroachment of concentrated wealth from the market sphere into the democracy sphere.

Though markets have no peer in collecting, processing, and utilizing massive flows of information to allocate resources and balance supply with demand, the information in markets is of a particularly granular variety. It is devoid of opinion, character, personality, feeling, love, or faith. It’s just numbers. Democracy, on the other hand, when it operates in a healthy pattern, produces from the interactions of people with different perspectives, predispositions, and life experiences emergent wisdom and creativity that is on a completely different plane. It carries dreams and hopes for the future. By tolerating the routine use of wealth to distort, degrade, and corrupt the process of democracy, we are depriving ourselves of the opportunity to use the “last best hope” to find a sustainable path for humanity through the most disruptive and chaotic changes civilization has ever confronted.

In the United States, many have cheered the withering of self-governance and have celebrated the notion that we should no longer even try to control our own destiny through democratic decision making. Some have recommended, only half in jest, that government should be diminished to the point where it can be “drowned in the bathtub.” They have enlisted politicians in the effort to paralyze the ability of government to serve any interests other than those of the global machine, recruited a fifth column in the Fourth Estate, and hired legions of lobbyists to block any collective decisions about the future that serve the public interest. They even seem to sincerely believe, as many have often written, that there is no such thing as “the public interest.” 

The new self-organized pattern of the Congress serves the special interests that are providing most of the campaign money with which candidates - incumbents and challengers alike - purchase television commercials. It no longer responds to any but the most emotional concerns of the American people. Its members are still “representatives,” but the vast majority of them now represent the people and corporations who donate money, not the people who actually vote in their congressional districts. 

The world’s need for intelligent, clear, values-based leadership from the United States is greater now than ever before - and the absence of any suitable alternative is clearer now than ever before. Unfortunately, the decline of U.S. democracy has degraded its capacity for clear collective thinking, led to a series of remarkably poor policy decisions on crucially significant issues, and left the global community rudderless as it faces the necessity of responding intelligently and quickly to the implications of the six emergent changes described in this book. The restoration of U.S. democracy, or the emergence of leadership elsewhere in the world, is essential to understanding and responding to these changes in order to shape the future. 

One of the six drivers of change described in this book - the emergence of a digital network connecting the thoughts and feelings of most people in every country of the world - offers the greatest source of hope that the healthy functioning of democratic deliberation and collective decision making can be restored in time to reclaim humanity’s capacity to reason together and chart a safe course into the future.

Capitalism - if reformed and made sustainable - can serve the world better than any other economic system in making the difficult but necessary changes to the relationship between the human enterprise and the ecological and biological systems of the Earth. Together, sustainable capitalism and healthy democratic decision making can empower us to save the future. So we have to think clearly about how both of these essential tools can be repaired and reformed.

The structure of these decision-making systems and the ways in which we measure progress - or the lack thereof - toward the goals we decide are important have a profound influence on the future we actually create. By making economic choices in favor of “growth,” it matters a lot which definition of growth we use. If the impact of pollution is systematically removed from the measurement of what we call “progress,” then we start to ignore it and should not be surprised when much of our progress is accompanied by lots of pollution. 

If the systems we use for recognizing and measuring profit are based on a narrow definition - for example, quarterly projections of earnings per share, or quarterly unemployment statistics that don’t include people who have given up looking for work, those who have been forced to take large pay cuts in order to continue working, or those who are flipping hamburgers instead of using higher--value skills hard won with education or prior experience - then what we are seeing is an imperfect and partial representation of a much larger reality. When we become accustomed to making important choices about the future on the basis of distorted and misleading information, the results of those decisions are more likely to fall short of our expectations.

Psychologists and neuroscientists have studied a phenomenon called selective attention—-a tendency on the part of people who are so determined to focus intensely on particular images that they become oblivious to other images that are present in the field of vision.

We select the things to which we pay attention not only by curiosity, preference, and habit, but also through our selection of the observational tools, technologies, and systems we rely on in making choices. And these tools implicitly mark some things as significant and obscure others to the point that we completely ignore them. In other words, the tools we use can have their own selective attention distortions.

For example, the system of economic value measurement known as gross domestic product, or GDP, includes some values and arbitrarily excludes others. So when we use GDP as a lens through which to observe economic activity, we pay attention to that which is measured and tend to become oblivious to those things that are not measured at all. British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead called the obsession with measurements “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.”

Here is a metaphor to illustrate the point: the electromagnetic spectrum is often portrayed as a long thin horizontal rectangle divided into differently colored segments that represent the different wavelengths of electromagnetic energy - usually ranging from very low frequency wavelengths like those used for radio on the left, extending through microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, X-rays, and the like, to extreme high frequency gamma radiation at the right end of the rectangle.

Somewhere near the middle of this rectangle is a very thin section representing visible light - which is, of course, the only part of the entire spectrum that can be seen with the human eye. But since the human eye is normally the only “instrument” with which most of us attempt to “see” the world around us, we are naturally oblivious to all of the information contained in the 99.9 percent of the spectrum that is invisible to us.

By supplementing our natural vision with instruments capable of “seeing” the rest of the spectrum, however, we are able to enhance our understanding of the world around us by collecting and interpreting much more information. During the eight years I worked in the White House, I started every day, six days a week, with a lengthy briefing from the intelligence community on all the issues affecting national security and vital U.S. interests, and it routinely contained information collected from almost all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was, as a result, a much more complete and accurate picture of a very complex reality.

One of the current realities in the business world that has been most surprising to me is the near consensus that markets are “short on long and long on short” - that is, there is an unhealthy focus on very short--term goals, to the exclusion of long-term goals. If the incentives routinely provided for business leaders - and political leaders - are focused on extremely short-term horizons, then no one should be surprised if the decisions they make in pursuit of the rewards to be gained are also focused on the short term - at the expense of any consideration of the future. Compensation and incentive structures reinforce these biases and penalize most CEOs and businesses that dare to focus on more sustainable longer-term strategies. “Short-termism” has long since become a frequently used buzzword in business circles. In both business and politics, short-term decision making is dominant.

“Quarterly capitalism” is a phrase some use to describe the prevailing practice of managing businesses from one three-month period to the next, and focusing budgets and strategies on the constant effort to ensure that each quarter’s earnings per share report never fails to meet projections or the market’s expectations. When investors and CEOs focus on a definition of “growth” that excludes the health and well--being of the communities where businesses are located, the health of the employees who do most of the work, and the impact of the businesses’ operations on the environment, they are tacitly choosing to ignore material facts with the potential to make real growth unsustainable.

Similarly, the dominance of money in modern politics - particularly in the United States - has now led to what might be described as “quarterly democracy.” Every ninety days, incumbent officeholders running for reelection and challengers in political contests are required to publicly report their fundraising totals for the previous ninety days. At the end of each of these quarters, there is a flurry of fundraising events, email solicitations, and fundraising telephone calls to maximize the amount that can be reported - much as a puffer fish increases its perceived size in the presence of another puffer fish encroaching on its territory.

Our evolutionary heritage has made us vulnerable to numerous stimuli that trigger short-term thinking. Though we also have the capacity for long-term thinking, of course, it requires effort, and neuroscientists tell us that distractions, stress, and fear easily disrupt the processes by which we focus on the longer term. When elected officials are under constant systemic stress to focus intently on short-term horizons, the future gets short shrift.

This is particularly dangerous during a period of rapid change. Some of the trends now under way are so well documented by observations in the past that projections of those same trends into the future can be made with a very high degree of confidence. The rate of advancement in computer chips, to pick a well-known example, is understood more than well enough to justify predictions that computer chips will continue to advance rapidly in the future.

The speedy drop in the cost of sequencing DNA has occurred for reasons that are understood more than well enough to justify predictions that this trend too will continue to shape our future. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the past and the rise in global temperatures they have caused is also understood more than well enough to justify predictions of what will happen to global temperatures if we continue to increase emissions at the same rate in the future - and what the consequences of much higher global temperatures would be.

Other changes, however, burst upon the world seemingly fully formed: a brand-new pattern that represents a sudden shift from an older pattern that persisted for as far back in the past as humans can recall. In our own lives, we are accustomed to gradual, linear change. But sometimes the potential for change builds up without being visibly manifested until the inchoate pressure for change reaches a critical mass powerful enough to break through whatever systemic barriers have held the change back. Then suddenly one pattern gives way to another that is entirely new. This “emergence” of systemic change is often difficult to predict, but does occur frequently both in nature and in complex systems designed by human beings.

Many who were once fascinated and excited about the possibilities of the future are now focused solely on the implications of the future’s potential for the business, political, and security strategies of the present. As the Scientific Revolution accelerated in the last decades of the twentieth century, corporate planners and military strategists began to devote considerably more attention to the study of alternative futures, motivated by a concern that the potency of new scientific and technological discoveries could threaten the strategic interests - or even survival - of business models and the balance of power among nations.

What is our present conception of the future? How does our image of the future affect the choices we are making in the present? Do we still believe that we have the power to shape our collective future on Earth and choose from among the alternative futures one that preserves our deepest values and makes life better than it is in the present? Or do we have our own crisis of confidence in humanity’s future?

If the spectrum of past, present, and future were displayed as a long thin rectangle similar to that used to portray the electromagnetic spectrum, the birth of Planet Earth 4.5 billion years ago would be at the far left end. Moving to the right, we would see the emergence of life 3.8 billion years ago, the appearance of multicellular life 2.8 billion years ago, the appearance of the first plant life on land 475 million years ago, the first vertebrates more than 400 million years ago, and the first primates 65 million years ago. Then, moving all the way to the right end of the rectangle, the death of the sun would appear 7.5 billion years from now.

The narrow slice of time to the left of the midpoint in this spectrum - the one that represents the history of the human species - is an even narrower slice of the spectrum of time than is visible light of the electromagnetic spectrum. The thoughts we devote to these vast stretches of time in the past and future are often fleeting at best.

There are ample reasons for optimism about the future. For the present, war seems to be declining. Global poverty is declining.

Some fearsome diseases have been conquered and others are being held at bay. Lifespans are lengthening. Standards of living and average incomes - at least on a global basis - are improving. Knowledge and literacy are spreading. The tools and technologies we are developing - including Internet-based communication - are growing in power and efficacy. Our general understanding of our world, indeed, our universe (or multiverse!) has been growing exponentially. There have been periods in the past when limits to our growth and success as a species appeared to threaten our future, only to be transcended by new advances - the Green Revolution of the second half of the twentieth century, for example. 

So the positive and negative sets of trends are occurring simultaneously. The fact that some are welcome and others are not has an effect on our perception of them. The unwelcome trends are sometimes ignored, at least in part because they are unpleasant to think about. Any uncertainty about them that can be conjured to justify inaction is often seized upon with enthusiasm, while new hard evidence establishing their reality is often resisted with even stronger denial of the reality the evidence supports.

Just as naïve optimism can amount to self-deception, so too can a predisposition to pessimism blind us to bases for legitimate hope that we can find a path that leads around and through the dangers that lie ahead. Indeed, I am an optimist - though my optimism is predicated on the hope that we will find ways to see and think clearly about the obvious trends that are even now gaining momentum, that we will reason together and attend to the dangerous distortions in our present ways of describing and measuring the powerful changes that are now under way, that we will actively choose to preserve human values and protect them, not least against the mechanistic and destructive consequences of our baser instincts that are now magnified by technologies more powerful than any that those in previous generations, even Jules Verne, could have imagined. I have tried my best to describe what I believe the evidence shows is more likely than not to present us with important choices that we must consciously make together. I do so not out of fear, but because I believe in the future.

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Excerpted from The Future by Al Gore. Copyright © 2013 by Al Gore. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Iran online game tops German contest

Iranian online video game wins at German intl. game contest

Iranian online video game Asmandez II (Sky Fortress II) has won at the German Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO) 2013 contest.

Asmandez II beat out four other competitors and picked up the Best Indie Game Award of the eighth edition of the contest.

Asmandez II is a browser-based science-fiction strategy MMOG in space opera genre. The game uses the latest web technologies of HTML5 and CSS3 and can be played in both English and Persian languages.

The online strategy game Asmandez II is sequel of the Iranian first online video game Asmandez I that was released in July, 2010, and quickly gathered over 100 000 online users.

Both versions of Asmandez are set in future when inhabitants of the Solar System are engaged in a war with robots and try to go to another system called Limbas.

The sequel which has been made with more advanced narrative strategies and high artistic techniques is available for playing on phone, tablet, or PC.

Produced by Iran's National Foundation for Computer Games, Asmandez II is capable of supporting over 5,000 users at the same time.

The science fiction games were developed by a group of young Iranian experts in an effort to promote computer science in the country.

Iran had earlier released its first three-dimensional video game titled the Age of Heroes in 2009, which was designed based on the stories narrated in the Persian epic poet Ferdowsi's magnum opus, The Shahnameh.

“Some 10 million people use computer games in Iran, only 100 of which can design and develop video games,” Head of Iran's National Foundation for Computer Games Behrouz Minaie had earlier said.

A Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO or MMOG) is a multiplayer video game which is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously on the Internet.

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US college student creates blueprints for a drone-proof city

Asher Kohn isn’t an urban planner, but he has managed to draw up designs for an entire city — and a drone-proof one, at that. But according to Kohn, a town that’s impermeable to the newest instruments of war isn't just a novelty. It's a necessity.

“Architecture against drones is not just a science-fiction scenario but a contemporary imperative,” says Kohn, a 25-year-old American-born law student who is currently living in the Netherlands. And although architecture and urban planning are rarely core classes of most law school curriculums, earlier this year Kohn handed in a simple blueprint for an assignment offered by a professor at the Sam Fox School of Design in St. Louis, Missouri.

“I was assigned ‘military architecture’ and realized that for every huge military advance that made it easier to blow up urban areas, there was usually a passive response invented within a generation,” he tells Britain’s Daily Mail. “So I was wondering what the response would be for drones if drones are the next great advance like artillery and airplanes were.”

A hypothetical answer is presented in Shura City, a fictional compound that Mr. Kohn’s drew up earlier this year and published online, garnering a fair share of attention from bloggers and reporters in the weeks since. But since Kohn isn’t exactly a trained architect — and says he wasn’t even taking the Sam Fox class for credit — his blueprint is one that doesn’t necessarily examine the most aesthetically pleasing building options. Instead, Kohn favors components that could keep a small civilization in tack as the use of drones escalates and the unmanned aircraft launch missiles around the world on a daily basis.

“As a law student, I am fascinated by drones’ existence in a post-legal world,” he writes in his report. “Architecture can adapt, and this project clearly aims to show just those adaptations, but American jurisprudence is simply not capable of making clear, comforting, adjudications on drones and the sorts of crimes they have been created to deter. Architecture as a discipline has a long history of being capable of developing within the cracks left by law.”

"In the case of drones, the current legal regime is just wholly unprepared for warfare by algorithm," he explains. "Architecture can work where law cannot by giving dignity and safety to people physically when they are not afforded those privileges legally."

Kohn’s explanation could be considered quite the bummer, but it isn’t without reason. With the United States governments largely defending the extrajudicial killings of American citizens with drones as the program expands overseas, the bad guys in the eyes of Uncle Sam aren’t just al-Qaeda’s top-guns anymore. In late 2011, a drone strike in Yemen killed Abdurahman al-Awlakis, the 16-year-old American son of a suspected al-Qaeda operative. The White House stands by the killing. Speaking of Shura, Kohn says, “Such creations are not needed for the John Connors but for the Abdurahman al-Awlakis.”

By using minarets and wind-catching cooling towers called badgirs, aerial drones would ideally be kept out of the Shura city limits because navigating through a series of obstacles would create a nuisance for the drone pilot, who could be located as far as thousands of miles away, in the case of the US drone wars. But those structures wouldn’t even be a starting point. From Kohn’s report:

“Somewhere between the figurative embrace of the St. Peter’s Square and the chain-link fortification of Pablo Escobar’s compound, there has to be a happy medium. Shura City needs a roof because without one it is just a gesture, a Disney-ified attempt at safety. An open sky is an invitation for the patient masters of the air, and those drones feel no need to RSVP.”

Within the city, he also calls on specially-made windows, ones that beam self-destruct codes at drones that have managed to enter Shura from the outside. By implementing QR codes — the same kind of technology that sends commands to smartphones with a single glimpse — he says he’d have yet another form of fortification. That isn’t to say, though, that there’d be no escape.

“The city is a ‘black box’ impenetrable to data miners and military-trained individuals but it is not a prison. It is instead a gated community, providing its society with sunshine and safety from the scary world outside,” he writes.

In other words, though, Kohn suggests that the need for a drone-proof city might soon be imperative. With the right planning, Shura could exist as a city that serves as a safe-haven and not a prison-walled facility where a step outside means guaranteed execution.

"If people are going to create new and exciting ways to kill people, I think there's no harm in pushing the envelope of peace technology,” he tells Sarah Goodyear of The Atlantic Cities.

“I wanted to create a vibrant, colorful, fun and peaceful place for the populations victimized by drone warfare. I wanted to give them the opportunity to create their own community far from the invasive eyes, nose, and tongue of otherwise-faceless robots. I wanted to create the same gated community I was fortunate enough to grow up in and export it to people facing far worse fears than small drugs and sleazy parties.”

Speaking to RT, though, Kohn says his dream might not be a reality anytime soon. The odds of having his design implemented in real life are “pretty much slim-to-none,” he says.

“The relationship between drones/warfare-by-algorithm in cities is way too complex to allow this sort of thing to happen in urban areas,” says Kohn. “And there's no way the sort of people who have a 24/7 eye in the sky would let something like this to be built in the rurality, which was where my idea was.”

“Technology will always out-pace [architecture],” he adds. “But what I think is interesting is how much can be done without technology. The assumptions of human behavior drone warfare relies on is simply not actual human behavior; thus the disconnect, thus the (literally) uncountable dead, the mistaken identities and ‘double-taps’ and ‘military-age males.’ And the State Theory the war has relied on also is remarkably disconnected from lived reality.”

The U.S. Military Invented a Medal for Drone “Pilots”?!?

The joystick wielding "pilots" who kill civilians thousands of miles away are now eligible for a medal of honor.

Photo Credit: Department of Defense

February 15, 2013  |  

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Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced this week a new medal for desk-bound warriors who control killer robots responsible for the deaths of thousands in South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.

The Distinguished Warfare Medal will recognize drone pilots for their “extraordinary achievements that directly impact on combat operations, but do not involve acts of valor or physical risks that combat entails.”

In other words, what Glenn Greenwald  once described as “sitting safely ensconced in a bunker on U.S. soil and launching bombs with a video joystick at human beings thousands of miles away” is now considered an “extraordinary achievement.”

The drone medal will rank above the Bronze Medal and Purple Heart, meaning computer screen heroes will receive awards more prestigious than troops who get shot in battle. Even members of the military community, including Veterans of Foreign Wars, are blasting the absurdity of the medal’s rank.

“It’s a boneheaded decision,” VFW spokesman Joe Davis told Fox News. “This is going to affect morale and it’s sending troops in the field a horrible message.”

Even more horrible is the message sent to citizens of countries facing regular drone attacks, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. A report from Stanford and NYU  released in September estimates that from June 2004 through September 2012, drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, including 474 – 881 civilians, 176 of whom were children. The report also says that “high-level” targets account for about 2 percent of drone casualties.

Rather than owning up to the unconscionable devastation of Obama’s signature weapon, U.S. lawmakers have downplayed civilian casualties from drone strikes. Senator Diane Feinstein disgracefully claims that  annual deaths have been in the “single digits.”

Apparently, it’s not enough for the U.S. government to willfully ignore the extent of its carnage. Now, it’s awarding medals to the literal armchair warriors who carry it out.

The Stanford/NYU report has the testimony of a Pakistani resident living in a heavy-drone strike region:

"Before this we were all very happy. But after these drones attacks a lot of people are victims and have lost members of their family.”

Maybe it's time for the U.S. military to rethink what constitutes bravery.

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.

How Congress Could Fix Its Budget Woes, Permanently

As Congress struggles through one budget crisis after another, it is becoming increasingly evident that austerity doesn't work. We cannot possibly pay off a $16 trillion debt by tightening our belts, slashing public services, and raising taxes. Historically, when the deficit has been reduced, the money supply has been reduced along with it, throwing the economy into recession. After a thorough analysis of statistics from dozens of countries forced to apply austerity plans by the World Bank and IMF, former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz called austerity plans a “suicide pact.” 

Congress already has in its hands the power to solve the nation’s budget challenges – today and permanently. But it has been artificially constrained from using that power by misguided economic dogma, dogma generated by the interests it serves.  We have bought into the idea that there is not enough money to feed and house our population, rebuild our roads and bridges, or fund our most important programs -- that there is no alternative but to slash budgets and deficits if we are to survive. We have a mountain of critical work to do, improving our schools, rebuilding our infrastructure, pursuing our research goals, and so forth. And with millions of unemployed and underemployed, the people are there to do it. What we don’t have, we are told, is just the money to bring workers and resources together.

But we do have it.  Or we could.

Money today is simply a legal agreement between parties. Nothing backs it but “the full faith and credit of the United States.” The United States could issue its credit directly to fund its own budget, just as our forebears did in the American colonies and as Abraham Lincoln did in the Civil War.

Any serious discussion of this alternative has long been taboo among economists and politicians. But in a landmark speech on February 6, 2013, Adair Turner, chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, broke the taboo with a historic speech recommending that approach. According to a February 7th article in Reuters, Turner is one of the most influential financial policy makers in the world.  His recommendation was supported by a 75-page paper explaining why handing out newly-created money to citizens and governments could solve economic woes globally and would not lead to hyperinflation.

Our Money Exists Only at the Will and Pleasure of Banks

Government-issued money would work because it addresses the problem at its source. Today, we have no permanent money supply. People and governments are drowning in debt because our money comes into existence only as a debt to banks at interest. As Robert Hemphill of the Atlanta Federal Reserve observed in the 1930s:

We are completely dependent on the commercial banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit.  If the banks create ample synthetic money, we are prosperous; if not, we starve.

In the U.S. monetary system, the only money that is not borrowed from banks is the “base money” or “monetary base” created by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve (the Fed). The Treasury creates only the tiny portion consisting of coins. All of the rest is created by the Fed.

Despite its name, the Fed is at best only quasi-federal; and most of the money it creates is electronic rather than paper. We the people have no access to this money, which is not tur ned over to the government or the people but goes directly into the reserve accounts of private banks at the Fed.

It goes there and it stays there. Except for the small amount of “vault cash” available for withdrawal from commercial banks, bank reserves do not leave the doors of the central bank. According to Peter Stella, former head of the Central Banking and Monetary and Foreign Exchange Operations Divisions at the International Monetary Fund:

[I]n a modern monetary system – fiat money, floating exchange rate world – there is absolutely no correlation between bank reserves and lending. . . . [B]anks do not lend “reserves”. . . .

Whether commercial banks let the reserves they have acquired through QE sit “idle” or lend them out in the internet bank market 10,000 times in one day among themselves, the aggregate reserves at the central bank at the end of that day will be the same.

Banks do not lend their reserves to us, but they do lend them to each other. The reserves are what they need to clear checks between banks. Reserves move from one reserve account to another; but the total money in bank reserve accounts remains unchanged, unless the Fed itself issues new money or extinguishes it.

The base money to which we have no access includes that created on a computer screen through “quantitative easing” (QE), which now exceeds $3 trillion. That explains why QE has not driven the economy into hyperinflation, as the deficit hawks have long predicted; and why it has not created jobs, as was its purported mission. The Fed’s QE money simply does not get into the circulating money supply at all.

What we the people have in our bank accounts is a mere reflection of the base money that is the exclusive domain of the bankers’ club. Banks borrow from the Fed and each other at near-zero rates, then lend this money to us at 4% or 8% or 30%, depending on what the market will bear.  Like in a house of mirrors, the Fed’s “base money” gets multiplied over and over whenever “bank credit” is deposited and relent; and that illusory house of mirrors is what we call our money supply.

We Need “Quantitative Easing” for the People

The quantitative easing engaged in by central banks today is not what UK Professor Richard Werner intended when he invented the term. Werner advised the Japanese in the 1990s, when they were caught in a spiral of “debt deflation” like the one we are struggling with now. What he had in mind was credit creation by the central bank for productive purposes in the real, physical economy. But like central banks now, the Bank of Japan simply directed its QE firehose at the banks. Werner complains:

[A]ll QE is doing is to help banks increase the liquidity of their portfolios by getting rid of longer-dated and slightly less liquid assets and raising cash. . . . Reserve expansion is a standard monetarist policy and required no new label.

The QE he recommended was more along the lines of the money-printing engaged in by the American settlers in colonial times and by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The colonists’ paper scrip and Lincoln’s “greenbacks” consisted, not of bank loans, but of paper receipts from the government acknowledging goods and services delivered to the government. The receipts circulated as money in the economy, and in the colonies they were accepted in the payment of taxes. 

The best of these models was in Benjamin Franklin’s colony of Pennsylvania, where government-issued money got into the economy by way of loans issued by a publicly-owned bank. Except for an excise tax on liquor, the government was funded entirely without taxes; there was no government debt; and price inflation did not result. In 1938, Dr. Richard A. Lester, an economist at Princeton University, wrote, “The price level during the 52 years prior to the American Revolution and while Pennsylvania was on a paper standard was more stable than the American price level has been during any succeeding fifty-year period.” 

The Inflation Conundrum

The threat of price inflation is the excuse invariably used for discouraging this sort of “irresponsible” monetary policy today, based on the Milton Friedman dictum that “inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon.” When the quantity of money goes up, says the theory, more money will be chasing fewer goods, driving prices up. 

What it overlooks is the supply side of the equation. As long as workers are sitting idle and materials are available, increased “demand” will put workers to work creating more “supply.” Supply will rise along with demand, and prices will remain stable. 

True, today these additional workers might be in China or they might be robots. But the principle still holds: if we want the increased supply necessary to satisfy the needs of the people and the economy, more money must first be injected into the economy.  Demand drives supply.  People must have money in their pockets before they can shop, stimulating increased production.  Production doesn’t need as many human workers as it once did. To get enough money in the economy to drive the needed supply, it might be time to issue a national dividend divided equally among the people.

Increased demand will drive up prices only when the economy hits full productive capacitys. It is at that point, and not before, that taxes may need to be levied—not to fund the federal budget, but to prevent “overheating” and keep prices stable. Overheating in the current economy could be a long time coming, however, since according to the Fed’s figures, $4 trillion needs to be added into the money supply just to get it back to where it was in 2008.

Taxes might be avoided altogether, if excess funds were pulled out with fees charged for various government services. A good place to start might be with banking services rendered by publicly-owned banks that returned their profits to the public.

The Road to Prosperity

The Federal Reserve has lavished over $13 trillion in computer-generated bail-out money on the banks, and still the economy is flagging and the debt ceiling refuses to go away. If this money had been pumped into the real economy instead of into the black hole of the private banking system, we might have a thriving economy today.

We are waking up from the long night of our delusion. We do not need to follow the prevailing economic orthodoxies, which have consistently failed and are not corroborated by empirical data.  We need a permanent money supply, and the money must come from somewhere. It is the right and duty of government to provide a money supply that is adequate and sustainable.

It is also the duty of government to provide the public services necessary for a secure and prosperous life for its people. As Thomas Edison observed in the 1920s, if the government can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. Both are backed by “the full faith and credit of the United States.” The government can pay for all the services its people need and eliminate budget crises permanently, simply by issuing the dollars to pay for them, debt-free and interest-free.

Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. She is president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute. org , and has websites at http://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com

How Congress Could Fix Its Budget Woes, Permanently

As Congress struggles through one budget crisis after another, it is becoming increasingly evident that austerity doesn't work. We cannot possibly pay off a $16 trillion debt by tightening our belts, slashing public services, and raising taxes. Historically, when the deficit has been reduced, the money supply has been reduced along with it, throwing the economy into recession. After a thorough analysis of statistics from dozens of countries forced to apply austerity plans by the World Bank and IMF, former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz called austerity plans a “suicide pact.” 

Congress already has in its hands the power to solve the nation’s budget challenges – today and permanently. But it has been artificially constrained from using that power by misguided economic dogma, dogma generated by the interests it serves.  We have bought into the idea that there is not enough money to feed and house our population, rebuild our roads and bridges, or fund our most important programs -- that there is no alternative but to slash budgets and deficits if we are to survive. We have a mountain of critical work to do, improving our schools, rebuilding our infrastructure, pursuing our research goals, and so forth. And with millions of unemployed and underemployed, the people are there to do it. What we don’t have, we are told, is just the money to bring workers and resources together.

But we do have it.  Or we could.

Money today is simply a legal agreement between parties. Nothing backs it but “the full faith and credit of the United States.” The United States could issue its credit directly to fund its own budget, just as our forebears did in the American colonies and as Abraham Lincoln did in the Civil War.

Any serious discussion of this alternative has long been taboo among economists and politicians. But in a landmark speech on February 6, 2013, Adair Turner, chairman of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, broke the taboo with a historic speech recommending that approach. According to a February 7th article in Reuters, Turner is one of the most influential financial policy makers in the world.  His recommendation was supported by a 75-page paper explaining why handing out newly-created money to citizens and governments could solve economic woes globally and would not lead to hyperinflation.

Our Money Exists Only at the Will and Pleasure of Banks

Government-issued money would work because it addresses the problem at its source. Today, we have no permanent money supply. People and governments are drowning in debt because our money comes into existence only as a debt to banks at interest. As Robert Hemphill of the Atlanta Federal Reserve observed in the 1930s:

We are completely dependent on the commercial banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit.  If the banks create ample synthetic money, we are prosperous; if not, we starve.

In the U.S. monetary system, the only money that is not borrowed from banks is the “base money” or “monetary base” created by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve (the Fed). The Treasury creates only the tiny portion consisting of coins. All of the rest is created by the Fed.

Despite its name, the Fed is at best only quasi-federal; and most of the money it creates is electronic rather than paper. We the people have no access to this money, which is not tur ned over to the government or the people but goes directly into the reserve accounts of private banks at the Fed.

It goes there and it stays there. Except for the small amount of “vault cash” available for withdrawal from commercial banks, bank reserves do not leave the doors of the central bank. According to Peter Stella, former head of the Central Banking and Monetary and Foreign Exchange Operations Divisions at the International Monetary Fund:

[I]n a modern monetary system – fiat money, floating exchange rate world – there is absolutely no correlation between bank reserves and lending. . . . [B]anks do not lend “reserves”. . . .

Whether commercial banks let the reserves they have acquired through QE sit “idle” or lend them out in the internet bank market 10,000 times in one day among themselves, the aggregate reserves at the central bank at the end of that day will be the same.

Banks do not lend their reserves to us, but they do lend them to each other. The reserves are what they need to clear checks between banks. Reserves move from one reserve account to another; but the total money in bank reserve accounts remains unchanged, unless the Fed itself issues new money or extinguishes it.

The base money to which we have no access includes that created on a computer screen through “quantitative easing” (QE), which now exceeds $3 trillion. That explains why QE has not driven the economy into hyperinflation, as the deficit hawks have long predicted; and why it has not created jobs, as was its purported mission. The Fed’s QE money simply does not get into the circulating money supply at all.

What we the people have in our bank accounts is a mere reflection of the base money that is the exclusive domain of the bankers’ club. Banks borrow from the Fed and each other at near-zero rates, then lend this money to us at 4% or 8% or 30%, depending on what the market will bear.  Like in a house of mirrors, the Fed’s “base money” gets multiplied over and over whenever “bank credit” is deposited and relent; and that illusory house of mirrors is what we call our money supply.

We Need “Quantitative Easing” for the People

The quantitative easing engaged in by central banks today is not what UK Professor Richard Werner intended when he invented the term. Werner advised the Japanese in the 1990s, when they were caught in a spiral of “debt deflation” like the one we are struggling with now. What he had in mind was credit creation by the central bank for productive purposes in the real, physical economy. But like central banks now, the Bank of Japan simply directed its QE firehose at the banks. Werner complains:

[A]ll QE is doing is to help banks increase the liquidity of their portfolios by getting rid of longer-dated and slightly less liquid assets and raising cash. . . . Reserve expansion is a standard monetarist policy and required no new label.

The QE he recommended was more along the lines of the money-printing engaged in by the American settlers in colonial times and by Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The colonists’ paper scrip and Lincoln’s “greenbacks” consisted, not of bank loans, but of paper receipts from the government acknowledging goods and services delivered to the government. The receipts circulated as money in the economy, and in the colonies they were accepted in the payment of taxes. 

The best of these models was in Benjamin Franklin’s colony of Pennsylvania, where government-issued money got into the economy by way of loans issued by a publicly-owned bank. Except for an excise tax on liquor, the government was funded entirely without taxes; there was no government debt; and price inflation did not result. In 1938, Dr. Richard A. Lester, an economist at Princeton University, wrote, “The price level during the 52 years prior to the American Revolution and while Pennsylvania was on a paper standard was more stable than the American price level has been during any succeeding fifty-year period.” 

The Inflation Conundrum

The threat of price inflation is the excuse invariably used for discouraging this sort of “irresponsible” monetary policy today, based on the Milton Friedman dictum that “inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon.” When the quantity of money goes up, says the theory, more money will be chasing fewer goods, driving prices up. 

What it overlooks is the supply side of the equation. As long as workers are sitting idle and materials are available, increased “demand” will put workers to work creating more “supply.” Supply will rise along with demand, and prices will remain stable. 

True, today these additional workers might be in China or they might be robots. But the principle still holds: if we want the increased supply necessary to satisfy the needs of the people and the economy, more money must first be injected into the economy.  Demand drives supply.  People must have money in their pockets before they can shop, stimulating increased production.  Production doesn’t need as many human workers as it once did. To get enough money in the economy to drive the needed supply, it might be time to issue a national dividend divided equally among the people.

Increased demand will drive up prices only when the economy hits full productive capacitys. It is at that point, and not before, that taxes may need to be levied—not to fund the federal budget, but to prevent “overheating” and keep prices stable. Overheating in the current economy could be a long time coming, however, since according to the Fed’s figures, $4 trillion needs to be added into the money supply just to get it back to where it was in 2008.

Taxes might be avoided altogether, if excess funds were pulled out with fees charged for various government services. A good place to start might be with banking services rendered by publicly-owned banks that returned their profits to the public.

The Road to Prosperity

The Federal Reserve has lavished over $13 trillion in computer-generated bail-out money on the banks, and still the economy is flagging and the debt ceiling refuses to go away. If this money had been pumped into the real economy instead of into the black hole of the private banking system, we might have a thriving economy today.

We are waking up from the long night of our delusion. We do not need to follow the prevailing economic orthodoxies, which have consistently failed and are not corroborated by empirical data.  We need a permanent money supply, and the money must come from somewhere. It is the right and duty of government to provide a money supply that is adequate and sustainable.

It is also the duty of government to provide the public services necessary for a secure and prosperous life for its people. As Thomas Edison observed in the 1920s, if the government can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. Both are backed by “the full faith and credit of the United States.” The government can pay for all the services its people need and eliminate budget crises permanently, simply by issuing the dollars to pay for them, debt-free and interest-free.

Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. In Web of Debt, her latest of eleven books, she turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. She is president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute. org , and has websites at http://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com

Assassination Bureau: Justification Of U.S. Drones Killing A Travesty

drone (2)

Audio

The justification of targeted killings by the United States government is “a travesty” according to U.S. law, an analyst said.

U.S. senators are reportedly considering an idea to create a secret “assassination court” that would be charged with deciding if “suspects” can be assassinated by U.S. drone strikes.

“There is no way of justifying these killings and in fact they are assassinations,” Rick Rozoff, manager of the organization Stop The NATO International, told Press TV’s U.S. Desk on Saturday.

“This is what’s called targeted killing, but it’s not targeted. It’s mass killing,” he added.

There are estimates that since 2004 when the CIA started the drone warfare, between 4,500 and 5,000 people have been assassinated in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya and Iraq, Rozoff said.

The notion of a secretive court deciding who gets killed by robots looming overhead anywhere on the planet strikes some as somewhat morbid.

Observers charge that the change would just be some “nominal court oversight” to the targeted killings, which at present is entirely in the hands of the executive branch.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article. The Center of Research on Globalization grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author's copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: [email protected]

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German contest nominates Iranian game

Iranian online game nominated for German intl. game contest


Iranian online video game Sky Fortress II has entered final nominee list of a German Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO) contest.

Iran’s Sky Fortress II (Asmandez II) is slated to vie with four other selected games at the eighth edition of the contest.

The online strategy game Sky Fortress II is sequel of the Iranian first online video game Sky Fortress I that was released in July, 2010, and quickly gathered over 100 000 online users.

Both versions of Sky Fortress are set in future when inhabitants of the Solar System are engaged in a war with robots and try to go to another system called Limbas.

The sequel which has been made with more advanced narrative strategies and high artistic techniques is available for playing on phone, tablet, or PC.

Produced by Iran's National Foundation for Computer Games, Sky Fortress II is capable of supporting over 5,000 users at the same time.

The science fiction games were developed by a group of young Iranian experts in an effort to promote computer science in the country.

“Some 10 million people use computer games in Iran, only 100 of which can design and develop video games,” Head of Iran's National Foundation for Computer Games Behrouz Minaie had earlier said.

A Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMO or MMOG) is a multiplayer video game which is capable of supporting hundreds or thousands of players simultaneously on the Internet.

FGP/FGP

Guest Post: Show This To Anyone That Believes That “Things Are Getting Better” In...

Submitted by Michael of The Economic Collapse blog,

How can anyone not see that the U.S. economy is collapsing all around us?  It just astounds me when people try to tell me that "everything is just fine" and that "things are getting better" in America.  Are there people out there that are really that blind?  If you want to see the economic collapse, just open up your eyes and look around you.  By almost every economic and financial measure, the U.S. economy has been steadily declining for many years.  But most Americans are so tied into "the matrix" that they can only understand the cheerful propaganda that is endlessly being spoon-fed to them by the mainstream media.

As I have said so many times, the economic collapse is not a single event.  The economic collapse has been happening, it is is happening right now, and it will continue to happen.  Yes, there will be times when our decline will be punctuated by moments of great crisis, but that will be the exception rather than the rule.  A lot of people that write about "the economic collapse" hype it up as if it will be some huge "event" that will happen very rapidly and then once it is all over we will rebuild.  Unfortunately, that is not how the real world works.

We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and once it completely bursts there will be no going back to how things were before.  Right now, we are living in a "credit card economy".  As long as we can keep borrowing more money, most people think that things are just fine.  But anyone that has lived on credit cards knows that eventually there comes a point when the game is over, and we are rapidly approaching that point as a nation.

Have you ever been there?  Have you ever desperately hoped that you could just get one more credit card or one more loan so that you could keep things going?

At first, living on credit can be a lot of fun.  You can live a much higher standard of living than you otherwise would be able to.

But inevitably a day of reckoning comes.

If the federal government and the American people were forced at this moment to live within their means, the U.S. economy would immediately plunge into a depression.

That is a 100% rock solid guarantee.

But our politicians and the mainstream media continue to perpetuate the fiction that we can live in this credit card economic fantasy land indefinitely.

And most Americans could not care less about the future.  As long as "things are good" today, they don't really think much about what the future will hold.

As a result of our very foolish short-term thinking, we have now run up a national debt of 16.4 trillion dollars.  It is the largest debt in the history of the world, and it has gotten more than 23 times larger since Jimmy Carter first entered the White House.

The chart that you see below is a recipe for national financial suicide...

U.S. National Debt

Of course things have accelerated over the past four years.  Since Barack Obama entered the White House, the U.S. government has run a budget deficit of well over a trillion dollars every single year, and we have stolen more than 100 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day.

It is the biggest theft of all time.  What we are doing to our children and our grandchildren is beyond criminal.

And now our debt is at a level that most economists would consider terminal.  When Barack Obama first entered the White House, the U.S. debt to GDP ratio was under 70 percent.  Today, it is up to 103 percent.

We are officially in "the danger zone".

If things really were "getting better" in America, we would not need to borrow so much money.

Our politicians are stealing from the future in order to make the present look better.  During Obama's first term, the federal government accumulated more debt than it did under the first 42 U.S presidents combined.

That is utter insanity!

If you started paying off just the new debt that the U.S. has accumulated during the Obama administration at the rate of one dollar per second, it would take more than 184,000 years to pay it off.

So what is the solution?

Get ready to laugh.

The most prominent economic journalist in the entire country, Paul Krugman of the New York Times, recently suggested the following in an article that he wrote entitled "Kick That Can"...

Realistically, we’re not going to resolve our long-run fiscal issues any time soon, which is O.K. — not ideal, but nothing terrible will happen if we don’t fix everything this year. Meanwhile, we face the imminent threat of severe economic damage from short-term spending cuts.

So we should avoid that damage by kicking the can down the road. It’s the responsible thing to do.

You mean that we might actually do damage to the debt-fueled economic fantasy world that we are living in if we stopped stealing so much money from future generations?

Oh the humanity!

It is horrifying to think that all that one of the "top economic minds" in America can come up with is to "kick the can" down the road some more.

Unfortunately, neither Paul Krugman nor most of the American people understand that our financial system is actually designed to create government debt.

The bankers that helped create the Federal Reserve intended to permanently enslave the U.S. government to a perpetually expanding spiral of debt, and their plans worked.

At this point, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.

So why don't the American people understand what the Federal Reserve system is doing to us?

It is because most of them are still plugged into the matrix.  A Zero Hedge article that I came across today put it beautifully...

US society in a nutshell: Chris Dorner has been around for a week and has 222 million results on Google; the Federal Reserve has been around for one hundred years and has 187 million results.

If nothing is done about our exploding debt, it is only a matter of time before we reach financial oblivion.

According to Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff, the U.S. government is facing a "present value difference between projected future spending and revenue" of 222 trillion dollars in the years ahead.

So how in the world are we going to come up with an extra 222 trillion dollars?

But it is not just the U.S. government that is drowning in debt.

Just check out this chart which shows the astounding growth of state and local government debt in recent years...

State And Local Government Debt

All over the United States there are state and local governments that are on the verge of bankruptcy.  Just check out what is going on in Detroit.  The only way that most of our state and local governments can keep going at this point is to also "kick the can" down the road some more.

And of course most of the rest of us are drowning in debt as well.

40 years ago, the total amount of debt in the U.S. economic system (government + business + consumer) was less than 2 trillion dollars.

Today, the total amount of debt in the U.S. economic system has grown to more than 55 trillion dollars.

Can anyone say bubble?

The good news is that U.S. GDP is now more than 12 times larger than it was 40 years ago.

The bad news is that the total amount of debt in our financial system is now more than 30 times larger than it was 40 years ago...

Total Credit Market Debt Owed

At the same time that we are going into so much debt, our ability to produce wealth continues to decline.

According to the World Bank, U.S. GDP accounted for 31.8 percent of all global economic activity in 2001.  That number dropped to 21.6 percent in 2011.  That is not just a decline - that is a nightmarish freefall.  Just check out the chart in this article.

We are becoming less competitive as a nation with each passing year.  In fact, the U.S. has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.

Most Americans don't understand this, but the United States buys far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us each year.  In 2012, we had a trade deficit of more than 500 billion dollars with the rest of the world.

That means that more than 500 billion dollars that could have gone to U.S. workers and U.S. businesses went out of the country instead.

So how does our country survive if hundreds of billions of dollars more is flowing out of the country than is flowing into it?

Well, to make up the shortfall we go to the countries that we sent our money to and we beg them to lend it back to us.  If that doesn't work, we just print and borrow even more money.

Overall, the United States has run a trade deficit of more than 8 trillion dollars with the rest of the world since 1975.

That is 8 trillion dollars that could have saved U.S. businesses, paid the salaries of U.S. workers and that would have helped fund government.

But instead, our foolish policies have greatly enriched China and the oil barons of the Middle East.

Sadly, politicians from both political parties continue to boldly support the one world economic agenda of the global elite.

Just consider how destructive many of these "free trade" deals have been to our economy...

When NAFTA was pushed through Congress in 1993, the United States had a trade surplus with Mexico of 1.6 billion dollars.

By 2010, we had a trade deficit with Mexico of 61.6 billion dollars.

Back in 1985, our trade deficit with China was approximately 6 million dollars (million with a little "m") for the entire year.

In 2012, our trade deficit with China was 315 billion dollars.  That was the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world.

In particular, our trade with China is extremely unbalanced.  Today, U.S. consumers spend approximately 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that Chinese consumers spend on goods and services from the United States.

But isn't getting cheap stuff from China good?

No, because it costs us good paying jobs.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the United States is losing half a million jobs to China every single year.

Overall, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been shut down since 2001.  During 2010, manufacturing facilities in the United States were shutting down at a rate of 23 per day.  How can anyone say that "things are getting better" when our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted?

The truth is that there are never going to be enough jobs in America ever again, because millions of our jobs are being sent overseas and millions of our jobs are being lost to technology.

You won't hear this on the news, but the percentage of the civilian labor force in the United States that is employed has been steadily declining every single year since 2006.

Younger workers have been hit particularly hard.  In 2007, the unemployment rate for the 20 to 29 age bracket was about 6.5 percent.  Today, the unemployment rate for that same age group is about 13 percent.

If you are under the age of 30 and you aren't living with your parents, there is a really good chance that you are living in poverty.  If you can believe it, U.S. families that have a head of household that is under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.

Our economy has been steadily bleeding huge numbers of middle class jobs, and many of those jobs have been replaced by low paying jobs in recent years.

According to one study, 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

And at this point, an astounding 53 percent of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year.

Oh, but "things are getting better", right?

Maybe if you live on Wall Street or if you are an employee of the federal government.

But for most families this economic decline has been a total nightmare.  Median household income in America has fallen for four consecutive years.  Overall, it has declined by over $4000 during that time span.

Sometimes people forget how good things were about a decade ago.  About three times as many new homes were sold in the United States in 2005 as were sold in 2012.

But we like to live in denial.

In fact, a lot of families are trying to keep up their standards of living by going into tremendous amounts of debt.

Back in 1983, the bottom 95 percent of all income earners in the United States had 62 cents of debt for every dollar that they earned.  By 2007, that figure had soared to $1.48.

Fake it until you make it, right?

But how much debt can our system possibly handle?

Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.

Total credit card debt in the United States is now more than 8 times larger than it was just 30 years ago.

We are a nation that is completely addicted to debt, but as the financial crisis of 2008 demonstrated, all of that debt can have horrific consequences.

As the economy has slowed in recent years, the Federal Reserve has decided that "the solution" is to recklessly print money in an attempt to get the debt spiral cranked up again.

Have they gone overboard?  You be the judge...

Monetary Base 2013

And of course this won't have any affect on the value of the money that you have been saving up all these years right?

Wrong.

Every single dollar that you own is continually losing value...

Purchasing Power Of The Dollar

Overall, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by more than 96 percent since the Federal Reserve was first created.

As the cost of living continues to go up and wages continue to go down, millions of American families have fallen out of the middle class and into poverty.

If you can believe it, the number of Americans on food stamps has grown from about 17 million in the year 2000 to more than 47 million today.

But "things are getting better", right?

Incredibly, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  This is the first time that has ever happened in our history.

But "things are getting better", right?

There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing.  That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

But "things are getting better", right?

In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance.  Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

But "things are getting better", right?

Today, more Americans than ever have found themselves forced to turn to the federal government for help.

Overall, the federal government runs nearly 80 different "means-tested welfare programs", and at this point more than 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one of them.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that receives direct monetary benefits from the federal government.  Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

So is it a good sign or a bad sign that the percentage of Americans that are financially dependent on the federal government is at an all-time high?

And in future years the number of Americans that are receiving benefits from the federal government is projected to absolutely skyrocket.

Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid.  Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse.  It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

If you take a look at Medicare, things are very more sobering.

As I wrote recently, it is being projected that the number of Americans on Medicare will grow from 50.7 million in 2012 to 73.2 million in 2025.

At this point, Medicare is facing unfunded liabilities of more than 38 trillion dollars over the next 75 years.  That comes to approximately $328,404 for every single household in the United States.

Are you ready to contribute your share?

Social Security is a complete and total nightmare as well.

Right now, there are approximately 56 million Americans collecting Social Security benefits.

By 2035, that number is projected to soar to an astounding 91 million.

Overall, the Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years.

Oh, but don't worry because "things are getting better", right?

I honestly do not know how anyone can look at the numbers above and come to the conclusion that the economy is in good shape.

We have accumulated the largest mountain of debt in the history of the world, our economic infrastructure is being gutted, we are bleeding good jobs, government dependence is at an all-time high and we are getting poorer as a nation with each passing day.

But other than that, everything is rainbows and lollipops, right?

If you want to see the economic collapse, just open up your eyes.

And if dramatic changes are not made quickly, things are going to get much, much worse from here.

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