User Input

User Input: Game Changers

Spencer, aka @OakFoSho, recording the protests in Oakland.

I was up a bit late last night, watching something truly fascinating. A “Citizen Journalist” named Spencer, with a steady hand, an HD camera, a whole bunch of cellular modems and even more battery packs, who goes by the Twitter handle @OakFoSho was in the midst of the crowd, filming the raid of the #OccupyLA protest. At midnight Pacific time, the LAPD rolled into the park, dispersed everyone there, and arrested those who refused to disperse.

The coverage provided by this one man was many dozens of times better than anything provided by CNN or any of the other “old” media outlets. He was in the officers’ faces, recording their names, talking to them, interacting with them. And, to the credit of the LAPD, they were, by and large, sociable, polite and conversational in response. One officer did, quite foolishly, point his weapon at Spencer, but it’s fairly obvious from the footage that the officer was carelessly scanning around with the flashlight on the end of his gun-barrel. It’s carelessness, not malice.

I can’t help but think that the face of these police interactions has changed quite dramatically thanks to the rise of Citizen Journalists like Spencer. That raid was significantly more polite, patient and calm than most others I have seen, and I can’t help but think that is largely due to the fact that the officers have realized that there are hundreds of people in every crowd, filming and transmitting everything they see to tens of thousands more people at home online. And yet I can’t help but feel that the tipping point has not yet been reached.

Observing the trends we’re seeing towards mass accountability, what single piece of technology (cop-outs who answer “the internet” or “electricity” will get demerit points) will be crucial to changing the way governments operate in the next few decades?

 

[Image Source: Fly Trap Studios]

  • tiberiusẅisë

    I think "electricity" is not necessarily a cop out. The use of fossil fuel has been a great concentrator of wealth and, subsequently, political power. Imagine a world where an average joe or jane could purchase an affordable and sustainable way to produce ones own electricity.

  • P161911

    I see the nanny state growing even more egregious with technology. I just had lunch with a friend who has a 13 year old step-daughter and we were discussing the driving age. I mentioned that in a few years you would probably be able to just plug in some sort of performance limiter to the car of a teen driver. The more I think about this the more I realize how bad this idea is and how likely it will be that it will come to pass.

    • BlackIce_GTS

      I'm scared too. I'm watching the increasingly restrictive atmosphere in England with distinct discomfort. It's sort of a freedom canary in a panic coal mine. Or maybe it's a progress mine and the miners are panic?
      I think it's not only people want to be protected from everything they don't like, the nanny-state mindset creeps into peoples thought patterns. They get the idea that being allowed to do things is some kind of sinful urge and that banning everything is the morally correct path to take. I see this in various media scraps from China, yes there are protests, but I think a large part of the population really believes that their government is doing the right thing by censoring free speech (among other things).
      The worst part is that it seems not to be a fringe element that's behind this, as you said below it's not the far left or the far right that's pushing totalitarian nannyism, it's the not-thinking-to-hard-about-this majority (or, it's their votes that are being solicited).

      • The Professor

        How about all of the cameras that are installed in public places? Doesn't that scare the willies out of you too?

        • BlackIce_GTS

          It used to make me slightly uneasy, now with facial recognition they've certainly got my willies out I am rather more frightened.

    • SSurfer321

      They already have products that you can plug in to limit the car. Some cars are performance programmable depending on which key is inserted.
      http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27053080/ns/technolog
      http://www.njteendriving.com/technology

  • The Professor

    The tipping point that I see, is when our increasingly militarized police forces finally kill one innocent, unarmed citizen too many, without any punishment for the involved officers, and the people say "enough". It will be very ugly, as American citizens are well armed.

    • P161911

      I guess you are following Senate Bill 1867 then: http://www.greeleygazette.com/press/?p=12076 (I tried to find a somewhat non-partial news source on this, something other than the ACLU or very right wing.)
      There is a provision that gives the military the right to arrest US citizens on US soil and detain them indefinitely, all in the name of fighting terror.

      Sometimes people tend to forget how well armed American citizens actually are. Roughly 7% of the population has hunted in the last 5 years, roughly 1% of the population goes to the trouble to get a permit to carry a gun. There are 90 guns for every 100 people in the US, the next closest country, Yemen has 61 per 100, then Finland with 56 per 100. There are 4.5 million guns sold in the US every year. I hope we never see the day when "the 2nd amendment is there so we can make sure we can keep the others"

      • pj134

        I'm assuming that those numbers are just for the privately owned weaponry? It is a bit crazy that we have a country of at least 270,000,000 armed, mostly untrained, but armed nonetheless individuals if everyone were to hand out all but one of their guns.

        • P161911

          I'm pretty sure those numbers were just private gun ownership. Also, those numbers are per person, not per adult. There is a > 1:1 ratio for adults over 18. (~232,000,000 age 18+)

          • pj134

            Well I guess that kind of blows the less guns=less crime argument out of the water…

          • P161911

            The article that I got those numbers from mentioned that some of the more violent places in the world, Somalia etc., had private gun ownership rates around 1 per 100. That makes it easy for a few thugs to intimidate the whole population.

        • The Professor

          Yes, it can be scary to think about. But there is also this:
          An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.
          Robert A. Heinlein

          • TechieInHell

            I always liked Benjamin Franklin:
            Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner.
            Liberty is a well armed lamb contesting the vote.

          • The Professor

            That;s a good one too.

      • The Professor

        You can usually get good information over at DailyKos, they have some very knowledgeable people there. They also get some screamers sometimes, but you can find info without the drama. Here's a link on 1867: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/30/1041144/
        All of these laws that they've passed regarding terror frighten me more than the terrorists do. Since when have we become so willing to let the cowardly rich bastards in the Senate take away our basic freedoms, all in the name of "fighting terror"? How do we stop them? Will it take an insurrection? I sure hope not, but we can't seem to get elected officials that will actually represent the people that voted for them, or respect the parts of the Constitution that they don't like. It's a scary time.

        • P161911

          I lean more towards FreeRepublic than Daily Kos. Interestingly on certain civil liberties issues the far left and the far right tend to agree.

        • pj134

          I think a Radiohead t-shirt I had was rather poignant about the current direction of the population in general.

          "Most people gaze neither into the past nor the future; they explore neither truth nor lies. They gaze at the television."

          • The Professor

            Yeah. It's a pity, but it might also be evolution. Is watching TV endlessly a survival trait?

  • OA5599

    I think that "single piece of technology" is too limiting.

    A few decades ago, many governments controlled communication. They owned the post offices and the broadcasters. They either owned the newspapers, or allowed them to be owned only by publishers sympathetic to the party line. Several countries prohibited private ownership of photocopying equipment. By controlling the media, these governments were able to control the message.

  • OA5599

    Since then, there have been numerous technological advances for rebel forces to organize more efficiently. Desktop publishing meant your calls for change weren't automatically quashed by a newspaper monopoly. Satellite phones and other wireless communications meant you didn't have to transmit across government phone lines. Computers became commonplace enough that you could send messages to strangers halfway around the globe to ask their assistance in providing their banking information to help you smuggle $8.7 million USD out of the country. Electronic message boards and SMS technology meant you could send updates to all your followers in just a matter of seconds.

    Just as the internet (pardon the cop out) was intended to make communications less vulnerable by not restricting them to a single, severable line, the explosion of communication technology has dealt a huge blow to a government's ability to censor dissenters.

  • OA5599

    Speaking of censorship, when is Intense Debate going to realize four paragraphs shouldn't be too long to post?

    • Rather than employ multiple paragraphs, I prefer instead to cram as much as possible into each long, unwieldy sentence, which I suppose may be yet another consequence of my years spent learning classical Latin, although in that case it's not always clear how much of that is merely a question of poor choices in the later imposition of punctuation upon the original sources, but either way the tendency is not as pronounced in the surviving examples of early demotic or subsequent medieval writings.

      • pj134

        Yeah.

      • The Professor

        Blah blah blah…..

      • OA5599

        Thanks for the advice, Mr. Faulkner, and while I did indeed reference above a limit on paragraphs, namely four, and while your reply to which I am now responding brings to the forefront a suggestion that a loophole around the problem at hand is to compose longer sentences (of the literary, not judicial type), and presuming that one or more such elongated sentences could be strung together in such a way as to compose an entire cogent comment completely, whether as a single paragraph, or in the alternative as multiple paragraphs (though fewer than four) consisting of similarly long sentences sufficient to get one's point across, a more likely scenario is that the Intense Debate limits are triggered not by the number of paragraphs or certain punctuation marks, but by some yet-to-be-determined measure of words or lines or characters.

        • Oh.

        • The Professor

          Yakkita yakitta yakitta…

    • BlackIce_GTS

      Whathuh?
      My self-worth is diminished for never having run into this problem.
      Furthermore!…
      no, I got nothin'.

  • skitter

    Immersive virtual reality, however it's enacted, will eventually give everyone access to nearly unlimited resources. Nevermind governments, how will humanity react to this?

    • tonyola

      We will become the "wireheads" or "pod people" society that has been a big theme in science fiction for so long.

      • The Professor

        Bleah. Yuck, in fact. I wouldn't mind getting cybernetically augmented when they get it figured out.

    • P161911

      I think Japan is seeing some of this already. Their birth rate is 1.34. 2.1 is necessary to maintain a workforce. http://business.blogs.cnn.com/2011/11/29/sex-defi… 61% of the men unmarried men don't even have a girlfriend, 45% of those aren't even interested in one.

      • skitter

        Voluntary extinction has always been a fascinating concept. I never could work out how much raw genetic material would be necessary for a group stranded on a desert island. That said, this is a completely different animal.

        • P161911

          "Stranded on a desert island" pretty much describes Japan. Few of their citizens immigrate to other countries, at least not near as many as 75 years or so ago, and they allow virtually no immigration into their country.

          Their best hope in 50 years or so might be a free North Korea and allow the North Koreans in just to have a labor force.

        • TechieInHell

          There's a fine difference between "stranded on a desert island" and "stranded on a deserted island".

          The former would require more ingenuity than genetic material, as deserts are labelled as such for lacking natural resources.

          The latter would require (from what I've read) 15 human specimens to sustain a healthy genetic pool and maintain the species, although I'm not sure what the ratio of male to female would need to be.

      • The Professor

        Yeah, they've got big problems, population-wise. Many who marry don't want children, and the suicide rate is high, especially for young people. You have to wonder where they're going to, as a people.

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