Melted my Mind during a Mind Meld!

For all dedicated and part time “Trekkies” both young and old it was a sad day this year to learn of the passing of Dr Spock, Leonard Simon Nimoy. Probably the most type cast actor in the history of television.
“Spocky” was capable of conducting a Vulcan mind meld. The Vulcan mind meld was a telepathic link between two individuals, allowing for the exchange of thoughts, thus in essence allowing the participants to become one mind.
Even the fictional character Dr McCoy quoted back in the day “Vulcan mind melds; utter foolishness. Anybody with an ounce of sense wouldn’t share his brain with someone else; would you? I certainly wouldn’t.”
The first real step was taken in 2013 when researchers Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stocco, completed the first human-to-human mind meld, with one researcher sending a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motion of a colleague sitting across the Seattle campus of the University of Washington
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains. We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”
Andrea Stocco – University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences

This is not a standalone step but rather a progression in the decade’s long research into brain computer interface.
Implications from technological change on the battlefield have always driven innovation and invention.

During the American Civil War, field commanders did not realise the impact the new rifled musket and mini ball would have on tactics.

They persisted in using outdated tactics and the result was over 600,000 deaths and more than 80,000 amputations during its four deadly years.

The longer range had soldiers running into the face of at least three volleys rather than one and rarely coming to grips with the enemy.

The spinning bullet striking any arm or leg would split the bone and invariably require amputation.

Any visit to antique, second hand and curio shops throughout America reveals a multitude of artefacts and inventions used by civil war amputees in the years after the war.
It is not surprising then given the number of amputee veterans resulting from IED’s (improvised explosive devices) during the last decade of America’s military efforts that major funding has come from the U.S. Army Research Office and the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA.

The primary interest is brain-computer interfaces, in which electrical signals generated from one brain, are translated by a computer into commands that can move a mechanical prosthesis helping paralysed patients regain some power of movement.
But brain to brain experimentation has some bioethicists raising concerns about the more controversial uses.

They have a particular concern with experimentation into brain-networking. This method involves the linking brains together to create a collective network of thought.
For example in recent experiments, Miguel Nicolelis and his colleagues at Duke University wired the brains of four rats and had the same signal delivered into their brains and when a computer monitor showed their thoughts were synchronised they were offered a reward.

They were able to manipulate the brain patterns of the rats so they shared a collective thought pattern.

The resulting manipulation enabled the minds of the rats to act as an information-processing chain.

In other words they were able to train one rat to produce a brain activity and pass this onto the second rat that in turn passed it onto the third.
Don’t buy any shares in a rat trap company I’m thinking.
They have also demonstrated this with monkeys which don’t bode well for my mates at the pub.
“This is the first demonstration of a shared brain-machine interface (BMI), a paradigm that has been translated successfully over the past decades from studies in animals all the way to clinical applications,” Miguel A. Nicolelis – Director of the Centre for Neuro-engineering at Duke University

Will some futuristic marriage celebrant have a marriage mind meld ritual chip planted in the couples brains as part of the wedding service conducted on a holographic beach complete with virtual guests?

Forever after when your darling asks you “what are you thinking?” You will be truly screwed.
No more nothing, saying nothing will no longer do.

Related Articles:
Scientists achieve first human-to-human ‘mind meld’
Real-Life Mind Meld? Scientists Link Animal Brains
Scientists ‘mind-meld’ a rat and monkey
Researcher controls colleague’s motions in 1st human brain-to-brain interface
Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans


Storing or Hoarding?

In Australia the more research we do the longer back in history our first people go. The original Australians are now believed to have been in continuous occupation of the continent for around 70,000 years. Ancient women are believed to have been the first recorders of enduring information. The data was the result of a mouthful of ochre and spit, spat against a hand. The rock on which the hand rested at the time was humanities first long term storage medium. Our first Hard Drive. In all the methods other than memory humans have used to record their multi-various activities, writing on rock has probably been the best. The first recorded written language on rock is believed to be Sumerian about 5000 years ago.

Since then it’s been all downhill. Late last week I received this comment; “My 64 GB USB like just up and died on me!” The number of times I have heard that mythical lament as an excuse for not handing in an assignment is beyond the counting. Just one dollar for every time and I would be as we speak endlessly cruising the Caribbean.
Paper was first developed in the 2nd century BC in China. The first paper was made from hemp. However the actual Silk Road was the way it was introduced to us whities from the west. Paper has been the main storage medium since. The great fire in the ancient library of Alexandria is a permanent reminder of the vulnerability of committing humanities body of knowledge to paper. We have been madly digitalising it all into a less reliable medium on our computers since there introduction.

The supposed advantage of our computer age has been somewhat lost in a multitude of mediums and formats resulting in redundant confusion. Some of my friends consider me a border line technology hoarder. In fact all of my friends consider me a hoarder full-stop. I just say in my defiant defence that it’s my own Smithsonian Institute and I am merely a dedicated gatekeeper. They will eat their words one day, you just wait and see.

I have an 8 inch disk. I have no idea what’s on it because I haven’t seen an 8 inch disk drive for 40 years. I still worry there might be something that’s important on it. I have numerous 5 1/4 floppy disks, a drive but no drivers. I have boxes of 3.5 inch disks but can’t buy a drive for the life of me. I could construct a Lego like sculpture from the number of old, dead or I have no idea hard drives stored in a cardboard box with the label “old hard drives”. Have I considered paid storage? I am in paid storage. The answer to the argument VHS or Betamax is moulding away in my storage. I am missing a lot of leads as well. I have zip disks but no zip drives. I have Backup tapes and no recorder still in manufacture.  I know the history of mankind is on one of them but I have no idea which one.

It seems the older civilization gets the more fragile is its means of permanently recording our sum total. Current magnetic Hard Drives have only a 10 year reliability. In 1956 it took 50, 24 inch disks to store 5 Megabytes of information until now when it seems we can store every phone call made by everybody on the planet as well as Facebook’s sum total of daily chatter for the foreseeable future at some far distant server farm in a galaxy far, far away. But it is still not as solid as rock.  Terrible bush fires ravage huge areas around Sydney as I write this post, many houses lost in seconds. So fast and vicious residents had to grab what they could and run. When idiot reporters asked that mindless “How are you feeling right now?” question, straight after cringing you heard universal answers: “Mate we got out with our lives, the pets and the photos.” Those staring at the scorched remains of their homes found the loss of photographs, diaries and written mementos to be the saddest. We need a long term storage medium as long lasting and reliable as rock.

It’s not that we are not trying the Rosetta Project is a proposal by the Long Now Foundation to create archival materials capable of storing information for periods in excess of 10,000 years. But we need to preserve information about our civilisation on a timescale that outlasts it which means at least a million years. A new effort however has had some impressive results. Nanotechnologists led by Jeroen de Vries at the University of Twente in the Netherlands have designed and built a disk capable of storing data over this timescale. They have also designed an accelerated aging algorithm to test the reliability of their tungsten disks with a protective coat of silicon nitride. To corrupt data, that is to change all our ones to zeros and zeros to ones an energy barrier governed by a probability law called the Arrhenius law must be jumped. To last a million years, the required energy barrier is 63 KBT or 70 KBT to last a billion years.
“These values are well within the range of today’s technology.” – Jeroen de Vries.

The disk created by the team is capable of surviving a million years. To last that long it has to survive 1 hour at 445 Kelvin. The new disks did so with ease. This doesn’t of course mean that it will survive natural disasters, meteor strikes, drone strikes, human stupidity or the average house fire. I wonder if they are available at Dick Smiths yet? I might wander on down. All I need now is a floppy drive, zip drive, jump drive and a hard disk reader. EBay here I come.

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Million-Year Data Storage Disk Unveiled

Big Bad Drive by Drones

So far it is estimated that the big bad drones in the US targeted killing program have conducted over 300 strikes and killed over 3000 people. Figures on civilian casualties are somewhat hazy.
“Well, the truth is that no one really knows exactly what’s going on with their effectiveness or not, because this is a program that has been wrapped in secrecy. Every aspect of this program is secret, so secret, in fact, that even members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that are supposed to be overseeing this program are not able to see even the legal justification for the program.”  – Chris Anders

By declaring the never ending war against terror it is easier to argue its legitimacy under the 2001 AUMF (Authorization of the use of military force) where both republicans and democrats have argued that drone strikes into other sovereign nations without a declared war is legal in terms of self-defence, in targeting individuals actively threatening the United States.
“Yes. Well, that’s part of the issue here is we have an ongoing conflict with a terrorist organization that has declared jihad or war against the United States.” Seth Jones

This policy is soon to be tested by the appointment of a special investigator into civilian deaths by drones within the United Nations. Already the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has begun to debate if robots should be allowed to take human life without direct supervision or command.
“The possible introduction of LARs (lethal autonomous robots) raises far-reaching concerns about the protection of life during war and peace. If this is done, machines and not humans will take the decision on who is alive or dies.”  – Christof Heyns (UN special rapporteur)
He went on to say:
“War without reflection is mechanical slaughter. In the same way that the taking of any human life deserves – as a minimum – some deliberation, a decision to allow machines to be deployed to kill human beings deserves a collective pause worldwide.”

I suspect all this deliberation is already too late. During the debate Pakistan’s council delegate Mariam Aftab said “The experience with drones shows that once such weapons are in use, it is impossible to stop them,” Pakistan being on the receiving end of a majority of the anti- terrorism drone strikes has some credibility in this argument.
The other side of the debate is characterised by: robots don’t rape. Future robots may well be designed to be more precise, employ less lethal force thereby causing fewer unnecessary deaths and have a greater ability to disarm or immobilise a target.
“LARs will not be susceptible to some of the human shortcomings that may undermine the protection of life. Typically they would not act out of revenge, panic, anger, spite, prejudice or fear.” – Christof Heyns
No autonomous “Killer robots” are yet known to exist as unmanned drones require humans to control them, however many countries have precursor technology in place.

Australia does not stand outside of this debate. Currently we are complicit in the drone strikes as the Pine Gap base in central Australia plays a key role. It tracks and locates al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders by precise “geolocation” of radio signals including from hand held radios and mobile phones. The base is capable of preforming this task right across the Middle East, China, North Korea and the Russian Far East.
“We track them, we combine the signals intelligence with imagery, and once we’ve passed the geolocation intelligence on, our job is done. When drones do their job we don’t need to track that target anymore. The US will never fight another war in the eastern hemisphere without the direct involvement of Pine Gap,” one official said.

Meanwhile drone technology continues to improve. The Northrop Grumman’s X-47B carrier-launched drone has successfully been launched from an aircraft carrier. The Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft program aims to produce an autonomous robotic attack plane capable of spying on and attacking enemies.
“With a stealthy bat-wing air frame, a 3200 kilometre range and the ability to carry the equivalent of two precision-guided bombs, the X-47B will provide a long-range, radar-evading, unmanned reconnaissance and strike aircraft.” – Sean Gallagher

America’s dominance in drone technology may well be a thing of the past. The continual cyber-attacks on American defence contractors suspected to be coming from out of Shanghai may have already stolen and reverse engineered much of the technology.
“I believe this is the largest campaign we’ve seen that has been focused on drone technology. It seems to align pretty well with the focus of the Chinese government to build up their own drone technology capabilities.” – Darien Kindlund, manager of threat intelligence at the company, FireEye, based in California.

The Shanghai hacker group believed to be called the “Comment Crew” has been tracked by an American cyber security company to a building outside Shanghai owned by the People’s Liberation Army. Although vigorously denied by the Chinese government, it is certainly no secret that the Chinese government and military are strenuously pursuing drone technology. Every major arms manufacturer in China has a research centre devoted to drones. China is already dispatching drones over the disputed Japanese Islands and apparently killed a criminal suspect in Myanmar last year. It is thought that China is already selling cheap versions of reversed engineered models resembling the Predator. Photographs of runway trials of a stealth combat drone the “Stealth Sword” have surfaced recently on the internet.
A Taiwan Defence Ministry report in 2011 reported Chinas drone fleet of 280 units. Although it does not match the 7000 drones deployed by the US its fleet does rank second in the world.
“The military significance of China’s move into unmanned systems is alarming,” said a 2012 report by the Defence Science Board, a Pentagon advisory committee.

The main character in George Orwell’s “1984” states:  “No matter how hard he digs at his memory, Winston is uncertain whether a time existed when Oceania was not at war with someone.” The ongoing borderless war against terror is becoming disturbing reminiscent of the world described in George Orwell’s book. The chances the United Nations will be able to curb the technological race for remote and automated killing machines is becoming less likely by the day.

Related Articles:
Exploring Technology, Effectiveness, Consequences of Drone Warfare
Stop killer robots now, UN asks
Drone Lands On Aircraft Carrier In Historic First
Navy commissions new designs on armed, carrier-launched drones
Pine Gap helps US drone strikes
Hacking U.S. Secrets, China Pushes for Drones

Assassinated by a DIY Drive by Drone

On September the 15th at a campaign rally both Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere watched seemingly unconcerned as a small quadrocopter dived and crashed at their feet in a simulated robo-kamikase attack. The Parrot A4 drone was operated by a member of the German Pirate Party protesting the cancellation of the Euro Hawk drone program as well as the level of government surveillance Germans have discovered they are subjected to. I thought it was an apt story as the 19th Sep was Pirate Day in Australia. I had no idea we even had pirates, ever. I’ll put that in my book of useless knowledge.

It does raise the spectre of a do-it- yourself drone, swapping its Go Pro camera for a hand grenade and doing a drive by drone attack on some world leader. Instigated by one the multi-various political nutter groups proliferating on the planet. It could have been one of the new 3D Robots, preassembled, multiple crash surviving, kit drones. Supposedly targeted at the hobbyist wanting a high altitude, aerial backyard “selfie”, its PX4 Flight management unit installed on a simple android devise is fully capable of a nasty drone drive by assassination.  It will survive a lot of crashes while the “perps” learn how to remotely set it off at the bicycle wheel of one of our less popular “pollies” and blow him out of his budgie-smugglers on an early morning ride around Lake Burley Griffin. All for $730 plus the going price of a mail order hand grenade from EBay.

Where political assassins go the police and criminals are soon to follow.  In its war on crime the South Australian Police have stated they will use drones to spy on suspects. Deploying stealthy miniature unmanned aerial vehicles, equipped with still, video, and infra-red cameras they will spy on bikie fortresses, find drug crops, and gather intelligence without putting officers at risk. Ignoring the civil libertarians whining about “Big Brother in the Sky” they justify it by saying that everyone else in the world is already using them.
UAVs represent a cost effective solution for a range of policing operations, especially in situations when using conventional aircraft is too dangerous or costly. They can be fitted with a variety of cameras, can be deployed in minutes, and can fly at heights that effectively make them inaudible from the ground. Images from the on-board cameras can be transmitted in real time, giving police a significant advantage during incidents and operations, often in situations when manned, conventional aircraft can’t be used. The quadcopters are also ideal for quick inspections of towers, buildings, or premises when police are searching for explosive devices, or after a fire or an explosion. And, the UAVs have excellent capability for use in areas of rugged terrain, especially during searches for missing people or for illicit drug crops.” – Police Minister Michael O’Brien

In an ex-convict colony, Australians are noticeably wary of these new digital rum corps “Troopers” and fear that this “eye in the sky” capability could make people afraid of attending protests and could be used to track people without their knowledge. That’s just the tip of the nasty and nebulous iceberg of concerns. Already about 34 organisations across Australia are certified to use drones for aerial photography, surveying and power line inspection.
I await the first story reporting some Nimbin dope croppers protecting their patch of Mullumbimby Madness by a mid air ramming of the police quadcopter with a cheaper Hobby Shop quadcopter. It also gives the idea of robbers “casing” the joint a whole new meaning. Will nuisance hobby geeks conducting aerial “perving”, stalking and bullying be one more thing our society will have to contend with?

Kids in Iran have to do civil defence taught by Revolutionary Guard paramilitary units. They plan to add subjects to the program to teach drone-hunting to school students. They are called “Defensive Readiness” lessons. The methods taught will get to the internet sooner or later, with footnotes.  It will be on YouTube with step by step pause enabled transitions. It could lead to a new weekend pastime. Let’s go to the beach and drop a few drones. Will we see Tweets saying “Country Energy= 0 Dread Dropouts of Dungog = 1, Go Team?” It’s scary. It’s here already. The genie is out of the bottle never to be put back in. I want one.  The 3D Robots quadrocopter will be released in September.

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A Robot Funeral?

I admit somewhat reluctantly that I have had emotional involvements with things, inanimate objects that is, particularly motors. As if “start you barstard” could actually work but you try it on anyway. Men can become really attached to a gurney. What every man needs is a Gurney. It gives us the three things any man needs for a semi spiritual experience. Instant Results, men love instant results. With a gurney you have got dirty concrete then its clean. None of this what are you thinking stuff. No emotions involved, no discussion just instant realisable results.

Secondly it involves repetitive, mindless motion. In the words of Mark Gungor a marriage expert, men’s minds are made up of tiny little boxes. Each box can contain only one thing. Everything has a box, everything should be put in its right box. Except our nothing box. We have one box with nothing in it. It’s our favourite box. When our women ask us “What are we thinking?” and we say: “Nothing” we are not kidding. Our women don’t have a nothing box and don’t understand why we men love and need our nothing box. The best way to get into our nothing box is to do something with mindless repetitive motion.

Thirdly and most importantly it has a motor. Any man will tell you that there is nothing better than the sound of a Briggs and Stratton in the morning.

Apparently we are becoming emotionally attached to robots too. In an interview with 23 explosive ordinance personnel who regularly used robots, Julie Carpenter, a Ph.D. in education at the University of Washington concluded that they were emotionally attached to their robots. They attributed them with feelings, pet names and genders to the point that they may in future be reluctant to put them in harm’s way.
“They would say they were angry when a robot became disabled because it is an important tool, but then they would add ‘poor little guy,’ or they’d say they had a funeral for it. These robots are critical tools they maintain, rely on, and use daily. They are also tools that happen to move around and act as a stand-in for a team member, keeping Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel at a safer distance from harm.  You don’t want someone to hesitate using one of these robots if they have feelings toward the robot that goes beyond a tool. If you feel emotionally attached to something, it will affect your decision-making.” – Julie Carpenter

I must admit I have never known a man to give a motor a funeral let alone a 21 gun salute as suggested during comments on Reddit. We did keep lots of old motors out the back of the machinery shed on the farm. My father had that age old excuse that they “might come in handy one day”. If he did throw something away it seemed uncanny that a short time later a need for the discarded part appeared like magic. Consequently he never threw any part away. He could of course be accused of border line hoarding. In fact my mother did often accuse him of border line hoarding. I knew of course that it was secret men’s business. I never questioned it and now have a garage full of parts that might one day come in handy.

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Empathy for military robots could affect outcomes on the battlefield

Cyberwar is not New, it’s Now Against You!

The revelations of Edward Snowden just keep on keeping on. At a TED talk in 2011 Ralph Langner revealed the details of the Stuxnet computer worm. It was sophisticated and far beyond the capabilities of some gothic hacker cult in the back-end of the Ukraine. It could only have been developed by the government of an advanced country. The frightening fact Langer pointed out was that it is generic and could be used in the future against any advanced infrastructure needing instantaneous digital fail safe systems. Stuxnet had two payloads in its Iranian deployment. One introduced an intermittent error into the nuclear plants centrifuges to drive the engineers insane and forever delay the construction of their nuclear weapons. The other, in case all else fails, to cause the centrifuges to spin out of control, explode and take down the plant. One day it will be movie plot to look forward to. Exactly how was the Stuxnet worm placed onto the laptop or USB of an engineer working with the closed grey box systems inside the Iranian nuclear power plant?
On July the 9th of this year, Jacob Applebaum for the German daily Der Spiegel interviewed Snowden who stated that the US and Israel were behind the development and deployment of the stuxnet computer worm.

It is a long held tenet of warfare that the invention of a weapons system immediately starts the development of its counter. If no one invents a tank there is no need to invent an anti-tank gun. After the southern general “Stonewall” Jackson had 20 cavalry troopers ride in a circle across the face of a gap in the trees to fool one of the many incompetent union generals into reinforcing the wrong flank the union army started its first deployments of hot air balloons for observation.

World War II stimulated the fastest technological development in the modern era until the space race, the first and only relatively bloodless war so far. In the six years of WW2 we went from aircraft of wood, canvas and glue to the first jet. The German communication code, the enigma machine designed by Arthur Scherbius was broken early in the war by three Polish cryptologists Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Różycki and Henryk Zygalski. They gave the method of breaking the code to the British for nothing. The British further refined code breaking in the top secret “Ultra” program at  Bletchley Park. This effectively negated Germany’s superiority in war fighting and generalship and Winston Churchill claimed after the war that it was the major contributing factor to the allied victory. This also shows that the concept of cyberwar is by no means new. If the enigma machine was anything it was an early computer even if it wasn’t on the internet.

Countermeasures to new technology can also involve reusing old technology in a new way. The most amazing example is the British army’s use of the skills of one Jasper Maskelyne in the battles of North Africa. Maskelyne was the last of a long line of famous European magician’s and illusionists. Using his skills he was able to create the illusion of the city of Alexandria in the middle of an empty desert that the Germans proceeded to bomb the crap out of while the real city remained relatively untouched. With canvas and wood he created a shell game that made tanks look like trucks and trucks look like tanks to create a dummy army that helped win the battle of El Alamein.

In the conflict in Vietnam the US deployed electronic probes by air along the Ho Chi Minh trail, disguised as bamboo plants to detect the movement of people. When discovered the North Vietnamese soldiers urinated on them sending many a freaked out US airman running to his officer screaming that thousands upon thousands of drug crazed, suicide squads of hardcore North Vietnamese soldiers were moving south. In reality it was Nigel Nog after a hard night on rice wine pissing on the probe happily chuckling “Take that Yankee dog.”  Another example of the powers of piss.

The deployment of clouds of silver foil named chaff over the cities of Germany in WW2 confused radar systems to the numbers and direction of allied bomber streams as they laid waste to Germany. In a sophisticated redesign the US army in the first Iraq war in 1990 deployed the BLU-114/B “Soft-Bomb” which dispersed clouds of fine carbon filaments over electrical switching stations that shorted out 70% of Iraq’s power in the first hours of the war.

Although I am drawing a fine line with the definition: Cyber warfare is Internet-based conflict involving politically motivated attacks on information and information systems. My examples provide a timeline of attack methods that used to be conducted against enemy armies. However now including private organisations and individuals and is becoming increasingly personal. Just as behavioural tracking was once confined to building buyer profiles for particular demographics to now becoming pointed and personal and directed specifically to your individual online profile.

A new survey carried out by Lieberman Software Corporation at Black Hat USA 2013 asked 200 senior IT security professionals a series of questions with a conservative 58 per cent admitting they think we’re losing the battle against state-sponsored attacks with 74 per cent already believing their corporate network has been the victim of an attack from a state-sponsored hacker out of another country with 96 per cent thinking that hacking will worsen over time.
“The threat of state-sponsored attacks is extremely serious for government and commercial entities.  The probing of IT infrastructures in both environments is occurring 24/7, with attacks being launched on a regular basis,” said Philip Lieberman, president and CEO of Lieberman Software.

Just last week reports that the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), a pro-Assad hacking group used a cleverly constructed phishing email and by sneaking through the unsecured backdoor of a reseller were able to alter the DNS records for the New York Times, Twitter, and the Huffington Post and take them offline.
“Social-engineering and most specifically phishing is one of the largest attack surfaces we face in the security industry. Hacking through websites and breaching perimeters takes way too much time and usually not worth the effort. Sending a targeted email to a company almost guarantees you access to whatever you want and we aren’t capable of handling these types of attacks right now,” said Dave Kennedy the founder of TrustedSec.

Well we as individuals better develop that capability if others cant. We also should be proactive in helping with the security of the small business’s and organisations we work for. Maybe a power to the people development of a toolkit of counter measures has to begin at a grassroots level to protect the principles of online freedom first introduced by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation in 1990. The co-founder John Perry Barlow’s quote: “Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds.” seems to becoming increasingly apt.

Maybe we all need to start holding CryptoParty‘s in our neighbourhoods.

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Big Brothered at your Favourite Bar

My Canadian cousin told me that barmaids in Canada and the US sometimes had to pay to work in a bar. They were paid no retainer or salary and depended on big tips from rich patrons and had not only to pay the owner an upfront fee but a ongoing percentage for the privilege of working in the bar. No way I thought! The only tip you get as a barman in Australia is the favourite in the fourth race at Randwick. And it would be bound to lose.

In Australia its first come first served and the devil takes the hindmost. If the Boss catches you casually chatting to a patron you are quickly told you are not working hard enough. It’s the opposite for a US barmaid; she has to talk to her patrons to get the tip. It’s a client relationship. She is a substitute mother, lover, lifestyle coach and therapist that just happens to serve you alcohol. The bar staff develop a cooperative harmony that would be the envy of any project manager.

If your barmaid is with another client when you come in, another barmaid after a passing whispered consultation informs you that Cheryl is currently with another client and will be with you shortly. She then serves you your preferred poison and returns to rotating around her own clients. When you leave, a proportional part of your tip is given to the other barmaid. I wondered how that would work in the last 5 minutes of happy hour with a Friday night crowd in a typical Aussie pub.

If an Australian drinker is stupid enough to give you a tip, you have to put it in a jar and split it with all the other staff at the end of the night.

As you walk up to the doorway of the digital big brother bar of the future before you even get inside a camera at the door with a facial detection feature will link with an app like “Scene Tap” on your phone and tell you the current male to female ratio, average age and activity level. Either warning you of a total waste of your hormones, or one day capable of warning you that two previous one night stands are in there or that horrible hairy barstard full of himself who spent the whole night following and hitting on you last week. You may well walk away before you even get in the place.

Your favourite barman or barmaid checks a positioning system that monitors traffic patterns by Wi-Fi pinging your phone and knows you are coming before you get there and has your preferred beer and barnuts ready with your repeat customer discount already applied.  If you are a new patron it will present pictures and profiles of the bar staff for you to select from. Like a viewing room in a brothel without the sex.

Meanwhile the bar owner using various sensor setups will rotate and top up with low pressure nitrogen all those opened bottles of house wine to prevent them from oxidising, keeping them perpetually fresh and cool. The latest installed Cirrus Ice Ball Press will do away with the need for those primitive ice cubes. His beer lines will be monitored by Alcohol Analytic sensors that will track stats about beer consumption, tracking popular brands and busting bar staff drinking and those sly give aways. Alongside this will be Barmaxx scales placed under liquor bottles with RFID (Radio-frequency identification) stickers so the 20 brands of vodka will keep track of themselves.

With Touch Tunes installed on your phone you will Wi-Fi request the music of your choice on the bars jukebox, check what’s played and coming up. You will even be able to pay extra money to get your request moved up the queue ahead of the rap crap wanted on the next table.

Is nothing sacred? It’s the thin edge of the wedge. What’s next? Robotic bar tenders rolling up on context sensitive ball bearings, reaching into a database of bad jokes. “Hello Mr Smith, how’s the wife and dog, one and the same?” Will we need bartenders and barmaids at all or will we use “Pour my beer” systems while wearing radio-frequency identification (RFID) bracelets tied to our direct debit bar tab.
God help us when we reach our limit and it calls a cop. A self-restraining bar stool that automatically wraps steel straps across your thighs and holds you in place until some robocop arrives and prints you a fine for public drunkenness.

It beggars believe. I might have to move to Wilcannia. Surely it won’t get installed there in my lifetime. An Australian pub without being able to watch a well poured beer by a sympathetic barman or an all knowing barmaid would be a life not worthy living.

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