Sunday, April 10, 2005

The note in the crowd

'Hate' is a word that should ring alarms for anyone concerned about truth. Somewhere behind the word, you'll find people & institutions that manipulate truth, and people's emotions, for worldly gain.

Everyone knows that hate is like a smoldering wildfire in our souls. So it's one of the most powerful forces available to anyone trying to manipulate a situation. If I was speaking to a crowd of people, and someone wanted to prevent me from speaking, the easiest approach would be to write an anonymous note, with the right lies, and come a little early, putting the note on the chairs of everyone in the room. If it's well-crafted, the little note would generate hate from the crowd, and if truly effective, could lead to a lynching.

If you feel hate, you should look to see if you're being manipulated, because it's highly probable. This is one of my most useful personal rules. So, if you agree with what I said above, about the note & the crowd, you might consider that, although there is some peer-to-peer effect in the spreading of hate, it's generally a top-down phenomenon. And consider too: there may be no hate at the top, only the self-interested generation of lies.

This goes against common wisdom. To pick an example at random: it's widely throught that leading anti-communists must truly hate communists: take for example Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, J. Edgar Hoover, Joseph McCarthy, Adolf Hitler, etc.

However, this isn't necessarily true. They may have been indifferent to communism, on a personal level. Their professional roles required anti-communism. Their feelings on the matter aren't really important.

Anti-communism was the 'note in the crowd' ... actually it was much more, involving massive institutional propaganda. The motivation was the important thing. A small group of people profited hugely from anti-communism: emerging multinational trade, finance & manufacturing groups; military & aerospace companies; and their powerful friends in high places. No one at the top needed to be truly anti-communist. They simply needed to promote the interests of the powerful & priviledged.

Of course, you become your job, as it becomes you. But we shouldn't worry about what powerful people think, or how they feel. We should worry about the damage they do, consistently. Before it's too late.

People in power work very hard to craft the perfect 'note', or message ... a heady mixture of hate, fear, pride, vision, morals etc ... all lies. Today, especially, there's plenty of evidence that it's simply straightforward PR. You just have to follow a story beyond its 'peak fame'. George Bush doesn't care about religion. He cares about the vote of organized religion, and the organizers of those religions are only interested in their own power too. John Kennedy didn't care about communism from a philosophical standpoint: he cared about its interference with profit-taking by US interests.

Let's stick to the subject of this blog: using hypothetical software to automate of this kind of analysis. It should be possible to isolate crowd-stirring rhetoric, as well as obsequious adulation of leaders, or speculation about their thoughts & feelings. I think this would reveal that only a very small percentage of the daily paper consists of facts.

Planned incandescence

When you think about it, it's very strange that cigarettes keep burning.

Cigars & pipe tobacco stop burning when you stop smoking. Hand-rolled cigs, and damn-cheap cigs, have to be re-lit all the time. Cigarette smokers don't want cigs to burn continuously ... it makes them disappear more quickly. This story, about Reduced Ignition Propensity (RIP) cigarettes, led me to a Canadian historical overview. Apparently cigarettes are designed to burn continuously, and to burn faster. As a result, they set things on fire:

Considerable controversy has surrounded the tobacco industry's use of burn additives to enhance the burn rate of cigarette paper. It would appear logical that the removal or reduction of burn additives would reduce ignition potential. Further, all three of the experimental cigarettes with the lowest ignition potential in the TSG study had no burn additives in their papers.

The obvious reason for the design, is profit. The product burns itself, raising sales.

It also kills 900 people, and starts 30,000 fires, every year, just in the US.

It's crazy that even the operation of the cigarette is the result of a sales plan. And of course, the industry refuses to remove the burn additives. Until corporations are forced to be transparent and under the control of the population, pervasive perversions like this will increasingly penetrate our lives.

We can start with a repository of engineering data, so that any mass-produced product that enters the market is analyzed, every ingredient explained, all sourcing traced, all manufacturing monitored. My feeling is that very few of today's mass-market products would survive the public's scrutiny.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

More map tricks & annotations

I read about the release of satellite imagery for google maps first here. So I thought I'd mention it, to see how the annotation of major media works here.

Annotation is a term used in digital mapping, for almost any kind of category, tag, label, attribute, connection etc. It would be lovely to annotate Google's new map tool, to highlight environmental and community devastation. Currently, the only possible overlays are driving directions & search result points.

The neatest thing I've done with this, so far, is to trace back my local river to its sources. Which turned out to be reservoirs I've swum in. I think everyone is doing one of two things with this tool: exploring places they know well ("can I see myself?" "Is that what my old neighborhoodd looked like?") and exploring places they've dreamt of (unfortunately, only the US is available in any detail.)

One of the best features is the ability to switch back & forth between maps & satellite imagery. Even though I've been involved in GIS for years, I still can't get over how cartoon-like, and just plain inaccurate, a highway on a map looks, compared to the real thing.