Big Brother Is in High Gear

bigbroSocial media and smart phones don’t have to be evil – there’s nothing bad about talking to your friends, after all – but right now social media and “Big Brother in your pocket” phones are very clearly servicing evil. It wouldn’t be hard to build non-evil alternatives, but for the moment, the evil versions enjoy a monopoly. (At least with search engines, there are non-evil alternatives.)

However we choose to look at it, Big Brother is on the greatest roll in all of history. No Pharaoh, no Caesar, no commissar ever had anything approaching the surveillance and manipulation capacities of modern rulers. And in support of it all stand Jane and Joe Average, ever-compliant, who simply don’t want to know. Give them the slightest excuse to close their eyes, and they will.

This kind of thing doesn’t often end well.

Two Recent Outrages

Not that many people will actually be outraged, of course; there won’t be a great deal of that so long as ignorance remains possible. Joe and Jane have already forgotten about Snowden, after all. Still, I will continue to do my part.

One of the hundreds of US government offices, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recently announced that they developed a system to predict the psychological status of smartphone users. They’re in the process of farming this out to businesses now.

This system tracks your location, tracks your psychological state, and when necessary, will “deliver an automated intervention.” In the NIH’s typical gov-speak, it sounds like this:

Continuously collected ambulatory psychological data are fused with data on location and responses to questions. The mobile data are combined with geospatial risk maps to quantify exposure to risk and predict a future psychological state. The future predictions are used to warn the user when he or she is at especially high risk of experiencing a negative event that might lead to an unwanted outcome…

This is all couched as “help for drug addicts,” of course. (Is “do it for the children” already out of the rotation?) No thinking person, of course, believes that this system will be used only “for good” and by beneficent angelic beings. And if not, then how shall it be used?

The second recent outrage was a long list of manipulations that were cataloged by The Washington Post. They make it very clear that the US government is actively manipulating its populace. Their list is only a small fraction of the whole, of course, but I was grateful to see it.

And from the Glorious United Nations…

Yes, the shining white knights at the UN are chiming in with their new plans to protect us from all evil.

As Mike Krieger reports, the UN (to protect women from harassment, of course),

proposes both that social networks proactively police every profile and post, and that government agencies only ‘license’ those who agree to do so.

So, if you wish to run any kind of “social” network (do comment boards count?), you’d have to be licensed. And if not, you’ll be a law-breaker. Granted, the UN pushes out destructive ideas all the time, and many are never implemented but some of them are. And this isn’t the first idea like this I’ve seen.

From Here, It Gets Ugly

A few months ago, I devoted an entire issue of my subscription newsletter (#59) to the subject of what’s coming next from the Big Brother crew, and it’s not comforting.

Do you remember old episodes of Star Trek where a civilization became controlled by computers and eventually no one moved without the system moving them? Well, that’s where Big Brother is headed, and their new Big Data systems are capable of reaching that kind of result.

Yes, I know it sounds farfetched. So did the lectures I was giving in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and even earlier. And then came Snowden, and it didn’t sound so farfetched anymore.

My job is to deliver information. What you do with it is up to you. Still, to provide some backup, here’s a reminder of the infamous Facebook experiment that came and went from the newsfeed in early 2012:

Facebook ran a troubling set of experiments on 689,000 of its users, to determine if they could tweak their news feeds and purposely change their users’ emotions. And it turned out that they could… and that those emotions spread to their friends.

What they’ve been doing along these lines since then, we don’t know. We learned about this experiment more or less by accident.


And so, I’ll close here. I feel I have discharged my duties. Make of it what you will.

Paul Rosenberg

Why Obamacare Will Not Conquer American Culture

obamacareIt’s become quite obvious that, politically, Obamacare has conquered America. (It now has the power of law.) However, it will eventually fail. In fact, it’s failing already because of something that transcends politics – our ingrained culture.

I had a conversation yesterday with a very astute European friend. While discussing the differences between Europeans and Americans, he said:

On the scale of a whole society, Americans change slower, Europeans change faster. But individually, Americans change faster, and Europeans slower.

And he is quite right about this. Europeans change in groups, but Americans very seldom do. And even when they do, those changes seldom last.

He went on:

This gives Americans an advantage: they can try many more solutions before choosing. But if a society-wide change is imposed on them, it may never find mass adoption; the majority will resist it, and wait it out.

Obamacare is one of these society-wide European-style solutions, shoved down the throats of American culture. Confused by politics (which is, more or less, the purpose of politics), most Americans haven’t known what to think about it, so they are waiting to see what happens.

At the moment, what they see is very bad and while they may hope it works itself out, we know it won’t for one simple reason: Americans expect to choose, and to change their choice whenever they want.

Americans expect to choose a product this year, but to change to a different one next year, when something better comes along. This is deeper than the noise and clamor of politics – it is ingrained in our culture.

Obamacare transgresses the American cultural norms, and will therefore fail – sooner or later, in one way or another.

Why Obamacare Is Much Like A Viking Invasion

In the early Middle Ages, the Vikings wrought havoc on the British Isles. They plundered wherever they wished, extorted astonishing amounts of silver from the kings of England, and never suffered a serious defeat. They conquered, clearly and definitely.

But a funny thing happened to the Vikings over time – they became Englishmen.

The Vikings started as a wild band of pagan destroyers and thieves, and ended up, in a fairly short span, as Christian British farmers.

Why did they make this change? Because the English way of life – English culture – was far more attractive than a life of frozen oceans, killing, and drunkenness.

The Vikings conquered militarily, but they were defeated culturally.

The same thing is happening to Obamacare in America: It conquered politically, but it will fail culturally.

Culture trumps conquest, whether it be the conquest of arms or the conquest of politics.

Obamacare will fail because Americans expect to choose, and to change their choice when they want.

When Americans want a different doctor or hospital, they expect to get it. If they don’t, they’ll break the rules: either they’ll bribe people to get what they want, pay for political favors to get what they want, go to the black market to get what they want, or start taking over hospital administration offices. (I fear that there may be a few shootings too.)

American culture expects choices; it is built for individual changes, not collective changes. This is in the DNA of the culture, and no matter which political gang controls the levers of rulership, the culture will not simply follow.

Whether in one way or many, sooner or later, Obamacare will fail. American culture is not dead yet.

Paul Rosenberg