World For All

Friday, April 22, 2005

End of Suburbia!

Saw this interesting documentary titled 'End of Suburbia' - it was about the Oil crisis that is too close and impact that it will have on way of living in US. It tells about the Suburban living which essentially has prospered because of the cheap availability of oil in the past many decades. As oil production 'peaks', expected to happen between 2005 and 2007, after that the demand of oil will continue to go up with China and India's growing economy, but there will be no way to increase the Oil Production, however much money you invest in exploration.

Documentary describes this peaking theory which was first introduced in around 1960 and was not believed. One of the predictions was that Oil production will peak in US in 1970s and second prediction was that global production will peak in 1990s. While not believed initially in 1960s, reality hit home when US production really peaked in early 1970s. Documentary goes onto say that Global peaking got delayed by a decade or so because of the Energy crisis of 1970s which slowed down the oil consumption!

Amongst the impacts, one of the big impacts can be on the way we consume. To take the example from the Documentary itself, consumers will find it costly to cosnume 'caesar salad' transported across the country currently because of the cheap oil and instead will seek more locally grown/produced goods. Transition may be tough as our markets have been transformed that they have no level of self-sufficiency but costlier oil may be an incentive to go back and build more of those linked and self-sufficient local markets.

On Housing, which you can guess from the Title, it says that smart Urban development may be the way to go in future. There will be shared transportation infrastructure and local markets, etc.

On the alternatives to oil as source of energy, it mentions that none of them are close to becoming real alternative and we have pretty short time before the problem will hit us hard! However, optimism was shared that like all times in the past, human mind is capable of solving the problems in a way that cannot be seen much in advance! So, for all you know, twenty years from now, we may be looking a giant discovery/invention that took us out of the energy crisis!

All in all - interesting to watch, if you have interest in this topic!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Noam Chmosky -- Must listen/read!

I saw a DVD on Noam Chmosky - 'Manufactirung Consent' - and became an instant fan of him! He is MIT Professor of Linguisitics and has done some excellent work there but he is sought after Speaker more for his Political views. He is considered Ultra-Leftist but the better thing is if you listen to him for sufficient time (you need to give him enough time to explain his views as they are so out of the ordinary that you would not have thought like that and will not like/agree when he initially makes the comment - but as he explains, it becomes very clear why he is saying something!)

Some of his views are (I don't necessarily agree with them - but it is amazing how he explains these):

- " If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged. " http://www.chomsky.info/talks/1990----.htm

- His contempt for the two political parties is visible in this " Elections Run by Same Guys Who Sell Toothpaste " http://www.chomsky.info/talks/2005012502.htm

- He is Jewish but is against the Israeli "terrorism" against the Palestinians!

What is evident after a seeing a number of his interviews and programs on him is that lots of people who take position against him do not even understand why he has said something or done something - there are a number of examples that I found but this is the best http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky#The_Faurisson_affair
Faurisson, a French Professor, had said something stupid about Holocaust and all that Noam Chmosky wanted was that 'Right to Freedom of speech' should be given to Faurisson. And, what lots of people blame is that Noam Chomsky "supports the views expressed by Faurisson"! What can be more ridiculous?

Similarly, when Noam Chmosky expresses his views against NAFTA (as the current NAFTA is) - it becomes controversial - without waiting for Chmosky to explain that there were alternate possibilities to create the NAFTA and the one that was chosen was not the right one for people (instead it was good for the investors)!

I spent a lot of time going through audio/video/written material about him and was simply fascinated. If you need more info - www.chomsky.info can be a good starting point. Wikipedia has good information as well on him http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky and if you a BitTorrents user then you will be delighted to see a large number of them available at http://www.chomskytorrents.org/

And something that he emphasizes a lot and I feel that is true - He loves USA a lot and do not get confused when he expresses his contempt for those in power (Government and Media). And he has a number of things that he points very clearly that only US offers ('Right to Freedom of Speech' being at the top).

Saturday, January 08, 2005

eMusic or m(usic)Bay

I had earlier mentioned that I think Music creation/distribution should evolve with the internet. I do not like the current system (where Recording labels control everything and charge a fixed high price!) and p2p sharing of that music (which is piracy/stealing!).

Current system of music distribution - where recording labels spot the artists, get contracts signed with upcoming talent (on their terms in most cases) and then promote them - it involves lot of upfront payment by the recording labels and gives them lots of power and if their selection of artists succeed then lot of profits to them. Current system has comparatively less concern for the music talent (they can pick and chose from the good ones - and not necessarily promote the best if it does not make financial sense!) and even lesser concern for the the music listeners (what other choice do they have if they want to listen to the music - they better pay a lot!).

A twist can be made to the p2p sharing - and it can actually be made even in a for-profit venture. This twist can redefine the way Musicians will get opportunities and make money and music lovers will get much more/better(artistic,variety)/economic music.

The twist is:

1. Provide opportunities to Musicians to distribute their music (not the one coming from Labels!)

2. Listeners can download the Music and using Rating system, they can provide stars/feedback

3. Stars/feedback tracking system will ensure that the good music (in all categories) will get the visibility.

4. Listeners should be encouraged to make small-payments (I am thinking 25 to 50 cents!) for the music that they like. I think that once listeners can see good music on these forums, they will not mind paying small monies for the good music to encourage more of that!

5. Music talent, if fairly compensated by the users, will actually love this sytem where they will have their own freedom and much greater glory!

The more commercial version of this twist will involve establishing recording studios across the country for the emerging artists to help them create their own music at low cost. The more such facilities are available, the more variety and good quality music we will get from the upcoming artists.

This kind of forum can also provide opportunities to the Musicians from across the country to come together and join the forces.


Monday, January 03, 2005

PBS/Nova programs - Origins and The Elegant Universe(Theory of Everything)

Two fascinating PBS/Nova TV programs that I had seen in last few months:

Origins (~4 hours): It tells a lot about the theories regarding Origin of Universe and Earth. One of the most eye-opening thing mentioned is if the life of Planet Earth is considered to be of 24 hours period, then primates (leave alone humans) had appeared in last 15 seconds. Well, if people simply remember this fact when they get angry or when they think that they 'failed' or 'lost', I think they will realise the insignificance of the 'failure' or 'loss'. On the other hand, they should treat life as a journey and enjoy! More details about the 'Origins' are on the PBS/Nova website:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/origins/

Some other amazing pieces of information from 'Origins':

- An important role in protecting Earth from the bombarding of comets and meteors has been done by Jupiter. It is this protection that has enabled life, as we know it, to flourish on Earth. So important is the role of Jupiter, that in search of Aliens, Scientists look for other Solar systems with a Jupiter like planet first!

- Water, more likely than not, has been delivered on Earth from outer space by the comets/meteors that had struck Earth in the early stages!

- In the early stages, Earth was full of toxic and poisonous gases. It is bacteria that worked for most of the existence of Earth to produce Oxygen, etc. enabling other life, as we know it.


The Elegant Universe (String Theory or Theory of Everything) : In the 3-hour program itself, Scientists themselves exclaim - is it Science or Philosophy or that this Theory, if true, then it claims a number of things which better fit Science Fiction right now. One of the fascinating predictions is that we are living in a 11-dimensional universe (though we can see only 3-spatial and one time dimensions). As of now (program itself was recorded in 2003), Scientists are finding it challenging to test and confirm the predictions of the theory. But if confirmed, it will be a giant step in what we know about the Universe. It will do what Einstein wanted to do (One Theory explaining everything!). More details are on

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/elegant/

If you haven't seen the programs and are interested, these should be available in Public Libraries. The Elegant Universe is even available online on this PBS/Nova site.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Disaster-relief Volunteer Army (DVA) - Online set-up

I had written about some of the things that can be done earlier. But an equally important component can be an online connected group that can act in much more impactful manner rather than lots of people acting in quick-reaction to the disasters and (probably) not building up on the lessons learnt in the earlier disasters.

Some ideas regarding the online group:

1. There should be an online site bringing volunteers from across the world (every country - every zipcode kind!)

2. No advertising. And absolutely no money should be asked or accepted except by small close group - more of in-kind (server hosting, code dev., spending time developing content during the disaster, etc.) for the web-site - but then people should have the ability to do for each other (example, some volunteers funding the travel of a volunteer who wants to do physically be on-site to help by providing his skills to the affected population).

3. If it can become a world-famous site for the disaster - then volunteers can rush to the site to give/receive info on the disaster - or better still, I believe individuals run better sites/blogs/yahoogroups - but this site can be a good known first stop which provides pointers (I think that this will be better place for both the contributors and the readers!)

4. Over time volunteers can give/receive feedback (ebay style) - so that others can accordingly weigh/filter their suggestions

5. Website itself should be developed on inputs of the large volunteer community and should provide features prioritized by the volunteers

6. Volunteers should be able to provide ideas at the time of the crisis/disaster to best utilize available manpower/resources (Continuous feedback on the ideas (number of stars, etc.) can make sure the best ideas emerge at the top and catch everyone's attention!)

7. Website should provide info. on people missing/looking for (right now, lots of media and lots of blogs are doing it - but ideally one volunteer driven well-known site would be much more helpful)

8. Website can act as medium to bring volunteers together - some, who can give money, and some who can give time and some who can act as local facilitators, etc.

9.This kind of site can empower individuals to do a lot - in their own geographical areas, if required, and elsewhere if they want to.

10.It can provide a good forum to collect the lessons learnt by volunteers and will enable replication of the best relief/volunteer ideas from disaster to disaster.

11.Can help officials to get their point across (probably more than Media does) by effectively communicating to the volunteer forces.

12.Some volunteers can specialize and feel good about providing online coordination!

13.Will provide medium to lots of volunteers to do more in preparation of the relief work rather than actually feeling bad about the situation for few days after a disaster.


Saturday, January 01, 2005

Freecycle is very Good! Better than recycle!

I had stumbled upong this sometime ago - concept is simple and yet very very good.

Visit www.freecycle.org to get more details and locate your local freecycle group or start one!

NYT Op-Ed "The Ends of the World as We Know Them"

Good Op-Ed in New York Times (NYT) for the theme 'World For All' - talk about the reasons why societies that were very powerful for some time or long time and then disappeared!

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/01/opinion/01diamond.html

NYT requires registartion (free).


While this NYT Op-Ed has rightly focussed on Environment as one of the main themes, I often think of another unique attribute that has helped US to come to the top in world more than 100 years ago and is keeping it there ever since. While everything US has (large land mass, natural resources, large oceans on two sides, democractic form of government, etc.) has really helped, but the sheer idea of letting immigrants come in from all over the world and give them an equal opportunity to excel and even rise to the very top, if they deserve, is such an unique idea now and in the history, that I think this can help keep US at the top of the world for long long time.

My thinking is that, to use the cliche, only constant thing in the world is 'change'. Different civilizations have been at the top of the world and then replaced by another. The inability of any civilization to remain at the top for ever is a great eye-opener! Why could they not maintain their superiority when they had gained it for once? Most of the times, reason is that while they got the superiority, mostly military power, they did not keep up with the change and there came another civilization with an advancement that overcame the military power of the earlier top civilization.

For US, by letting the best of the people from all over the world come to this country, we are able to create that constant changing force within the country. This constant changing force causes lots of pain for some individuals, mostly for some time, but for the country as a whole, it always ensures that world superiority. I certainly hope that immigrants always continue to be welcomed in ths country even if it means that it may cause some disruption to easy daily life for me or people around me. At the end, I am confident that all of us will come out better off.

Friday, December 31, 2004

Disaster-relief Volunteer Army (DVA)

DVA can have both components - online and offline. I will write about both. Let me begin with more details about the off-line component which will truely make the effect. The role played by internet will directly be minimal but indirectly, internet can provide the ability to convert large number of small groups to large very effective Volunteer Army.

Nothing is very original here - lots of things are already being done. I am writing here to note them or I will write what I think can be done to quicken the process to create much more powerful DVA.


Large disasters are taking place more frequently across the world. Earthquakes, tornadoes/hurricanes, tsunami, large train accidents, floods. People feel tremendous necessity to do their bit to alleviate the sufferings of the population affected by these disasters. Disaster-relief Volunteer Army can provide that medium to enable individuals to make that direct/indirect contribution with maximum effectiveness. For the volunteers who face this situation in their community, they will be extremely well prepared to lead the affected population during the disaster and protect them, wherever possible.

Main objectives of the DVA can be: To prepare for disaster relief in the most economic fashion - utilizing local resources and manpower.

Developed countries have spent a significant amount of money to prepare for disasters and are able to press into action the official machinery in case of disasters - but most of the population living in Developing world has no scope in near future to see their governments spending large money to achieve the same.

What DVA can involve is a basic disaster training for a very very large population (involving an initial 1 day or so training) - followed by regular updates (emails, mails, videos, etc.) - expect normal high school and higher educated people ages 18-45 to take interest in this. Initial one-day sessions organized on community property with some audio-visual aides. Large corporations/Universities/colleges may be extremely good partners for the recruitment and training. All of them come forward with very generous hearts after the disasters - lot of them will be very happy to see some advance preparation being done.

There will be a smaller set of people (say 1% of the DVA) which will have a higher level of involvement in developing and organizing training and leading relief work in actual situations.

Main thing that will set apart this kind of effort will be that it will be powered by simple ideas, lot of initiatives but very little money.

Simple ideas to begin with - all volunteers will always carry a DVA t-shirt (or hand band) or some visibly identifying object - and if they are present at a disaster location, they put it on - and thus DVA becomes easily identifiable. Their training should help them to easily understand the organized plan (preferably developed quickly by Lead volunteers) and get into action. If the DVA dress becomes very familiar then it may be actually easy for other people to seek help and guidance and follow DVA volunteers.

If DVA presence is large in some location, they can actually manage to always carry some inventory locally to use in case of disasters (may be food kits, medicines, portable toilets, tents, etc.) - in case of disaster, it will also be possible for adjoining locations to move their disaster inventory to the affected areas.

Organizations like Red Cross volunteer organizations (like Scouts, etc.), and Government Disaster relief related departments can be leveraged for recruitment, training material, trainers, etc.

Local DVA chapters can be encouraged to develope local relief plans (identify command center, plan emergency communication, hosting out-of-station DVA volunteers, etc.) . Online tools can be of significant help for planning phase - and to some extent during the disasters.

Cash demand for DVA should be at the minimum (and DVA volunteers should be able to bear that minimal costs for their own expenditure) - however, during a disaster, DVA can become a tool to accept donations and making sure that maximum percentage (why not 100%?) of that is used for the direct well-planned benefit of the affected population.

Distributed model of volunteers should be the key to empowering the people! Minimizing the costs, maximizing the benefit and empowering the people!!

DVA should never have to maintain large offices, administrative expense or salaried people -extremely small regional office (if really required!) - but mostly people supporting from their work (with the consent and knowledge of the employers - and not more than 1-2 hours in a month - may be after office hours!) or homes. Community centers, parks, etc. should be the preferred meeting places.


Welcome to the 'World For All'

I sometimes think a lot about how it can become an extremely user friendly 'World For All' (WFA) rather than the 'World For Few' that it appears to be sometimes right now. Best of all, when I encounter more and more of the tremedous amount of work being done by people on the internet, both commercial and free, I get amazed with what can be achieved to make this a 'World For All' using the internet. And it will not even involve/require everybody or even majority to use the internet.

'World for Few' is basically the world where large corporates and riches have far more power than the individuals, consumers, etc.

Some of the very amazing (for me - your list may be different!) ones that are very quickly turning the world upside down - empowering more individuals (against the large corporates) to do more everyday:

1. ebay : large market site - you can easily sell to the globe!
2. google : you publish good content and you earn the advertising dollars!
3. bitTorrents : you distribute large good content to the world (I downloaded tremendous amount of tsunumi video on it!) - similar to earlier Kaaza, Napster p2p sharing.
4. Linux, Firefox, open source software: Good quality software can be developed by volunteers
5. blogs : you can get all sides of news - large media can not control it anymore!
6. wikipedia : amazing free encyclopedia - and yes, if you know more about something, then you can have satisfaction of sharing the knowledge.

There are more and possibilities are enormous!

Large army of volunteers can be raised for any good cause that people may be interested in. Large group of people can get together to have the bargaining power (I normally think of this bargaining power being used against the large corporates against whom consumers are helpless right now. But it can additionally be thought of in terms of collective bargaining powers for Political causes or Environmental protection).

Volunteer - Right now, with tsunumi destruction around, I think of how easy it would be raise a volunteer army (Disaster-relief Volunteer Army) - a global force of volunteers who would have spent some time in training, can locally sustain smal groups and in cases of Disasters, work together, to provide the maximum benefit to the Disaster affected population with least cost. I will write more about it separately.

Music - Another big area where lot of action is already taking place - music sharing (p2p). However, current focus is more on spreading the Music commercially sold - and corporates right claim that it is theft. However, with a small twist in the model, p2p music sharing can help Artists grow up without having to resort to go through the large labels. I am confident that in that model, there will be more money for more musicians and more music for less cost for the music lovers. Wow! Well - who will suffer? You know - shareholders of large music companies and their top executives earning fat salaries. Do we not have to be concerned about their welfare in the 'World For All' (WFA) ? Well, I do not think so. If they are really good in what they are doing, they will find a way to work in WFA scheme of things and will neither go hungry nor homeless. I will be writing more about this also later on. I get amazed by thinking how good it can be!

Consumer groups - US has Costco and Sam's club and discount stores (unfortunately not all these store in their current operating model are good for WFA scheme!) which I feel have contributed to WFA by providing groceries and goods and low to shoppers and small businesses. In the internet era, these shoppers, even outside US will find ways to get together, form clubs, and aggregate the shopping power that they need so that they can goods at reasonable cost. It should be possible for new WFA companies to come up who will facilitate the process (like quality inspection/rating of goods/services, delivery, payment collection, etc) but who will not have to have lot of costs associated with running the departmental stores or shops.

Political causes - Internet is already providing enormous amount of information to people to make right choices in selecting politicians. But people devoted to some causes can do more - they can form voting blocks. Using the internet, they can vote internally in the group to select their candidate. And once their democratic (yes - fully democratic within the group - like it used to be in ancient Greece!) selection process is complete, entire group should support the selected winner with all their votes and money! Wow!! Politicians will have to listen to these powerful groups more and more - as it will become All or nothing game. Well - unfortunately there will be some groups/voting blocks that others will not like but the good thing is during the selection process, it will be individuals who will make direct selection - and I have full faith in large number of people making collective decisions - most (not all but most) of the times it works!

I will pick up these topics and write more as and when I get thoughts - please feel free to post your thoughts and comments about the 'World for All' (or Fantasy World cand come true!)