Review: The Big Switch–Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google

4 Star, Information Society, Information Technology
Big Switch
Amazon Page

Very Worthwhile, One Major Flaw, March 3, 2008

Nicholas Carr

This is a very worthwhile easy to absorb book. The author is thoughtful, well-spoken, with good notes and currency as of 2007.

The one major flaw in the book is the uncritical comparison of cloud computing with electricity as a utility. That analogy fails when one recognizes that the current electrical system wastes 50% of the power going down-stream, and has become so unreliable that NSA among others is building its own private electrical power plant–with a nuclear core, one wonders? While the author is fully aware of the dangers to privacy and liberty, and below I recap a few of his excellent points, he disappoints in not recognizing that localized resilience and human scale are the core of humanity and community, and that what we really need right now, which John Chambers strangely does not appear willing to offer, is a solar-powered server-router that gives every individual Application Oriented Network control at the point of creation (along with anonymous banking and Grug distributed search), while also creating local pods that can operate independently of the cloud while also blocking Google perverted new programmable search, wherer what you see is not what's in your best interests, but rather what the highest bidder paid to force into your view.

The author cites one source as saying that Google computation can do a task at one tenth of the cost. To learn more, find my review, “Google 2.0: The Calculating Predator” and follow the bread crumbs.

The author touches on software as a service, and I am reminded of the IBM interst in “Services Science.” He has a high regard for Amazon Web Services, as I do, and I was fascinated by his suggestion that Amazon differs from Google, Amazon doing virtualization while Google does task optimization (with computational mathematics). Not sure that is accurate, Google can flip a bit tomorrow and put bankers, entertainers, data service providers, and publishers out of business.

I completely enjoyed th discussion of the impact of electrification and the rise of the middle class, of the migration from World Wide Web to World Wide Computer, and of the emergence of a gift ecnomy.

The author also touches on the erosion of the middle class, citing Jagdish Bhagwati and Ben Bernake as saying that it is the Internet rather than globalization that is hurting the middle class (globalization moved the low cost jobs, the Internet moved the highly-educated jobs).

I was shocked to learn that Google can listen to my background sound via the microphone, meaning that Google is running the equivalent of a warrantless audio penetration of my office. “Do No Evil?” This is very troubling.

Page 161: “A company run by mathematicians and engineers, Google seemsx oblivious to the possible social costs of transparent personalization.” Well said. The only thing more shocking to me is the utter complacency of the top management at Amazon, IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft. Search for the article by Stephen E. Arnold, the world's foremost non-Google expert on Google, look for <Google Pressure Wave: Do the Big Boys Feel It?>.

The author touches on Internet utility to terrorists, and our military's vulnerability, but he does not get as deeply into this as he could have. The fact is the Chinese can take out our telecommunications satellites anytime they want, and they are not only hacking into our computers via the Internet, they also appear to have perfected accessing “stand-alone” computers via the electrical connection. See <Chinese Irregular Warfare>.

The portion ofthe book I most appreciated was the authors discussion of lost privacy and individuality. He says “Computer systems are not at their core technologies of emancipation. They are technologies of control.” He goes on to point out that even a decentralized cloud network can be programmed to monitor and control, and that is precisely where Google is going, monitoring employees and manipulating consumers.

He touches on semantic web but misses Internet Economy Meta Language (Pierre Levy) and Open Hypertextdocument System (Doug Englebart).

He credits Google founders with wanting to get to all information in all languages all the time, and I agree that their motives are largely worthy, but they are out of control–a suprnational entity with zero oversight. I can easily envision the day coming when in addition to 27 secessionist movements across the USA, we will hundreds of virtual secessions in which communities choose to define trusted computing as localized computing.

The book ends beautifully, by saying we will not know where IT is going until our children, the first generation to be wired from day one, become adults.

A few other books I recommend:
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
The Age of Missing Information
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq
Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth'
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
Society's Breakthrough!: Releasing Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People
All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (BK Currents)
Escaping the Matrix: How We the People can change the world
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

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Review: The Infernal Machine–A History of Terrorism

5 Star, Electoral Reform USA, Power (Pathologies & Utilization), Terrorism & Jihad, Truth & Reconciliation
Infernal Machine
Amazon Page

5.0 out of 5 stars State Terrorism Vastly Worse, Individual Terrorism Logical

September 6, 2007

Matthew Carr

This is a superb book that should be read in conjunction with Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Terrorism is nothing more nor less than individual and small group asymmetric violence that breaks the state's monopoly on violence.

THe author is to be commended for stating in blunt and ably-documented terms that terrorism is a logical asymmetric response and it is not senseless nor cowardly but rather coherent and calculated.

I share the author's view that most Western analysts of terrorism are witness, uninformed, and devoid of historical, cultural, or contextual analytic skills and knowledge. Most on the right, including the Zionists, push their ideological beliefs rather than the empirical evidence. As the author notes, Israel has genocided the Palestinians and out-terrorized their opponents time and again (while also attacking the USS Liberty, a war crime that will never be forgotten by our men and women in uniform).

There are other books that have documents the use by the extreme right of fake leftist terrorist actions that are actually extreme right and fascist actions intended to increase the totalitarian and fascist nature of the state. 9-11 certainly enabled Dick Cheney to do that. See American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America and Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency.

In the author's view, the CIA created the conditions for the Islamic jihad with its over-turning of the Iranian election results and restoration of the hated Shah to the throne–as we learn in Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, CIA has been all too fond of dictators and secret police as their proxies; its presence in Saudi Arabia (ably covered by Robert Baer in Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, and of course providing billions in aid (see Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of Our Times that the Pakistani's used to create jihad with close ties to Afghan drugs, guns, and global logistics.

The author makes three key points in his conclusion:

1) USG ignores and does not publicize the thousands of acts of civil dissent, including hundreds (as many as 900) bombs a year across America;

2) The government consistently lies to the public and covers up larger group anger by claiming that major incidents are “a lone wolf” operation. This has since been proven untrue for the JFK assassination (see Someone Would Have Talked: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Conspiracy to Mislead History and A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK's Assassination, And the Case That Should Have Changed History, and in the Oklahoma City bombing and most certainly in the 9-11 case where CHeney, Gulliani, and Silverstein and Rumsfeld are clearly more culpable than Bin Laden or the Pakistanis for the bulk of the deats (see Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory among many other books and DVDs.}

The author ends by calling the US Government, essential, a persistent liar, with hollow propaganda and specious claims that–in combination with the destruction of civil liberties–do vastly more damage to the national fabric than any small band of terrorists might. As one reviewer notes, what 19 alleged terrorists have done is nothing compared to the state terror that Bush-Cheney have unleashed on Iraq, Iran, around the world in secret renditions and secret torture, and of course here at home, where a “state of fear” and grotesque abuses of executive privilege are used to avoid justice and liberty for all, reducing both dignity and accountability.

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Review: International Marine’s Weather Predicting Simplified: How to Read Weather Charts and Satellite Images

5 Star, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Sailing

International WeatherGreat Book, NOT a Substitute for the Five Day Course

June 14, 2007

Michael Carr

This is one of four weather books I recommend, the other three are hot-linked below. It is a truly great book with both white space and color images, easy to read font, and a sensible easy to understand roadmap for integrating satellite imagery, upper air (500 milibar) and surface forecasts and sea state charts.

After I finished the five day course in Advanced Meterology, I created a short guide for myself that I could share with others, and this book was very helpful as a reference to complement the binder that I received with the course.

See also my list of books in my sailing library.

Mariner's Weather
Understanding Weatherfax
The Weather Wizard's Cloud Book: A Unique Way to Predict the Weather Accurately and Easily by Reading the Clouds

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Review: The Lessons of Terror–A History of Warfare Against Civilians

3 Star, Terrorism & Jihad

Amazon Page
Amazon Page

3.0 out of 5 stars One Core Idea: Don't Kill Civilians, End Collateral Damage,

July 14, 2004
Caleb Carr
I would not normally have bought this book, which started out as an article and should have stayed there. However, it is being touted in Special Operations circles, and in the interest of ensuring that I respect and understand what my uniformed colleagues are reading, I made the effort.First off, the book is *mostly* about how terrorism or scorched earth tactics are not a good idea for states. I agree. However, the book completely misses the point on how effective terrorist attacks are as a means of causing great economic and social pain to industrial era states that persist in pursuing unilateralist Christian crusades as well as immoral capitalism that enriches micro-elites while disenfranchising the bulk of foreign populations. Do the math: for $500 *thousand*, Bin Laden got roughly $500 *billion* in costs to the U.S. taxpayer. He (and his thousands of successors) can keep this up forever, we cannot.

There is major aspect of this book that I applaud, and it takes it from 3 to 4 stars: it is the single most effective statement I have seen that denounces U.S. “precision” warfare as not so precision afterall, because of the pre-planned (i.e. pre-meditated and culpable) deaths of tens of thousands of civilians as acceptable “collateral damage.” Although “total war” certainly applies to state on state warfare, the author correctly notes that killing civilians is neither beneficial nor acceptable when making war on dictators or terrorists. That has to be “man on man” and America is simply not capable of doing that–the military-industrial complex would cease to exist as we know it if we actually focused on funding ground truth intelligence at the neighborhood level, and the ability to send invisible snake-eater in and out to do justice on the basis of “one man, one bullet,” something I have long advocated.

The author is conventionally leftist and in harmony with Chalmer Johnson's and other critiques of the misadventures of the Central Intelligence Agency, but I find his critiques uninformed and sophomoric. Although I certainly agree with the author's short listing of CIA's analytical and operational failures over time, as someone who actually understands CIA and the US military better than the author, I have to wave the “CRAP” flag on several of this author's pages as they pertain to intelligence, pages 204 and 260 in particular.

The book ends with the observation that terrorism is like slavery, piracy, and genocide in that sufficient action must be taken to stop individual behavior along those lines, and the sensible suggestion that “evangelical Western capitalism must learn greater restraint and respect for other cultures” and that Western governments must eschew “gunboat diplomacy as self-defeating. Golly. The author may understand but does not demonstrate substantive understanding of the degree to which slavery, piracy, and genocide (18 active campaigns right now, a great deal more than the author's “still attempted in some corners of the world”) continue to be tolerated by Western governments.

There is nothing in this book helpful to crafting a new grand strategy balancing military, diplomatic, intelligence, cultural, and economic initiatives to “close the gap” (see my review of Thomas Barnett on “The Pentagon's New Map.”

Overall this double-spaced essay with no footnotes strikes me as gross misrepresentation. The bibliography is marginal, especially with respect to both modern terrorism and U.S. intelligence. The author took something he knows about–the history of conventional state military warfare–and dressed it up as being relevant to the Global War on Terror. Yes, but it could have been done in one page. This is a very labor intensive way to get to the obvious point, made much more intelligently by Jonathan Schell in “Unconquerable World”: there are not enough guns in the world to quell instability stemming from abusive government rule and immoral capitalism. Tony Zinni sums it up in one line: the faster you introduce food into an area, the more quickly the violence ends.

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