Will Smith’s Guidelines for Challenging Central Authority
AND PROVIDING SENSIBLE LOCAL OVERRIDES. For the moment, centralized electronics and authority pose only modest threats (despite Trump-like conspiracies to the contrary). But the dangers of central everything are growing, and we must both elevate security protocols and boost local opt-outs (Note: This was written before Smith’s Oscar night slap, which I condemn)
Most of us have seen the thrilling 1996 movie “Independence Day”, where Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum save the world by infecting the Alien mothership with a virus. This implies two things 1) The little alien fighter craft, thought to be autonomous and invincible, were actually controlled by a central authority and 2) How could a bunch of highly advanced beings be so stupid? Therein lies an age-old management question, how much central authority is too much? This is a question pondered by the founding fathers (Federalism vs. State’s Rights) and now computer systems (it started with mainframe vs PC and may now be “online” vs “offline”). Our Country was once 90% local control, but then machine politicians/warlords (like NYC’s Tammany Hall and Chicago’s Al Capone) and poor local planning of modern utilities (like roads and power lines that didn’t meet up at County and State lines) created a need for more central control. Obviously, late 1800s Robber Barons also played a part in centralized aspects of Big Oil (Rockefeller), Big Steel (Carnegie), and Big Railroad (Vanderbilt) among others. What are the happy medium solutions? (Spoiler alert: The answers generally lie within the realm of “competent, peer-reviewed central authority with timely and effective local override capacity”). (Golway,2014)
Let’s start with the Trump phenomenon, which has laid this problem bare, yet in a quite distorted fashion. Trump has in effect made previously viable central authorities open to electronic attack from our enemies (and from his goons within), while creating an ineffective local override (one which is usually barking up the wrong tree…think Ivermectin here). The synopsis from intelligent tech people might be “someday, there will be the technology to undermine the central government, energy and medical establishments from within, but for the moment the danger is undo fears of central government and medicine, along with their unwitting cooperation with foreign powers”. In plain language, this means that presently, voting and vaccines are 99.99% safe mechanisms in which advantages far outweigh dangers, yet fears of the same stoked by Trump, Russia, and China present the real dangers.
Homeland Security official Chris Krebs said on “60 Minutes” what most techies already knew, that voting and voting machines were presently quite safe since 1) They have a paper backup, easily audited 2) Most were not connected to the web (they had this central reporting capability, but most precincts opted to simply phone in the results) and 3) They were thus safe from hacking and easily double-checked. Of course, Trump stoked undo fears of hacking and fired Krebs, and bad-mouthed any Republican official that defended the voting system. In the future, there could be dangers from something like “online voting from home”, since rogue software could corrupt one’s vote, but that day hasn’t arrived. (cbsnews.com,2021)
Currently, vaccines (and most drugs) are highly regulated by clinical trials (which require high degrees of safety and efficacy). For example, Polio vaccine campaigns in Africa and India have demonstrated at 15–20% decrease in overall infant mortality, while there was an adverse reaction potential (5 per million) of paralytic poliomyelitis in immune-compromised patients (using the oral poliovirus vaccine). If 15% of lives are saved, and 5 per million compromised, this results in a ratio of 30,000 lives saved per life compromised by the vaccine. Other vaccines have similarly enormous benefit ratios. In the future, we may have to be vigilant against compromised efficacies (by greedy drug companies) or rogue vaccines created by devious entities (for instance, a kind of bioweapon that cures the disease but renders the recipient sterile), but that day also hasn’t arrived. The “vaccine locating chip” that Bill Gates has allegedly developed probably has Gates thinking “even if I could somehow do that, what would I have to gain? I’m too busy trying to eradicate malaria, TB, and HIV in Africa”. (cdc.gov, 2018),(who.int,2019),(Miller,Moro,Cano,Shimabukoro,2015)
The most current and obvious central threat is surely hacking, and that tellingly gets little attention from the Trump-ites (surely, they are somewhat complicit with all their Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube feeds?) Foreign entities (probably Russia, China, and Iran) have found it surprisingly easy to influence elections or install ransomware, which seems a most cost-effective military arm. China is said to be perfecting their own unique communications system using quantum technology, while being able to disrupt our comparatively antiquated military chatter. Sadly, it doesn’t matter how sophisticated our weaponry is, if it can’t communicate or know its location. My two sons are computer programmers, and I often wonder if they’ll be pulled from their flashy/lucrative Web Programming to Security Programming by the government (the way commercial pilots became fighter pilots in WW II). Our commercial programming has become too centralized, and wooing the average customer online has created a situation where crooks may know our passwords better than we do. Do you know the safe feeling of working “offline” on a computer application (like when you’re on “airplane mode” on a foreign trip), where no one (hopefully) can see what you’re doing? This and much higher degrees of central computer encryption may become the dominant standard. (Garisto,2021)
In another illustrative Will Smith movie, “Enemy of the State”, Mr. Smith unwittingly becomes the target of rogue NSA with seemingly ubiquitous and effective electronics. Luckily, he meets ex-NSA Gene Hackman, who uses surprisingly low-tech items to “foil” centralized NSA high tech. This would be an example of “local override”, where the corrupt central authority is defeated through a kind of guerrilla warfare, the computer equivalent of “the right to bear arms”. In an “Enemy of the State” fashion, we may all someday have masks to foil facial-recognition or reflectors to disable surveillance, just to restore ourselves to a state of freedom. This type of solution would be incorporated into the following arenas:
Health/Food/Medicine: Big Medicine/Big Food/Big Pharma are the central version: Yes, the big brands have been corrupted by corporate profits and questionable advocacies of feelgood pills, packaged food, expensive drugs that marginally work, but it generally functions (at high cost) and there is a great local opt-out…exercise and a high-fiber Mediterranean diet that is generally available to anyone! Vaccines and CRISPR gene-editing are going to become more prevalent, and we will need the highest certifications to ensure that they’re honest and effective (perhaps clinical trials should be witnessed by a team of kosher rabbis?)
Transportation and Housing: Expensive, and often centralized options (such as public transportation and public or highly regulated housing) are the “big box” option. Difficult but possible local overrides, walk/ride a bike or build your own house. “Smart cars” present a tricky central/local issue: They would likely attach to a central grid to regulate standardized maps/speeds/regulations, but this could easily be corrupted or hacked for evil intent (like having all cars smash into each other simultaneously?) Better that there are occasional central “downloads” that update an onboard system (like our phones operate now). An even better opt-out is…be prepared to simply drive your car the old way! (Betancourt,2020)
Banking and shopping: This is problematic, as banking has become overly centralized and easily hacked, while when you shop, big brother generally knows your every move (so as to sell you more stuff). Banks regularly get hacked, and one wonders about their shaky assurances. Aside from putting your money in a mattress, the best protection may be diversification into many assets, including hard ones such as tangible assets (actually, this is why survivalists and others love gold and silver so much). As for shopping, paying cash and not accepting “rewards” is the best opt-out?
National, Local, and Personal Defense: Famously, people are hoarding guns for personal protection, to protect against a rogue government, but what defense are a few AK47s against jets, drones, and tanks? The same folks that hate government are meanwhile assisting Russia and China, which are what they should really worry about. If you really wanted a good government opt-out and didn’t trust the police, you would set up a “neighborhood watch” that was armed with modern surveillance electronics (relatively cheap), and several military drones. But do you really trust your neighborhood association? (electronicsspecifier.com,2017)
Energy and utilities: Many are talking about the efficiency of neighborhood “microgrids” (essentially a bunch of rooftop or open space solar that feeds a large battery array to service a neighborhood). This solves a) On and off peak demand problems for central power plants b) energy loss over long distances c) low solar rates paid by greedy utilities and d) many fire issues created by too many overhead power lines and e) overreliance on fossil-fuels. Similar thinking may work for water and sewer, as neighborhoods are capable of having community wells and septic tank/mound systems (for instance) thereby bypassing distant and expensive central plants. But then you might need to hire people to maintain these systems who begin to act like a smaller central authority. (c2es.org,n.d.)
Computers: I believe computer systems themselves may need a separate quantum network for sensitive information (like military and certain utilities) to keep it sanitized from the rest of us slobs. Just as on any given week several outsiders enter your home (the plumber, cleaner, mailman, etc), several vendors enter your computer network and any one of them could be planting a virus (perhaps unwittingly). The periodic download to a generally offline device may become the norm (so as to limit your availability to questionable code). Honestly, some form of firewalls and censorship may be necessary (like gulp…China?) Neighborhood intranets may become necessary to protect from computer invasion. Computer protection companies such as Norton will become ever more critical. Surely a vexing problem, due to our vast computer dependencies. (Stokel-Walker,2020),(wikihow.com,2020)
The last Will Smith movie example is of course “I-Robot”. A central authority may create robots to run our society, and the master robot (VIKI) may then decide that humans must be exterminated to preserve the environment. The local opt-out? Have some Will Smith nanites on hand to infect VIKI.
Lots of luck with all this in the next century!