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Archive for February, 2012

Geo-Economics: Worried About How the World Will Feed Itself?

Geo-Economics: Worried About How the World Will Feed Itself?.


Does Wealth come at the cost of Freedom?

This is entirely curious; Freedom is a word that is bandied around a lot, especially in the Western world, and I used to think I understood what it meant; now i am not so certain that I can define it adequately.

Any person that lives with in a society has obligations to that society, by definition, or risk being ‘cast out’ (incarcerated). These are the “ties that bind us”.

We now have so many regulations, checks and controls, where can that word be used correctly in its full original sense?

A poor man is confined in the sense that his choices are limited, he has no resources of his own with which to create or space into which he can expand, unless he can ‘persuade’ someone that he has worth or value. A rich man is confined by his wealth, living behind gates, walls and barriers; what is more, feeling the increasing pressure not to trust, friends, institutions and sometimes even family. What is a panic room if it is not a cell? Or a gated property if not a prison?

It is a little known fact that the infamous tower of London where Mary Queen of Scots and Charles I was originally a castle equipped like a palace when they were imprisoned. It is only through the realisation that we have created too many barriers to entry and systems that have too many ‘checks’ and not enough ‘balances’ that economic growth can be possibility.

This possibility can only be made a reality if everybody digs deep, in effort, courage and trust. This applies to *you*, poor or wealthy, find your courage and your strength:

Look about you and “see” that we all need each other and that it is in your best interest to look after your neighbour, your friend, your employer/ee.

For if the worst comes to the worst; Whose loyalty can you actually count on?

Perhaps this is meant by “and the meek shall inherit the Earth”?

The more barriers you build the less free you are…


Was I only ten years ahead of the curve on this one? It must have been a bad day…


SEP kills, but what is it?

Hungry and HomelessA great writer and thinker realised that there was a silent killer in society, one so powerful that it had the ability to blind people to its presence.

The writer was Douglas Adams who presented his observations through comedy.

“An S.E.P or ‘Somebody Else’s Problem field’ is a cheap, easy, and staggeringly useful way of safely protecting something from unwanted eyes. … Any object around which an S.E.P is applied will cease to be noticed because any problems one may have understanding it (and therefore accepting its existence) become Somebody Else’s.  An object becomes not so much invisible as unnoticed.”

What he was referring to was complacency combined with a reluctance to accept responsibility.  Whether we like it or not, we are all totally interconnected in a society, and therefore must share responsibility for its shape and behaviour as a whole

Why step over a piece of litter “tutting” at the individual that dropped it?  Are you now not responsible for having seen it but not picking it up and disposing of it?  Of course, it is much easier for us to pretend not to have seen it at all because it is somebody else’s problem.

How many times have we passed a beggar or someone collecting for charity on the streets and averted our eyes?  By not looking or acknowledging it existed, we made it somebody else’s problem.

How many times have we all watched politicians announce disastrous decisions or policies on the news or in the media and not picked up a pen or emailed our representatives?

Or seeing youths misbehaving in the community said “I blame it on…”, “the teachers”, “the parents” or “the government”?  Through blame we make it somebody else’s problem when perhaps the answer could have been to be more supportive of the local school or charities that deal with broken or disadvantaged families.

How many people do not vote because they feel that their vote doesn’t count?  In the UK, it is more than all the votes that are cast; if that number of people all voted the same way the party that received those votes would have a landslide victory.

People are so used to be told what to do by politicians and bosses that don’t listen or hear them, that they have lost their voices.  Sadly, in doing so, they have given away the only true freedom that they have

That child that died from neglect, that young man who committed suicide because he felt unsupported or alone, could have grown up to be the surgeon, paramedic or blood donor destined to save your life…

I dedicate this article to the memory of Douglas Adams, a great man who, like so many clowns and comedians before him, felt that society had become a cold and cruel machine and used comedy to survive it.


Why do People Fight Regulation?

In my work as a complex systems analyst I often wondered how it was that the systems I was analysing had become so complicated that they no longer functioned properly, or at all.

To me it seemed simple; you drew a big circle around the system, looked at what was going in, then examined what was supposed to be coming out. “The Big Picture”.

By doing this simple exercise I could surmise what ought to be in the circle and then compared this to what was actually in the circle. They almost never matched, as I had designed a system from scratch whereas the system that I was examining had evolved over time.

The problem with this evolution was that there were always unconnected systems, or two systems doing the same job and systems that used to fulfil a purpose but no one had thought to remove.

In the very worst cases a loop could be found, just like the one I have discovered in society today. In order to get the funds to set up a non profit organisation or company, most fund providers and investors require you to have a non profit organisation or company.

Volkswagon used to have a 1.9 diesel engine, wonderfully simple and easy to maintain. Client demand for power steering meant bolting on a pump, hydraulic clutch and brakes another, air conditioning yet another and when it came to put a turbo system to it, suddenly a whole redesign was going to be needed, because the engine was becoming less able to drive all these bolt ons and remain economical or cool at low revs.

The same thing occurs within bureaucracies and government designed system. The more laws and regulations that are generated, the harder the engine has to work in order to power the system overhead.

As these laws and regulations are created piecemeal, without considering the big picture, the tendency only to create more overhead and push the problem somewhere else rather than solving it.

When I first learned what function a politician or government representative performed, I assumed that it was to render their positions unnecessary. To create a just and equitable system that would require no further tinkering. The judiciary would be there to catch the occasional injustice or inequity that may occur within the system.

The major problem with this premise is that any politician within government needs to justify his or her own existence within the existing framework.

Mathematical logic shows that NP complete systems (where anything that it is possible to be computed, can be computed) with very few rules at all. Isaac Asimov showed us that only four laws would be needed for an effective social legal structure.

So why is it that we have so many laws and regulations when only a few are needed? These extraneous laws, this extra overhead is, quite literally, strangling society and the possibility for business growth.

I would say that now is the time that we need to have a serious look at our approach to regulation and our desire for control. For each control and every regulation are as a ratchet to a cog in clock, slowing it down until it can neither move backward or forwards.

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” – Albert Einstein


WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF PREDICTION?

On 15th February 2012, Mervyn King, head of the Bank of England, made a lengthy speech giving economic projections about the economy of the United Kingdom.  Undoubtedly, a great deal of work had gone into preparing and processing the data, the interpretation of which was:  Modest growth might be expected and that the UK would not slip back in to recession, UNLESS the price of oil increased.

Four days later Iran announces that it will no longer sell oil to the UK or France, as a direct response to the pressure being applied to them about the nuclear energy generation.  Their justification could easily be – “if we are not allowed nuclear power then we are going to need out oil for energy”.  Consequently, oil, and the commodity market in general, has risen sharply, rendering all its forecasts meaningless in an instant.

The credit rating agencies use similar financial predictive mechanisms as a service to investors to show how likely it will be that a country will repay their debts.  When a country’s rating is downgraded, the investors demand a higher interest rate because of the greater risk, which in turn makes it more difficult for that country to meet their obligations. This is a known issue called “pro-cyclic” and despite proposals to prevent it from happening, it is impossible to do so.

Physicists and philosophers have long understood the problem concerning interactions between the observer and the observed.  From the Heisenberg uncertainty principle to the “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” thought experiment, the issue remains the same.

The instant someone makes an observation about the future, the future changes.

There is something known as a self fulfilling prophecy, this happens when enough people believe in a prediction, they change their behaviour because of their belief.  This change in behaviour then brings about the future that was predicted.

I am certain that this was what Mervyn King was hoping when he delivered his speech – if enough people believe that recovery is happening then they will start to reinvest in the economy, thus causing the recovery he wishes to see.

In the case of the credit agencies it is exactly the same, by predicting that a country or organisation will fail to repay their debts, they create a situation where this event is even more likely to occur than if they had made no prediction at all.

Despite all the mathematic modelling that has been done, there appears to be one very important thing being missed, especially when dealing with people:

“Future success can’t be judged on past performance”

or, as Albert Einstein put it:

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Most people tend to learn from their mistakes, either that or they just want to prove you wrong.  Either way, predicting the market or financial system is not a good idea, as it can be viewed as no more than a misguided attempt to influence or control those mechanisms.

The power of belief is not a thing to take lightly, and in this current  economic and political climate people need to believe that the world of finance are starting to see a bigger picture than the narrow view of a bottom line.


BBC News – Drought summit as rivers in England dry up

Nature has already has (nearly) completely linked water network through the means of the water table. Why are we obsessed with laying pipes sideways underground to do something nature already does for us? Solar powered boreholes straight to the clean mineralised water below obviates all the infrastructure and water treatment processes !!

BBC News – Drought summit as rivers in England dry up.


IS THE TIME RIGHT FOR MORE PHILANTHROPY AND CHARITY?

“See a need? Then fill it!”

Growing up in Cornwall, we were taught be our elders “Be more aware, I should not have to ask”.

This  is a fundamental principle that my organisation is promoting. We believe people are more likely to engage in the process when they are actively engaged in helping in something that ‘speaks’ to them on a personal level.

If we are to escape to fate of global economic collapse then people of every social strata need to accept that they have to help in the task of nurturing the roots of society: “If the roots remain untreated then the flower will surely whither”.

Either the problems that beset our world are everybody’s responsibility or it is nobody’s responsibility. It is now no longer sufficient to say that something is “Somebody else’s problem”, because very quickly it becomes nobody’s problem at all..

Perhaps it is now time for every individual to ask, “How can I make a difference?”, instead of taking the opposite view that “One person can’t make a difference”.

After all, how many people would it actually take to improve this world or even a small part of it?

There is an old challenge that springs to mind “Is there such a thing as a selfless act?”, perhaps the best way to find out is by trying to perform one.

A worthy challenge for anyone, anywhere and at any time.


Top five regrets of the dying | Life and style | guardian.co.uk

Top five regrets of the dying | Life and style | guardian.co.uk.

Will you have any?


What is the Truth behind Iran’s Nuclear Program?

Why oared our leaders subscribing to the the rumour mill and warmongering?

William Hague (Britain’s Foreign Secretary), would have been better advised to do some fact and logic checking before speaking out.

If history shows us anything it is that governments exert control over people by limiting the communication of information.

The principle of ‘divide’ and conquer definitely applies to any government that feels the need to ‘control’ their people.

Traditionally this is achieved by the careful control of the flow and visibility of information, and also by limiting access to means and methods of communication.

This has been especially true in times of hardship or mass discontent, after all if a populace are unable to communicate they are unable to organize.

Social Media is changing that, and rather than being a revolution what we are seeing is a social “evolution”. Governments are finding it harder to sow the seeds of distrust by spreading fear and exploiting it,. because “The Truth is out There”, on the internet; in words, pictures and HD video.

Where were those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? President Bush senior is on the record as having said that America would never be held to ransom over the price of oil again whilst he was head of the CIA in the 70’s, did he really believe that none would make the connection?

It is said that there is no profit in war, however is that the truly the case? In the recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq vast sums of money have been generated for US arms manufacturers, private security firms, communication specialists and construction contractors all paid for by the oil revenues of those countries and the goodwill of US citizens. Has anyone stopped to count the human cost?

Now that people are self organizing and information concerning activities in these countries are becoming more transparent, the appetite for heavy handed policing of the world is diminishing, or is it? The US has declined to become involved in the problems in Syria and Libya, quite rightly, as these are problems that the Muslim world can resolve themselves. We can act as referees and cry ‘foul’ when human rights are abused; refuse to sell arms and ammunition and perhaps that should be the full extent of our involvement.

But the rumour mills are starting again, this time concerning Iran; are we truly expected to believe that Iran are more of a threat than Syria, Cuba or North Korea? Is this not the same Iran that has not threatened any of their neighbours since the Shah was overthrown? The only war that they have been engaged in was defending a border from an expansive Saddam Hussein who after eight years of war decided Kuwait was an easier target.

What if Iran are just concerned about how it will generate electricity after the oil they are being force to sell runs out? Given that there is also a limited amount of Nuclear fuel in the world, and that it is ‘burnt’ in a reactor, stockpiling makes no sense. Would you stockpile deisel when the tractors in the fields have empty tanks?

Have we yet reached the point where we are a shining example to follow? Learning is a two way street, the financial market in Iran has been completely immune to the recent global economic crisis, I wonder why?