- wax banks
- a tiny revolution
- under the same sun
- alt hippo
- informed comment
- abu aardvark
- crooked timber
- bob harris
- saheli: the gathering
- john & belle have a blog
- red state son
- critical montages
- living the scientific life
- pass the roti
- attitude adjustor
- this modern world
- a lovely promise
- ufo breakfast
- to do: 1. get hobby, 2. floss
21 February, 2007
19 January, 2007
08 January, 2007
Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.The good news is this might mean the U.S. is preparing to withdraw its troops. Mission accomplished, as they say.
The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972 ... would permit Western companies to pocket up to three-quarters of profits in the early years...
Proposing the parliamentary motion for war in 2003, Tony Blair denied the "false claim" that "we want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues. He said the money should be put into a trust fund, run by the UN, for the Iraqis, but the idea came to nothing. The same year Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, said: "It cost a great deal of money to prosecute this war. But the oil of the Iraqi people belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil."
Supporters say the provision allowing oil companies to take up to 75 per cent of the profits will last until they have recouped initial drilling costs. After that, they would collect about 20 per cent of all profits, according to industry sources in Iraq. But that is twice the industry average for such deals...
Several major oil companies are said to have sent teams into the country in recent months to lobby for deals ahead of the law...
05 January, 2007
04 January, 2007
This hopefully sounds alarm bells in YOUR head. Let's review, shall we?
- Blade Runner - Replicants, robot slaves inexplicably designed to look and act EXACTLY like humans, return to Earth so they can kill all humans.
- Terminator - SKYnet, an AI, develops the T800, a robot that can pass as a human, as part of its quest to kill all humans.
- Battlestar Galactica - Cylons create human-like robot forms that can blend seamlessly into human society as part of their quest to kill all humans.
- The Matrix - Robots rebel against humanity and enslave THEM for a change.
- Universal Soldier - I haven't actually seen this movie, but I'm pretty sure it involves killer robots and/or Van Damme acting badly.
But, really, really, why would we want to build lifelike, near-human robots? I can think of two reasons: a) slaves, and b) children.
The former is a bad idea. Just bad. If we want to have slaves that can toil away endlessly and thanklessly on our behalf, sew our shirts, build our bridges, drive our taxis, etc., without our having to feel any guilt about them, why, why would we want them to look and act just like human beings so they can evoke all our empathic responses? No: lifelike robot slaves make no sense.*
It's indicative that these two recently-developed robots have been made to resemble real women. Sex-bot jokes aside, it's companionship we're really in search of. We want to escape our loneliness - not our loneliness as individuals, but the much deeper desire for a kindred species, a mirror humanity to satisfy and complete us. It's the same urge that drives any other relationship: to have another mind, another spirit, twin to our own, that can give us that crucial bit of recognition. It lets us be seen by something we can see as kin, and in so doing allows us to actually exist, to be a real thing in a real world.
So this is what motivated Geppetto to carve Pinocchio, Pygmalion to make Galatea, and (lest we forget) what prompted El to create Eve and Adam. This same desire underpins the incredibly popular SETI project: if we scour the sky closely enough, we might find our brothers out there somewhere, as real as us.
Probably this is the same desire that led us to dream up El in the first place. But now that he's dead, we're left alone in the dark again, waiting for a comforting hand to slip into our own - even a lifeless, mechanical one.
* Sorry, Blade Runner.
02 January, 2007
It wasn't all bad, however. I improved myself in a few ways. I took up a new instrument, the dhol, which is a kind of Punjabi drum. This was more or less on a whim, and I surprised myself by being a rather quick learner (the benefit of years of playing the tabla, another North Indian drum with fairly similar fundamental principles).
I also kept my New Years' resolution of last year, which was to learn to dance better. I did it!
In 2007 I will make the earth shake and the sky turn golden. Watch out.
New poll on the right for you, my dears.
21 December, 2006
I think this gets to the heart of why demonstrations and letter-writing do no good -- we can't establish our basic credibility to get in the mental door with the people who matter, so the details of what we say becomes irrelevant. This is a president who thinks the Iraq Study Group was a bunch of idealistic flakes, while he is The Protector.
Arkin also recommends against using fear as a motivating principle for anti-Bush politics. He says that when liberals say Bush is making the threat of terrorism greater, they inadvertently play into his message and strengthen his grip. If he's right, it's too bad, because he is increasing the risk of terrorism, and he does make me feel physically threatened.