Saturday, March 17, 2007

Zbigniew Brzezinski's Views

There are many arguments that what we do in the next few decades will strongly impact the longer term future of humanity. See my presentation on Sustainability or Apocalypse. But there may also be a much shorter range critical period that we need to be concerned about.
"If we can get through the next 20 months, there is some hope for America recovering and moving forward as a positive force in the world. However, if the war in Iraq expands to other areas of the region, especially to Iran, we could be involved in a 20 year conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and possibly Pakistan. And that will be the end of American global supremacy."
The above quote is a rough paraphrase of the comments from Zbigniew Brzezinski on The Daily Show March 14, 2007

These comments appear near the end of the segment.

Collapse of Arctic Sea Ice 'Has Reached Tipping-Point'

There are multiple "tipping points" in climate change - points at which comparatively rapid change starts to occur from which it is hard to recover and return to the original climate state. Some of the tipping points are expected to be reached in a decade or two if we do nothing. This one, however, may be imminent.
A catastrophic collapse of the Arctic sea ice could lead to radical climate changes in the northern hemisphere according to scientists who warn that the rapid melting is at a "tipping point" beyond which it may not recover.
See the full article at:

The Overextended U. S. Economy and Bankruptcy

On a more general note about the U.S. economy being overextended, here is another article from last year .

The United States is heading for bankruptcy, according to an extraordinary paper published by one of the key members of the country's central bank. A ballooning budget deficit and a pensions and welfare timebomb could send the economic superpower into insolvency, according to research by Professor Laurence Kotlikoff for the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, a leading constituent of the US Federal Reserve. Prof Kotlikoff said that, by some measures, the US is already bankrupt.

"To paraphrase the Oxford English Dictionary, is the United States at the end of its resources, exhausted, stripped bare, destitute, bereft, wanting in property, or wrecked in consequence of failure to pay its creditors," he asked….

The full article is available at

Many of these arguments sound very convincing when you look at the data they point to. However, the one concern is that people have been predicting a “major correction” for some time now, often predicting in the past that it would have already happened by this point time. Is there something fundamentally wrong with their analysis, or just with their timing?

Housing Bubble About to Burst?

The U.S. economy has been operating in an unsustainable mode for some time now, and many experts have been predicting a serious "correction" for some time in the future. One of the multiple problems ( huge budget deficit, trade deficit, etc.) is the housing bubble. This could burst at any time, sending many overextended American families into deep financial trouble.

There was a recent article quoting financial expert Jim Rogers about this. Excerpts:
...investment guru Jim Rogers stepped into the U.S. subprime fray on Wednesday, predicting a real estate crash that would trigger defaults and spread contagion to emerging markets.

"You can't believe how bad it's going to get before it gets any better," the prominent U.S. fund manager told Reuters by telephone from New York.

"It's going to be a disaster for many people who don't have a clue about what happens when a real estate bubble pops.
See the full article at:

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Recording Your Life

In New Jersey last fall, 16 year old Matt Leclair started objecting when one of his public school teachers promoted his fundamentalistic religious beliefs during class. When the teacher denied to the principle that he did that, Matt took out a recording he secretely made in class that clearly showed the teacher doing what Matt claimed. The school took immediate action to make sure this would never happen again - they banned students from recording in class again. (To be fair I believe they also told the teacher not to make such religions statements again too).

Thanks to rapidly developing technology it's going to be possible to record more and more aspects of everyone's daily life, so get used to it. The school was a little naive to think they could actually ban such recordings. Students can now by a mini MP3 player that can also be used as a tape recorder. These things are so small that it's impossible to prevent students from bringing them into school and recording what happens without conducting exhaustive strip searches each morning. And the technology gets better each year.

Did You Know? - the video

There is a great little video making the rounds about the exponential rate of change we are living through titled "Did you know?"

It was based on a presentation about the future of education created by Karl Fisch, a high school teacher in Colorado. It contains some of the predictions about future computer power that were made by Ray Kurzweil in his book "The Singularity is Near", as well as some comments about the growth of China and India. Besides a lot of intriguing facts, it is accompanied by a wonderful instrumental musical selection that becomes strangely haunting after listening for a while.

You can find our more information about this video and Karl Fisch on his blog at
He's an interesting character, and his blog contains a lot of good commentary on our educational system.