Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

IKEA charges the way of things to come

March 2, 2015

It’s the IKEA desk today and it will not be long before it is everywhere in your office or in your home. IKEA is now rolling  out a line of its desks that will wirelessly charge all your devices that are capable of being wirelessly charged. It will surely not be so long till the day when your devices are automatically and wirelessly charged anywhere in your office or in your home.

IKEA Skrivbord och arbetsbord

WPC Press Release:

Global home furnishings retailer IKEA today announced a product launch of Qi-powered bedside tables, lamps and desks that eliminates cable mess and makes it easier to stay connected with always-charged mobile devices.

IKEA said the wireless charging home furnishings will be available in Europe and North America this April, followed by a global rollout. The announcement girds support for Qi – the leading global wireless charging standard from the Wireless Power Consortium.  

“IKEA is delivering on its vision of making life at home better with this innovative, stylish and useful new collection that show consumers the beauty and simplicity of wireless charging,” said Menno Treffers, WPC chairman. “We applaud IKEA for its unmatched insight and their unique passion for making wireless charging affordable and simple for consumers.”

Qi is the most widely deployed wireless power standard, available in 3,000 hotels, restaurants, airports and public locations worldwide. There are now more than 80 Qi-enabled smartphones, 15 models of Qi-enabled cars and countless Qi mobile accessories in the market today.

“Our belief is that mobile phones are vital parts to people’s lives at home and their desire to stay connected, and Qi addresses an unmet need to keep devices powered,” said Bjorn Block, Range Manager for Lighting and Wireless Charging, at IKEA. “As a member of WPC, we value the access to the leading and most advanced global standard for wireless charging.”   

During Mobile World Congress, WPC will showcase the latest Qi-enabled products at booth 5C41, Hall 5.

About the Wireless Power Consortium and Qi
Established in 2008, the Wireless Power Consortium is an open, collaborative standards development group of more than 200 company members. WPC’s members include Belkin, ConvenientPower, Delphi, Freescale, Haier, HTC, IKEA, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Panasonic, PowerbyProxi, Royal Philips, Samsung, Sony, TDK, Texas Instruments, Verizon Wireless and ZTE. These companies — large and small competitors and ecosystem partners, from all parts of the industry and all parts of the globe — collaborate for a single purpose: to design and evolve the world’s most useful, safe and efficient standard for wireless power. This global standard is called Qi, and it has become the world’s leading method for transferring electrical power without wires. Qi is designed into 80+ mobile devices, 15 models of cars, has more than 700 registered products that are enjoyed by more than 50 million users worldwide. 

Things we have developed beyond – but which I still miss

November 17, 2014

They were not the “good old days” to pine for. Change and development have done more good for more people than I would have thought possible. But there are still some things which have been lost and which I miss. Collateral damage.

My top twenty (but not in any particular order):

  1. The all-purpose milk-man at the door (cheese, bread, onions, potatoes…), every day of the year except one
  2. “My” shoemaker in Chinatown who could cope with my left foot being slightly longer than my right
  3. The policeman on our beat who knew our names (and we knew his)
  4. Dingy, dark, smoke-filled, hole-in-the wall bars
  5. Taxi drivers who knew the way (without a map or a GPS)
  6. Teachers whose job satisfaction lay in that students had learnt
  7. Professors who preferred the elegant solution
  8. Hospitals run by doctors
  9. Heroes who were neither sexual predators nor paedophiles
  10. Banks with real tellers
  11. Banks with money
  12. Shops which provided bags to carry away their merchandise
  13. Airports without security checks
  14. Airlines where service was part of the service
  15. Aircraft where passenger comfort was a fundamental human right
  16. Science where theory was subordinate to data
  17. Scientists who questioned
  18. The environment which included humans
  19. Roads which were not parking lots
  20. Managers who managed

Offshore oil rigs promote a richer marine life than at coral reefs

October 24, 2014

A 15 year study of the oil platforms off the California coast shows that they promote a rich and varied fish and marine life. They are greater than at estuaries and reefs on the California coast and richer even than at the famed coral reefs of Polynesia.

Don’t expect the WWF to support offshore oil rigs anytime soon! Or to admit that the oil rigs off the Santa Barbara coast are more beneficial to marine life than the wind and solar farms in California are to avian life which they regularly chop and fry.

More fool them.

JT Claisse et al, Oil platforms off California are among the most productive marine fish habitats globally, PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1411477111

NatureWorldNews:

A recent study has determined that large oil or gas platforms off the California coast are actually serving as ideal bases for highly productive marine habitats, boasting a stunning amount of healthy aquatic life.

That’s at least according to a study recently conducted by researchers from Occidental College, the University of California, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management off the West Coast.

The study, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), details how fish communities that have made their homes under well-maintained oil rigs are up to 27 times more productive than California reefs.

…. This was determined after a research team annually surveyed 16 oil or gas platforms and seven rocky reefs along the Californian coast for 15 years, starting in 1995.

They paid special attention to fish population count, size, and diversity in these unique habitats. From this, they worked out the weight of fish supported each year per square meter of sea floor for each habitat. They even reportedly accounted for the chance that some fish “just passing through” could affect the data.

In a surprising show of data, the researchers determined that the productivity of rig-based communities supported 105 to a whopping 887 grams of fish per square meter of habitat. By comparison, the most productive reef they examined, a coral reef in Mo’orea, French Polynesia, had a fish productivity of 74.2 grams per square meter per year. …

….. “The platform structures support a diverse community of invertebrates that, along with floating resources such as plankton, provide the base of the food web supporting fish,” he explained.

If handled properly, Claisse and his colleagues add, man-made structures can actually be beneficial to the ocean floor.

Abstract

Secondary (i.e., heterotrophic or animal) production is a main pathway of energy flow through an ecosystem as it makes energy available to consumers, including humans. Its estimation can play a valuable role in the examination of linkages between ecosystem functions and services. We found that oil and gas platforms off the coast of California have the highest secondary fish production per unit area of seafloor of any marine habitat that has been studied, about an order of magnitude higher than fish communities from other marine ecosystems. Most previous estimates have come from estuarine environments, generally regarded as one of the most productive ecosystems globally. High rates of fish production on these platforms ultimately result from high levels of recruitment and the subsequent growth of primarily rockfish (genus Sebastes) larvae and pelagic juveniles to the substantial amount of complex hardscape habitat created by the platform structure distributed throughout the water column. The platforms have a high ratio of structural surface area to seafloor surface area, resulting in large amounts of habitat for juvenile and adult demersal fishes over a relatively small footprint of seafloor. Understanding the biological implications of these structures will inform policy related to the decommissioning of existing (e.g., oil and gas platforms) and implementation of emerging (e.g., wind, marine hydrokinetic) energy technologies.

ISRO successfully launches 3rd of the 7-satellite IRNSS

October 16, 2014

After the successful arrival of the MOM in Mars Orbit, ISRO has taken the more mundane step of putting the 3rd of 7 satellites for India’s satellite navigation system into place.

ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C26, successfully launched IRNSS-1C, the third satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), in the early morning hours of today (October 16, 2014) at 0132 hours IST from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. This is the twenty seventh consecutively successful mission of PSLV. The ‘XL’ configuration of PSLV was used for this mission. Previously, the same configuration of the vehicle was successfully used six times.

The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is India’s 7-satellite global positioning system. It is similar to the GPS of the US, Russia’s Glonass , Europe’s Galileo  China’s Beidou and the Japanese Quasi Zenith Satellite System. The IRNSS is autonomous and under the control of the Indian Government. In addition to providing civilian navigation services (Standard Positioning Service – SPS) in a region extending 1500 km beyond the country’s borders, the IRNSS will also provide encrypted military and strategic services (Restricted Services – RS) independent of foreign governments. The positioning accuracy is designed to be 20 m in the primary service area. Each satellite is designed for a life of 10 years.

The IRNSS program received government approval in 2006 and is planned to be fully deployed by the end of 2015. The budgeted cost is 14.2 billion INR (about $240 million) and must count as another example of ISRO’s “frugal engineering”. The cost includes for two stand-by satellites on the ground making nine included in the budget. As a comparison Europe’s Galileo navigational system comprises 27 satellites and is expected to cost about 50 times more at about €10 billion ($13 billion).

IRNSS - ISRO

IRNSS – ISRO

The 7 satellite system consists of 4 satellites as two pairs of geosynchronous satellites and 3 in geostationary orbit. The first two satellites in the series, IRNSS 1a and IRNSS 1b formed the first geosynchronous pair and were launched from Sriharikota on July 1st, 2013 and April 4th this year. respectively. The IRNSS-1c launched this morning is the first geostationary satellite and carries two payloads, one for transmitting navigation service signals to users and another consisting of a C-band transponder to facilitate Cube Retro Reflectors for laser ranging. It is the central satellite of the seven satellite configuration. The satellites launched so far are individually operational but the system will become operational only with the next launch of a geostationary satellite. (The system needs one geosynchronous pair, the central satellite and one more geostationary satellite to reach the threshold conditions to become operational). All seven satellites are planned to be in place and operational by the end of 2015.

IRNSS Architecture - ISRO

IRNSS Architecture – ISRO

NasaSpaceflight:

Based on ISRO’s I-1K satellite bus, each IRNSS satellite has a mass at launch of 1,425 kilograms (3,142 lb). Unfuelled, the spacecraft has a mass of only 600 kilograms (1,323 lb), with the remaining 825 kilograms (1,819 lb) being taken up by propellant for their apogee motors and manoeuvring engines.

The spacecraft are designed for ten years’ operational service. Generating 1.6 kilowatts of power through twin solar arrays, the satellites broadcast L5 and S band navigation signals. C-band transponders and retroreflectors are used for range calibration.

Each satellite is fitted with a single liquid apogee motor producing 440 newtons (99 pounds-force) of thrust. Three-axis control is provided by reaction wheels, magnetorquers and twelve reaction control thrusters.

The apogee motor is tasked with propelling the satellite from its initial deployment orbit into the final geostationary orbit, while the remaining thrusters will be used to manoeuvre and orient the spacecraft once it is in orbit.

IRNSS-1C is the first geostationary satellite in the IRNSS system. Planned for operation at a longitude of 83 degrees East, it will operate at the middle station of the constellation.

Two more geostationary satellites will be added; at longitudes of 34 and 132 degrees, while the remaining four spacecraft will operate in inclined geosynchronous orbits to increase the angle of separation between signals. Two of the inclined satellites are already in orbit; IRNSS-1A and 1B operate at a longitude of 55 degrees East. A second pair will be located at 111 degrees East next year.

The two satellites already in orbit were deployed in July 2013 and April 2014, both riding PSLV rockets to orbit from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre

The PSLV launch vehicle was introduced in 1993 and this is its 28th successful use (27th consecutive successful use). Today’s launch used the PSLV-XL configuration – the most powerful version of the PSLV currently flying – which makes use of six PS0M-XL boosters containing S-12 solid rocket motors. Four of these motors are lit when the rocket leaves its launch pad, with the remaining two lit during the early stages of its ascent.

 

Oil reserves to rival Saudi Arabia’s found in the Russian Arctic

September 28, 2014
Kara Sea - Arctic  Google maps

Kara Sea – Arctic Google maps

So much for peak oil!

And that’s even without taking shale oil and shale gasand methane hydrates into account.

World BulletinA joint venture between Rosneft and ExxonMobil has discovered a huge amount of oil under the Arctic. The state-run Russian oil company announced on Saturday that the University-1 well struck oil in the Kara Sea.

Igor Sechin, the head of Rosneft, said the “oil trap” has 338 billion cubic meters of gas and more than 100 million tonnes (733 million barrels) of oil. The total resources in the area are estimated at 13 billion tonnes (87 billion barrels) of oil equivalent, according to the Rosneft statement. According to experts, the amount of oil and gas is comparable to the resource base of Saudi Arabia.

Rosneft and ExxonMobil started drilling the University-1 well, the world’s northernmost well, in August. The field will be named Pobeda, which means “victory” in Russian

Sanctions against Russia could deprive ExxonMobil of some of the benefits due to them. Even if sanctions are relatively short-lived the Russians will surely extract their pound of flesh while they can.

ExxonMobil announced last Friday that the U.S. Treasury Department has granted it a licence to “wind down” operations at the well, in response to U.S. and EU sanctions imposed on Russia over the unrest in Ukraine.

However the Russians are still dependent on technology from the large oil companies for drilling and exploitation in these frigid conditions. They also have vast quantities of oil and gas shale in Siberia the value of which needs to be protected. The timing for the development of Arctic reserves then becomes a geopolitical and economic strategy call. It makes most sense for Russia not to flood the market and to keep gas prices to Europe high and growing. But the potential availability of this Arctic reserve – even if production is at least a decade away – adds another arrow in the Russian quiver.

But the doomsday scenarios of “peak oil” or catastrophic depletion of gas and oil reserves have vanished over the horizon – at least for the foreseeable future,

 

Adapting to climate change requires the further development and use of fossil fuels

July 31, 2014

The single thing that differentiates the human species from every other known species on earth has been the control and use of fire.The step change then from primitive to modern humans has been due not least to the control and development of the combustion process and the utilisation of fossil fuels. This in turn has multiplied many times the intensity of energy available to be harnessed by man. I would suggest that the human capability of handling change is largely a function of the power intensity available.

power intensity

power intensity

Fossil fuels have been demonised (by association with carbon dioxide emissions) for the last 30 years. In spite of that most  of the growth in the developing world has been – and continues to be – powered by fossil fuels. Fortunately the lack of evidence of any significant linkage between man-made carbon dioxide and global warming  (which is still the politically correct ideology) is beginning to be realised. The unnecessary, misplaced and ineffective increase of electricity prices in countries which have curtailed their use of fossil fuels has prolonged the recession and has cost many millions of jobs.

We have now had almost 20 years with the highest level ever of fossil fuel utilisation but “global temperature” has remained stubbornly static. In the last decade global temperatures have declined slightly. The hypothesised link between man-made carbon dioxide (which constitutes only about 3% of carbon dioxide emissions) and global temperature is well and truly broken. All the various climate computer models – which build on this link being amplified – have failed miserably.

The indicators of a global cooling cycle having started are piling up.

  1. There is more ice in the antarctic than has ever been measured
  2. There is more ice in the arctic than about a decade ago
  3. Total ice cover is higher now than has ever been measured
  4. Ice cover on the Great Lakes reached levels not seen for over 50 years and has persisted into the spring (even summer) later than has been observed for at least 40 years.
  5. The expected super El Nino forecast for this year has been dampened by a cooling Pacific and only a mild El Nino event – if at all – is now to be expected
  6. Sea level rises are no different to the long term average for sea level recovery since the last glacial minimum and may even have slowed.
  7. The deep oceans are cooling and are no repository of “hidden heat”
  8. The net cooling effect of clouds has been underestimated in nearly all models and cloud cover over the world is increasing (slightly).
  9. Man made water vapour is of greater significance than man made carbon dioxide for climate effects. But man made water vapour is almost insignificant compared to the water vapour flux due to evaporation and respiration.
  10. Solar effects are virtually ignored by all climate models but the sun does not much care for models and is reaching a low level of activity comparable to the Dalton or Maunder Minima.

Crying wolf about global warming has been the politically correct thing to do for 3 decades. Before that it was politically correct to be alarmist about the coming ice age. No doubt all the old fears about an ice age can be dusted off and recycled.

Climate change has been the most powerful force which has shaped human evolution and expansion. Sea level changes and patterns of precipitation and desertification have driven both evolution and migrations. Sea level during an ice age is about 120 m lower than it is today. More land is exposed in equatorial and tropical regions during a glacial period while land is rendered uninhabitable by the ice sheets of the north. But even primitive humanity survived during the glacials.

It is the global cooling cycles and not global warming cycles which will place the greatest demands on farming and energy. The greatest sea level change that humanity has had to – and will have to – adapt to  is the 120 m difference between glacial and interglacial conditions. During an ice age precipitation will drop sharply and river water flows will decline. Hydro power will all but dry up. It is the inevitable coming of the next ice age that will pose the real challenge – not the 1 m sea level rise that may come with another warming cycle. And when the ice age comes again it will be fossil fuels which will keep the home fires burning. It is the further exploitation of nuclear energy and fossil fuels in all its forms – coal, oil, natural gas, shale gas, gas from methane hydrates – that will be needed. It is the availability of power at the intensities provided by nuclear power and fossil fuel combustion which is what will provide humans with the wherewithal to cope with climate change, whether warming or cooling, but especially when the next ice age begins.

Whatever the alarmists would have us do in the short term, reality will eventually bite. The use of fossil fuels will – thankfully – continue as will the exploration for new sources of gas. The next generation of nuclear power plant will be developed – even though nuclear alarmism has led to a dearth of nuclear engineers. No doubt some market niches will be filled by wind and solar power but that will not be very significant in the large picture.

 

Toilets before temples – lack of toilets stunts growth in India

June 15, 2014

I tend to take anything coming out of the UN with a very healthy dose of salt. As long as it is separated from policy, not all information from the UN is worthless. Such as this report from UNICEF India from November 2013. Lack of sanitation exemplified by the lack of toilets and open defecation is strongly correlated with stunted growth of children. If Narendra Modi can make good his promise of “toilets before temples”, he will have done very well indeed. To get past the innate conservatism of rural India and get toilets to take a higher priority than the mushrooming (pun intended) shrines and temples is easier said than done.

Of the 1.1 billion people globally who defecate in the open, nearly 60 percent live in India, which means they make up more than half of the population of India. Around 55% of all households in India have no access to a toilet or even a latrine. (But 63% of all households have telephones.) Children in India are shorter, on average, than children in Africa who are poorer, on average and this paradox is called “the Asian enigma”.

UNICEF Report: Madhya Pradesh is also home to some of the most undernourished children in India with 58 per cent of under three’s suffering from malnutrition (compared with 45 per cent nationally). 50 per cent of children under-five also suffer from stunting, an indicator of long-term persistent malnutrition, associated with a child’s low height relative to its age. Stunting is also associated with an under-developed brain and low IQ.

The effects of stunting are said to result in a 10 per cent decrease in future income over the lifetime of stunted adults – with tragic implications for child survival, growth and development, seriously impeding India’s development. The implications for stunted mothers giving birth to stunted children are very real. 

Economists have long debated the ‘Asian Enigma’ of why Indians are more stunted – shorter in height – compared to relatively poorer children in Sub Saharan Africa for example. Now, new research has shown a correlation between long-term under-nutrition with its resultant stunted children in India, and the lack of access to toilets and hygiene. Provide children with the right nutrition at the right time, and ensure an environment free of excreta, and there will be no Asian Enigma.

“The height of Indians is not simply about genetics or down to poverty – there is a strong correlation to the poor sanitation environment many live in. India’s lack of sanitation with its high population density, stunts its children through both the loss of food, and the reduced absorption of nutrients,” says Dean Spears, of the Delhi School for Economics.

Dean Spears, How much international variation in child height can sanitation explain ?, World Bank Policy Research working paper ; no. WPS 6351, May 2013.

PDF (55 pages)

Summary: Physical height is an important economic variable reflecting health and human capital. Puzzlingly, however, differences in average height across developing countries are not well explained by differences in wealth. In particular, children in India are shorter, on average, than children in Africa who are poorer, on average, a paradox called “the Asian enigma” which has received much attention from economists. This paper provides the first documentation of a quantitatively important gradient between child height and sanitation that can statistically explain a large fraction of international height differences. This association between sanitation and human capital is robustly stable, even after accounting for other heterogeneity, such as in GDP. The author applies three complementary empirical strategies to identify the association between sanitation and child height: country-level regressions across 140 country-years in 65 developing countries; within-country analysis of differences over time within Indian districts; and econometric decomposition of the India-Africa height differences in child-level data. Open defecation, which is exceptionally widespread in India, can account for much or all of the excess stunting in India.

Can Modi break down the Indian millstone of caste and clan?

June 12, 2014

If Narendra Modi manages to break – or even to weaken – the debilitating stranglehold that caste and clan have on Indian life, he stands some chance of releasing the huge potential that is still buried deep in the country. Paradoxically, his brand (now mellowing) of Hindu nationalism may allow him the freedom not only to challenge the shackles of caste and clan but also to keep in check the extravagant expectations engendered by the pampering of minority groups (which was unavoidable with a coalition government).

The caste system in India probably represents the oldest surviving form of institutionalised racism in the world. It predates Hinduism and probably started first by classifying specialists by the virtue of their professions. That was possibly 5,000 years or 250 generations ago. But with sons following fathers in their professions heredity entered into the social classification. In due course – the caste system was probably hijacked by Hinduism and then evolved into a genetic classification defining social status and even “permissible” professions for each caste.

The caste system is so prevalent and so insidious that it can even survive religious conversions. I know of some Christian families – who converted to Christianity some 200 years (10 generations) ago – but where the pre-conversion caste still survives and comes into play when arranging a marriage.

Whatever and whenever the origin, the caste system is still so ingrained that the vast majority of Hindu marriages still conform to caste rules. In many parts of rural India, close to 50% of marriages may be consanguineous (first cousins) but this drops to less than 30% in urban areas. In many communities the level of inbreeding is reaching worrying levels. Development and improvement of living standards has given a slow reduction in these numbers. But very often the castes and clans are perpetuated by the very “affirmative actions” that were supposed to eliminate them. The advantages and privileges afforded by many of these programmes has led to whole communities fighting to retain their caste differentiation. They are committed to protecting – genetically – the purity of their “low caste” to retain the privileged status they enjoy within “affirmative action” programmes for education and employment.. The caste system still dominates political life in many areas and can lead to local and state governments often being dominated by a particular caste or clan. And when one particular caste or clan is in power they regress to a medieval feudalism and see the territory they govern as their fiefdom.

Modi made all the right noises when he addressed Parliament for the first time as Prime Minister and acknowledged that casteism and regional differences had damaged India. But the difficulties he will face in trying to root out the racism inherent in the caste system cannot be underestimated. An entire political party may be dominated by a particular caste or clan. The recent barbarism in central India is a case in point. Currently Uttar Pradesh has a government – it seems  – “of the Yadvas, by the Yadavs for the Yadavs”!!

FirstPost: The rape and murder of two girls in Badaun seems to have triggered a shake-up in the Uttar Pradesh government machinery which even the near-decimation of the party in the recent Lok Sabha election could not do. Not only has Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav transferred hundreds of officers, suspended more than half a dozen, withdrawn security or armed guards from dozens of individuals and dismissed dozens of nominated officials, but the Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav has disbanded party units at various levels.

But what the SP leadership has been unable to shake off is the popular perception that all the moves are more political in nature rather than an honest effort to actually change the way the state is being governed.  …….. the feeling has grown that the establishment is trying to protect the alleged culprits in the Badaun case despite the international outrage at the rape and murder of two cousins aged 15 and 14, whose bodies were found hanging from a mango tree in a village in Badaun district on 27 May. Preliminary post-mortem investigation had revealed that both had been gangraped and then hanged from a tree, and that the cause of death was hanging.

….. Mulayam’s nephew Dharmendra Yadav is the MP from Badaun and most of the police stations in the district – as well in the state – have Yadavs on the force. This phenomenon is typical of the Samajwadi Party’s reign in Uttar Pradesh and had been seen during the 2004-2007 SP regime also. “The ruling family in the SP has always been protective and supportive of the Yadavs, regardless of the criticism it attracts. The police recruitment in 2004 also reflected this. The perception among the Yadav community is very strong that the ruling family would go to any extent to protect their clansmen,” says a non-Yadav SP sympathizer. “In the Lok Sabha election the party lost all seats contested by non-family members, and it is now critical for it to consolidate whatever Yadav support it has in the community in view of the coming by-elections in the state, including Mainpuri which is close to Badaun.”

Preventing extremism: Why stop European jihadists from going to Syria?

June 8, 2014

The Financial Times (paywalled) reports that “Western intelligence agencies have handed Turkish authorities the names of nearly 5,000 people they fear are attempting to travel to Syria to join al-Qaeda linked groups, in a stark illustration of the escalating terror threat posed by homegrown jihadis”.

Turkey has already deported between 1,000 and 2,000 “jihadists” back to their home countries in Europe where they then become a virulent threat.

DailyBeast: It is a scenario that counter-terrorism experts have been warning about for the past two years: a European citizen who travelled to Syria in order to join up with jihadist groups returns to Europe in order to carry out a terrorist attack. It is something we all knew eventually would become a reality and, more worryingly, knew we could not prevent.

“Moderate Islam” in European countries is conspicuous by its complete absence in holding back the extremists and the idiot fanatics. I have no doubt that most Muslims are moderate. But they have been too passive for far too long against their own extremists.  In Europe, in Africa and even in China. They have – for example – allowed the extremists to take over parts of the school system in Birmingham in the UK. But it is not just “moderate Islam” which has abdicated its responsibilities. The political establishment in Europe (mainly) has to take its share of the blame. Political correctness in Europe involves allowing all fanatics and extremists – whether from the neo-Nazis as in Ukraine or Greece or from the religious Islamic fanatics in France and the UK or from the ecofascism of the hard-left green activists – to flourish unchecked.

But I wonder why the intelligence agencies don’t just let these jihadists reach Syria? Why warn Turkey and then have them all deported back to carry out their mayhem? If the US could revoke Snowden’s passport while he was travelling, surely it would be most effective for the US and EU countries to merely revoke those of the 5,000 known to be on their way to Syria? And concentrate on preventing their return? Like it or not, in the current situation Bashar al-Assad could be best equipped to handle these fanatics.

In the long run of course the alienated youth who are then radicalised have to be addressed at home. And the best bet is if “moderate Islam” is encouraged to defuse and neutralise their idiot fanatics. The position of the political centre defines the extremes. A passive centre allows the political spectrum to be skewed towards one extreme or the other or even to reach a bifurcation. The way to prevent unacceptable extremism lies then, I think, not in trying to prevent the extreme views from forming (which is futile) but in having a sufficiently pro-active centre which effectively starves the extremists of recruits.

Never trust a politician who is “thinking about your children’s children”

May 13, 2014

My grandfathers died around 80 years ago. They could not have conceived of the world their grandchildren would live in and the challenges they and their world would face. They would surely have been able to recognise our behavioural characteristics but they would not have been able to imagine the society we live in. The values of current society would have been difficult for them to understand.

My father died 26 years ago. Not so very long ago. Yet he would not have been able to predict – let alone address – the kinds of challenges my children and the world they live in will face in the next 20 – 30 years. His values were those of having fought in WW2 and the hope of the 1950’s. He would not have been able to predict the pace of life and the networks maintained by my children. He could not have forecast the day-to-day problems they will face or the “big problems” their world will face over the next 50 or 60 years.

Around 100 years ago my grandfathers could not have foreseen the Second World War or the spread of easily available and affordable electrical power, or of the second industrial revolution or the digital revolution. Even if they could have foreseen the future they would have had the intelligence but not the knowledge or the technology to better address the challenges of today. In fact they would have been very stupid to have tried to forecast and then plan for their choice of problems to be faced by their grandchildren.

Our children’s children will live into the 22nd century. Any forecast I try to make of the development of technologies and knowledge and societies and values 100 years from now is going to be wrong. For the last 50 or 60 years we have lived with the perception of the problem of population rise and limitation of resources. Actions have been taken – and very successfully – to reduce the number of births, to improve food production and in finding new and alternate resources. In another 50 years populations will decline and the pressure on resources will decline further as new technologies are developed and new resources are found (who would have predicted the abundance of shale gas 50 years ago?).

We may expect that in the 22nd century, one of the major challenges will be that of population decline and aging. It will be a challenge faced and solved by the humans of a hundred years hence and it may or may not be a problem. I have no idea of what genetic and medical advances may bring or of how societies will develop and of the value systems that may prevail then. To use today’s knowledge and technologies and values to address these presumed challenges of the future is both ineffective and wasteful. These challenges – if challenges – will be faced by our children’s children using the knowledge and technology that will have become available to them.

It would have been ridiculous for my parents or my grandparents to have given up advances in their own well-being or their careers or their world – as they saw them then – for the sake of  some unknown problem that would be faced by their children’s children.

And so I am deeply suspicious of any politician or environmentalist who wants me to do something  – or not do something – against my current best interests as I see them – for the sake of my children’s children.

Our grandchildren will always be better placed to define their challenges than we can possibly forecast. They will be better equipped to solve the problems of their age with the tools and knowledge and technologies of their age. And they too would be stupid if they gave up their own well-being in order to solve a problem they choose to forecast for their children’s children.


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