(Swans - June 17, 2013) On June 8, 2013, the thermometer outside the house hit over 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Two days later it was down to 60 degrees -- a 50-degree spread in 48 hours accompanied by dry thunderstorms and lightning, a perfect combination for devastating wildfires. The weather forecasts missed the happenstance altogether, a perfect illustration of the modern technology that adds to the credibility of managing complex systems. In the last month, eons in the fast pace of the TV news cycle, poor Barack Obama has seen his credibility put to task: The CIA was more involved in the Benghazi terror attack than it first appeared. Then the FBI snooped on the Associated Press, and the IRS allegedly targeted members of the Tea Party and other conservative groups. Republicans were up in arms. The Constitution was under blatant attack. The Republic was under siege. Obama was open to investigate and to debate and reassured the American people that the issue of privacy was at the forefront of his administration and would be on the table in his forthcoming informal meeting with his counterpart, Xi Jinping, the president of the People's Republic of China, in Southern California.
It was a terrific meeting until an American whistleblower revealed to the Guardian and The Washington Post thousands of pages incriminating the US National Security Agency of collecting zettabytes of data in the U.S. and all over the world. Mr. Snowden, the whistleblower, showed up in Hong Kong to explain that he wanted to expose US hypocrisy and to save the world. President Xi was wise enough to keep his enigmatic smile and Mr. Obama, embarrassed, talked about finding a compromise between security and privacy. The drumbeaters went berserk. The surveillance state has taken over our democracy. The rotten smell of fascism is lingering around each street corner. Third-party Web sites may be a threat to national security, working on behalf of a foreign power (Israel?). Paranoia sets in. Internet service providers keep a copy of all e-mails sent and received and share them with the NSA. Ditto of our pictures, videos, phone conversations, banking transactions, credit cards, healthcare visits, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing, mailing lists, etc. There is nowhere to hide. And that does not take into account the biggest snoopers of all, the consumer outfits that track all purchases, whether on line or in stores, for profits -- they are much more intrusive at a personal level than ECHELON or the NSA, which could not give much of a damn about small fishes.
In a generation or so, this period -- if it has not fallen on its own petard -- will be known as the age of digitalism and scratching for food and water. We'll write about entropy, the death of the right and the left, and political change when each individual is inserted with a tiny chip upon birth in which save-the-world gurus will have programmed "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
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