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CARACAS, Monday May 16, 2011 | Update
 
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102nd Anniversary
Clouds of the future

How cloud computing will change the nature of life and the gathering of information. The cases of Craig Venter and Julian Assange

ANDRÉS MATA OSORIO |  EL UNIVERSAL
Monday May 16, 2011  04:50 PM



I

The case of Dr. Craig Venter


The user is the content. -Marshal Mcluhan

The new man will not be created by socialism but by a cloud of computers manipulating the human genetic code

The initial announcement on May 21, 2010 can be viewed in YouTube under the title "Craig Venter unveils synthetic life." There, Dr. Venter states categorically that his team has created the first self replicating species of cells whose parents were a computer and four bottles of genetic material. The ramifications for this astounding achievement were previously outlined by Dr. Venter in this manner: "We are trying to actually make the first single cell organism by reproducing the chromosome and seeing if it will result in a living cell. I think this will become one of the biggest changes in science this century if this becomes possible. We can then set up robots to actually build life forms and put in different sets of genes to understand empirically what they do and which ones are required for life and which are not."

The immense data units using cloud computing will undoubtedly change the nature of organic life on the planet. Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson has spoken of desktop cloning where future parents will choose the eye color, height, intelligence, etc. of their future offspring by manipulating immense computer data bases that can read and manipulate the 3.2 billion amino acid alphabet of the human genome DNA. The immense data base of our individual DNA will be readily available through decentralized cloud computing technology; immense cathedrals of cyberspace data that will be admired and used by future generations. Human gene manipulation is already a big business. Women now donate their eggs to private companies and men donate sperm. As James Martin notes: "On American college campuses, advertisements offer to pay as much as USD 50,000 to egg donors with high SAT scores or other desirable attributes. Some celebrities sell their eggs or sperm for a very high price for future use." This future use entails waiting until the robots and cloud computational databases Craig Venter mentions are in place to identify and sequence the human genomes so as to obtain specific outcomes: in short to create people with specific genetic traits: The New Man.

The power of the data bases inherent in cloud computing have also changed the way investigative reporting is now being done to horror of governments and the defenders of privacy and confidentiality.

II

Lies and stool pigeons

Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead. -Benjamin Franklin

I've learned you can always tell the truth, but you don't have to tell the whole truth. -Tiger Woods Sports Illustrated, April 2000

All governments lie. But disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out. -I.F. Stone

All governments lie. A university of Chicago Professor, John J Mearsheimer, has written a detailed study of how and why they lie entitled "Why leaders lie." His statistical findings are surprising. He discovered that governments lie more continuously and with more than a ten to one frequency to their own citizens rather than to other governments. However, when governments do lie to other governments, they tend to do so for major strategic reasons. Examples abound. For example, the government of Greece now admits to have completely faked its macroeconomic data in order to apparently meet the requirements to join the European Union. Governments lie to start and maintain wars. An example of a "failed noble lie" cited by Mearsheimer took place in August of 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt lied to the American people about the German attack on the US navy ship Greer. He was trying to get the United States into World War II when it seemed Nazi Germany was well on the way of conquering all of Europe. This tactical lie failed and the entire world was surprised by Pearl Harbor. Another example: the Bush administration sold the now apparent falsehood the Iraq was a staunch ally and source of funding for Al Qaida. This was done to increase support for the coming war with Iraq. Another example: The attack in the Gulf of Tonkin to the USS Maddox that led to the escalation of the Vietnam War in 1964 probably never took place, but was used as a strategic untruth to continue the US involvement in the conflict. Even at the time, officials were skeptical. A State Department Official, Walt Rostow actually told the Washington Press Corp. three days after the supposed incident that "it seemed unlikely that there had been any actual attack at all." The now defunct Soviet Union lied about the nature of the Chernobyl nuclear accident for years so as not to alarm its fellow Soviet Republics. Pres. Ronald Reagan lied about the Star Wars initiative, and this led in part to the bankruptcy of the Soviet Union as the Russians increased their defense spending to meet the requirements of a non existent defense system. Thus, in the rare event that governments do lie to each other, they do so for strategic defense or military advantage. "Bargaining power," in the words of Noble Prize- winning economist Thomas Schelling is the "power to fool and bluff" and bluffing of course is all about "lying and the conveyance of false information".

This conveyance of false information becomes increasingly difficult when cloud computers and transparency networks such as WikiLeaks have the process capabilities to analyze insider information provided by angry insiders and other stool pigeons. This has lead to changing election outcomes in Kenya, showing the world what the Saudi Royal family really thinks of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and displaying how the US military killed non combatants in Iraq.

All police departments know the value of stool pigeons. All Julian Assange, the egomaniacal founder of WikiLeaks, has done is to create a verification bureau for dense, leaked information using high speed and decentralized cloud computing. To some, he is a common criminal, and to others, he is the leader of a citizen based world transparency movement that has given new hope and life to investigative journalism. The important point is that he has created a new and some would say dangerous method of doing journalism.

It is most recent development, WikiLeaks has signed partnership agreements with major newspapers such as El País of Spain, and The Guardian of Great Britain. Perhaps Reuters and the Associated Press will one day be replaced by deep databases similar to the controversial WikiLeaks. As the editor of El País Javier Moreno explained, he teamed up with WikiLeaks on examining the cables of the US State Department because this was a way of obtaining verified evidence of how governments and political actors often lie to each other and their own people. No matter what happens to Julian Assange is ultimately unimportant. He created a business model (based on donations and other revenue streams) that will continue to use deep data base decentralized cloud computing to deal with and verify complex sources. The key is to carefully establish the veracity of the data. As Assange said in an interview, this is often as easy as calling a government or a corporation and hearing their representative shout: "How did you steal our data?"

III

Cloud computing will forever change the nature of man and distribution of information

Freedom of the press is no longer the exclusive prerogative of those who own one, because the Internet has drastically lowered the barriers to entry into the public arena. The world is in the midst of a revolution of media participation not just in news consumption. For example even the staid New York Times has just announced that it intends to create a special high security portal for angry insiders and would be leakers. Publishers who build hubs for aggregating raw data and invite their readers to participate in the deep analysis have obtained huge internet traffic figures. Media outlets like The Guardian have already created vast data bases for public participation and scrutiny. For example, The Guardian put up over 75,000 credit card charges generated by members of Parliament so that their readers could research the spending habits of their representatives. Again as McLuhan has predicted, the user has become the content. In a world where bottom up user-generated transparency of data is becoming more of a reality, the question for all leaders and governments is whether they will embrace this change or seek to destroy it. In a more fundamental sense, the cloud data base research headed by Craig Vetner challenges not just our leaders but all of us to redefine what the future of being human will become in a world where all our identities may become synonymous with our DNA bar codes soon to be freely available as public information on the immense and ever expanding planetary cloud computer data base. The slogan of India's National Campaign for People's Right To Information Movement in Hindi is Hum Janenge—Hum Jiyenge: The right to know is the right to live. Journalism and information gathering has fundamentally changed. The world will soon be forced to learn to live with all the biotechnology data and open information files of the decentralized cloud computers data bases that the Internet is creating as the World Wide Web continues to expand.


Bibliography:

For "The user is the content," see Marshall McLuhan by Douglas Coupland Atlas & Co. 2011 p. 160. For Venter and the Cathedrals of Cyberspace, see James Martin, The Meaning of the 21, Century Riverhead Books 2007 p. 384. For a wide view of where computer memory and DNA application are leading us, see Freeman Dyson, The Sun, the Genome and the Internet, Oxford University Press 2010. For Greece using deception and the use of government lies see John J. Mearsheimer Why Leaders Lie: The Truth About Lying in International Politics, Oxford 2011.

For WikiLeaks, see Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Inside Wikileaks, Crown Publishers 2011 and my conclusion is heavily indebted to Micah L. Sifry, WikiLeaks and the Age of Transparency, Counterpoint Publishers, 2011.

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