Skip to main content
No Smoking Camel

Sitting in my hotel room in sunny Riyadh, channel hopping between Arab language stations, I’m startled to see our very own town of Blackpool offering itself to the desert as the “Pearl of the English Seaside”, during the commercial break, on what looks like the Al Jazirah news channel.

Somehow footage of the English seaside appears a little incongruous when it’s squeezed in between vivid close-up film of the human carnage left behind in the ruins of Jenin. However, advertising of this kind, illustrates how the numbers game of cheap, mass communications technology of the satellite and the Internet, is increasingly unselective and frequently intrusive. After all, enough wealthy Arabs might even reject the charms of the Cote D’Azur in favour of Blackpool this summer, making the exercise worthwhile, as in much the same way, tens of thousands of gullible people fall prey to Internet advertising scams through junk e-mail each year.

Sifting through the usual unwelcome pile of pornography, loan offers and other garbage in my overloaded Hotmail inbox, I’m beginning to wonder how much further America’s constitutional right to advertise can go before people everywhere else decide they have had enough of being abused. And even if we did protest, it’s unlikely that they would take any notice.

Stuck with a cripplingly slow connection to the outside world, I’m guessing that if I divided my hotel phone bill in half, assuming 50/50 split between trash and legitimate mail, the privilege of being spammed is costing me at least £10 a day in wasted connection charges to both my hotmail account and my company email.

Of course, with Hotmail, you get Instant Messenger, which is a handy invention. Three hours ahead of the UK and I can spot my colleagues logging on to their PCs and pass notes to them as if they were on the other side of my room, so technology has some benefits, although invariably it involves an uncomfortable compromise between what you might want from the service and what you are obliged to put up with.

Even if we leave aside the distasteful side of unsolicited email, there’s very little doubt that the problem is becoming worse as the delivery mechanisms become cheaper and more sophisticated. After all, you can sell what you like, you can make any claim, any promise and as long as you’re clever there’s very little chance that you’ll be called to account by any law enforcement agency anywhere.

There’s a side to the Internet that’s starting to worry me. Any serious practical and moral debate over its future and its security is almost exclusively American and driven by that country’s laws and commercial interests. Whether you happen to be watching its progress as a European or an Arab, I don’t believe this is healthy way to manage the development of the world’s information super-highway because the very freedom that the neutrality of the Internet represents is also the weakness that threatens most to compromise our faith in its future as a global communications medium.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

An Ockham of Gatwick

The 13th century theologian and philosopher, William of Ockham, who once lived in his small Surrey village, not so very far from what is today, the wide concrete expanse of Gatwick airport is a frequently referenced source of intellectual reason. His contribution to modern culture was Ockham’s Razor, which cautions us when problem solving, that “The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct;” sound advice which constantly proves to be true.

A week further-on since Britain’s second busiest airport was bought to a complete standstill by two or perhaps two hundred different drone sightings, it is perhaps time to revisit William of Ockham’s maxim, rather than be led astray by an increasingly bizarre narrative, one which has led Surrey police up several blind alleys with little or nothing in the way of measurable results.

 Exploring the possibilities with a little help in reasoning from our medieval friar, we appear to have a choice of two different account…
A Christmas Tale

It’s pitch blackness in places along the sea wall this evening and I'm momentarily startled by a small dog with orange flashing yuletide antlers along the way. I’m the only person crazy enough to be running and I know the route well enough to negotiate it in the dark, part of my Christmas exercise regime and a good way of relieving stress.

Why stress you might ask. After all, it is Christmas Day.

True but I’ve just spent over two hours assembling the giant Playmobil ‘Pony Farm’ set when most other fathers should be asleep in front of the television.



I was warned that the Playmobil ‘Pirate Ship’ had driven some fathers to drink or suicide and now I understand why. If your eyesight isn’t perfect or if you’ve had a few drinks with your Christmas lunch then it’s a challenge best left until Boxing day but not an option if you happen to have a nine year old daughter who wants it ready to take horses by tea time.

Perhaps I should stick to technology but then, the instruc…