Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Twitter Babble

I have nothing against Twitter. I have an account, rarely used and never tweeted. Mostly because I have neither the patience nor the interest for useless chatter, and Twitter is full it.

Don’t take my word for it. A new study looked at a large, random sample of tweets and found – surprise! – nearly half of all public tweets (40.5%) are empty babble.

Most tweets were not shameless self-promotion (think Ashton Kutcher), just pointless drivel. Think tweets like “I am scratching my ass right now.” Pure noise. Twitter spam.

Yes, Twitter proved invaluable to Iranian protestors risking life and liberty to protest recent elections. But “news” came in last place among categories counted, less than 4% of all tweets.

So who is projecting all this mindless crap? Twitter reaches 27 million people per month in the U.S., so the answer is easy …Tweets like us.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Is China Reverse Engineering America’s Future?

Recent news about China made me recall a comment made by my 13-year old niece not long ago: “All those Chinese will come here and steal our jobs.”

For the moment, leave aside a child’s understandable ignorance (and the likely racism of the teachers who fed her such nonsense).

If odds makers tried to determine today’s leader in tomorrow’s economic race between China and the U.S., they might give China the nod.

Consider three, recently reported facts:
China announced that it will extend universal health care to its entire population in 2011.

China will release new fuel efficiency standards requiring a minimum of 42.2 miles per gallon (for every car, not a fleet average) by 2015, far beyond what has been proposed in the U.S. and even farther beyond what any current US-made car can achieve.

In China, the number of students earning first university degrees in engineering far exceeds U.S. levels.
Think graduation statistics in China are bogus? Consider a fourth fact:
China’s Tsinghua and Peking Universities are now the top feeder schools for American PhD programs, with the largest shares in the natural sciences and engineering.
Back to my niece’s comment. Not only is it wrong on the facts today, it is wrong about tomorrow. According to a 2008 survey, only 10% of Chinese students in the U.S. want to stay here permanently. Barely half (54%) even want to work briefly in the U.S. after graduation. They are taking their degrees back to China, where they see brighter, long-term economic prospects. Can anyone say “Back to the Future?” Or reverse engineering?

Not convinced where the trend line is headed? It is not only American-educated Chinese students returning to China. The number of young Americans seeking (and finding) work in China is rapidly rising. Yes it is partly a reflection of today’s recession in the U.S. It also says something about tomorrow’s future in China.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Climate Change Puts National Security on Thin Ice

Sarah Palin, Congressional Republicans and other flat earthers may reject the science of climate change and evidence of man-made global warming. U.S. national security agencies, however, take the threat of global warming seriously.

These are not merely pollyannish predictions from lefty academics. This is coming from analysts at the CIA, the Pentagon, Center for Naval Analysis and US Army War College who all consider the risks of global warming real, and a threat multiplier. Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence, agrees. His testimony before Congress stated that the Intelligence Community believes "global climate change will have important and extensive implications for US national security interests over the next 20 years."

Doubters routinely dismiss or downplay observable changes like glacial melt, rising temperatures, coastal inundation and extreme weather events. Intelligence analysts, however, link them to specific national security threats like scarcity of cropland and freshwater, population displacements, new disease vectors, resource conflicts and political destabilization. Even the loss of vital US military bases.

Climate changes are not maybe's or aberrations. They are measurable.

Last week, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported that the polar ice cap shrunk an average 41,000 square miles per day in July, well above the historical average and equaling the rate of melt seen in 2007 when the North Pole ice hit a record low. Top 3 years of fastest ice melt? 2007, 2006, 2009.

If climate change skeptics won't take facts seriously, at least military planners do. The Pentagon is wargaming scenarious that incorporate climate-induced crises in vulnerable regions (like South Asia and the Middle East).

At least some in the US Senate are taking notice. The Foreign Relations Committee recently held hearings on the issue.

Not only are global warming naysayers staring blindly in the face of the best available science, they are being reckless with our national security.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Political Note: Hate vs. Obama

With town halls turned violent and anti-Obama blogs on attack, I feel a need to speak (with evidence courtesy of Google search shown below) ...

The labels used to demonize Barack Obama over the past 18 months have been unrelenting and far more frequent than what has been leveled at any American President in my lifetime.

They include Obama as …

Black militant
Nazi / Hitler
Nazi appeaser
Communist / Stalin
Anarchist and Villain (Joker/Heath Ledger poster)

And these are just the portrayals covered by mainstream media. Others have not received primetime mention (like Obama as Satan).

American Presidents always draw harsh criticism and caricature.

But as shown in this chart of search results associating each of the past 4 presidents with a label, Obama’s association with negative portrayals far exceeds other recent Presidents (even with “Bush” essentially double counted by not distinguishing between the two Bush presidents).

The search structure was:

president + [name] + [label]

When politics and polemics are stripped away, I would suggest that a single fact animates this anti-Obama phenomena … Obama is the first black President of the United States.