Tag Archives: internet

Death Of FUD: Swine Flu Not So Bad

The Swine Flu Virus
The Swine Flu Virus

The internet is a great enemy of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt), and there have been many things this year about which there is great FUD.

FUD is the friend of people who would abuse their power, because there is nothing quite like a good catastrophe to rationalize sweeping change. People who live in FUD are enablers and empower the abuses of those who lead by them.

One of the great fears this year is Swine Flu. It was the end of civilization, the plague that would wreak havoc on our society and it’s systems.

There was breathless analysis of how our society would plug the gaping holes left by the multitudes of sick and dead from this beastly flu.

And now we’re quite sure it’s not really all that bad.

When the fall/winter wave of H1N1 swine flu is over, it will have been no more severe than an average flu season, predict Harvard researcher Marc Lipsitch, DPhil, and colleagues from the U.K. Medical Research Council and the CDC. (from WebMD)

Why were we afraid?

Sure, H1N1, the “swine flu”, tends to affect people traditionally considered low risk for such illnesses. But it’s fatality rate wasn’t anything worrisome once it came down to it.

We were afraid because we didn’t have all the information, and the information we did have told us we ought to be afraid. The media and faux-news outlets so many of us go to for information had bought into the hysteria and spread it as only they can.

WebMD goes on:

Even so, the new numbers are cause for relief if not for celebration. Before the 2009 H1N1 swine flu came along, planners were preparing for a pandemic with a case/fatality ratio of 0.1% — that is, for one death in every 1,000 symptomatic infections.

The Lipsitch team now calculates that the H1N1 swine flu has a case/fatality ratio no higher than 0.048% — and maybe seven to nine times lower, depending on the methods used for calculation.

They are careful to note, though, that should any number of various circumstances occur, the fatality rate will shoot skyward and civilization will be, once again, toast.

The Lipsitch team has reason to want as much FUD surrounding this subject as possible. If the situation is dire and they can convince those who control the purse strings their research is integral to the salvation of humanity, they get more money.

Once the numbers could no longer be inflated, they had to retain their credibility and so gave this nice update. But see how throughout the story they always match the good news with a “but” to keep us ever aware of the necessity for remaining ready for panic.

I’m glad that, even if the swine flu begins to fulfill all the awful claims made of it, I still don’t have to fear.

Because while the internet is a great enemy of FUD, God’s faithfulness is the greatest enemy of FUD. Trust in God does not defeat FUD by simply informing us of the truth of the matter. If that were the case then in times of truly realized terror, Christians would have just as much reason to be terrified as anyone else.

Trust in God defeats FUD because we who trust in Him know there is only so much that can be taken away from us. This world and all it contains can only harm our bodies, these mortal coils. And if the worst were to occur and we were to lose our lives, we would be alive, truly, in heaven with God.

If you believe this, there is truly nothing that can shake us or cause us to fear.

The Internet And The Death Of FUD

The Internet circa 2003
The Internet circa 2003

Latest in our series on the beneficent free market is this wee screed on the internet.

The internet is a good thing. A powerful thing, I think everybody can agree with that. But I would argue it is a good thing too.

I don’t gloss over the terrible things people can find on the internet, the addictions it foments and feeds, the filth it spreads or the lies and slander that so easily pass for worthwhile information on it’s myriad nooks and crannies.

As with anything truly powerful, those who use it best seem to be those who would misuse it and abuse other with it.

But for all the garbage you can so easily stumble upon, there is great good. The potential and realized good both far outweigh the potential and realized evil in the same way the slightest candle will chase and overpower the shadows of the darkest room.

The internet is good because the internet allows information.

This would seem like a tenuous argument at best, but let’s not leave the argument there.

The internet is good because the internet allows information of all types, from all sources, to all consumers.

As Lady Justice holds her scales blindly and impartially, the internet is oblivious to any contextualizing of either the informer or the informed. The information itself can be contextualized, and due to the sheer mass of information on the internet, any single bit can be matched with any other bits to provide context and deeper insight into any piece of information.

But the internet itself does not care. It’s greatest strength is also it’s greatest weakness. The internet does not care what or who or how or why or anything else regarding the information that is posted and shared and disseminated through it’s labyrinthine pipes.

Fear is always the result of misinformation or too little information. From the macro fears of life “does God care for my future?” to the micro fears, “spiders!!!!!”, information is the best and most effective form of fear slaying. Reading the bible (maybe even on the internet) we can read God’s promises regarding our lives, and then looking back through our own lives and seeing the providential Hand working through the good times and the bad, that fear can be slayed by information. Using other information we can determine whether or not a given spider is dangerous to humans.

Thus the greatest enemy of fear is information, real and true information.

Now the obvious argument is that lies and disinformation are so very common on the internet, often masquerading as truth very effectively.

However, the internet also addresses that issue by nature, once again, of it’s open information structure.

Prior to instant background checks and credit reports and the globalized economies, trust was a necessary part of a business relationship. Today we still have trust-based systems for those times when a resume just isn’t enough.

References, people who know something and are in positions of trust and recognition, are often called upon to verify the abilities and character of a person. When one is unsure of whether or not someone else can or should be trusted they confer with a third party who has legitimate reason to be trusted and thereby determine the trustworthiness of the person.

With the internet, in it’s connected and interconnected state, we can easily find legitimately trustworthy people and then infer, from those they trust, other trustworthy sources. It is all about the free exchange of ideas and information.

Further, the antagonism that naturally results in such a free-for-all atmosphere further bolsters legitimate reputations as negative information can only with the greatest of difficulty be quashed or controlled, and more often than not, will free itself regardless the efforts of those seeking to control it. Those legitimately trustworthy will weather and withstand the onslaught and thereby gain further credibility.

The internet is the death of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) in that it enabled anybody to speak the truth, share the truth, and find the truth,and be sure it is the truth easily, and with high levels of certainty. It is the greatest leveler of the masses.

The internet could not exist were it not for the freest society in the world pushing and encouraging and growing it beyond the wildest dreams of those researchers at DARPA so many years ago.

Hey, it even allows me, a 20-something nobody to publish my pointless and babbling rants in a public forum with equal opportunity for success as authors of the first degree and highest reputation.

Net Neutrality: Taken For Fools

I, Pandora has had a mixed history on Network Neutrality.

Network what?

Network Neutrality is one response to fears that infrastructure and service companies, such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, spell doom for the freedom of the internet as they inevitably begin controlling access to content, enhancing access to content they own, control, or partner with, and limiting access to content they deem contrary to their best interest.

The majority of Network Neutrality supporters want the FCC to step in and set rules requiring the infrastructure/service companies provide equal access to all content and forbidding them from interfering in any way with the freedom of the internet.

Sounds good, right?

As with any other debate, you have to get to the deeper issues. And this debate is rife with deeper issues.

When I first heard of Network Neutrality I was gung-ho for it. I did not understand the goals at the heart of this push.

“Don’t be hasty, master Hobbit!”

There was a reason liberal Democrat leaders were more for this program than Republicans and conservatives. Liberals dream of more regulation and control and private and free systems. The freer the system the stronger the urge to a liberal to regulate it.

My confusion over Network Neutrality did not continue long. I supported it in March of 2007, and by August of that year I wrote about the inherent conflict between government regulation and innovation.

Government regulation is the enemy of innovation.

In the arguments over Net Neutrality, I feel for the plebes. I don’t want my traffic throttled any more than it already is by the ISP. But is it the government’s responsibility to control this? And if we allow the government to say who can access the internet and at what speed, where is our moral authority when the government wants to say who can’t access the internet?

Perhaps I am more libertarian than I like to think myself to be.

Later I quoted Rep. John Sununu (R – New Hampshire) regarding the slippery slope of wishing for government interference:

If the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that it’s pretty presumptuous to predict what the future will be. We should be very, very cautious about imposing regulations based on what we think competitors will do in the future and how we think consumers will respond based on what we think competitors will do.

Gee, that sounds familiar.

Oh, yea. Attorney General Eric Holder, in a 60 minutes spot on healthcare and specifically Medicare and Medicaid’s extremely high levels of fraud made perhaps the most blind statement regarding human nature I’ve ever heard from a lawman:

People didn’t think that something as well-intentioned as Medicare and Medicaid would necessarily attract um… fraudsters.

People not thinking. Not considering the implications of what they want.

Just because it’s well intentioned doesn’t mean it’s right and good and free of the failings that so plague us mortals.

Are Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast completely good in their actions so far regarding the internet? No.

Comcast has been slapped once for purposely throttling connections to certain types of content during peak times load times.

But is the government the solution?

In my article regarding regulation versus innovation I make it clear that while there is a place for regulation, that regulation is best applied to the government itself, limiting it’s ability to tamper with our system of free enterprise.

There is a question I’d ask of anybody regarding this issue. If Thomas Edison were alive today which entity would be the greatest enemy of his innovation: Government or Business?

Sonia Ericson, writing in TechNewsWorld today provides a meaningful and realistic and proven alternative to network neutrality: private control.

ICANN is currently the organization closest to being “in control” of the internet.

It’s a private organization which controls the distribution and changes to the domain names which make the internet navigable.

(A)sking the FCC to “protect” the Internet means inviting government oversight, which injects more politics — not less — into the operation of the Net.

Sonia then talks about someone I’ve met:

Ashwin Navin, cofounder of BitTorrent, also says he doesn’t support government regulation of the Net, even though his name appears on an OIC letter. He says he’d rather see Internet service providers come up with a self-regulatory plan based on a pledge to keep the Net open and the creation of a third body to arbitrate. Indeed, Navin says that his own company’s scuffle with Comcast was ultimately solved without formal rules after a netizen noticed that Comcast was degrading service and brought the matter to the public’s attention.

“The problem is disclosure,” Navin says. “Consumers need to know if the ISP, which is the most invisible layer in the stack, is responsible for an improved or degraded experience for any of the services they use.”

Geek Out Alert!

In my days working for Fry’s Electronics, Ashwin’s step-dad hired us to build and repair his wireless network. He introduced me to Horchata and I watched the Blue Angels practice over his backyard. Ashwin and his brother came by once while I was there and I basked in the presence of those gods of the internet, the business minds behind BitTorrent.

But Ashwin has a point. A good point. A point I may elaborate on further in the future.

Suffice to say that information is the grease for the wheels of the free market and capitalism. And the internet, above all else in the history of markets, has enabled the dissemination of information more efficiently and the finding and gauging of information more easily.

Why do we trust the government to act in our best interest when it comes to such a powerful information force as the internet? The government has no competitors to blow the whistle on it’s misdeeds. The government self-interest lies in a dearth of information.

Trust the government and be taken for a fool. I’ll not be joining you in your foolishness.

Grasping Government Gags

Add this to the heaping mountain of evidence against the Government controlling anything:

In Network World magazine issue May 4th, 2009 (hardly the political rag), Johna Till Johnson writes “Of subways, gov’t subsidies and broadband“. She begins with a question posed, by implication, from a friend of hers:

“Governments do a good job running subways — so why not the Internet”

Johna opens the pages of history showing that the New York City public transportation systems began as private enterprises operating for profit.

There were three independent companies competing for fares and riders.

Innovation and growth were paramount and service was excellent.

The entire system was flash-frozen, as it were, by the stock market crash of 1929. The for-profit systems went bankrupt and the city bought them all out.

The subway map circa 2009 is extremely similar to the subway map of 1924.

Since the government takeover, without competition, innovation and growth haven’t occured. At all.

(M)illions of folks who live and work in New York have had access to a more-or-less reliable, more-or-less affordable form of transportation for the past 80 years.

But prices have risen, ridership has stagnated, and there is no such thing as a realistic or even probable plan for further development.

Johna is talking about the government taking over the internet:

Sanford-Bernstein’s Craig Moffatt’s conclusion? “Broadband is today’s transportation grid. … The story of the subways highlights the fundamental trade-offs between competition – and its inherent sloppiness and redundancy – and nationalization (or, in this case, municipalization), with its inherent stagnation.”

But what about medicine and healthcare? With the government controlling all healthcare costs, it will control all medicine, period.

The greatest strength in American medicine is it’s relentless and constant innovation.

With government control we may have relatively reliable (or at least an expected level of non-service) medical care for existing conditions.

But what about future conditions?

What about the disease little Johnny is supposed to find the cure for in 50 years?

With government control the urge to control all but the corrupted costs will be as relentless as the innovation is today, and Johnny will be told his medical research isn’t cost-effective.

And the conditions we currently consider untreatable but with promising new developments may soon be, will be simply: untreatable.

Government does not fix things, it breaks things.

Government doesn’t innovate, it retrogrades.

Government doesn’t manage, it controls.

Nothing government controls ever flourishes, besides itself.