Monday, September 28, 2009

Empty projects do nothing

Google is straying further from reality.

I must comment on the jaw-droppingly misguided projects listed at Google's Project 10^100. This kind of list "chosen from suggestions" is inevitable when wealthy, highly-indoctrinated technologists embark on "saving the world" with no experience in community work, and no apparent information on the world's biggest problems.

* Create more efficient landmine removal programs

First of all, wouldn't stopping the deployment of any more landmines be a more interesting and permanent goal? It would require admitting that the country Google has the most influence in is the largest manufacturer and user of weapons that attack civilians.

Existing removal programs are quite low-tech and effective (replacing hoes with shovels, for example) whereas an actual anti-war anti-aggression movement really needs technology to allow people to organize more fully.

* Drive innovation in public transport

"Develop new transportation technologies to help move more people with less energy, greater efficiency and fewer casualties." You mean, like trams and trains, jitneys and bicycles? We have all the transportation technologies that are needed ... once again, the issue is to get them to happen again, and in the right way: with local manufacture. The only high-tech that would be useful here is the means for people to organize to get the infrastructure that has been taken from them.

* Build real-time, user-reported news service

It seems like twitter and facebook already do this ... are we aiming to re-brand them into news organizations? There are hundreds of initiatives like this, and the best ones will already float to the top. Unless hamstrung by a major "Google 10^100"-funded competitor ...

* Make educational content available online for free

How about helping people to demand more funding for education and research? They need to demand that taxpayer-funded research, and any published research for that matter, not be locked-up in private journals and books. They need to fight the perception that education and research is an "entitlement" ... and promote the idea that everyone should receive an education, and benefit from the open disclosure of results, from the government they have themselves funded ...

* Create real-time natural crisis tracking system

First responders will tell you that they could develop what they need if they only had the resources to do so. But in our privatization-crazed society, this is unlikely: for example, the radio frequencies that used to be clear for emergencies have been sold to the entertainment industry.

* Make government more transparent

Wow. With technology? I think all the technology is already available ... what is needed, again, is funding to politically organize, and crack open government and corporate opacity.

* Help social entrepreneurs drive change

You know, small business creates change everyday. Why not help communities to fund their own private, small-scale solutions to their problems? Why does it need to be national and global scale venture capital, with its sterilizing effect upon local life?

* Provide quality education to African students

Just find teachers and educators in Africa, and ask them what they need. They will tell you, invariably, that they need freedom from neo-colonial first-world powers stealing their resources and forcing governments upon them. If you want to help Africa, forget aid ... just stop the theft.

* Encourage positive media depictions of engineers and scientists

More PR? Science-fiction already has so many positive images of scientists that it has long parted ways from the reality of real-world science. The best way for people to learn to like science is to get involved in doing it.

* Build better banking tools for everyone

Where to start on this one? It is a transparent attempt to dress up the further encroachment of the financial industry into our lives, as opposed to making people independent of these rapacious corporations with their amoral behavior.

* Work toward socially conscious tax policies

Different taxing schemes? The problem is how the money is spent -- trillions for weapons and corporations, almost nothing for people.

* Collect and organize the world's urban data

This one doesn't even seem to have any goals. Here's a better one: collect data on the effect of technocratic government policies (like Urban Renewal) and corporate greed (like real estate speculation) on the quality of life of people in cities.

* Create genocide monitoring and alert system

We know where these things are happening. The problem is stopping them, including the collusion of our own government in the vicious and "expedient" disposal of "inconvenient people".

* Enhance science and engineering education

Again, fund the organization of political empowerment, bring democracy to this country, so that funding of education is part and parcel of daily life.

* Promote health monitoring and data analysis

The biggest problems in medicine are the payouts to corporations selling insurance and pharmaceuticals etc. Eliminate profit from health-care, and there will be plenty of money to improve it.

* Create real-world issue reporting system

Good grief. This assumes that the "appropriate authorities" care about doing the job they say they are doing! They don't, not even at the most visible levels of government. They care about the wealthy and the powerful, and the rules that support them, not about the majority of people. What we need to do is organize to force accountability from those in power. That means organizing all these complaints ... which are already easy enough to find ... into political action.