Saturday, December 31, 2011
In America, there has been bitter conflict at the highest levels of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission -- the folks charged with...
NEW YORK -- For the first time, the top export of the United States, the world's biggest gas guzzler, is – wait for it – fuel.
Measured in dollars, the nation is on pace this year to ship more gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel than any other single export, according to U.S. Census data going back to 1990. It will also be the first year in more than 60 that America has been a net exporter of these fuels.
Just how big of a shift is this? A decade ago, fuel wasn't even among the top 25 exports. And for the last five years, America's top export was aircraft.
The trend is significant because for decades the U.S. has relied on huge imports of fuel from Europe in order to meet demand. It only reinforced the image of America as an energy hog. And up until a few years ago, whenever gasoline prices climbed, there were complaints in Congress that U.S. refiners were not growing quickly enough to satisfy domestic demand; that controversy would appear to be over.
Still, the U.S. is nowhere close to energy independence. America is still the world's largest importer of crude oil. From January to October, the country imported 2.7 billion barrels of oil worth roughly $280 billion.
Fuel exports, worth an estimated $88 billion in 2011, have surged for two reasons:
_ Crude oil, the raw material from which gasoline and other refined products are made, is a lot more expensive. Oil prices averaged $95 a barrel in 2011, while gasoline averaged $3.52 a gallon – a record. A decade ago oil averaged $26 a barrel, while gasoline averaged $1.44 a gallon.
_ The volume of fuel exports is rising. The U.S. is using less fuel because of a weak economy and more efficient cars and trucks. That allows refiners to sell more fuel to rapidly growing economies in Latin America, for example. In 2011, U.S. refiners exported 117 million gallons per day of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other petroleum products, up from 40 million gallons per day a decade earlier.
There's at least one domestic downside to America's growing role as a fuel exporter. Experts say the trend helps explain why U.S. motorists are paying more for gasoline. The more fuel that's sent overseas, the less of a supply cushion there is at home.
Gasoline supplies are being exported to the highest bidder, says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at Oil Price Information Service. "It's a world market," he says.
Refining companies won't say how much they make by selling fuel overseas. But analysts say those sales are likely generating higher profits per gallon than they would have generated in the U.S. Otherwise, they wouldn't occur.
The value of U.S. fuel exports has grown steadily over the past decade, coinciding with rising oil prices and increased demand around the globe.
Developing countries in Latin America and Asia have been burning more gasoline and diesel as their people buy more cars and build more roads and factories. Europe also has been buying more U.S. fuel to make up for its lack of refineries.
And there's a simple reason why America's refiners have been eager to export to these markets: gasoline demand in the U.S. has been falling every year since 2007. It dropped by another 2.5 percent in 2011. With the economy struggling, motorists cut back. Also, cars and trucks have become more fuel-efficient and the government mandates the use of more corn-based ethanol fuel.
The last time the U.S. was a net exporter of fuels was 1949, when Harry Truman was president. That year, the U.S. exported 86 million barrels and imported 82 million barrels. In the first ten months of 2011, the nation exported 848 million barrels (worth $73.4 billion) and imported 750 million barrels.
"Hey, let's all meet at Bill's party around 8pm." And that conversation was the last time you saw half of your friends. Tonight is going to be insanity. You'll be lucky you even make it to midnight, let alone keep your group together. But you know what, let's try it anyways. More »
David Meyer / BBC:
Hackers plan space satellites to combat censorship — 50 years after Russia's first piloted mission, hackers plan to send their own people beyond orbit — Computer hackers plan to take the internet beyond the reach of censors by putting their own communication satellites into orbit.
There are many futurists and techno-optimists in the world, but there is only one Jason Silva. The former host of Current TV, and fledgling documentary filmmaker is a force of personality and energy that is storming through the Singularity community. He recently spoke at this year’s Singularity Summit in New York, and is popping up all over the media world with appearances in the Economist, Smart Planet, and PSFK. Not quite 30, Silva is known for his combination of youthful exuberance, high-tempo visual style, and unapologetic delight in discussing the future. Silva is part Timothy Leary, part Ray Kurzweil, and part Neo from The Matrix.
The young philosopher also has an eye for finding mind-blowing visuals to help express the indescribable impact of accelerating technology. His upcoming film, Turning Into Gods, will interview the luminaries of today about the extreme possibilities of tomorrow. The documentary is still under production. In the meantime, working with media group NotThisBody, Silva has created several videos that explore the ideas of techno-optimism through wonder and joy rather than cold numbers and graphs. Singularity Hub asked Silva to expound upon his unique approach to discussing The Singularity, and share some of his recent work.
Singularity Hub: You’ve been very busy this past year. Please give us an update on your Turning Into Gods documentary and other projects you’ve developed.
Jason Silva: It has been a whirlwind- the original concept trailer for Turning Into Gods was meant as an invitation to look at the future in a new way, and a means of fishing for collaborators. I wanted to offer a fresh vision fueled by passion, a new framing and context within which to explore the new ‘adjacent possible’ unleashed by exponentially emerging technologies. The result has exceeded expectations: I’ve recently partnered with an Oscar nominated producer to see the project to completion, I’ve spoken at the Singularity Summit, and I’ve had the trailer featured in Gizmodo, Vanity Fair, NextNature.net, FORBES and many other outlets.
I’ve also launched a series of short videos, in collaboration with Marija Coneva of NotThisBody. exploring the co-evolution of humans and technology. These videos are ‘ecstatic meditations’, meant to offer audiences multiple points of entry into these ideas. There’s no need to wait until I finish the feature doc, because the conversation is meant to be ongoing. The short videos are like shots of ‘philosophical espresso’, or PSA’s to infect you with AWE. They are non-commercial labors of love meant to be shared, and they seem to be resonating.
The latest installment, The Beginning of Infinity, inspired by David Deutsch’s book of the same name, was shown to rousing applause at The Economist Magazine’s World in 2012 Ideas Festival, as well as at the Singularity Summit in NYC. Chris Anderson, owner and curator of the TED Conference, called the video “stunning”, Smart Planet wrote about it, and I’ve been invited to speak at the prestigious DLD Digital Life Design Conference in Munich. I’m also speaking at Lucid NYC in January.
[Editor's Note: Actually, the newest video from NotThisBody and Silva was just released and made the front page of Vimeo. Here it is:]
SH: Everyone has their own definition of The Singularity. To you, what is The Singularity, and what is it not?
JS: The Singularity is an epic metaphor: we all know the story, it’s a way to describe an event horizon, just within our reach, where technological progress will be so profound and our human/technology symbiosis so deep, that by all accounts it will birth a new chapter in human history, a new epoch in the cosmos.
I find the ideas erotic, profound and intoxicating: exponential technological progress in biotechnology means reprogramming and upgrading our human wetware, much like we upgrade our imacs—It could mean curing cancer, disease, aging, the way we patch software problems.
Nanotechnology means impregnating matter with intelligence. Artificial intelligence means transcending the limitations of our biology… A future where Freeman Dyson predicts a generation of artists composing genomes the way Shakespeare composed verses. Synthetic biology ushers in an era where Kevin Kelly suggested we will transition “from the born to the made”.
The Adjacent Possible is a term I love. First coined by Stuart Kaufman and popularized by Steven Johnson in Where Good Ideas Come From, it is defined as “a sort of shadow future, hovering on the present state of things, a map of all the ways the present can re-invent itself.” This idea of probing the edges of possibility, (particularly when incorporating the realities of exponential growth curves manifested in technological progress), means the present can re-invent itself in dazzling new ways.
When a 60 million dollar supercomputer half a building in size becomes an iPhone in 40 years (and actually the iPhone is a thousand times more powerful) you can extrapolate where this momentum and progress is headed in the next 5, 10, or 20 years. Molecular sized devices interacting with our biological neurons and cells, virtual reality environments where we can render our dreams into being and build worlds where we can soar.
But here’s the thing: we’ve been doing this all along. We bring our imagining into existence. We come up with virtual models in our heads—delightful future possibilities—and then we pull the present forward to meet those possibilities. If you could look at human progress over time as if through a timelapse film, you would see our dreams spilling over from our minds onto the world.
What has changed is the buffer time between what we imagine and what we create. Our greater tools means an ever shrinking lag time between dream and creation until we reach a crescendo, a rousing symphonic climax, a time when we can architect worlds into being like the lucid dreams in the film INCEPTION in REAL TIME!
SH: How did you become interested in advancing technologies and the promises of techno-optimism?
JS: Because technology has always improved the human condition. It seems counter-intuitive but I would point people to Matt Ridley’s TED talk, “when ideas have sex”, or Steven Pinker’s Myth of Violence, or the website Gapminder.com chronicling human progress. Contrary to popular belief: things are getting better. X Prize founder Peter Diamandis has written a new book with Steven Kotler all about this. Its called ABUNDANCE: Why the future will be better than you think, and I encourage everyone to read it.
SH: There are many other futurists and techno-optimists out there, what do you hope to add to the discussion through your work?
JS: I have many heroes: Ray Kurzweil, Timothy Leary, Buckminster Fuller, Stewart Brand and more. These maverick men have worked hard to epiphanize minds and expand horizons. I just want a seat at the table. My opinion is that certain ideas are too big to fit inside their usual academic packaging. You need to give people other points of entry, other ways to engage with these ideas. Where is the ecstatic poet in all this? Who is talking about the visceral/existential implications of this radical progress? We need to make room for these philosophical ruminations, spaces to think out loud . I am confident that I am bringing a spirited and artful voice to the discussion. I love it when ideas have sex. I’m just trying to contribute to this space by sprinkling the ideas with aesthetic aphrodisiacs.
SH: Is there a single message that you want your audience to receive?
JS: I’d like people to understand the importance of delivery, aesthetics and presentation. The biggest, greatest ideas in the world still compete in ‘the marketplace of ideas’. We need to influence public discourse if we are to make a dent in the cosmos. I’d love people to connect, exchange, think about big ideas. I want to get people excited about awe. I want to make content that induces rapturous bliss. There’s no better way to feel.
SH: From the “Rapture of the Nerds” to “Robo-pocalypse”, the mainstream conceptions of what advancing technology bodes for the future tend to be either dismissive or dystopian. Can techno-optimism and The Singularity make it in the mainstream?
JS: I think the singularity is like a symphony playing on a cosmic scale- its the ultimate triumph of intelligence over entropy, complexity over disorder and low organization. Its Beethoven’s 5th symphony choreographed across galaxies and throughout eons. Its the greatest dream we have ever dreamed, set to music and arousing goosebumps. As the end of the documentary Flight From Death states, “Life exists in individual moments and it is up to us to make those moments vast, interconnected and grand, to make a masterpiece out of life, one that we would willingly live again and again, for all of eternity. This is what we can strive for.”
Why aim for anything less?
For more of Jason Silva and his awe-centric approach to the future, check out these two recent interviews with Critical Thought TV and Reason TV. You can also find him on his website, or follow him on Twitter.
[image credit: Jason Silva]
[video credits: Jason Silva, NotThisBody, Reason TV, Critical Thought TV]
The dollar is losing value, but this fact is not just some recent phenomenon. In case you missed the charts comparing the decline of the US dollar to the Roman silver denarius, what they show is that the US dollar has, over the course of the last one hundred years, experienced a steady decline amounting to about a 95% loss in purchasing power, closely mimicking the fall of the world’s reserve currency circa the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
Every single day our central bank and the US government utilize the stealth tax known as inflation to make you poorer by increasing your cost of living. It’s so subtle that most Americans don’t even notice – or care.
In just the last decade alone, Brits have lost about 43% of their purchasing power for the most essential of all goods – food and energy.
Ordinary families have been crippled by the rocketing cost of essential goods over the past decade, a report has found.
The price of basic purchases, such as food and fuel, soared by 43 per cent over the decade from 2000.
These rising costs – far above general inflation – have already wiped out most of the gains in living standards made by families on low and modest incomes in the early 2000s, before the downturn began, according to research.
The statistics in the United States don’t fair any better. According to the inflation calculator, an item costing $100 in 2000 would now cost you $126, destroying some 26% of your purchasing power in just ten years. And, these calculations are based on the official statistics. Utilizing the actual, alternative data, prices have soared over 50% for essentials like food and gas in the last ten years.
Had you kept your money in cash since 2000, half of your wealth would have been wiped out by inflation (not including investment losses).
Despite what we’re told about our monetary policy and efforts to maintain a strong dollar, the evidence clearly shows that the dollar is moving in exactly the opposite direction over time, and it’s not done yet.
You can fully expect costs to rise going forward, as reported by the LA Times:
Get ready for more high food prices going into 2012 –- the USDA is projecting that next year will bring an overall spike of 2.5% to 3.5%.
Grocery store shoppers this year watched prices rise as much as 4.75% while diners in restaurants saw menu prices go up as much as 2.5%, with a surge near the end of the year.
As of last month, beef prices were up 9.8% compared with the same month last year. Pork prices were up 6.9% and poultry was 3% higher.
These predictions, of course, are based on the official projections. As we’ve learned from past experience, whatever the government projects, you can triple it. In this case, we’ll likely see another ten percent plus increase in prices, and thus, even more erosion in your standard of living.
In normal times the price inflation could be ignored, as wages would adjust somewhat accordingly and employment would be plentiful. But the last decade has been anything but normal, and what’s actually happening is that our wealth is being deliberately and progressively transferred into the hands of government and the corporate elite.
Recent data reiterate this point, with some 100 million Americans in poverty or right on the edge. We are, by all accounts, becoming poorer and inflation has played a huge role.
The thing is, the historical perspective on inflation isn’t even the scary part.
What’s scary is that the US dollar’s domination as the world’s reserve currency may very well be coming to an end over the next few years. As that happens the dollar will lose even more value, likely more rapidly than ever before. So, what was once just a subtle and easily ignored effect on personal wealth and finances, will become a major crisis area for most American families.
And that doesn’t even consider the real possibility of a waterfall event, in which major US creditors and private sector investors lose complete confidence in the US central bank and Treasury department, and choose to take their credit investments elsewhere. If and when this happens the poverty rate in this country will sky rocket – and fully 90% or more of the population would, almost overnight, become as impoverished as those living in any third world nation.
It can happen, and the way things have gone historically, and the multitude of problems we face on an economic, financial, social and political scale, it is becoming increasingly probable the this will be the eventual result.
The only way to protect yourself in an atmosphere where wealth is being destroyed by the powers that be is to put as much of it into assets that completely take you out of their game. As we wrote in January of 2010 in Buy Commodities at Today’s Lower Prices, Consume at Tomorrow’s Higher Prices. It is our view that, even though we’re two years hence since we first made that recommendation, the advice is still as timely today as it was then. Consider those things that become money when the traditional mechanism of exchange is wiped out. Most essential assets like food, firearms and tools will not only retain their value, but increase it – and if stored and maintained properly, they’ll be available for use many years down the road.
So, while most Americans are scrambling to the perceived safety of things like cash, blue chip stocks and US Treasury bonds, leaving themselves at risk because those assets are denominated in dollars and require exchanges to operate, you can become your own central bank and commodities warehouse by investing in assets such as the 11 foods that last a lifetime and other post-collapse barter items and trade skills that will maintain their inherent value when other traditional assets become worthless.
Can you guess what the number one catastrophic event that Americans worry about is? There are certainly many to choose from. Many Americans are deathly afraid of a major terrorist attack. Others live in constant fear of natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes and hurricanes. Still others are incredibly concerned that a massive pandemic will break out at any time or that World War III will erupt in the Middle East. Yes, there are certainly a lot of potential catastrophic events that one can worry about in the times in which we live, but the number one catastrophic event that Americans worry about is actually “economic collapse”. At least that is what a recent survey conducted by Leiflin Inc. for the EcoHealth Alliance found. But this goes along with what so many other polls have found over the past few years. Over and over again, opinion polls have found that the number one issue that American voters are concerned about is the economy. The truth is that average Americans are deeply, deeply concerned about unemployment, debt, the housing crash and the steady decline in the standard of living. It has been years since the U.S. economy has operated at a “normal” level, and many Americans are afraid that things could soon get a whole lot worse.
In the new survey mentioned above, those contacted were asked to select the top three potential catastrophes that worry them the most.
The following results come directly from the survey….
Economic Collapse: 63%
Natural Disaster: 46%
Terrorist Attack: 44%
Global Disease Outbreak: 33%
Global War: 27%
Nuclear Accident: 25%
Global Warming: 22%
Fuel Shortage: 15%
Cyber War: 8%
Oil Spill: 6%
Industrial Accident: 5%
As you can see, “economic collapse” was the winner by a wide margin.
So are there good reasons for the American people to be concerned about an economic collapse?
Of course there are.
Back in 2008, a financial crisis that began on Wall Street was felt in the farthest corners of the globe.
This time, ground zero for the financial crisis is going to be in Europe. As I have written about previously, the European financial system is rapidly coming apart at the seams. The euro continues to drop like a rock, and banking stocks continue their long-term decline.
Many people expect a “financial collapse” to happen on a particular day. But that is not how it happens usually. Instead, it is often like a snowball that starts rolling downhill very slowly at first but that eventually become a huge avalanche.
Right now, we are seeing the financial world come apart in slow motion. A recent article posted on Automatic Earth included a list of the year-to-date performance of some of the most prominent global banking stocks. These numbers are absolutely staggering….
- BofA: -60.38%
- Citi: -44.76%
- Goldman Sachs: -46.41%
- JPMorgan: -23.03%
- Morgan Stanley: -45.24%
- RBS: -50%
- Barclays: -34.32%
- Lloyds: -63.02%
- UBS: -29.33%
- Deutsche Bank: -28,55%
- Crédit Agricole: -56.04%
- BNP Paribas: -37.67%
- Société Générale: -59.57%
But because these numbers happened over the course of a year and not on a single day it doesn’t feel quite as much like a “collapse”.
Unfortunately, things are about to get a whole lot worse. Global credit markets are really freezing up – especially in Europe.
Considering the fact that the entire global financial system is based on credit and debt, that is a very bad thing.
Our system simply does not work when banks do not want to lend money to each other or to businesses.
Just yesterday there was an article in the Guardian that talked about how it looks like the credit crunch may be getting even worse….
“If European banks are still this concerned, it’s not a good sign,” said Karl Schamotta, senior markets strategist with Western Union Business Solutions. “That underlines the possibility that this liquidity crunch is getting worse and will continue into the new year.”
When banks cut back on lending, that causes the money supply to shrink. When the money supply shrinks substantially, it is almost impossible to avoid a recession. A recent article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard detailed how the money supply in many eurozone nations is shrinking at a very rapid pace right now….
Simon Ward from Henderson Global Investors said “narrow” M1 money – which includes cash and overnight deposits, and signals short-term spending plans – shows an alarming split between North and South.
While real M1 deposits are still holding up in the German bloc, the rate of fall over the last six months (annualised) has been 20.7pc in Greece, 16.3pc in Portugal, 11.8pc in Ireland, and 8.1pc in Spain, and 6.7pc in Italy. The pace of decline in Italy has been accelerating, partly due to capital flight. “This rate of contraction is greater than in early 2008 and implies an even deeper recession, both for Italy and the whole periphery,” said Mr Ward.
Those are very, very frightening numbers.
About the only thing propping up European banks right now is the fact that the European Central Bank is loaning them gigantic piles of cheap money.
But there is a big problem.
European banks are running out of collateral for those loans as an article in the Wall Street Journal recently noted….
Even after the European Central Bank doled out nearly half a trillion euros of loans to cash-strapped banks last week, fears about potential financial problems are still stalking the sector. One big reason: concerns about collateral.
The only way European banks can now convince anyone—institutional investors, fellow banks or the ECB—to lend them money is if they pledge high-quality assets as collateral.
Now some regulators and bankers are becoming nervous that some lenders’ supplies of such assets, which include European government bonds and investment-grade non-government debt, are running low.
So what happens when banks all over Europe start running out of collateral and can’t get any more loans?
The answer should be obvious.
As I detailed a few days ago, many prominent voices in the financial world now believe that we could be looking at a financial crisis that will be even worse than 2008.
If you want to see what happens when a collapse happens and a depression begins, just look at what is happening in Greece….
*100,000 businesses have been closed since the beginning of the crisis.
*About a third of the nation is now living in poverty.
*The unemployment rate for those under the age of 24 is 39 percent.
*The number of suicides has increased by 40 percent in the past year.
*Thefts and burglaries nearly doubled between 2007 and 2009.
Things have gotten so bad that hundreds of families in Greece are abandoning their children.
Some are taking their children to charitable institutions and others are handing them directly over to the government.
The following sad story of one Greek family comes from an article in the Guardian….
“Psychologically we were all in a bit of a mess,” said Gasparinatos. “We were sleeping on mattresses on the floor, the rent hadn’t been paid for months, something had to be done.”
And so, with Christmas approaching, the 42-year-old took the decision to put in an official request for three of his boys and one daughter to be taken into care.
“The crisis had killed us. I am ashamed to say but it had got to the point where I couldn’t even afford the €2 needed to buy bread,” he told the Guardian. “We didn’t want to break up the family but we did think it would be easier for them if four of my children were sent to an institution for maybe two or three years.”
Does that seem shocking to you?
Well, all of this is coming to America eventually.
Someday we will see American parents abandoning their children because they cannot take care of them anymore.
Someday we will see suicides absolutely skyrocket in America because people have lost all hope.
Someday we will see thefts and burglaries soar to unprecedented heights as millions of desperate people attempt to try to find some way to survive.
It is all coming.
The federal government cannot pile up a trillion dollars of additional debt every year indefinitely.
We cannot afford to see an average of 23 manufacturing facilities a day in the United States shut down. Eventually there won’t be anymore factories to shut down.
We cannot afford to keep putting millions more Americans on welfare. At this point the government is feeding 46 million Americans a month. Will the government eventually be feeding most of us?
The U.S. economy is getting weaker and weaker and weaker. All of the long-term trends are absolutely nightmarish. We are accumulating debt faster than ever, and our ability to produce wealth is diminishing faster than ever.
There is no way that things are going to be okay if we stay on the path that we are currently on.
So the truth is that Americans should be very concerned about an economic collapse.
It is coming and it is going to be very painful.
Humankind’s efforts to tell time have helped drive the evolution of our technology and science throughout history. The need to gauge the divisions of the day and night led the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans to create sundials, water clocks and other early chronometric tools. Western Europeans adopted these technologies, but by the 13th century, demand for a dependable timekeeping instrument led medieval artisans to invent the mechanical clock. Although this new device satisfied the requirements of monastic and urban communities, it was too inaccurate and unreliable for scientific application until the pendulum was employed to govern its operation. The precision timekeepers that were subsequently developed resolved the critical problem of finding a ship’s position at sea and went on to play key roles in the industrial revolution and the advance of Western civilization.[More]
A group of 19 scientists from five research organizations have conducted the broadest field study of ocean acidification to date using sensors developed at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.The study was recently reported in the journal PLoS One. It is an important step toward understanding how specific ecosystems are responding to the change in seawater chemistry that is being caused as the oceans take up extra carbon dioxide produced by human greenhouse gas emissions, said its authors. “These data represent a critical step in understanding the consequences of ocean change: the linkage of present-day pH exposures to organismal tolerance and how this translates into ecological change in marine ecosystems,” the authors wrote.
“These pH time series create a compelling argument for the collection of more continuous data of this kind.” Ocean acidification research is a relatively new study topic as scientists have only appreciated the potential extent of acidification within the last decade. As greenhouse gas emissions have accelerated in the past century, the oceans have taken up about a third of the carbon dioxide produced by human activities. That excess beyond natural levels increases amounts of carbonic acid in seawater. Acidification also limits the amount of carbonate forms that are needed by marine invertebrates such as coral and shelled organisms to form their skeletons. Though many lab simulations of this effect have been performed recently, including at a new acidification laboratory in development at Scripps, there have been few comparable field studies. Using sensors recently developed at Scripps, the researchers surveyed marine ecosystems ranging from coral reefs in the South Pacific Ocean to volcanic CO2 vent communities in the Mediterranean Sea.
They found that in some places, such as Antarctica and the Line Islands of the south Pacific, the range of pH variance is much more limited than in areas of the California coast subject to large vertical movements of water known as upwellings. In some of their study areas, they found that the decrease in seawater pH being caused by greenhouse gas emissions is still within the bounds of natural pH fluctuation. Some areas already experience daily acidity levels that scientists had expected would only be reached at the end of the 21st Century…
Read more here.
I'm sorry Santa Claw. While you entertained guests at the Gizmodo Gallery, I'm afraid the official title of biggest claw game in the world now belongs to GM with this giant playable projection they created to hock the Chevy Sonic. More »
Just before Christmas the MPAA published a blog post which looked at DNS filtering, why apparently it’s a good thing, and how it won’t break the Internet.
“There is nothing new about the techniques of domain blocking used to target criminals in the Stop Online Piracy Act,” the MPAA’s Paul Hortenstine wrote.
“They are currently used to protect consumers and combat all kinds of harmful behavior including spam, phishing, malware, viruses, copyright infringement and other forms of Internet crime,” he added.
But anyone with an understanding of the file-sharing space during the last decade will know that what SOPA domain blocking will actually bring is a whole lot more phishing, scams, malware and viruses. And here’s why.
Once SOPA kicks in, millions of people will suddenly lose access to potentially hundreds, maybe even thousands of websites. Since people generally do not like being restricted online, particularly when they are stopped from doing something they were previously allowed to partake in, the market for circumvention solutions, such as VPNs, will go into overdrive.
Unusually, Hortenstine references a recent one in his article – the MAFIAAFire Firefox plug in. Even more surprisingly, its inclusion in the blog post actually shows the tool in a positive light, in an attempt to show that domain blocking workarounds don’t always have to “break the Internet”.
Indeed, the client created by Newzbin2 to nullify ISP blocks in the UK also achieves its purpose without breaking the Internet, but already we are witnessing the start of a trend – third party software being made available to counter a growing problem – web censorship.
Now, we’re pretty sure that the MAFIAAFire and Newzbin2 people can be trusted not to stab web users in the back, but what will happen as soon as sites start getting censored under SOPA is that software created by Gods-knows-who will come onto the market with grand promises of re-enabling access to sites.
Some of these new breeds of tools will do as they say and will definitely come with fairly innocent adware to generate some revenue for their creators. Many, however, will screw over anyone who dares to install them. Malware, scamware, viruses and phishing attacks will all play their part. These practices have been happening to a certain extent in the file-sharing space for a decade already, but domain censorship will give the conmen a much-needed boost.
Contrary to claims that domain blocking won’t affect trust in the Internet, users seeking to legitimately access domains that have done no wrong (DaJaZ1 anyone?) or that are entirely legal in their own countries outside the United States, will be redirected to sites that look just like the previously blocked ones, but with nefarious tricks up their sleeves.
There are already many ‘fake’ sites around, such as those trying to pass themselves off as The Pirate Bay, but since they aren’t the real deal the amount of traffic they currently get is limited. Should the real Pirate Bay disappear from Google, these fake sites will appear at the top of the search giant’s results, and pull in a hell of a lot of money. Real Pirate Bay is free to use, these others require credit cards.
There is a huge mess just waiting to happen and if SOPA passes we won’t have to wait long to experience it. The Internet may not completely break, but it won’t be a safer place, that’s guaranteed.
When awesome technologies intersect the sum can be even greater than the parts. Such is the case with the Channel Islands Wood Biscuit, a cutting edge board design crossed with old-school materials. It's beautiful, it's functional, and I need it. More »