Just imagine that you buy something over the Internet and it never arrives. It happened to me once with a folding bike, and I lost my money. But at least if you use PayPal you have some chance to get your money back. Oh the benefits of hindsight!
So you buy something from a company over the Internet. The object does not turn up. You call the company, no answer, you write to them repeatedly, send them emails, try all the numbers you can find but nobody responds.
What do you do? You go on a review site and you tell the story. Well that is a dangerous game!
As this article on CNN explains, in 2008 John Palmer bought his wife Christmas gifts off KlearGear.com. The gifts didn’t arrive and he followed the path described above as many of us would.
More than three years later, Mr Palmer received an e-mail appearing to be from KlearGear.com stating that they would be fined $3,500 if the negative review wasn’t taken down within 72 hours.
So as any threatened person would he tried to have it removed. But the review company couldn’t remove it without entering into arbitration, costing money, so the review remained.
What about freedom of speech? Well you might well ask. When you buy something or have any contracted action with a company you might be signing away your freedom of speech. Yes, fine print.
If you look in the terms of sale and you find something like the following “Your acceptance of this sales contract prohibits you from taking any action that negatively impacts KlearGear.com” as in the sale mentioned above, you waive your rights goodbye.
The company can stipulate how much you are liable for as well. Then you have to pay up or go to court, run up huge legal bills and argue that the clause is not legal.
With Christmas just round the corner, Kwanzaa and birthday presents to shop for, holidays and flights to book and many others, what are we going to do? Do we have time to read 10 pages of contractual terms each time we buy something? Would we understand it anyway?
It looks like another form of cyber-bullying to me.
Noel Sharkey is a Professor at Sheffield University in the UK, and he has just written an article for CNN. He is interested in robotics and artificial intelligence, and he is leading a call to ban the development of “autonomous” killing machines.
We might be thinking about a killer robot here, and as many will know there are already plenty of unmanned systems in operation. Drones are very much in the press, but they are flown by a pilot and the decision to kill someone is taken by a human, even if they might be several thousand miles from the action.
But Sharkey is concerned about the future development of systems that can be programmed for a task, but then autonomously make decisions during that task. He does not believe that a computer can make the types of decisions necessary in warfare, or at least not with morality and judgement.
BAE Spider Robot
There are 2 real sides to the argument about robotics in war. One states that mechanization of warfare would lead to less casualties, more precision, less danger for the troops and all in all a cleaner fight. There would be no more massacres of civilians because a soldier takes retribution for an unrelated attack, fewer accidental deaths etc.
But on the other side we are talking about machines making decisions that should incorporate humanity, such as how many deaths are justified for a particular objective? Is the death of an individual really of strategic advantage? What if the machines malfunction, or are taken over by hackers? Who can be held responsible for their actions? And aren’t we more likely to go to war if we can send machines and leave the boys at home?
All of these arguments are fought over within the robotics community, but we should remember that we have already travelled some way down the road of computerized and mechanized war. Anti aircraft and missile defence as is being deployed in Asia today is no longer a mechanical affair, they are computerized systems that all but fire themselves, and they certainly do not require a person to aim them like in the old films.
Bomb disposal robots, unmanned vehicles and the likes are already deployed, mechanical spider troops that really do bring the idea of cyber war to the modern scenario are under development as this article explains.
One problem is that of foresight, how can we make legislation today when we do not have any real idea of how and how much technology will advance in the foreseeable future. Also this type of robotics often comes from or aids other developments, such as the robot surgical machinery that I reviewed in a previous post. Infiltration and influence is everywhere.
If you would like to get an idea of how far we have come in terms of movement, take a look at this BBC video. A Boston company has produced a robot for military use (testing chemical suits) that moves remarkably like a human.
I have also written a couple of articles covering this issue on the Bassetti Foundation website. Read this article about recruiting robots for combat for an overview and follow the links.
Hobbies have always been an inspiration for many successful people. While most of us attempt to pursue “safe careers” by going for occupations that may bring us monetary benefits, pretty often we lose sight of our hobbies in our busy lives.
However, with the internet boom many people can now change that. There are many success stories, from the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates who ruthlessly pursued their goals and didn’t follow the bandwagon. But in this article I am going to explore a few more down to earth examples.
What is to follow is a list of five e-businesses that started as a hobby or a small idea that brought immense success to their owners. While the below examples might not contain websites as famous as YouTube, Twitter or Facebook, they are examples that we can all relate to, and maybe borrow a few ideas from!
The Million Dollar Homepage
I still remember watching a report about the guy who set up The Million Dollar Homepage on the news (can’t remember if it was BBC or CNN). The founder of The Million Dollar Homepage (Alex Tew) sold pixels of his website for $1, to raise money for his University expense. The site was such a success that it turned out to become a website that is nothing more than several pixels of small ads. I hope by now you would understand what I meant when I said, “examples that we can all relate to”.
When it comes to novel ideas that made people money, this website takes the cake. It provides a service that I wouldn’t have comprehended, had I not learned about this website.
Find A Grave is a website that helps people locate the graves of a famous people. It turns out that Jim Tipton liked to visit the graves of famous personalities and used this idea to create a kind of search engine that helps people locate graves of famous people.
So if you have a hobby of visiting famous places or areas that can help, say vacationers, then you might be the next big success story.
PickyDomains is another idea that got me scratching my head. The founder of the site was good at coming up with interesting names, so he started a crowdsourcing service that allowed people to seek help in finding interesting domain names and slogans.
The idea was to let a community of people provide novel names and not to rely on bots, which arguably lack imagination. If you have been looking for vacant domain names in a domain search engine, then you will know what I mean.
So if your friends, family and bots have failed you, then it might be time to seek advice from a community of people, who just like coming up with cool names and slogans.
While the Gawker Media website itself is successful enough, it is worth pointing out that this media groups is perhaps the world’s most famous blogging network.
The reason I have included the Gawker example is because one thing that most of us can do easily is blogging (something I’m doing right now).
Gawker Media has the world’s most successful blogs ranging from Lifehacker, Gizmodo to many others. The Gawker network was started by Nick Denton who is a journalist and an entrepreneur. While he claims that blogging isn’t that profitable, he has still made millions from his successful line of blogs.
I know I said there will be down to earth examples in this post, but I have to add this one. I have been following Amazon since I was a child and have seen the company grow beyond belief.
What started as an online book store was soon to become one of the first e-stores in the world. But it was not just a good idea that made Jeff Bezos the world most successful e-retailer, but the fact that he took risks when it mattered.
It is said that the company did not expect any profit for five years, which also made shareholders a bit edgy. Nonetheless, the internet gold rush paid off and Amazon, which diversified, became one of the most successful companies in the world.
The above mentioned examples are just a few of many success stories that made people successful because they dared to use their ideas to materialize them into something successful (even if someone enjoyed visiting graves).
The point is that it might not be too late for any of you try out something that may allow you to turn your abilities into something successful, and to let you in on a secret, I’m already trying out something myself, guess I don’t want to regret not trying my hands at the internet gold rush either.