Saturday, 9 August 2014

Strikes to counter violence

Yesterday Obama ordered strikes on Iraq in a desperate bid to contain the widening conflict between the terrorist outfit ISIS and Shias, present ruling Sunnis and Christians. Conflict in the region is escalating for the past few months. Poor Obama, basically a pacifist, unwilling to get into fresh global conflicts especially because of several past misadventures and spiraling fiscal deficits in US, has been forced into this war reluctantly. A fair amount of Muslims globally are also weary of the long standing Shia Sunni conflict which is also devastating them in so many ways - physically, economically, emotionally.

Time has come for all races and religions to have the self realization that conflict and war are self debilitating and annihilating. So many conflict zones erupting everywhere. Then with the shooting down of MH17 last month, there is increasing risk of sophisticated SAM type weaponry getting into the hands of these trigger-happy desperados. It’s virtually the wild-wild west replicating itself all over the world. Since the times of Genghis Khan and other marauding tribes violence has always been a constant feature of human kind. The ancient scriptures and tales are replete with instances like the Mahabharata war, Egyptians and Hebrews, Romans and Christians; and so on - the list is endless.

Humankind has an embedded streak of violence which is present in all societies. Killing is part of the yin yang of human DNA. Hence the deep love for murder mystery and horror movies and TV serials. Most of us deep inside love to see gore and macabre which we are scared of being involved with ourselves but would like to watch from the safety of our living rooms on TV or in the darkened cinema halls collectively with others. We like living in our make believe worlds where violence, killing and death happen only to others and never to us. Only when we come to face to face with its horrors do we step into the nightmare of violence.
A lot of the violence and war emanates from economic imbalances; scarcity leading to search for land richer is sources of food, minerals, water, etc; illusions of grandeur where one community with its leader wants to control greater geographical areas and peoples, aka empire building; love for power; imposing one religious beliefs on more people; extermination of another race felt to inferior (arising from deep inner insecurity); and so on.

At a community level there is also so much of individual violence against our neighbors, kith and kin, and society. Society keeps rounding up these criminals and incarcerating them. Still the problems do not end with increasing the prison population. Society has to bear a cost to keep some of its members in high security prisons. Globally there are parts of so called society where there is high level of mindless violence which even the guardians of law, the police, are afraid of entering. The police would rather let these poorer sections living in slums and ghettos kill each other rather than try to enter these hotbeds and maintain law and order. Most cities and states have these lawless jungles which lead their parallel existences.  

Violence is so much part of our lives. Peace is an illusion ironically. Only mythical societies have love and peace. They exist only in the figment of our imagination and between covers of books for children. Violence is perhaps the most searing reality of life and existence.  

Monday, 4 August 2014

Digital Ending

Today most people have digital lives. About 24% (about 1.75 bn) of the world has smart phones and 40% (2.94 bn) use the internet. Facebook has over 1.3 bn users. With this kind of human digital and virtual existence, there is a need for synchronization of end of life (EOL) for physical and digital deaths.
With this in view Yahoo has introduced in Japan a new Ending service which was announced last week. This unique service is being offered to solve the problems being faced by all families connected to the internet across the world who lack the IDs and passwords or legal authority required to close down the Facebook or other online accounts of relatives who have died. This EOL service will delete the users’ Yahoo accounts after their deaths, along with the documents, photos and videos from their Yahoo Box online storage accounts and cancel subscription services under Yahoo Wallet. 
With such an overwhelming use of web accounts such as email, social networking, cloud storage, chat rooms, newsletters, ezines, forums, blogs, online banking and financial accounts and transactions, health data, accounts with utility providers, mobile services, etc, there is definitely a dire need for a comprehensive EOL service which can cater to all web service providers.
With the proliferation of the internet and the increasing pervasiveness of digital life, most of the digirati like us have dozens of IDs and passwords for the various services listed in the previous para. Apart from this, there is an issue of dormant IDs and multiple IDs belonging to single person under pseudonyms. Though there are opening dates of these accounts, there are no expiries or closing dates.
For most of us, our spouses, relatives or close friends are not privy to those IDs and passwords. In each of the email and chat type of internet services, we have multiple groups of friends and contacts in sets, sub-sets with various degrees of overlaps. Hence after EOL, there is no one to inform these various virtual groups of the EOLs.
A lot of personal information has been also submitted / stored in these websites / servers. Apart from this, most of the contacts in various services may not be aware of the EOL of the person. There a possibility of misuse of the late person’s web accounts, banking and financial accounts by hackers, etc.
In view of all the above, there is certainly a need for a comprehensive EOL web service (EOLWS) which will after the death of a person inform all the web services of the person of the demise so that all the accounts’ services are suspended and data frozen. This EOLWS should during the lifetime of the dead person taken information from him/her about his/her nominee / legal heirs, along with a list of all IDs and passwords. This should be taken with the legal assurance that they will be used only after the person’s death for specified purposes like closing / deleting the accounts, freezing / deleting data, informing all the contacts in the respective services in coordination with each service provider about the EOL of the person.
There are lots of other linkages which such an EOLWS can have like social security number, passport details, driving license, PAN, UID, etc. EOL certificate from the doctor or Government can also be linked and used as a cross check on the person’s EOL.
Some of the other services this EOLWS can also provide in due course are:
1.    Online condolences
2.    Online funerals / memorials for all contacts
3.    Photos of the person, family, etc
4.    Friends, relatives can contribute photos, write-ups
5.    Death anniversaries
6.    Even during the life of the person, if they become critically ill the news can be circulated to all contacts.

The options for such an EOLWS provider are truly endless. With increasing penetration of the internet and digitalization of our existences, our deaths should also be recorded comprehensively in the virtual world. Indeed we are hurtling to an era of life and death on the digital highway. 

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