Monday, 27 April 2009

I left facebook

I feel really crap at the moment, as I battle a cold. I have taken ill, hangovers dont feel like they used to, and I am battle to rid myself of that disgusting cigarette.

Thing is, I had a friends' gathering in my back yard yesterday. While I was battling with that hamburger on the grill, an old friend of mine threw the word that she saw my "Leaving facebook" message. My other friend who battled for years to stay away from facebook and finally had to join because of her phd study group, said that she laughed when she saw my message. I had to be philosophical about everything as usual.

Maybe I am.

But, I left facebook for many reasons. As everything, there is one main reason I left, but I am also convinced by many other reasons why facebook is not for me.

First, I just like to say that social networking is a tool to be reckoned with, and I am not against it. I remain (for now) on LinkedIn. With this out of the way, the reasons for quiting fall into two categories, the first being purely socio-technical, while the second is really personal.

As I was a taught at the Information Systems and Innovation group at the LSE, that information systems are social systems, and I realized that :

1) Digital footprint: The growth of information we generate both voluntarily and involuntarily is exponential in growth, and our attempt in controling that growth through settings and privacy control, can only be linear, because most of the time, we are unaware of our own "data generating activities" if you want to call it that. i.e. do you really can guarrantee that you won't update your status when you are drunk, or upload a photo of you in a leather jacket on a bike when your adrenaline pumped or think it will impress a girl. Really, we do some stupid things sometimes and say stupid things that we often regret, but these are often "gone with the wind", but when facebook takes on a life of it's own, these stupid things come with it, which brings me to my next point

2) Data Mirroring: if you upload a photo on the internet, you have to realize that it's going to be there for a while....and I mean decades, not years. Not only that, is that once you upload it, you can't really fully delete it. With the growth of the internet, and its integration in business, as well as government laws, forced data to be backed up and mirrored to different servers, often in different location. For example: If you upload a photo to facebook server1, it will be backed up to facebook server2, which in turn is backed up to an external vendor, storage provider or data centre. That means A is connected to B which is connected to C. Now, if for some reason, A looses its connection to B, A can no longer access what is on C. Hence some data is sitting on C, but if you delete that picture from A, doesn't necessarily mean it will be delted from C, coz it can really get quite tangled, with backups to backups to backups. Loose a connection somewhere along the way, and that data is lost forever, but not deleted! So, If I delete my pictures from FB, that doesnt necessarily mean when I am 50, I may find in a google hit a picture of me on a motor bike in a leather jacket, I took 20 years ago.... So I figured that kind of digital footprint, isn't really needed.

There is a fine line between a digital footprint, and plastering ur private life all over the web. I am sure you know how data is mirrored over and over again , and well, one has to think twice before uploading a picture on the web, because well, it's going to be there for a really long time, and even still that the initial source of data may loose its connection to its mirror, there is no way you can control the data once its on the web. Controling a facebook account privacy is futile, and its better to leave now before it's too late.

I perfectly agree that a virtual existance is bullshit, and we are NOT what we put on the internet. Like the people who spend hours picking out their best picture to choose as a profile picture, this is not really them! So on and so forth for pictures, notes, posts, quotes, etc.... its all what we think we are, and we only usually focus on the good things and never the bad things, thats just human nature.

So, and this is cliche, but resistance is futile. The only difference between, lets say the government, taking ur information (reading ur emails, chats etc) without your consent, and making it let loose on the web in things like facebook, for anyone to have, is well, we only hope that there will be laws to protect us from the former, but the latter, well.... like Einstein said "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe."

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Soros and Sterling

Yesterday I was walking back from my lunch break, and I stopped to pick up a coffee. Having no cash I nipped to the adjacent ATM machine to withdraw a 10 pound note. Disintrested and my mind completely elsewhere I put my card and followed the all too slow process of withdrawing cash. In automatic motion I clicked the buttons and saw some thing yet my fingers were still pressing and I had my cash before I vould realize that this ATM machine gave me the option to withdraw euros. Now I found that rather strange. It was Liverpool Street station and Stansted airport is on the route but I I had just finished George Soros' book, and a few thoughts came to mind. The dollar is looosing ground, but is it thathappening THAT fast?

Soros, in his book, The New Paradigm for Financial Markets : The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What it Means, talks about how the dollar is loosing ground. Now what I like about Soros, that he acknowledges some important events and if he was not a financier, I bet he would have made a good historian. He talks about the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973, when the recycling of Petrodollars by the banks pushed the dollar to become the world's currency. (Funny how the oil embargo served rather than tarnished Western domination - well, it did negate Keynsian economic theory though, so Arabs did have some effect on the 20th century). Countries with weaker currencies, with weaker currencies and unstable economies, either used the dollar as a reserver currency, pegged there currency to the dollar, or those going the distance, dollarised their currency.

According to Mr. Soros, who, for the sake of entertainment, graduated from LSE the same year Paul Volker, the ex-Fed chairman and now heads Obama's Economic Advisory board (they graduated in 1952), thinks that the days of the dollar as the world currency are numbered, if not over.

According to Soros, the international financial system is under the control of number of financial authorities representing the developed countries, mainly the IMF, the World Bank, and if I will allow my self to add to that the SEC and the FSA, which both are watchdogs for the financial centers of New York and London respectively. These institutions, as he says, are "more equal than others". They constitute the Washington Consensus. The Washington Consensus is a set of "10 commandments" for countries to adopt as policies for economic development (such as privatization , free trade, tax reform and similar neo-liberal guidlines, and of course, deregulation), and in exchnage they receive aid from the Bretton Woods institutions. This leads to a globalized economy, and the way the system is structured, the United States, and to decreasing decrease the UK and the world's biggest economies enjoy veto power.

This structure, and specifically the deregulation that was so strongly encouraged, looks great when its working, yet when a sever crisis such as the current one comes a long, it shows how fragile the system is, and it all comes crashing down. With the car industry failing, the banking in shambles, and the housing market crashing, the US will be forced to into converting some of its reserves held in bonds , and some of its assets into cash to finance all these rescue packages and TARP funds.

The dollar is loosing ground.

"The invasion of Iran has much to do with the rise in the price of oil and the unwillingness of the rest of the world to hold dollars. This will reinforce and extend the current commodity boom and create inflationary pressures. The decline of the dollar as the generally accepted reserve currency will have far reaching political consequences and raise the specter of a breakdown in the prevailing world order. Generally speaking, we are liable to pass through a period of great uncertainty and destruction of financail wealth before a new order emergrs." (Soros 2008).

Soros should know a thing or two about currencies. He sure knows about the sterling, as he almost single handedly broke the Bank of England in Black Wednesday in 1987, when the BoE withdrew the pound from circulation before the markets closed. He should know about the dollar as well I guess, he did co-author a book with Paul Volcker !

Which brings us back to the ATM machine in Liverpool Street. Is the Euro the new currency? Or is it just the bank being clever, trying to get customers, or is it the customers demanding euros in atm machines? I talked about the Amero and the Khaleeji in a previous post, but, all these are pretty much either in the not-so-near future, or may never even materialize, but with the sterling at just 1.1 against the euro, I am thinking, is this the end of the Pound?

Probably not, but this ATM sure yanked my chain....or did it?