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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Freer enterprise

Suppose you wanted to do an experiment to see what the natural set of economic arrangements in society might be, perhaps curious to see if free enterprise is a self-emergent property of economic systems that lack central co-ordination (as it is in World of Warcraft, for example).

The thing to do would be to go somewhere where there is no government and see. Well, the experiment is underway even as we speak. There is a place where the writ of government does not run and people are free to pursue their dreams. Not in some dreary Welsh commune full of welfare warriors, but in everyone's favourite seaside tropical paradise, Somalia.

In Somalia's main pirate lair of Haradheere, the sea gangs have set up a cooperative to fund their hijackings offshore, a sort of stock exchange meets criminal syndicate.

[From Somali sea gangs lure investors at pirate lair | Reuters]

"Criminal" is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but this is exactly what my sons and their friends get up to in World of Warcraft: pool effort and go off and kill people and steal their stuff. Anyway, these enterprising heirs to Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, absent Spanish treasure fleets from South America have been raiding treasure fleets from the new Eldorado, the Gulf. And a pretty profitable business it is too.

"I am really happy and lucky. I have made $75,000 in only 38 days since I joined the 'company'."

[From Somali sea gangs lure investors at pirate lair | Reuters]

Yes, it's the Indian Ocean Bubble!

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

Monday, February 01, 2010

Security matters

There was a report on the news tonight about the new strip scanners at British airports. I had a brilliant idea about this that I mentioned on twitter a while back: let's crowdsource airport security. Take the output from the scanners and send it up to Flickr, partly to increase the sum total of gaiety in the nation (there's no privacy issues since you won't know who any of the pictures actually are) and then people at home with nothing to do can look through the pictures and see if there are any suspicious-looking images. Then they can e-mail to some central government security centre. The government security centre will pretty soon learn which public-spirited websters are good at spotting the terrorists and so a ranking system will quickly develop to direct the attention of the security services (a bit like eBay stars) and at the end of the year we can award OBE's to the top 10. Tell me: how is my idea any more stupid than reality (remember that these scanner won't detect rectum bombs etc)...

A Manchester airport spokesman said their trial had started in December, but only with passengers over 18 until the legal situation with children was clarified. So far 500 people have taken part on a voluntary basis with positive feedback from nearly all those involved.

[From New scanners break child porn laws | Politics |The Guardian ]

So 17-year old jihadis can get through with detonating underpants intact -- let's hope that Osama bin Laden doesn't cotton on to this. But this led me on to wonder if there is any point in any of this? Hugo Rifkind is surely right when he points out that the whole colossal enterprise of homeland security is an almost total waste of money.

Before the World Trade Center came down, flying was a breeze, and there was a tiny chance you might get blown up. Now it’s a nightmare, and there’s still a tiny chance you might get blown up. In what way is this progress? Our attitude towards getting onto aeroplanes is starting to look weird. It’s like a disorder. It’s like they’ve won.

[From Airport security is a giant exercise in arse-covering — and it doesn’t work (obviously) | The Spectator]

If the 9/11 guys tried that same stunt again today, they would fail. Not because of airport security but because the passengers wouldn't let them. I'm an overweight, unfit middle-aged man, but if the guy in front of gets up and holds a knife to a stewardesses' throat, then I'll go for him. Ah, you might say, but what if he has explosives in his underpants? That's why we need the new stripscanners. Well, if you scan his underpants, then he'll stuff the TNT up his arse. Or buy a shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile, or go an blow up a Eurostar instead. There comes a point where we have to see that we are into a zone of diminishing returns, so if there's a need to spend extra money on airport security, then spend it the Israeli way: on profiling, on interviewing, on intelligence and not on pointless scanners that can't detect underpants bombs or rectum bombs anyway.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]