December 31, 2011

2012 Challenges: Problems, Solutions, Data, and Wisdom

As 2011 closes out, and 2012 enters the spotlight for its ephemeral closeup, we can all probably agree that an enormous number of pressing issues continue to await reasonable resolution, and in many cases even rational consideration.

One explanation for this sorry state of affairs (though not the only one, to be sure) is the continuing rush, particularly in the political realm, to impose simplistic, often ineffective, and frequently counterproductive "knee-jerk solutions" onto complex problems.

We have understandable angst about security at airports. But rather than use available information in a responsible and logical manner, authorities resort to needlessly irradiating millions of travelers, create the spectacle of young children being manhandled by poorly trained personnel, and permit elderly passengers in wheelchairs to be humiliated by what amount to strip-searches.

Concerns about Internet "piracy" of copyrighted intellectual materials are sometimes valid, but the false promises of the horrendous SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP Act) legislation would broadly put free speech at risk globally, and seriously damage fundamental Internet security and reliability -- while not actually solving piracy problems.

Meanwhile, alternative approaches that could target truly criminal piracy in particular, such as carefully implemented payment processing controls, are de-emphasized in favor of much more heavy-handed and ultimately fruitless enforcement regimes favored by traditional entertainment industry conglomerates, despite the massive collateral damage to innocent parties that these latter methods would trigger.

In an even broader context, we’re now entering an era where truly remarkable new analytical and visualization technologies offer the promise of helping solve some of the world’s most critical problems in health, resources, and many other areas -- via the conversion of data to knowledge, and of knowledge to wisdom.

Yet all too often, legitimate concerns about privacy and personal choice are being leveraged by some in the political and commercial realms in manners often grossly simplistic, and sometimes wholly disingenuous, that could easily undermine society’s ultimate well-being by unnecessarily decimating the availability and utility of these potentially invaluable techniques.

The problems we face, as individuals, communities, nations, and as an ultimately resources-limited global ecosystem, are far too important for us to squander opportunities to employ every possible useful tool in rational and responsible ways toward finding the best answers for moving forward.

Political posturing and "business as usual" gamesmanship are especially unacceptable in this realm of critical issues. We need to be working toward policies based on facts, not mainly upon politically biased opportunism.

Very shortly, within the first weeks of the coming year, I’ll be announcing a new project aimed at usefully contributing toward this goal, and I hope that you’ll join in the associated discussions, education outreach, and related efforts, as we work together for a better future.

Thank you, and all the best to you and yours for 2012!


Posted by Lauren at December 31, 2011 11:03 AM | Permalink
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