Monday, December 21, 2009

Expecting Plans and Planning: Simple Logic, Complex Outcomes

I'm sitting here trying to do some debug and testing of an ongoing project of mine.

About a year ago, I got a patent, and a year later, I still have no customers nor any leads on any customers.

In recent days, we learned how insurgents in Afghanistan hacked surveillance drone video feeds and the next day we learned that the Air Force says encrypting the feeds can't happen before 2014. Okay, that's close to five years from now, going through the list of "usual suspects" in the Federal bid and procurement regime.

My patent was specifically for rapid generation of sequences read-only operating systems with pre-configured multiple layers of encryption. Each generated instance has its own network identity and IP addresses, and specific encryption information as well. Yet if it is going to take another 5 years for the Air Force to get around to figuring out that their procurements process has been excluding a solution-provider for the last half-decade, because that solution provider isn't an immense DoD contracting monolith, all I can say is that 5 years from now I will almost certainly have moved on. Waiting 5 years for the patent and waiting another 5 years for the client to notice that it'll take another 5 years for me to get up to speed to work with their procurement system, well, that doesn't seem sensible to me and I'd have to make some ungodly amount of money for it to be worth 15 years of effort, with only another 2 years after that with the patent being enforceable.

So, basically, when I'm sitting around doing development, testing, debug, and cranking out limited production run batches, basically I am just twiddling my thumbs, yanking my crank, engaging in pointless exercise, however you might want to phrase it.

And when I appear to have wound up with a defective stack of 100 DVD blanks that can never possibly produce a valid copy that will pass testing and quality-control, it makes me more than a little bit cranky.

We just reported a solid basis to expect increasing global political and population instability that will almost certainly result in Massive Population Migration Coming.

We provided a link to a think-tank report that shows that some of the top US military leadership is well aware of, and deeply concerned by, National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.

We then reported even more information about the likely state of affairs in those parts of the Western Hemisphere which rely on rivers fed by glaciers and snowpack, once those glaciers retreat to the point where they no longer serve as the headwaters of the world's greatest rivers.

We then pointed out that if water scarcity is likely to displace at least 60 percent of the populations of the South American Andean nations from Uruguay to Colombia, and potentially reduce the Amazon basin to grassland savannahs or even to emergent desert, and that this will certainly occur is known to the scientists and militaries of these nations, then any reasonable person must ask themselves the reasonable question:

What Would You Do If You Were In Their Place?

We then pointed out that Foresight Leads to Planning; Last Minute Rushes Not Likely To Succeed. We put ourselves in the position of foreign leadership faced with a problem opposite to that of the Biblical character Noah: how do you save your people when the problem is not too much water, but not enough. Rather than build an Ark to float on the waters of a global Flood, you build new housing -- and lots of it -- where you believe there will always be sufficient water, at least for your own people.

Using the example of Bolivia, as it will be one of the nations most devastated in the very near future, now that the Chacaltaya Glacier is entirely vanished, we may ask ourselves: how can the leadership of impoverished and land-locked Bolivia save the 70-percent of the population that will inevitably be displaced by Andean Glacier Melt-Off?

Let us consider the words of an ancient Wise Man, Sun Tzu:
While heading the profit of my counsel, avail yourself also of any helpful circumstances over and beyond the ordinary rules.

According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one's plans.

All warfare is based on deception.

Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.

If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.

If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.

If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them.

Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected.

These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.

I guess that Sun Tzu didn't expect his Top Secret Teachings of Military Strategy and Tactics to become household reading for most of the world. Yet, the world is full of perennials, people who have no cultural root from which to spring, and thus rather than maturing under the wisdom of Sun Tzu, must either be told of it, or discover it all on their own.

Thus, I shall put myself in the place of the leadership of Bolivia, making plans to get my people to safety in the one place where they can possibly be welcomed, and where there is likely to be enough water to make the relocation both permanent and worthwhile.
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First, it's necessary to scout out the terrain.

Sun Tzu said:
In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.

Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.

Operating from the standpoint of a very poor landlocked nation with no significant military capabilities, seeking victory over and invasion and occupation of a very populous and militarily-advanced nation with significant wealth -- not to mention an exceptional Navy -- the strategy becomes one that is less of direct confrontation and more of leaving the target entirely unaware of any potential for conflict.

The glaciers are melting, and some are melting faster than others, for example, the Chacaltaya Glacier has melted far faster than predicted. It was expected to continue to provide at least some meltwater until 2015, but it is entirely gone now.

But if anyone had any idea that millions of Bolivians needed to migrate -- and to what better place than the US east of the Appalacians? -- they might take steps to prevent it. As Sun Tzu says, deception is the key to all success. So, let's steer the topic of conversations, especially those which inevitably surface on the matter of mass illegal immigration to the US.

Let's make it "all about the Mexicans", and nobody will do anything to stop Bolivians.

Let's make it clear to the reader, here, that I have nothing against Bolivia, nor against the Bolivians. So far as I know, all 10-million Bolivians are all really nice people, mostly a bunch of pure or nearly-pure indigenous people who mostly lead rustic lives characterized by herding the alpaca and the vicuña and making high quality Bolivian Ponchos for consumption at home and abroad. But upon what shall the alpaca and vicuña graze? Bolivia is mostly High Desert, not unlike the northwestern New Mexico high desert where I was born. Almost all water comes from snow and from snowpack; for most of the year, only merciless sunshine and cloudless skies prevail over arid lands where nothing green can grow. When the glaciers fail, all of the people living a pastoral life must go elsewhere and/or do something different.

And why, in any case, should Americans in the US be concerned even if all 10-million Bolivians leave their country before it turns to desert, and settle in the US? There are 300-million Americans, and to add another ten-millions will not be such a hardship. Indeed, the Bolivians themselves are used to hardship. And unlike the Mexicans from such places as Sonora, the Bolivians actually thrive in the snow and cold.

Besides, there are lots of Bolivians that can play, or at least appreciate the music of the native flute:

But keep in mind: it's not just the Bolivians who will be coming as the Andean Glaciers fail.

It will be the Bolivians who first must leave their homeland as it turns into uninhabitable desert.

Certainly they won't be the last.

Most Americans, if you asked them what they thought about Andean glacial melt-off and the circumstances of Venezuela, might likely respond that they had no clue. Then again, Americans' ignorance of geography even within their own continent is widely known.

About one third of Venezuela is in the "páramos", a northeasternmost outcropping of the Andes. The average temperature is about 8 degrees Centigrade, with some overlapping areas receiving only about 17 inches of rain per year.

An article from the 2002 New York Times mentions:
Glaciers in Venezuela are nearly extinct [...]
[ ... ]
'The problem is we are using reserves that are being reduced,'' Mr. [Robert] Gallaire [a hydrologist with the Institute of Research for Development, a French scientific organization] said. ''So we have to ask, what will happen in 50 years? Fifty years, you know, is tomorrow.''

Of course, at the time this writing, Chacaltaya still existed and was expected to have a lifespan lasting until 2015 or so. Yet in less than half the time predicted, the glacier has vanished, along with all of the water needed to keep the vicuna and alpaca in pasture.

In nearby Peru, the initial cause of Global Change is still ongoing, and at an accelerating pace. The tropical rainforest is being denuded at an astonishing rate, and almost all of it illegal and in the most ecologically-destructive ways possible. It's not enough for these people to rip up and burn their own forests, they must also devastate the rivers:
The price of gold has increased 50 percent in the past two years and tripled over the past five, as global investors look to hedge against a falling dollar. Gold hit historic highs this month. That surge has spurred a new Amazon gold rush, with illegal miners pouring into the region and setting up camp along riverbanks, highways and footpaths reaching deep into the rain forest of the Peruvian Amazon.

The influx threatens to overwhelm the region, which is home to some of the Amazon's most valuable nature reserves, several indigenous groups thought to have had no outside contact, and more bird and butterfly species than anywhere else on the planet. Giant swaths of forest are gone, rivers have been diverted, and mercury used to separate gold from sediment has begun to poison downstream communities. Mining has turned an area the size of Washington into muddy wasteland and threatens an area at least 10 times that large.

Perhaps nowhere else in the Amazon is the clash between mining's economic promise and its environmental and health threats more stark than here in the state of Madre de Dios, where more than 30,000 people depend on the industry to make a living and at least 95 percent of miners operate illegally. Peru is the world's fifth-largest gold producer, and the government estimates that 40 percent of that gold is illegally mined.

(Rising prices spark a new gold rush in Peruvian Amazon, Keane, Laura, Washington Post, December 20, 2009, downloaded 2009 December 20)

This is definitely not a case of ecological devastation caused by horrible industrial nations pumping carbon-dioxide into the air. This is definitely a case of local-government failures in the local government, and of very poor people with little education or understanding of how they impact so much of the world downstream.

When these people succeed in destroying their own ecology, shall we welcome them here? Because, having succeeded at creating massive devastation and then moving on, what is to stop them from thinking that they can do the same here in the US?

More to come?