Technology, Philosophy, & Sometimes Both

Thoughts on the World by Jack Umano

Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Flags Only Create Division

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I never liked flags.

I love my country – as much as one should love their country.  It’s a land with borders and government and the people I love live here.  It has an ideology that I prefer.

But, when I see our flag, it doesn’t make me feel all warm and tingly inside.  It mostly reminds me of world struggles and foreign policy mistakes.  It reminds me of all the people that hate our country and how they use a flag to symbolize it.  Sure, I know that some use it as a symbol of loving our country but really, they mean, “I love my country more than theirs.”  Flags are simply divisive.  It’s all about my country versus yours.

When people wave the flag, they perpetuate the feeling that our land is different and our people are different.  Flag wavers are proclaiming to the world that their exclusive club is the best.  When I cross the border to another country, the land looks about the same.  The people in other countries all want to love and be loved.  Those “foreigners” want to be happy and work at their jobs and raise their kids.

The only use I can see for a flag is as a sort of “profile picture” to use as a short hand for labeling things.  (Like maybe labeling boxes for shipping).

But, don’t make me stand and pledge allegiance to the flag.  Everyone knows – that bit of brainwashing was written by Bellamy who was just trying to sell flags!  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Bellamy)

Flags are for boats.  They allow a sailor to see (from far away) who owns a boat.  They’re simply labels.   That’s all they should be.

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Written by Jack Umano

May 9, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Philosophy

Another Privacy Policy and Terms Travesty

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Everyone knows that Ticketmaster has a virtual monopoly at many venues and they abuse it by overcharging for service fees.  It’s something we put up with.  So I guess it should be no surprise that they have jumped on the bandwagon of abusing the public by jamming policies and terms down our throats.

When ordering tickets online, each step of the way, you have a timer on the web page counting down the seconds that you have to put in your information.  You get 2.5 minutes or you’ll lose your tickets.  There is barely enough time to type in all your information and read the content on the page.  Then while you’re at it, you must agree to the ticketmaster privacy policy and terms of use .  These are very long legal documents that a lawyer should review for an hour.  But, you have to agree to this in your remaining 30 seconds or else these tickets will be lost to you and sold to someone else.

Don’t kid yourself.  You are signing legal documents that matter.  Here is an example:  By signing them, I have agreed in part 2 that I

“will not: Transmit any content or information that is … defamatory … or otherwise objectionable”

So merely by me writing this blog post, they could possibly sue me – saying this is defamatory and objectionable.

By agreeing to these, you are forced to waive rights that you would normally have in courts.  If you ever get caught by one of these from Ticketmaster or some other company, I would suggest contacting the Electronic Frontier Foundation as they work to defend people in high tech civil liberties cases.

Written by Jack Umano

April 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Technology

Opt Out doesn’t solve Privacy Problems

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I will never go to Walt Disney World again.  Nor Disneyland.

I’m always told, “If you don’t like the privacy invasion, you don’t have to use this service.”  This is true with search engines and social media sites that track every possible thing they can about you.  “You don’t HAVE to use Facebook. So, if their disregard for your privacy bugs you don’t use it.”

Opt out of using every online service that tracks you?  It’s as if the only three tire makers in the world decided to put GPS tracking devices in the tires.  Hey you can opt out by not using our tires.  Then what? – make your own?  Only bike and walk?

So, now I can’t go to Disney parks either.  They fingerprint everyone at the door thereby treating everyone like a criminal.  Of course, you don’t find this out until you are standing at the door with paid ticket in hand.  You may have bought the ticket, but you can’t come in unless they fingerprint you first.

You’ll hear tons about how you shouldn’t bother caring and that this battle is already lost.  That’s a myth perpetuated by the big companies who own (or are tied to) the big media companies.  “Don’t worry about it” – said the spider to the fly.

Okay. The big media companies are not going to eat you like a fly.  But, they certainly have no interest in protecting your privacy.  And if you’re still wondering why this is important, see my previous post on why privacy matters.

Written by Jack Umano

April 10, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Technology

Humans Evolved to be Unhappy

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Imagine two groups of early humans.  They have learned the same skills of hunting and gathering.  Through random mutations, one group has grown brains that are generally happy and satisfied with what they have.   The other groups mutations have generated brains that are more often discontent, unsatisfied and always searching for “something more.”   The happy humans gather their berries and enjoy eating them.  The discontented group wants new tastes and ventures out expanding their domain.  The happy humans enjoyed living by the sea and eating fish.  The discontented group fought with each other and wanted more space so they lived farther from each other.  Some moved away and populated distant lands.  A hurricane came and destroyed villages of huts.  Only those tribes that expanded their domain survive.  Only those whose constant discontent made them “want more” were the ones who passed on their genes to us.

Over many years, in countless examples, dis-contentedness helped forward the human species.  Dis-contentedness counteracts laziness.   And now, though we have so much, we are unhappy.  I have often heard of people who “had it all” and yet they still felt like “something was missing.”  Often people conclude that God is missing from their lives.  But, I have heard this same longing from veteran clergymen, “As a Pastor, my spiritual life was stagnating.”

Except in a few rare cases, we seem to be incapable of sustained happiness.  It is part of the human condition.

Written by Jack Umano

March 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Philosophy

YMCA Screws You Just Because They Can

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Ok. I have had just about enough of this:

“Please allow approximately ten (10) days for this change to take effect”

It’s the 21st century folks.  When I sign up for something, your company can instantly make a membership for me.  Instantly, you can take my payment.  You send me an email within 30 seconds.  There is no way it takes 10 days to take me off your email distribution list.   Ok, I can delete a few more emails that you’ll send this week.

But, this example takes the cake:

At the YMCA, if you want to cancel your membership, it takes THIRTY DAYS for them to cancel it!   Oh, and by the way, they will be charging you one more time for an extra month before you are removed from their system.  This is simply them screwing you because they can.  And since you are leaving, they don’t need you to be a happy customer anymore.   I guess when they say, “strengthening community is our cause”, they mean “strengthening the YMCA community by maximizing the YMCA profit.”

Written by Jack Umano

February 2, 2012 at 8:12 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Technology

Healthcare Prices should be knowable

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This should be included next time we legislate patients rights:

It seems to me a patient has a basic right to know what the cost will be before deciding whether to receive services.

Currently, the doctor cannot tell me what something will cost before seeing them. Then, in the very next moment, they make me sign a paper saying I will be financially responsible for all charges.

They could not tell me whether examining my son for an ear ache would cost $50 or $500. They cannot tell me whether my insurance will pay for it. At that point, should I just hope that expenses will be reimbursed and risk having to pay some unknown amount? Or should I just hope that my son will probably get better and take him home without seeing the doctor? One can not make an informed decision.

The doctor cannot get pre-approval from the healthcare company.  And now the latest I have received from my health care provider is that my charges will not be reimbursed because I did not tell them I was going to the doctor.  They won’t pre-approve it.  They just wanted me to call them and tell them I was going.   And since I didn’t, they will not pay for the doctor visit.  UNBELIEVABLE.

Written by Jack Umano

December 12, 2011 at 4:57 am

Posted in Ideas, Philosophy

Why Privacy Matters

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Many seem confused about why privacy matters.  People say, “I don’t care if some company knows about me and gives me more targeted ads. I have nothing to hide.”  Here’s some reasons why you should care.

There are bad people.  Keeping private data from bad individuals is the main concern and this is the main thing people forget.  Yes, Big companies truly do want to use your info simply to make money.  They have no plans to misuse the data.  But, there are many dis-honest people in the world.  There are dis-honest people in that big company that has your data.  With thousands of employees, there are definitely some bad people.  Bad individuals can and will abuse the extra power they have over people. 

Companies are consolidating too much power over you.  By collecting your name, address, billing info, location data, and preferences, these big companies are collecting information that bad people could abuse.  Identity theft becomes much more devastating when a criminal has so much info about you.  They have much more than just a credit card number.

Someday you may care about location data.  There are probably many scenarios that you never imagined for people taking advantage of your lack of privacy.  Maybe someday…

  • Your daughter breaks up with a guy.  He starts stalking her.  He works for Facebook.  He always knows where she is.
  • You get in a car accident.  It was that guy’s fault and you prove it to the courts.  But he swears it was your fault and is irate.  He works for AT&T.  Your phone reports where you are at all times.  That guy plots his revenge.
  • You apply for a job.  You’re amazingly qualified think you’re gonna get it.  The potential employer has a brother who works for Google.  He can tell by your location data that you belong to a church he doesn’t like.  No job offer comes.
  • You think your neighbor is being abused by her husband.  You suggest she check out the woman’s shelter across town.  The husband finds the location data on her phone and sees that she went there, and gives her a look that says, “oh you’re in for it now.”

Don’t wait until some scenario comes up where you need privacy.  Help all those who do.  Secrecy doesn’t always mean you’re doing something wrong as is illustrated in the examples above.

Data gets leaked.  If your private info is collected, it will be compromised.  Sooner or later databases get hacked.  If hackers can get into the Pentagon computer systems, they can get into Facebook’s if they really want to.  And when big companies start really consolidating large amounts of info about a lot of people, that database honeypot starts to look sweeter and sweeter.

Here’s an analogy: You probably wouldn’t give all your neighbors a copy of your bank account passwords.  They’re all good people but, you don’t really know them all that well.   And … they would store it safely, wouldn’t they?  Well, maybe it’s better to just keep it to yourself.

Written by Jack Umano

May 6, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Technology