Personal Blog

Conditions in Myanmar (Burma) and the Urgent Need to Re-Open Communications

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Sun, Sep 30, 2007 @ 23:09 PM

As political demonstrations and violence rise in Myanmar, I'd like to add one American's perspective to the discussion.

By a little fate and a little design, I was in Myanmar in December. Like most Americans, I had never been in a country under repressive rule and never one currently under US embargo. I had read the State Department's travel advisory and decided to go anyway.

Upon arrival to the outskirts ot the city, I was struck by how much it had in common with Cambodia and Laos...a mixture of dirt roads and pavement, of street-side vendors, and barnyard animals. In Yangon (Rangoon), we checked into a hotel that would have satisfied all but the most discriminating of expense-account travelers, offering large rooms, well-appointed baths, a beautiful lobby and gift shop, and multiple restaurants/cuisines. From the window, the city looked a bit like many large SouthEast Asian cities, with a mixture of modern tower, British colonial, and poverty all within short distances.

In the few days that we were there, I asked myself repeatedly whether the streets were dustier, the people poorer, or anything else was truly different. I kept challenging my mind to distinguish between projecting what I expected to see in a repressed country with what I was actually seeing.

One of the major differences I noticed first were the dogs. Nearly everywhere we travelled in SouthEast Asia, dogs wandered the streets. In Siem Reap (Cambodia), many were very thin. In Luang Prabang (Laos), most look remarkably fit. In Yangon, they all seemed to have running sores. One of the first shocks of the trip was seeing a cardboard box of puppies, having that automatic reaction of smiling and reaching in to pet one, only to discover that they too were already severely infected with whatever ails them all.

Another immediately apparent dichotomy was the economy. The official zeal for the value of local currency is in no way shared by the population. The government of Myanmar publishes an exchange rate of about 6 Kyat to 1 US Dollar. On the street, stores, restaurants, and vendors gave approximately 1,200 Kyat to the Dollar. I didn't find out whether that reflected their assessment of a 10,000% deflation or the level of their desparation to get Dollars.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we Americans have grown used to military figures with large weapons in public places in major cities. So, I didn't really react to soldiers on busy metropolitan street corners, nor did I see any overt signs of menace directed at me or others. I was truly taken aback, though, when in the course of discussion someone mentioned that all graduate schools had been closed. I never confirmed that statement, but it raised a spectre of a crushing sort of control on thought and a severe limitation on advancement.

The local people were kind and polite to us and we were aware of being quite a novelty to them. Our mere presence created quite a stir among several classes of school children at the zoo! There was no question in my mind though that their eyes lacked the sparkle of opportunity reflected in those in the growing economies of Delhi or Siem Reap.

We visited several religious landmarks including Shwedagon Pagoda, a site of such enormity, complexity, and grandeur that no picture can relay the experience. Set on the plateau of a large hill, it feels about the size of four New York city blocks and is so elaborately decorated, carved, and covered in gold leaf that it is more ornate than any European cathedral I have seen, There, thousands of locals mill about, eat, and pray. Though exceedingly poor, they make donations which are immediately converted to gold leaf sent by wire on miniature, fanciful boats to the top of the pagoda where they will be applied to the hundreds of ever shinier stupas. Although prayer appears to be done independently and without leadership, there were incredibly large groups praying to many of the Buddhas. I couldn't help but wonder if they were praying for release from oppression.

My travels to this part of the world has radically altered my perception of Buddhist monks. As an American, I had some movie vision of wizened men with the countenance of pure zen. In truth, Buddhist monasteries are where many send their sons to be educated and fed; monasteries are filled with boys and young men who are monks along with their elder teachers. Unlike priests in western culture, most of these young men do not remain monks but return to their families and communities. The elder monks, then, are very much responsible for the spread of ideas.

What affected me most on this visit, was the apparently universal desire for connection. In SiemReap, I had seen that people without central plumbing or electricity would opt to spend their money on televisions at home and internet cafes outside the home. Here, too, in Myanmar, though cell phones and internet connections were much rarer, I could see an extraordinary number of antennae and satellite dishes on rooftops and wondered from how far transmissions could be received. Nearly everywhere we went, it was apparent that people wanted to talk to us about the meatier topics of politics and their situation. We held back because the State Department advisories had indicated that people with whom we spoke would likely be arrested and punished after we left them. I was most distressed by this paradox at Shwedagon where we were introduced to some older, English-speaking monks who clearly wanted to engage in discussion.


In the last month or so, Buddhist monks have begun peaceful pro-democracy protests again. In some places, the monks are reported to be blocked in their monasteries by the government forces. Thousands of students and other citizens have taken up the protests. Both groups have been met with gunfire, resulting in an unknown number of deaths including those of some of the monks. As the violence escalated, people rushed to upload cellphone photos, videos and stories to the internet before the government cracked down and cut off communications, which it did this Friday.

I look at the faces in the news photos to see if there is a glimmer of familiarity. I yearn to go back in time and talk to these men who have knowingly risked or met death to express their beliefs. It reminds me to be proud of our system that permits open speech and transition of leadership without bloodshed. And it creates a tremendous sense of urgency to reopen the lines of communication so that words and images can continue to flow out of and into Myanmar, to engage the world in debate and discussion, and to hold leadership accountable.





Before arriving, I had given myself a minor history lesson about the country. Up until that time, perhaps the only things I knew about the country were that U Thant had been Secretary General of the UN during my childhood in the 1960's, that Humphrey Bogart had talked about Rangoon in some movie, and that there was a Nobel Prize winning political dissident named Aung San Suu Kyi. I offer this very informal history for those who knew no more than I.

I read about more than a thousand years of history of various indigenous groups from within the region and nearby (such as Yunnan, Tibet, and Mongolia) migrating, dominating, and intermingling. It became a unified country about the time of US independence (late 1700's) but lost several regions to British India about 50 years later and ultimately lost control to the British and were occupied beginning in the 1880s. The country achieved independence from the UK in 1948 and was known to us as "Burma" through the 1980's.

Although the country had been ruled by royalty prior to British occupation, it became a parliamentary government upon independece. In 1962, the government was overthrown by a military coup. We know of significant public protests in 1974 and again in 1988. The 1988 protests were met with the killing of hundreds of protestors and another military coup. In 1989, the ruling powers declared that the English name of the country should be "Myanmar" and its capital city known as "Yangon" rather than "Rangoon." The US and UK refused to recognize this change and continued to call the country "Burma." In 1990, popular elections were held and pro-democracy representatives received about 80% of the vote; in response the government annulled the results and, to this day, retains power.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Aung San, who negotiated independence from the UK. She received degrees from Oxford and the University of London and had worked in the UN. Under the 1990 elections, she would have because Prime Minister. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1991 for her work in leading non-violent protest. She has been under house arrest for more than half of the years since then.



Article has 1 CommentClick here to read/write comments

Topics: protest, Yangon, democracy, public policy, Myanmar

Can parents force a child to have a vaccine?

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Sat, Aug 18, 2007 @ 08:08 AM
Yesterday, this comment was posted to my last blog about the hpv vaccine:

"do parents have the right to decide for you whether or not you receive this vaccine? im 16."

Boy, did that send chills up my spine!  Being in disagreement with your parents on an issue that can affect your future poses hard problems.

If you can talk this out directly with your parents, that would probably be best.  Or, if you know another adult they might listen to, consider getting that person to help you.   If this becomes a legal matter, you could end up in a situation in which you have to decide between the relationship you have with your parents and what you think is best for your health. 

As a lawyer, I cannot give you specific legal advice through this blog.  But... I can give you information that may help.

1) Wherever you are, there are laws about the age of majority; the line between being a "minor" who usually can't make important decisions about herself and an adult who can.  Depending upon where you are, you might already have the legal authority to make this decision. 

2) In some places there are different ages of majority.  For example, you may be able to get married without parental consent at 16, but not able to vote until 18, and not able to drink until 21. 

3) In the US, you'll find lots more law and discussion about a minor's right to consent to medical care than the right to refuse it.  Most of the "right to consent" issues have come up in the context of contraceptives and abortions.  Try searching on a minor's right to refuse.

4) In many jurisdictions, a minor can go to court to request permission to do something that his or her parents won't allow.  This is a very serious step.  It could change the nature of your relationship with your parents forever.

You can search the web or ask a local librarian how to find information on these topics.  If none of these give you the answer you need or want, in many locations you can get free legal advice and help, sometimes called "pro bono" legal services.  You can got some information about them by searching the web or calling the bar association for your city, county, or state. 

My best advice for nearly every situation in life is to stay calm, gather as much information as you can in the time you have available, and make the best judgment you can about who has your best interests at heart.

Article has 0 CommentsClick here to read/write comments

Topics: Gardasil, hpv vaccine, technology - medicine, public policy

Fun with Numbers - What Privacy?

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Mon, May 28, 2007 @ 12:05 PM
For most of us, privacy is an important issue.  We talk about, write about, sue each other over it, and debate the extent to which it is our Constitutional right.  We know that our original notions of privacy have been drastically eroded by the amount of data collected about us every day.  Every time you buy with a credit card, debit card, or even pay cash and use a discount card, the records are collected and aggregated.  Every time you pay a bill, borrow money, or ask to borrow money,  the information is collected and stored together.  There's work being done right now to do the same things with all of your medical records. 

What's happening to all this information?  Private companies are using the information to trying to figure out what to sell you next, whether to extend you credit, and to whom they can sell your name and information.  The government is using the information to try to figure out if you are a law-abiding citizen.  And, your friends, family, and acquaintances may be using it just to find out what you haven't told them directly.  (In response to a challenge recently, in five minutes on Google, I was able to retrieve a friend's secondary address, parent's and sibling's names, religion, political party affiliation, last job, current job, foreign language spoken, and a hint about his financial position.) 

Criminals want to gain access to your private personal information, too.  They want to use it to take advantage of you -- most typically by fraudulently posing as you and making credit purchases.  Some of them want to use or sell your identity more generally, in order for someone else -- typically an illegal immigrant or another criminal -- to be able to hide from the authorities by posing as you on a day-to-day basis. 

So, how likely is it that your private personal information will end up in the wrong hands? 

The most recent US Census statistics estimate that there are about 225 million adults in the US (aged 18 and over).  The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has been trying to keep track of all of the instances when an organization has lost private personal information, including everything from hacker attacks on universities to laptops and disks lost by employees.  It's current total for 29 months (January 2005 to May 2007) is over 155 million records lost that contain information useful to identity thieves.  But, about 15% of the incidents do not have reported loss numbers; so, I estimate the true number to be around 182 million (155/.85).  And, that results in an estimate of approximately 75 million records lost or stolen per year (182 * 12/29).  Or, approximately 225 million records lost or stolen in three years.  Of course, this does not mean that every US adult's data will be lost or stolen in a three year period; some unlucky souls will have their data compromised more than once, while others will not be affected.

In addition to large scale losses of information by those we entrust with our digital data, there are lots of small scale ways to lose our personal information.  A Gartner Group analyst reported that 1.2 million Americans a year believe they have given their personal information to a criminal on the internet, but that same group is reported to have estimated that the true number for 2006 would be 3.5 million.  Large numbers of credit cards (or credit card numbers) are lost or stolen every year:  A Harris poll reported that 16% of American adults had had a credit card used by someone they didn't know.  And, a 2004 study for the Federal Trade Commission found that identity theft victims who did know who stolen their identity, nearly always reported manual (non-computer, non-digital) theft by family members, friends, neighbors, in-home employees, co-workers,  sales employees, and financial institution employees, people who had access to the physical cards, receipts, or statements. 

According to the FTC report, 4.6% of survey respondents reported they had been victims of identity theft in the past year; extrapolated across the adult population today, that would be about 10.4 million new victims per year.  If that number weren't escalating, you'd be at risk for identity theft about once every 22 years during your adult lifetime.  However, the FTC study found that the rate of discovery of identity theft nearly doubled from one year to the next.  If that trend continued, in 5 years the entire adult population would be compromised each year.  Clearly, that won't happen, as consumer awareness increases and anti-fraud technologies improves.

 In US
 Per Year
Adults   225 million 
Estimated digital records lost or stolen
with personally identifiable information
  75 million 
Estimated number of adults who give
personal information to phishers and
other online criminals             
   3.5 million
Estimated number of individuals
who were victims of identity theft (2003)  
    10.4 million

The bottom line is that there's lots of information floating around about most of us and quite a bit of it is in the hands of people or systems we never intended. 

Post Script: Should I care that I don't have much privacy?

There are two ways to think about this.  1) It's not a problem; it's just part of evolution.  Look at YouTube and MySpace; the next generation is creating permanent, open records about things that older generations would never want publicly known.  In the not-too-distant future, privacy will be dead as a concept.   2)  It is a problem.  Privacy (like discretion) is more appreciated with age.  Identity theft and credit card fraud will become such a time-consuming and costly issue that protections are a better alternative.  I admit I have my toe in the water of the first camp, but that my weight (and work) still fall heavily in the second.

Article has 1 CommentClick here to read/write comments

Topics: public policy, privacy, technology b2c

Fun with Numbers - Presidential Syllables

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Tue, Apr 17, 2007 @ 23:04 PM
There's an interesting sidebar to all the presidential candidate analysis.  While most folks are pondering Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's stance on the issues, quite a few people are pondering whether the number of syllables in the candidate's name is a significant factor in elections. 

Before the last election, freelance writer Joy Tomme noted that "(w)e've had 12 one-syllable Presidents, 19 two-syllable Presidents and 11 three-syllable Presidents. Only Eisenhower carries the banner for four syllabics."  She asserted that a successful candidate needs to have a one or two syllable name.  At the same time, a fellow named Chuck Annesi posted an analysis supporting the idea that people are more likely to prefer a name with more syllables. Nashville Scene writer Bruce Barry thought that Bush was facing long odds since the last one syllable president before him was 120 years ago and Grant was (until 2004) the only one-syllable president to be elected twice.  And, three syllable candidates?  Barry notes that Teddy Roosevelt was the last three-syllable vice president and many have noted that it's been more than 40 years since Kennedy, our last three syllable president, was elected.

I like to play with numbers, so here's my contribution to the topic.  I wondered how all these elections correlated to name distribution in the population.  So, first I compared the distribution of presidential names over history with the 100 most common last names in the United States:
                             Presidents          Most Common
                             Over time          Names in US

1 syllable                  29%                    30%

2 syllable                   45%                   54%

3 syllable                   26%                   16%
Should we read from this that we're due for a few two syllable presidents?  Or, does it reflect a change in the distribution of names over time?  I haven't got time for serious, Ph.D. type research, so I looked for a quick differentiator.  I decided to look at US Senators and Representatives, people elected recently enough that I could see their correlation to current name distributions.
                             Presidents          Most Common
                             Over time          Names in US           Senators          Representatives

1 syllable                  28%                    30%                    19%                    20%

2 syllable                   44%                   54%                    56%                    57%

3 syllable                   26%                   16%                    20%                    19%

4 syllable                     2%                      0%                     3%                     5%

So, what do you think?  Have three syllable names been overrepresented in our Presidents?  Are we due for a two syllable president?  Based upon these theories, Clinton will beat Obama to the ticket and Giuliani will fall behind Romney or, maybe, Fred Thompson!  You, too, can be a "political linguist"  -- just send your opinion!

Article has 0 CommentsClick here to read/write comments

Topics: democracy, public policy

More on the HPV Vaccine

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Fri, Mar 30, 2007 @ 02:03 AM
Although it's not my intention to become a medical blog, I see that I've had a lot of hits on this topic and so want to provide a little follow-up.

I found a discussion from The American College of Pediatricians  which is very informative.  Since it's a little long, I give the highlights from my perspective.  The Merck trials provided three immunizations over a six month period.  They involved a much larger number of young girls than I had understood (over 1100 between the ages of 9 and 15).  Antibodies to HPV peaked 7 months after treatment and then diminished, stabilizing about three years after the treatment at a level higher than before the treatment.  (However, to date, the longest follow-on study has only looked at patients four years after treatment.)

The College of Pediatricians refers to the results as "limited, short term data" and recommends:
1) that drug manufacturers establish registries of patients given the vaccine (so that long term effects can be studied)
2) that vaccine recipients be informed of that the knowledge about the vaccine's effectiveness or life span has limitations
3) that consideration be given to waiting to give the vaccine until a recipient is sexually active
4) that recipients be informed that the vaccine does not make sex "safe"

The College of Pediatricians is opposed to legislation which makes the vaccine mandatory for school attendance, noting that the disease can only be spread through "penetrating vaginal intercourse."  The College is also concerned about the ethical dilemma of having to explain sexual conduct to a nine year-old (required before administering the drug), when the child's parents may not have yet introduced the subject (since most 9 year olds in the US are not sexually active and have not reached puberty).
Article has 0 CommentsClick here to read/write comments

Topics: Gardasil, hpv vaccine, technology - medicine, public policy

What are the Long-term Effects of HPV Vaccine?

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Fri, Mar 02, 2007 @ 12:03 PM
I am astounded by the speed at which discussion about the HPV Vaccine is truning to mandatory vaccination.  I want to remind as many people as possible about DES (Di-Ethyl-Stilbestrol), a drug that was used for decades before its side effects were known.  Only when the daughters of the drug-takers themselves matured, did the full range of problems become apparent. 

I've only done a litte reading on this new HPV Vaccine, but so far have seen no references to multi-decade or multi-generational study and very little reference to studies in young girls (the targets of proposed legislation).  I found published references only dating back to the mid-90's (see the end of this CDC webpage).  And, although, this is not my professional area of expertise I do know drug manufacturers generally have three phases of testing.  For Merck (manufacturer of Gardasil),  I found references to three studies -- an article (see first paragraph) that describes a study on less than 300 women in Brazil over a three year period; another article describing a study on over 5,000 women for approximately 17 months; and one reference to a study that included girls aged 10-15 - there may have been only 158 girls in the study - that lasted six months.  For GlaxoKlineSmith (manufacturer of Cervarix), I found a report of a one year study that does not indicate that young girls were included;

I'm not saying that this vaccine won't turn out to be wonderful.  I'm asking whether we've studied this drug long enough to be so confident about long-term effects that we are willing to mandate the taking of the drug by our entire population of young women? 

If you know more about the drug, the length of drug studies, etc., please post a comment here.
Article has 99 CommentsClick here to read/write comments

Topics: Gardasil, hpv vaccine, technology - medicine, public policy

Technology and Southeast Asia

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Fri, Feb 09, 2007 @ 13:02 PM
I just took a monthlong trip to Southeast Asia - Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Thailand.  Along the way, two things struck me about technology.

Cell phones and internet shops are multiplying like bunnies.   And, surprising to me, were satellite dishes everywhere in democracies and dictatorships alike.  I learned that you can run a black and white television on a car battery and a color tv on a gas-powered generator.  Against the backdrop of so much political, social and religious turmoil in the world, it's a powerful contrast to see that the basic human desire for connection supercedes what we would see as the more basic need of plumbing.

During the trip, I had an extended stay in Siem Reap to see the Khmer temples (Angkor Wat and many others).  At first, I was overwhelmed by the obvious intellectual superiority of its day; the temples represent mastery of advanced mathematics, architecture, and engineering. They are heavily decorated in beautiful, intricate sculptures and carvings.   They were created at a time when Europe was in the Dark Ages.  Over several days  my unconscious began to piece together that all the fabulous ruins I'd seen (Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, etc.) represented a single culture that held the keys to knowledge -- both scientific and artistic -- during its supremacy.  I'm left wondering what impact the ascendancy of the internet, when most knowledge is immediately shared, will have on this phenomenon. 
Article has 1 CommentClick here to read/write comments

Topics: Southeast Asia, technology, public policy

Delhi - Last Stop on the Fellows Trip

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Thu, Jan 11, 2007 @ 00:01 AM

The last stop was Delhi.  There I was surprised by the clean air.  Nearly every bus and truck now runs on natural gas; even the rattiest of these vehicles has scrawled notices of the fact on their side panels.  And, Delhi has planted a million trees – no, that’s not a superlative; they planted one million trees.  The city is green and you become acutely aware of the trees if you try to take a picture from a moving vehicle!

I learned a bit about history there. 
Delhi was actually Dilli until the British arrived.  And, long before then, the Ottoman empire (centered in modern-day Turkey) had stretched that far.  The remains of seven mosques from that era are a spectacular ochre and umber display of decorative Arabic carving.  The modern-day federal government center reminded me of Washington, DC – monolithic low buildings set along grassy parks – but the grey is broken up by a lot of rosy colored brick and there is much more elaborate decoration including the omnipresent elephant.

Most of
Delhi is “new” Delhi, but there’s a small corner which is “old” Delhi, where the 14th century meets the 21st century.  A rabbit-warren of streets so narrow that one can travel only on foot or by bicycle taxi, a vehicle so small that two women can barely fit on the seat.  In the alleys, pedestrians scuttle into doorways to let them pass and rear view mirrors mostly don’t scratch the windows!  It fulfills every reader’s fantasy of stepping back into the assault on the senses of a medieval market.  Doorway after doorway is filled to capacity with wares of every type: thousands of colorful bangles; fabrics, shoes, silver items, gold jewelry, spices, and more.  To be fair, there are also mountains of electronics.

In the spice market we had to step over a gaping hole in the floor while navigating through a sea of humanity.  And, we were invited up an ancient turquoise stairwell to an inner verandah where men were sorting, weighing, and bagging the goods, while an occasional worker slept on the filled bags.  Walking back down the steep stairs, we followed a man carrying 50 pounds or more in a large sack over his shoulder.  Outside, we passed a small group of men smoking and chatting while a cow lounged to one side and a man on a scooter passed on the other side – all on the sidewalk! 

Here, too, there is a communal sense of excitement about
India’s ascendancy.  There is a buzz among the people with whom we had contact, and a strong sense of competition with China.  I was particularly touched by a conversation with a taxi driver who explained that he had left school after the fourth grade.  His older daughter was about to graduate from the 10th grade and he believed that he would be able to send his much younger son to college when the time came.  Quite an accomplishment in one generation; my grandparents had to move countries to achieve the same for their children.  To be sure, there are still very poor people and beggars approach taxis, but the numbers were much smaller than I had expected.

India also offered two simple things I had expected: fabulous food and deliciously thin cotton clothes.  I’m not a curry eater, but was never disappointed in the arrays of tandoor preparations, saag, dahl, naans.  Mmmm.  I ate myself silly.  And, I must beg the folks at FabIndia to please build a website soon.  Mountains of western and Indian cotton clothes in the full palate, some in that soft, super thin cotton that makes intense heat bearable.  I did not buy enough.  Ah, well… a good excuse to go back!  
Article has 2 CommentsClick here to read/write comments

Topics: MIT - Sloan Fellows, India, technology, public policy, Delhi

China/India - The Big Picture

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Mon, Jul 17, 2006 @ 23:07 PM
As previously mentioned, I've recently been on a whirlwind tour of China and India.  I only touched on a half dozen cities, so I'm aware that my perceptions are skewed, but here's what I saw.

In the major cities in China, I was struck by the fast growth of infrastructure - roads, power, subways, buildings, etc.  I wish I had counted, but I think a highway merge I was on in Beijing had more than 20 lanes in each direction.  In 16 years, the rice fields of Pudong across the Bund have been replaced by skyscrapers rivaling Shanghai on the opposite side.  The theory in China appears to be that if you have sufficient infrastructure, the businesses will have a foundation on which to grow and, as a result, expand the economy.

And, I was doubly struck by the amount of English.  There was English on all major highway signs, street signs, at least 1/3 of the billboards, and subway maps, making it relatively easy for me to navigate.  I think this is a very intelligent way to attract international business.  I remember my friends traveling to Japan for business in the 1980's and early 90's and being completely unable to navigate without assistance because they could not read the characters.  I've had the same experience traveling a little in Russia and the Ukraine, where at least I could carry a copy of the cyrillic alphabet that I've reordered to correspond with the English alphabet so that I can sound out words.  In China, I discovered that a little bit of strategically placed English goes a long way towards making one feel comfortable and more likely to return.

In India, I saw a different model.  Rather than big government infrastructure projects, I saw individual enterprises building regions of infrastructure.  A single company will build a campus with offices, housing, recreation, etc. as well as its own power generation and water filtration systems.  The process here appears to be that as Indian companies capture outsourcing dollars from the rest of the world, the money will trickle down through the economy. For example, if the successful IT professional buys a car, then he is willing to pay people who will put gas in the car, service the car, and wash the car.

In the major cities in both countries there is a tremendous amount of confidence among people that their countries are in the ascendancy.  Taxi drivers, hotel workers, store clerks, when asked, will talk about the increasing opportunities for education and advancement for their children.  Business and government officials talk readily about the increasing competition for qualified professionals and the rapid escalation of salaries. (Perhaps it is a bit like the US during the heady early days of the space race and nuclear power?) Over the next ten years, it will be interesting to see whether one of these two models prevails. 
Article has 2 CommentsClick here to read/write comments

Topics: MIT - Sloan Fellows, China, India, public policy


Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Thu, Feb 09, 2006 @ 23:02 PM
At DIG, we are experimenting with FOAF - the "Friend Of A Friend" project that makes it possible for computers to link, merge, search, sort web information about people.

The geeky side of me revels in the idea of FOAF, imagining the web of connections rapidly building across the ether. I'm imagining the speed at which I could do certain kinds of research and the ease of finding people whose last names I can't remember. Soon we can all play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon in earnest. And, we'll find out if we're actually connected by 6, 3.6, or some other number of degrees of separation.

I've already posted my own FOAF 1.0, which will provide a thread from people I've met at CSAIL to a couple of other technical people I know. I think of it as if they're the first guests to arrive at a party at my house.
. . .

Then the questions start to seep in. Can the people I know marginally (or don't care for) invite themselves to my party? What do I do when someone like that puts me in their FOAF? Can I make them take it off the web? Can I somehow override (overwrite?) their FOAF?

The lawyer part of me raises the ante on a coworker's privacy questions. I'm envisioning people being "FOAFed" -- the internet form of "outed" -- having relationships revealed that they hadn't intended to make public. What about companies mining my FOAF to market to everyone in my group? And, what about the access FOAF provides the government to association information that might otherwise require a subpoena or warrant to discover?

I haven't had a chance to think about this enough to decide if these issues are analagous to those raised by writing about someone else in my blog or having someone write about me in theirs.  I would appreciate getting other people's opinions on this question. 

In the meantime, I too will limit my FOAF to people who've given me permission and who I think understand the potential ramifications.
Article has 0 CommentsClick here to read/write comments

Topics: technology innovation, public policy