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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

War Is the Answer

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

For the last hundred years the best and brightest of the civilized world have been engaged in the business of peace. In the days before the Nobel Peace Prize became a joke, it was expected that scientific progress would lead to moral progress. Nations would accept international laws and everyone would get together to replace wars with international conferences.

Instead, technological progress just gave us better ways to kill each other. There have been few innovations in the moral technology of global harmony since Immanuel Kant’s “Perpetual Peace” laid out a plan to grant world citizenship to all refugees and outlaw all armies, invasions and atrocities with the whole shebang would be overseen by a League of Nations.

That was in 1795 and Kant’s plan was at least more reasonable than anything we have two-hundred years later today because it at least set out to limit membership in this body to free republics. If we had done that with the United Nations, it could conceivably have become something resembling a humane organization. Instead it’s a place where the dictators of the world stop by to give speeches about human rights for a show that’s funnier than anything you could find eight blocks away at the Broadway Comedy Club.

Since the League of Nations folded, the warring peoples of the world have added the atom bomb, the suicide bomber, the jet plane, the remotely guided missile, the rape squad, the IED, the child soldier and the stealth fighter to their arsenals. And the humanitarians have murdered a few billion trees printing out more useless treaties, conventions and condemnations; more dead trees than accounted for by every piece of human literature written until the 19th Century.

There is no moral technology to prevent war. Or rather war is the moral technology, that when properly applied, ensures peace.

The humanitarians had gone down a dead end by trying to create perpetual peace by outlawing war, but the peace-shouters who wear their inverted Mercedes Logo don’t really want peace, some of them reflexively hate war for sentimental reasons, but their leaders and most committed activists don’t hate war, they hate the people who win the wars.

The plan for perpetual peace is really a plan for perpetual war. It necessitates that the civilized nations who heed its call amass overwhelming quantities of firepower as deterrents against war, which they will pledge to never use because if the threat of destroying the world isn’t enough, their bluff will be called and they will fold. And if they don’t fold, then the world will be destroyed because the humanitarians said that peace was better than war.

It also necessitates that the actual wars that they fight be as limited as possible by applying precision technology to kill only actual armed enemy combatants while minimizing collateral damage. And that humanitarian objective also necessitates that the other side reply with a counter-objective of making it as hard as possible to kill them without also killing civilians.

The humanitarian impulse makes the anti-humanitarian impulse inevitable. The more precisely we try to kill terrorists, the more ingeniously the terrorists blend into the civilian population and employ human shields. The more we try not to kill civilians, the more civilians we are forced to kill. That is the equal and opposite reaction of the humanitarian formula.

In Afghanistan, the Rules of Engagement were overhauled to minimize Afghan civilian casualties. This was so successful that not only did the casualty rate for American soldiers dramatically increase because they were not allowed to fire unless they were being fired at, but the number of Afghan civilian casualties killed by American forces also fell dramatically. It was a great triumph. But sadly the number of Afghan civilians killed by the Taliban increased dramatically and more than made up for the shortfall.

When the Taliban have won the war, the number of civilian casualties will be tremendous once Obama pulls the troops out and the cheerful bearded boys march into Kabul and start killing every woman who can read. But it was still a better thing than the unacceptable levels of civilian casualties under Bush. It was a better thing that the Taliban have free reign to kill as many Afghans as they want than that American soldiers should have been able to fight the Taliban without the humanitarian handcuffs.

Because sometimes you have to destroy the village to save the village, and that is true whether it’s American planes bombing a terrorist hideout or humanitarians letting the Taliban take the village and kill every tenth woman in it.

And yet for all this monumental effort, for all the soldiers dead because they weren’t sure if the man planting an IED in the road was a terrorist or just a decent upstanding poppy farmer checking the soil composition, for all the Afghan civilians killed by the moral technology of inaction, your unfriendly neighborhood  peace-shouter is about as satisfied as a cannibal at a vegan banquet. Give him, her or it five valuable minutes of your time and it will begin shrieking about drone strikes, kill lists and the murderous rampage of a technology that is as far from Shock and Awe as you could possibly imagine without going completely Gandhi. If anything it hates drone strikes more than it hates Hiroshima. Mass killing justifies its smug contempt for the machinery of war, but anything that smacks of an attempt to moralize warfare challenges its principles and urges it on to greater displays of outrage.

Israel, in the name of peace, turned over the lives of millions of people to the control of a terrorist organization which taught their children to believe that their highest purpose in life was to die while killing Israelis.

The Oslo Accords turned stone-throwers into shooters and suicide bombers. It allowed the kind of people that most of Israel’s Muslim neighbors had locked up and thrown away the key to, inside the country and gave them charge of the economy and the youth. Every peace dove, every peace song, every peace agreement, made the rivers of blood that followed not only inevitable, but mandatory.

For decades, every time that Israel was on the verge of finishing off the terrorists, there came a call for a ceasefire or a peace agreement. The call was heeded and the violence continued because all the peace agreements and ceasefires were just prolonged unfinished wars. They were a game of baseball that never ended because no home run was ever scored. Instead the New York Yankees were being forced to play the Martyrs of Muslimtown for thirty years with the umpire stepping in every time the hometown team was on the verge of winning the game. Each peace agreement did not mean peace, it meant that the Muslimtown Martyrs would have another few years to go on killing and being killed.

Peace meant that the war would never end. Instead of perpetual peace, it made for perpetual war.

In 1992 Israel deported 400 Hamas terrorists. It didn’t kill them, lock them up or bake them into a pie. All it did was kick them out of a country they didn’t recognize and closed the door behind them. That deportation became the leading human rights cause of the day. The UN issued a unanimous resolution condemning the deportation. The Red Cross brought them blankets. Newsweek accused Israel of “Deporting the Hope for Peace.”

And so Israel took the 400 Hamas terrorists, the hope for peace, back. Over the next 20 years they shed rivers of blood and rivers of blood were shed because of them. There was never any peace with them and they made peace impossible.

But the humanitarians had gotten their way, as they always got their way, and their way was the blown up bus and the shattered cafeteria, the burning building and the suicide bomber making his way through a crowded mall, the child’s mother lovingly tying on his martyr costume complete with Alfred Nobel’s great invention, the jet plane releasing its cargo of bombs and the television screaming for war. But all these were far better than that 400 Hamas terrorists should sniffle into their Red Cross supplied cups of dark coffee on the hills of Lebanon.

To those who croon to that old Lennon song, peace is always better than war, and good intentions lead to good results. The only way forward is to keep extending your hand to the enemy and doing it over and over again no matter how much effort the doctors have to put into stitching it back together again after the last handshake.

Peace is still better than war. It is better that Israel and Hamas fight escalating mini-wars every 3 years than that Israel finish off Hamas once and for all. That price wasn’t worth paying 20 years ago when all it meant was that 400 terrorists would have been forced to get jobs slinging Halal hash in Lebanese Hashish joints. It certainly isn’t worth it today.

A flock of peace doves wings to Israel with proposals for engaging Hamas. But it’s Israel that is supposed to figure out a way to live with its explosive bride. All the proposals call for some gradual process by which Hamas will be courted, engaged and weaned off terror to become an upstanding member of the international community. And that’s all well and good if you have soy for brains.

Hamas is not interested in being engaged. Its goal is the destruction of Israel. This isn’t posturing, it’s not sullen resentment over being blockaded by Israel or outrage over the latest round of fighting. This is the essential ideology of Hamas, derived from the core Islamic principles over the proper role of non-Muslims in the Muslim world. It is not interested in a two-state solution, job creation programs or any of the meaningless shiny toys that diplomats wave when they arrive in the region. Its goal is to make Islam supreme over all other systems by destroying a non-Muslim state in what it considers to be Muslim territory.

Perpetual peace was not made for such conflicts. Peace was made for reasonable people who are willing to give and take. It was not made for those who only take.

Peacemaking is not a policy, it is a religion that we are all obligated to believe in. It is an immoral moral principle that ends in war. Peacemaking in the World War II cost more lives than Hitler could have ever taken on his own. Peacemaking in the War on Terror has cost a hundred times more lives than the terrorists could have ever taken on their own.

The business of peace is the industry of death. Behind the peace sign is a field of flowers with a grave for every one. Behind the peace agreement and the ceasefire is another war that will be worse than the last.

Originally published at Sultan Knish.

It’s Not Just About The Internet… We’re Creating Apathetic Robots

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The Orthodox Jewish world continues to seesaw back and forth about the pros and cons of the Asifa on Technology at Citifield in New York.  Debates abound about on the best Internet filters, blocks and technological band-aids to which will surely repair the dangerous environmental influences of the outside world. Let’s ban or block the Internet and suddenly our children will be less distracted, our communities more heimish and our learning and davening more for the sake of Heaven instead of rote blabbering to get it over with.

In 1944, Rav Eliyahu Dessler said in Strive for Truth (v.3, p.143) “Human beings believe, in their arrogance, that if they continue developing the world on the basis of ever expanding technology they will eventually achieve an environment that will afford everyone unlimited gratification of the senses and a life of ease and pleasure. So long as people remain ‘takers,’ their efforts will inevitably be directed toward selfishness…”

With the advance of technology and the ease of availability, the temptation of distraction has become a daily struggle for Jews across the spectrum to remain upright, even in their own homes. But the Internet is only part of the problem. Go into almost any shul today and you’ll find congregants reading their emails on their cell phones and leaving davening to answer their phones, tallis over their heads and tefillin perfectly squared. Attend any d’var Torah, graduation ceremony, wedding or bar mitzvah and you’ll find people distracted with texting.

The real problem is chutzpah and selfishness, and parents are teaching it to their children by their own actions, and then wondering… what went wrong.

Rabbeinu Bachya asserts in Duties of the Heart: “Their evil inclination induces them to abandon the spiritual world wherein lies their salvation… it makes self-adornment more attractive to them… it impels them to gratify their desires for self-indulgence… until they are sunk in the depths of its seas.”

In the rush to satisfy our thirst for instant gratification, information and acceptance, we’ve created a Jewish society devoid of cohesiveness and spirituality, full of chutzpah and apathy. As Rav Dessler predicted 68 years ago, “They persist in thinking that soon, very soon, they will hit the right formula, and if not in this generation, then in the next, universal happiness will come. And so they bring up their children to study nothing and think of nothing but technological advancement…” (Strive for Truth, pg. 152).

It seems that children and adults 68 years ago were also steeped in the excesses of technology, although it was not as insidious as in our generation. Unfortunately, Jews today are becoming apathetic robots. In their quest to look frum, with their starched white shirts and impeccable Borsolino hats, and in keeping up with the Goldbergs, they have truly collapsed into a materialistic society, all “for the sake of Heaven.”

Consider the case of Yaakov, who goes to the store to buy a pair of expensive shoes on sale at a department store, known for its lenient return policy. There he meets his friend Shimon, who has just bought the same pair of shoes Yaakov wants. Shimon relates to Yaakov that he “purchased” the $300 pair of shoes for only $200 by switching the price tag while no one was looking, and that Yaakov can have them for $250, thereby saving him $50 while Shimon makes some money on the deal.

Shimon is proud of himself and Yaakov gets a bargain.

Where I come from, this is called stealing.

Or consider Reuven’s practice of going to an outlet store to buy fancy white shirts for Shabbos, in order to sit and learn in one of America’s finest yeshivos, where he wouldn’t dare stand out wearing a blue shirt. Lo and behold, Reuven ends up at the local Nordstrom return counter, telling the clerk the shirt is imperfect and he wants to exchange the shirt or get a refund.

Why would religious people, steeped in Torah learning, resort to lying and stealing?

The Orchos Tzaddikim in Sha’ar Hasheker says, “Alchemists turn copper into gold where even the experts cannot tell the difference. So it is with the mind of the charlatan. He rationalizes and justifies his lies until they appear even to him as truth.”

Microsoft, Israel To Sign Strategic Partnership

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Just ten days after the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer arrived in Jerusalem to discuss a memorandum of understanding between his company and Israel’s Finance Ministry to form a strategic partnership to develop and promote technology.

Steinitz and Ballmer heaped praise on each other’s endeavors during the Monday meeting.  Ballmer was set to meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later in the day.

In September, Microsoft completed its Israeli innovation center in Ra’anana, one of its 31 centers worldwide.

Computer Giant to Invest $5 Million in Israeli Education

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Computer giant Intel has announced that it will invest five million dollars (NIS 20 million) into Israeli high schools over the next four years, to provide advanced science, technology, engineering and math education to students in the “startup nation”.

The investment will initially be applied in 25 schools in southern Israel along with a budgeted NIS 50 million from the Ministry of Education to more than double the number of students graduating with science and technology diplomas.

During the six years between middle school and the completion of their high school educations, 4,000 students will receive guidance from representatives of Intel, who will encourage them to develop their skills in social media, gaming, video, and other areas of high-tech.

The program is expected to eventually include 200 schools.

Intel is Israel’s largest private employer.

The Limits of Government Power

Friday, October 19th, 2012

A country and a people can be measured in its breadth and its depth. A government can either choose breadth of control or depth of control—but it cannot have both.

Breadth of control allows for governing a large area, but with only limited control and influence over those who live there. Depth of control allows for extensive control over the lives of a population, but such control requires government infrastructure of equal depth that is difficult to sustain or project over a large territory. One is a mile wide and an inch deep. The other is a mile deep and an inch wide.

Governments that choose breadth of control are able to govern a large territory with a light touch, but breadth of control depends on a population that governs itself through a national identity rooted in an ethical, religious or tribal code. When a government attempts to replace this code with its own control, then it trades breadth of control for depth of control.

Depth of control can only be extended over a limited area. When governments invest in depth of control, then they tighten control over a handful of urban centers clotted with massive bureaucracies that carefully regulate the lives of its middle class while the rest of the country begins going its own way unknown to the ruling class. These decadent systems lose touch with the outskirts and with their own lower classes and remain unaware even as their empire crumbles.

Modern government is fixated on depth of control over people. It plots to control every aspect of their lives with the goal of creating a completely harmonious whole. Technology has fed the illusion that such control has become more feasible than ever allowing for the rise of truly scientific government. This illusion is destroying the nation-states of modern civilization by overburdening them with massive governments flailing for control and destroying their economies in order to achieve that control.

Bureaucracy is the sticking point of depth of control. Each level of control requires more staff to implement that control. The more aspects of private life that government seeks to make public, the more men and women sitting behind desks are needed to formulate the rules, promulgate them, process them and enforce them.

The nationalization of private life runs into the same problem of all nationalization and collectivization. Large operations tend toward greater degrees of inefficiency due to the diffusion of responsibility and accountability. Large systems respond to inefficiency by creating more redundant structures which only increase the inefficiency.

Bureaucracies cope with all problems by adding new layers of paperwork without recognizing that paperwork is itself the problem. The world outside comes to be modeled through paper so that rather than interacting with problems, the system interacts with a paperwork model of the real world that is detached from the real world and requires ever increasing resource of paperwork handlers to maintain.

Governments begin by seeking depth of control and end by losing control over the depths of their own bureaucracy which not only becomes incapable of managing an entire control, but develops its own agenda and becomes a political rival of the politicians who serve as the conduit of their rulership and also the void into which all their ideas, both good and bad, fall into and vanish without a trace.

Depth of control is implemented through the proliferation of laws, regulations, mandates and codes, but the proliferation of laws is also the proliferation of lawlessness. The more laws exist, the more they are broken and the more the system must struggle to restore credibility with constant crackdowns or sink into a state of complete lawlessness.

A system that strives for depth of control is always running the Red Queen’s Race, passing more laws and declaring more wars on obstructive social problems just to stay in place without ever solving anything. The problems become institutionalized and unsolvable because the institutionalization of a problem creates a bureaucratic mandate for the survival of the institutions dedicated to solving the problem and the institutions dedicated to solving the problem seek to survive by not solving the problem.

Like a war, depth of control takes on its own momentum and comes to exist for the sake of existing. Even though the various social wars can never be won, the ruling class and the middle class are obligated to believe that victory is at hand. The working class and the lower class, as well as the lower middle class, who are usually the targets of government problem solving, are usually well aware that the problems are unsolvable. Their obstinacy acts as a kind of passive aggressive insurgency against the problem solvers.

The Road Paved with iPhones

Monday, September 10th, 2012

I wish I could say that I am perplexed by what happened at a wedding hall in Jerusalem last week. Because that would be the normal response by someone who had heard that a Rosh Yeshiva disqualified an individual designated as a witness to sign a Kesuva (the Halachic marriage contract).

It would be shocking to most people that a witness was disqualified because he owned an iPhone But the way things are going now, I am not shocked or even perplexed by it at all. From YWN:

As the kesuva was being written, Rabbi Yosef Ze’ev Feinstein, Rosh Yeshivas ‘עמלהשל תורה’, the mesader kedushin, asked to meet the Eidim (witnesses). He asked them to see their cell phones. One pulled out a kosher phone. The second an iPhone. The latter was disqualified as a witness.

There are many Halachic reasons to disqualify a witness. But owning an iPhone is not one of them. And yet this Rosh Yeshiva decided that owning an iPhone is so bad that it is enough to… not only disqualify someone from being a witness, but enough to embarrass him in doing so in front of those who designated him as such and those who watched this happen.

This is the state of the extremism that runs rampant in certain Charedi circles in Israel I guess. While I don’t think anyone has yet been disqualified as a witness in America for owning an iPhone, it can’t be that far off. In the never ending chase to be seen as the frummest (more observant), what happens in Israel… doesn’t stay in Israel.

There is always someone here who will take up the cause and be the first to be the “Frummest”! It happened with the devaluing of Limudei Chol (secular education) and it will easily happen to iPhone owners.

I know all their arguments. The internet is pure evil – worse than anyone can imagine! If you have any device that can access it… YOU are evil! Especially if it is a hand held device where one can hide access and pretend to be “holy”.

And now, post Internet Asifa, one is in direct violation of the edict against the internet imposed by someone who many consider the Posek HaDor. An edict about which a key speaker said that violating a public Psak by such a Posek causes one to lose their place in Olam Haba. This was not contradicted by any of the many rabbinic leaders who attended that Asifa.

So this poor ex-witness who very likely does not use his iPhone for illicit purposes has not only lost his status as a Kosher witness, he may very well have lost his portion in the world to come too. Nebech!

But… perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps the Rosh Yeshiva was doing us all a favor. This witness will now realize the evil of his ways; throw away his iPhone; and do Teshuva. And the rest of us will now take heed of how terrible owning an iPhone is.

I’m sure glad to know that the worst thing anyone can do is own any device that can access the internet. (I will now forever spit every time I say the word “internet”.)

I hope Rabbi Nechmya Weberman is paying attention. He can rest easy now knowing that compared to owning an iPhone, sexually molesting numerous young women – teens and pre-teens – who came to him for guidance and “therapy” wasn’t so bad. At least not compared to owning an iPhone.

I’m sure if he were one of the witnesses at that wedding he would have passed with flying colors. I hope the judge in his case takes note of the fact that Rabbi Weberman does not own an I phone. And never would! Chas V’Shalom! If not I hope his character witness point that out. I can almost guarantee there will be numerous character witnesses at his trial testifying to what a Tzadik he is.

Good to know where the Torah world’s priorities are heading.

Visit the Emes Ve-Emunah blog.

Israeli Medical Smartphone Spreading Freedom, Happiness, Around the World

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Israeli scientific breakthroughs are restoring freedom and ease to the lives of millions of patients throughout the world.

A breakthrough medical smartphone devised by an Israeli company will not only enable patients to consolidate ongoing medical tests and diagnostics in one handy place, but will also provide them the freedom of travel and ease of use lost with conventional medical monitoring.

LifeWatch Technologies , based in Rehovot, has introduced the new LifeWatch V Android-based phone, the first of its kind smartphone device to measure blood glucose levels, oxygen saturation, blood glucose levels, stress levels, heart rate, and body temperature, as well as chart diet, provide reminders to take medications, and even measure daily activity through embedded sensors.  Data and results are provided to the user and to third parties such as healthcare providers or caretakers, via email or text message.  The device wirelessly interacts with a remote cloud-based environment, enabling users to take advantage of related complementary medical and wellness-related services.  And it makes and receives regular phone calls. Medical information will also be sent to one of LifeWatch’s US emergency call centers – one for each time zone – with a center currently in development in Israel.

CEO Dr. Yacov Geva told Israeli science and technology website Israel21c that the device is particularly useful in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, and said he thinks it is particularly appropriate for children, because it will not only enable parents to monitor health data while permitting children to conduct normal lives at school and elsewhere away from home, but will allow parents to keep an eye on the regularity of testing so they can provide reminders if they see a test is being missed during the day.

The stainless steel-framed phones will be manufactured by TechFaith Wireless Communication Technoogy of China according to Israeli specs and industrial design, and will provide interface options in Hebrew, English, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese.  The device will cost between $500 and $700 a unit, and will likely be on the market next year, pending approval in the EU and the US.

New technology may be developed to assist the speech of those unable to communicate due to paralysis or disability, thanks to a joint study between scientists at Haifa’s Technion and UCLA who have uncovered how brain cells encode the pronunciation of vowels in speech.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the study showed that different parts of the brain are engaged in the pronunciation of different vowel sounds.

The study was conducted by Professor Shy Shoham and Dr. Ariel Tankus of the biomedical engineering faculty at Haifa’s Technion and Professor Itzhak Fried of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, in partnership with the neurosurgery department at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The study was based on knowledge about the brain’s predictable responses to bodily movements, and followed 11 American epileptics whose conditions could not be controlled with medication.

Data was gathered when the patients, who suffered from damaged portions of the brain, had electrodes implanted in their brains to measure neuron activity as they spoke.

The team studied how and where the neurons encoded vowel articulation, and learned that the two parts of the brain associated with the saying of vowels respond in different ways and to different vowels.

The scientists lauded the discovery as a potential starting point for developing neuro-prosthetic devices or brain-machine interfaces to decode the brain’s firing pattern for speech.

Providing freedom from severe clinical depression which has not responded to medication or therapy, the doctors at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem are performing a radical experimental procedure involving a “brain pacemaker”, which will provide Deep Brain Stimulation via electrodes implanted in the patients’ brains.  Four Israeli patients are taking part in the trial, and another six are being recruited.

The treatment  is covered in Israel by medical insurance, with patients being eligible only after failing at least three different drug treatments and electro-convulsive therapy.

The new device will deliver electric currents to areas of cranial overactivity to help regulate the mood.

So far, the treatment has achieved a 70 percent success rate.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israeli-medical-breakthroughs-bringing-freedom-speech-happiness-to-patients-worldwide/2012/09/06/

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