One fascinating development over the previous year has been the increase in interest in local government and the concept of local governments with more diversity and experimentation. The quick mainstreaming of crypto notions like as coins, non-fungible tokens, and decentralised autonomous organisations has been another noteworthy trend of the past year (DAOs). So, what would happen if the two tendencies were combined? Is it feasible to have a city with a coin, an NFT, a DAO, some anti-corruption record-keeping on-chain, or possibly all four? As it turns out, others are already attempting to do so.
- CityCoins.co is a project that creates currencies that are meant to be used as local mediums of exchange, with a percentage of the coin’s issuance going to the city administration.
- Experiments with NFTs, which are frequently used to fund local artists. A government-sponsored conference is being held in Busan to look into what they can accomplish with NFTs.
Why should we care about cities?
In response to long-standing difficulties and quick changes in people’s basic needs, many national governments around the world have shown themselves to be inefficient and slow-moving. To put it another way, many national governments are lacking in live players. Worse, many of the out-of-the-box political concepts currently being discussed or implemented for national administration are downright dangerous. There are 10 ideas, that are all just different types of centralised control and universal surveillance, for every idea that can be labelled as liberating or democratic.
In theory, cities and states are capable of genuine dynamism. Because there are significant cultural differences across cities, it is simpler to locate a single city where a radical notion has widespread support than it is to persuade an entire country to accept it. Local public goods, urban planning, transportation, and many other aspects of city governance face significant challenges and opportunities that could be addressed. Cities have tightly knit internal economies, allowing things like mass cryptocurrency acceptance to emerge on their own.
Existing smart city programmes are frequently criticised for their centralised administration, lack of transparency, and data privacy. Blockchain and cryptographic technologies, on the other hand, appear to be a promising key ingredient for a more open and participatory path forward.
What are city projects up to today?
Each of these experiments is currently on a tiny size and is still figuring things out, but they are all seeds that could grow into something interesting. Many of the most advanced projects are in the United States, but there is global interest; the city of Busan in Korea is hosting an NFT conference.
CityCoins.co is a project based on Stacks, a blockchain built atop the Bitcoin blockchain and ecosystem and powered by an innovative “proof of transfer” block production mechanism. An ongoing sale mechanism generates 70% of the coin’s supply: anyone with STX (Stacks’ native token) can submit STX to the city coin contract to manufacture city coins, with STX proceeds going to existing city coin holders who stake their coins. The remaining 30% is made available to the municipal government.
CityCoins has taken the unusual step of attempting to create an economic model that is not reliant on government assistance. The municipal government is not required to participate in the creation of a CityCoins.co currency; a community group can do it alone. Local companies can offer discounts or perks to those who stack their CityCoins, and CityCoins communities will create apps that employ tokens for rewards. In practice, however, the MiamiCoin community is not acting alone; the city of Miami has already openly embraced it.
CityDAO is the most radical of the experiments: unlike Miami, which is an existing city with the existing infrastructure that needs to be upgraded and people who need to be persuaded, CityDAO is a DAO with legal status under Wyoming’s DAO law that is attempting to build entirely new cities from the ground up.
The project is still in its early phases at the moment. The group is currently completing the purchase of its first piece of property in a remote part of Wyoming. To allocate land, make communal choices, and manage resources, the aim is to start with this piece of land and then add other plots of land in the future. Cities will be administered by a DAO and will make extensive use of radical economic theories like Harberger taxes. Their DAO is one of the few progressive projects that does not use currency voting governance; instead, it uses a voting mechanism based on “citizen” NFTs, with plans to limit votes to one per person using proof-of-humanity verification.
What cities could be up to?
there are two distinct categories of blockchain ideas that make sense:
- Using blockchains to create more trusted, transparent and verifiable versions of existing processes.
- Using blockchains to implement new and experimental forms of ownership for land and other scarce assets, as well as new and experimental forms of democratic governance.
Blockchains and both of these categories are a logical match. Anything that happens on a blockchain is relatively straightforward to publicly verify, thanks to a plethora of ready-made, freely available technologies. Any blockchain-based application may instantly connect to and interact with other blockchain-based applications around the world. In a manner that paper cannot, blockchain-based systems are efficient and publicly verifiable in a way that centralised computing systems cannot.
What are some existing processes that blockchains could make more trusted and transparent?
One easy concept that many people have brought up to me, including government officials from all around the world, is for governments to create a whitelisted internal-use-only stable coin for tracking internal government payments. Every tax payment made by a person or a company might be linked to a publicly available on-chain record minting that number of coins. The coins would be redeemed only by individual contractors or employees claiming their payments and salaries, and transfers across departments may be done “in the open.”
This system could easily be extended. For example, procurement processes for choosing which bidder wins a government contract could largely be done on-chain.
Many more processes could be made more trustworthy with blockchains:
- Fair random number generators (eg. for lotteries) could be used as a fair random number generator to improve the trustworthiness of government-run lotteries. Many other applications, such as sortition as a form of government, could benefit from fair randomness.
- Certificates, for example, cryptographic proofs that some particular individual is a resident of the city, could be done on-chain for added verifiability and security
- Asset registries, for land and other assets, as well as more complicated forms of property ownership such as development rights.
- Even voting could be done on-chain in the future. To achieve all of the requisite privacy and security qualities, a sophisticated solution incorporating blockchains, zero-knowledge proofs, and additional cryptography is required.
There are numerous great ideas for cities to try out that may be implemented by current or new cities. Of course, new cities have the advantage of having no previous citizens with pre-existing expectations of how things should be done; yet, the concept of constructing a new city is relatively untested in modern times. Maybe the multibillion-dollar cash pools in the hands of people and projects eager to try new things will be enough to bring us over the hump. Current cities, on the other hand, will likely continue to be the site where the majority of people live for the foreseeable future, and existing cities can benefit from these ideas as well.
Despite the inherently “trustworthy” nature of a municipal government, blockchains can be highly useful in both incremental and radical ideas. Running any new or old mechanism on-chain allows the general public to easily check that everything is going according to plan. Public chains are preferable: the advantages of existing infrastructure for users to independently check what’s going on greatly outweigh the losses from transaction fees, which are likely to drop dramatically due to rollups and sharding in the near future. If a high level of anonymity is necessary, blockchains can be paired with zero-knowledge cryptography to provide both privacy and security.
The fundamental pitfall that governments should avoid is surrendering flexibility too early. An existing city could fall into this trap if it launches a bad city token instead of a good one. A new city may fall into this trap by selling off too much land, giving away all of the benefits to a tiny group of early adopters. It’s best to start with self-contained experiments and work your way up to moves that are actually irreversible. However, it’s equally critical to take advantage of the opportunity in the first place. There is much that can and should be changed about cities, as well as many potential; despite the hurdles, crypto cities are a notion whose time has come.
The Chinese Mastermind behind North Korean Cyber Attacks: The Accomplice with Selfish Motives
North Korea’s nuclear weapon adventures make for regular headlines in news channels, and to fund these nuclear tests they deploy covert cyber hackings. The nation has a history of criminal activities, be it counterfeiting the US $100 federal reserve notes and passing them off in various countries, or becoming the single largest producer of methamphetamine (a highly addictive drug). The development of a cyber army by North Korea in its attempt to keep an eye on its potential enemies and to establish its hegemony in the upcoming cyber world is an alarming situation for all other democratic countries. Facing heavy trade sanctions for its inhuman activities, North Korea’s regime involves itself in finding alternative methods to secure foreign capital for itself. Factors like covid-19 hitting the economy, and an all-time-low trade relations with other countries particularly China force them to commit such nefarious activities.
As per reports from a blockchain analysis company, Chain Analysis, North Korea has stolen almost $400 million of digital assets by attacking cryptocurrency platforms. The findings further reported that the frequency of attacks escalated from 4 to 7 times and the value extracted from these attacks grew up by 40%.
There are between 6000 to 7500 cyber warriors divided into four units to carry out cyber-terrorism against state infrastructure and financial services, and to hijack the latest defense technologies inspired by China’s cyber warfare. The cyber warriors set up their first unit in 1993.
The attacks help them gather large amounts of money with less reputational risk, and the other motivating factor behind such attacks is to have cyber warfare with its enemy nations as initially, they targeted South Korea to undermine its overall economy.
Dedicated office in North Korea
Bureau 121 formed in 1998 is a secret cyber attack group, for stealing confidential information from overseas nations. As per media reports, they operate from Shenyang, China, and many members of the group are teenagers. As per the defector Jang Se-Yul, more than 1800 members are operating from different parts of the world. They are highly trained and rewarded military officials, and their main targets are the USA, South Korea, and Japan.
Bureau 39, also known as ‘Cash for Kim’, is a secret agency that manages finances for the top leaders of North Korea, and also finances nuclear weapons. They are involved in multiple illegal activities like counterfeiting foreign currency, slave trades (human trafficking), and the illegal selling of drugs and arms. Earnings from these activities are used to train hackers and to provide them with the essential tools for hacking.
History of major attacks by North Korea
The 2014 attack on Sony network under the name ‘Guardian of Peace’ was one of the major cyber-attacks done on any organization, to obstruct the release of the comedy movie ‘The Interview’ based on the assassination attempt of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.
In 2016, hackers from North Korea tried to rob $1 billion from Bangladesh National Bank using the SWIFT banking system but the bank was saved by a timely intervention from the authorities.
A group of hackers called ‘Lazarus’ carried out a heist of $275 million on the cryptocurrency exchange ‘KuCoin’ based in Singapore.
On 4th August 2022, there was an attack on a software supplier named Advanced Software Group, which was working with government agencies. A ransomware attack on the National Health Service (NHS) across the United Kingdom was implemented, and it tried to steal patients’ details and other pertinent data.
In December 2022, Daniel DePetris, a US-based foreign analyst, received an email to give his thoughts on North Korea’s security issues. When he inquired deeply about the emails he found that the mail was sent by a spy who disguised himself as the director of ’38 North’ think tank who wanted to target the analyst. “I realized it wasn’t legit once I contacted the person with follow-up questions and found out there was, in fact, no request that was made, and that this person was also a target”, DePetris told Reuters. Experts related to this field said that the hackers tried to find other countries’ approaches and policies towards North Korea and mainly wished to know where the Western policy is headed on North Korea.
China helps North Korean hackers to launder the stolen money back to their country by helping them evade the economic sanctions. There is also support in the form of Chinese cyber infrastructure and in the form of providing training to the hackers. Some experts suggest that there are very poor internet conditions in Pyongyang and the hackers operate from the Chinese regions, especially those near China’s border cities such as Dandong. Some reports also give evidence to the fact that the famous hacker group Lazarus was trained by China’s cyber warfare department.
China helps North Korea’s Bureau 121 officials by giving them shelter in its country’s territory, and by providing them with all the basic facilities required for cybercrime (as per media reports).
China and North Korea have a student exchange programme, which eventually becomes the training ground for potential cyber hackers.
China’s Involvement in Cyberattacks
Naikon APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) group backed by China’s People Liberation Army unit 78020 is involved in operations against national governments in the Asia-Pacific region. After the report published by ‘Threatconnect’ and ‘Defense group inc.’, the activities of the group have decreased drastically. Seculations are that they have either gone silent or have changed their modus operandi. However, in 2020, Check Point Software Technologies’ threat intelligence arm revealed that the APT had many Asia-Pacific countries on its radar, and the case of cyber attacks on the Western Australian government was planned using the backdoor name ‘Aria-body’.
Their victims are mainly government agencies which include Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Science and Technology, civil and military organizations in countries such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, Nepal, Thailand, and Laos.
By stealing confidential data of different government units, the ‘threat actors’ used to create mistrust between the different ministries. Their main aim is to gather geo-political intelligence.
China’s persistent use of cyber technology for unlawful activities has attracted North Korea towards it as its favorite teacher.
China Working at the Periphery
There is no concrete evidence of a joint cyber attack by China and North Korea as of now. China mainly works on the periphery and North Korea operates from the center. Their confluence can also be substantiated by following the fact that there has not been a single cyber attack on China (However, Beijing has accused the US of Cyber attacks for stealing sensitive data) till date from North Korea. North Korea has also attacked all other nations except China.
India – Digital Threats
As per the recent report of Panama-based virtual private network ‘Nordvpn’, the Indian users’ data is most commonly seen in cybercrime markets. The recent cyber attack on AIIMS Delhi, for which officials argued that it originated in China may have some North Korean connection also. With the rise of digital use, the vulnerability of such attacks will increase and there needs to be a robust mechanism to minimize such illegal attacks
Internet of Things (IoT) Effects on Society: Benefits and Risks
The Internet of Things (IoT) may provide numerous advantages and have a disruptive effect, e-commerce literature has paid little attention. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a term used to describe a situation in which physical items are linked to the Internet and are capable of identifying themselves to other devices and exchanging information. These devices produce a tremendous amount of data. New insights may be developed when it is able to aggregate data from devices and other systems, and these insights could have a significant positive impact on e-commerce. The dual nature of technology foresees the possibility of risks along with advantages.
The phrase “Internet of Things” (IoT) describes the expanding network of physical items with an IP address for internet connectivity as well as the communication that takes place between these objects and other systems and devices that have access to the Internet. Through the use of ambient intelligence, IoT enables remote access to sensor data, remote monitoring and control of the physical world, and the coordinated action of several physical items. These devices, together with the connection between them, can help e-commerce by generating the high-quality data needed to make the appropriate judgments at the appropriate time.
The primary driving force behind the IoT is the blending and integration of various technologies and communications solutions, including distributed intelligence for smart objects, Radio Frequency Identification technology, Electronic Product Code technology, and ZigBee technology . These technologies include identification and tracking technologies, wired and wireless sensor and actuator networks, enhanced communication protocols (shared with the Next Generation Internet), and Radio Frequency Identification technology. An Android or iOS device can function as a sensor in a big network by installing apps on it.
Potential Benefits of IOT
IoT generates a significant amount of big data. The public’s access to data and information, for starters, considerably increases government openness. Increased openness and transparency aid in proper oversight and cut down on waste in government. Second, enabling consumer self-service in this way can give people and businesses more access to information, empowering them to make decisions by utilizing the massive amount of data gathered by IoT and the wisdom of crowds. IoT provides users with insightful guidance. Route planning, for instance, supports drivers by taking into account constraints related to traffic, time, and cost in intelligent transportation systems such as in-car intelligent driving systems and smart highways.
In short, IoT can provide a range of advantages relating to trend analysis of historical data over time as well as real-time measurement and analyses of sensor data. These advantages include enhanced effectiveness, better flexibility, and real-time assessment of service efficiency. The potential advantages of IoT are into three categories: tactical, operational, and strategic/political. This is a common split that works well for e-commerce research. IoT advantages could include:
- Political and Strategic – better trend analysis and forecasting, increased government transparency, and increased citizen empowerment.
- Tactical – better cost-saving and revenue-generating planning, more effective regulation enforcement, greater health and safety measures, and better management and maintenance planning.
- Operational – Enhanced services’ efficacy, flexibility, and efficiency.
Potential Risks of IOT
As new sources of data that are obtained by continually monitoring a wide variety of things in a variety of scenarios become available, organizations are increasingly turning to the IoT. There are, however, a number of technological and legislative issues that must be resolved. It is obvious that there are several challenges in implementing IoT for e-commerce. The degree of information sensitivity is an important factor that the access control mechanism must take into account. User data disclosure could make private information, including dietary preferences or financial information, public. Unauthorized access to this data has a negative effect on user privacy. In this way, IoT necessitates unique strategies to guarantee the ethical and safe use of the data generated, necessitating robust data governance. The safe and ethical use of data produced by IoT devices might be hampered by a lax approach to data governance.
Operational obstacles include challenges with human capital, such as the difficulty in hiring competent staff, a lack of specialists, and a lack of workers with the necessary skills to operate new applications, as well as a lack of IoT-focused training and educational opportunities.
Concerns about data management are also present. When integrating IoT solutions, organizations must deal with a complicated heritage of data and applications. Several generations of systems may be running concurrently in many businesses, and a large portion of the data fed into the system has been done manually, with the attendant risks to the quality of the data.
In summary, IoT encounters a number of challenges relating to the appropriate use (privacy and security, for example) and management of the data gathered by the enormous number of interconnected objects. Conflicting market factors, data privacy concerns, data security concerns, weak or uncoordinated data rules, and weak or uncoordinated data governance are all examples of strategic/political hurdles.
The following are examples of tactical obstacles: expenses, problems with integration and interoperability, IoT acceptability, and trust-related problems. Data management problems, IoT infrastructure limits, and a lack of basic IoT knowledge are operational concerns.
We can say that The Internet of Things (IoT) enables remote sensor data access as well as remote monitoring and control of the physical world. Additionally, combining and analyzing collected data enables businesses to create and enhance services that cannot be offered by standalone systems. Our evaluation indicates that, despite the paucity of IoT research in the sector of e-commerce, the benefits have been the main focus of anecdotal evidence up to this point.
Future repercussions may exist that extend beyond the achievement of the intended benefits. Specifically, obstacles can be attributed to costs, interoperability and integration problems, and acceptance of IoT, trust-related problems, a lack of sufficient knowledge about IoT, IT infrastructure limitations, and data management problems. They can also be attributed to weak or uncoordinated data policies, weak or uncoordinated data governance, and conflicting market forces.
IoT will undoubtedly have a significant impact on e-commerce services in the future and will offer a range of benefits for e-commerce at all levels, but these benefits must be carefully weighed against the dangers and the proper mitigation measures applied.
How to Utilize the RBI’s Digital Rupee – All You Need to Know
On December 1, 2022, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will begin the first retail digital rupee (e₹-R) pilot.
Here are some necessary details concerning the pilot program for the digital rupee (e₹-R), as stated in the RBI news release dated November 29, 2022:
The closed user group (CUG) consists of participating customers and retailers and would cover several specific sites in the trial.
A digital token that stands in for legal cash would be the e-Rupee. Similar to how coins and paper money are currently issued, it would be published in the same denominations. Through intermediaries, namely banks, it would be distributed.
Users can conduct transactions with e₹-R using a digital wallet provided by the participating banks and kept on mobile phones or other devices.
P2P (person-to-person) and P2M (person-to-merchant) transactions are both possible (P2M). QR codes are used to make payments to merchants at their physical locations.
Trust, safety, and finality of the settlement are three characteristics of physical money that the e₹-R would give.
It can be converted into other forms of currency, such as bank deposits, but it will not accrue any interest, much like cash.
During the pilot, there was real-time testing of the digital rupees’ generation, distribution, and retail use. Other facets and applications of the e-R token and architecture will be tested in additional pilots based on the lessons acquired from this one.
Selected banks for the digital rupee
Eight banks have been chosen to participate in this pilot project in stages. Four banks—the State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, Yes Bank, and IDFC First Bank—will start the first phase in four locations throughout the nation. Four other institutions will eventually join this project, including the Bank of Baroda, Union Bank of India, HDFC Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank.
The pilot would initially focus on four cities—Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Bhubaneswar—and later expand to include Ahmedabad, Gangtok, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Kochi, Lucknow, Patna, and Shimla. The pilot’s scope may gradually expand if more banks, users, or locations are required.
What is the digital rupee?
According to the concept note, the Reserve Bank of India’s official form of money is the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). The regulatory body declared that the CBDC, also known as the Digital Rupee or e-Rupee, issued by the RBI, is interchangeable one-to-one at par with fiat money and is equivalent to a sovereign currency.
Characteristics of the Digital Rupee
1) According to their monetary policies, central banks can issue the sovereign currency CBDC.
2) It is shown as a liability on the central bank’s balance sheet.
3) It must be acknowledged as a reliable payment method, legal tender, and safe storage of funds by all private persons, commercial enterprises, and governmental organizations.
4) Cash and funds from commercial banks are freely convertible into CBDC.
5) Since CBDC is a fungible legal tender, owners do not require a bank account.
6) It is predicted that CBDC will lower the issuance and transaction fees cost.
Types of CBDC that will be issued
General purpose or retail (CBDC-R) and wholesale are the two subcategories of central bank digital currency. The RBI report from October 7, 2022, states that “CBDC can be categorized into two main forms, namely general purpose or retail (CBDC-R) and wholesale (CBDC-W).” While wholesale CBDC is intended for restricted access by specific financial institutions, retail CBDC may be used by all, including the private sector, non-financial customers, businesses, and consumers. While retail CBDC is an electronic version of currency primarily intended for retail transactions, wholesale CBDC is designed to settle interbank transfers and related wholesale operations.
“Since retail CBDC is the central bank’s direct liability, it is thought that it can give users access to safe money for payments and settlement.” Wholesale CBDC can change financial transaction settlement systems, improving efficiency and security. Given their respective potentials, it may be worthwhile to introduce both CBDC-W and CBDC-R, “According to RBI’s concept note.
Varieties of CBDC
A “token-based” or “account-based” structure is possible for CBDC.
Based on tokens, CBDC
Like banknotes, a token-based CBDC is a bearer instrument; therefore, whoever has the tokens at any given time is presumed to be the owner.
In contrast, an account-based system would need to keep track of all CBDC holders’ transactions and balances and establish the legal owners of any monetary amounts.
The individual receiving a token will confirm that his ownership of the ticket is legitimate in a CBDC based on receipts. In contrast, according to the RBI press release, an intermediary confirms the identity of an account holder in a CBDC based on accounts. Token-based CBDCs are recommended for CBDC-R because they are more similar to actual cash, while account-based CBDCs could be considered for CBDC-W when comparing the qualities of both types of CBDCs.
What Distinctions Exist Between Cryptocurrency and Digital Currency?
Decentralized financial systems, such as cryptocurrencies. Since they were created, cryptocurrencies have avoided the well-established, regulated intermediation and control mechanisms crucial to preserving the integrity and stability of the economic and financial ecosystem.
The spread of cryptocurrency assets “may pose major dangers connected to money laundering and financing terrorism,” according to a news statement from the RBI. The continued usage of crypto assets may also pose a danger to the goals of monetary policy since it could result in the development of a parallel economy, which would likely weaken the transmission of monetary policy and the stability of the domestic currency. Additionally, it will harm efforts to enforce foreign currency laws, particularly those aimed at preventing the abuse of capital flow controls.
“Additionally, the creation of CBDC may offer the general public a risk-free virtual currency that will enable them to transact in lawful ways without the dangers associated with private virtual money.” Therefore, in addition to shielding the general public from the exceptional level of volatility that some of these virtual digital assets face, it might also satisfy the demand for safe digital currency. Another primary reason for implementing CBDC is to protect the ordinary person’s trust in the Indian Rupee in light of the rise of crypto assets, “the regulator added.
According to the RBI, the central bank should provide its citizens with a risk-free central bank digital currency that would provide customers with the same experience as exchanging money in digital form while avoiding any hazards associated with private cryptocurrencies. CBDCs will guarantee consumer protection while delivering the advantages of virtual currencies to the general public by avoiding the detrimental social and economic repercussions of private virtual money.
Instagram Outage: A World Without Instagram?
One evening when I returned from a long evening stroll, the Instagram world had toppled; it was almost like mayhem. Carefully viewing stories of my friends who have alternate accounts, a few of my favorited poetry pages, and other small business accounts from where I usually shop – all were blaring the same horn! A massive Instagram outage had caused a furor over accounts losing followers within seconds, some of the accounts being suspended. Honestly, it felt like a crisis, especially with the tectonic shifts in Twitter only from a few days ago.
The Instagram outage was confirmed via tweets, but the nature of the outage seemed absurd. In my history of using the platform, I haven’t come across an outage this bizarre, but it made me backtrack a few steps and think through an interesting theory I read several years ago. Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Feminism emerged from an essay she wrote in 1985 titled “A Cyborg Manifesto”. Our imagination may fuse to understand the word “cyborg” as being part-human, part-machine or even something right out of the Frankenstein novel’s monster. But it is none of that, and it is a simple idea with complex implications, just like this time’s Instagram outage.
Haraway’s essay calls upon feminists to use technology for social progress, moving away from the traditional and essentialist perceptions of gender in everyday life. Before that, one is to define the term “cyborg”, as mentioned by Haraway. Owing to our increasing involvement with technologies, each individual has merged with the machines becoming a cyborg (a phrase that combines “organism” and “cybernetic”). The term cyborg is also a metaphor for political activity and conflict. In an interview with Wired magazine, Haraway clarified that being a cyborg does not always include having silicon chips implanted under the skin or having mechanical pieces attached to one’s body. Instead, it implies that the human body has developed traits that it would not have been able to do on its own, such as extending life. Even maintaining physical fitness is more technological, with workout equipment, various nutritional supplements, and apparel and footwear explicitly made for athletic activity.
Furthermore, the culture surrounding fitness would not have been possible without the idea that the human body is a highly effective machine whose performance can be enhanced through time. These new digital health tools enable tracking, recording, and turning into data various physical actions. These data are conveniently downloadable into a digital database where cutting-edge algorithms can examine them to produce statistics on a single person or hundreds of people.
Our smartphones are an extension of our memory and even our mental capabilities resulting in an Instagram outage taking the status of nothing short of a phenomenon. Making one compelled to think that this user-creator binary was irked and challenged with one glitch in the grand orchestra of the Instagram world. Some even fear the loss of “followers” or the community they’ve built over the years. We can be present remotely and outside our temporal and spatial frameworks thanks to technological developments in GPS and communication. These technological developments expand the human species and improve our mental and physical capacities turning us into cyborgs.
The widely spread #MeToo movement, the recent anti-hijab movement in Iran, pro-hijab movement in India gained enormous momentum through these social media platforms. Haraway, in calling each one of us cyborgs, advocated the “feminist” use of social media for voicing opinions, advocating, taking charge of the narratives, and sharing their lived experiences. In short, using the extended cyborg arm in the form of our smartphones combined with social media. Cyborg, in this context, becomes the hybrid of machine and organism – a creature of social reality and the one we find in fiction. The social reality is the lived social experiences in the present context of women’s experiences. For example, a fantastic initiative called the “Museum of Rape Threats and Sexism” is a project that highlights the power of social art. This project aims to “memorialise verbal violence that women go through every day”, which is most often normalised and brushed under the carpet.
Cybernetics challenges gender norms in this situation. Women have ingrained that it is in their “nature” to become mothers and wives as ‘destiny’, and that they belong to the weaker sex, are submissive and incapable of independent thought . According to Haraway, these roles cannot be altered if they are all considered “natural”. Through online games, discussion forums, or social media, where our identities can be as varied as the online platforms we use, the social aspect of technology plays a part in the formation of our identities. Men and women, on the other hand, are both social constructs, and nothing about them is intrinsically “natural” or absolute.
Haraway’s argument skips over addressing other significant intersections like accessibility, race, and colour and how each intersection would have a different impact. Despite several shortcomings, the essay is a source of discourses and discussions frequently in feminist circles. The erasure of these identities overnight, or tampering with these identities, feels threatening, especially when this identity became the sole channel to “connect” while remaining physically distant in the COVID-19 pandemic with other human beings as a means of subsistence and earning a continued livelihood, for education to continue, for necessities and groceries being ordered – in short, for every possible human need that there is in these last two years of the worldwide pandemic. I will leave you all with this quote by Michel Foucault that resonated with me reading through all the outage outrage splattered across social media.
“From the idea that the self is not given to us, I think that there is only one practical consequence; we have to create ourselves as a work of art.”
Conflict, COVID and Climate Crisis: Major Risks of our Time
Conflict, COVID and Climate Crisis: Major Risks of our Time
‘If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles but microbes……’ words spoken by Bill Gates in 2015 at Ted Talks proved true, especially in the wake of the COVID pandemic that brought the world to a stand-still. Killing millions of people within two years with tons of collateral damage in areas of health, economy, national security, etc. has shaken the world to its core. But is it just the microbes over missiles that are going to cause mayhem, or a combined effort of both, catalyzed with cyber-catastrophe? The current Russia-Ukraine conflict, Taliban take-over in Afghanistan, the Worst Emergency crisis in Sri Lanka, and the never-ending Israel-Palestine war – these all point towards intensified armed-conflict chaos around the world. On the other hand, the worsening climate crisis is further aching the world manifold. The Australian Wildfires in 2020, East Africa droughts in 2011, 2017 and 2019, regular cloud bursts, and the melting of icebergs in Antarctica are a few of many natural disasters that beg for climate action. But the newest addition to the list of challenges for survival is cyber-warfare. During COVID lockdown, even large-scale businesses and industries moved online for their survival. This transition was never expected to be as sudden as it did during these troubled times. As a result, the move was made out of fear and fright rather than undergoing due diligence which is the general practice when shoring a business from stores to wires. Hence, the threats of cyber-attacks and other associated risks have further escalated. The increased threats required improved IT security thereby leading to a substantial number of corporate entities signing up for consultancies that offer digital dependency in business processes. This even led to a sharp increase of $20 Billion in the cyber-insurance sector between 2020-2025, which is almost triple to what it was. The market is anticipated to grow even more strongly with the additional momentum gained from digitalization. Munich Re, an insurance company that provides coverage for cyber risks has experienced meteoric growth in this sector gaining a share of 10% of the total market, making it one of the world’s leading insurers.
The Doomsday clock is stuck at 100 seconds to midnight. The world seems to be inching towards a civilization-ending apocalypse. Rising conflict, worsening climate change, and never-ending microbe attacks have the world hanging by a very thin thread of hope, perseverance, of resilience. While a larger section of the world wants to live in a world free of war, the power concentration sadly is inversely proportional to the mammoth population. Even a minimalistic endeavor of having a healthy family, working just enough to put food on the table and have access to quality education for children, seems bleak. But is it really the end or is it just a prolonged halt looking forward to an update?
The World Economic Forum has stressed ongoing and upcoming challenges created by cyber fraudsters, climate change, and space technology. As per the Global Risks Report, 2022 released on January 11, cyber security and space technology were listed as the most emerging risk sectors for the global economy followed by the existing pandemic. Cyberthreats are in no way a particular-sector-centric threat. It has the potential to affect entire civilizations as we live in a time where there is absolutely no connection-deficit. Everyone is connected with everything and vice-versa. And hence, cyber threats are growing faster than society’s ability to effectively prevent and manage them. The rise of cryptocurrencies has given birth to a new breed of online dacoits, resulting in an increased number of malware and ransomware attacks.
What can be done?
It is a race. A race between what trumps what. Ever since the lockdown around the world has been lifted, inter-state wars and conflicts have dominated the attention of decision-makers. Needless to say, the pandemic is by no means over. Similarly, the climate-associated risks are piling up and it remains the largest and most complex existential challenge of our time that warrants unparalleled action. Evidently, vaccination is on roll and has proved to be effective against the invisible enemy, and hence one needs to understand the gravity of 7 million deaths where air pollution has been a major contributor. A heating world, in general, is detrimental to human health and thus, significant obstruction to a thriving society. While a total of 110 countries are now monitoring the quality of air their population breathes, it’s simply not enough. The deterrent theory of removing factories and industries and adapting the primitive way of living is also impossible, especially in the urbanized world. Hence preserving nature and also concentrating on all-around economic development seems oxymoronic and ironical.
But, technological advancements during the wake of COVID have hinted that if ideas are shared and transcended beyond boundaries, there is hope. A simple instance of Tesla championing the sector of electric automobiles has prompted even a developing country like India to work in the furtherance of completely replacing fossil fuels with an alternative transformative source thereby resulting in an increase in electric vehicle production. A hybrid power strategy is inadvertently the need of the hour today. But how much does a country like India which promises a good mix of bright sun and wind along its coasts, requires resources to make the shift to Net Zero. Setting up hybrid power plants is also cost efficient as the plants share common equipment, electronics, and storage, as a dedicated hybrid plant can work round-the-clock with only sporadic recourse to storage.
The aforementioned mechanism is just one facet of a multi-dimensional resolution that the world warrants. The national leaders of countries can no longer lament and find nonchalant advisory bodies to pin their blames act. Furthermore, the citizens are also to be self-monitored. Citizens cannot resort to unveiling a red carpet for a government that completely negates the existence of climate change and cyber security. Rather, the citizens are to hold the constitutional entities accountable, answerable, and liable for negligence and poor performance.
Peace underpins all that is good in our society. But with each passing day, a realization of sorts that ‘peace’ is in short supply, resurfaces itself. The horrors of Covid have shown the world, that no matter how technologically advanced, monetarily rich, and systematically sustainable it looks, it is as vulnerable as one can be. The only upside that one can perceive from the horrifying pandemic, is that the loss of millions of lives and trillion dollars have only waken up the world from its deep slumber. Digitalization and globalization may have brought the world close, but the shrunk world is failing to realize that, with great inter-connectedness comes great interdependencies. And thus, the multi-dimensional crisis is not an individual but collective responsibility.
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