Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dragon chokes Google

Good and evil in the Google Age
From The Statesman
Cyber Age
ND Batra

Today you can google-froogle anything from sushi kits to death kits, and so easily that Internet pioneers might be wondering, what have we wrought? Of course, inventors cannot control whether people would mess up with their inventions or use them to enhance the quality of life. Nor do they know what the government would do with their inventions.

In 1973, when two young computer scientists, Vinton G Cerf and Robert E Kahn, came up with the revolutionary idea of making different isolated computers talk to each other through a common language, they did not anticipate the Internet to become such a driving force for good — and evil — in our lives. E-trading, e-pornography, e-surveillance, e-death, and who knows what else is in store for us.

Welcome to the digital age, which makes networking and sharing inevitable. For example, you might wonder how a 26-year-old man Gerald Krein from Klamath Falls, Oregon, narrowly failed in enticing 32 women in chat rooms to commit a mass suicide on Valentine’s Day a year ago.“

The common theme is that these were women who were vulnerable, who were depressed. He invited them to engage in certain sexual acts with him-and they were to hang themselves naked from a beam in his house,” Klamath County sheriff Tim Evinger told the media. Had Krein succeeded, he might have used his Webcam to netcast the event to the world-32 women hanging naked by a roof beam.

Sexual asphyxiation is a most extreme form of the sexual act. In a land of extremes, of death by choice, it would have probably created a stir; and then been shrugged off as a bizarre event after the media had milked it dry for ratings.
(By the way, Oregon is the first state where the physician-assisted suicide solution for terminal patients has recently received the US Supreme Court approval.)

A Canadian woman, probably a prospect for after life, who saw the message entitled Suicide Ideology in a chatroom and learned to her horror that another chatroom woman intended to kill not only herself but her two children also, promptly informed the police.

Depressed women have been known to kill their children. At least 31 women had agreed to participate in the mass suicide, Krein told the police investigators upon his arrest. Chatroom records showed that Krein had been networking with women to solicit suicide since 2000.

Getting out of deep depression through extreme sex, consummated finally with collective suicide by hanging, if that’s a probable explanation, then one might also understand why some people blow themselves up in their zealous commitment to jihad, which without networking and sharing wouldn’t be so blindingly enticing.

Dying alone is terrible. Dying becomes easier when people die together. The Internet provides togetherness to faceless strangers.

Group suicide of strangers, mostly young people, who meet on the Internet, has not been an infrequent occurrence in Japan, a nation where hara-kiri has been an ancient ritual, a Samurai tradition.

In Japanese chat rooms, bulletin boards, and suicide-related websites, people come together to share their ideas about not how best to escape from their suicidal fantasies but how to execute them; for example, sealing themselves in a coal-burning room and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning; in cars parked in remote mountain places; overdosing on camera; jumping together from high-rise buildings.

Though some suicide pacts succeed, others end up in terrible injuries and life-long miseries.Yukio Saito, a Methodist minister, who founded, and oversees, a suicide hotline, Phone of Life, made a very insightful remark to Reuters: “The idea of dying together is somehow reassuring. Dying alone is lonely and takes more courage. The way these suicides are carried out is sensational for the media, and very suggestive for people who may be thinking of taking their lives.”

Think of Jim Jones of the People’s Temple, the cult leader who led 913 followers to a mass suicide death pact in 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana. Had Rev Jones had a website, let us say, Your Guide to Death is Beautiful, with a seductive young woman giving step by step instructions and the precise time from here to thereafter, he might have attracted millions of people to an unheard of mass suicide.

You could imagine what a charismatic jihadi leader might do online when he wraps up mass suicide bombings with a noble religious cause.No wonder the US justice department has asked a federal judge to force Google to let the government peep into millions of private searches the American people have been doing using its search engine.

Google says no, but that is laughable. Google bent its knees before the Chinese government, where profits trump morality, so how long would it resist the US justice department especially when other cyber age giants, MSN, Yahoo and AOL, for example, see no evil in compliance?

National security, protecting children from pornography, and my goodness, there are a host of other reasons for the government to see where people have been going in cyberspace, in spite of the fact that the Bill of Rights says loud and clear, it is none of your business, Uncle Sam.

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