Smart apps are not free at all. Instead, they charge their users in a novel manner. In a way that is not less than insidious. Who will allow his privacy being breached, location surveilled, and data harnessed? A lunatic, perhaps. This is what is happening today. All users are being charged for using smart apps in the form of surveillance-when the apps ask for accessing location- and data gathering-when apps get permission to private data that users acquiesce to by agreeing to the terms. So, are the users lunatic or the app developers cunning? The latter is more true than the former. It is the pursuance of profit that makes the developer charge privacy to allow the user to access his app. And it is the data that is metered while using apps, no matter it is for entertainment, or for really productive work which is less so. That being the case, data is the real money in the virtual world, and that ruefully is the uncomfortable truth. User’s privacy is increasingly being trampled underfoot with his/her consent, ironically. After permitting the apps, the user agrees to be a product somewhat reluctantly. As someone truly puts it that ‘if you are not paying for the product, you are the product.’ And the apps thereupon embark on extracting the data gleefully and incessantly. Agglomeration of data helps them develop a virtual being of the user with all the prediction models, infamously called predictive behaviour modelling, at their disposal. Later on, several buyers make a bid for that harvested data of each and every user. The more the data is, the more accurate the behaviour prediction, the greater the price tag- a price tag of selling privacy. All told, smart apps are not freebies, they are smartly metering their usage. Welcome to the age of surveillance capitalism!
The virtual world is drowning in the deluge of misinformation. In the absence of any national, international, or private regulations, misinformation is ubiquitous now on social networking sites. It is almost unlikely for an uninformed user to sail through the torrent of misinformation and emerge unscathed. Psychological, political, personal decisions, among others, are now being shaped by misinformation pervasive on social media platforms. Moreover, incessant sharing of posts without fact-checking exercise is no less damaging to truthful information. Even worse, doctored images and misleading content are awarded with more virality than credible information. Resultantly, users either deliberately or unwittingly share fake posts in a bid to earn attention. State-backed actors are also found to be involved in peddling propaganda through misinformation to advance their interests. For example, Russia hired bots to undermine the legitimacy of the US presidential election in 2016. What is even more appalling is that misinformation is also responsible for fomenting hostility towards certain community groups based on ethnic, religious, or racial lines. The rising spectre of Islamophobia both in the West and India has stemmed largely from malicious misinformation available on these platforms, which aimed at vilifying and stigmatising Islam. Even Science has become a casualty of a vile stream of misinformation. Fake cures, climate denialism, anti-vaxxers, and above all Covid conspiracy theories targetting poor Bill Gates for the pandemic, interalia, all have contributed to diminishing the credibility of scientific findings about raging pandemic and devastating climate patterns. Amid such hullabaloo, effective countermeasures are nowhere to be found to get rid of misinformation and ensure credible information on these platforms for the virtual community.
China is asserting its offensive posture in the Indo-Pacific region. From expanding its influence in the Indo Pacific ocean by claiming several disputed islands to building state-of-the-art naval power, from assuming control of the ports of littoral state to military build-up on islands, and from launching sprawling Belt and Riad Initiative to intimidating Taiwan, all are manifestations of revisionist China. China is on the collision course with the US in its attempt to enhancing its power in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. Washington seeks to uphold freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) and international rules-based order in the region which ensure the hegemony of the US interest. Contrary to that, China seeks to alter the balance of power in its favour as it has found its interest being challenged by the US and its allies. From the Malacca dilemma to the Two China policy in Taiwan, from Quad plus grouping to Trans-Pacific Partnership, all are attempts of the US to contain China from becoming an unrivalled regional power. It seems that China has adopted a geoeconomic strategy while the US has developed a geostrategic scheme to further their version of ends in the region. China is flexing its giant economic muscle by launching the gargantuan Belt and Road Initiative to rope countries in her tent. And she has somewhat been successful in doing so. China, Russia, Pakistan, and Iran are partners of an emerging power block in the Indo-Pacific region, dreaming to build economic collaboration based on regional interest. In contrast, the US is leveraging its geostrategic acumen to attract countries on its side. America, India, New Zealand, and Japan are forging another power axis in the region, committing to defend the existing order in the region. Needless to say, if such a divergence of interest persists unabatedly, instability in this region is most likely. Revisionist China, arrogant America, belligerent India, and passionate Russia, all along with their allies, are creating horrible casus belli for a possible confrontation. In doing so, they are pushing not only the Indo-Pacific region but also the world to the brink of full-scale conflagration.
Globalization has undergone a massive transformation amid the pandemic. Some of its features have fractured while others blossomed in the face of a virus. Border closures have caused a sharp decline in the amount of trade flow and mobility of labor, causing massive disruption to supply chains and petroleum prices. During these troubling times, a shift towards digital platforms has been observed at biblical proportions, generating extraordinary profits for Big Tech. So when the virus is raging and mutating unabatedly, ravaging the lives and livelihoods around the globe, a virtual feature of globalization has emerged as a viable option to keep life going. With social life completely shifted on social media, business conducted through virtual meetings, needs supplied by Amazon and Alibaba, entertainment by Netflix, and education by online platforms, it seems that the future of globalization would be more digital and less physical. There would be fewer business flights and less tourism. Sports events, such as the FIFA World Cup and Olympic games, will remain in place but with virtual crowds only. Previously, Tokyo Olympics, Euro Football Championship, and Wimbledon Tennis, 2020, among other sporting events, were either postponed or canceled owing to the pandemic. The world might never be the same again. Rolling out vaccines will not suffice in the face of the mutating virus. It might reduce COVID-19 from pandemic to endemic, but outright elimination of the virus is now almost unlikely. It is now the uncomfortable fact that nov-CoV is going to remain with humans forever. And with it, digital globalization is likely to thrive.
So it begins. The (once) United States of America has finally gone rogue. As Trumpism flourishes in the veins of the staunch Republicans, the schism in the country is deepening and is now palpable as never before. In the aftermath of the ignominious defeat, every Trump cultist has gone for the jugular to steal another term for Trump. However, to their chagrin, their efforts to overturn the election have been turned down not only by the Supreme Court but also by vice president Mike Pence. Failing to achieve any gain on the legal and political front, Trump attempted to play a masterstroke on the public-front. To that end, he egged on his followers to gather at Capital Hill. In doing so, Trump sought to stage a civilian-led coup d’état to undermine democracy. Resultantly, the raging mob stormed and besieged Capitol Hill and drove out public representatives. It was an unfortunate spectacle of the besiegement of the U.S democracy at the hands of the Trumpicists. It showed how democracy is vulnerable to political attacks. The coup attempt failed, however. And it merely caused a delay, not entirely derailment, to the official declaration of Joe Biden’s presidency. No matter how much advantageous the unconventional civilian putsch proved for outgoing, megalomaniac President Trump, it certainly has set precedence for future far-right presidents to follow; it surely has altered the country’s political culture of smooth power transition; it definitely has dented the democratic social contract between the ruled and the state, and it obviously has tarnished the U.S global standing as patron to preach democracy elsewhere. The inauguration of Presidential-elect Joe Biden is just around the corner, and what unseen will unfold on that day is yet remains to be seen.
After staging climactic 911 attacks, the US, boasting her invincibility, launched a Global War on Terror (WOT). She made every nation-state known whether they are in her camp or her rival’s. Following that, Washington forced Pakistan to sever ties with the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan and join forces with her. The infamous offer of ‘ With us or against us’ wildly reverberated through the corridors of Islamabad in those troubling times. On that day, Pakistan, though reluctantly acquiesced to US demands under duress, decided to have United States’ guts for garters in Afghanistan. As years after years pass by, the US has found herself increasingly mired in an unwinnable, endless war that has been hemorrhaging her economic resources at an alarming rate. The United States’ ignominious defeat in the War against Terrorism is due largely to Pakistan’s backdoor support for Afghan Taliban; Islamabad has preferred to secure its ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan over caving in to Washington’s miscalculated demands. In all candour, the US bungled the response to the 911-catastrophe. It was nothing less than overreaction. From the outset, Washington was poised to unleash a reign of terror on Afghanistan. Also, the sequence of events tells the same tale: at first, the US demanded handing over of the accused from the Taliban. In turn, the Taliban asked the US to provide concluding evidence, proving the involvement of the suspect. After hearing these legitimate demands, the US went berserk. In that blind fury, the US sought to root out Afghan Taliban, mostly Pashtuns- the integral part of Afghan society, from Afghanistan along with annihilating Al Qaida, the accused perpetrator of the attack. Ousting the Taliban-led government was the first manifestation of Washington’s ill-perceived, hastily-taken decisions to assuage the US public sentiments. Who knew that the future would bring irony of ironies for the US? The irony of today is that Washington is sitting with the Taliban, seeking a safe exit from the landlocked country, and trying hard to hammer out a peace deal. Guess what! the US is pursuing all of this with the help of Pakistan as Islamabad is known to hold a considerable amount of sway over the Taliban. It is truly said that adversity makes strange bedfellows. The current geopolitical setting in Afghanistan is speaking volumes of the correct and prudent policy that Islamabad opted towards enraged Washington. The US must have learnt the lesson from her Afghanistan fiasco that she had better not go for a policy of coercion ever again. Indeed, it is slow and steady that wins the race.
A new economic order is looming on the horizon. It will soon be unanimously agreed upon by the World. The pandemic might be its inaugurator after hammering the final nail in the coffin of the fiat currency system. The trials of algorithmic, virtual wealth have already been underway for some time, whether of Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Facebook’s Libra. Despite the fact that cryptocurrencies are more crash-prone and unstable than fiat currencies, trust, a prerequisite for undisputed economic order, has already been garnered by these cryptocurrencies on an unimaginable scale. As yet, investing in crypto-assets is like gambling, having high risks and gains based on chance. Besides, all functionalities of Blockchain technology, it appears, have not been hitherto unveiled. Though supposedly decentralized, cryptocurrencies, it appears, are pre-dictated by their creators. So, here the rules of the game are already rigged against the masses. If history is anything to go by, the monopoly of the economy has always remained under the control of a few, and in that, it has never ceded to the hoi polloi. Same is the case of fiat currency wherein central banks are in full control of the money-making process which they wield at the cost of buying power of the people’s reserved wealth. Same will be the case of blockchain technology; in fact, it will further bestow the unfettered authority of people’s wealth in the hands of a few. With that, they can block or chain anyone’s economy at their own whims and fancies, depriving common people even of the freedom to spend money. Where the people are spending their wealth, how much, for what matter, all of these along with many otherwise unpoliced decisions will be under the watch of filthy, no less canny, algorithms. These algorithms are being fed with reams of data about social, economic, psychological, interalia, aspects of human life; soon they will evolve into Artificial Intelligence. In this way, humans will eventually make themselves obsolete in front of human-made intelligence. Unlike its predecessor, this blocked and chained economy will, by and by, define the boundaries within which money spending will be deemed legal; breach those! and you will be, at once, stripped of using your own crypto-wallet. What is a matter of much concern is that it will not be any government in control, but private conglomerates, like private entity controls fiat currency now. Governments in recent times have already gone obsolete from when the private conglomerates have gone rogue. So, with new rules and games, and obviously with unrivaled power, surpassing governments, the private dictators are poised to be back in town.
Blindly following the proposition of Clash of Civilisations theory, the West by waging unwinnable wars has exhausted itself. This theory was proposed by the orientalist philosopher Samuel P. Huntington. In the aftermath of the Cold War, after burying Communism underground, the West loudly and boastfully trumpeted the victory of Capitalism over Communism. And restless philosopher Francis Fukuyama fervently announced, obviously before time, End of History, labeling the Capitalist system as the culmination of human progress in history and designating it as the ultimate global system. In response, Huntington set forth his argument that there still lie antagonistic Civilisations in the world that will stand up against Western civilization in days to come. Resultantly, the foolhardy West believing in that baseless argument has embarked on remaking the world order by unleashing a reign of terror first on the Islamic civilization, deeming it as a grave threat to Western-led order. In doing so, It has brought horrendous devastation upon Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, interalia, sometimes on the pretext of the war on terror and at other times on the pretense of saving humanity and democracy. In so doing, the West has increasingly embroiled itself in ruinously expensive, endless wars. Its attempts are purely for nipping those antithetical, as yet feeble, Civilisations in the bud before they start challenging Western civilization. In its attempt to neutralize the Islamic civilization, the West, instead, has ended up rendering these countries increasingly war-hardened. Back to back, all attempts of the West have backfired spectacularly and somewhat ignominiously, as can be witnessed in Afghanistan and Syria where it is packing its bags in a rush to pulling out forces. The argument of Clash of civilization was not of any credibility previously, but unfortunately, recklessness by the audacious West has made it so. As such, this fallacy becomes factuality, and now the beleaguered West has to stand up to the antagonistic Civilisations of its own making. Since the West has treated other Civilisations as enemies, they would have become so. Even so, its ventures and the failures thereof have emboldened other Civilisations, such as the Sinic civilization, to go up against the then triumphant West. Making the proposition of clash of civilization factuality from fallacy, the role of the West, needless to say, is outright nonsensical, if not idiotic altogether.
Recent attempts of French President to stigmatize and demonize Muslims to advance his political fortunes are not worthy of appreciation, to say the least. It appears as though he is following the footsteps of other demagogues, inter alia Modi, and Trump, who have nakedly evinced their animus towards Islam to garner support for their rule and conceal their administrative failures. Pouring scorn on Islam or Muslims has now become an overused political gambit, not less than a cliche, for the islamophobic leaders who fail to make good on their electoral promises. As COVID-19 has laid bare the hollowness of governments, politicians at the helm are embarking on playing with the odds to obscure, if not outright whitewash, their bungled response to the crisis. Whether it be Trump’s instigating remarks to stir up protests in America, or be it Modi’s bark against Muslims, or be it Macron’s deceptive talk against Islam under the robes of free speech by blurring the lines between free speech and hate speech, all of their attempts of partisan politics are for garnering sympathy to their rules, but these attempts will eventually boomerang back on their faces, bigly. Insofar as Islamophobia is concerned, Muslim leaders had better forge a vigorous platform, exclusively aiming at weathering the specter of Islamophobia, before anti-Muslim bigotry becomes the new abnormal in politics. To that end, leaders of Muslim countries should let their bygones be bygones and prefer to defend Islam when an assault spree unleashes by Islamophobes. If such a platform fails to come to pass, Islamophobes would take over the power corridors around the globe by reaping the hatred they sow through their anti-Muslim rhetoric. So the onus lies on sane Muslim leaders to stand up against the ‘Clash of Civilisation’ proposition rooted in the West since the Occident, it appears, is already short on sane leaders. What seems to me is that these ostensibly amateurish actions are thoroughly calculated to test the waters, and there is a lot more coming than meets the eye. May sanity and global coexistence prevail, and lunacy and hatred be demoted.
Is paper really worth anything? Or does it just hold the value of trust that the governments have earned in a somewhat deceptive way? Are not governments playing with that trust by issuing a massive amount of currencies, thereby reducing papers’ purchasing power, or in reality, plundering the people of their economic energy that is stored in currency? Therefore, it is not prices going up, but it is the currency going down, constantly leaking its value. Has not such a paper currency system conferred banks with unprecedented power to loot without the victims’ resistance by depreciating currency to produce other notes out of a thin air? Because of such a delusion obscuring the current monetary system Henry Ford aptly remarked,” It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” So the currency which is widely used in the whole world today is not real money as it does not store any intrinsic value or maintain purchasing power for a long period. Currency note is only a claim check, which previously had a defined amount of gold at back for a claim, but it wryly has nothing at back to claim now, thus called fiat currency. The whole system is depending on the trust of the masses having no knowledge of the deceptive system; once they get aware of the game, the whole system will collapse along with its deception suddenly and surely. So the current monetary system is per se precarious and is bound to be doomed.
Further digging deep to answer the question of printing currency: Who is entitled to create wealth out of nowhere? Technically, it should be God. But, in today’s secular world, creating false wealth may be the duty rested on the government’s shoulders, to say the least. So is it government creating wealth, obviously counterfeited one, by waving a magic wand? With some research, one can easily discover that an alien creature on earth infamously known as Federal Reserve is so entitled to perform this task. The deception here too will leave sane minds completely flabbergasted when one gets to know that Federal Reserve has only federal in its name to delude people into believing that it is a government organization, but, in reality, it is not; it is a corporation, a private one, printing fake wealth for the government that, too, on debt.
As the matter stands, the whole monetary system is finely messed up just to legally plunder people of their economic energy through fictitious money, decently called currency, by manipulating its worth.
In simple terms, the current monetary system is created by deception, maintained by deception, and functioned through deception. It is a complete fraud even fraud of the centuries to the poor masses.
Space is full of as yet unidentified pathways waiting to be found and unwrapped. These pathways may be of discrete nature, extending from one planet to another, one star to another, one galaxy to another, with no intermediate breaking points. In other words, planets, stars, galaxies could serve as dimensions or directions while traveling through these bridges. And from that discrete nature, a required amount of energy to open a particular bridge could be determined. The greater the distance to travel, the more the energy will be needed to unwrap the cosmic bridge. To unlock these bridges, a special kind of energy would be required; it would be akin to anti-gravity force. Perhaps, When our civilization would reach level II of the Kardashev scale, attaining the level of stellar civilization, then we might be able to garner the negative energy from space to unfold pathways in the space-time fabric. Only through these pathways can we evade such limitations of time and speed as imposed by Special Relativity while traveling endless space. For the time being, the major impediments we confront are the limits of technology and research. No matter what science would be, there are hidden pathways in the mysterious cosmos. It is just a matter of time before bright minds uncover this fact as stated in the Nobel Quran:
51:7 By the heaven containing pathways.