Give Blood!

Stricter measures on who can donate blood come into force today, which means more than 50,000 registered donors are now no longer able to do so. The Health Service always needs blood donors and especially so now – so whether you’re a donor who has fallen out of regularly going, or you’ve never given before but you’re keen, then find out about giving blood today. It’s a great deal – they give you free crisps and squash in return. :-)

(And yes, I am practising what I preach – gave my 8th donation last week!)

I, for one, do not welcome our robot overlords

Bob sent me this slightly scary Wired article on the future of automatic battlefield weapons, like pilotless attack aircraft, which of course could lead onto other things like homicidal cyborgs. The scary implication, of course, is that such weapons reduce the human cost on the aggressors’ side to nil (which may be welcome prospect for the US Army after today’s bloodshed in Iraq). But this is by no means desirable. As one analyst puts it:

“We already have in this country a predisposition that the world is a set of problems with military solutions. One of the only checks on that is the threat of American boys coming home in body bags […] What happens when we can resort to violence, when we can hurt others, without being hurt in return?”

Well, as it reduces the chance of inflicting retalitary damage on military targets to near nil, it means attacking soft civilian targets will often be the only means of revenge. You might reduce battlefield losses to nothing, but at the expense of encouraging the risk of terrorist atrocity in return. Not a pleasing thought.

Gmail = Big Brother?

A lot of fuss has been made over Google’s Gmail service, which promises 1GB of mail storage for free. But of course there’s a catch – in this case as. Gmail will add context-specific ads like the Adsense adverts in webpages, to any mail you read – so if I was reading an email about DVDs, I would get a list of DVD retailers at the bottom of the page.

This has predictably thrown up waves of protest, as inadequately covered in today’s Observer, and in a much better writeup in Wired. But I don’t see what all the fuss about. Some are complaining about the lack of privacy, but quite frankly SMTP (the way email gets delivered around the internet) is one of the least secure protocols out there – plenty of people get a chance to snoop your email anyway. And by having your data stored on their mailserver you’ve already signed off your right to exclusive ownership. Google have to pay the bills somehow, and their text ads are pretty unobtrusive, certainly compared to the nasty animated crap that Hotmail and Yahoo give you, and no-one will force you to click on them. It’s just a few ads, for heaven’s sake.

If you want to keep your email private and ad-free then get a PGP key and pay for an email account. But if you want it free and easy then Gmail’s the right solution. Like with many things, there’s a trade-off between security and convenience, and people are free to choose between the two. Whatever the pundits may think, Google is not Big Brother.