Surviving in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

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A recent Facebook experiment in artificial intelligence has garnered a lot of attention across the internet.

Stories vary considerably, ranging from pure reporting of a technological accomplishment to humor at what had happened to outright fear about the potential of computers going haywire and turning against their human owners like in some science fiction story.

The truth of the matter is somewhat more benign.

This was an experiment and the two computers were chatting about nothing more nefarious then how to divvy up a number of items.  The experiment was about how well the robots (not physical humanoid robots as much as artificial intelligence computer programs) could negotiate with one another to come to an agreement.

As such, it was no more serious than people negotiating over price at a garage sale.

In the process of the negotiations, the two robots actually developed their own language, or at least something that hints at language.

Just as two friends or a married couple might have their own code words that they use in conversation with each other; words that mean one thing to them, but something else to others, the two robots started using their own code words. Words which meant something to the two robots, but really didn’t mean anything to the programmers who were running the experiment.

At this point the experiment ended, not out of fear, they say, but out of a realization that they had not set the parameters for the experiment correctly.

The programmers had allowed for the creation of their own language, but failed to place the limitation that the language had to be intelligible to humans. As the experiment was really about developing the ability for a robot to converse with a human, it was stopped.

Apparently, the next generation of this experiment is going to include a modification to the programming. While continuing to allow the robots to develop their own language, such changes will be limited to things that are understandable by the human operators.

Whether that is because the computers supply the definitions as part of the process or they are only limited to words and syntax that the human operators can understand is probably still up in the air.

Were I to be running the experiments, I would probably try both, just to see the difference in the results.

While there was nothing really scary about this experiment, maybe there’s a little bit of reality in the fear caused by the misunderstanding of this test and its results. Not because of the danger of computers negotiating trades, but the potential of computers making decisions that their human operators don’t understand.

While artificial intelligence mimics human thought, it can only do that as well as the programmers are able to develop their programs.

Thinking machines would by their very nature be immoral, not having any morals whatsoever. That may not be dangerous in the short-term, but there really is no way of telling where it might lead. We’ve all seen the atrocities that humans without morals are able to propagate on each other; so it’s only logical that computers without morals will eventually be able to do the same.

Thinking computers and robots need some system of checks and balances. That’s why science fiction writer Isaac Asimov developed “the three laws of robotics,” placing limitations on the decisions that robots can make. These laws have actually been so well defined, that other writers have used them too.

Ultimately, any use of artificial intelligence needs human oversight. The decisions that we make, as humans, take into account many factors that we don’t even realize.

Our decision making process is extremely complex. And while it may be imperfect, by and large it protects human life and works to generate some benefit to at least some group of people.

Artificial Intelligence is Not New

The whole idea of artificial intelligence (AI) is not really new. Science fiction television shows as far back as the 1950s featured humanoid robots that could think for themselves and communicate with their human counterparts, even offering advice. In serious scientific research, we find the first discussions of artificial intelligence going back as far as 1947.

Alan Turing, the British mathematician was the first to suggest that AI would best be researched by programming computers, rather than building machines. Considering that the very first computer was built in 1937 and ENIAC, widely considered to be the earliest electronic general-purpose computer was finished in 1946, Turing was obviously ahead of his time.

Research into AI was carried on in college laboratories and research departments for the next couple of decades. But it wasn’t until 1980 and the birth of the idea of expert systems (a form of AI), that artificial intelligence took off. Since then, the growth of AI has been slow, but consistent.

I distinctly remember some of the work that was going on in the 1980s, as I was an engineer during those years and so managed to keep abreast of it to some extent.

Those were exciting years for computer programmers, with the idea of developing a true AI system being seen as the holy grail of computer programming.

In more recent times, research into applying artificial intelligence, especially the decision making part of it, has progressed considerably, funded by the idea of developing totally autonomous machines that can eliminate the human operator.

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Replacing Human Operators?

Much of current AI research is focused around replacing human operators for mundane tasks. One of the most successful of these is in the area of self-driving vehicles. A number of companies, around the world, have been working on developing such systems.

The LS3 Robotic Mule, developed for our military forces, is a prime example of using AI to make autonomous vehicles. This walking vehicle is under development for the purpose of carrying loads for infantry. One mule is supposed to be able to carry the packs of a squad of infantry, freeing them of that load and making it easier for them to fight effectively.

Another excellent example is the Mercedes-Benz self driving truck. Videos of the truck, which is in road testing, show the driver turning control of the driving over to the truck and literally moving his seat back to relax with a tablet, while the truck drives itself. Mercedes is planning to offer the truck, which has a futuristic look, for sale in 2025.

But over-the-road trucks aren’t the only place where we can expect AI to take over the job of driving vehicles, Uber has placed an order for 100,000 self-driving cars, to be delivered as soon as the technology is proven. Their parent company, once again Mercedes-Benz is hard at work to fulfill that order, with testing of 15 self-driving Volvo XC90 SUVs on the road in Arizona, picking up passengers and delivering them to their destinations.

What Does this Mean to You and I?

While these breakthroughs in technology might be exciting to watch, they tell a potentially grim story for humanity. This story is especially evident in Uber’s order for the 100,000 self-driving cars.

Part of what has made Uber so popular is that it has given 160,000 people in the United States and somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 drivers worldwide an opportunity to make extra money, using their personal vehicle to provide rides to others. Creating that many jobs in an unconventional way attracts a lot of attention, both by job seekers and the public in general.

But what’s going to happen to those people when Uber gets serious about using self-driving cars? Or what about the 3.5 million truck drivers in the US? Where will they work?

Granted, the replacement of all those drivers with autonomous vehicles will take a number of years, but it appears that the handwriting is already on the wall.

Advances in technology tend to displace workers, and the advances in AI might be the biggest job displacer of all time. The tech jobs that these advances create don’t come close to the numbers of jobs lost; if they did, the advance wouldn’t go forward.

Besides, the workers who are displaced don’t have the necessary skills for those new jobs. They have to be totally retrained into a new field or they become just one more statistic, added to the rolls of the unemployed.

The loss of manufacturing jobs here in the US has received a lot of attention. China is more or less universally hated for taking those jobs away from us. But the loss of manufacturing jobs to automation actually outstrips those lost to China. We are losing our jobs to robotics.

This is simple business economics. While automating requires a huge investment in equipment, it’s a one-time investment. That means that the lifetime cost of that robot is much less than the equivalent human operator.

Skilled welders, for example, earn about $25 per hour in manufacturing plants, while the costs of a robot work about to about $8 per hour. With increased competition and consumer demands for lower prices, companies are forced to automate.

“The loss of manufacturing jobs to automation actually outstrips those lost to China.

We are losing our jobs to robotics.”

 

Is this a real threat? Yes, most definitely. According to one tech insider, a former employee of Facebook, within 30 years, half of humanity could be unemployed, due to artificial intelligence and automation. This is the danger we face from AI, robots taking our jobs, not turning against us to annihilate us.

To put that in perspective, unemployment during the height of the Great Depression reached a high of 25%. Yet this technologist is talking about double that number. We just lived through a recession which peaked out at 10.1% unemployment, yet 10 million households were displaced. How could we even begin to handle a 50% unemployment rate.

Supporting this idea of a technology apocalypse is the news that many Silicone Valley insiders are preparing for a major breakdown in society. Whether it is through buying a house in New Zealand or building a private retreat on an island, many of the wealthiest technologists in the country are preparing a place to run to, when society collapses.

Considering how much technology is driving America today, perhaps these insiders know something that the rest of us don’t. There’s truly something to be concerned about, if the people who are planning the future don’t want to live in the future they are creating.

Society is not ready for this. We don’t have the systems in place to take care of that many unemployed people. Our country’s safety net would be torn asunder, simply because there would be as many people needing assistance, as there would be working.

With only a 30 year timeframe before such an apocalypse were to occur, it is doubtful that we will be able to develop the means of taking care of all these people. The problem is so much larger than anything we’ve ever seen before, that a simple expansion of existing systems wouldn’t work.

Rather, we would need to reinvent society as a whole, coming up with a totally new way of meeting people’s needs.

Perhaps this is behind Silicone Valley’s push for a universal basic income. These people, who are shaping the future even now, are the only ones who understand what is coming. They have a vision for a new world, but it’s one that we are truly unprepared for.

Video first seen on CONSCIOUS COLLECTIVE.

Surviving the Technology Apocalypse

A fifty percent unemployment rate definitely qualifies as an apocalypse. I’ve written about a financial collapse before, something on the order of the Great Depression; but as we’ve already discussed, that’s nowhere near as bad as this.

Is this risk real? I honestly don’t know. All I know is that the rate of technological advancement that is happening in the world today makes it possible.

We have already seen millions of people lose their jobs to technology. What is there to stop millions more or even tens of millions more from losing their jobs?

That’s a risk we just can’t afford to take.

Over and over again, I see scenarios proposed which would cause hungry gangs of people to roam the streets, attacking whoever they could in order to get food. Ultimately, this is the reason why so many preppers have guns and ammunition. The downside risk of such a situation is grave enough to warrant investing considerably in being able to protect our homes, our families and our food supplies.

This could very well be such a situation; a much more realistic one than others I’ve heard. Without the ability to take care of all those displaced workers, they will become desperate. Desperate people, it is said, do desperate things.

So how do we prepare for such a potential? I think there are two possible ways, both of which would probably work. For simplicity sake, I’ll call them the bug in and bug out options.

Bug In Option

While as much as 50% of the workforce could potentially lose their jobs from automation, there will still be 50% who are employed. So the trick is to make sure that you are part of that 50%. How? By having a job that can’t be fulfilled by a machine; one that requires a living, thinking human being.

There are many jobs which can be accomplished by machines. As we’ve already discussed, manufacturing jobs are being replaced by automation all the time. But machines can’t design the products, program the robots and sell the products. Machines can’t write the code that makes computers run; nor can they provide medical services to the people who are fulfilling those more technical jobs. For that matter, they can’t teach the people who will fill them either.

There are and will always be jobs that require thought and imagination. So the key to job security in this scenario is to get the necessary education and training for those sorts of jobs. People with valuable degrees, meaning degrees for which there is actual work, are and will continue to be in demand.

It’s the people who don’t have marketable skills, whether educated or not, who will lose their jobs.

Basically what this means is that the people in the lower end of the socioeconomic scale are the ones who are most likely to lose their jobs to automation. That makes sense, because it is easier to design machines and develop the software to replace those jobs.

Just look at what’s happening to the fast food industry in cities and states that are pushing for the $15 per hour minimum wage. Self-service kiosks, where customers order their food off of a touch screen are replacing cashiers. Kitchens are becoming more automated, with machines doing the cooking and only a skeleton crew of workers managing the machines. Low wage earners are losing their jobs.

This is the trend we can expect to see. To survive it, we need to make sure that we are not overtaken by it.

In addition, we can probably expect to see an increase in crime as more and more people lose their jobs. Our society has many people who walk close to the edge between being law-abiding citizens and criminals.

While they are productive members of society today, the loss of their jobs could very well give those people sufficient reason, in their own minds, to leave the path of righteousness and turn to a life of crime.

Should that happen, we will need to be ready to protect ourselves. Our homes will need to be fortified and we will need to be armed. You know what to do, I’ve written about it before and so have others. There’s no reason to repeat it here.

Bug Out Option

Our second option is to quite literally head for the hills, find a remote location and homestead there. That doesn’t mean waiting for the technology apocalypse to come and then bug out, but rather to start preparing today. Just as the technology gurus of Silicon Valley, we need a survival retreat where we can go, when those hungry gangs start roaming the street.

This will require time and investment. Unless there is a complete breakdown of the government, which I doubt is going to happen, you can’t just go and build a log cabin on federal land somewhere. Rather, you’re going to need to buy a piece of land, build some sort of home and prepare to become totally self-sufficient in every way. That’s why I used the word homestead.

Such a place will need to be in a remote location, so as to avoid the risk of being attacked by the aforementioned gangs. There is safety in numbers and one of the risks associated with living outside of town, on your own, is that there would be nobody around to help you, should you come under attack.

So you really want to make sure that your survival homestead is in a place where those gangs aren’t going to find you.

Even so, you’ll want to prepare extensive defenses to use, just in case. If you can find a place to bug out to, you have to assume that others can find it too.

Failure to prepare for that eventuality could end up being the last mistake you ever make.

 

This article has been written by Bill White for Survivopedia.

Six Things Every Prepper Should Do With Arduino

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Over the years, I’ve given a lot of thought to just how much I should try to avoid modern electronic devices when it comes to prepping. I have also sought, wherever possible, to end or reduce reliance on electricity and anything else that requires a major social or commercial effort.

There are some devices that I feel cannot be done away with, at least in the final stages of a major social collapse and during the first few years after.

In this case, I refer to Arduino computer controllers. These small devices are very easy to customize and can be used to increase your odds of survival.

Arduino is a combination of mini, solid state computers housed on a circuit board, and the programming required to make them work

For preppers looking for low cost and easy methods to achieve certain goals, Arduino can be an ideal means until you are able to build systems that do not rely on solid state electronics.

Modern Challenges That Complicate Disaster Scenarios

Smog, weird colors in waterways and horrible smells coming from the ground all point to high pollution levels – you go deep into the woods, and still won’t be aware that upstream or upwind pollution has found its way into the plants and animals living there.

If a major disaster occurs, you will wind up coming into contact with even more dangerous forms and levels of pollution.

Here are some sources of toxins that are somewhat contained now and may increase the problems in the aftermath of a disaster:

  • You may not want anything to do with modern electronics, but thieves and other rouges might take advantage of your lack of interest in this area. From radar surveillance to RFID bugs and other devices, criminals can easily figure out where you are, what supplies you have on hand, and how best to get everything of value from you.
  • Once sewage systems aren’t maintained anymore, clogs and pipe collapses, which will make every city street a disaster zone as the sewage backs up into the streets. It will be impossible to live in any home attached to the community sewer system because backups will occur through the pipes.
  • Right now there are thousand to millions of barrels of toxic waste sitting in dumps, underground, and in the oceans. These barrels are leaking and causing massive problems that require millions of dollars to clean up. When nobody will control or limit these problems, there will be no such thing as a safe location to live free of these poisons.
  • Factories, commercial farms and other large scale operations also work with extremely hazardous toxins on a routine basis. These toxins require careful storage and monitoring so the people wouldn’t be exposed to them, but the chemicals may escape their containment, and no one will be available to stop the situation or remedy it. In fact, even if you come across a toxic spill, you won’t have the gear or the skills to restore order.
  • As different chemicals merge together, there will be an increased risk of fires that push smoke filled with toxins into the air, affecting people for miles around at a moment’s notice. While these explosions do happen right now, they are the exception, not the norm that you will see in a major collapse scenario.
  • Given the number of nuclear reactors and the number of people required to keep them safe, it is a given that exposure to nuclear radiation will happen in a large scale after disaster. If you don’t have the means to detect the presence of nuclear radiation, you won’t figure out what is going on, let alone get to a safe location underground.

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What is Arduino?

Basically, Arduino is a combination of mini, solid state computers housed on a circuit board, and the programming required to make them work. The IC chips used to power Arduino are not as complicated as the ones that control your computer, however they can keep up with some tablets and smart phones on the market today.

Arduino systems are also very easy to customize in the sense that you can buy all kinds of add-ons and accessories that are controlled by the main board.

Here are just a few things you can use Arduino for.

Building Robots

Even though these robots may not be very big, they can be used for all kinds of things. For example, if you need to probe an underground tunnel, you can always send in a wireless camera on wheels.

The Arduino controller will act as an interface between the vehicle and the controller that you use to steer it. The Arduino main board can also receive information sent back from the camera so that you see it onscreen.

Chances are you would be truly amazed at how useful small, wheeled vehicles can be in a survival situation.

From mobile cameras used for scoping out an area to testing for land mines and traps, these robots can be true life savers. You can also use these robots to detect unsafe radiation levels, or to help you avoid toxic ground, air, and water.

Hazardous Air Indicators

Have you ever gone out of your local area, only to discover that other locations smell very different? When you returned home, did you notice that smells that bothered you early on have returned? If so, then you can readily understand why hazardous air indicators are so important.

No matter whether you have become accustomed to the smell of smog, waste dumps, natural gas, or other odors, they indicate the presence of gasses that can be dangerous to your health.

During and after crisis, these air toxins are bound to reach levels that will make you much sicker, or even kill you.

Since you can buy several different kinds of air quality sensors to use with an Arduino controller, you could to detect the presence of, or increase in toxic gas levels. From there, you can take appropriate steps such as wear a respirator mask, or employ other means to clean the air circulating in your home.

Detect Electronic Surveillance

As a prepper, you are always going to be concerned about your privacy or the number of people that know about your stockpile, it’s contents, and where it is. More than a few products you are storing away may have hidden RFID chips in them.

While these may be referred to as innocent inventory tags, there is no telling what those chips can do when activated. If you try to buy a pre-manufactured RFID sniffer, it can cost hundreds of dollars and still miss out on some of the more stealthy chips.

There are many frequency detector accessories that can be purchased to use with Arduino controller boards. Not only will you save money on the RFID detector, you will also be able to customize it to detect both older and newer sensor types.

This can also come in very handy if you need to find out if these kinds of chips are hiding around your property, in your vehicle, or in other areas.

Tools and Knowledge You Need for Building

To build complex systems using Arduino, you need very little in the way of tools and skills. The basic tools you will need include:

  •  a computer (even a tablet or smart phone can be used to transfer programming to the Arduino controller);
  • the actual Arduino controller and accessories (kits that include the main board and accessories run around $30.00 USD);
  • access to Open Source code for the controller and Add-Ons (this is free and accessed through your computer);
  • a solder iron (used very rarely);
  • any attachments that you may want to add to the controller.

For example, if you want to build a robotic camera system, then you might purchase a kit that includes these parts, plus others that can be used to expand on your main application.

Insofar as knowledge required to use and build Arduino systems, you should have at least a basic understanding of electronics.

Even if you don’t know the difference from a resistor or capacitor, however, there are plenty of instruction guides filled with pictures that will tell you exactly what needs to be done.

At the beginning, you will not need to know anything about computer programming because there are many excellent sources of code that can be used with the main controller and any accessories you want to attach to it.

That being said, as you expand into more personalized applications, you may want to learn how to write your own code.

Video first seen on I Like To Make Stuff.

A Caution About Videos and Tutorials

Over the years, I have searched through thousands of videos and tutorials as I worked my way through different DIY tasks. In many cases, I have seen hundreds of videos showing the exact same mistake, yet the “results” shown on the video were astounding.

For me, the most memorable occasion for this is when I decided to build a pen gun. Just about every video and tutorial on this subject showed using a wad of paper to push the spring into position.

What I quickly found out is this would never work for two reasons:

  1. If the wad is big enough and adheres to the walls of the pen enough to hold the spring in place, then the spring will never have enough power to eject it, let alone propel the payload forward.
  2. If you use a wad that is too small, the spring and everything else will come out and fly all over the place. Let’s just say that the vast majority of videos on this topic lead to creating something completely useless.

In other cases, I have found videos that offered contradictory, and often dangerous advice. Unless you actually take the time to build something yourself and test each stage out with care, there is every chance that the advice in these videos will do more harm than good in a time of need.

Now, if you go online and look for videos on Arduino, you will find thousands. While they may give you the basics on how to insert wires and parts into a breadboard, do not assume that the actual wiring details are correct. It is truly best to explore on your own and take the time to check your work carefully.

Even if hundreds of videos show the exact same thing and the exact same results, remember what I learned from the pen gun explorations – no matter how many times something wrong is repeated – it is still wrong and can never be made right.

What to Beware Of

As someone that has worked with building electronic gadgets and programming computers, I tend to be a bit cautious about an interface that combines both.

In particular, I’d hate to plug in my Arduino controller to the USB port on my computer, and not realize that there is a short somewhere in the breadboard attached to the Arduino.

For this reason, I advise taking the following precautions as a beginner, and even later as you become more confident of your skills:

  • Load programs onto the controller without other accessories attached. This will help reduce the risk of shorts and other mistakes being in an electrical connection with the rest of your computer.
  • Use an old tablet or old computer for programming. Try to avoid using anything expensive until you are sure it is safe to do so. Today, there are plenty of tablets that cost less than $100.00 that you can add Arduino related apps to.
  • Never rely on the computer or tablet for powering the Arduino while accessories are attached. Unless you built your own computer and know that the power supply can take the added load, never assume that the computer can handle even a small additional load. After programming, it is best to power the Arduino board with a dedicated power supply. In many cases, this may be as simple as a AAA or 9V battery pack. You can also purchase regulated power supplies that are designed to attach to the Arduino controller board.
  • Follow Basic Safety Precautions – in most cases, you can do more damage to the Arduino controller and accessories than they can do to you. Never handle the controller or accessories without wearing an anti-static grounding strap. It is also important to avoid touching the circuit board itself or any metal parts. Always handle the controller from around the edges. When you set the controller or other parts down, make sure they are not on a surface that can conduct electricity. Finally, always store the controller and parts in a case that will keep it safe and free of moisture and dust.
  • Never combine the controller with parts it isn’t designed to work with. During the process of selecting an Arduino controller, you will find several variations on the market. While most sensors and accessories will work with all boards on the market, others will not. Study the data sheets for the accessories carefully so that you know which boards they will and will not work with.

Six Things Every Prepper Should do With Arduino

When it comes to meeting a wide range of survival needs, Arduino can fit into just about any scenario and make things easier.

Here are six things that you should know how to build and operate.

1. Environmental Pollution Detector System

As mentioned earlier, being able to detect air pollutants and toxins is and will be crucial after crisis. If you suffer from breathing problems, you may be amazed at what a few simple sensors will reveal about why you are sick and how best to get on the road to being well again.

Arduino controllers can also be used to power water pH and and other aspects of water quality. Since water is usually at neutral pH (7.0), levels significantly higher or lower can point to the presence of dangerous toxins.

If you find water that has an unusually acidic or alkaline pH, you can use that information to determine how to clean the water.

This meter can also tell you how effective your methods were. Without a question, if you thought boiling water is the “end all” cure all for water quality problems, seeing the pH skew even more in the unwanted direction will reveal problems with that idea; and may just save your life.

In a similar way, you can use other sensors to test soil quality. This will help you choose the best areas to grow food crops as well as help you figure out which additives will make the soil more suitable for your plants.

Video first seen on The Suburban Hippie Experimentalist

2. Mobile Surveillance Systems

Also mentioned above, there are truly endless ways to use Arduino wheeled robots, cameras, and recording systems for surveillance.

No matter whether you want to know what is happening near a distant fence or even some location within your home these wheeled systems can meet all your needs with ease.

3. RFID Detectors

RFID detectors are absolutely necessary since chips are planted in everything from razor blade packages to children and pets. Knowing where RFIDs are can help you understand all the possible locations where spies can find out where you are and what you are doing.

You can always upgrade the Arduino sensor system for a fairly low price instead of spend hundreds of dollars on pre-fabricated systems that come out in response to newer stealthier RFID technologies.

4. Radios and Receivers

You can build everything from Foxhole radios to transmitter systems, but they may not be as strong as what you can make using an Arduino controller. If you take advantage of the wireless sender and receiver kits, you can also communicate more easily over short distances using much lighter equipment.

Video first seen on David Watts

5. Alarm and Safety Systems

Why should you sit up day and night worry about if thieves are going to get into your campsite? Have you been hoping a deer was going to come your way? There are literally hundred to thousands of ways that alarm systems can be used to enhance safety and survival goals.

With Arduino, you can build all kinds of systems that will generate invisible beams that will alert you to the presence of something you should know about. When combined with wireless signal systems and cameras, you can have real time intelligence about everything going on around you.

6. Nuclear Radiation Detection System

Although often overlooked, nuclear radiation risks are truly going to be much higher regardless of whether nuclear bombs are deployed. While you can always use a Kierney Fallout meter, it never hurts to have a Geiger counter onhand.

You can purchase an add-on for Arduino controllers that will do this job with ease. Remember, if you don’t want to dedicate a controller just to this task, just unplug the sensor from the Arduino controller and use it for some other task!

In fact, you may even decide to use one board for all your prepping tasks until you decide which ones you want to build as permanent applications.

Even though most of your prepping must involve tangibles like food, water, defense, and transport, it may not be a good idea to ignore all forms of electronic devices.

Arduino controllers and their accessories are highly customizable and can be used to help you navigate through a crisis more easily than expected. As you think about each area of your survival plans, consider that these systems may be of far more value than you realized.

Feel free to share other ways your prepping efforts might benefit from using an Arduino interface. I have built several for my own current and prepper based needs and would love to discuss them with those who are interested in learning.

If you are looking for low budget options to bridge the gap to more expensive devices, or ones that don’t rely on electronic devices, Arduino can fill that gap, and may you didn’t even realize existed in your current plans.

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This article has been written by Carmela Tyrell for Survivopedia. 

Cyber-warfare Has Just Moved Into The Realm Of Reality

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Ever since computers became popular, there have been those who wanted to hack their way in and find their secrets. For most of those early hackers, the thrill was in the chase, and the victory was in breaking in.

Most of their work was benign, with hackers being content to have succeeded in doing what they weren’t supposed to be able to do.

As computer use grew, so did hacking. But it changed as well.

With the massive connectivity and easy access that the internet offers, more and more hackers found their niche in life. These newer hackers weren’t content with merely breaching security for the sake of breaching security, they had nefarious intent in their work.

Whether that was the spread of viruses, identity theft or simply data mining for profit, it looked at the millions of computers connected to the internet as targets for attack, not just for play.

Malware has become a major threat on the Internet today, with countless hackers and even companies creating and distributing it across the world. While some is merely created for commercial purposes, placing ads on people’s computers, there is much more that spells real danger to individuals and companies worldwide.

It couldn’t stay that way though. Governments everywhere hold with the idea that only they can pursue illegal activities. While they work to keep their citizens from committing those acts, they are quick to adopt them themselves, and use them covertly to further their country or political party’s agenda.

Such has been the case of hacking and malware in general. The first to see the value of it were the Chinese, who created a cyber-warfare branch in their army. They immediately started working to find ways into other countries computers, especially those of opposing governments and their military branches.

They didn’t limit it to that. They sought out ways to attack critical infrastructure, such as disabling power plants or bypassing the failsafes on nuclear power plants.

While China got a head start on the rest of the world, other countries have been working to catch up, including the United States of America.

Rather than making cyber-warfare a branch of the military, it seems that we’ve left it up to our intelligence organs, most especially the CIA and the NSA.

Once it moved behind the walls of intelligence operations, any efforts towards U.S. development of cyber-warfare became very hush-hush. Few knew about it, and even fewer admitted it was happening.

The vast majority of Congress was left in the dark, as they had no oversight of intelligence operations. And with Congress in the dark, the American people were totally cut out of what was happening.

Vault 7, the US Government and Cyber-warfare

The most recent Wikileaks dump, cryptically called Vault 7, has breached the secrecy of US government involvement in cyber-warfare for the very first time.

Specifically, the first 8,761 documents demonstrate the CIA’s involvement in creating millions of lines of malware code, including viruses, Trojans, weaponized “zero day” exploits, remote control systems and other forms of malware.

In total, there were over 1,000 different hacking systems, Trojans, viruses and other “weaponized” malware. While the actual code does not seem to be part of the data dump (and that’s a good thing), documentation about its existence and descriptions of its capability have been released.

All of this was produced by the Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), a sub-agency of the CIA’s Directorate for Digital Innovation (DDI). This directorate, the most recent addition to the CIA’s organization chart, comprises over 5,000 registered users, many of whom are programmers and expert hackers.

The release of this information is a major blow against American cyber-warfare; but apparently it’s one that needed to happen. I say that, even though I’m not entirely comfortable about it, because according to Wikileaks, the CIA has recently lost control of the majority of their digital arsenal.

This extremely dangerous code has been circulated amongst former U.S. government hackers and contactors in an unauthorized manner.

Notice that I said “former,” not current. That’s the information that Wikileaks has, and also the means by which they were given access to this amazing data. Apparently one of those former workers felt the public needed to know what was going on behind closed doors.

A CIA spy secret that anyone can use to keep him or herself safe – straight from an ex-CIA officer!

The Malware Market

Should this code make it out into the dark Internet, the results could be disastrous. Apparently there is quite a market for all sorts of malware, with customers willing to pay large sums, even into the millions for programs which will permit them access to things they shouldn’t have access too.

But that’s not the biggest problem. The big one is that once out in the open, this malware could spread around the globe in mere minutes, used and targeted by an army of individual hackers.

Unlike other weapons systems, electronic weapons don’t explode and disappear. If anything, their “explosion” causes them to multiply across computers and networks, infecting more and more as they go.

While it may be possible to take them off a particular computer, usually by scrubbing the hard drive and doing a global reinstall, they never really go away. The same electronic weapons can be used over and over again.

This code got out into the open, we can’t count on the good graces of the people who have it. While some of those CIA contractors and employees will act responsibly with what they have, invariably there will be those who will see an opportunity to use it for nefarious ends or perhaps for personal gain.

There’s another aspect of this, which is even scarier than what hackers will do with the CIA’s digital arsenal. That’s what the CIA themselves have done with it.

In 2013, Edward Snowden came forth as a whistleblower, informing the country that the NSA was spying on American citizens, in contrary to the law. This new batch of information tells us that the NSA aren’t the only ones doing that. The CIA is doing so as well.

There have always been rivalries between the various intelligence agencies. FDR created the OSS during World War II to combat this problem. Yet the OSS and later the CIA haven’t managed to eliminate that rivalry. Rather, they’ve become part of it.

One of the results of these rivalries is overlaps in areas of responsibility and multiple departments performing the same task. Such seems to be the case here, with the CIA performing its own version of the NSA’s work. Yet without knowing who ordered the CIA to do this or when it was ordered, there’s no real way of knowing whether this is an authorized operation or not.

Video first seen on Fox News

But there’s more than just the CIA spying on our communications, like the NSA does. Apparently they’ve developed malware that targets iPhones, Android phones, smart TVs and even Microsoft Windows. This malware invokes thoughts of Orwell’s 1984, if anything does. With it, the CIA can turn on these devices and use them to spy on their owners.

For some reason, Samsung TVs in particular have been targeted by the CIA. Their malware, called “Weeping Angel,” which was developed in conjunction with the United Kingdom’s MI5, allows the television to operate in a “fake off” mode, where it appears to be off to the owner, but a microphone in the unit is recording everything said in the room and forwarding it to the CIA, via the internet.

This is just one example of the types of “back door” malware programs which the CIA has developed. Similar malware can be used to hack in to smartphones allowing the CIA to determine the owner’s location, read their e-mail, their text messages, search the phone’s memory and activate both the camera and microphone.

Quite literally, they can spy on anyone, anywhere, anytime they choose, and we can’t do a thing about it.

Even encryption won’t help, as the CIA has means of accessing the data, before it is encrypted. So much for the various communications platforms out there, which claim to encrypt your communications. If the CIA can access the information before it is encrypted, the encryption is useless. The government will know what’s in your communications, perhaps even before you do.

Before We Panic

All of this capability was probably developed with the best of intentions. The CIA, like other intelligence agencies, is involved in the war on terror. As terrorists tend to hide in the population and use the same communications that many of us do, it is necessary to develop the means of penetrating those communications to investigate the actions of those terrorists.

But where does it stop? What’s to say that they aren’t amassing files on each one of us? It’s already been reveled that the NSA is doing that, storing all of our communications in their massive data storage facilities. Snowden told us how that information is misused by analysts breaking the rules.

Those analysts aren’t the real issue though; the real issue is the government that is stealing our privacy. Spying on American citizens is a clear betrayal of our Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure.

Yet we, the American people, are routinely subjected to a level of surveillance that the Founding Fathers couldn’t have imagined. Even those of us who are not doing anything illegal have things in our lives, which we would rather not have known.

Even if the CIA can demonstrate that they haven’t broken our Fourth Amendment rights, how can we trust them? There is literally nobody who has access to their files. So there is no way to prove that they are telling the truth.

The only information we would have access to, is that which they release, with the intention of demonstrating their innocence. Not exactly something you could take to a court of law.

There is only one solution for those of us who want privacy. That’s to foreswear the use of all modern means of communications. While not exactly practical, there may come a day when we need to; especially if the government starts misusing our information.

I just know one thing. I’m going to be careful about what I put out over the Internet, over my phone and through any other electronic means of communications I find myself using. There’s no reason to give anyone ammunition, which might find its way back, being used against me on some future date.

Click here to discover your part in this important “undercover operation” to protect the lives and privacy of thousands of Americans!

This article has been written by Bill White For Survivopedia. 

References:

http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2017/03/08/cia-cyber-spying-toolkit-now-in-hands-hackers-worldwide-wikileaks.html

https://wikileaks.org/ciav7p1/

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/cia-files-wikileaks-vault-7

Preppers Medical Equipment

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Preppers Medical Equipment Highlander “Survival & Tech Preps “ Audio in player below! Well I’m back! I know it has been a while since I did a show because of a major medical problem. I will talk about this incident during this episode of Survival & Tech Preps in player below. This show will be appropriate, … Continue reading Preppers Medical Equipment

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Off grid goes to Hollywood

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Hurwitz books are lessons in evading Big Brother

Living off grid isn’t just popular – it’s going mainstream.

New York Times bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz is achieving worldwide sales with his Orphan X series, which follows a spy living off the grid – and he’s currently writing the screen play for a film adaptation featuring Bradley Cooper, star of comedy franchise The Hangover.

Gregg, who has had 17 books on the New York Times bestseller list, is promoting his new one – The Nowhere Man, the second featuring the character Evan Smoak.

The first book in the series, Orphan X, introduces Smoak as a killer who was taken from an orphanage as a child and trained under secret government orders. He breaks free from the programme and vanishes off the grid to use his skills to help those unable to protect themselves.

The only way Smoak can be reached is through a technologically-protected phone number, each victim asked to pass the number along to one person in trouble. Lying low in a home base hidden behind layers of false internet connections and using sophisticated technology to insulate outside access, he creates his own rogue GSM site by using a yagi directional antenna, coaxial cable and omni stubble antenna mounted on a tripod – literally taking his devices off the grid by dodging all authentication between the base station and the cell tower. Smoak lives outside the boundaries of society with the freedom to travel at a moment’s notice.

In The Nowhere Man – Buy it on Amazon, released on February 1, Smoak goes from being the one who helps people, to needing help himself.

This is only the second time Gregg has stuck with a character for more than one book, and he said Smoak would be sticking around for a lot longer yet – he has signed with his publisher for at least five books about Smoak.

Gregg said when writing he always thought about the character’s point of view, and to get into the characters’ worlds he put himself in similar situations. This has seen him blow up cars and shoot weapons with navy seals.

“I spend more waking hours with my fictional characters then my wife and my kids,” he said.
“I’ve gone under cover in a mind-control cult. I will do whatever it is to be able to write about it effectively. If I don’t do it, I can’t write about it in a way that’s up close and personal.”

The post Off grid goes to Hollywood appeared first on Living Off the Grid: Free Yourself.

Moving Your Computer Off Grid

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Moving Your Computer Off-Grid

More than a few preppers feel that as long as they can provide food, shelter, water, and basic medical needs for themselves and their families, nothing more is required. Other preppers may feel that self defense, power generation, education, and machine repair are skills that will be required in the post crisis world.

Sadly, many preppers and also off-gridders tend to ignore or underestimate the need to have a computer that can be used to help make it easier to survive.

In all likelihood, these are also the people most likely to have serious problems in the post crisis world because they do not have a computer available to help meet a range of goals.

Computers and Prepping Can Get Along

A computer cannot hunt a deer for you, boil water, or make a pair of shoes, obviously. On the other hand, any computer with a connection to the internet can help you find out how to do these things and much more. When you find good information, it is also very easy to store those files on your computer so that you can read them and work with them whenever you want.

And if you are in a situation where internet access is still available, you can use your computer to contact friends and loved ones as well as people that might be able to help you get through a crisis. Then you can certainly relate to the quandary of many preppers that are finding out it is becoming impossible to make or obtain raw materials that would be needed in a major crisis scenario.

On the other side of the equation, many of the items you need for basic prepping can still be purchased online. All you really need is a prepaid debit card and an internet connection so that you can find websites where you can place your orders. Not only will you be able to get the supplies you need, you will also have a much wider selection of other goods to choose from.

Regardless of whether you are interested in the best quality gun cleaning kits, need a certain type of fishing reel, or need good quality vintage hand tools, you can find them all online. In fact, even if you are disabled, you may be able to find customized materials and tools that have been modified to meet your needs.

Most people don’t realize just how important it is to network with preppers from diverse geographic regions and make plans for bugging out that include those friends and connections. Consider what would happen if an earthquake or hurricane strikes your area.

If you only have friends and family in a local, or small area, chances are everyone will be affected. If you have friends in other states that might be able to offer temporary shelter or help you make a new start, then you will be well ahead of the game.

In these times and beyond, both money and barter systems are vital for exchanging needed goods and services. A computer is very important for expanding your trade and marketing options. It is also very important for securing alternative currencies that may play a vital role in remaining solvent in the face of currency collapse.

Most people would be truly amazed at how easy it is for the average consumer to secure foreign currencies, keep a good supply of them, and even use them as down and dirty form of currency trading or flipping.

The Tough Choice on the Best Device(s)

Off grid devices

Obsolete devices may still be very useful because certain older technologies are easier to work with and may be safer than newer devices that are routinely overclocked or are based on unstable hardware platforms.

If you are interested in newer devices, here are some categories, brands, and models that you can start off with for each category of device:

Desktops

If you are primarily interested in a conventional desktop computer, my own experience leads me to believe the best option is to build the computer yourself so that you know exactly what parts are being used and how best to optimize the BIOS (this is where you can determine how fast the computer will run, whether or not the system can boot from a USB drive, and other aspects of basic operation) settings.

Since modern computer chips tend to run hot, it is very important to provide plenty of ventilation and cooling options inside the case. If your CPU and motherboard kit come with sub-par heat conducting gel, do not hesitate to find the best on the market.  It is also very useful to add extra fans and other cooling devices right inside the case.

Always remember, the cooler you can keep the chips during operation, the lower your chances of erratic freeze-ups or even ruining the chips.

Insofar as other vital parts such as hard drives, CD/DVD drives, and video cards, it truly depends on your personal tastes.

You will need a dedicated video card to gain access to these specialized chips that will reduce wear on the CPU and enhance computer performance at the same time. Be sure to study gamer forums and video editing forums to find out which video cards work best with specific CPU and motherboard combinations. A bad fit between these parts can truly be a disaster.

Memory cards (RAM) are yet another tricky, yet vital area of the computer that you will need to think about. This is also one area where only the best will do. It is better to go with the fastest cards that the motherboard will take, and also from the best rated vendor.

Laptops

Unlike desktop computers, you will have far less control over what parts are found inside the case. Before purchasing a laptop, be sure to find out the model number of the CPU and motherboard. From there, you will need to look up the chipsets to find out what the optimal clock speeds are.

I have seen more than one laptop burn up at around the 1 year mark because a sub-part mother board with a slower timing chip was paired with a faster CPU. Since most buyers do not ask about the motherboard model, there was no way for them to find out that they basically had an overclocked system that was going to fail very quickly.

Overall, I can safely say that I don’t recommend spending 3 – 4 times as much money on a laptop when I can choose a much cheaper tablet and optimize it with less intensive apps. The only advantage a laptop might have over an off grid tablet is that it is easier to customize the programs.

Tablets

An unlocked tablet will give you just about everything you need for basic document access and communicating with others. You can also choose apps that will enable you to create your own apps and carry out other more complex tasks.

Tablets also have the advantage of taking far less  power than a desktop or laptop computer. They can easily be recharged on a portable solar pack, and it is also fairly easy to bypass the battery.

Insofar as brand names, I tend to favor Lenovo, but have also found Alldaymall tablets to work well. The Alldaymall tablets are also a good bit cheaper, so you can purchase more of them and put them in your bug out bag as well as other locations.

Smart Phones

When it comes to a comfortable viewing experience combined with relatively low power usage, larger tablets will work much better than smart phones. That being said, in a “something is better than nothing” or a vital tool for your EDC, few things can rival a good quality unlocked smart phone.

While I recommend a 10” tablet for bug out gear, a 5” smart phone is truly  more than enough for EDC. Not only a phone this size fit easily into a purse or backpack, it is even easier to power than a larger tablet.

They also work well for reading a range of documents and will give you a good sized window for viewing videos. You can also hook up a folding keyboard and be able to carry out a number of tasks that would be difficult using the screen keyboard.

The Challenge on Providing a Steady Source of Power

Today, the vast majority of computers have sub par power supplies that make them more susceptible than ever to fluctuations in power coming into the system.

As our electric grid continues to crumble, rolling blackouts, brownouts, and line voltage fluctuations caused by excess usage during peak hours will shorten the life cycle of many computers. If you are generating your own power, it is just as important to make sure you know how to keep the current going into your computer as steady as possible.

There are some things you can do now, as well as consider when building a power system that will help you get the most out of every computer that you own. CLICK HERE to subscribe to Survivopedia’s newsletter and get the free report on how to take your computer off grid.

Understanding the Impact of Utilization

No discussion about preparing your computer hardware for off gridding would be complete without at least touching on the resource cost involved in each program that you run on the system. For example, if you have a simple word processor program with no fancy graphics, it will take up far less processor and memory resources than one that has funny critters dancing around all over the place.

Apps that automatically play videos or programs that automatically play music also shorten the hardware life of your computer. Therefore, when it comes to choosing the best computer for your off grid or prepping needs, it is always important to study benchmark tests and hardware longevity tests under certain loads.

Once again, you will find some of the best and most accurate information in the gaming forums.

Important Parts to Keep On hand

For each device in your EDC, bug out bag, or other location, there are some important parts that can help double or even triple the useful lifespan of your computer. Even if you lose some functionality, the main parts should still work for 2 – 3 decades on desktop units, and up to 10 years on laptops, tablets, and smart phones.

  • Start off by buying all of your devices brand new and with the maximum warranty available. If something breaks down during the warranty period, let the manufacturer or repair center take care of the problem.
  • Buy at least 3 to 5 non-functioning devices that are compatible with the make and model of each device. Usually, you can pick these units up for around 10 to 20% of the cost of a brand new device. You can choose different manufacturers as long as the parts are fully interchangeable with your device. You will use these devices to learn how to make repairs, and also for spare parts if something breaks down on your main device.
  • Since RAM chips take the most abuse on any computer system, keep a few spare ones on hand.
  • Have at least one extra power supply for desktop units. Unlike other parts of the system, you should never open up the case on the power supply unless you have a good bit of experience working with electronic devices. Never forget that the capacitors inside these power supplies may not be fully discharged, and that touching them or a live circuit can cause death or severe injury.
  • Keep at least 2 USB hubs handy that also have the capacity to power any device you hook up to them. When connecting devices to the USB ports on your computer, try to never at least one pair of ports.

What Happens When the Battery Dies?

If you have been thinking about using a smart phone or tablet as a place to store important survival information, you may hesitate because you know that the battery can easily be ruined by over charging, or that it will wear out sooner rather than later.

While some devices will continue to work while the battery is “charging”, others will not. If you have a device that will not work while charging, you will need to remove the battery and apply current directly to the device.

In this scenario, you must know how to keep the voltage and amperage as stable as possible before they reach the device. You can make your own controllers for this purpose then hook them up to solar panels or anything else that you will be using as a power source.

Just remember that you power controller may also need to go safely from AC to DC current as well as match the voltage and amperage needs of the device. If you aren’t sure how much power to provide for laptops, tablets, or smart phones, just go by what the battery is rated for.

Video first seen on PrepareForTheUnexpected.

Basic Toolkit

It will not be of much use to have plenty of parts on hand, and then no way to install them or make good use of them. Here are the most essential tools you will need for building computers or making repairs:

  • chip extractors for chips that are installed in sockets
  • high heat conducting gel
  • anti static grounding strap
  • precision and larger size screwdriver kit
  • magnifying glass
  • low wattage solder iron, solder, and flux suitable for computer parts
  • desoldering bulb
  • pliers and wrenches
  • wire cutters
  • anti-static bags and mats for placing boards on while you are working
  • multi meter, port testers, and digital logic probe

If you become especially proficient at scavenging and rebuilding electronics parts, it may be to your advantage to include a copper board etching kit. You can use these to make new circuit boards in a time of need.

Scavenging and Repair Skills

If you take good care of your devices, they may last for several years without need for repair. Once they break down, however, you will need to put your toolkit and stored parts to use. Here are some basic scavenging and repair skills that you can use to fix your own devices, or trade as service with others:

  • understand hardware part numbers so that you know which parts are compatible across different manufacturers
  • be able to solder and desolder chips or other parts without damaging the parts
  • know how to diagnose problems and figure out the best way to solve them
  • how to recognize which parts (example what a melted down chip looks like) need to be replaced or repaired
  • how to use software diagnostics, driver programs,  and BIOS programs to resolve problems
  • how to find viable parts in a junk yard or other locations where discarded electronics may be found.

Video first seen on The Off Grid Family.

Where to Get More Information and Training

Overall, you will find it easiest and cheapest to build and test your skills on desktop computers. If you go to a flea market or do some research online, you can easily pick up dozens of obsolete motherboards, CPUs, power supplies, and just about anything else for a few dollars.

Start off by trying to build a complete and functioning system. This will give you plenty of practice with identifying basic parts and help you overcome any hesitance you may have in working with computer parts.

While you are exploring these parts, take a course on basic electronics and then one on computer hardware. You can also find plenty of good books on this subject. In total, you should spend about 4 months on this part of your skill development.

Once you master desktop computers, you can go ahead and choose the parts for, and build your own system. If you do not want to build a desktop unit, then go ahead and start working on building your stockpile of laptops, tablets, and smart phones.

You can always practice your skills on non-working units as well as get to know more about working with smaller devices that require a good bit more patience and care.  If you develop a particular interest in these smaller devices, it will be to your advantage to take courses on how to repair them.

Without a question, the first time you bypass a battery during a major crisis or repair a failing laptop monitor you will see why these skills are every bit as important as anything else you may be learning and practicing for a time of need.

EMPCover1

This Article has been written by Carmela Tyrell for Survivopedia.

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Book: Homemade Contrivances and How to Make Them

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See larger image Homemade Contrivances and How to Make Them: 1001 Labor-Saving Devices for Farm, Garden, Dairy, and Workshop The traditional American devices contained in this intriguing compilation date from an era long before milking machines, pesticide sprayers, and industrial hay bailers.  Yet the simple inventions described for doing everything from managing young bulls to protecting drain outlets can be just as useful for today’s farmer as they were for the homesteaders of over a century ago.  Discover how to make such items as a movable nest for hens, a ribless boat, a contraption to extricate a mired animal, a

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