Friday, 19 January 2018

Chilling Developments in China ...

... in more ways than one.

Firstly, the literal chill that has set in since the new "Xi Jinping Thought" was rolled out, including making China "beautiful" and, errr, less lethal to anyone depending on breathing for their existence.  This of course means switching off coal-fired power stations - not for reasons of CO2 emissions, about which they care little or perhaps nothing, but for reasons of outright air pollution.

I know exactly what you're thinking
Well of course this means people now freeze: and industry periodically suffers power shortages, too.   It also means the coal switch-off is more of an "on-off" and is being reversed whenever things get too bad (for industry, that is: people can put on another blanket) - which BTW is playing havoc in the coal and gas markets.  GDP trumps not only GHG, but pollution as well.

Yes, unless you are the USA or the UK with plenty of gas-fired capacity, phasing out coal is pretty damn' difficult, as Germany illustrates all too clearly.

But we know all this.  Back to China: what's more interesting to me is that "Freeze" article linked to above, from Greenpeace.  It makes extensive use of complaints aired on Chinese social media, which have evidently dodged the Great Firewall.

But for how long?  Read here and here about how China intends to institute a comprehensive monitoring / ranking / stick-and-carrot-consequences system controlling its citizens' every thought and action, very much based on the ubiquity of social meejah.  How many "Social Credit System" brownie-points will be deducted when you post about how the heating won't work?

The first of those two pieces is a definite must-read for the weekend.  Lots of politicians much closer to home than Beijing will be following Chinese Social Credit developments with *interest*.  Chilling?  Oh yes, very chilling indeed.



Charlie said...

The Black Mirror episode that imagines a world with a social credit system is well worth a watch. Let's hope it's not prophetic (although with our current generation of authoritarian pols, it's depressing to think that it could well be - and even worse, state-controlled)

david morris said...

Isn't the introduction & use of Alexa, Siri & Smart Meters going down the same road ?

Nick Drew said...

David - at least Alexa & Siri are voluntary; and likewise signing up to let your 'phone company, G and FB know all about you

(are smart meters particularly troubling, privacy-wise? - when compared with what mobiles can tell about you)

it's always ironic that, whereas 1984 (and Mr Xi) envisages state imposition of these monitoring systems (2-way telescreen required to be on all the time etc), in practice most people cheerfully enrol themselves voluntarily!

Sackerson said...

Perhaps it's to increase the demand for nuclear power stations, and hence their... versatile fuels.

Anonymous said...

"Remember: Marriott’s crimes were 1) a survey that put Hong Kong, Taiwan & Tibet in a long list of “countries” & 2) an errant (like). There was no attempt to criticise China, no political point being made. In response, one of its key communications avenues was potentially shut."

rwendland said...

Re China & nuclear power: Their keenness seems to be cooling a lot. They are beginning to see the problems similarly to the west, partly because they have hit 3+ year delays building the western designs (EPR & AP1000). Westinghouse going bust has unnerved them, as they had based the mid-term future on further developing the Westinghouse design (into the bigger CAP1400).

But most importantly I think is dubious economics, even in China. As Nuclear Engineering International puts it:

"The biggest issue today affecting the Chinese programme is its economic viability... However, the slowing Chinese economy, the switch to less energy- intensive activities, and over-investment in power generation means that generation capacity outweighs grid capacity in some provinces and companies are fighting to export power from their plants. New nuclear units may not run at the 80-90% capacity factors necessary to pay back their capital cost.

Tariffs are also under threat. The central government is gradually liberalising the Chinese power sector and making it more responsive to economic conditions. ... So far as profitability can be measured with Chinese power [companies], it has declined sharply in recent years with the extent of market over-supply, so clearly something has to be done."

Russia is also having a nuclear power wobbly, realising the weak economics mean they only get built when the Russian govt puts up cheap finance:

"Given the reduced demand for energy in Russia, Rosenergoatom has already curtailed the investment programme, and some nuclear projects have been postponed or frozen ... once after current orders for the construction of NPPs abroad were completed, it may have no more foreign orders. Rosatom would then focus more on operational maintenance and repair of NPPs and nuclear fuel supplies"

And South Korea's new govt is anti more domestic nuclear power, post-Fukushima. Japan is stalled. France/EDF looks shaky. I foresee some international mergers ahead.

All in all reality is badly affecting nuclear power futures the world round. Except perhaps that bright-spot(!) North Korea which is developing an indigenous experimental 25–30 MWe light water power reactor ....

Anonymous said...

North Korea which is developing an indigenous experimental 25–30 MWe light water power reactor ....

Can it be strapped to an ICBM?

Raedwald said...

Nick - I'd hate to be thought of as wearing tinfoil headgear, but I loathe the notion of smart meters not for surveillance reasons but simply for their potential for selective remote disconnection - either by the State or hackers.

"Right, numbers 4, 11, 32, 35 and 46 Acacia Avenue are seriously behind in their social credits. Take out their power for 48 hours ..."

AMI meters already have a 'legitimate' remote disconnection capability for 'Emergency Load Control', so not easy for consumers to know whether they're being punished or are genuinely selected at random to be blacked out to allow over peak demands to be managed ... any household without a dialysis machine or suchlike is vulnerable.

In the event of the most serious civil disturbance, the State being able to selectively take out web access, power and mobile phone access for targeted individuals is far more medja friendly than troops on the street.

Nick Drew said...

Fair enough concern, Mr R: but I'd simply point out that *they* can target your finances and mobile phone with great precision already, which could, if anything, be even more crippling - switching off the power is rather a blunt instrument. I know of plenty of places I can unilaterally cadge a bit of electricity: but money & phone connections can be more tricky ...

And to people (not yourself) who say "I don't want anyone knowing I'm not using any power, ergo out of the house for a week", I'd reply: both the phone company and google (*among others*) know you're precisely in a particular hotel in Singapore: and if they can be arsed to hack in, they even know what you are doing there, and probably when you are coming back to Acacia Avenue, too

Anonymous said...

The Soviet Union died 30 years too early from their perspective - a command economy with control of the people is more technically feasible now, when data storage is so cheap.

I wonder how much it costs to see the top few thousand searches for goods and services on Google now - what volume and where - and who's paying to see them? With that data you can spot new trends/fashions and allocate accordingly before people in real life start to notice.

And I wonder what the relationship is between Google, Langley Virginia, and Cheltenham?

Terry Needham said...

Nick Drew:
"..both the phone company and google (*among others*) know you're precisely in a particular hotel in Singapore:"

Is that true even when I have switched off the location detection thingy on our phones?
My wife's bank keeps asking her to switch it back on so that they can provide her with a better service. Yup, even my serene wife is getting ratty.

Nick Drew said...

Terry - not sure that's right: the phone co knows, unless you are actually switched off. I think it's that they give you the *right* not to have that info shared with other apps

anon@10:23 - well recall that G is a snowflake outfit (like Firefox) so presumably many of its staff would recoil from working with those agencies

which isn't to say the agencies aren't *fully tapped in*, one way or another ...

BTW, G is totally *cooperative* in what it doesn't show on G-earth / G-maps: you can find all manner of interesting things, but not the really interesting things. Don't know quite what that tells us.

DJK said...

From the smartmeter reading it will be obvious when a house is unoccupied, or when the owners are away on holiday ---- useful information for local housebreakers. Not everyone who has access to the data will be honest; somebody will be prepared to pass on the data for the price of a pint.

Re smartphones: Ever wondered why Google's congestion predictions are so accurate, or how they can tell the busy times at a shop? It's because they are tracking the movement of every andriod phone in real time. Even if GPS location is off, the phone can still be tracked by triangulating between phone base stations.

Anonymous said...

"Even if GPS location is off, the phone can still be tracked by triangulating between phone base stations."

I appreciate the phone company (and I think the police have access to their data too) can triangulate and work out where you are, but can Google if location is off? I wouldn't have thought so, unless Android is even more evil than I thought - do you have any links which suggest that's true?

DJK said...

Anon: From the Graun (22/11/17), after a quick search on Bing:
"Google has confirmed it has been able to track the location of Android users via the addresses of local mobile phone masts, even when location services were turned off and the sim cards removed to protect privacy."

With an Android phone, it is Google that sets the rules about what data is shared, not the phone company.

BlokeInBrum said...

With regards to mobile phone tracking, Google also scans for and knows where all the home wifi connections are and can follow you that way.
In a sense, all android devices are constantly wardriving.
Some companies are leveraging that to target ads to people in shopping centers and the like.
Without totally foregoing mobile phones and other net connected devices, there is simply no way of protecting your anonymity in this day and age.
If they cant create a profile on you directly, they can simply build one indirectly by analysing and correlating all the data from your partner, family or kids.
With respect to smart meters in the home, there is no way that this is for the benefit of consumers. If it were, then it would be an easy sell.

Roger said...

Very interesting but probably the way all societies will have to go eventually.

As the UK and the USA have found, running society as a massive free for all in a post agricultural post industrial world results in a huge underclass and vastly expensive and inefficient legal and prison systems. Far better to make society control itself.

Prison and execution may still be needed in extremis but better and cheaper to steer the masses through some more automated means. The algorithms and the factors of reward and restraint can change over time. As the world flattens out economically speaking and automation takes over we will be unable to afford to waste legal, judicial or democratic resources on the masses.

Then the reality is that there will always be some sort of class system and some humans will always be more energetic or more intelligent than others. Generally scum and cream will always rise. The problem is how to control the rest.

Mass surveillance seems well developed in the US the UK and China. But in the US and UK it suffers from having a huge budget and huge infrastructure built up in a Cold War and a culture that no longer exists. China starts from a different place, post Cold War but being able to observe the social problems the US has brought on itself. The surveillance state is not going to go away, too useful, but it has already changed to keeping a close watch on the citizenry. The trouble is that western politics dare not admit it would really like to follow China's lead.

Nick Drew said...

Roger - some excellent points, I feel another post will be coming on this soon ...

Bloke - smart meters in the home, there is no way that this is for the benefit of consumers. If it were, then it would be an easy sell

Yes, but actually it is an easy sell! That inane (and very costly) Gaz/Leccy campaign is having real success by the criteria they measure:

- % knowing what is happening
- % viewing smart meters positively
- % accepting smart meters when offered them

now I know there are several caveats to be entered here: not least that some people are *offered* smart meters on the entirely false pretext that they are obliged to accept them (which, categorically, they are not)

[also there are just loads of truly crass practical and technical aspects as to how the scheme is being implemented]

but the fact remains, notwithstanding many people who think they are the work of the devil, by far the majority have no such concerns

and do you know the main reason why people like them? No More Estimated Bills. The matter of using them (voluntarily) as motivation to cut down on usage only cuts in after 6 months, on average

and, back to the original topic, it's already been established that they can be used as (e.g.) an indicator of early-onset dementia! Yup; apparently people's switching-on-&-off habits start to become "predictably random" when dementia first strikes. And, yes, already some Health Authorities are asking how they might get access to the data ...

slipperly slope, or breakthrough? We know google tracks flu epidemics already, so there ain't really any going-back on this

As per earlier: another post soon!

hovis said...

Slippery slope or breathe through - slippery slope of course, even more idiotically the data policy and prescriptions wll be flawed, wrong therfoer misguided.

In your flu epodemic example - a real epidemic or a media one? Around 90% of "flu like symptoms" are not flu, and only blood tests will actually tell you what it is. Still doctors, the media, the NHS and a promoter of tamiflu or whatever the latest useless hot is will say its an epidemic - is this what google tracks?

For surveillance state you have forgotten the rollout of 5G to enable even further the IoT. Thsi is of conceren for what it gives as part of the surveillance state and "smar cities" which are truly chilling.

We havent even topuched on the degrading effects on health. Btw No safetly studies at the new 5G standards - the industry only agreed them last month. Epidemilogcally effects are only noticed after 10 years, (previous studies were fr less and ICNIRP and UK govt guidelines are only 20 years out of date (1998).