Better Border-Leaping Through Technology

February 29, 2012

On his blog, Borderlines , Frank Jacobs wondered yesterday about the impact of Google Maps on the kinds of pre-conflict stressors — resource coveting, in particular — which have existed throughout human history without an external digital Atlas of Omnipotence to invoke.

As Jacobs notes, “[t]he lines that Google draws on maps have no government’s imprimatur”, yet it is still the popular first recourse on the topic of boundaries.  What Google and those perhaps causal users of the Maps can trip into, though, may be an intractable dispute-cum-simmering-conflict with no less potential for turning lethal than a well-known conflict.

The world only has one Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that is enough.   But even more reason for Google to tread lightly on disputes like Costa Rica/Nicaragua — the proportion of Internet users who know about the historical context of the latter is obviously lower.

Google’s unofficial motto “Don’t Be Evil” has gotten a lot of flak lately for reasons related to user privacy and security.  Doing everything in its power to keep the Maps current, accurate, impartial, informative and full of clarity?   Could reduce some amount of the potential for armed conflict in the world.

Sounds like the non-evil thing to do.

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RIP Anthony Shadid

February 17, 2012

He was a Lebanese-American who rediscovered his heritage in adulthood and developed a passion for the Middle East. As a veteran foreign correspondent in the region for the US press, he earned two Pulitzers.

His book Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War is arguably THE best English-language account of the Iraq War’s impact on the country’s civilians.

Shadid was a talented journalist — more than that, he was an invaluable cultural translator between America and the Middle East.

In death I sincerely hope he is even more widely read.