The Failure To Communicate. [Updated 22 Aug 2018]

Giant cucumbers from Doug and Ariana.
Cucumbers, which are not sex toys, provided here as a neutral image for this article. Use through a Creative Commons License which can be found by clicking the image.

I found yesterday (21 Aug 2018) that I had made an error in this; the Customs Act does in fact have something on obscene materials. The mistake I made was in assuming that they had searchable text. They do not have searchable text in the PDFs they have online, something worthy of note – but not an excuse. Lesson learned. 

When the Great Ban on Sex Toys in Trinidad and Tobago was announced, I was both slightly amused and curious. It’s not that I write about such topics, it’s that I’m human and that Trinidad and Tobago in it’s entirety doesn’t cease to surprise me when it comes to odd things.

You see, there were articles written as if it weren’t a developing story – there was no notation, as an example, that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s Customs and Excise Division website did not make mention of ‘sex toys’. Of course, maybe it just wasn’t updated, but a search of the Trinidad and Tobago Gazette didn’t reveal any new changes either. That took me less than 30 minutes to go through as an uninterested person, not a journalist. And I’m not a lawyer. So it seems to be a spurious claim, one that doesn’t jive. Update: Section 45 l of the Customs Act does mention things that can be related to ‘sex toys’, but not directly. 

The law being quoted is Section 46(g) of the Criminal Offences Act which says: “Any person who offers for sale or distribution or who exhibits to public view any profane, indecent, or obscene, paper, print, drawing, painting or representation may be deemed a rogue and a vagabond and if found liable, to imprisonment for two years.” Update: They were quoting the wrong law in the article. The Customs Act was the appropriate Act to quote, which would have been 45 L. 

It says nothing about importation. Granted, the last group of people I’d want to know what I do with myself would be the government and it’s employees, but the published Acts and Amendments related to Customs and Excise says nothing about sex toys, or anything profane, indecent, or obscene…

So I’m writing this, despite my misgivings about the topic, because to me the topic at issue is not sex toys, but instead appropriate research for an article that is supposed to inform the public. There is a big question here that, sure, Ministers should be able to answer – but they’re ducking it.

Selling the items is one thing. Importing for personal use seems to be quite another.

And while I wouldn’t want to know what the government would tax on sex toys, given how much I paid on a simple book recently, I don’t know that anyone would think it worthwhile – but articles that are about an alleged ban of importation of sex toys doesn’t make sense to anyone who bothers with a short amount of research.

And can someone, please, give a legal definition of a sex toy that isn’t subjective?

This is a failure of the media, in my eyes, though my eyes see the world differently than others. I view the media’s job to inform and question appropriately. The very first article should have been able to say that no one has mentioned the laws related to customs and excise, that the law quoted was about the sale of the items.

This has blaring questions attached that are so apparent that they might as well be painted bright neon pink.

And made to vibrate.

Now, if they start dealing with Internet Enabled… devices… and privacy issues, such as this data breach, I’ll write more about it. But to me, this is all about improper communication from the people we depend on to communicate.  

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Self-Defeating Social Media

Grunge Warning Sign - Do Not Read This SignActivism is very trendy on social media and in social networks. Someone in your network, I’m sure, is intent on saving something – be it trees, wildlife, the environment, some poor misunderstood politician, or something else. Everyone.

It gets to be too much and borders on defamation (or jumps solidly on it) at times. For example, imagine a posting of the rear of a car with accompanying text, “This person threw a bag of kittens on the ground and drove off!”. Horrible, right?

Now imagine that the pictured car is yours. “Wait!”, you’ll say, “But I didn’t do that!” And social media will roar back, “No, no, you did, you’re being dishonest!”

Let’s assume good. Let’s say it wasn’t you. Not very brilliant of the person who started that meme, was it? We forget to question what we see and hear on social media, we refuse to ask questions, and we go with the flow. A few of us unpopular folks take a moment and make a decision whether it merits sharing, but most people don’t seem to have enough brain cells to have that conversation in their brain.

People have died over that stuff when it comes to bombings and other things. I’m waiting for the lawsuits to start rolling in.

In Trinidad and Tobago, there are people posting about hunting out of season, selling animals illegally, etc. The system is allegedly corrupt – I don’t know firsthand, so I say alleged because I have to be responsible for what I write and share. That reporting to authorities has not netted any arrests is frustrating, I imagine – but, too, there’s a lot of frustration about crime and what is popularly seen as the inefficacy of law enforcement.

Be that as it may, it has become trendy to re-post things where people appear to be doing things illegally. Selling monkeys, for example. In a perfect world, one would send that to the authorities and the authorities would do their jobs… and people would get arrested. This, allegedly, is not working, so instead this stuff gets re-posted, shared across networks…

And of course, everyone’s upset, and the only thing that can compete with cute animal videos is what people are upset about. Now take a moment. This guy, because people are upset with him, got his post to go viral. Speculation – if he had monkeys to sell, he was more likely to find a buyer. And, if he has a brain, he’ll learn not to post such things where authorities might start paying attention and prosecuting people.

If authorities do actually want to do something, they’re now trying to find someone who may well know that he’s been made. With just enough brain cells, he ducks it and learns his lesson.

In so many ways, re-posting things can be counter-productive to the intended result.

Think first. Post later.

Having good intentions is not enough, and never will be.

Apple vs. FBI: Hedgehog Factor

Sonic the HedgehogOn the old site, I wrote quite a bit about the Hedgehog’s Dilemma and how it applied to social media. I didn’t write about my own experiments with code, what I found, etc. – and that’s because I didn’t fully understand what I found. I still don’t. But I think it’s appropriate to bring it up now in the context of Apple’s amazingly open battle against the government about backdooring it’s own phone. It almost sounds like forced incest when you put it like that. Give me about 4 paragraphs before I make the point, OK?

So, first, the Hedgehog’s Dilemma itself. I like what Schopenhauer wrote:

A number of porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day in winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills, they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another. In the same way the need of society drives the human porcupines together, only to be mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of their nature. The moderate distance which they at last discover to be the only tolerable condition of intercourse, is the code of politeness and fine manners; and those who transgress it are roughly told—in the English phrase—to keep their distance. By this arrangement the mutual need of warmth is only very moderately satisfied; but then people do not get pricked. A man who has some heat in himself prefers to remain outside, where he will neither prick other people nor get pricked himself.

This is the battle within social media and networks with their consumers and the government. It’s constantly shifting. Personally, I’m amazed at how much people give away to simply have social connections of convenience – but it somehow works. So we have people’s expectations and wants of privacy, varying from person to person, across a network. But privacy is also intimacy, and privacy is largely a matter of how much one wants to be intimate with someone else – not everyone else. So we’re lax about privacy because we don’t consider much of what we do to be a personal space.

Cross into that intimate space, and bad things happen. People get upset, talking about privacy. I suppose in myself, my intimate space is a vast wasteland and I take it more seriously than others do, projecting that into how I interact on social media and networks without actually sucking too much at it. It goes beyond settings hidden behind a gear icon. It’s how much you share, what you share, etc.

So I’m going to drag this home. What’s at stake is the government forcing Apple to backdoor – to create something that wasn’t there – their own device, where so many people now keep their intimacy.

The Hedgehog factor, you see, is intimacy.

 

 

SunTechRamble: Liability And Technology

Atomic CruiserThe really interesting thing that happened this week relates to the regulation of a computer system as a driver (at least in some circumstances).  It means that computer systems are gaining ‘privileges’ that were formerly only for humans. It was bound to happen sooner or later, but admittedly I blinked when I saw it.

Google’s efforts and it’s return in this area are noteworthy:

It appears that Google has persuaded federal regulators that — in some situations at least — the Tin Man has a heart.

In a letter sent this month to Google, Paul Hemmersbaugh, the chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seemed to accept that the computers controlling a self-driving car are the same as a human driver…

So there’s the very cool side of this where we could celebrate this as a win. Technology in this area has gotten to the point where we can replace humans as drivers by virtue of increased safety. Google has been posting monthly reports on their self driving car project, and it seems that self-driving cars greatest danger comes from behind.  Google’s first accident involving one of their vehicles was in July of last year – and they were rear-ended.

It’s going to get more complicated if you consider the architecture.

If the vehicle is self-contained, it means it will likely need software updates. That means that unpatched cars may be roaming the countryside, since unpatched software is all over the place.

If the vehicle is completely stupid without an internet connection, as the Amazon Echo is, then connectivity to the controlling application will be an issue.

It’s most likely to be a hybrid of both. Where does your responsibility as a passenger of a vehicle you own start and begin? Will you be able to modify your own vehicle as you can now? What about auto insurance, will that go away or will we be paying insurance on a vehicle we may not own and can’t control ourselves?

Technology and Law are about to meet again. It’s going to get messy.

You might want to start negotiating your side now.