et. al.: Dramatic Proof Non-Violence Trumps Armed Revolt!

Posted on 21st August 2014 in Uncategorized

If you came here today to learn about the latest IoT breakthrough, chill out: there are more important issues than technology, and this is certainly one of them!

In case you’ve had your head down all summer working on your new app or IoT device, the world is quickly going to hell in a hand basket, with violence from Ferguson, MO to The Ukraine.

Isn’t there a better way to handle our conflicts?

In fact, there is: non-violent protest, and, for those of you who share my passion for data, there are hard numbers to back up my contention!

NPR had a story this morning about a great new book from Columbia University Press, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: the Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict. It studied conflicts from more than 100 years and shows that non-violence is not only twice as effective as violent uprisings in achieving the protestors’ goals, but ushers in more stable peace afterwards. Here’s how the book blurb summarizes their findings:

For more than a century, from 1900 to 2006, campaigns of nonviolent resistance were more than twice as effective as their violent counterparts in achieving their stated goals. By attracting impressive support from citizens, whose activism takes the form of protests, boycotts, civil disobedience, and other forms of nonviolent noncooperation, these efforts help separate regimes from their main sources of power and produce remarkable results, even in Iran, Burma, the Philippines, and the Palestinian Territories.

“Combining statistical analysis with case studies of specific countries and territories, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan detail the factors enabling such campaigns to succeed and, sometimes, causing them to fail. They find that nonviolent resistance presents fewer obstacles to moral and physical involvement and commitment, and that higher levels of participation contribute to enhanced resilience, greater opportunities for tactical innovation and civic disruption (and therefore less incentive for a regime to maintain its status quo), and shifts in loyalty among opponents’ erstwhile supporters, including members of the military establishment. 

“Chenoweth and Stephan conclude that successful nonviolent resistance ushers in more durable and internally peaceful democracies, which are less likely to regress into civil war. Presenting a rich, evidentiary argument, they originally and systematically compare violent and nonviolent outcomes in different historical periods and geographical contexts, debunking the myth that violence occurs because of structural and environmental factors and that it is necessary to achieve certain political goals. Instead, the authors discover, violent insurgency is rarely justifiable on strategic grounds.”

Chenoweth & Stephan compiled data from 323 campaigns from Gandhi’s campaign beginning in 1919 to the protests that ousted Thai PM Thanksin Shinawatra in 2006. “This global data set covers all known nonviolent and violent campaigns (each featuring at least 1,000 observed participants) for self-determination, the removal of an incumbent leader, or the expulsion of a foreign military occupation from 1900 to 2006. The data set was assembled using thousands of source materials on protest and civil disobedience, expert reports and surveys, and existing records on violent insurgencies.” 

I’ve got this stuff on the brain right now because I’m reviewing my oldest’s dissertation proposal, which deals with whether bottom-up, community-based counter-insurgency military strategies might not be better than top-down, central government-centered ones. It seems to me that these are variations on the same theme.

In a companion article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, “Drop Your Weapons: when and why civil resistance works,” Chenoweth & Stephan wrote:

Contrary to conventional wisdom, no social, economic, or political structures have systematically prevented nonviolent campaigns from emerging or succeeding. From strikes and protests to sit-ins and boycotts, civil resistance remains the best strategy for social and political change in the face of oppression. Movements that opt for violence often unleash terrible destruction and bloodshed, in both the short and the long term, usually without realizing the goals they set out to achieve. Even though tumult and fear persist today from Cairo to Kiev, there are still many reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the promise of civil resistance in the years to come.” (my emphasis)

But what of outside players, especially the US? They suggest that, rather than a knee-jerk response of sending in our troops to support protestors, that there may be a more successful response: “a ‘responsibility to assist’ nonviolent activists and civic groups well before confrontations between civilians and authoritarian regimes devolve into violent conflicts.” Are you reading, Sec. Kerry & President Obama? Chenweth & Stephan suggest:

“Policymakers should prioritize a ‘responsibility to assist’ nonviolent activists and civic groups, rather than only seeking to protect civilians through military force, as in NATO’s Libya intervention. Of course, civil resistance campaigns are and must remain homegrown movements. But in recent years, the international community has done much to undermine civil resistance by quickly and enthusiastically supporting armed actors when they arrive on the scene. Syria’s tragedy is a case in point. Although regime repression, supported by Iran and Russia, undoubtedly helped turn a principally nonviolent uprising into a civil war, external actors could have done more to aid civil resistance and prolong the original nonviolent uprising. They could have helped encourage, coordinate, and exploit for political gain regime defections (including from key Alawite elites); demanded that Assad allow foreign journalists to remain in the country; accelerated direct financial support to grass-roots nonviolent networks and local councils; and provided more information to Syrian activists about what it takes to remain nonviolent under highly repressive conditions. Instead, the international community provided political recognition and sanctuary to armed actors, supplied both nonlethal and lethal aid to them, and helped militarize the conflict, undermining the momentum of the nonviolent movement. There was no silver bullet for effectively aiding the nonviolent Syrian opposition. But speed and coordination on the part of external actors, particularly early on in the revolution, were lacking.

Syria highlights the moral and strategic imperative of developing more flexible, nimble ways to support nonviolent resistance movements. The local champions of people power will continue to chart their own future. But outside actors have an important role to play in assuring that civil resistance has a fighting chance.”

Chenoweth & Stephan offer an explanation based on their studies, of the logic — which I find compelling — about why mass protests are more effective.

Unlike armed resistance, which scares the daylights out of a lot of rational people who might take part in peaceful protests (duh!), non-violence attracts “a larger and more diverse base of participants [in the NPR interview they specifically mentioned the large numbers of women who play a prominent role in protests. Shoot your mom? Not so fast..].” They find three common elements in effective campaigns: “… they enjoy mass participation, they produce regime defections, and they employ flexible tactics.”  The big campaigns just bring daily life to a messy halt that’s hard to overcome: “When large numbers of people engage in acts of civil disobedience and disruption, shifting between concentrated methods such as protests and dispersed methods such as consumer boycotts and strikes, even the most brutal opponent has difficulty cracking down and sustaining the repression indefinitely.”  As one soldier they quoted in the NPR story said about why he defied orders to shoot point-blank at protesters, he was afraid he’d be shooting his own kids! And it’s not just soldiers who turn: the elites who keep things running also turn, and things quickly grind to a stop.

They also stress that the successful non-violent campaigns take a lot of planning, and usually play out over a number of years, gradually gaining strength.

The strategy doesn’t always work, but even then, not all is lost over the long haul:

“…. from 1900 to 2006, countries that experienced failed nonviolent movements were still about four times as likely to ultimately transition to democracy as countries where resistance movements resorted to violence at the outset. Nonviolent civic mobilization relies on flexibility and coalition building — the very things that are needed for democratization.”

They also look closely at some of the current examples that seem to undercut the argument for non-violence, namely, Libya, Egypt, and Syria. I thought the Syrian situation was particularly relevant, because massive civil disobedience never really got off the ground before violence broke out, undercutting widespread support among the general public:

taking up arms against the Assad regime’s inevitable brutality destroyed any chance of maintaining the open support for the Syrian opposition on the part of significant numbers of Alawites, Christians, and Druze — minorities who were represented among the nonviolent movement and were crucial to any inclusive, successful civil resistance. The subsequent civil war has alienated many former participants in and supporters of the revolution, and in many ways, it has fortified the regime. And the costs have been enormous.”

I urge you to read the entire Foreign Affairs article. When I can, I’m going to read the whole book.

I’ve done a lot of things that I’m proud of over my career, but none that makes me more proud than the first thing I did as an adult: going through the arduous process of being classified as a conscientious objector during Vietnam and taking two years out of my career to do alternative service as a teacher in an anti-poverty program’s day-care center. Thank you, Haverford College, for gently instilling those values in me, and thank you, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, for this dramatic proof that non-violent protest works!

Now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming…

 

 

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Saving Lives With the Internet of Things: school lockdowns

Continuing with the meme of this morning’s post, that the real test of the IoT will be if it allows us to do something that we couldn’t do before, how about saving children’s lives as a good example of a new paradigm courtesy of the IoT?

I don’t believe in the NRA’s bizarre position that the way to avoid more school tragedies is to arm teachers (come to think of it, I don’t believe in anything the NRA proposes — if you do, sue me, I guess…) so it’s great to see that the Internet of Things (even better, a Massachusetts firm!) has stepped in with a non-violent solution allowing teachers to act immediately, without waiting for police, to protect their children.

This kind of solution is a particular passion of mine, since long-time readers of this blog know that I pioneered (as in October, 2001) using mobile devices for personal preparation for, and response to, terrorism and disaster situation.

According to Fast Company, Elerts has created Lock It Down™ and ELERTS Campus™, which allow teachers to trigger a lockdown from a smart phone or iPad app.

Among other features, Lock It Down™ includes great features for these high-pressure, instant-reaction situations:

  • Sharing: Transmits bi-directional information in seconds
  • Action: Can initiate a Lockdown with the press of a button
  • Options: Also offers Shelter in Place and Evacuate commands
  • Reporting: Text message, photos, and GPS map add context
  • Speed: Police see reports on their devices and can respond faster
  • Status: App includes “SkyWriter” for personal safety updates

Sweet!

ELERTS Campus™ is designed for colleges and larger campuses, and offers:

  • Reporting: Drop-down menu makes Report Type selection easy
  • Crowd-Sourcing: Message, photo, GPS map inform Security Dispatchers
  • Broadcast: Warnings can be broadcast to all students who use the app
  • Administration: The ELERTS EPICenter web console manages Reports
  • Alerts: ELERTS EPICenter allows 2-way chat with sender of original report
  • Virtual Monitoring: Users can activate “Escort Me” by pressing a button

These are just the kinds of tools that I dreamed of creating ten years ago, when all we had were the early Palm Pilots. What a great use of smart phones and the IoT!

The two programs are meant to be used in conjunction with the ALICE Training, as in Alert, Lock-down, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.

Download the apps:

ELERTS Campus™ for iOS
ELERTS Campus™ for Android

 

 

 

Why the Internet of Things Will Bring Fundamental Change “What Can You Do Now That You Couldn’t Do Before?”

The great Eric Bonabeau has chiseled it into my consciousness that the test of whether a new technology really brings about fundamental change is to always ask “What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?

Tesla Roadster

That’s certainly the case for the Tesla alternative last winter to a costly, time-consuming, and reputation-staining recall  (dunno: I must have been hiding under a rock at the time to have not heard about it).

In reporting the company’s action, Wired‘s story’s subtitle was “best example yet of the Internet of Things?”

I’d have to agree it was.

Coming at the same time as the godawful Chevy recall that’s still playing out and still dragging down the company, Tesla promptly and decisively response solved another potentially dangerous situation:

 

“‘Not to worry,’ said Tesla, and completed the fix for its 29,222 vehicle owners via software update. What’s more, this wasn’t the first time Tesla has used such updates to enhance the performance of its cars. Last year it changed the suspension settings to give the car more clearance at high speeds, due to issues that had surfaced in certain collisions.”

Think of it: because Tesla has basically converted cars into computers with four wheels, modifying key parts by building in sensors and two-way communications, it has also fundamentally changed its relationship with customers: it can remain in constant contact with them, rather than losing contact between the time the customer drives off the lot and when the customer remembers (hopefully..) to schedule a service appointment, and many modifications that used to require costly and hard-to-install replacement parts now are done with a few lines of code!

Not only can Tesla streamline recalls, but it can even enhance the customer experience after the car is bought: I remember reading somewhere that car companies may start offering customer choice on engine performance: it could offer various software configurations to maximize performance or to maximize fuel savings — and continue to tweak those settings in the future, just as computers get updated operating systems. That’s much like the transformation of many other IoT-enhanced products into services, where the customer may willingly pay more over a long term for a not just a hunk of metal, but also a continuing data stream that will help optimize efficiency and reduce operating costs.

Wired went on to talk about how the engineering/management paradigm shift represented a real change:

  • “In nearly all instances, the main job of the IoT — the reason it ever came to be — is to facilitate removal of non-value add activity from the course of daily life, whether at work or in private. In the case of Tesla, this role is clear. Rather than having the tiresome task of an unplanned trip to the dealer put upon them, Tesla owners can go about their day while the car ‘fixes itself.’
  • Sustainable value – The real challenge for the ‘consumer-facing’ Internet of Things is that applications will always be fighting for a tightly squeezed share of disposable consumer income. The value proposition must provide tangible worth over time. For Tesla, the prospect of getting one’s vehicle fixed without ‘taking it to the shop’ is instantly meaningful for the would-be buyer – and the differentiator only becomes stronger over time as proud new Tesla owners laugh while their friends must continue heading to the dealer to iron out typical bug fixes for a new car. In other words, there is immediate monetary value and technology expands brand differentiation. As for Tesla dealers, they must be delighted to avoid having to make such needling repairs to irritated customers – they can merely enjoy the positive PR halo effect that a paradigm changing event like this creates for the brand – and therefore their businesses.
  • Setting new precedents – Two factors really helped push Tesla’s capability into the news cycle: involvement by NHTSA and the word ‘recall.’ At its issuance, CEO Elon Musk argued that the fix should not technically be a ‘recall’ because the necessary changes did not require customers find time to have the work performed. And, despite Musk’s feather-ruffling remarks over word choice, the stage appears to have been set for bifurcation in the future by the governing bodies. Former NHTSA administrator David Strickland admitted that Musk was ‘partially right’ and that the event could be ‘precedent-setting’ for regulators.”

That’s why I’m convinced that Internet of Things technologies such as sensors and tiny radios may be the easy part of the revolution: the hard part is going to be fundamental management changes that require new thinking and new questions.

What can you do now that you couldn’t do before??

BTW: Musk’s argument that its software upgrade shouldn’t be considered a traditional “recall” meshes nicely with my call for IoT-based “real-time regulation.”  As I wrote, it’s a win-win, because the same data that could be used for enforcement can also be used to enhance the product and its performance:

  • by installing the sensors and monitoring them all the time (typically, only the exceptions to the norm would be reported, to reduce data processing and required attention to the data) the company would be able to optimize production and distribution all the time (see my piece on ‘precision manufacturing’).
  • repair costs would be lower: “predictive maintenance” based on real-time information on equipment’s status is cheaper than emergency repairs. the public interest would be protected, because many situations that have resulted in disasters in the past would instead be avoided, or at least minimized.
  • the cost of regulation would be reduced while its effectiveness would be increased: at present, we must rely on insufficient numbers of inspectors who make infrequent visits: catching a violation is largely a matter of luck. Instead, the inspectors could monitor the real-time data and intervene instantly– hopefully in time to avoid an incident. “

Wearables/fitness apps & devices market heats up with Google Fit pending launch

Google appears set to give Apple’s pending Health app a run for its money with the forthcoming launch of the Google Fit tools. The competition should really benefit consumers and health care (Google has already released the developer’s kit). In announcing the kit, Google said the new tools will provide:

“… a single set of APIs for apps and device manufacturers to store and access activity data from fitness apps and sensors on Android and other devices (like wearables, heart rate monitors or connected scales). This means that with the user’s permission, you can get access to the user’s fitness history — enabling you to provide more interesting features in your app like personalized coaching, better insights, fitness recommendations and more.”

The releases only cover local storage of data, with cloud storage to follow.  As Forbes notes, that’s where the competition with Apple will be fierce:

Google Fit will integrate with a number of solutions from Google. Your Android powered smartphone or tablet is the obvious first point of contact, but you should also consider Google Fit’s potential integration with Google Glass and the Android Wear smartwatch program. All of these devices can use their sensor suite to gather and relay health data.”

As with Apple Health, Google wants developers and device manufacturers to settle on its standard as the hub for collection and integration of health and fitness data, while it may not be in the individual company’s best interests to commit to a single proprietary standard. As Forbes‘ Ewan Spence predicted, it’s unlikely that any end users are going to change platforms for their devices just because of new health apps and devices.

I guess it would be inappropriate to refer to any potential “killer apps” that could sway anyone in this category, eh?

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