My name is Martin Varsavsky. Varsavsky means that I come from Warsaw.
WiFI usage grows in surprising ways. Pixelydixel a Spanish blog alerted me to this new development, the Chumby. I loved it. Basically the Chumby is a WiFi device that comes to life when you make it do whatever it is that you would like it to do. It is the 21st century answer to the alarm clock. I wonder if we could get a Chumby version that also has our chipset in it and is both a Chumby and a FON social router.
FONeros are members of the FON WiFi community, the largest in the world. FONeros can be Bills, Linuses or Aliens. The following is a list of our top countries by numbers of FONeros.
Here are some pictures of the Foneras being produced. They will hit the market in September. The key feature of these Foneras is that they give out two SSIDs, two networks, one if FON´s and the other is called “My Place” and has a key that the FONero can share with his family and friends.
Once, I did a ranking of life in the States vs life in Europe (in my case Spain) along 100 different categories, and surprisingly the result was basically even. There were significant differences in the quality of life in both sides of the Atlantic but USA exceeded in some and Europe in others. Let me give you some examples. In America justice works faster than in Spain, but in Spain it is much less likely that anyone will ever sue you. Or that America and Spain are equally safe, but America requires much more policemen per capita to achieve the same results. Or that America is much better than Spain as an environment in which to start a business, but in Spain there´s much less competition. And I could go on and on, but I would like to pause on one subject in which Americans and Europeans are significantly different, and that is what I would call a likelihood to believe in things not proven. Americans are believers, Europeans are cynics.
The first substantial difference in believing relates to religion. There is an enormous division between Americans and Europeans on this subject. While most Americans are religious, Europeans are mostly non believers. As you can see in the linked articles, almost 80% of Americans consider themselves religious, while just 52% of the Europeans believe in a god. But not only do most Americans believe in religion. From my personal conversations with people on both sides of the Atlantic I have found that in America there are more people willing to believe in all sorts of things that few people would defend with a straight face in Europe. Now, being a big believer, or almost a gullible person to European eyes is not always bad. On the positive side I think that the best belief that Americans have is actually in themselves and in the American dream and, regardless of the failures of America, America´s leading economic indicators have been outperforming those of Europe for decades. On the negative side, being an overall trusting culture lacking in self criticism can be a bad thing. Spaniards, for example, quickly realized that the Iraqi invasion had gone wrong and that it was likely to increase rather than reduce global terrorism, so President Aznar was voted out. Americans instead reelected Bush and took them much longer to conclude that the US Middle East policy has been a failure. The ability to change your mind, which is seen as a virtue in Europe, is frequently seen as a lack of values in America. Kerry, for example, was defeated on a campaign in which he was accused of flip flopping, a trait that should be positive in a politician, namely the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, something that President Bush clearly failed to show. But for Americans, being driven by circumstances can be perceived as worse than being driven by beliefs. Now, going deeper into these issues, not only do I much more frequently run into people in America who believe in organized religion than in Europe, but I run into people who believe in all sorts of what I would call weird things.
Here´s a random list:
-Previous lives. I have tried to argue with success with many Americans about how unlikely it is that we all had previous lives, considering that there are as many people alive now that ever died in the history of humanity (did we share past lives?).
-Creationism, only in America do a significant group of people doubt evolutionary theory.
-a literal interpretation of the Bible. I have spent time with Americans debating that the world is actually older than 6000 years or so as the Bible literally says. Fossils, dinosaurs were of no help in those conversations.
And I could go on and on, but here´s a Dictionary of weird beliefs that does a great job at listing them all.
Now, of course there are also Europeans who believe in those things too. They are just much less common, and moreover they don´t tend to be the Presidents of our nations.
Conclusion? A nation built by self believers is a great nation but there´s a limit to this and without enough self doubt citizens of this nation can end up acting on beliefs that can cause tremendous harm to others. One thing, for example, is to believe that the US government is overextended, the other one is to blow up a government building and kill a lot of innocent people as it happened in Oklahoma City. Or one thing is to believe in God, the other is to believe that God has you on some religious mission that involves killing others.
Is it bad to believe in weird things? Personally I think that so long as those beliefs are harmless to you or others it is acceptable, but maybe just boring. I have many times simply ran out of patience debating Americans at dinner parties on subjects such as the power of pyramids, alien abductions, the existence of the devil or the interpretation of past lives.
Today I was lying in Menorca, reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer, and I came accross a line that went like this “there are more humans alive today than have died in all of human history”.
Spain has been receiving more and more illegal immigrants from Africa who, fleeing poverty, have been sailing hundreds of miles from places as far as Senegal to make it over here. On some days this week as much as 1000 illegal immigrants arrived in the Canary Islands in one day. Hundreds have died while trying to make it.
Israel is managed by a generation of leaders who grew up wondering how could six million Jews walk to their death without putting up a fight. Maybe this explains why these leaders are so ready to over react when Israel is attacked and why Israel consistently loses the war that matters most, the war of global public opinion, even against the most unlikely candidates: Syria and Iran.
Hezbollah kidnapped two soldiers and threw rockets over Israel, a minor incident. Israel instead, invaded Lebanon, killed over a thousand people, caused billions of dollars worth of damage and managed to drive the majority of the Lebanese, who were not sympathizers of Hezbollah, into Hezbollah´s arms. Hezbollah as a movement needs two main resources, Iran´s and Syria´s money and angry young men. After the tremendous damage that Israel inflicted on Lebanon Hezbollah will have more of both. Especially now that it will be seen by most Lebanese as the only force ready to defend Lebanon.
Sailing around the Mediterranean I find myself begging for WiFi at every port. I do have 3G but not only is it many times not available, as in Montenegro for example, but when it is available (as in Italy) it is extremely expensive to roam on it, and, what´s worse, it´s too slow and frequently fails. As a result I find myself begging for WiFi, hoping I can find WiFi signals that I can use and more than anything hoping that FON really becomes a global success. Share excess bandwidth at home and roam the world for free becomes especially useful when you go on vacation. Right now I finally did find one open wifi network and I felt I had to blog it. I am so thankful to the owner of this open access point whoever he or she is….
I lived in Argentina as a child, in the States as a young adult and for the last 11 years I have been in Spain. When I moved from NYC to Madrid I was wondering what would be like to move from a huge city, NYC, to a mid size city, Madrid, and from a huge country, USA, to a mid size country, Spain.
Living in the States I was not aware that this mid size country, Spain, has a considerable amount of citizens who would like to live in much smaller countries, Catalunya, Euskadi or Galicia. Now a Spanish and a European citizen, I frequently wonder about the two forces that seem to be driving political decissions these days: globalization and localization. Today, during a 48km bike ride near Kotor, in Montenegro, I decided to use this few months old country as an experiment and ask citizens how they felt about their newly gained independence from Serbia. The answers were not encouraging. One bar owner summarized it best, “new country, same problems” he said.