This Binary World

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As an 11-year-old boy in the mid 1960s I took part in an experiment to teach some of the British academic youth modern (Nuffield) mathematics. Not for us the perils of algebra and differential equations, no, we were to be introduced to binary, sets, Venn diagrams and matrices!

We learnt to do calculations in base two using just ones and zeros. Our headteacher was a very forward-thinking mathematician who believed that computers would take over the world and we should be at the forefront of the revolution! Well, who would’ve thought that by the second decade of the 21st-century we would be resisting turning into a binary world.
There’s been much publicity recently about the sneaky surveillance of Hong Kong citizens during the recent protests. The so-called ‘happy lamppost’ was found to contain very sophisticated equipment to face-identify protesters as the moved away from the main areas of protest. Apparently in Britain we are still one of the most observed populations in Western Europe!
There has also been massive publicity concerning the polarising effect of online political messages. In the same way as peoples’ data is collected and used to steer them towards certain consumer goods their political decisions are being seriously swayed by false propaganda. The rise of right wing dictatorships from the USA to Turkey have all gained mainstream acceptance via these online means. The rule book of political ethics has been effectively shredded by the rise of online ‘fake news’. Maybe facts and truth will eventually come back into ashion!