Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Free business idea for you: Eradicating poppy through urban hipness

So what about this idea I had this morning:

Poppy-growing in Afghanistan is a huge problem, on the rise after the ousting of the Taliban, who were quite effective at keeping it checked. Now, the Taliban capitalise on the poppy, just like a proud line of warlords before them, selling it off to drug-peddlers and buying weapons to fight NATO.

A lot of half-committed politicians have since then suggested that we buy the opium off the farmers instead of burning as we do now and alienating the Afghans further. But of course that won't work, because no western government so far has been willing to use millions and millions to buy poppies and burning them.

The solution could be the good old market. Why not stimulate the Afghan farmer to grow sorghum, wheat, corn, whatever, paying huge overprice, matching and even exceeding the poppy price pound by pound (which isn't really that much in the first stage of heroin production, one could add). Now, the neat trick here would be selling these crops (in the form of flour, half-and-whole processed products) to the politically and socially conscious western middle-class as "Afghan anti-drug goods", like you are able to further ecological and social welfare by buying Max Havelaar products and such.

This would take a hefty first investment and protection of the farmers for a while. Furthermore the customer demographic might not be that large to buy off all the products, but it would at least be a more productive way of countering the drug problem in Afghanistan.

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Gaming conflict without the guns

Everyone loves bit of senseless violence, when they themselves can be behind the gun and shoot digital crooks before dinner. And you might actually learn some tactical skills as well. At least, several armed forces are using the first-person shooter as a training tool. But admittedly, talking is harder than shooting, so where do we look when we need to simulate civil society in a crisis?

Until recently it wasn't really possible. OK, you could have Godzilla come and smash your SimCity creation and simulate a disaster that way. But otherwise enacting violence has taken the lead as the main storyline in computergames. Now, however, it seems as if you get a chance to simulate the more elusive sides of war, crisis and conflict.

The Danish company Serious Games has just released their new title Global Conflict: Palestine, where you will play a journalist, taking the hard decisions when deciding what side of the story you should cover. It features 3D graphics and runs on both Mac and PC.

An even more interesting'ish game is
A Force More Powerful, where you get the chance to orchestrate a non-violent campaign against a dictator. You can't help but think that this is the perfect edu-tainment for democracy movements around the world.

Apart from these two, there are a number of games that dabble in the same areas. I wrote on a competition to develop games that would further Public Diplomacy a while ago, and I would be surprised if we didn't hear more from that side.