Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman in the arms of her stunt double Jeannie Epper
You know that moment when you read something, and then immediately have to re-read it because you cannot believe it is true?
That happened to me when I read that the levels of slavery and people trafficking today are greater than at any point in history.
Surely that cannot be right?
Obviously there is no precise figure, but the International Labor Organization and respected abolitionists like Kevin Bales and Siddharth Kara put the global number of slaves at between 10-30 million worldwide. At a minimum, 10 million.
Driving the global people trading business is ruthless greed, vast returns on investment and crucially, government ineffectiveness. The same as most criminal enterprises.
And the numbers involved are extraordinary.
The United Nations estimates the total market value of human trafficking at 32 billion U.S. dollars. In Europe, criminals are pocketing around $2.5 billion per year through sexual exploitation and forced labor.
But let’s remember the commodity here is not drugs or contraband; it is human beings. And usually the most vulnerable in society.
Those unable to defend themselves, those who innocently trust the intentions of others, those who can easily be made to disappear.
The cruelty and inhumanity of those who would profit from such a crime is truly shocking.
In previous centuries, when slaves were captured and traded each had a significant market value. Although their ill-treatment was often horrific, the reality was that it made economic sense to keep a slave alive and functioning, to protect what was usually a significant investment, made with a view to long term.
That is not so today. Many girls and women, who are trafficked, particularly for the sex trade, are done so with a view to high rate of return over a relatively short period of time. Then they are switched from the steady supply of replacements.
And what do you suppose happens to those who are seen to have maxed out their usefulness?
Often addicted to drugs they have been forced to take, almost certainly in the country illegally, with no support, and with no record that they ever existed.
A bad outcome is more or less assured.
It is also difficult to see any hope for the people who trade in people. They have reconciled themselves to the awful crimes that they commit, and are unlikely to stop because others tell them to.
It was a typical day in the cloud. I was at my desk, streaming music onto my phone, collaborating with colleagues on synced files hosted online; I then killed a little time by horsing around on a discussion board with some friends.
The difference was, this cloud wasn’t part of Google or Dropbox. It was … mine, hosted out of an old computer parked under my kitchen table. It streams, syncs files across computers, and does basic social networking. I can access it online from any computer or my mobile phone.
But it’s a “personal cloud”: I own and run the hardware. The simple act of building and running it has given me a glimpse of a possible alternate future for the Internet. It’s an increasingly popular one too.
The software I used, Tonido, has been around a few years, but its user base doubled to more than 1 million people in 2012—mostly in the second half of the year. Last summer BitTorrent released personal-cloud software called Sync, and by December it had already amassed 2 million users. That’s partly the Edward Snowden effect: People now know that the cloud isn’t intangible. It’s hardware run by large companies, snoopable by spy agencies. “2013 was the year that everyone became aware of what a server was,” BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker says. “With Sync, if anybody wants to know what you’re doing, they can’t go and ask one of the big servers. They have to hand the warrant to you.”