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Sky, Netflix and software • Benedict Evans
<p>Netflix isn’t using TV to leverage some other business - TV <em>is</em> the business. It’s a TV company. Amazon is using content as a way to leverage its subscription service, Prime, in much the same way to telcos buying cable companies or doing IPTV - it’s a way to stop churn. Amazon is using Lord of the Rings as leverage to get you to buy toilet paper through Prime. But Facebook and Google are not device businesses or subscription businesses. Facebook or Google won’t say ‘don’t cancel your subscription because you’ll lose this TV show’ - there is no subscription. That means the strategic value of TV or music is marginal: it’s marketing, not a lock-in.

Apple’s position in TV today is ambivalent. You can argue that the iPhone is a subscription business (spend $30 a month and get a phone every two years), and it certainly thinks about retention and renewals. The service subscriptions that it’s created recently (news, music, games) are all both incremental revenue leveraging a base of 1bn users and ways to lock those users in. But the only important question for the upcoming ‘TV Plus’ is whether Apple plans to spend $1bn a year buying content from people in LA, and produce another nice incremental service with some marketing and retention value, or spend $15bn buying content from people in LA, to take on Netflix. But of course, that’s a TV question, not a tech question.</p>

Apple seems to be aiming at somewhere between the $1bn and $15bn, but closer to the $1bn.
apple  netflix  technology 
15 days ago by charlesarthur
The Pentagon has a laser that can identify people from a distance—by their heartbeat • MIT Technology Review
David Hambling:
<p>A new device, developed for the Pentagon after US Special Forces requested it, can identify people without seeing their face: instead it detects their unique cardiac signature with an infrared laser. While it works at 200 meters (219 yards), longer distances could be possible with a better laser. “I don’t want to say you could do it from space,” says Steward Remaly, of the Pentagon’s Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office, “but longer ranges should be possible.”

Contact infrared sensors are often used to automatically record a patient’s pulse. They work by detecting the changes in reflection of infrared light caused by blood flow. By contrast, the new device, called Jetson, uses a technique known as laser vibrometry to detect the surface movement caused by the heartbeat. This works though typical clothing like a shirt and a jacket (though not thicker clothing such as a winter coat)…

…Cardiac signatures are already used for security identification. The Canadian company Nymi has developed a wrist-worn pulse sensor as an alternative to fingerprint identification. The technology has been trialed by the Halifax building society in the UK.</p>
privacy  biometrics  technology  heart 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
July 2018: We estimate China only makes $8.46 from an iPhone – and that’s why Trump’s trade war is futile • The Conversation
Greg Linden, in July 2018:
<p>Start with the most valuable components that make up an iPhone: the touch screen display, memory chips, microprocessors and so on. They come from a mix of U.S., Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese companies, such as Intel, Sony, Samsung and Foxconn. Almost none of them are manufactured in China. Apple buys the components and has them shipped to China; then they leave China inside an iPhone.

So what about all of those famous factories in China with millions of workers making iPhones? The companies that own those factories, including Foxconn, are all based in Taiwan. Of the factory-cost estimate of $237.45 from IHS Markit at the time the iPhone 7 was released in late 2016, we calculate that all that’s earned in China is about $8.46, or 3.6% of the total. That includes a battery supplied by a Chinese company and the labor used for assembly.

The other $228.99 goes elsewhere. The U.S. and Japan each take a roughly $68 cut, Taiwan gets about $48, and a little under $17 goes to South Korea. And we estimate that about $283 of gross profit from the retail price – about $649 for a 32GB model when the phone debuted – goes straight to Apple’s coffers.

In short, China gets a lot of (low-paid) jobs, while the profits flow to other countries.

A better way of thinking about the US-China trade deficit associated with one iPhone would be to only count the value added in China, $8.50, rather than the $240 that shows up as a Chinese import to the U.S.

Scholars have found similar results for the broader US-China trade balance, although the disparity is less extreme than in the iPhone example. Of the 2017 trade deficit of $375bn, probably one-third actually involves inputs that came from elsewhere – including the US.

The use of China as a giant assembly floor has been good for the US economy, if not for US factory workers. By taking advantage of a vast, highly efficient global supply chain, Apple can bring new products to market at prices comparable to its competitors, most notably the Korean giant Samsung.</p>

You can argue about the minor detail, but this is broadly correct; and quite opposite to the general expectation. What the films of Foxconn workers in Shenzhen assembling and testing phones doesn't show is the container loads of components that have come in from abroad to be assembled.
China  us  trade  technology  apple 
12 weeks ago by charlesarthur
The MacBook keyboard fiasco is way worse than Apple thinks • Signal v. Noise
David Hansson:
<p>Apple keep insisting that only a “small number of customers have problems” with the MacBook keyboards. That’s bollocks. This is a huge issue, it’s getting worse not better, and Apple is missing the forest for the trees.

The fact is that many people simply do not contact Apple when their MacBook keyboards fail. They just live with an S key that stutters or a spacebar that intermittently gives double. Or they just start using (<a href="">1</a>) an (<a href="">2</a>) external (<a href="">3</a>) keyboard (<a href="">4</a>). Apple never sees these cases, so it never counts in their statistics.

So here’s some anecdata for Apple. I sampled the people at Basecamp. Out of the 47 people using MacBooks at the company, a staggering 30% are dealing with keyboard issues right now!! And that’s just the people dealing with current keyboard issues. If you include all the people who used to have issues, but went through a repair or replacement process, the number would be even higher.</p>

As John Gruber notes, Apple must know this; it uses its laptops internally. As a thought experiment: if Apple were to offer scissor-style keys as a build-to-order option on its laptops, what proportion of buyers do you think would take it up?

There are only two ways to fix this, because the "naked butterfly" mechanism (as in laptops; used in its iPad Pro keyboards, <em>which have a synthetic cover</em>, it's delightful) is fundamentally flawed. Return to the scissor mechanism, or introduce "force touch" keys. I wouldn't entirely put the latter past Jony Ive's team.
apple  keyboard  technology  mistakes 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
How TikTok is rewriting the world • The New York Times
John Herrman:
<p>TikTok is an app for making and sharing short videos. The videos are tall, not square, like on Snapchat or Instagram’s stories, but you navigate through videos by scrolling up and down, like a feed, not by tapping or swiping side to side.

Video creators have all sorts of tools at their disposal: filters as on Snapchat (and later, everyone else); the ability to search for sounds to score your video. Users are also strongly encouraged to engage with other users, through “response” videos or by means of “duets” — users can duplicate videos and add themselves alongside.

Hashtags play a surprisingly large role on TikTok. In more innocent times, Twitter hoped its users might congregate around hashtags in a never-ending series of productive pop-up mini-discourses. On TikTok, hashtags actually exist as a real, functional organizing principle: not for news, or even really anything trending anywhere else than TikTok, but for various “challenges,” or jokes, or repeating formats, or other discernible blobs of activity…

…the first thing you see isn’t a feed of your friends, but a page called “For You.” It’s an algorithmic feed based on videos you’ve interacted with, or even just watched. It never runs out of material. It is not, unless you train it to be, full of people you know, or things you’ve explicitly told it you want to see. It’s full of things that you seem to have demonstrated you want to watch, no matter what you actually say you want to watch.

It is constantly learning from you and, over time, builds a presumably complex but opaque model of what you tend to watch, and shows you more of that, or things like that, or things related to that, or, honestly, who knows, but it seems to work. TikTok starts making assumptions the second you’ve opened the app, before you’ve really given it anything to work with. </p>
socialmedia  technology  culture  tiktok 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Dropgangs, or the future of darknet markets • Opaque Link
<p>To prevent theft by the distribution layer, the sales layer randomly tests dead drops by tasking different members of the distribution layer with picking up product from a dead drop and hiding it somewhere else, after verification of the contents. Usually each unit of product is tagged with a piece of paper containing a unique secret word which is used to prove to the sales layer that a dead drop was found. Members of the distribution layer have to post security - in the form of cryptocurrency - to the sales layer, and they lose part of that security with every dead drop that fails the testing, and with every dead drop they failed to test. So far, no reports of using violence to ensure performance of members of these structures has become known.

This concept of using messaging, cryptocurrency and dead drops even within the merchant structure allows for the members within each layer being completely isolated from each other, and not knowing anything about higher layers at all. There is no trace to follow if a distribution layer member is captured while servicing a dead drop. He will often not even be distinguishable from a regular customer. This makes these structures extremely secure against infiltration, takeover and capture. They are inherently resilient.

Furthermore the members of the sales layer often employ advanced physical tradecraft to prevent surveillance by the procurement layer when they pick up product. This makes it very hard to dismantle such a structure from the top.

If members of such a structure are captured they usually have no critical information to share, no information about persons, places, times of meeting. No interaction that would make this information necessary ever takes place.

It is because of the use of dead drops and hierarchical structures that we call this kind of organization a Dropgang.</p>

We ain't on the Silk Road any more.
crypto  technology  culture  crime 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
The convergence of the phone and laptop • AVC
Fred Wilson:
<p>The Gotham Gal [Wilson's wife, who also works in venture capital] wanted to get a new laptop. Her late 2015 Macbook has started to fade on her.

So yesterday we made a visit to the local Apple Store and checked out the options. We looked at the Macbooks, the Macbook Airs, and we also looked at the iPad Pros. We debated the choice and she ended up deciding to go for the iPad Pro. We work with a few people who have iPad Pros and love them. And she noticed how much I am using and enjoying my Pixel Slate.

One of the most interesting things about these hybrid tablet/laptop devices is that they run operating systems that are designed for the tablet or phone. They are touch devices like our phones vs mouse devices like our laptops.

A good example of this is how I do email on my Pixel Slate. I could run Gmail in the browser on my Pixel Slate. But I have found it much more pleasing to do email in the Gmail Android App on my Pixel Slate. I swipe emails away like I do on my phone. But I also have the keyboard when I want to write a long response. It is literally the best of both worlds.</p>

I think she's going to be happy with it, though I wonder what is actually meant by saying a 2015 machine "has started to fade". The comments on the piece are worth reading too: as many saying she'll go back to a laptop as saying the tablet is the way forward.
ipad  technology  work 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Inside Wisconsin’s disastrous $4.5bn deal with Foxconn • Bloomberg
Austin Carr:
<p>[Foxconn chief Terry] Gou deputized his special assistant, Woo, and another lieutenant, Alan Yeung, Foxconn’s director of US strategic initiatives, to handle the details. They aggressively pursued cash subsidies, calling and texting at all hours. At one point, according to state records released to the public, Woo texted Neitzel at 1:17 a.m., “Give us 200m upfront then it is a done deal.” (Neitzel declined.)

As a bidding war heated up among a handful of states, including Michigan and Ohio, Wisconsin upped its offer. Foxconn demanded subsidies that would make US operations as cheap as in China, and Hogan says Foxconn estimated a 30% cost difference. He acknowledges the subsidy numbers grew “staggering” but says Foxconn won’t get those incentives without delivering the promised numbers of jobs.

Wisconsin’s final bid, written on a single piece of paper, offered as much as $150m in sales tax exemptions and $2.9bn in refundable tax credits on the condition that Foxconn meet certain hiring and capital investment thresholds. Other public costs, including $764m in local incentives from Mount Pleasant and its home county of Racine, made up the other third of the package. When the team slid the paper to Woo in July, Hogan recalls, he folded it up and said, “Terry wants to do business with Governor Walker.”

Even before Foxconn signed the contract in November 2017, Walker’s win began to morph into a political liability. As details of the mostly closed-door negotiations came to light, the narrative soured. At a time when Trump was stoking economic nationalism and ripping on companies that shipped jobs to China, many saw the subsidies as a desperate giveaway to a foreign company with close ties to Beijing…

…“There’s no way this will ever pay itself off,” says Tim Bartik, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. He says Foxconn’s incentives are more than 10 times greater than typical government aid packages of its stripe.</p>
foxconn  technology  wisconsin 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Tech is splitting the US workforce in two • The New York Times
Eduardo Porter:
<p>Automation is splitting the American labor force into two worlds. There is a small island of highly educated professionals making good wages at corporations like Intel or Boeing, which reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit per employee. That island sits in the middle of a sea of less educated workers who are stuck at businesses like hotels, restaurants and nursing homes that generate much smaller profits per employee and stay viable primarily by keeping wages low.

Even economists are reassessing their belief that technological progress lifts all boats, and are beginning to worry about the new configuration of work.

Recent research has concluded that robots are reducing the demand for workers and weighing down wages, which have been rising more slowly than the productivity of workers. Some economists have concluded that the use of robots explains the decline in the share of national income going into workers’ paychecks over the last three decades.

Because it pushes workers to the less productive parts of the economy, automation also helps explain one of the economy’s thorniest paradoxes: despite the spread of information technology, robots and artificial intelligence breakthroughs, overall productivity growth remains sluggish.

“The view that we should not worry about any of these things and follow technology to wherever it will go is insane,” said Daron Acemoglu, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Semiconductor companies like Intel or NXP are among the most successful in the Phoenix area. From 2010 to 2017, the productivity of workers in such firms — a measure of the dollar value of their production — grew by about 2.1% per year, according to an analysis by Mark Muro and Jacob Whiton of the Brookings Institution. Pay is great: $2,790 a week, on average, according to government statistics.

But the industry doesn’t generate that many jobs. In 2017, the semiconductor and related devices industry employed 16,600 people in the Phoenix area, about 10,000 fewer than three decades ago.</p>
technology  automation  work 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Polar Vortex 2019: why forecasts are so accurate now • The Atlantic
Robinson Meyer:
<p>“A modern five-day forecast is as accurate as a one-day forecast was in 1980,” says a new paper, <a href="">published last week in the journal Science</a>. “Useful forecasts now reach nine to 10 days into the future.”

The paper is a birthday present from meteorology to itself: the American Meteorological Society turns 100 this year. But it also acts as a good report card on how far weather prediction has come.

“Modern 72-hour predictions of hurricane tracks are more accurate than 24-hour forecasts were 40 years ago,” the authors write. The federal government now predicts storm surge, stream level, and the likelihood of drought. It has also gotten better at talking about its forecasts: As I wrote in 2017, the National Weather Service has dropped professional jargon in favor of clear, direct, and everyday language.

“Everybody’s improving, and they’re improving a lot,” says Richard Alley, an author of the paper and a geoscientist at Penn State.

With the current polar vortex, the first signs came almost a month in advance. On the final day of 2018, scientists detected what they call a “sudden stratospheric warming event,” high above the North Pole. The stratosphere, a layer of air about 20 miles above the surface, was being rocked by waves of warm air from below.

“What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic,” warned the meteorologist Andrew Freedman at the time. “Sudden stratospheric warming events are known to affect the weather in the US and Europe on a time delay.” The next 60 days would probably be colder than average, he said.</p>

The "why" isn't answered in this article, but is in the linked Science article. You guessed: better computers running more precise models. Down to -40C in the US from the polar vortex - which, yes, <a href="">is attributable to global warming</a>.
technology  weather  computing  globalwarming 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
Tech and media website Re/code to be folded into • WSJ
Benjamin Mullin:
<p>The decision to fold Recode into Vox comes more than three years after Vox Media announced the acquisition of the media and technology site in an all-stock deal whose financial terms weren’t disclosed. Jim Bankoff, Vox Media’s chief executive, said at the time that Recode’s conference business was an attractive asset for the company.

Ms. Swisher, a former Wall Street Journal reporter, co-founded Recode with her then-colleague, the technology journalist Walt Mossberg, after the pair parted ways with Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones in 2013. They were among a wave of high-profile journalists who left their employers to found their own media companies around that time. Jessica Lessin, also a former Wall Street Journal reporter, left to found The Information, a news and technology site, in 2013. Alex Blumberg, a former This American Life producer, co-founded Gimlet Media, a podcasting company, in 2014. Ezra Klein left the Washington Post in 2014 to start with Ms. Bell and the journalist Matt Yglesias.

Recode’s traffic has declined in recent months, as some of the site’s marquee journalists have left the company for jobs at other news organizations. The site attracted 1.36m unique visitors in September 2018, a 50% decrease from its audience of 2.77m unique visitors during the same period the year before, according to comScore. By comparison, the Verge, another Vox-owned tech website, drew 25.9m unique visitors in September.

Mr. Mossberg retired last year, and reporters such as Edmund Lee, Tony Romm and Johana Bhuiyan have all left Recode in the past year. Ms. Swisher has begun writing for the New York Times, which she joined as an opinion contributor in July.</p>

I think Re/code has never quite had the heft that All Things Digital, its forebear spinoff from the WSJ, had - partly because it started from nothing. The Verge did too, but aims to be a sort of technology wire service: the Reuters or AP of the web.

I don't see Re/code thriving from here, though.
Journalism  technology 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
'Tech tax' necessary to avoid dystopia, says leading economist • The Guardian
Alex Hern:
<p>A “tech tax” is necessary if the world is to avoid a dystopian future in which AI leads to a concentration of global wealth in the hands of a few thousand people, influential economist Dr Jeffrey Sachs has warned.

Speaking to the Guardian, Sachs backed calls for taxation aimed at the largest tech companies, arguing that new technologies were dramatically shifting the income distribution worldwide “from labour to intellectual property (IP) and other capital income.”

“So rather than cutting capital income taxation, as we’ve been doing in a race to the bottom, we ought to be finding ways to tax capital income and IP income,” Sachs added.

“Things like the proposed tech tax are actually a very good idea. The specific form of it is debatable, but the idea is that five companies are worth $3.5tn, basically because of network externalities and information monopolies, and therefore are absolutely right for efficient taxation.”

Sachs is in London to speak at an event organised by the Alan Turing Institute, the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.</p>

OK, so how is this tech tax going to work? Will companies be taxed on revenue? Capital value? IP value? One can imagine that there will be sneaky ways found around any method used to try to extract it. (Revenues will be dodged to offshore banks, as happens already. Companies will sell-and-lease-back property, asset-stripping themselves and turning capex into opex. IP will be undervalued.) I'm in favour of the principle; it's the practice I wonder about.
technology  tax 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Another technological tragedy • bit-player
Brian Hayes, author of the book Infrastructure, on the explosions that blew up mains gas-connected buildings in Massachusetts in September, which was caused by a feedback loop that wasn't actually a loop - so it pushed up pressure because its readings said the pressure was too low, measured in the wrong pipes:
<p>when you open the valve to increase the inflow of gas, you expect the pressure to increase. (Or, in some circumstances, to decrease more slowly. In any event, the sign of the second derivative should be positive.) If that doesn’t happen, the control law would call for making an even stronger correction, opening the valve further and forcing still more gas into the pipeline. But you, in your wisdom, might pause to consider the possible causes of this anomaly. Perhaps pressure is falling because a backhoe just ruptured a gas main. Or, as in Lawrence last month, maybe the pressure isn’t actually falling at all; you’re looking at sensors plugged into the wrong pipes. Opening the valve further could make matters worse.

Could we build an automatic control system with this kind of situational awareness? Control theory offers many options beyond the simple feedback loop. We might add a supervisory loop that essentially controls the controller and sets the set point. And there is an extensive literature on predictive control, where the controller has a built-in mathematical model of the plant, and uses it to find the best trajectory from the current state to the desired state. But neither of these techniques is commonly used for the kind of last-ditch safety measures that might have saved those homes in the Merrimack Valley. More often, when events get too weird, the controller is designed to give up, bail out, and leave it to the humans. That’s what happened in Lawrence.</p>

This is a fascinating little discussion (with a couple of other accidents, including the notorious Air France 447 from Rio de Janeiro) which leaves much to think about. It also reminded me of control theory, which I haven't had to think of in decades. (Via Ben Thompson.)
energy  technology  failure  accident  systems 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
What does Stack Overflow want to be when it grows up? • Coding Horror
Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Overflow (used by gazillions of flummoxed coders, including me):
<p>I am honored and humbled by the public utility that Stack Overflow has unlocked for a whole generation of programmers. But I didn't do that.

• <em>You</em> did, when you contributed a well researched question to Stack Overflow.<br />• <em>You</em> did, when you contributed a succinct and clear answer to Stack Overflow.<br />• <em>You</em> did, when you edited a question or answer on Stack Overflow to make it better.

All those "fun size" units of Q&A collectively contributed by working programmers from all around the world ended up building a Creative Commons resource that truly rivals Wikipedia within our field. That's ... incredible, actually.

But success stories are boring. The world is filled with people that basically got lucky, and subsequently can't stop telling people how it was all of their hard work and moxie that made it happen. I find failure much more instructive, and when building a business and planning for the future, I take on the role of Abyss Domain Expert™ and begin a staring contest [quoting Nietzsche: "if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you"). It's just a little something I like to do, you know ... for me.

Thus, what I'd like to do right now is peer into that glorious abyss for a bit and introspect about the challenges I see facing Stack Overflow for the next 10 years.</p>

The fact that SO (as it gets called all over the place) is principally and was always intended to be a curated wiki and that it is so enormously useful, just like Wikipedia (even if one dislikes the sausage-making process in the latter), seems to me to indicate something important about curated wikis v pretty much every other form of unmediated content collection system.

Tightly curating knowledge is obviously a more bounded problem than lightly curating opinion (as in social media). But why does the latter break down so easily into abuse? Because of the light curating, or the nature of the content?
technology  coding  wiki  stackoverflow 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Futurism's blind spot: why could we predict self-driving cars, but not women in the workplace? • Nautilus
Tom Venderbilt:
<p>as the economist Robert Fogel famously noted, if the railroad had not been invented, we would have done almost as well, in terms of economic output, with ships and canals. Or we assume that modern technology was wonderfully preordained instead of, as it often is, an accident. Instagram began life as a Yelp-style app called Burbn, with photos an afterthought (photos on your phone, is that a thing?). Texting, meanwhile, started out as a diagnostic channel for short test messages—because who would prefer fumbling through tiny alphanumeric buttons to simply talking?1

Transportation seems to be a particular poster child of fevered futurist speculation, bearing a disproportionate load of this deferred wish fulfillment (perhaps because we simply find daily travel painful, reminding us of its shared root with the word “travail”). The lament for the perpetually forestalled flying car focuses around childlike wishes (why can’t I have this now?), and ignores massive externalities like aerial traffic jams, and fatality rates likely to be higher than terrestrial driving.

The “self-driving car,” it is promised, will radically reshape the way we live, forgetting that, throughout history, humans have largely endeavored to keep their daily travel time within a stable bound.4 “Travelators,” or moving walkways, were supposed to transform urban mobility; nowadays, when they actually work, they move (standing) people in airports at a slower-than-walking speed. In considering the future of transportation, it is worth keeping in mind that, today, we mostly move around thanks to old technology. As Amazon experiments with aerial drone delivery, its “same day” products are being moved through New York City thanks to that 19th-century killer app: the bicycle.

Edgerton notes that the “innovation-centric” worldview—those sexy devices that “changed the world”—runs not merely to the future, but also the past. “The horse,” he writes, “made a greater contribution to Nazi conquest than the V2.” We noticed what was invented more than what was actually used.</p>
culture  technology  futurism 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
The Magic Leap con • Gizmodo
Brian Merchant:
<p>As many have noted, the hardware is still extremely limiting. The technology underpinning these experiences seems genuinely advanced, and if it were not for a multi-year blitzkrieg marketing campaign insisting a reality where pixels blend seamlessly with IRL physics was imminent, it might have felt truly impressive. (Whether or not it’s advanced enough to eventually give rise to Leap’s prior promises is an entirely open question at this point.) For now, the field of vision is fairly small and unwieldy, so images are constantly vanishing from view as you look around. If you get too close to them, objects will get chopped up or move awkwardly. And if you do get a good view, some objects appear low res and transparent; some looked like cheap holograms from an old sci-fi film. Text was bleary and often doubled up in layers that made it hard to read, and white screens looked harsh—I loaded Google on the Helio browser and immediately had to shut my eyes.

According to Magic Leap, over 1,000 people had signed up to be here. Why?, I wanted to ask all of them at once. Do you think this is the future? Do you <em>really?</em></p>

I'll reiterate my prediction that pretty soon Magic Leap will pivot to industrial applications, which might exist.
vr  technology  ar  magicleap 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear blinders • ROUGH TYPE
Nick Carr:
<p>A few years ago, the technology critic Michael Sacasas introduced the term “Borg Complex” to describe the attitude and rhetoric of modern-day utopians who believe that computer technology is an unstoppable force for good and that anyone who resists or even looks critically at the expanding hegemony of the digital is a benighted fool. (The Borg is an alien race in Star Trek that sucks up the minds of other races, telling its victims that “resistance is futile.”) Those afflicted with the complex, Sacasas observed, rely on a a set of largely specious assertions to dismiss concerns about the ill effects of technological progress. The Borgers are quick, for example, to make grandiose claims about the coming benefits of new technologies (remember MOOCs?) while dismissing past cultural achievements with contempt (“I don’t really give a shit if literary novels go away”).

To Sacasas’s list of such obfuscating rhetorical devices, I would add the assertion that we are at “the beginning.” By perpetually refreshing the illusion that progress is just getting under way, gadget worshippers like Kelly are able to wave away the problems that progress is causing. Any ill effect can be explained, and dismissed, as just a temporary bug in the system, which will soon be fixed by our benevolent engineers. (If you look at Mark Zuckerberg’s responses to Facebook’s problems over the years, you’ll find that they are all variations on this theme.) Any attempt to put constraints on technologists and technology companies becomes, in this view, a short-sighted and possibly disastrous obstruction of technology’s march toward a brighter future for everyone — what Kelly is still calling the “long boom.” You ain’t seen nothing yet, so stay out of our way and let us work our magic.</p>

Is there such a thing as a pragmatic pessimist? If so then Nick Carr fits the bill.
technology  progress  optimism 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
The big hack: how China used a tiny chip to infiltrate US companies • Bloomberg
Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley:
<p>To help with due diligence, AWS, which was overseeing the prospective acquisition, hired a third-party company to scrutinize Elemental’s security, according to one person familiar with the process. The first pass uncovered troubling issues, prompting AWS to take a closer look at Elemental’s main product: the expensive servers that customers installed in their networks to handle the video compression. These servers were assembled for Elemental by Super Micro Computer Inc., a San Jose-based company (commonly known as Supermicro) that’s also one of the world’s biggest suppliers of server motherboards, the fiberglass-mounted clusters of chips and capacitors that act as the neurons of data centers large and small. In late spring of 2015, Elemental’s staff boxed up several servers and sent them to Ontario, Canada, for the third-party security company to test, the person says.

Nested on the servers’ motherboards, the testers found a tiny microchip, not much bigger than a grain of rice, that wasn’t part of the boards’ original design. Amazon reported the discovery to US authorities, sending a shudder through the intelligence community. </p>

(The chips, they say, were put there by agents of the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army to spy on Amazon, Apple and others.)

This story has of course been cannoning around the internet, eliciting various gasps of amazement. Amazon and Apple have <a href="">vehemently denied pretty much every element of the story</a>, but the US government has been silent.

A few possibilities. 1) Apple and Amazon aren't allowed to acknowledge it; it's super-high security.<br />2) didn't happen; it's a ploy by US security to get manufacture brought back to the US because they're worried about security of Chinese manufacture. (It's not just a Trump-era ploy, because the reporters have been talking to their sources for years.)<br />3) everyone's getting overheated - the chips weren't what they're being made out to be, which means it's a version of No.2. Read the denials, though. Wow. Apple put out <a href="">an even more aggressive denial</a>, saying it's not under any confidentiality demands.

One notable opinion is that this torpedoes China's ambitions to supply chips: that nobody will trust them. I'd agree.
amazon  apple  security  china  technology 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
The war between technology & democracy • Medium
Jamie Bartlett:
<p>We rightly celebrate how the internet gives us a platform, allows new movements to form, and helps us access new information. These are good things, but don’t be blinded by to the other problems the same technology is creating. Our democracy relies on lots of boring stuff to make it actually work as a system of collective self-government that people believe in and support: a sovereign authority that functions effectively, a healthy political culture, a strong civil society, elections that people trust, active citizens who can make important moral judgements, a relatively strong middle class, and so on. We have built these institutions up over several decades — decades of analogue technology.

Now however we have a new set of technologies — digital technology — which is slowly eroding all of them. It’s not to blame one side or the other — simple to state there’s an incompatibility problem.

This structural problem is far more important than billionaires in Silicon Valley or troll farms in St Petersburg. And if we don’t find a new settlement between tech and democracy, more and more people will simply conclude that democracy no longer really works, and look for something else. This being a lecture series about dictatorship, you won’t be surprised to learn that some new form of dictatorship — a sort of gentle, benevolent data dictatorship — is the most likely candidate for replacing it. Something a little like my father’s efficient but depressing Schedule.

I’ll take three examples of how recently reported problems and explain how they are symptoms of this tech / democracy tension. Let’s start with Cambridge Analytica, one of the biggest stories of 2018, and also one of the most misunderstood.</p>

Bartlett is always insightful.
socialmedia  technology  politics  democracy 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Macron push to drop CIA code quickens as Trump calls EU foe
Helen Fouquet, Marie Mawad and Ania Nussbaum:
<p>Just weeks after Emmanuel Macron took office last year, his team went over the French state’s most sensitive activities. What it found provided a wake-up call.

The team learned that the country’s intelligence agency -- which, among other things, tracks French citizens for homegrown terrorism or anarchist activities -- uses software from a CIA-backed startup. Its code is provided by Palantir Technologies Inc., a data-mining company that started out working for the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.

The use of U.S. technology deep inside the French state isn’t unusual, but for the tech-savvy team of the 40-year-old president, it was a sign that the country needs to make technological independence a top priority -- a sentiment that’s become even more urgent after President Donald Trump called the European Union a “foe.”

“No French company was able to provide the work,” Laurent Nunez, the new chief of France’s domestic intelligence agency, told Bloomberg News in July on the sidelines of a conference to present a new anti-terrorism system. “Now we are working to foster a French or European offering. We’re looking toward an objective of launching a tool for all intelligence agencies. And many companies have stepped in.”

The push to find local solutions for mission-critical or sensitive operations is yet another departure from the assumption that the US and its technology would remain a constant ally to Europe.</p>

In a roundabout and painful way, Trump might actually be a help for European technology companies.
trump  europe  technology 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Magic Leap’s $2.3bn augmented-reality gear meets actual reality and stumbles • The Washington Post
Geoffrey Fowler got his hands on one:
<p>we’re not going to be staring down at phone screens forever, ignoring family members and walking into traffic. Apple and other tech companies are eying AR as a phone replacement, too. AR glasses have wider potential than virtual-reality gear, which effectively blindfolds you. The Magic Leap goggles, called Lightware, are translucent. When you wear them, it looks like a virtual world is painted on top of the real one — a creature is running around your desk; a web browser window is hanging on your wall.

There is, no doubt, a lot to be worked out for a new kind of computing device. But I’m surprised Magic Leap is not further along on the basics — or even just some experiences to make you go “whoa.” The Magic Leap One cannot be dismissed as just a prototype. Not only is it for sale, the company has announced a partnership to, at some point, bring a product to AT&T stores for demonstrations. Magic Leap says this first version is for “creators” and programmers.

Most curious: The company blamed some of my challenges on an improper fit of its headgear. My fit had been set up by an agent Magic Leap sends to deliver all purchases. I was left wondering how it will ever sell the product to millions if hardware calibration is that delicate…

…Google Glass was sunk, in part, by how it made its owners look. The Magic Leap One looks like a prop from “Mad Max: Fury Road” — very cool if you’re looking for a futuristic costume, but not something you would wear walking down the street. (Magic Leap doesn’t recommend wearing it outdoors, anyway.)

The design also introduces social problems. Though you can see the people around you, they have no idea what you’re looking at — if you’re paying attention, or even if you’re recording them. This information imbalance also contributed to Google Glass’s woes.</p>
technology  ar  magicleap 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
The world’s oldest blockchain has been hiding in the New York Times since 1995 • Motherboard
Daniel Oberhaus:
<p>14 years before Bitcoin was invented, Haber and Stornetta created their own timestamping service called Surety to put their scheme into action.

Surety’s main product is called “AbsoluteProof” that acts as a cryptographically secure seal on digital documents. Its basic mechanism is the same described in Haber and Stornetta’s original paper. Clients use Surety’s AbsoluteProof software to create a hash of a digital document, which is then sent to Surety’s servers where it is timestamped to create a seal. This seal is a cryptographically secure unique identifier that is then returned to the software program to be stored for the customer.

At the same time, a copy of that seal and every other seal created by Surety’s customers is sent to the AbsoluteProof “universal registry database,” which is a “hash-chain” composed entirely of Surety customer seals. This creates an immutable record of all the Surety seals ever produced, so that it is impossible for the company or any malicious actor to modify a seal. But it leaves out an important part of the blockchain equation: Trustlessness. How can anyone trust that Surety’s internal records are legit?

Instead of posting customer hashes to a public digital ledger, Surety creates a unique hash value of all the new seals added to the database each week and publishes this hash value in the New York Times. The hash is placed in a small ad in the Times classified section under the heading “Notices & Lost and Found” and has appeared once a week since 1995.

<img src="" width="100%" /><br /><em>An example of Surety’s hashes in the New York Times from 2009. Image: Surety</em></p>
encryption  technology  blockchain  cryptography 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Gartner's Great Vanishing: some of 2017's emerging techs just disappeared • The Register
Andrew Orlowski:
<p>For a new technology to succeed, according to the mythological Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle, it must first climb the "Peak of Inflated Expectations" before falling into the Slough of Despond, or as Gartner calls it, the "Trough of Disillusionment". There, after shaking off the Mud of Mockery or the Dust of Derision that is presumably found in the Trough, it must pick itself up and begin to ascend once again, up along the gentler "Slope of Enlightenment" before arriving, triumphant, onto the sunny uplands of the "Plateau of Productivity". Only then can an Emerging Technology finally put down the backpack, open the Thermos flask, and tuck into a well-deserved packed lunch.

Nine emerging technologies identified last year by Gartner in the corresponding Hype Cycle report have vanished.

Some of these are quite significant. Last July, Machine Learning was two years away from the safety of the Plateau. But that's disappeared. Its cousin Deep Learning is hanging perilously on, like so many trends, exactly where Gartner put it last year.

Last year, Edge Computing could be found toiling up the Western slope of the Peak of Disillusionment – but that has fallen out of sight, too. So has Human Augmentation, Augmented Data Discovery, and Knowledge Graphs.

And remember Drones? They've crashed.</p>

So you can satisfy yourself, here's 2017:<br /><img src="" border="1" width="100%" />

And 2018:<br /><img src="" border="1" width="100%" />

Technology evolution is stuck. Really stuck.
technology  hype  cycle 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
The tech industry’s psychological war on kids • Medium
Richard Freed is a psychologist treating children and adolescents:
<p>Nestled in an unremarkable building on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California, is the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab, founded in 1998. The lab’s creator, Dr. B.J. Fogg, is a psychologist and the father of persuasive technology, a discipline in which digital machines and apps — including smartphones, social media, and video games — are configured to alter human thoughts and behaviors. As the lab’s website boldly proclaims: “Machines designed to change humans.”

Fogg speaks openly of the ability to use smartphones and other digital devices to change our ideas and actions: “We can now create machines that can change what people think and what people do, and the machines can do that autonomously.” Called “the millionaire maker,” Fogg has groomed former students who have used his methods to develop technologies that now consume kids’ lives. As he recently touted on his personal website, “My students often do groundbreaking projects, and they continue having impact in the real world after they leave Stanford… For example, Instagram has influenced the behavior of over 800 million people. The co-founder was a student of mine.”

Intriguingly, there are signs that Fogg is feeling the heat from recent scrutiny of the use of digital devices to alter behavior. His boast about Instagram, which was present on his website as late as January of 2018, has been removed. Fogg’s website also has lately undergone a substantial makeover, as he now seems to go out of his way to suggest his work has benevolent aims…</p>

This is a long piece, but full of remarkable insights into what's happening with children.
technology  addiction  psychology  children 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
The unstoppable TI-84 Plus: How an outdated calculator still holds a monopoly on classrooms • The Washington Post
Matt McFarland:
<p>In the ruthlessly competitive world of technology, where companies rush the latest gadget to market and slash prices to stay competitive, the TI-84 Plus is an anomaly.

<img src="" width="100%" />

Texas Instruments released the graphing calculator in 2004, and continues to sell it today. The base model still has 480 kilobytes of ROM and 24 kilobytes of RAM. Its black-and-white screen remains 96×64 pixels. For 10 years its MSRP has been $150, but depending on the retailer, today it generally sells for between $90 and $120. The only changes have come in software updates.

Amazon calls the TI-84 Plus a No. 1 best-seller. Texas Instruments says that this year the TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition has become its best-selling calculator, and that the TI-84 is its most popular family of calculators. The TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition is slightly more expensive than the base model, has a color screen, rechargeable battery and significantly more memory.

Even with a 320×240 pixel screen, 128 kilobytes RAM and 4 megabytes ROM, overall the TI-84 line of calculators appears unnecessarily expensive given the components. Apple — which is notorious for high margins on its products — sells an iPod touch for $199 that comes with 16 gigabytes of memory and a four-inch screen with a resolution of 1136-by-640 pixels. That’s a dramatically better piece of hardware with a less significant gap in price.</p>

Wonderful. And yes, it's still in use in English schools too.
technology  calculator 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Yelp, The Red Hen, and how all tech platforms are now pawns in the culture war • Buzzfeed
Charlie Warzel:
<p>Though the brigading of review sites and doxxing behavior isn’t exactly new, the speed and coordination is; one consequence of a never-ending information war is that everyone is already well versed in their specific roles. And across the internet, it appears that technology platforms, both big and small, must grapple with the reality that they are now powerful instruments in an increasingly toxic political and cultural battle. After years attempting to dodge notions of bias at all costs, Silicon Valley’s tech platforms are up against a painful reality: They need to expect and prepare for the armies of the culture war and all the uncomfortable policing that inevitably follows.

Policing and intervening isn’t just politically tricky for the platforms, it’s also a tacit admission that Big Tech’s utopian ideologies are deeply flawed in practice. Connecting everyone and everything in an instantly accessible way can have terrible consequences that the tech industry still doesn’t seem to be on top of. Silicon Valley frequently demos a future of seamless integration. It’s a future where cross-referencing your calendar with Yelp, Waze, and Uber creates a service that’s greater than the sum of its parts. It’s an appealing vision, but it is increasingly co-opted by its darker counterpart, in which major technology platforms are daisy-chained together to manipulate, abuse, and harass…

…The tech industry likes to talk, with increasing zeal, about the power of machine learning. Yet when it can’t prevent something simple, like a sudden influx of restaurant reviews from people hundreds or thousands of miles away (identifying users’ locations is trivial), it plays into the hands of those who want to wage information war.

Meanwhile, pro-Trump trolls, as well as supporters of Sanders and the administration, are accusing Yelp of “censoring” reviews. Kirk suggested that brigading restaurant reviews was a just consequence of refusing a diner service. “This is the market at work,” he tweeted (Kirk’s rationale knowingly misrepresents Yelp’s role as a site that should reflect customer experience, not the political opinion of any outraged bystander).</p>

But, as Warzel also points out, it doesn't have to be this way. (Though he doesn't make suggestions, some sort of circuit-breaker - stopping reviews when too many come in, or they're too low or high - would make sense.)
technology  socialwarming  platforms 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Lawyers send mobile ads to phones in ER waiting rooms • NPR
Bobby Allyn:
<p>Patients sitting in emergency rooms, at chiropractors' offices and at pain clinics in the Philadelphia area may start noticing on their phones the kind of messages typically seen along highway billboards and public transit: personal injury law firms looking for business by casting mobile online ads at patients.

The potentially creepy part? They're only getting fed the ad because somebody knows they are in an emergency room.

The technology behind the ads, known as geofencing, or placing a digital perimeter around a specific location, has been deployed by retailers for years to offer coupons and special offers to customers as they shop. Bringing it into health care spaces, however, is raising alarm among privacy experts.

"It's really, I think, the closest thing an attorney can do to putting a digital kiosk inside of an emergency room," says digital marketer Bill Kakis, who runs the Long Island, N.Y.-based firm Tell All Digital. Kakis says he recently inked deals with personal injury law firms in the Philadelphia area to target patients.</p>

"Potentially" creepy? All-around creepy, unwarranted, unwelcome. I'm constantly amazed at Americans' ability to monetise the smallest moments of life, as though it were an insult that any moment should be left without commerce.
technology  medicine  geofencing  emergency 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Software is eating the world, Tesla edition • Marginal REVOLUTION
Alex Tabarrok:
<p>Last week Consumer Reports refused to recommend Tesla’s Model 3 because it discovered lengthy braking distances. This week Consumer Reports changed their review to recommend after Tesla improved braking distance by nearly 20 feet with an over the air software update!

…The larger economic issue is that every durable good is becoming a service. When you buy a car, a refrigerator, a house you will be buying a stream of future services, updates, corrections, improvements. That is going to change the industrial organization of firms and potentially increase monopoly power for two reasons. First, reputation will increase in importance as consumers will want to buy from firms they perceive as being well-backed and long-lasting and second durable goods will be rented more than bought which makes it easier for durable goods producers not to compete with themselves thus solving <a href="">Coase’s durable good monopoly problem</a>.</p>

Coase's durable monopoly problem (in case you don't have a JSTOR login) is <a href="">explained on Wikipedia</a>: essentially, it's that in a market where you can't resell a particular product, a monopoly provider will have to go for the lowest, rather than highest, possible price.

Tabarrok is saying that over-the-air updates make items more desirable over time, which keeps pricing higher. Makes sense. There's also some fun discussion in the comments about how Tesla improved its braking distance so much and so quickly.
tesla  software  technology  economics 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Tech’s structural change • Bloomberg
Tim Culpan:
<p>In the second quarter of 2016, for example, it sold panels at an average $504 per square meter and managed to generate a 44bn won ($41m) operating profit. In the first quarter of this year, prices touched $522, but LG Display posted a 98bn won operating loss.

The difference comes from costs, and that shift looks structural. General expenses have ballooned, which is a line item that could be trimmed. Research and development, though, is also on the rise and is an area LG Display can’t afford to skimp on as it tries to keep up with rivals such as Samsung Electronics Co.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. sparked a plunge in tech stocks last week when it reported earnings and gave a weak second quarter outlook.

I argued at the time that the real concern should be that TSMC needs to spend more money - on capital expenditure - for lower sales growth. The same thing is playing out at LG Display, where R&D is a far larger cost component than depreciation.

LG Display is preparing to move into new technologies, including organic light-emitting diodes. A higher research spend is a necessary part of that development.

The breakeven price of panels has already climbed from around $500 per square meter in the second quarter of 2016 to approximately $550 in the most recent period.

If larger R&D budgets are baked into its cost base, then LG Display becomes the latest tech company to face the prospect of spending more money for less return - first in chips, now in displays.</p>

The implication is higher costs, for manufacturers and consumers? Or slower growth? Or both?
april 2018 by charlesarthur
An elaborate test cheating scheme in Asia involved hidden phones and flesh-coloured earpieces • Gizmodo UK
Melanie Ehrenkranz:
<p>A tutor and several accomplices were recently caught running a complex exam cheating operation in Singapore that one prosecutor called “highly sophisticated.” Unfortunately for them, it apparently wasn’t sophisticated enough to avoid getting busted.

According to prosecutors, 32-year-old Tan Jia Yan ran the operation, which involved surreptitious FaceTime calls, hidden Bluetooth devices, and flesh-coloured earpieces. During the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board (SEAB) exams, students wore Bluetooth devices connected to mobile phones hidden in their clothes as well as flesh-colored earpieces, Channel News Asia reports. Tan reportedly sat in on the exams, using clear tape to stick an iPhone to her shirt, hiding it with a jacket. Authorities say Tan would then FaceTime the exam questions to her accomplices, who would call the students at the exam centre and relay the answers to their earpieces. The ring is accused of helping at six students, all Chinese nationals, cheat at exams in English, Math, Chemistry, and Physics.</p>
cheating  bluetooth  technology 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
A startup is pitching a mind-uploading service that is “100 percent fatal” • MIT Technology Review
Antonio Regalado:
<p>The startup accelerator Y Combinator is known for supporting audacious companies in its popular three-month boot camp.

There’s never been anything quite like Nectome, though.

Next week, at YC’s “demo days,” Nectome’s cofounder, Robert McIntyre, is going to describe his technology for exquisitely preserving brains in microscopic detail using a high-tech embalming process. Then the MIT graduate will make his business pitch. As it says on his website: “What if we told you we could back up your mind?”

So yeah. Nectome is a preserve-your-brain-and-upload-it company. Its chemical solution can keep a body intact for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, as a statue of frozen glass. The idea is that someday in the future scientists will scan your bricked brain and turn it into a computer simulation. That way, someone a lot like you, though not exactly you, will smell the flowers again in a data server somewhere.

This story has a grisly twist, though. For Nectome’s procedure to work, it’s essential that the brain be fresh. The company says its plan is to connect people with terminal illnesses to a heart-lung machine in order to pump its mix of scientific embalming chemicals into the big carotid arteries in their necks while they are still alive (though under general anesthesia).</p>

Money-back guarantee? And just when we'd got one sorted...
technology  backup  death  mind 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
The end of the conference era •
Marco Arment, picking up Chris Adamson's observation that there's a <a href="">contraction in the number of iOS and related conferences</a>:
<p>It’s getting increasingly difficult for organizers to sell tickets, in part because it’s hard to get big-name speakers without the budget to pay them much (which would significantly drive up ticket costs, which exacerbates other problems), but also because conferences now have much bigger competition in connecting people to their colleagues or audiences.

There’s no single factor that has made it so difficult, but the explosion of podcasts and YouTube over the last few years must have contributed significantly. Podcasts are a vastly more time-efficient way for people to communicate ideas than writing conference talks, and people who prefer crafting their message as a produced piece or with multimedia can do the same thing (and more) on YouTube. Both are much easier and more versatile for people to consume than conference talks, and they can reach and benefit far more people.

Ten years ago, you had to go to conferences to hear most prominent people in our industry speak in their own voice, or to get more content than an occasional blog post. Today, anyone who could headline a conference probably has a podcast or YouTube channel with hours of their thoughts and ideas available to anyone, anywhere in the world, anytime, for free.

But all of that media can’t really replace the socializing, networking, and simply fun that happened as part of (or sometimes despite) the conference formula.</p>

Wonder whether anyone tracks Windows and/or Android developer conferences, and how numbers of those have changed?
conferences  technology 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
Coercion – a problem larger than authentication • Medium
"The Grugq":
<p>It seems appropriate to address the flawed understanding of security threats prompted by the FaceID authentication mechanism when it was announced. Particularly frustrating was the deep confusion around how coercion works at different levels, and why the sinister threat of “authoritarian regimes” is a poor threat model to apply to authentication mechanism security. It is popular to ask “how will this technology enable abuse by authoritarian regimes,” but the people asking that question, the technologies they choose to fret about, and the fantasy logic they use constructing threat models, need the cold water of reality…

…Technology that empowers dissidents, and dissident groups, is almost always just going to be Facebook (and Twitter, and WhatsApp or whatever the dominant is messenger for their region [see: Metcalfe’s Law]). Security for dissidents comes from being in the public eye, protecting them against secret reprisals.

When the secret police move against dissident groups, the individuals are going to face coercion that is state level. They will vanish while traveling alone. They will kill themselves while in police custody “in order to embarrass the police.” They will throw themselves off tall buildings “rather than face arrest” — no autopsy possible, their bodies cremated within 24hrs as they always wanted. They will commit suicide by shooting themselves in the back of the head, twice - just to be sure. If they survive secret police reprisals long enough, they will go to jail for decades.

The usual goal for a dissident who is captured is to remain silent for 24–48hrs, long enough to enable their comrades to escape. If there is some law governing their detention it may be “endure torture for 7 days, or jail for 30 years.”

At no point in time will dissidents think “if only my mobile phone was protected by an authentication mechanism that could not be tricked by physically forcing me to cooperate against my will.” In many cases, the coercion will be like a parent telling a child to go to their room. The weaker party will simply cooperate.</p>

This is why, he points out, a lot of the noise about privacy in these systems is misplaced. The only information you can't give up is what you don't know. And even that can be forced out of you.
security  authentication  technology 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it • The Washington Post
Geoffrey Fowler (and no, the boss - Bezos didn't force him to do it or be nice about it):
<p>The good news is nobody ran off with my boxes — or burgled my house.

The bad news is Amazon missed four of my in-home deliveries and charged me (on top of a Prime membership) for gear that occasionally jammed and makes it awkward to share my own door with people, apps, services — and, of course, retailers — other than Amazon.

“Amazon Key has had a positive reception from customers since its launch last month,” Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish said. “There have been situations where we haven’t gotten it right with a delivery and we use these situations to continue making improvements to the service.”

Big tech companies love building walled gardens, in ham-handed attempts to keep customers loyal. But for an ask this big (total access to your home, after all), Amazon needs to make Key better…

…When you use Amazon Key, you get a phone alert with a window when a delivery might occur. If no one is home, the delivery person taps an app that grants one-time access to unlock your door, places the package inside, then relocks the door. (They don’t recommend Key if you have a pet, and won’t come in if they hear barking.) The moment the door unlocks, the Cloud Cam starts recording — and sends you a live stream of the whole thing. It’s a surreal 15 seconds.</p>

Not only but also: finicky setup, occasional bugs leading to fake warnings, and a door that ended up with Schrödinger's Lock.
amazon  technology  iot 
december 2017 by charlesarthur
Why we need a 21st-century Martin Luther to challenge the church of tech • The Guardian
John Naughton (professor of the public understanding of technology at the Open University) is aiming to create a modern form of Martin Luther's 95 theses:
<p>One thing above all stands out from those theses. It is that if one is going to challenge an established power, then one needs to attack it on two fronts – its ideology (which in Luther’s time was its theology), and its business model. And the challenge should be articulated in a format that is appropriate to its time. Which led me to think about an analogous strategy in understanding digital technology and addressing the problems posed by the tech corporations that are now running amok in our networked world.

These are subjects that I’ve been thinking and writing about for decades – in two books, a weekly Observer column, innumerable seminars and lectures and a couple of academic research projects. Many years ago I wrote a history of the internet, motivated partly by annoyance at the ignorant condescension with which it was then viewed by the political and journalistic establishments of the time. “Don’t you think, dear boy,” said one grandee to me in the early 1990s, “that this internet thingy is just the citizens band [CB] radio de nos jours?”

“You poor sap,” I remember thinking, “you have no idea what’s coming down the track.”</p>

The church door to which they will be pinned is <a href=""></a>, on 31 October. I'm looking forward to it. The two extracted in the article ("No.19: the technical is political"; "No.92: Facebook is many things, but a 'community' it ain't") are mouthwatering.

(Disclosure: I have known John for years, and was a visiting fellow last academic year at Cambridge on his Technology & Democracy project.)
technology  martinluther  theses 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
'Our minds can be hijacked': the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia • The Guardian
Paul Lewis went to the Habit Summit:
<p>[Nir Eyal] was defensive of the techniques he teaches, and dismissive of those who compare tech addiction to drugs. “We’re not freebasing Facebook and injecting Instagram here,” he said. He flashed up a slide of a shelf filled with sugary baked goods. “Just as we shouldn’t blame the baker for making such delicious treats, we can’t blame tech makers for making their products so good we want to use them,” he said. “Of course that’s what tech companies will do. And frankly: do we want it any other way?”

Without irony, Eyal finished his talk with some personal tips for resisting the lure of technology. He told his audience he uses a Chrome extension, called DF YouTube, “which scrubs out a lot of those external triggers” he writes about in his book, and recommended an app called Pocket Points that “rewards you for staying off your phone when you need to focus”.

Finally, Eyal confided the lengths he goes to protect his own family. He has installed in his house an outlet timer connected to a router that cuts off access to the internet at a set time every day. “The idea is to remember that we are not powerless,” he said. “We are in control.”

But are we? If the people who built these technologies are taking such radical steps to wean themselves free, can the rest of us reasonably be expected to exercise our free will?

Not according to Tristan Harris, a 33-year-old former Google employee turned vocal critic of the tech industry. “All of us are jacked into this system,” he says. “All of our minds can be hijacked. Our choices are not as free as we think they are.”</p>

It's an amazing piece. You recall how people like Jobs wouldn't let their kids use devices for more than a few hours. Here are people like Loren Brichter (who invented the "pull to refresh" UI) regretting that they're created something like the one-armed bandit of the smartphone.
facebook  design  technology  ethics  socialwarming 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
The iPhone X’s notch is basically a Kinect • The Verge
Paul Miller:
<p>Apple's iPhone X provides a nice little illustration of how sensor and processing technology has evolved in the past decade. In June 2009, Microsoft unveiled this:

<img src="" width="100%" />

In September 2017, Apple put all that tech in this:

<img src="" width="100%" />

Well, minus the tilt motor.

Microsoft's original Kinect hardware was powered by a little-known Israeli company called PrimeSense. PrimeSense pioneered the technology of projecting a grid of infrared dots onto a scene, then detecting them with an IR camera and acsertaining depth information through a special processing chip.</p>

Terrific observation. (And Apple did buy Primesense, in 2013.)
technology  apple  iphonex 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
These women entrepreneurs created a fake male cofounder to dodge startup sexism • Fast Company
John Paul Titlow:
<p>Witchsy, the alternative, curated marketplace for bizarre, culturally aware, and dark-humored art, celebrated its one-year anniversary this summer. The site, born out of frustration with the excessive clutter and limitations of bigger creative marketplaces like Etsy, peddles enamel pins, shirts, zines, art prints, handmade crafts and other wares from a stable of hand-selected artists. Witchsy eschews the “Live Laugh Love” vibe of knickknacks commonly found on sites like Etsy in favor of art that is at once darkly nihilistic and lightheartedly funny, ranging in spirit from fiercely feminist to obscene just for the fun of it.

In its first year, Witchsy has sold about $200,000 worth of this art, paying its creators 80% of each transaction and managing to turn what Dwyer says is a small profit…

But along the way, Gazin and Dwyer had to come up with clever ways to overcome some of the more unexpected obstacles they faced. Some hurdles were overt: early on a web developer they brought on to help build the site tried to stealthily delete everything after Gazin declined to go on a date with him. But most of the obstacles were much more subtle.

After setting out to build Witchsy, it didn’t take long for them to notice a pattern: In many cases, the outside developers and graphic designers they enlisted to help often took a condescending tone over email. These collaborators, who were almost always male, were often short, slow to respond, and vaguely disrespectful in correspondence. In response to one request, a developer started an email with the words “Okay, girls…”

That’s when Gazin and Dwyer introduced a third cofounder: Keith Mann, an aptly named fictional character who could communicate with outsiders over email.

“It was like night and day,” says Dwyer. “It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.”</p>

The web developer! The collaborators! Good grief. Is it this bad in the UK or other countries? As some have pointed out, the premise here of needing the fake male is exactly the same as <a href="">the TV series Remington Steele</a>.
technology  gender  sexism 
august 2017 by charlesarthur
What we get wrong about technology • Tim Harford
<p>Blade Runner (1982) is a magnificent film, but there’s something odd about it. The heroine, Rachael, seems to be a beautiful young woman. In reality, she’s a piece of technology — an organic robot designed by the Tyrell Corporation. She has a lifelike mind, imbued with memories extracted from a human being.  So sophisticated is Rachael that she is impossible to distinguish from a human without specialised equipment; she even believes herself to be human. Los Angeles police detective Rick Deckard knows otherwise; in Rachael, Deckard is faced with an artificial intelligence so beguiling, he finds himself falling in love. Yet when he wants to invite Rachael out for a drink, what does he do?

He calls her up from a payphone.

There is something revealing about the contrast between the two technologies — the biotech miracle that is Rachael, and the graffiti-scrawled videophone that Deckard uses to talk to her. It’s not simply that Blade Runner fumbled its futurism by failing to anticipate the smartphone. That’s a forgivable slip, and Blade Runner is hardly the only film to make it. It’s that, when asked to think about how new inventions might shape the future, our imaginations tend to leap to technologies that are sophisticated beyond comprehension. We readily imagine cracking the secrets of artificial life, and downloading and uploading a human mind. Yet when asked to picture how everyday life might look in a society sophisticated enough to build such biological androids, our imaginations falter.</p>

Just as filmmakers fail, so do our planners. But we also don't recognise the subtle needs for making lots of things consistently that underlie what happens. This is a great essay; Harford's "Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy" would be a good Christmas present for the reader in your life.
design  economics  technology 
august 2017 by charlesarthur
When women stopped coding • Planet Money • NPR
Steve Henn:
<p>Modern computer science is dominated by men. But it hasn't always been this way.

A lot of computing pioneers — the people who programmed the first digital computers — were women. And for decades, the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men. But in 1984, something changed. The percentage of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged, even as the share of women in other technical and professional fields kept rising.

What happened?

We spent the past few weeks trying to answer this question, and there's no clear, single answer.

But here's a good starting place: The share of women in computer science started falling at roughly the same moment when personal computers started showing up in U.S. homes in significant numbers…

…This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative. It became the story we told ourselves about the computing revolution. It helped define who geeks were, and it created techie culture.

Movies like Weird Science, Revenge of the Nerds and War Games all came out in the '80s. And the plot summaries are almost interchangeable: awkward geek boy genius uses tech savvy to triumph over adversity and win the girl.

In the 1990s, researcher Jane Margolis interviewed hundreds of computer science students at Carnegie Mellon University, which had one of the top programs in the country. She found that families were much more likely to buy computers for boys than for girls — even when their girls were really interested in computers.</p>
technology  gender  women  history 
august 2017 by charlesarthur
Have smartphones destroyed a generation? • The Atlantic
Jean Twenge is a sociologist, and says the arrival of smartphones has made a huge difference:
<p>Parenting styles continue to change, as do school curricula and culture, and these things matter. But the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever. There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.

In the early 1970s, the photographer Bill Yates shot a series of portraits at the Sweetheart Roller Skating Rink in Tampa, Florida. In one, a shirtless teen stands with a large bottle of peppermint schnapps stuck in the waistband of his jeans. In another, a boy who looks no older than 12 poses with a cigarette in his mouth. The rink was a place where kids could get away from their parents and inhabit a world of their own, a world where they could drink, smoke, and make out in the backs of their cars. In stark black-and-white, the adolescent Boomers gaze at Yates’s camera with the self-confidence born of making your own choices—even if, perhaps especially if, your parents wouldn’t think they were the right ones.

Fifteen years later, during my own teenage years as a member of Generation X, smoking had lost some of its romance, but independence was definitely still in. My friends and I plotted to get our driver’s license as soon as we could, making DMV appointments for the day we turned 16 and using our newfound freedom to escape the confines of our suburban neighborhood. Asked by our parents, “When will you be home?,” we replied, “When do I have to be?”

But the allure of independence, so powerful to previous generations, holds less sway over today’s teens, who are less likely to leave the house without their parents. The shift is stunning: 12th-graders in 2015 were going out less often than eighth-graders did as recently as 2009.</p>

I'd also love to hear whether any sociologists have begun studying the effects on infants of mothers who are more interested in a black rectangle they're holding than the infant's face. That's the next "smartphone" generation.
technology  culture  children  smartphone 
august 2017 by charlesarthur
Opinion: why North Korea should worry the tech world • PC Magazine
Tim Bajarin:
<p>Some years back, on a trip to Asia, which included a stop in South Korea, I asked a top tech official what concerns him the most. He said the collapse of North Korea and the fact that millions of North Koreans would rush over the border and paralyze South Korea's region and economy. As a result, I have been watching North Korea's efforts to advance its nuclear program, and what I fear is more than just saber-rattling.

In April, President Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping and reportedly told him that if China doesn't help solve the North Korean problem, the US will address the issue on its own. Now, I don't profess in the slightest to know what it means to "go it alone," but as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said, "all options are on the table" when it comes to dealing with North Korea.

Given the fact that our current administration is unpredictable and has little experience in dealing with a crisis like the one we have in North Korea, anything is possible, including some type of strike to try and take out its nuclear sites…

…A good friend of mine, who travels to this area of the world 10 to 12 times a year and really understands the political side of these countries, says that the only way to normalize North Korea, which may sound counterintuitive, is to help it find a way to feel more secure. North Korea will focus on prosperity and abandon its nuclear ambitions only when it feels safe and a part of the northeast Asian economy. More sanctions or military action will not end well. This is a wise observation, and I would hope that our current administration has someone inside that understands this option.</p>

This point about making North Korea feel safe, rather than threatened, is counterintuitive; but it makes perfect sense.
northkorea  technology 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
The government should fight ‘corporate villainy’ in tech, Senator Cory Booker says • Recode
Eric Johnson:
<p>“We’ve got to start having a conversation in this country: How are we going to measure the success of the tech sector?” [Democratic senator] Booker asked. “Is it by its ability to create a small handful of billionaires, or the ability for us to create pro-democracy forces — empowering individuals, improving quality of life, improving financial security, expanding opportunity — the kind of things we want largely for democracy?”

Booker compared the size and power of Silicon Valley to Wall Street and indicated that he’d like to see America being more aggressive, like the E.U., which levied a $2.7 billion fine levied on Google last month.

“We have regulatory agencies that just aren’t doing their jobs,” Booker said. “You see this with big banks. The entire crisis we just came through, what’s amazing to me is we haven’t learned the lessons and we’re not protecting the consumer.”

“So should the U.S. government take a look at Google?” Romm asked.

“I think the U.S. government absolutely should take a look at Google,” Booker said.

“On grounds for an antitrust case?”

“I think the U.S. government should be far more active in antitrust actions because when they have taken actions, it’s often created collateral benefits to society.</p>
us  technology  legal  antitrust 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Amazon wants to put a camera and microphone in your bedroom • Motherboard
Jason Koebler:
<p>Amazon is giving Alexa eyes. And it's going to let her judge your outfits. 

The newly announced Echo Look is a virtual assistant with a microphone and a camera that's designed to go somewhere in your bedroom, bathroom, or wherever the hell you get dressed.

 Amazon is pitching it as an easy way to snap pictures of your outfits to send to your friends when you're not sure if your outfit is cute, but it's also got a built-in app called StyleCheck that is worth some further dissection. 

• You cool with an algorithm, machine learning, and "fashion specialists" deciding whether you look attractive today? What sorts of built-in biases will an AI fashionista have? It's worth remembering that a recent AI-judged beauty contest picked primarily white winners.<br />• You cool with Amazon having the capability to see and perhaps catalog every single article of clothing you own? Who needs a Calvin Klein dash button if your Echo can tell when you need new underwear? Will Alexa prevent you from buying a pair of JNCOs? <br />• You cool with Amazon putting a camera in your bedroom?<br />• Amazon store images and videos taken by Echo Look indefinitely, the company told us. Audio recorded by the original Echo has already been sought out in a murder case; to its credit, Amazon fought a search warrant in that case. </p>

Of course it will store the images indefinitely: it needs them to train its machine learning. They're not your images any more. It's not your data any more.
privacy  technology  amazon 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Culprit broadcast signal that triggered Dallas' emergency sirens Friday night • Dallas News
Robert SWilonsky:
<p>City officials don't know who triggered Dallas' outdoor warning sirens late Friday, but they do know how it was done — by broadcasting a few tones, via either radio or telephone signal. In other words, there was no computer hack.

"It's a radio system, not a computer issue," Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax said Monday morning.
The city's outdoor warning sirens had to be manually shut down and turned back on late Sunday, with "immediate fixes" intended to prevent the type of incident that woke up — and shook up — much of the city Friday night, according to Broadnax.

"As we brought the system back up, some encryption was added as part of our process to prevent this type of error from occurring going forward," he said.

City officials said late Monday that the system was purchased a decade ago and that encryption was not part of the original deal with the vendor for one simple reason: No one at City Hall knew something like this was possible.</p>

OK, so it's not a hack, it's a phrack (phone hack) or even rack (radio hack, if that's even a thing). Even so: now you realise you have a flaw, and only found out the hard way.
technology  phrack 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
He turned his home into a reality television show • The New York Times
Farhad Manjoo is "that guy":
<p>Q: What new tech product are you currently obsessed with using at home? What do you and your family do with it?

FM: This is going to sound weird, but I’m a strange person. I have two kids, ages six and three, and for the last few years I’ve been mourning their loss of childhood. Every day they get a little bit older, and even though my wife and I take lots of photos and videos of them, I can’t shake the feeling that we’re losing most of the moments of their lives.

So last summer, after some intense lobbying of my wife, I did something radical: I installed several cameras in my living room and dining room to record everything we did at home for posterity. In other words, I created a reality show in my house.

In practice, it works like this: The cameras are motion-activated and connected to servers in the cloud. Like security cameras in a convenience store, they are set to record on a constant loop — every video clip is saved for a few days, after which it’s automatically deleted, unless I flag it for long-term keeping.

Yes, this system sets up a minefield of potential problems: We turn off the cameras when we have guests (it’s unethical to record people without their consent) and we don’t spy on each other. There are also security concerns. I’m not going to disclose the brand of the cameras I used because I don’t want to get hacked. The safety of internet-of-things devices are generally not airtight.

And yet I’ve found these cameras to be just wonderful at capturing the odd, beautiful, surprising, charming moments of life that we would never have been able to capture otherwise. Every time the kids say something hilarious or sweet, or do something for the first time, I make a note of the time and date. Later on, I can go and download that exact clip, to keep forever. I’ve already got amazing videos of weeknight dinners, of my wife and I watching the news on election night, of my son learning to play Super Mario Brothers, and my kids having a dance party to their favorite music.

When I’m 80 and the robots have taken over, I’ll look back on these and remember that life was good, once.</p>

Not sure how I feel about this. (Our kids are all well into double figures, and our memories have recovered from the sleep deprivation.)
technology  surveillance 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
Why nothing works anymore • The Atlantic
Ian Bogost, in a tour de force:
<p>No matter its ostensible function, precarious technology separates human actors from the accomplishment of their actions. They acclimate people to the idea that devices are not really there for them, but as means to accomplish those devices own, secret goals.

This truth has been obvious for some time. Facebook and Google, so the saying goes, make their users into their products—the real customer is the advertiser or data speculator preying on the information generated by the companies’ free services. But things are bound to get even weirder than that. When automobiles drive themselves, for example, their human passengers will not become masters of a new form of urban freedom, but rather a fuel to drive the expansion of connected cities, in order to spread further the gospel of computerized automation. If artificial intelligence ends up running the news, it will not do so in order to improve citizen’s access to information necessary to make choices in a democracy, but to further cement the supremacy of machine automation over human editorial in establishing what is relevant.

There is a dream of computer technology’s end, in which machines become powerful enough that human consciousness can be uploaded into them, facilitating immortality. And there is a corresponding nightmare in which the evil robot of a forthcoming, computerized mesh overpowers and destroys human civilization. But there is also a weirder, more ordinary, and more likely future—and it is the one most similar to the present.</p>

The coda is remarkable, though you should take in the whole article from the start. In effect: "First we shape our tools, then our tools shape us, then our tools find more interesting users."
design  automation  technology 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
Lord Francis Maude: no longer so frank • Diginomica
Derek du Preez got a terrific interview with former Cabinet Office minister Francis (now Lord) Maude:
<p>Part of the problem with departments building their own digital capability and working independently is, you’ve got to ask yourself, is that what we actually want government to look like? The other important question is: is it even possible to change the institutions we have, given the amount of legacy in place (technology, people, culture, legal and historical)?

When I put this to Lord Maude, he agreed, and said that Whitehall would absolutely not look how it does today if it could be designed again. He explained:
<p>Within central government there’s absolutely no way you would create these huge, free standing departments with their own kind of life. If you were starting again with the technology that’s available now, you wouldn’t have separate departments.

You would have ministers with strong offices, able to draw on a common pool of advice, you’d have deep pools of expertise, but you would not want everything siloed in the way it is now. You’d have a single technology platform across government. You would have the single canonical data registries underpinning them, instead of every department having its own databases – often conflicting, overlapping and with very poor quality data. You would do everything differently.</p>

And unsurprisingly, Maude pointed to the data silos (and the power that they are perceived to hold) as a key problem for unlocking transformation across Whitehall. The government’s data strategy has been lacking in recent months, and yet it underpins much of the transformation plans – in particular the Government-as-a-Platform agenda. Maude said:
<p>Departments guard their databases incredibly carefully. The number of times we wanted to share data instantaneously, for things like pursuing fraud and error, and we were told it wasn’t legally permitted. The most commonly words heard in my office were ‘show me the chapter and verse’.

And someone would come back shuffling their feet a bit later saying that they thought they weren’t allowed, but actually they are. Getting the data out of the hands of departments, which guard it as the source of their power and influence, is an essential thing to do. But we are a million miles away from that.</p>

I disagreed quite a lot with Maude's politics, but have huge admiration for his ability to really get things done - in particular, getting bureaucracy out of the way of people who actually could get stuff done. The UK government is truly poorer for his absence. His ideas here ought to be absorbed by everyone in governments everywhere.
government  technology 
february 2017 by charlesarthur
Asking the wrong questions • Benedict Evans
Evans looks at forecasts of the future from the 1960s:
<p>Some of this has happened more or less as predicted - we did get air traffic control, automated subway trains and computerised taxation (except in the USA). There are some great comedy predictions here too - that 'centralised wire tapping' would take until 2030, or never, or that people in both 1964 and 2016 thought we'd have automated driving 'by 2020'. 

However, to me the interesting thing is how often the order is wrong. What we now know to be the hard problems were going to be solved decades before what we now know were the easy ones. So it might take until 2020 to 'fax' a newspaper to your home, and automatic wiretapping might be impossible, but automatic doctors, radar implants for the blind, household robots and machine translation would be all done by 1990 and a machine would be passing human IQ tests at genius level by 2000. Meanwhile, there are a few quite important things missing - there is no general-purpose computing, no internet and no mobile phones. There's no prediction for when everyone on earth would have a pocket computer connected to all the world's knowledge (2020-2025). This aren't random gaps - it's just not that they thought X would work and didn't know we'd invent Y. Rather, what's lacking is an understanding of the structural impetus of computing and software as universal platforms that would shape how all of these things would be created. We didn't make a home newspaper facsimile machine - we made computers.</p>
technology  innovation 
january 2017 by charlesarthur
Demo: Hidden Voice Commands • UC Berkeley/Georgetown U research
An eight-strong team from the two universities show how machines can hear things that you can't - and will act on them:
<p>The <a href="">video below</a> shows black box attack attack being carried out in presence of background noise with the target phone kept at a distance on 10.1 ft away from the speakers used to play the attack audio. 

The understanding of attack commands by a human listener is subject to priming effects:  when we already know the actual message embedded in an obfuscated command, we unconsciously "hear" that message in the noise. This effect is so extreme that we can even "hear" primed messages when no such message actually exists; see, for example, <a href="">Sounds you can't Unhear</a>. </p>

<iframe title="YouTube video player" class="youtube-player" type="text/html" src="//;wmode=opaque" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="true" width="560" height="315"></iframe>

The video is creepy, and amazing. They've <a href="">published a paper</a> too.

I mean, imagine if you broadcast one of those "hidden" commands over some speakers to direct the phone belonging to, say, a resident of a tower in New York to open a URL which exploited a known Android security flaw so you could take the phone over and passively connect to the microphone. Imagine.
security  technology  iot  research 
january 2017 by charlesarthur
Tales of the algorithm: the transparent man • Terence Eden's Blog
Eden has been writing:
<p>Scene: An airport. A few years from now.

"I'm sorry sir, we can't let you on the flight until you visit the rest-room."

I'll admit that it caught me off-guard. Surely the woman at the airline gate was joking?

"Sir, two of the plane's toilets are out-of-order. At this time we're requesting all passengers void themselves before entry."</p>

As he points out, all the technologies he mentions already exist and are being used. It's just a question of bringing them together, Black Mirror-style.
technology  algorithm  privacy 
november 2016 by charlesarthur
Stephen Baker's top holiday 2016 expectations • NPD
This is for the US:
<p>PC holiday revenues revived – Sales will be the best in at least four years, as average sales prices rise

iPad Pros deliver big – Expect revenue increases for Apple tablets, while Android consumer interest wanes

Smartphone sales soar – New iPhones will exceed market expectations and drive the best smartphone market in years

Cutting the (headphone) cord continues – wireless headphones will be on many holiday shopping lists this year

Online sales will not falter – online revenue will account for as much as 33% of consumer electronics holiday sales</p>

And quite a few more.
npd  us  technology 
november 2016 by charlesarthur
The danger of smart communication technology • Arc
Evan Selinger:
<p>Although outsourcing is inevitable, not all outsourcing is good for us. In What Money Can’t Buy, Harvard ethicist Michael Sandel gives a great example of what many of us would consider an improper instance.

Sandel asks us to imagine someone delivering a moving best man speech who hides the fact that he outsourced its writing — purchasing the text online from a service that excels in generating poignant prose. Even if the toast was born of good intentions, a genuine desire to deliver a memorable and moving presentation that makes everyone happy, a problem remains: the groom’s best friend, a highly trusted confidant, passed off a commodity as something else. Deceptively, he presented another’s work as heartfelt sentiment that came to mind after deep soul-searching. The lack of authenticity strikes most of us as appalling, which is why the best man wouldn’t open his speech honestly by revealing its origins.

While Sandel’s example retains its force even if it’s a machine, not a human-based online service, that has created the enchanting speech, the problem doesn’t go away when we consider outsourcing communication in more mundane, everyday uses. To get a better sense of the main problems with using Allo and related smart communications products, it helps to consider their features in light of the six basic existential characteristics that apply to all forms of outsourcing.</p>

From there, one goes to...
outsourcing  technology  ai  bot 
october 2016 by charlesarthur
The Wall Street veteran who's helping Google get disciplined • Fortune
Leena Rao with a long profile of former Wall Street banker Ruth Porat, aged 58, who is now chief financial officer at Google:
<p>One source close to the company says it’s now difficult for Other Bets [the non-Google companies inside Alphabet] to get new hires approved. The Bets are also being told to be self-sufficient administratively: They can rely on Alphabet for functions like legal counsel, human resources, and public relations, but only if they pay Alphabet for the services. (One Other Bets subsidiary was billed $500,000 for a year’s worth of PR help.) If these units were independent companies, of course, they’d be shouldering these costs on their own. But within Alphabet, they represent unfamiliar constraints, and for some, a signal that the culture Google was built on—­focusing on innovation over profits—is dissipating.

Google executives reject that assertion. Schmidt, the chairman, acknowledges that the focus is new but says it allows Alphabet to invest more efficiently in its winners. Alphabet has been aggressively hiring engineers for cloud-computing and artificial-intelligence projects, for example. “The cost cutting is real, and it’s the right thing to be done, and it’s driven by [Porat],” Schmidt says. “Before she was there, we had lost discipline.”

But is discipline really the problem? In the most recent quarter, Other Bets lost an ugly $859m on $185m in revenue. Still, when you consider that Alphabet generated $7bn in free cash that quarter, the losses seem like something the company could easily absorb. Cost cutting, says Rob Enderle, the analyst, “is like taking painkillers when you are sick. At some point you are going to have to address what is making you sick.” The real issue at Alphabet, he adds, is that “what they are spending money on isn’t successful.”</p>

It astonishes me to say it, but Enderle has a point.
finance  google  technology 
september 2016 by charlesarthur
Has the UK got Tech Talent? • BBC News
Rory Cellan-Jones:
<p>Across BBC News outlets this week, under the banner Tech Talent, we are asking whether the UK can compete in the global technology industry - and why we haven't produced a tech giant on the scale of Google or Apple. Here are my thoughts on those questions.

In the last ten days I've met the founder of a British games company which is still independent after a quarter of a century, and about to launch one of Sony's first virtual reality titles.

I've attended a celebration to mark the extraordinary success of the Raspberry Pi, a tiny computer created in Cambridge to teach children to code, which has now achieved global sales of ten million.

And I've had a demo of the latest products from a fledgling company called Chirp, created by a University College London scientist to transmit data via an audio signal.

All of these are examples of a thriving British technology landscape. So why, over nearly 20 years of covering the tech scene, do I keep getting asked the same thing - where is the UK's Google?</p>

What isn't mentioned in the piece, but seems relevant, is that Google, Apple, Facebook and so on can count on scale: the US is largely homogenous and can be largely covered using a single language (add Spanish and you're pretty much at 100%). The UK is part of Europe (presently) but crucially you can't reach all its users with a single language, plus there are cross-border differences in business practice.

That said, the UK has produced lots of top-flight tech companies. We just tend to overlook them until they get bought.
uk  technology  business 
september 2016 by charlesarthur
Ageing out of the 25-34 bracket, one app at a time •
Lisa Pollack:
<p>Hardware and software previously used with enthusiasm has become an annoyance. New apps are passing me by. And this isn’t only about not downloading Pokémon Go, thus missing out on the delights of walking into lampposts while trying to catch a Pikachu (which is, I hasten to add, the only character name I know).

Consequently I’m beginning to suspect that, like a child counting the years in notches marking their height, I will increasingly count mine by the number of social media networks that I don’t understand. Already a couple of years ago, a girl I was mentoring tried to tell me about the website “”. The explanation was as arduous for me as I suspect my tutoring on simultaneous equations was for her. I still don’t entirely get it. More recently, my clumsy attempts at understanding and using Snapchat ended in befuddlement. I couldn’t even figure out how to add my contacts and yet almost 50m people have watched the Olympics on it. (In the US, by the way, the app reaches 41 per cent of that existential-crisis-inducing 18-34 age bracket.)

This newfound tech ineptitude is particularly disturbing for someone who is, by and large, an informal tech support colleague in the office. Have a problem with a spreadsheet? Need to connect your computer to a printer? Want to know the best way to get screenshots into presentations or how smartpens work? Then chances are, you’ve emailed me.

In the last four months though, that email will have gone to the solitary computer screen on my desk. Once upon a time, I thought that having six monitors, like a trader at a bank, was the coolest thing ever. Now a second screen stands unused to the side. I’ve even reverted to having a paper to-do list where once it was all online. “When I was your age, I used to use TweetDeck!” I want to shout to selfie-posing Snapchatterers. Because then they’d realise I was once like them. Right?</p>
technology  society 
august 2016 by charlesarthur
Chatbot lawyer overturns 160,000 parking tickets in London and New York • The Guardian
Samuel Gibbs:
<p>An artificial-intelligence lawyer chatbot has successfully contested 160,000 parking tickets across London and New York for free, showing that chatbots can actually be useful.

Dubbed as “the world’s first robot lawyer” by its 19-year-old creator, London-born second-year Stanford University student Joshua Browder, <a href="">DoNotPay</a> helps users contest parking tickets in an easy to use chat-like interface.

The program first works out whether an appeal is possible through a series of simple questions, such as were there clearly visible parking signs, and then guides users through the appeals process.

The results speak for themselves. In the 21 months since the free service was launched in London and now New York, Browder says DoNotPay has taken on 250,000 cases and won 160,000, giving it a success rate of 64% appealing over $4m of parking tickets.</p>

<em>Finally</em> a useful implementation. (It's essentially an expert system, isn't it?) Note too: London-born.
ai  technology  chatbot  lawyer 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
The worst thing I read this year, and what it taught me… or Can we design sociotechnical systems… • Medium
Ethan Zuckerman:
<p>I found Shane Snow’s essay on prison reform — “<a href="">How Soylent and Oculus Could Fix the Prison System</a>” — through hatelinking. Friends of mine hated the piece so much that normally articulate people were at a loss for words.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A real person thought it would be a good idea to write this and post it on the Internet. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Susie Cagle (@susie_c) <a href="">January 30, 2016</a>
<script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>

With a recommendation like that, how could I pass it up? And after reading it, I tweeted my astonishment to Susie, who told me, “I write comics, but I don’t know how to react to this in a way that’s funny.” I realized that I couldn’t offer an appropriate reaction in 140 characters either. The more I think about Snow’s essay, the more it looks like the outline for a class on the pitfalls of solving social problems with technology, a class I’m now planning on teaching this coming fall.</p>

Zuckerman wonders "is it possible to get beyond both a naïve belief that the latest technology will solve social problems and a reaction that rubbishes any attempt to offer novel technical solutions as inappropriate, insensitive and misguided?"
technology  society 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
The explainable • ROUGH TYPE
Nick Carr:
<p>[Author of a book about the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Denis] Boyles points out that the Britannica’s eleventh edition underpins Wikipedia, and in Wikipedia we see, more clearly than ever, the elevation of and emphasis on measurement as the standard of knowledge and knowability. Wikipedia is pretty good, and ambitiously thorough, on technical and scientific topics, but it’s scattershot, and often just flat-out bad, in its coverage of topics in the humanities. Wikipedia’s editors, as Edward Mendelson has recently suggested, are comfortable in documenting consensus but completely uncomfortable in exercising taste. The kind of informed subjective judgment that is essential to any perceptive discussion of art, literature, or even history is explicitly outlawed at Wikipedia. And Wikipedia, like the eleventh edition of the Britannica, is a reflection of its time. The boundary we draw around “the explainable” is tighter than ever.

“Technical and scientific advances became confused with progress,” says Boyles, and so it is today, a century later.</p>
wikipedia  technology 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
On reading issues of Wired from 1993 to 1995 • The New Yorker
Anna Wiener:
<p>Today’s future-booster events, like the annual Consumer Electronics Show, tend to prize stories of novelty and innovation—and yet, reading early Wired, it becomes clear that many of the inventions that claim to be new today are simply extensions of what came before. A sidebar on Wacom’s ArtPad, from 1995—“If you’ve ever sketched with a pencil, you’ll be able to use ArtPad”—made me wonder why it took Apple so long to roll out its Pencil stylus for the iPad. A 1994 article on continuous voice recognition—a core component of responsive products, like Amazon Echo and Apple’s Siri—effused, “IBM has some mondo hot technology on its hands here.” (Google, Microsoft, and Nuance Communications seem to have caught on since.) Early versions of 3-D printers, endless varieties of virtual-reality headsets, and remote-controlled, camera-laden helicopters abound. Perhaps the heart wants what it wants, and the heart has always wanted V.R., A.I., drones, and entertainment straight to the face.

In “Scenarios,” a special edition from 1995, the guest editor Douglas Coupland took it upon himself to compile a “reverse time capsule,” which he deemed “not a capsule directed to the future, but rather to the citizens of 1975.” What artifacts, he asked, “might surprise them most about the direction taken by the next 20 years?” Included in the capsule—alongside non-tech items such as a chunk of the Berlin Wall, Prozac, and a Japanese luxury sedan—were a laptop (“more power in your lap than MIT’s biggest mainframe”), an Apple MessagePad (“hand-held devices are replacing secretaries”), and a cellular phone. Scanning my apartment, I can spot progeny of all three.</p>
history  technology  wired 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Why the economic payoff from technology is so elusive • The New York Times
Steve Lohr:
<p>for several years, economists have asked why all that technical wizardry seems to be having so little impact on the economy. The <a href="">issue surfaced again recently</a>, when the government reported disappointingly slow growth and continuing stagnation in productivity. The rate of productivity growth from 2011 to 2015 was the slowest since the five-year period ending in 1982.

One place to look at this disconnect is in the doctor’s office. Dr. Peter Sutherland, a family physician in Tennessee, made the shift to computerized patient records from paper in the last few years. There are benefits to using electronic health records, Dr. Sutherland says, but grappling with the software and new reporting requirements has slowed him down. He sees fewer patients, and his income has slipped.

“I’m working harder and getting a little less,” he said.

The productivity puzzle has given rise to a number of explanations in recent years — and divided economists into technology pessimists and optimists…

…Some economists insist the problem is largely a measurement gap, because many digital goods and services are not accurately captured in official statistics. But <a href="">a recent study</a> by two economists from the Federal Reserve and one from the International Monetary Fund casts doubt on that theory.</p>

So much doubt, so little clarity. The most likely explanation? Technology actually hasn't gotten that far into the economy.
technology  economics 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Wal-Mart says it is 6-9 months from using drones to check warehouse inventory • Reuters
Nandita Bose:
<p>The remotely controlled drone captured 30 frames per second of products on aisles and alerted the user when product ran out or was incorrectly stocked. Natarajan said drones can reduce the labor intensive process of checking stocks around the warehouse to one day. It currently takes a month to finish manually.

Finding ways to more efficiently warehouse, transport and deliver goods to customers has taken on new importance for Wal-Mart as it deals with wages costs while seeking to beat back price competition and boost online sales.

Wal-Mart said the camera and technology on top of the drones have been custom-built for the retailer.</p>

Becoming totally quotidien. My only thought when watching Top Gear is how many of the aerial shots have been done using a drone.
business  drone  technology  walmart 
june 2016 by charlesarthur
Innovation is overvalued. Maintenance often matters more » Aeon Essays
Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell, who are professors at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey:
<p>First, it is crucial to understand that technology is not innovation. Innovation is only a small piece of what happens with technology. This preoccupation with novelty is unfortunate because it fails to account for technologies in widespread use, and it obscures how many of the things around us are quite old. In his book, Shock of the Old (2007), the historian David Edgerton examines technology-in-use. He finds that common objects, like the electric fan and many parts of the automobile, have been virtually unchanged for a century or more. When we take this broader perspective, we can tell different stories with drastically different geographical, chronological, and sociological emphases. The stalest innovation stories focus on well-to-do white guys sitting in garages in a small region of California, but human beings in the Global South live with technologies too. Which ones? Where do they come from? How are they produced, used, repaired? Yes, novel objects preoccupy the privileged, and can generate huge profits. But the most remarkable tales of cunning, effort, and care that people direct toward technologies exist far beyond the same old anecdotes about invention and innovation.</p>

Terrific and thought-provoking essay: in the light of <a href="">smart home systems being turned off within 18 months of being released</a>, what price maintenance?
innovation  technology  maintenance  infrastructure 
april 2016 by charlesarthur
Intel officially kills “tick-tock” » The Motley Fool
Ashraf Eassa:
<p>back in mid-2015, Intel admitted that its 10-nanometer technology was in rough shape and wouldn't go into production at the end of the year as expected. In the company's most recent form 10-K filing, it went ahead and officially declared "Tick-Tock" [by which it reduces the die size in one year, and in the next year improves the microarchitecture] dead.

Intel's wording in the form 10-K filing is as following:

"We expect to lengthen the amount of time we will utilize out 14 [nanometer] and out next-generation 10 [nanometer] process technologies, further optimizing out products and process technologies while meeting the yearly market cadence for product introductions."

The company even includes an interesting visual aid to contrast the differences between the previous methodology and the current one:

<img src="" width="100%" />

Intel says that its third 14-nanometer product, known as Kaby Lake, will have "key performance advancements as compared to [its] 6th generation Core processor family." The extent of these enhancements is clear, but leaks to the Web suggest enhancements to graphics and media.</p>

Along with Moore's Law fading, this is an epochal moment.
intel  tech  technology 
march 2016 by charlesarthur
Douglas Rushkoff: 'I’m thinking it may be good to be off social media altogether' » The Guardian
<p>Ian Tucker: What do you find most objectionable about the kind of economy that technology appears to create?

Douglas Rushkoff: What’s most pernicious about it is that we are developing companies that are designed to do little more than take money out of the system – they are all extractive. There’s this universal assumption that we have to turn working currency into share price.</p>
guardian  technology 
february 2016 by charlesarthur
The future is here. It just needs a big push » WSJ
Christopher Mims:
<p>Past technological revolutions—the steam engine, electricity, the automobile, the telephone—have brought gains in welfare to all corners of the world. Continued sharp declines in poverty in Asia and Africa can be traced to the belated adoption of these old technologies.

But if the automobile, to take one revolution, helped make possible one of the greatest sustained economic booms in U.S. history, one that led to unprecedented prosperity for the middle class, why isn’t the more recent tech revolution doing the same?

Economists and economic historians think they have an answer. To put it bluntly, they say, the problem with the current technological revolution is that, despite multiple Internet booms, we have yet to figure out how to allocate enough capital to information technology and all it enables.</p>

I was ready to say "but everyone has smartphones, even those fleeing countries"; however Mims's argument is much more subtle: see the graphic below. Productivity isn't rising. Why not, given all this technology?

<img src="" width="100%" />
technology  economics  productivity 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
Fun fun fun ’til her daddy takes the iPhone away » ROUGH TYPE
Nick Carr:
<p>“A smartphone can get you a ride but a car can’t get you a date,” <a href="">blogged</a> venture capitalist Fred Wilson, revealing a remarkable ignorance of the entire modern history of youth culture. “The smartphone wins.”

Wilson’s words were inspired by a November 2013 interview with another prominent VC, Marc Andreessen. America’s love affair with the automobile is over, Andreessen declared. As evidence he pointed to a putative sea change in young people’s attitudes toward cars: “Today, ask kids if they’d rather have a smartphone or a car if they had to pick and 100% would say smartphones. Because smartphones represent freedom. There’s a huge social behavior reorientation that’s already happening.” I’ve never found financiers to be reliable guides to what kids are up to, but in this case Andreessen was just recycling a view that has achieved meme status in recent years: Americans are losing their taste for driving, and that trend is particularly  pronounced among the young.

At about the same time Andreessen was opining about how young folks love their tech but don’t give a crap about their wheels, MTV was launching an extensive survey of the attitudes of millennials. The network interviewed nearly 4,000 people between 18 and 34. One of the topics discussed was cars and driving.</p>

Now, guess whether the survey - of thousands of real people - backed up Wilson's opinion.
bias  technology 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
Few computers are powerful enough to support virtual reality » Bloomberg Business
Ian King:
<p>Virtual reality has a very real problem. With several technology giants preparing splashy introductions for the first VR headsets in 2016, few people own hardware capable of fully supporting Facebook’s Oculus Rift or other systems.

Just 13m PCs worldwide next year will have the graphics capabilities needed to run VR, according to an estimate by Nvidia, the largest maker of computer graphics chips. Those ultra-high-end machines account for less than 1% of the 1.43bn PCs expected to be in use globally in 2016, according to research firm Gartner.</p>

And yet IHS estimates that 7m VR headsets will be in use by the end of this year. Seems like a high penetration of those 13m PCs. (And I don't hold out much hope for HTC/Valve's effort to save HTC, given its $1,500 price.)
ces2016  oculus  technology  vr 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
Paul Graham is still asking to be eaten » Medium
<a href="">Holly Wood</a> has a scalding, insightful take on <a href="">Paul Graham's increasingly famous essay</a> about how inequality is good for you:
<p>I will throw Paul Graham a bone for recognizing that in terms of scale and impact on the American economy, Wall Street is definitely the bigger concern.

But my guess is that what probably infuriates you about Paul Graham’s essay is his tacit contention that startups create wealth.

This is not true.

First of all, over 95% of startups fail. Every venture capitalist knows this. Those pesky things, for the most part, just eat money and more often than not actually destroy wealth.

But the second reason why you should not allow yourself to think that startups create wealth is because of how they are funded.

What actually happens is wealthy people like Paul Graham fund startups because they think these things are valuable. Through venture funding, rich people legitimate startups. Thus, they confer value upon the startup. They then use their ridiculous money and connections to “advise” and “mentor” those they deemed worthy of capital so that they can use this capital to build a future people like Paul Graham expect to see.

What Paul Graham never dissects in his essay is that people like Paul Graham simply take it for granted that they’ll be the ones to decide where capital goes.</p>

I'd like to examine those numbers in Graham's essay about big and small companies back in the 1950s/60s too. But this is a great - worthwhile - read once you allow yourself to consider it with an open mind.
politics  technology  capitalism 
january 2016 by charlesarthur
90:9:1 – the odd ratio that technology keeps creating » The Guardian
I wrote about something I've observed:
<p>What do operating systems, browsers and search engines all have in common? It seems to be a ratio of 90:9:1 between the key players. One player dominates; then others get a minimal share.

Take mobile OSs: This week the Mozilla Foundation pulled the plug on Firefox OS – the mobile OS which could have replaced native apps with HTML-based apps – a final death throe in the mobile OS wars. There are now three main platforms – Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone – for which worldwide shipments are currently running in a ratio of about 85:14:1 respectively.

Now look at desktop OS sales: the ratio stands in the most recent quarter at about 91:8:1 between Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OSX, and “self-build” machines which probably get Linux.

It’s oddly reminiscent of the “1% rule” – a rule of thumb observed as far back as 2006, which states that if you have a group of 100 people interacting online, then one will generate some content, nine will provide feedback, and 90 will simply consume it. (Studies have broadly confirmed that principle.)</p>

I'm not saying this is a hard and fast rule - I cite two large-scale exceptions in the piece - but I feel there's something behind it, perhaps based on network effects and power laws.
9091  ratio  technology  networks 
december 2015 by charlesarthur
The Pill versus the Bomb: what digital technologists need to know about power » Medium
Tom Steinberg:
<p>The oral contraceptive pill doesn’t, at first glance, appear to have the same visceral connection to power as a bomb or an engine. And yet as a technology that shifts power around it is perhaps unmatched.

This is because the Pill allowed women from the late 1960s onwards to control their own fertility, which allowed them to postpone marriage, postpone the birth of their first child, and turn these advantages into more education and greater involvement in the employment markets. Put together this gave women with access to the pill relatively greater power than they had before, both through greater earnings and through greater ability to choose how to live their own lives.

But what is most interesting to me about the nature of this technological power shift is that it <strong>did not dissipate as the technology became ubiquitous.</strong>

…Like a diode, the power of the Pill only flows one way.</p>

(Emphasis in original.) Steinberg, who set up MySociety, and was a technology adviser to the 2010-2015 coalition in the UK, is now looking for people who've got comparable power-spreading technologies.
power  pill  technology 
december 2015 by charlesarthur
How Uber’s autonomous cars will destroy 10 million jobs and reshape the economy by 2025 » Zack Kanter
<p>Industry experts think that consumers will be slow to purchase autonomous cars – while this may be true, it is a mistake to assume that this will impede the transition. Morgan Stanley’s research shows that cars are driven just 4% of the time, which is an astonishing waste considering that the average cost of car ownership is nearly $9,000 per year. Next to a house, an automobile is the second most expensive asset that most people will ever buy – it is no surprise that ride sharing services like Uber and car sharing services like Zipcar are quickly gaining popularity as an alternative to car ownership. It is now more economical to use a ride sharing service if you live in a city and drive less than 10,000 miles per year. The impact on private car ownership is enormous: a UC-Berkeley study showed that vehicle ownership among car sharing users was cut in half. The car purchasers of the future will not be you and me – cars will be purchased and operated by ride sharing and car sharing companies.

And current research confirms that we would be eager to use autonomous cars if they were available. A full 60% of US adults surveyed stated that they would ride in an autonomous car, and nearly 32% said they would not continue to drive once an autonomous car was available instead.</p>

Today's children are the last generation that will have to pass a driving test. Think about that briefly. Then read the rest of Kanter's piece. (It's actually optimistic, overall.) And one more thing: it doesn't have to be about Uber.
cars  economy  technology  uber 
november 2015 by charlesarthur
I tried all the apps that are supposed to mend a broken heart » Fusion
Kristen Brown:
A few months into the relationship I’d asked Siri to remember which of the many Johns* [*<em>his name wasn't John</em>] in my contacts was the one I was dating. At the time, divulging this information to Siri seemed like a big step — at long last, we were “Siri Official!” Now, though, we were Siri-Separated. Having to break the news to my iPhone—my non-human, but still intimate companion—surprisingly stung.

Siri wasn’t the only screen-based trial of my break-up. Our relationships now exist across networked webs of digital connections, webs that we build up each time we begin a new romance and then must painfully break down when one ends. When I flicked open my laptop at work, the bottom-right corner was empty where a Google chat had previously sat waiting for me. Notifications of unread Snapchat messages used to lead to goofy photos of John, but now they’re just, disappointingly, announcements from Team Snapchat. Every time I send a note to a particular group of friends, Google’s algorithm suggests I add John to the e-mail thread.

Our relationship was the digital equivalent of moving in together, and now painful memories of him were scattered all over my online home. Technology was making my heartache worse, but that’s not how these things are supposed to work: Technology is supposed make our lives easier, so I sought out tech fixes for a broken heart.
technology  love 
july 2015 by charlesarthur
Competition and Partisanship » ignore the code
Lukas Mathis:
I wish we’d see even more competition! I wish Samsung would get serious with its own OS. I wish HP would revive Web OS. I wish Blackberry would stop making bad decisions, and start kicking ass again. I wish smaller companies like Jolla, Ubuntu, and the Firefox OS team would be better able to compete with the big guys. I wish Microsoft would get more credit for the progress it has made in UI design, instead of just getting crap for changing things from how they were in Windows 95. And I wish people would look outside of the confines of their chosen platform, and acknowledge the positive contributions that other companies are making. Get out of your bubbles! Other systems are great and interesting and useful, too!

The problem with this view, happy as it is, is that there's a cognitive load associated with learning a new OS, and the cognitive load grows geometrically the more OSs you have to work on.
technology  os 
june 2015 by charlesarthur
What changes at Medium and Yahoo Pipes teach us about the persistence of the web »
Dave Winer:
What we need, and still don't have, is a systematic way of publishing to the future. Such a system would allow you to pay a fixed sum to keep your content at a specific address for the foreseeable future. No one can make a guarantee, we don't know what the future holds, but every effort has to be made, upfront, to be sure that the content has the best chance to survive as long as possible. #

It would be nice if a visionary entrepreneur would get involved, and an educational institution, perhaps, and/or an insurance company, the kinds of organizations our society creates to be long-lived. It would be great to get input from Stewart Brand and his colleagues at the LongNow Foundation.

Not a bad idea. But isn't that what the <a href="">Internet Archive</a> is doing? Winer responds to that: "long-lived context is not the same thing as having a snapshot" [as the IA does].
technology  web 
june 2015 by charlesarthur
Self-driving trucks are going to hit us like a human-driven truck » Medium
Scott Santens:
This is a map of the most common job in each US state in 2014.

<img src="*FAOTYaCoYpUhjiAe3sjofA.png" width="100%" />

It should be clear at a glance just how dependent the American economy is on truck drivers. According to the American Trucker Association, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US, and an additional 5.2 million people employed within the truck-driving industry who don’t drive the trucks. That’s 8.7 million trucking-related jobs.

We can’t stop there though, because the incomes received by these 8.2 million people create the jobs of others. Those 3.5 million truck drivers driving all over the country stop regularly to eat, drink, rest, and sleep. Entire businesses have been built around serving their wants and needs. Think restaurants and motels as just two examples. So now we’re talking about millions more whose employment depends on the employment of truck drivers. But we still can’t even stop there…

…Truck driving is just about the last job in the country to provide a solid middle class salary without requiring a post-secondary degree.

You can argue about the exact numbers, but the point that it's not just the driving that's affected is important. See also the later link about sewing.
cars  economics  jobs  technology 
june 2015 by charlesarthur
The Oregon Trail generation: life before and after mainstream tech » Social Media Week
Anna Garvey:
We’re an enigma, those of us born at the tail end of the 70s and the start of the 80s. Some of the “generational” experts lazily glob us on to Generation X, and others just shove us over to the Millennials they love to hate – no one really gets us or knows where we belong.

We’ve been called Generation Catalano, Xennials, and The Lucky Ones, but no name has really stuck for this strange micro-generation that has both a healthy portion of Gen X grunge cynicism, and a dash of the unbridled optimism of Millennials.

A big part of what makes us the square peg in the round hole of named generations is our strange relationship with technology and the internet.  We came of age just as the very essence of communication was experiencing a seismic shift, and it’s given us a unique perspective that’s half analog old school and half digital new school.

Resonate with you? Read it.
facebook  internet  mainstream  technology 
april 2015 by charlesarthur
The Taming of Tech Criticism » The Baffler
Evgeny Morozov reviews Nick Carr's new book "The Glass Cage", and makes many insightful points about how much technology criticism (including, he argues, Carr's) can't see the wood for the trees:
Take our supposed overreliance on apps, the favorite subject of many contemporary critics, Carr included. How, the critics ask, could we be so blind to the deeply alienating effects of modern technology? Their tentative answer—that we are simply lazy suckers for technologically mediated convenience—reveals many of them to be insufferable, pompous moralizers. The more plausible thesis—that the growing demands on our time probably have something to do with the uptake of apps and the substitution of the real (say, parenting) with the virtual (say, the many apps that allow us to monitor kids remotely)—is not even broached. For to speak of our shrinking free time would also mean speaking of capital and labor, and this would take the technology critic too far away from “technology proper.”

It’s the existence of this “technology proper” that most technology critics take for granted. In fact, the very edifice of contemporary technology criticism rests on the critic’s reluctance to acknowledge that every gadget or app is simply the end point of a much broader matrix of social, cultural, and economic relations. And while it’s true that our attitudes toward these gadgets and apps are profoundly shaped by our technophobia or technophilia, why should we focus on only the end points and the behaviors that they stimulate? Here is one reason: whatever attack emerges from such framing of the problem is bound to be toothless—which explains why it is also so attractive to many.

I think Morozov has by far the better perspective on this than Carr, because he isn't grounded in an American social view.
technology  criticism  carr 
march 2015 by charlesarthur
John Lanchester reviews ‘The Second Machine Age’ by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee and ‘Average Is Over’ by Tyler Cowen » London Review of Books
One should always read anything Lanchester writes:
This has been a joke or riff for so long – such and such ‘reads like it was written by a computer’ – that it’s difficult to get one’s head around the fact that computer-generated news has become a reality. A company called Automated Insights owns the software which wrote that AP story. Automated Insights specialises in generating automatic reports on company earnings: it takes the raw data and turns them into a news piece. The prose is not Updikean, but it’s better than E.L. James, and it gets the job done, since that job is very narrowly defined: to tell readers what Apple’s results are. The thing is, though, that quite a few traditionally white-collar jobs are in essence just as mechanical and formulaic as writing a news story about a company earnings report. We are used to the thought that the kind of work done by assembly-line workers in a factory will be automated. We’re less used to the thought that the kinds of work done by clerks, or lawyers, or financial analysts, or journalists, or librarians, can be automated.
automation  economics  technology 
march 2015 by charlesarthur
Why is my smart home so fucking dumb? » Gizmodo
Adam Clark Estes:
I unlocked my phone. I found the right home screen. I opened the Wink app. I navigated to the Lights section. I toggled over to the sets of light bulbs that I'd painstakingly grouped and labeled. I tapped "Living Room"—this was it—and the icon went from bright to dark. (Okay, so that was like six taps.)

Nothing happened.

I tapped "Living Room." The icon—not the lights—went from dark to bright. I tapped "Living Room," and the icon went from bright to dark. The lights seemed brighter than ever.

"How many gadget bloggers does it take to turn off a light?" said the friend, smirking. "I thought this was supposed to be a smart home."

This is where voice control (Siri, Google, Cortana) would be ideal. Always assuming it dims the lights in the correct room. This experience also points to why "smart control" isn't necessarily what you want; smart feedback (what lights etc are on) could be more useful. Still requires installing stuff, though.
iot  technology 
february 2015 by charlesarthur
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