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Year: 2016

Future Shock and the Tech Superpowers

Future Shock and the Tech Superpowers

Future Shock author Alvin Toffler died recently, and fyi, future shock is a reference to "too much change in too short a period of time." …Toffler argued that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a "super-industrial society". This change overwhelms people. He believed the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation"—future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems are symptoms of future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock, he popularized the term "information overload."

The events of the past weeks – the two incidents of police shooting, the shootings of police officers and the protests that erupted – gave us pause to reflect on Toffler and his predictions, as well as technology’s role in the events. We read a piece not too long ago that contended that, with the population shifts of people to metropolitan areas, that super metropolises/city states would be the major political forces in the not too distant future, but we contend instead that the tech superpowers – the Googles and Facebooks and various social networks – are fast becoming the major forces and vehicles for selectively disseminating information. While we are certainly not a proponent of governmental oversight, we might suggest that, at this juncture, before they become even more powerful and potentially even more manipulative, lest we forget that Mark Zuckerberg assured Angela Merkel (not realizing that he was on an open mike) that Facebook was indeed capable of suppress speech – selectively – and even more recently joked that Facebook could affect elections by announcing that they were being postponed – and that people would believe him, which gives you an idea of how powerful he believes he is - and how dumb he thinks the average Facebook user is, and for all we know, he may be right. Frightening, that someone so seemingly bereft of moral character is in control of such a large portion of the planet’s population and at the risk of repeating ourselves, Facebook's Filter Bubble Is Getting Worse.

Facebook has even hypothesized how they could control the 2016 elections. Read More...

The Payback is a Bitch Edition

The Payback is a Bitch Edition

First, a must-read: Tech’s Enduring Great-Man Myth.

As promised, no editorial this week due to the holidays, but rust and tech – and hubris, it seems – never rests, and given the increasing amount of connectedness/surveillance/ control of which tech is capable, and with governments at the table and in the code, fyi:

Google My Activity shows everything that company knows about its users ­ and there’s a lot Read More...

And Goodbye to All of That

And Goodbye to All of That

Of course, we’re talking about Tesla’s decision to pivot from being a car maker into being an energy company by way of a merger with SolarCity. Much less crowded space, (“The world does not lack for automotive companies,” Musk said Tuesday. “The world lacks for sustainable energy companies”) what to speak of the problems that Tesla has been having lately, that they’ve been keeping quiet to the point of requiring customers to sign agreements promising to not “aid in any action at law or in equity or any legal proceeding against Tesla” related to a particular incident. One of the Tesla owners claimed to have signed the document after the company fixed a broken suspension component on a Model S (Did Tesla Try to Keep Its Customers Quiet About Repairs? The automaker says no, but modifies the agreement it reportedly asked some customers to sign). Of course, no merger is without its perks, and Elon Musk and his family could stand to gain $700 million in Tesla shares from SolarCity deal. No crime in wanting to see to the needs of your family, and Musk did recuse himself from voting on the merger, due to conflict of interest issues.

And Now For Something Completely Different

And Now For Something Completely Different

We live in the Age of Technology, aka, the Information Age and in case you missed it, the big news of late was not necessarily Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn for some $26.2B, the largest M&A deal in Microsoft’s history, or that, with $100B in cash lying around, why Microsoft wants a loan to help pay for its acquisition of LinkedIn (of course, Microsoft socks a lot of its cash offshore, and repatriating it to pay for the deal would be a huge tax liability for them). Nope, the big story of the week was that Net Neutrality was so-called upheld, and Shelly Palmer wrote an excellent piece that’s a must-read: Net Neutrality: The FCC Won. Did You? With the Internet now a utility, you guessed it: they will find ways, and have indeed, built in ways, for it to be taxed. ‘Neutrality’ was always a complete misnomer and guess who lost? It’s always the ones who foot the bill, and that means the end user. What to speak of the possible abuses that are likely that we’ve not yet seen, and in case you haven’t been paying attention, Big Tech has become one of the chief abusers and always interesting to take a look back at history for lessons learned or forgotten or completely dismissed as not being applicable. And isn’t it pretty to think so.During the Industrial Age, children started working alongside adults, as they could easily accomplish the same repetitive tasks as adults, yet could be paid far less, if you’re wondering about Chan-Zuckerberg’s $24M investment in Adele. Not hard to figure it out, once you read between the lines: once again, it’s all about training – and getting - cheap African labor. Ah, the more things change…  For the record, Google Ventures was an earlier investor in what an SOS member, who asked not to be identified but flagged the piece to us and who is familiar with Adele, called cheap labor, by any other name. Actually, worse, but we will not use his precise words, as he wouldn’t go on the record.

Quinoa and Kale: The Return of the Jedi

Quinoa and Kale: The Return of the Jedi

In case you missed the memo, the big story of the week last week (with all due respect to the families who lost loved ones in Orlando) was that kelp is the new kale – and that we’ve reached the saturation point, in terms of apps: people just aren’t downloading them anymore (The app boom is over: Your phone is full of apps, and you're done downloading new ones — unless they're Snapchat or Uber. The average American smartphone user downloads zero apps per month.)

The Agenda Economy – and a bit of summer fun!

The Agenda Economy – and a bit of summer fun!

Some of this you know – some of it you may not: After Hulk Hogan was awarded $140M in his lawsuit against Gawker, it was revealed that it was Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel who funded the lawsuit to the tune of $10M and the online media went ballistic. Thiel-Gawker Fight Raises Concerns About Press Freedom, said the New York Times, and the tenor out there in general is that, by underwriting the lawsuit, Peter Thiel is stifling innovation, what to speak of the dangers of a billionaire exerting that much power/potential control over a ‘news’ organization. We take no sides here, but for the record, “Curiously unmentioned in the piece is Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, one of the richest men on earth, with a net worth of more than $51 billion… is the largest shareholder of one of the most prominent media firms in the world: The New York Times Company…. His current stake in the company is valued at more than $300 million. The Times apparently did not consider this connection “fit to print.” Or maybe they just forgot to mention it? It’s weird, though, especially since one of the concerns raised in the Times piece is that billionaire owners might be exercising undue influence (including censorship) over news coverage.” (New York Times Is Very Concerned About Billionaire Media Investors—But Not Their Billionaire Investor).

For the record, “Much of Slim’s fortune is derived from the mobile phone empire he built in South America through his company América Móvil, whose U.S. subsidiary, TracFone, recently paid $40 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission after being accused of deceiving customers,” according to the piece.

Read More...

Steve Blank’s Notes on the Tech Bubble

Steve Blank’s Notes on the Tech Bubble

As we said, no editorial today, due to the holidays and yes, we are chomping at the bit with all of the reports surrounding the Peter Thiel/Gawker/Hulk Hogan debacle. In the meantime, just some food for thought:

Steve Blank on the Tech Bubble: 'VCs Won't Admit They're in a Ponzi Scheme' Steve Blank, creator of the "lean startup" movement, explains how the role of venture capital has shifted over time, and why it doesn't bode well for startup founders. In case you haven’t been following it, the stock market has gone up 53X since 2009.

And while everyone has been preoccupied with/distracted by Thiel/Gawker, this is what Facebook has been doing to undermine everyone’s freedom and privacy: Read More...

The Tech One Percent and the Art of Perception

The Tech One Percent and the Art of Perception

We’ve been watching the shenanigans that have been going on in Silicon Valley for quite some time now, and it gave us pause to wonder what it is that, no matter from whence founders might have originally hailed, they move to Silicon Valley, make their incredible fortune or two or more, then fall into some sort of moral torpor/instantly bifurcated mindset that we like to call hypocrisy, which somehow seems to go unchecked or unnoticed, for the most part. A few examples:

PAYPAL, APPLE lecture North Carolina — but do business in countries far more hostile to gays. “PayPal drew a line in the sand when North Carolina enacted a law prohibiting people from using the restrooms of the opposite sex, but critics say that line got washed away on the shores of Malaysia, a nation that consistently ranks among the least LGBT-friendly in the world…The company canceled its plan to build a global operations center in Charlotte after the passage of HB2, which CEO Daniel Schulman called discrimination against the transgendered. He noted that the move would cost North Carolina 400 well-paying jobs… Malaysia’s Penal Code 187 — which punishes homosexual conduct with whippings and up to 20 years in prison — did not stop PayPal from opening in 2011 a global operations center there…PayPal does business in 25 countries where homosexual behavior is illegal, including 5 countries where the penalty is death.” Not that anti-gay policies stopped “Apple from opening stores in Saudi Arabia, where gay people are regularly executed in public and cross-dressing is also a criminal offense.”

In fact, Tim Cook just made history by being the first openly gay CEO to be hosted by Prime Minister Modi in openly homophobic India. Homosexuality in that country is an offence punishable by up to life imprisonment. Apple hopes to bring its manufacturing to India, despite the fact that “the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been vociferous in its disapproval of homosexuality. “We support Section 377 (the law) because we believe that homosexuality is (an) unnatural act that cannot be supported,” India’s current home minister and former president of the BJP, Rajnath Singh, said in 2013... Last year, according to a report by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, and Biz Divas, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm, as many as 98% of companies surveyed said that they have not taken any concrete steps to make their workplace lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT)-friendly—or hire people from the community.” Read More...

Facebook , Google and Wee the People

Facebook , Google and Wee the People

When he left office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned the American public to beware the military industrial complex. That was then and this is now. Times may change, but people – not so much. Especially industrial superpowers, be it the Industrial Age or the Tech Age. No, people don’t change, only situations do, and were he alive today and giving that speech, Eisenhower might well have warned the American public, if not the world at large, to beware the tech uberpowers.

For the record, the term “Military-Internet Complex” is already out there.

A Bot Named Sue

A Bot Named Sue

Johnny Cash did a song a while back called A Boy Named Sue and we couldn’t resist. Our bugaboo of the week is the incessant number of calls we’ve been receiving of late, where a cheerful voice on the other side of the phone starts with, ‘Hi, I’m Sue!”

‘End.’

No you’re not. You’re a bot and if some telemarketer or politico feels that we’re valuable enough to be worth a phone call, then please do us the courtesy of having a human call us, rather than some bot or other. Read More...

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