Lost in Space – Broadband for All at What Level of Risk?

In the past five years the number of operational satellites has nearly jumped 40 percent, and nearly 1,400 now orbit the planet.   Companies such as OneWeb, Boeing and SpaceX plan to put up constellations of small satellites that could number in the hundreds, if not thousands, and beam the Internet to the billions of people not yet connected.  That’s if they don’t crash into each other first.  “As space becomes more congested and contested and competitive, there needs to an agency with unambiguous authority that can compel somebody to maneuver,” says U.S. Congressman Jim Bridenstine.

In the U.S. we have multiple agencies that would potentially be involved in trying to regulate all this outer space activity and, to me, that might be the most challenging problem of all.  Let’s just name three agencies that might be the most familiar: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  And that is just a small sampling of government regulators on the U.S. side.  We are not the only nation interested in the increased communication capacities utilizing outer space.  Some have suggested that this is simply a matter that can be left to the satellite companies to regulate themselves and work together to stop collisions.  Really?

Congressman Bridenstine is also wary of self-regulation.  There would be no “watchdog” agency to ensure that private companies would make safety decisions in the best interests of the world’s population instead of the corporate bottom line.  Any potential collision of these satellites “could create 5,000 pieces of debris that would be up there for 100 years.”

Ray Myers

Looking for a Gun? ¬†Facebook Can Help.

Social media strikes again, or should I say, social media becomes anti-social and dangerous!  It’s not that Facebook wants to support the practice of selling guns online.  They actually banned the practice in January of this year, but those clever gun dealers have devised various online selling strategies to circumvent this ban.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of using external sites and sending coded private messages.  What a tangled web we weave!

So we have some assurance that all of this illegal trafficking in firearms sales is being addressed, but its tenacity and creativity is astonishing.  More optimistic gun sales monitors claim that they are starting to shut down the online marketplace.  At the same time, gun enthusiasts are engaging in their own online activism.  There is currently a petition on Change.org that has drawn 40 of the 100 supporters it seeks to urge Facebook to lift its ban.  Please do NOT support this petition.  Please support individuals and groups who are actively involved in efforts to block such online gun sales.  Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a quick fix to all this.  One anti-gun sales activist reported that he had identified about 500 groups or posts to Facebook in the last month.  Facebook took down about two-thirds of them, but sometimes only after follow-up complaints?

One group is at the forefront of this anti-gun charge, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.  They appreciate Facebook’s response to date but add: “Part of being a good corporate actor is taking ownership – lives are on the line – and it’s vital that Facebook figures this out quickly.”

Ray Myers

Caught in the Digital Divide!

Now if we can just put presidential politics aside for a few moments, let’s talk about how you can really screw up when you are running for President, and are still a neophyte in protecting your online privacy in the digital world.  Yes, I am talking about Hillary, and I am not going to defend her, but “someone” should have known better.  Perhaps the only real lesson is that people on her staff while she was at the State Department just didn’t want to say “NO.”  Please trust me on this one!  We (bureaucrats and political appointees alike) all want to stay on the good side of the powers to be in DC.  Exceptions can be found.  I know it’s not suppose to be that way but a government bureaucracy is a big business and the people looking for advancement still want to keep the boss happy until the next one comes along (it may be a little tricky, but there are many career employees who are masterful at it).

So maybe all Hillary needed was some good tech support that could have made it all happen the way she wanted it too? But let’s be honest, trying to navigate between the best advice of techies and politicos in today’s hyper political seas will put you in some some uncharted waters.  Man the lifeboats!  

Technology and mastering its power to inform or misinform will be our most obvious challenge in the years ahead. Unfortunately, I think we are also creating “virtual environments” or worlds where reality doesn’t seem to matter.  I suppose we can also choose to live in these worlds of our own creation.  We then are not really caught in the digital divide, but are creating it!

Ray Myers

American Lobbying in Europe – We Can Help You!

“We’re here to help.”  And if you are lobbying for an American tech firm in Europe, you may find that a lot of those countries’ political and business leaders are not very convinced of our benign intentions.  Google appears to be the most successful to date in helping our European friends fill a funding gap that exists there, particularly in terms of technology improvements for schools and museums.  Perhaps the biggest challenge for Google is to convince European leaders that they will fully protect citizens’ privacy rights online.

Another major concern appears to be that Google will have too much control over how Europeans gain access to digital services.  I don’t think that this has become a major concern in the U.S. ?  I believe we have come to use Google as our all-purpose search engine, “Google it!”  Is it a question of losing our individual autonomy by using the most powerful and reliable search tool at our disposal?  We still have the prerogative of using other search engines, but let’s be honest, size and scope of these searches do matter.   Yahoo!

But it seems apparent that Europeans’ perceptions of American interests in Europe and elsewhere might always be tinged by the impressions we left behind after the Second World War: “oversexed, overpaid, and over here.”

Ray Myers

All the News, All the Time, in the Palm of Your Hand!

The media is the message.”  Thank you again Marshall McLuhan, but I am not sure that you ever thought it would come to this.  I know I am only commenting on the news media in this case, but HOW we get our news may be as important to our understanding of WHAT is really happening in the world.  Why bother reading a newspaper when you can get it all the news on Facebook Live or Twitter Periscope.  Or why bother watching the news on TV when it’s all there on your smartphone.  Now I must confess that I am one of those “dinosaurs”  who still reads the newspaper(s) and watches TV (a lot of time for the news!).  So in many ways I am acting my age for better or worse?

“People who regularly watch cable news are old.  According to statistics compiled at the end of last year,  CNN’s prime time audience was the youngest in cable news – with a median age of 59.  The median age of Fox News’s prime-time audience is 68.  (TV news isn’t alone here.  The median age of a subscriber to The New York Times’s digital edition is 54; for print subscribers, it’s 60.  But of course, we all know that with age comes sophistication.)”.  This is a quote from the NY Times, 7/14/16.  Maybe the reality is that the younger you are, the more digital your world is.  A world that is faster and spontaneous, more live video without the benefit of any objective analysis?

The former president of CNN, Jonathan Klein, offers this: “Maybe all these years, the importance of scintillating video has been overblown, and the mission for news outlets could be to help the viewers understand what all the video really means.”

Ray Myers

I will taking a short break and will be back, next Friday, 7/22/16.  Hope you are enjoying your summer.

Tweeting Away at the National Conventions in U.S.

You too can be commenting on the activities at the national conventions thie election year.  Now people around the world can “experience democracy in action.”  What a concept!  And Twitter is making this all possible.  Social media can now become political media.  I guess we already have some of that on PBS when they broadcast the proceedings from the House and Senate floors.  But let’s be honest, most of the time all we see are politicians milling around on their chambers’ floors while some random tweets are scrolling on the bottom half of the TV screen.  I guess the conventions will be a lot livelier, but who knows?

Watching Donald Trump has been a lot more entertaining when compared to Republican candidates of prior campjmaigns, but I think the TV networks recognized his entertainment value to the detriment of his political rivals.  “The Donald” probably knew this too, and now that he has succeeded in securing the nomination may decide not to run at all!  What a country!  What are we doing?  We would rather be entertained than challenged to make a choice about what direction the country should go.   And the most successful candidate may be the one who best panders to all our fears and prejudices.  My biggest worry is that political intolerance will grow in this country, and that our thirst for demagogary will increase at the expense of substantive debate (remember those Republican debates!)

In the meantime, let’s keep tweeting while “Rome burns.”  Twitter may help us better follow the machinations at the upcoming political conventions, but realistically, they are currently treading water in ocean of social media. Their stock price has fallen by over half in the last 12 months, and user growth has stagnated at roughly 310 million regular monthly visitors.  Everybody wants to be on Facebook.  Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can help us with the election process four years from now?

Ray Myers

App Happy – Solving All the Wrong Problems?

“There’s an app for that.”  If you haven’t heard that phrase recently, you have probably spent most of your life in the twentieth century, like me.  But don’t worry too much.  You still may possess some characteristics that might help you to innovate in the twenty-first century.  What are they?  Surprisingly, some very old-fashioned notions that require more than just “undoing” the work of others into smaller bits, or apps.  Consider these characteristics: empathy, humility, compassion and conscience.  Some argue that they are the key ingredients missing in the exclusive pursuit of innovation.

“In this humility-poor environment, the idea of disruption appeals as a kind of subversive provocation.  Too many designers think they are innovating when they are merely breaking and entering.”  Here are a few apps that might illustrate this lack of humility or subversive provocation: analyzing the quality of your French kissing; a “smart” button and zipper that alerts you if your fly is down, and an app to locate rentable yachts.  Now I really don’t think  I will be using any of these apps in the near future, or probably ever, but I am intrigued about renting that yacht!  Just kidding, I have been known to get seasick, a very humbling experience.

So now we might have to think of innovation in a different light.  Maybe we can be the most innovative when we incorporate more humanity in this pursuit; have empathy, humility, compassion, and conscience.

Ray Myers

July 4th Fireworks Spark Online Outbursts!

As most readers of this blog already know, July Fourth celebrations in the U.S. include many officially sanctioned community and city organized pyrotechnic displays.  In addition, many individuals throughout the country set off their own fireworks displays as an expression of their patriotic spirit and celebratory mood, I guess.  Whether they obtained these fireworks legally or used other “pyrotechnic connections” to obtain them is always a fascinating topic around this time of year.  If you find these unofficial celebrations to be annoying or dangerous, you can express your outrage at the lack of law enforcement through the multitude of social media outlets available to you.

Perhaps one of the most common complaints was that the fireworks kept them awake.  “SOME of us actually have a job and have to get up in the AM.  Fireworks need to cease at 10 PM”, one DC resident complained.  Yes, right here in the nation’s capital, where the fireworks display is televised nationally, and beyond.  Too much noise late in the night for some hard-working people?  Okay, let’s be respectful of our neighbors’ rights to some serenity late in the day, but no more fireworks after 10 PM on the one day of the year celebrating the independence of the U.S.?

We should all be concerned about the illegal, and potentially dangerous, sale of fireworks to anyone who is not authorized to use them in a safe and responsible way.  But let’s not deprive other citizens and friends of their right to celebrate, express their patriotic spirit one day out of the year!

Ray Myers

It is All About Me! ¬†Thank you, Apps.

I guess I was just born too early to take advantage of the wonders of self-promotion at a young age.  Back then, growing up in the post World War II generation, I was just hoping to find a few good friends to hang out with, meaning throwing or kicking a ball with other young aspiring male athletes (or at least we thought we were).  This trusted group  could include younger brothers or male relatives, only if they demonstrated some athletic prowess at an early age.  Girls?  Sorry, but before I became an emancipated male (took quite a while), I thought they genuinely enjoyed staying at home and cleaning and cooking for the hard-working, hard-playing male progeny. 

But then, with the dawning of the twenty-first century, and the growth of personalized technologies, the “playing field” became more level?  Just don’t take my word for it, look at all the new “stars” dominating the world of social media and you can thank the creation of “apps” as the primary medium for the promotion of this new cadre of young celebrities.  And they are young, energetic, and no longer just a boys club.  Recent data show that 74 percent of these app users are between the ages of 13 and 24, with estimates ranging from 90 to 200 million for different apps.  Now, with technology’s help, you too can be a star in the new century.

So many ways to promote oneself, and so little time.  I think I’ll just stick with doing this blog for now.  Thank you for reading, however young/old you are!

Ray Myers

Happy Fourth of July!

It’s Independence Day in the U.S.A., so please enjoy the day with family and friends.  And wherever you are,  please appreciate the freedom you have with or without all the technology at your disposal.  Perhaps this is one of the greatest freedoms we have in our twenty-first century world!  

Let’s wish the same for citizens around the world.  Back on Wednesday.

Ray Myers

China Syndrome – No Google, etc. for You!

Google is really just one of over a hundred websites blocked in mainland China.  How do I know this, besides reading about it in the New York Times?  As I mentioned in previous posts, I landed in Guangzhou, China, in flying to and from Hanoi over the past two months.  I politely told one of the hostesses in the airport travelers’ lounge that I was unable to connect to Google, and received a very terse reply, “No Google.”  Once over the border into Vietnam, I again became part of the Internet world, or at least to that part of the connected world where I spend a lot of my time.  

I only revisited this topic in reading the Times’ article this week about China’s Internet Czar, Lu Wei, “stepping down” from his post.  He had visited the U.S. this year and met with some of Silicon Valley’s giants such as Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg (I think he even wore a tie for the occasion).  The Times article describes this leadership change as “a surprise move, but unlikely to signal a change in restrictive digital policies.”  As for Mr. Wei, please don’t worry too much.  China experts predict that he will likely end up getting a promotion in another area of the bureaucracy.  It’s not uncommon for these important positions to be moved around frequently.  Not exactly like the “up or out” policies in many other workplaces around the world.

What will happen next in terms of China’s digital policies is really anyone’s guess.  Now if you had access to Google, you could probably just type in “social media in China.”  I just did and got “very local and fragmented.”  I guess that’s it, for now?

Ray Myers