No More Net Neutrality and, From Russia with Love

So it’s just that kind of day.

I’m not sure what more I can say.

FCC puts the Internet up for sale.

Putin and Trump are best friends forever. (“Hacking Democracy,” Washington Post, 12/15)

Ray Myers

P.S. For a diversion from the present state of world power politics and Internet control, please have a look and listen at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

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Net Neutrality in the U.S.

Only one day left before the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. votes on plans to abandon Net Neutrality in favor of lifting restrictions on Internet providers. In other words, allow Internet providers to become more entrepreneurial in offering their services at competitive market rates. I think we all know what this means: consumers will now have to pay more and receive less in terms of services provided.

In terms of trying to better understand the impact of these proposed changes, and as a means registering your opposition (assumed), please visit this site to make your voice heard: https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/

The full power and potential of the Internet should not be left to only those who can afford it!

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

Reading Skills in the U.S.A. and the Rest of the World

I guess the title of this blog is not a real “attention-grabber” but it is still very important if we want to better understand how technology is playing an increasingly important part in reading instruction. Here is the link if you would like to read the complete report: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2018/2018017.pdf. The report focuses on reading achievement levels across fourth graders in sixteen countries and their proficiency in reading ONLINE.

In terms of the percentage of fourth-grade students who performed at an advanced level, the United States was the fourth highest in reaching this level. Students in Singapore, Ireland, and Norway tested higher on this online measure of informational reading (ePIRLS, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017). “The report has at least one silver-lining: Students in the United States fared far better on an Internet-based version of the assessment that tested their ability to process information online. U.S. students placed fourth out of 16 education systems that participated.”

Unfortunately, for American students who are reading in a more “text-based” manner, the results are not as high when compared to their international peers. They dropped to 13th place. “The decline was especially precipitous for the lowest-performing students, a finding that suggests widening disparities in the U.S. education system (National Center for Education Statistics, 2017).”

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India

Tech Devices Will Not Make Us Smarter About Climate Change

Sorry about the late posting today, but we are in the middle of a residential relocation closer to family and grandchildren.  I recommend this type of relocation highly if you are interetested in being closer to wherever those grandchildren may be.  But this post is not about the grandkids, but more about how all American citizens, young and old, should be listening to science and less to political biases about what is happening to our environment.  Here is one environmental scientist’s opinion.

“It occurs to me that all the bloviating politicians who think that scientists don’t know stuff from shoe polish about climate change or land, air and water pollution should throw out all their radios, TVs, smartphones, cars, GPS or radar-guided yachts, and lifesaving medicines.  They can’t work anyway.  These gadgets, gizmos and medicines were all conceived of, or designed by and creates by scientists.”

The climate in which we all live is changing.  We can not change it, but at least we can try to better understand why it is changing and what we can do to better reduce human misery and nature’s destructive forces.

Ray Myers



Hurricane Damages Remind Us of Inconvenient Truths

Let’s all take a break from our political wars and take some time to understand that we must do something to save our planet for those we love.  What good is all the technological “wizardry” we have if we can not save the lives and livelihoods of our fellow inhabitants of Mother Earth.  We can do something if we opt to save our globe and not stand by sheepishly as the false idols of unchecked profiteering continue to tell us that we “can make America Great again” and simply ignore our responsibility to be faithful stewards of God’s bounty.

We owe it to ourselves and to those who trust us to preserve these gifts for our future generations.

Ray Myers

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Summer Rerun: Tech and Trump Collide! (Originally posted on January 30, 2017)

Figuratively speaking that is. But this is all about how technology has expanded as an industry that has a global reach. Not only in terms of the powers of the Internet, but its effect on humanity around the world. Many different races and people from all corners of the globe can now benefit and contribute to its continuing growth and reach. Silicon Valley has brought some of the most talented tech “workers” from around the world into the U.S. We are talking about companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon, Netflix and Microsoft. Trump’s proposed immigration ban could impair the ability of top U.S. companies to recruit and retain such talent in order to better compete globally.

In a company-wide email, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, stated his opposition very clearly, particularly in terms of its impact on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. “I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.” In open letters and other public statements during the Presidential campaign, tech executives and workers also objected to Trump’s anti-Muslim statements, and some signed onto a commitment not to help design his proposed Muslim registry.

Well, it’s the start of another work week at the White House. Although it’s only the second one, it already seems like a long time from the inauguration. I’m still waiting for the part where we become “great again!”

Ray Myers

P.S.  TechtoExpress will be on “vacation” next week.  We will return on Monday, July 31.

Goodbye Yellow Volvo.  It was a Gas!

We once owned a yellow Volvo station wagon, 245 series to be exact.  It was a 1977 model and we even personalized the license plate to read “ITZ A 77.”  We were very proud of our first automobile purchase as a married couple and it also became the first car our daughter drove when she was in high school.  It was a very vintage model by then and barely survived until her graduation in 2000.  Let’s just say we like to get our money’s worth and our daughter was just too embarrassed to drive our new 1998 VW Cabrio – too flashy?

But now technology is changing the automotive world.  Volvo seems to be taking the lead.  They have sounded the death knell of the internal combustion engine, saying that all the models it will introduce starring in 2019 will be either hybrid or powered solely by batteries.  The decision is the boldest commitment by any major car company to technologies that represent a small share of the total vehicle market but are increasingly viewed as essential to combating climate change and urban pollution.  Unfortunately, U.S. automakers have continued to churn out S.U.V.s and pickup trucks, whose sales have surged because of relatively low fuel prices.

Maybe so-called President Trump can do something about all this?  But I forgot: he doesn’t believe that climate change is really happening at all.  He is also too busy looking for international enemies wherever they may be?

Ray Myers

Airport Screening – Safety First, Why Not Show the World?

Americans don’t really seem to care about economic competition when it comes to ensuring safety at U.S. airports.  Things are different in Europe as we all know, but if Google has developed the best computer algorithms to identify concealed weapons in airport checkpoint body scanners in the U.S., wouldn’t the rest of the world want to do the same?  Not so, I’m afraid.  Those “wild and crazy” European Union officials are more concerned about Google’s business practices on their continent and want to exact some hefty fines that will delay many proven screening techniques in airports throughout Europe.  I am not making this up!

So in the land of the free and the brave, we have industry-wide contests to select winners in developing the best body-scanning technology to identify concealed weapons on airline travelers.  A $1.5 million contest to be exact, run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  It’s all about artificial intelligence for which the U.S. seems to be taking the lead in a large number of technological screening endeavors.  For the rest of the world, this may all seem too “robotic”, but let’s face it, we need to make some changes quickly for safety’s sake  The world’s traveling population is growing astronomically, and we need to rely more on available technological resources.  We don’t need more “friendly skies”; we need more vigilance that technolgy can provide whereever we may be on land or in the skies.  European resistance for the sake of a “level economic playing field” is misguided.

Please trust me, I am not advocating that America has all answers for airline safety world-wide.  But I do believe that we can help in making airline travel safer wherever you may be traveling.

Ray Myers




How Not to Change the World

Back in my Peace Corps years, we were all eager to change the world.  At least over a thousand of us who were in India in the mid to late sixties, but that all changed when Indira Gandhi sent us home.  I have been back to India on two different occasions over the past decade.  Technology has played a major role in India’s economic growth as a source of customer service and technical support to the rest of the world.  But now many current local Indian authorities are increasingly clamping down on Internet and telecommunications access across the country.  They have cited national security as the primary reason for restricting access.   It also seems that local and state officials can conjure up other rationales.  In one case, officials suspended social media apps to prevent cheating during a state exam for government accountant positions.

If India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to show American investors that his country has “the most open economy in the world,” he would do well to address these local practices from the national level.  As I was often reminded during those Peace Corps years, India is the world’s largest democracy!  The Indian government has taken steps to bring the country into the 21st Century:  Its policies to reduce red tape, attract foreign businesses and expand digital services have enormous potential.  It would be a shameful regression if these reforms fail to reach that potential because of suspended WiFi.

I know that Prime Minister Modi is not trying to change the world like those idealistic Peace Corps Volunteers of the sixties, but I believe that he can do something to preserve India’s digital future.

Ray Myers                                                                                                                                                                                                                India 29


Messages of Love and Hate – Can Twitter Save Us?

Just two days ago, I wrote about how Twitter was being used as a online messenger of love, particularly when you can Direct Message your beloved.  Unfortunately, it seems that it also can be used as a messenger of hate, as recently witnessed in Europe. Twitter has been cited as failing to meet European standards for removing hate speech online.  The battle betweeen European policy makers and tech companies over what should be permitted online has pitted freedom of speech campaigners against those who say hate speech – in whatever form – has no place on the Internet.

Twitter has said that it had invested in new reporting procedures to allow individuals to flag problems with hate speech, and it was striving to balance people’s right to freedom of expression with the need to police material on its network.  The European Union members are particularly concerned over the increases in terrorist attacks on their soil.  After the recent attacks in Manchester, England, Theresa May, the country’s Prime Minister, called on tech companies to strengthen their monitoring of extremist speech online.  And in Germany, lawmakers are planning new legislation that could lead to fines of up to $50 million of companies do not act quickly in policing harmful material on their digital services.

Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about Europe anymore.  So-called President Donald Trump certainly doesn’t seem to care, particularly when they talk about climate change and NATO defenses.  We have friends in Russia.

Ray Myers

No Wall Needed – Indians Stay Home

India and the United States are separated by thousand of miles of land and ocean unlike our Mexican neighbors whom the “so-called” President fears will flood into our country across our southern border.  Let’s build a wall.  You are not welcome in Trumpland!  Whether perceived or real, many potential Indian emigres to the United States also now see a different America where they had hoped to work in the Information Technology sector.  Many of their countrymen are already here by virtue of the H-1B visa program.  More than 85,000 such visas are granted yearly, the majority to Indians. 

“Generations of Indians have admired the United States for almost everything.  But many are infuriated and unnerved by  what they see as a wave of racist violence under . . . Trump, souring American allure.  The reaction is not just anger and anxiety.  Now young Indians who have aspired to study, live and work in the United States are looking elsewhere (NY Times, 4/24).”  In their eyes, they soon saw that the anti-immigrant rage in America did not discriminate.  In what was once seen as the promised land, “they now might just think that we’re terrorists.”  Is this really how we will Make  America Great Again?  I think we will be going in the other direction, making America a bastion of prejudice and nativism that will make us a lesser, NOT greater nation.

As expressed by one Indian businessman: “The U.S. has been such a good country with such good policies, and this guy comes to power, and you don’t know what he might actually do.”

Ray Myers



Climate Change – What? Me Worry?

So-called President Trump’s most recent budget proposal for NASA climate science missions would eliminate four climate science missions.  In one paragraph in their 53-page budget blueprint, the Trump administration proposed the elimination of instrumentation to study clouds, small airborne particles, the flow of carbon dioxide and other elements of the atmosphere and ocean.  I guess if we successfully fail to find these programs, we will never really know if our climate is really changing.  But maybe that’s really the point of not collecting this information?  “What you don’t know can’t hurt you.”

Unfortunately in this case, it really can hurt you.  We are talking about the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, as just two examples of our natural environment that help sustain all life on this earth.  “Climate change deniers” now have a friend in the White House.  Long before Trump was elected, climate researchers have warned that the nation’s climate monitoring capabilities – which include satellite as well as air and surface-based instruments- were less than adequate and faced data collection gaps and other uncertainties.  Elimination of any of these missions would severely limit our ability to monitor the effects on our fragile ecosystems.   Without such critical information, we are truly endangering the quality of life for all living organisms on this earth.  Al Gore was right.  This is an inconvenient truth, and one that current political leadership simply wants to deny.

We must see the world, our future and that of our children’s from a broader view.  We owe it to ourselves and to the generations that follow.  We do have to worry, as inconvenient as that may be.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will be back next Wednesday after a short Easter break.  Thank you for following TechtoExpress.

Looking for a New House – Don’t Build It, Print It

The title of this post may be a bit of an exaggeration, but technological advances now make it possible to build your own house if you have a mobile construction 3D printer that is capable of printing whole buildings completely on-site.  Based on recent experiences in the actually construction of such homes, the estimated total cost could be $10,134, or $25 per square foot, when using the highest quality materials.  The cost includes the foundation, roof, interior and exterior walls, wall insulation, windows, floors and suspended ceiling.   The company Apis Cor continues to develop the techniques and improve upon the cost per square foot; its product could have enormous benefits for providing affordable housing and allowing for faster recovery after natural disasters.

The term “3D printing” gives way to “additive manufacturing” for industrial use.  It differs from standard manufacturing processes of starting with your raw materials and then removing from them in the form of cutting, drilling, machining, and so on – all of which leave you with material waste.  Additive manufacturing means that you start with nothing and  only add what you need.  This is true in the construction industry as well.  It seems like both a financially responsible and environmentally friendly goal to have a process that would help to eliminate additional resources and the potential for a pile of construction waste at the end of the project.  The technology also allows for different methods of printing walls to achieve the desired thermal insulation.

These hi-tech homes could be very convenient “spaces” to house unexpected overnight guests and relatives.  I would not recommend, however, that in-laws be included in this category.)

Ray Myers



Going Global with Mark Zuckerberg 

He says we need a “social infrastructure” that goes global.  Now who’s not for that?  In his own words: “There’s a social infrastructure that needs to get built to deal with modern problems in order for humanity to get to the next level.  I just think it would be good of more people thought about things like this.”  He came to realize that more people were feeling left behind by globalization, and by societal and technological changes.  “We have to build a global community that works for everyone.”

Maybe this is the technological dawning of the astrological “Age of Aquarius.”  (See the play or the movie “Hair” if you are really not that old).  Now back to the Facebook generation.  Mr. Zuckerberg also is emphasizing Facebook’s role in keeping communities well-informed, which will necessitate tackling misinformation and highly polarized news (sign me up!).  He alluded to Facebook’s shifting role as a distributor of news, saying the social network is “not just technology or media.”  I think he sees a better future in creating more tightly knit online groups that would make traditional institutions, like government, religious groups, and other communities that share interests, even stronger.

Some say that Zuckerberg is attempting to buck the tide against increasing isolationismm and nationalism that is rising around the world.  Can Facebook save us?

Ray Myers

P.S.

I will be taking a late winter break until next Monday.  Thanks for following TechtoExpress.


Facebook Wants You!  Young Muslim Jihadist.

Some call this guerrila marketing in an attempt to persuade young potential jihadist NOT to join Islamic State.   Michael Lumpkin at the State Department realized that “You’re not going to convince die-hard jihadists.  We were not resonating with the audiences that we needed to resonate with.  We needed to engage with with people who haven’t yet joined ISIL.  It’s how you starve them out of recruits.”  By buying ads on Facebook – something never before attempted in this way – the officials found that they could tap into vast troves of data on the interests and browsing habits of legions of Facebook users, allowing them to pinpoint individuals who showed an affinity for jihadist groups and causes.”  Maybe Mr. Lumpkin can help Mark Zuckerberg in his efforts to ferret out fake news?

Mr. Lumpkin further argues that the efffort remains a critical one for a reason that has been long apparent to terrorism experts around the globe:  Extremist ideologies can’t be defeated with conventional weapons alone.  “We are not going to message our way out of this conflict, nor are we going to kill our way out.  We have to have a layers and balanced approach.”  Unfortunately Mr. Lumpkin has to leave his position on January 20 (he was not a career civil servant, various types of “political appointments throughout the federal bureaucracy).  He left with this message:  “For $15,000 you can buy an audience.  And you can make sure you’re hitting them with the best information based on their profiles.  That’s good business.”

And we were always afraid that “Big brother was watching.”  In this case, I am a little less concerned since he seems to be watching us and others who may do us harm.

Ray Myers

What’s App?  Nothing, in China and Russia!

Unfortunately, the censorship of apps on the Internet is a much easier tool for repressive governments to apply.   In countries such as China and Russia, it is like a return to the “good old days” when books were banned by totalitarian governments or local authorities and other self-appointed censors.  It seems like censoring apps can be done in a very effective and efficient way if any government so chooses.  Banning an app from an App Store is like shutting down the printing press before the book is ever published.  If the app isn’t in a country’s App Store, it effectively doesn’t exist.  The censorship is nearly total and inescapable.

In the last few weeks, the Chinese government compelled Apple to remove the New York Times apps from the Chinese version of the App Store.  Then the Russian government had Apple and Google pull the app for LinkedIn, the professional social network, after the networks declined to relocate its data on Russian citizens to servers in that country.  Finally, two weeks ago, a Chinese regulator asked App Stores operating in the country to register with the government, an apparent precursor to wider restrictions on app marketplaces.

Decentralized communications was once a central promise of the Internet.  Not any more.  Big brother may be watching, and blocking.

Ray Myers




Tech and Trump Collide!

Figuratively speaking that is.  But this all about how technology has expanded as an industry that has a global reach.  Not only in terms of the powers of the Internet, but its effect on humanity around the world.  Many different races and people from all corners of the globe can now benefit and contribute to its continuing growth and reach.  Silicon Valley has brought some of the most talented tech “workers” from around the world into the U.S.  We are talking about companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon, Netflix and Microsoft.  Trump’s proposed immigration ban could impair the ability of top U.S. companies to recruit and retain such talent in order to better compete globally.

In a company-wide email, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, stated his opposition very clearly, particularly in terms of its impact on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries.  “I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.  I share your concerns.  It is not a policy we support.”  In open letters and other public statements during the Presidential campaign, tech executives and workers also objected to Trump’s anti-Muslim statements, and some signed onto a commitment not to help design his proposed Muslim registry.

Well, it’s the start of another work week at the White House.  Although it’s only the second one, it already seems like a long time from the inauguration.  I’m still waiting for the part where we become “great again!”

Ray Myers


More Than Technology Needed

Sometimes our desire to find the technological solution(s) to our problems exceeds the reality of what technology really can do.  Let’s go back to Africa where I spent some time earlier this month.  Park rangers in Kenya, as well as other African countries, play a critical role in preventing poaching (killing for sport or profit) of endangered species living on these governmental preserves.  Sometimes, however, investments in high-tech solutions get in the way of needed financial support for the manpower needed to patrol and protect the endangered animals living on these lands.

Despite the critical role that rangers play in the poaching crisis, conservation organizations tend to overlook the need for everyday resources.  Donors outside of Africa want to see sexy, high-tech solutions like drones and ground sensors and not hear about the need for warm clothing, boots and better food for rangers.  Large nongovernmental groups spend huge amounts, yet there are rangers needing socks.  “Our rangers were herders, but now they’re effectively soldiers,” said David Powrie, a preserve game warden.  And the enemy are the poachers who have been known to attack and kill the rangers.

When rangers are well taken care of and receive appropriate training, poaching rates tend to drop.  Technology can certainly help, but it is still only a tool that has to be used wisely in the hands of well-trained and financially supported rangers.

Ray Myers



African Digital Schools Initiative Launched in Kenya

On November 11, the African Digital Schools Initiative (ADSI) was launched here in Nairobi, Kenya, under the auspices of the Globel e-Schools and Communities Initiatives (GESCI), far away from the political aftershocks of the Presidential election in the United States.  ADSI is a comprehensive program to implement digital school development in secondary schools to transform secondary schools into digital schools of distinctiIt is designed specifically to build secondary-level student 21st century skills and teachers’ innovative practice in a way that is responsive to the needs of the market place and to the emerging knowledge economies and societies. 

Earlier this year, ADSI began reaching out to 140 schools in Kenya, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire. 4200 teachers will be trained through the project, including 1400 teachers in science technology, English and mathematics (STEM) as well as 210,000 students, including 70,000 STEM students.  More information about ADSI can be found at: http://gesci.org/our-work/ict-in-stem-education/african-digital-school-inititiative/.  Also please see earlier blog of October 10, concerning GESCI’s work with the African Knowledge Exchange.

GESCI founded by the UN, has worked since its inception in 2004 to provide capacity building, technical and strategic advice to countries seeking to harness the potential of ICTs in order to increase access to, and to improve the quality and effectiveness of education.  GESCI currently works with 16 African governments.

Ray Myers

Nairobi, Kenya