No More Fake News – We Can Only Hope!

Google recently announced that it will be offering online tools and funding for journalists ($300 million over the next three years). It will be known as the Google News Initiative. I am not sure that I completely understand how all of this is going to work, but hey, who really reads newspapers anymore? Maybe Google can bring them all back, if that’s really the goal? Or perhaps we all should pledge to read more news in “reliable” print format everyday, but I think it may be too late. Some experts have already proposed that young minds are already “flickering” because of all the technology tools surrounding them. But let’s give Google its due and highlight a couple of their efforts.

As part of its Initiative, Google is creating a Disinfo Lab in partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School’s First Draft, which will attempt to identify false news during breaking news situations. Google and YouTube, the video site owned by Google’s parent company, have been criticized for allowing conspiracy theories and unreliable partisan sources to filter to the top of their search results for breaking news and for having failed to stop the spread of false news during the 2016 presidential election (have a look at my blog post on Wednesday about YouTube and Wikipedia joining forces, sort of). In addition,, Google’s nonprofit arm, also announced a $10 million media literacy project to help America’a teenagers learn skills to identify fake news (maybe it will also help parents!).

So watch out kids! Your days will be getting busier and busier. No time for all those “extracurricular” activities that might be the most “real” part of your day.

Ray Myers


Fact-checking on YouTube – You’ve Got a Friend in Wikipedia?

Whether one party wants the friendship or not! This seems to be a very confusing turn of events. It also appears to be about the “little people” helping a Goliath of the tech world, but why? It must be the money, but no one seems to know how much and for how long? Here’s what has been reported to date.

The plan was presented as just one of many ways that YouTube, which is owned by Google, would address mounting concerns about its content. But it highlighted a jarring dynamic: Here was Google, a company with revenues in excess of $100 billion last year, calling on a volunteer-built, donation-funded nonprofit organization to help it solve a crisis. The main problem with YouTube’s presumptuous announcement is being criticized by some because Wikipedia is not necessarily geared toward breaking news – and conspiracy theories tend to move at lightning speed during times of crisis.

Is this all simply a case of “breaking news” being scrutinized by some form of journalistic review. Or perhaps it just doesn’t matter any more on the age of Trump.

Ray Myers

Texting While Walking – Living Dangerously

It will kill you! But just don’t take my word for it. I am not even going to get into pot-smoking or drunken-driving, but let’s just say that human judgements become flawed when drivers and pedestrians go around stoned. Let’s take a look at some recent statistics published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Perhaps most alarming is the dramatic rise in pedestrian deaths on our streets where you may have thought was the safest place to be.

The increase in pedestrian deaths, which account for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities, may be the most discouraging news of all. There were 5,987 of them in 2016 according to the NHTSA. Expectations are that 2017 will end up with a toll at least that high. That’s a rise of 22 percent from the 4,910 registered in 2014. Maybe it’s time for every municipality to get serious about distracted walking, as it is called, even though distracted driving is plainly a bigger concern.

Put away your mobile technology devices while walking (or driving). Heads up, everyone!

Ray Myers

NCAA Tournament Prognostication Looks to the Cloud

The new high-tech approach follows the growing use of big data to track and address players’ health and prevent injury in professional sports. Now in the world of college basketball, your team’s mascot may be the most critical piece of data in predicting whether they can pull an upset victory in the NCAA tournament. As promoted by Google Cloud services: “Decades of NCAA data tells us that teams with feline mascots have caused the most tournament upsets. Meow! The NCAA is using Google Cloud to turn data into insights – just like this one – and imagine what it could do for your business.”

As posted in Wednesday’s blog: “Until recently, Major League Baseball had used such information technology to evaluate players, not necessarily to keep them fit. The Mets now hope not only to right the ship but to eventually become one of the more advanced teams in analyzing and improving players’ health.”

I really have no idea what the Cloud can actually do for your business or sport, and I am not “pussy-footing” around.🐈

Ray Myers

Data-driven Spring Training

No, I am not talking about batting averages, ERAs, or RBIs, I am talking about “big data” that will hopefully improve the performance of the New York Mets in the 2018 season. So after a disappointing 70-92 2017 season, it has come down to this new high-tech approach. What have you got to lose? Why not try daily digital checkups, chickpea pasta and proper hydration?

The new high-tech approach follows the growing use of big data to track and address players’ health and prevent injury in professional sports. Until recently, Major League Baseball had used such information technology to evaluate players, not necessarily to keep them fit. The Mets now hope not only to right the ship but to eventually become one of the more advanced teams in analyzing and improving players’ health.

How about a little more batting and fielding practice after you’ve had your chickpea pasta?

Ray Myers

Not Me! I’m Not Afraid of A.I.

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) that is. A recent Gallup survey revealed that the vast majority of Americans expect A.I. to lead to joblessness in the coming decade, but few see it as coming to their own position. “Whether they know it or not, A.I. has moved into a big percent of Americans’ lives in one way or another already (Newport, Northeastern University, 2018).”

“Personal assistants” like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, as well as navigational apps, such as Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps are used most widely among younger and more educated Americans. More than 90 percent of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree or between the ages of 18 and 35 used navigation apps, for example. Gallup’s report reflects only some of the findings of a large survey of nearly 3,300 Americans conducted in September an October of last year. The other findings, released in January, show that more than three in four Americans believe that A.I. will fundamentally change how the public lives and works in the coming decade.

About the same share expect A.I. to destroy more jobs than it creates, though only about one in four were worried about losing their own job?

Ray Myers

Keeping the Net Neutral

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now

When you go online you have certain expectations. You expect to be connected to whatever website you want. You expect that your cable or phone company isn’t messing with the data and is connecting you to all websites, applications and content you choose. You expect to be in control of your internet experience.

When you use the internet you expect Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use. Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked.

In 2015, millions of activists pressured the Federal Communications Commission to adopt historic Net Neutrality rules that keep the internet free and open — allowing people to share and access information of their choosing without interference.

But right now the internet is in peril. On Dec. 14, 2017, the FCC’s Republican majority approved Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gut the Net Neutrality protections.

A former Verizon lawyer and a Trump appointee, Pai ignored the widespread outcry against his plan from millions of people, lawmakers, companies andco public-interest groups.

We can’t let Pai have the last word on this — which is why we’re calling on Congress to use a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the FCC’s vote to dismantle the Net Neutrality rules.

What can we do now?

Congress has the power to reverse the FCC’s vote. Urge your lawmakers to use a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the FCC’s decision to dismantle the Net Neutrality rules.

The Trump administration is doing everything in its power to clamp down on dissent. If we lose Net Neutrality, it will have succeeded.

Ray Myers

P.S. I will not be posting any commentary on Friday, March 9. Will be back on Monday, March 12. Thanks for following TechtoExpess.

The New Educational Technology – NRA Creates New Markets!

Just sell more guns and and school security equipment! Do you think our kids will be any safer in school, or even in their homes? I don’t. Please see below for some recent reporting on the surge in sales of school security equipment that is going to make a lot of Americans (outside investors?) richer at the expense of common sense vigilance. And you thought it was inconvenient going through airport security screening. This is the new educational technology. Judge for yourself!

“Security options are manifold: Palm scanners, mobile barricades, heat detectors, walkie-talkies, trauma kits, active shooter resistance training and more. In the fall, Florida Christian School in Miami began selling $120 ballistic panels for students to put in their backpacks. At a gun show in Tampa, Florida, last weekend, administrators and parents swarmed a booth offering similar panels for nearly $200 each. . . . Some campuses are starring to rely on outside help, taking donations from families, neighborhood businesses and local Rotary clubs. One company pledged to donate proceeds from its bulletproof backpacks to Parkland victims and families (NY Times, 3/5/2018).”

How about school bake sales for school security? Just like the old days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Ray Myers

Sex-Trafficking on the Internet

“Pressure has been mounting for social media companies and other internet giants to be better stewards of their powerful platforms (NY Times, 2/28/18).” A bill to force these companies to better monitor their online content passed the House earlier this week.” A similar bill in the Senate is expected to pass soon.

Facebook, in particular, has come under pressure over the spread of misinformation and the exertion of foreign interference during the 2016 presidential election. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have called for regulations, including disclosures on political advertising, but those efforts have been slow to gain wide support. Some experts have concluded that there is clearly not a willingness for the government to pursue fundamental business model changes.

Sex, politics, and profits, in any order you choose.

Ray Myers

Less is More, Tommy Hilfiger

“But what Mr. Hilfiger’s four-season cycle demonstrates is that when the social-media friendly smoke and mirrors clear, it’s still about clothes, and if the clothes aren’t very good — aren’t original or interesting or desirable — then it doesn’t matter how revved up you get (NY Times, 2/27/18).” Social media and the “web surfing” mentality that technology has made possible may all be contributing to this accelerated marketing cycle.

It sounds like a cautionary tale for the world of fashion, but it may apply to many fields of human endeavor as well. Maybe you can become “overexposed” in the world of social media and the effects may wear (no pun intended) on your audience as much as yourself. The human creativity “machine” can literally run out of gas if you keep it running continuously. We can continue making things at a faster pace, but there seems to be a loss of originality if it becomes more like an assembly line process than an inspirational one. I know we are only talking about clothing, but I think there should be more appreciation for the time it takes to be creative in all fields.

Faster is not always better.

Ray Myers

Taking a Break from Social Media

Try being a monk for a month or two. Well, not exactly, but it almost seems like taking a vow of silence if you really want to minimize your digital output for a certain period of time. Are you really ready to take a break from texting, emailing or participating in social media? “A big part of being silent is being the recipient, not the broadcaster (John Francis, 2018).”

After not speaking for 17 years, Francis now reflects on his experiment in relative silence. Expect some measure of personal transformation. “It helped me find myself.” Within a few silent weeks he began to realize that previously he only ever listened to people long enough to start formulating what he was going to say next; but, he says, his mind didn’t need to be filled with endless chatter. An intricate, hitherto, undiscovered soundscape was all around him.

“You’re going to hear more if you are not talking.”

Ray Myers

Visual Artists Shift from Galleries to Social Media

Now female artists see a marketplace online that is more profitable than the traditional bricks-and- mortar art gallery. “An online presence using an art e-commerce platform is therefore likely to be a more attractive option for sales for females, who have more to gain by circumventing the traditional channels of the dealer and gallery, and hence my intuition that female artists are more prone to move online (Powell, Maastricht University, 2018).”

Given the growth in online art sales globally, making such a shift would be a smart move for the artists. A report last year by the insurer Hiscox showed sales on the online art market in 2016 were up 15 percent over the previous year, reaching $3.75 billion. In 2015, sales were at $3.27 billion, a 24 percent increase from 2014. For now, the two business models, off and online, coexist.

What a change the virtual world has made. Online art, anyone?

Ray Myers

The Artificial Audioscape

Bombastic, attention-grabbing inorganic noises are becoming the norm. No, I am not talking about the political debates in Washington, D.C. I am talking about the cacophony produced by today’s technology gadgets and “personal assistants” that everyone seems to have. We are now sufficiently habituated to these sound effects that their presence on TV shows is no longer a novelty; it is stranger to hear a landline ring in a contemporary show than to hear the default iPhone marimba beat.

Many digital sound effects, such as the camera shutter can be classified as “skeuo-morphs,” or imitation objects that unnecessarily use ornamental design features of the originals (such as false stitching on pleather seats). Their ubiquity suggests a postmodern aural backdrop in which the artificial is increasingly replacing the real. For people who grew up hearing only the real sounds, the new distinctions are likely clearer. “Someone who’s 80 and someone who’s 12 are going to have different responses to a sound (Mason, Oberlin University).”

Do you hear what I hear?

Ray Myers

Beware of Robots!

A former tech executive will be making a bid for the U.S. presidency. He will be focusing on the negative consequences of automation which he describes as the robot apocalypse. His name is Andrew Yang.

He is a well-connected New York businessman who is mounting a long-shot bid for the White House. Mr Yang, who started the nonprofit organization Venture for America, believes that automation and advanced artificial intelligence will soon make millions of jobs obsolete – yours, mine, those of our accountants and radiologists and grocery store cashiers. He says America needs take radical steps to prevent Great Depression-level unemployment and a total societal meltdown, including handing out trillions of dollars in cash.

“There’s no time to mess around with think-tank papers and super PACs, because the clock is ticking.”

Ray Myers

Silicon Valley – Land of the “Bros”

Sex and Tech. A curious story you might say, but one that has seemed to evolve over the past fifty years when someone decided (researched?) that good programmers were antisocial. Was this because most of the good programmers were men, or was it that men just wanted to keep it that way? Or is it that this is simply self-perpetuating stereotype that no one has challenged over the years?

There is no evidence to suggest that antisocial men are better at computers than women. But the stereotype has been accepted to this day. Emily Chang has recently written a book entitled Brotopia. “It is systemic. Bad behavior has been tolerated and normalized for far too long. And people simply have a narrow idea of who can do these jobs. If you’re a woman in the tech industry, you’re the only woman in the room over and over again . . . These stories a have to be told; otherwise it perpetuates a culture of keeping women down.”

“This is not just tech’ problem. This is society’s problem. And the industry that changed the world can change this.”

Ray Myers

(Early edition for Friday, 2/16/18)

Leaping Lizards, The Truth About Tech!

So what do technology usage and lizards have to do with your brain? Maybe more than you think? Roger McNamee with the Center for Humane Technology has put it his way: “Facebook appeals to your lizard brain – primarily fear and anger. And with smartphones, they’ve got you every waking moment.” He said the people who made these products could stop them before they did more harm. He sees his association with the Center for Humane Technology as an opportunity for him to correct a wrong.

Sort of reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein who tried to kill the monster he created, but this is not really like a horror novel/movie. Or is it? Is too much technology addicting our children (and adults?) to habits that are “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” The Center for Humane Technology, along with the nonprofit media watchdog group Common Sense Media, is also planning an anti-tech addiction lobbying effort and an ad campaign at 55,000 public schools in the United States. It is titled “The Truth About Tech.”

Can we stand the truth? I hope so.

Ray Myers

Gorging on Social Media

My apologies for not posting on Monday of this week. Let’s just say that I was “in transit” and had a “tech-free day” which leads me to the to the message of today’s post and the one that you will see on Friday as well. It’s all about limiting our daily digital diets. Or as those scholarly Jesuits used to teach us: “Moderation in all things.”

Social media’s “role in your life has grown without your permission. No one had that in mind when they signed up for Facebook to stay in touch with their college roommate . . . There is a lot of complexity and uncertainty in the role that these technologies should play in personal and professional life. We’re past the stage where they’re novel, but not to the point where they’re stable (Cal Newport, Georgetown University, 2018).” A common complaint seems to be that there is too much news: I need a break. And fewer tweets from the White House might help (maybe none, remember those days)!

We have gone from “TechtoExpress” (sound familiar?) to “TechtoConsume.”

Ray Myers

Googling and Spending in Washington, D.C.

Maybe a better title for this post would be: “Technology Companies are Now Biggest Spenders in Lobbying Congress.” It just all seems to make sense when you consider how wealthy all these companies have become, i.e., Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, etc. “These are companies that are touching so many parts of the economy . . . So it’s inevitable that they are going to engage in a host of political and policy issues (Washington Post, 1/24/18).”

Amazon, for example, spent nearly $13 million in lobbying last year, a 16 percent increase from 2016. The tech industry’s ballooning lobbying budgets may also be an indication that the companies will fight hard to protect the data they collect on Americans. Some experts now worry that the government will struggle to pass new and meaningful consumer protection laws. Others say that the increase in lobbying simply coincides with the tech sector’s rapid growth and larger role in society. Any way you look at it, the tech industry is now the biggest lobbying machine in Washington.

I just worry about whose lobbying for the technology consumers?

Ray Myers


I will be taking a “winter break” next week. Back on Monday, February 5th

Happy Teens Have More In-Person Interactions

Please allow me to explain. A long-awaited report with a lengthy title that tries to say it all has finally been published: “Decreases in Psychological Well-Being Among American Adolescents After 2012 and Links to Screen Time During the Rise of Smartphone Technology.” I hope that clears things up, but let me quote a paragraph from Tuesday’s Washington Post that might also help.

“Adolescent self-esteem, life satisfaction and happiness, having risen since the early 1990s, plunged after 2012, the year smartphone ownership reached the 50 percent mark in the United States, the report said. It also found that adolescents’ psychological well-being decreased with the more hours a week they spent on screens, including the Internet, social media, texting, gaming and video chats . . . The report’s findings were not all dire: Teenagers who get a small amount of exposure to screen time, between one to five hours per week, are happier then those who get none at all. The least happy ones were those who used screens for 20 or more hours per week.”

Looks like face time is back, and I don’t mean the FaceTime on your computer screen.

Ray Myers

We Still Have Football!

As we all know, Trump and company have shut down the federal government, but we still have Super Bowl football and all its hype to entertain us over the next few weeks. I am not sure which is more entertaining over the long run, but we shall find out. But what can I say about all the technological tools involved in informing us about these “winter spectacles.”

Will we all be better informed this time around? Will Twitter be overloaded with barbs and updates about our political and football fanaticisms? I am afraid so. Depending on your personal or political view, are we now headed for a “winter of our discontent” or content for some?

I am sure there are parts of New England where there are many people happier to be watching Tom Brady on the football field than follow all the tweets from the so-called president in the Oval Office, when he is not in Mar-a-Lago.

Ray Myers