So I guess we all really have a choice here, or do we? How much tech do we want and when do we really want to be “upgraded” to the latest technology? Or maybe it’s just the age-old question of how we manage our time at work vs. time we have with family and friends. But unfortunately, it just seems more difficult to make these distinctions when we are “connected” all the time. Not an easy or simple answer for many “bread winners” in the twenty-first century.
One busy professional reflected on this in this Sunday’s NY Times: “My personal mode of self-restraint (controlling her life) is to always carry my phone when I am not with my kids and always leave it in the other room when I am. The kids themselves don’t get phones at all. When my 12-year-old daughter walks home from school without one, I intentionally have no idea where she is, just like nobody knew where their kids were when I was growing up. How rare it is these days not to be able to know something.”
And as I mentioned in an earlier blog, we can easily know more in any given moment than we have ever have before, but how much do we really retain in the longer term? Technology can make it so, but it is really still only a tool to help us remember, and we have to do the rest to “upgrade” our lives.
P.S. I will take a late summer break this week, but will be back next Monday, August 28
Hopefully reality has set in. Donald Trump seems to be coming more irrelevant with every passing days of angry tweets and political posturing. He really doesn’t know how to play this game! What has he really accomplished? So November is slowly approaching and now he is talking about bombing North Korea? Maybe this will save his presidency, but God help us all. And now to world affairs and how squelching internet freedom from our friends in China and Russia will make us all better world citizens.
Let’s just talk about China as an example, but I know Trump has great friends in Russia as well, but that may evolve into a more continuing geopolitical saga (can’t get enough of that Vladimir Putin!). “China’s great firewall, a massive system of Internet filters and blocking, has long had a crack in it. The firewall prevents most users inside China from accessing platforms outside the country, such as Facebook, Google and Netflix. In keeping with China’s desire to censor what can be seen and read. But popular software known as virtual private networks, or VPNs permit a user within China to tunnel through the firewall. Now the crack is gradually being cemented up.”
Unfortunately, I believe Trump wants to emulate these totalitarian laders, and make Internet freedom a nostalgic fantasy in the U.S. Please don’t let this happen!
So what’s really wrong with walking around with your eyes on your mobile phones while passerbys navigate their way around you? More dangerous is the practice of driving while texting in terms of disregard for your own safety and that of others. In the past the only similar practice I can recall that was seen as more of an anti-social behavior than a hazard to your own safety and others was keeping your “nose in a book.” But I don’t recall seeing many people driving while reading an old-fashioned “hardbound” or paperback text. At least I don’t think there were many car collisions attributed to people reading paperbacks while driving.
More disconcerting or hazardous (at least to me) are the anti-social implications of keeping your head down at social gatherings and not meeting or conversing with old friends and new acquaintances. Being online there are always friends and family you can chose to be connected with and never be “out of touch.” While you may chose to never have your head “in the clouds” again, you may also find yourself trapped in the world of social media to the detriment of having a real time “social life.” I know I am portraying the extremes of a social media obsession, and that my observations are not scientifically based, but please take a look at your own social media life. There may also be a generational gap here, and a personal preference for what constitutes a broader social life. It still remains your own personal choice in terms of what “worlds” we chose to habitate and to what degree.
So now let’s look up and smell and see the roses!
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!”
P.S. TechtoExpress will be on “vacation” next week. We will return on Monday, July 31.
Trump knew where his message would have the most appeal, Heartland, U.S.A. And please don’t try to sell subscriptions to the “New York Times” or “Washington Post” of you are traveling there. No one is buying anyway. Now these media mainstay publications, along with others, have been looking for an Internet age strategy, but “nobody has found it.” Why browse through a newspaper when you can just “order up” the news you want to read online and forget about the rest. That seems to be what most of middle America has been doing this election year. Just get on the Internet and find something you like (it takes so long to read those old print news articles anyway.
I guess the proof is in the fact that he won the Presidential election with the overwhelming support of midwestern Americans. They elected a man who has rarely traveled west of the Hudson River his entire life (well, okay, New Jersey and Philadelphia to broaden his world view :). One adventuresome online news service based in New York City, ProPublica, is now trying to establish some Midwest roots. It is expanding into Illinois with a 10-person editorial team – laudable to be sure, but it can’t begin to make up for vibrant local papers with dozens of beat reporters, statehouse bureaus and investigative teams. Even with a move to the Midwest, “many in the news media believe that news organizations must rebuild relationships of trust with citizens, even Trump supporters.” Now if only I am able to figure out how that trust was lost? Is that really what happened?
So the suggested strategy is for the Democratic Party to change the media landscape (good luck with that). I think in most cases, people will read what reinforces or confirms their perspectives on the world in general. To learn more about your world takes more than just reading your favorite newspapers or listening to your favorite newscasts.
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?
What’s not to like about one-stop online shopping? The only thing you might have to worry about is that in the future you will not have any shopping centers, strip malls or corner stores where “everybody knows your name.” Gone will be the “social network” of shopping that involves interacting with real people in real time and space (bricks and mortar). From some economists and business experts, there is a growing concern that Amazon’s tremendous growth and market dominance could increasingly stifle competition and erode jobs. This is the real threat that Amazon poses as viewed by business researchers and analysts.
“To consumers whose seeming every wish can be fulfilled by the more than 400 million products available for sale on the site, its scope can seem enormous. Amazon sells 52% of all books (print, electronic and audio) in the United States. Forty-three percent of all online commerce goes through Amazon. It’s got 45% of the cloud computing market, meaning it’s the single largest provider of infrastructure that runs thousands of popular websites. It’s not in banking and insurance, though analysts say that wouldn’t be a stretch.” Consumers enjoy low prices, while suppliers get squeezed.
And you always thought that people with their heads in the clouds were out of touch. Seems like that might be a good place to be these days if you are in business.
I was in Vietnam about this time last year. President Obama also happened to be in Hanoi at the same time, working to enhance America’s internationally presence and improve trade relations with twelve Pacific Rim partners. Vietnam and the other countries rejoiced at his arrival after a torturous past of wars and corruption that was crippling the economies of Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Obama helped broker the twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Many trade experts saw TPP as the single most valuable tool America had for shaping the geo-economic future of the region our way and for pressuring China to open its markets.
TPP also included restrictions on foreign state-owned enterprises that dumped subsidized products into our markets, intellectual property protections for rising U.S. technologies – like free access for all cloud computing services. Like any trade deal, TPP would have challenged some U.S. workers but it would have created opportunities for many others, because big economies like Japan and Vietnam were opening their markets. For decades we had allowed Japan to stay way too closed because, because it was an ally in the Cold War, and Vietnam, because it was an enemy. Some 80 percent of the goods from our 11 TPP partners were coming into the U.S. duty free already, while our goods and services were still being hit with 18,000 tariffs in their countries – which TPP eliminated.
We could have even helped the economic reformers in China. They were hoping that the emergence of TPP “would force China to reform its trade practices more along American lines and to open its markets . . . We failed the reformers in China.”
P.S. Happy Fourth of July weekend. Enjoy. Back on Wednesday, July 5th.
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.
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
Okay men, maybe it’s time to break some of those old male stereotypes in the digital age of the twenty first century. Some women, you know who you are, may say it is a hopeless cause. All men really want is someone to listen to them and go easy on the advice. It seems like the most preferred female response is a simple, “Mm hmmm.” But now that we are in the digital age, men may finally find that they can open up more freely through texting and other social media, expressing their most innermost thoughts. Well, as they say, “good luck with that.” Even in the case of the youngest social media users, sex may be be the key determinant in how they choose to express themselves (or not) online.
I am not sure that this online behavior has been scientifically documented, but there seems to be plenty of anecdotal data to suggest some behavioral differences in this regard. Here is one writer’s experience: “A few months ago . . . my nephew, now seven years old, got his first cellphone. There was his number on our family group text, a long message chain that my sisters and I use as a place to deposit our complaints about the day and his puns. So far, his contributions have been a string of plane and car emojis. Excited though, to have this new way to talk to him, I sent him a message. I saw the flickering bubbles that showed he was typing back. Then nothing. For the next twelve hours, his side of the conversation was blank. Finally, a day later, a single response: ‘Hey.'”
In defense of our seven year old “brother,” it may just be overwhelming to keep up with older aunts whether they are conversing online or in person. Be strong, young man! Maybe not so silent.
I would have thought that being President (so-called) of the United States was a full-time job, but I have certainly underestimated the current resident of the White House. Maybe he will rename this residence if he stays around long enough, but he is not really there that often. And most of the “conflicts of interest” concerns that I worry about don’t seem to bother government ethics watchdogs in Washington or, if they do, I am not hearing that much about it. Let’s face it, he has enough children and a large business organization so that he can hide safely in the shadows, and never be seen as a business benefactor. It’s all in the branding and getting the shrewdest legal expertise. Land of the free and the brave!
So what does all this have to do with technology? Let’s just say that they have free wi-if in all the rooms. Now that we have gotten that out of the way, we can explore what this new business venture is really all about. Don’t worry, you probably won’t see the Donald’s name displayed in any prominent way, so let’s just wink and go our merry way. The Trump Organization calls this new budget-friendly hotel line, the American Idea. This new hotel chain is making its debut in Mississippi, where Republicanism reigns. What a concept! Here is some of the promotional jargon: “a new three-star hotel chain with a patriotic flair, echoing (his) campaign slogan about putting America first and reflecting the organization’s promise to enter into new deals only in the United States.” America Idea will feature artifacts of American culture in the hotels, such as an old Coca-Cola machine in the lobby or American-made sundries in the rooms. Make America Great Again.
The South will Rise Again!
Before there was Facebook and Twitter (I do remember), people would actually talk to each other face-to-face. They were not as concerned about the number of retweets or likes they received on social media (there was none). Maybe they just wanted to have a few close friends or family members that they could always count on to be around whenever they needed them, or just wanted to enjoy each other’s company. In our virtual world of today when can choose to be connected to our friends and family whenever, and in whatever ways we choose. But living in the virtual world full time may actually deprive us of having a longer life. Feeling isolated and disconnected from the real world can actually make us sick.
Recent research suggests that being unpopular (in the real world) can be hazardous to our health. In fact, it might even kill us. Yet most don’t realize that there’s more than one type of popularity and social media may not supply the one that makes us feel good. This same research also reveals that there is more than one type of popularity, and most of us may be investing in the wrong kind. We can be popular by simply being likeable. Likeability reflects kindness, benevolent leadership and selfless, prosocial behavior. This same research suggests that this form of popularity offers lifelong advantages, and leads to relationships that confer the greatest health benefits. We may be built by evolution to care deeply about popularity, but it’s up to us to chose the nature of the relationships we want with our peers. It may also mean that we step away from Twitter once in a while.
May we all live long and prosper in real time. 🖖
More than any other social media, Twitter is rapidly becoming the preferred “love” media. From finding a date to proposing marriage, this is like sailing on the digital “Love Boat,” if you are old enough to remember that TV series. So many new technologies, to use, so little time. Somehow Twitter has become the preferred love connection. Don’t forget the Direct Message (DM) feature when things start to become more intimate. Twitter doesn’t maintain statistics on how many of its users met through the site, but it does actively crowdsource and feature stories from people who have used the app to “kindle” a romance.”
Here is an unsolicited testimonial from one happy lady, now wife and mother. “She admits to having met previous dates on MySpace and Craigslist but insists that Twitter is an ideal platform to connect with potential mates – as long as users switch from public replies to direct messaging fairly quickly. Ultimately, asking someone out on Twitter, there is still that fear of rejection that exists. But it’s super possible. It all goes down in the DMs.”
Okay, all you lonely hearts out there. Brush up on your DM skills to give Cupid a hand!
So it’s only a game as they say, but the geopolitical implications seem obvious. This board game is called Go and I have seen it played in parks around Hanoi, but please don’t ask me to explain it. But I will quote from a article by a Hong Kong reporter that might help shed some light. “Go, in which two players vie for control of a board using black and white pieces called stones, is considered complex because of the sheer number of possible moves. Even supercomputers cannot simply calculate all the possible moves, presenting a big challenge for AlphaGo creators.” But AlphaGo developers did accept the challenge and created the software that makes this game available online.
So far, AlphaGo seems to be the undisputed “artificial intelligence” champion, only being beaten once by South Korea”s Mr. Lee. China’s Mr. Ke seems more resigned to only playing against human opponents. He noted that he would focus more on playing with people saying that the gap between humans was becoming too great. He would treat the software as more of a teacher, he said, to get inspiration and new ideas about moves. Or maybe he should say that he has finally met his match, but when his “match” is basically artficial intelligence, it just may be too hard to admit defeat by a software program? Somehow this all sounds vaguely familiar, like Dr. Frankenstein being outsmarted by his own “monstrous” creation.
AlphaGo is also demonstrating an ability to learn from its gaming experiences. It is not just calculating moves, but learning from its own experiences. That is something that we can all benefit from, so that we can remain smarter than our machines, I hope.
P.S. Happy Memorial Day weekend. Be back on the 31st.
What would we do without Alexa? She is so handy to have around the house, and doesn’t demand too much. Just a little electricity to keep her “turned on.” Now she can do even more. She may not be the only little device that can do all these tricks using voice commands to control light switches, thermostats and other smart home appliances, but she seems to be the most popular. And no new app is required in the case of turning the lights on and off, if you already have Alexa in your home.
Alexa and Ikea are now a couple and to work together all they really need are some voice-enabled light bulbs (you buy them). It’s almost like having a live-in pair who can answer questions for you, play music, and now, turn the lights on and off. The “marriage” of Alexa and Ikea is also a marketing boon for the smart home business. Amazon has said there have been “tens of millions of Alexa devices” sold, including various devices in Amazon’s Echo family of products and those from independent device makers as well. Smart home usage of various devices is growing rapidly.
Smart homes for smart people? It still might be fun to do these things ourselves. Maybe we will start having device-free days just to reminisce about the way life used to be.
Outsourcing knowledge to Google keeps you away from learning things the right way. Don’t take my word for it. Psychological researchers have been studying the effects on internet dependence on the human learning process. Take your ability to remember, or learn things the right way so that you can recall them at will. And on a personal note, this seems to get harder as you get older. So if you want to stay younger mentally, using Google may be a handy tool, but still keep using your own mental faculties if you want to have people think you really know what you are talking about. How old is Donald Trump? Seventy? He seems to like Twitter better than Google, but he still might like to use it if he wants to fact-check something. I just don’t think he worries about those bothersome facts that much. He does use the TV to watch FOX news, right?
“Using knowledge in the head is also self-sustaining, whereas using knowledge from the internet is not. Every time you retrieve information from memory, it becomes a bit easier to find it the next time. That’s why students studying for a test actually remember more if they quiz themselves than if they study as they typically do, by rereading their textbook or notes. That parades the right ideas before the mind, but it doesn’t make them stick in the same way, you won’t learn your way around a city if you always use your GPS, but you will if you work to remember the route you took last time (NY Times, 5/21/17).
“But why do I worry about all this? And why does Donald Trump come creeping back into my mind. Maybe it is the fact that he is not the “fake President.”
Oh, those automated algorithms! One day they are riding high as our anointed saviors from being duped by fake news and exposed to gory live streaming, and the next day we are not quite so sure (see my post on May 3). So what is Mark Zuckerberg and others to do? I guess they will have to hire more humans or, as they are called in the business, “screeners.” So how many for how long? And why are we so gullible, and so intrigued by gory spectacles we can watch on demand. Sounds like the old days of the Roman Empire when they threw the Christians to the lions. Only now you can watch it at any time and any place thanks to technology. Not to mention reading the fake news to fill in your spare time. Can Mark Zuckerberg or anybody really solve this problem
Despite Zuckerberg’s pledge to do a better job in screening content, many Facebook users did not seem to believe that much would change. Hundreds of commenters on his post related personal experiences of reporting inappropriate content to Facebook that the company declined to remove. So who are these reviewers and what standards do they apply? Most of them are low-paid contractors overseas who spend an average of just a few seconds on each post. A National Public Radio investigation last year found that they inconsistently apply Facebook’s standards, echoing previous research by other outlets. Hmmmm, I wonder if some of these same people work in those famous “call centers” that American companies have established abroad?
Sounds to me that we may be “faked out” for a long time to come.
P.S. I will not be posting on Friday. Busy weekend ahead. Enjoy yours. Back on Monday.
Remember the Yellow Pages? I know I am walking down memory lane a lot lately, but things are changing so quickly. I often like to think about life before tech because it has certainly changed the way we do just about everything. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! What would we do now without Amazon or Google? As long as you are near a computer screen in whatever form you prefer, you can probably survive living alone on an island provided there is connectivity and free home delivery.
Here is what one NY Times reporter noted recently: “When the kids were born, it (Amazon) become my household Costco – supplier of diapers and other baby gear. Then it began a services designed to remove any decision-making from shopping: My toilet paper, paper towels and other consumables now come to my house on schedule, no thinking required. Then Amazon moves into media, and I was more hooked: It had me for packaged goods, so why not movies and TV shows too?” And now there is even more. Amazon gave us Echo, the company’s talking computer which speaks through a persona known as Alexa, and which has now infected American families like a happy virus.
But if it’s not Amazon for you, it’ll be one of other tech giants: Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft. It’s too late to escape.
Now why would you want to make your coffeee shop wi-fi free? It may seem a bit nostalgic, but some cafe owners would like to bring back the art of the conversation in their shops. What a concept! You can actually sit at a table and converse with friends, colleagues, or perhaps even strangers, as you sip your coffee and discuss all the latest news and/or gossip. Just think, you can actually create your own Trump-free spaces where you can choose NOT to hear or see all the breaking news about his latest tweets and antics. I know that keeping up with him can be addictive, and unfortunately, he loves to keep you hooked.
Back to the coffee shop. Without wi-fi, these shops may soon become our oasis in the desert of social networking and instant communication on any topic at any time. Some shop owners do not see the wi-fi restriction as revolutionary but as a response to society’s deep immersion into all things digital that leads people to seldom communicate face to face. To promote conviviality, some shops have adopted a no wi-fi policy and gone a step further: doing away with some comfy furniture and narrowing counters to make them less accommodating for laptops.
So maybe we could all use a little more face time (not FaceTime) to actually talk about what is happening in this age of Trump. He may be addicted to always being in the news, but we should not be addicted to him. He is Not Making America Great Again.