Tech Tackles Fake News

What’s all this about fake news? (remember Rosenne Rosanadana, TV’s Saturday Night Live).  I just read the other day that computer experts are using sophisticated algorithms and online data to spot misinformation.  So now it seems that we have “machine learning” tools that use artificial intelligence to combat fake news.  A growing number of technology experts worldwide are now harnessing their skills to tackle misinformation online.  Calls for combating fake news have focused on some of the biggest online players, including American giants like Facebook and Google.  Why did we have to wait for this call until after a U.S. Presidential election?  Does fake news really have more readers than real news?

I am not really a conspiracy theorist, and maybe the technology and needed algorithms were not fully developed in time for last year’s election, but perhaps it’s just another example of “timing being everything.”  Technology still seems to hold a revered place as our best hope for discerning fact from fiction.  But many Europeans are not so optimistic.  With fake news already swirling around their forthcoming elections, analysts also worry that technology on its on may not be enough to combat the threat.  

Remember the old adage, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers.”  I guess it’s time to rethink that old saw, or maybe we should literally start reading (and listening) again with a more critical perspective.  We must never think that technology can do all this for us.

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


Facebook Envy Drives Migration to Europe

“Just follow me on Facebook, and you will see what a great life I will be leading in Europe once I cross the Mediterranean.”  These may not be the exact words of aspiring (illegal) immigrants to Europe who are desperate to find a new life there.  It still remains a very treacherous and dangerous proposition dependent on shady transporters and promises of a new life on another continent.  But this is the age of Facebook.   “Just take a look at my Facebook page and you will see all the glories of my new found freedom, or at least my best ‘face’ on how how I am living now.” The Italian government seemed to be the most generous in this respect, providing schooling and temporary papers for foreign minors.  And once they reach the age of 18, they can apply for permanent residency.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that simply all the time.  Despatate to start repaying their parents’ loans, many immigrants seek to start working immediately when they arrive, which hurts their chances of getting schooling or official papers.  At the same time, their Facebook persona will very often portray a different life style on foreign soil, when they may actually be working for pitiful wages in restaurants or fruit markets, at best.  You won’t be seeing these images on Facebook.  You can indeed create an alternative reality from the one you are actually living.

So what’s the problem with that?  Maybe thes young immigrants are just being creative in using all the powerful tools available on social media.  But just as old Polonius (remember him?) said to young Hamlet: “To thine own self, be true.”  It just might be getting harder for everyone to do that in the age of Facebook, whatever your circumstances may be.

Ray Myers

Google is God!

Well, not really, but things got very confusing in Europe when they tried to regulate what Google could do, and not do, with respect to protecting their citizens’ privacy in the European Union.  I’ll try to explain it as best I can from one American’s perspective.  Here we go: the European Court of Justice does not require that companies make their decision-making process open to public scrutiny.  People must make privacy requests that relate to online information, like personal circumstances or past criminal convictions, that is no longer relevant or not in the public interest (definitions that privacy lawyers say are inherently fuzzy).  Well, I am glad that I helped clear that up, and I am sure that most privacy lawyers in Europe are also happy that they can continue to help wealthy clients in trying to understand what this all means.  Let’s chalk one up for Google, at least for now.

On another related note, how about that U.S.Supreme Court declining to hear the Authore Guild challenge to Google Books?  In effect, the Court refused to review a challenge to Google’s digital library of millions of books, turning down an appeal from the authors who said that the project amounted to copyright infringement on a mass scale.  So go ahead, just Google it!  I am not sure there is anyone to stop you?

Thank you readers for you patience over the past week.  I have been enjoying some time with family over these beautiful spring days in New England.  Not quite spring-like temperature yet, but those hardy souls really seem to get excited when the temperature cracks 50 degrees Farenheit.

Ray Myers 

 





Don’t Bank on It – “FinTech” is Here!

Digital disruption strikes again!  FinTech may actually result in a thirty percent reduction of the banking workforce.  What exactly in FinTech after all.  Sorry to make this so melodramatic, but I think the term itself, FinTech, conjures up images of sea monsters invading the mainland and seeking out victims on the streets of big and small cities around the world.  Those victims may actually be the current workers in the banking industry in the U.S.   FinTech has already had some great success in Asia, particularly in China, but what exactly is it?

It’s the technology, my friend.  In this case, let’s call it “digital disruption.”  It has been predicted that the number of employees in American banks will drop to 1.8 million people in the year 2025, down from 2.8 million last year and 2.9 million before the financial crisis.  An even sharper drop of 37 percent is predicted for Europen banks.  Tech start-ups will be taking the place of thes institutional giants.  So far most of this activity has been in the areas of online lending and payment transactions.

So goodbye, Mr. Pennington, our family’s friendly and helpful banker at Riverside Trust.  He would give us free candy when we actually walked into his bank, and we were proud to have his bank’s name emblazoned on our Little League uniforms.  I guess you could still put “FinTech” on those same uniforms, but I am not sure anyone would know what it was, and we would have to find those places in America where they still play Little League baseball.

Ray Myers


Let’s Dance, Wherever You Are

Thanks, Skype.  Dancers at the Tisch School of Arts at New York University can now connect with dance studios in South America, Europe or Japan.  NOW is the name of this internet-based innovation that allows dancers to perform duets, as well as ensemble pieces, with partners from around the world.

In setting the “stage” for a duet, a student technician makes the Skype call – a bit of logistical suspense with every ring – before the dancers gave their names, locations and local time.  NYU choreographer Pat Catterson wants her dancers to take their material phrases that sometimes wander into whimsy – and make them their own, a process that Skype facilitates and subtly alters.  Occasionally, the physical virtual pairs moved in unison, their synchronization loosened by technological glitches as well as by idiosyncratic timing.

NOW “performances” (75-minute installations) have been described as one of those the-way-we-live-now kind of works, both homespun and high tech, with elements familiar and unsettlingly novel.  Whatever it may be or eventually become, NOW is certainly an innovative example of how technology can support artistic collaboration on a global scale.

Ray Myers