Don’t Google It, Strawman – Use Your Brain

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.”

Ray Myers






Let Your Fingers Do the Walking – Shop/Search Online

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.

Ray Myers


Microsoft and Google Heighten Competition in the Classroom

Microsoft and Google appear to be preparing to do battle in theeducational marketplace.  I believe Microsoft has  always seen schools and teachers as their primary clientele, and Google has more recently developed more tools that are attracting new users to their services.  Microsoft spent the last year in efforts to refocus and renew their classroom efforts.  Microsoft spent the last year talking to thousands of teachers and designing high-tech experiments that require mostly low-cost parts.  It will give the designs to schools for free so teachers can use them in their lesson plans.

Google has gained ground in public schools by offering a tightly connected system of free classroom apps, lower cost laptops called Chromebooks and a web-based console that allows schools to remotely manage thousands of student devices.  Industry analysts said Microsoft’s initiative was the company’s first credible response to Google’s recent encroachment into education.  Microsoft executives are looking forward to seizing  the chance to make an updated impression on future consumers.

So the classroom has become a new battleground for these giant tech companies to clash for future customers.  Let’s just hope that America’s students and teachers come out the winners.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will not be posting a blog on Monday, May 8, but will return on Wednesday, May 10.  Enjoy your weekend.


Corralling the Social Media Market

Do you ever think of social media as a business that has to be regulated in order to ensure fair competition in this marketing space.  In the period of ten years we have gone from a time when the American marketplace was dominated by  companies such as Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Microsoft, Citigroup and Bank of America to a new era of technology companies replacing them in the size of their market caps.  Microsoft remains in the middle of this group at #3, but is now joined by its largest tech competitors: Apple (1), Alphabet (2, Google parent company), Amazon (4), and Facebook (5).    We may eventually have to regulate these tech giants if they are determined to truly be monopolies that limit competition by smaller tech businesses in this space.

“We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending that unfettered monoliths don’t inflict damage on our privacy and democracy.  It is impossible to deny that Facebook, Google and Amazon have stymied innovation on a broad scale. To begin with, the platforms of Google and Facebook are the point of access to all media for the majority of Americans.  While profits at Google, Facebook and Amazon have soared, revenues in media businesses like newspaper publishing or the music business have, since 2001, fallen by 70 percent.”   So most Americans can now “proudly” say that they only know what they see on their computer screens (of varying sizes).  Maybe this is really how all those fake news stories began?

Fewer newspaper readers, but more “screen” readers.  Let’s face it, our social media markets are like the Wild West of the Digital Age.  Maybe we do need a few Marshall Dillons to protect all of us law-abiding citizens (anyone remember Gunsmoke?).

Ray Myers


Baby, You Can Drive My Car. Or Not.

Remember the old “Yellow Pages” ad when you were encouraged to let your fingers do the walking.  Now it seems that you may be letting your fingers do the driving.  Autonomous driving, electric cars and ride-hailing apps from Silicon Valley, like Uber, are reshaping transportation.  Young people no longer feel as compelled as previous generations to own cars.  Experts in the transportation sector are changing rapidly.  The whole “mobility market” – transportation as a service – is just at the beginning.

In Germany, under an initiative called Industry 4.0, they are striving to help the country thrive in a smartphone world. The future of Germany as an industrial nation depends on how companies succeed in bringing the manufacturing and digital worlds together.  Industry executives there often cite how Apple’s iPhone quickly erased Nokia’s once-dominant position in the mobile handset market, and they are determined not to let something similar to happen to them.  Google is also entering the driverless car market.  Their market value is more than double that of BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen combined.   So instead of owning and driving your own car, you may soon find that your smartphone could be the best means of “ride-hailing” you have.   It will enable you to chose the most convenient means of vehicular travel available to you at any given place and time.

But I wouldn’t get rid of your new BMW, Mercedes, or Volkswagen quite yet.  Maybe you can become a ride service  provider yourself.  You can let your passengers work/play on their iPhones while you enjoy the ride.  That may even be more fun.

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


It’s News to Me, Fake or Real?

As reported in the New York Times, Google and Facebook “stroll to the starting line.”  I am not talking about a foot race here, but rather the rate of responsiveness in their efforts to vett or block the reporting of fake news on their websites.     Here is one account of what these two companies have been doing:  “Google and Facebook have been taking steps to curb the number  of false news articles propagated across their sites.  On Wednesday, the Silicon Valley companies showed that they were still in the early stages of their battle to limit misinformation online.”

Just this week, these tech giants announced that recent updates to their sites will help prevent hoaxes and fake news from being posted.  Still, industry watchdogs remain skeptical about the effectiveness of these moves.  Some experts remain unconvinced: “Nothing drives clicks better than when the headline is exactly what people want to hear or believe. . . without significant changes to the economies and the technology of online ads, banning individual sites would not produce change in the long run.”  In many ways, these efforts showed how the fight against fake news remains a work in progress.

So I guess it all comes back to the individual reader of the news.  Whether it’s digital or print, what we choose to believe may all still be in the “eye of the beholder.”

Ray Myers


Terrorist Propaganda and the Open Internet

Is it really all about the message, or the role of the messenger?  I was always told to not believe everything I read in the newspaper or saw or heard on TV and radio (I am not sure why – and of course this was all before the dawn of the Internet).  So what has happened to dull our senses to be able to discern what is obviously false and what is true.  Maybe it’s so much easier now to choose what you want to believe and ignore that which might make you change your mind?  There are just so many information “sources”to choose from.   And I guess we have the luxury and liberty to select whatever we want to believe.  You may even like your news completely fabricated and prefer that to “real reporting.”  See my blog of 11/23: “All the News, All Fake, All the Time!”

Now we have some of our top technology companies volunteering to do some censoring for us.  They have formed a coalition to try and save us from terrorist propaganda and recruitment.  Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft announced earlier this week that they have teamed up to fight the spread of terrorist content over the web by sharing technology and information to reduce the flow of terrorist propaganda across their services.  And they are also welcoming any other tech company to join them in this endeavor.  But not everyone is so keen on sharing their secret encryption “sauce.”  Tim Cook, CEO of Apple among them.  Remember his refusal to a FBI request after the San Bernadino attacks in 2015.  The FBI then hired some hackers to access the iPhone used by one of the attackers.

I am afraid that this fight over open access to the Internet and freedom of speech is going to get more sinister.  We in the U.S. have been relatively immune to governmental interference at any level, but some of our newly elected political leaders may feel less constrained.

Ray Myers

Wedding Memories by Smartphone

Well, it’s not exactly like talking a “selfie” at you own wedding, but it sounds pretty close.   Just ask you grinds and invited guests to snap away at you wedding and see what you get.  Not a bad idea to hire a photographer just in case but  you may be able to save a few dollars by not having to hire the most expensive one, trusting that your friends will be capturing hundreds of other moments that can be shared with any interested parties.  The digital age is upon us, and the traditional photographic experiences of posed matrimonial moments may be casualties of technological advances. Of course, if you still want to spend a lot more money (or that of the bride’s parents), please be my guest, but there are so many more ways to share the events of this day than ther have been in the past.

There are a number of apps that can easily make the uploading of ceremony and reception memories a very effortless process.   Similarly, the iPhone enables us to connect readily with numerous social media sites that are literally in the palm of our hands: Instagram, Facebook, Google photos, etc.  Images can obviously be displayed on more traditional digital devices that we may prefer.  Remember the iPad, MacBook, and desktop computer.  Y0u really don’t want an old-fashioned photographic album do you?  

Maybe the best part is that you don’t have to wait very long to see how are the pictures turned out.  Those wedding day memories will be captured and ready for viewing in seconds.  So the “photographic honeymoon” will be over sooner than ever.  May your marriage be muck longer.

Ray Myers

P.S.

Earlier this month a new book was published on Amazon as well as other online book publishing formats.  I authored one of the essays in this book: “Changed During the Sixties.” The book’s title is “Turning Points: Discovering Meaning and Passion in Turbulent Times.” I hope you will enjoy reading these essays about personal and professional transitions made during this time.

P.P.S.

I will send out a Labor Day greeting next Monday, September 5, and will resume my weekly postings on a regular M-W-F basis on September 12.

What’s in a Name?  Sweet Smell of Tech Success

“That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  The sweet smell in this case refers to the emergence of tech companies as stock market leaders in the U.S.  At the close of trading on August 1, the four most valuable companies on the Standard and Poor’s 500-stock index (S.&P.) were tech companies: APPLE, GOOGLE, Microsoft and Amazon.  That meant that tech companies, by one common definition, occupied the four top spots in the market capitalization rankings, a rare and brief occurrence.

We can easily identified these companies as “tech companies” in the traditional sense, but the fact of the matter is that the most successful businesses or companies on the S.&P. today are using technology to fuel their continued growth and expansion.  These days every company is a tech company, but some have better niches, faster growth, more attractive offerings or more favorable share prices than others.  Tech has already taken over in nearly every business sector.

So what’s in a name?  Do we identify these stock market leaders as “information technology companies,” or do you prefer “consumer discretionary companies”?  Your choice.

Ray Myers

P.S.

And now for something completely different.  This past week a new book was published on Amazon as well as other online book publishing formats.  I authored one of the essays in this book: “Changed During the Sixties.”  The book’s title is “Turning Points: Discovering Meaning and Passion in Turbulent Times.”  I hope you will enjoy reading these essays about personal and professional transitions made during this time.

P.P.S.

During the remainder of August, I will only be posting commentary on Mondays.  I will be “resting” on Labor Day, but will resume my posts on a regular M-W-F basis on September 12.


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


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



Technology to Help Make Schools and Teachers Great Again!

My apologies, but I couldn’t resist paraphrasing this “Donald Trumpism.”  It’s just that now is that time of year when education publishers, and now tech companies, start to  unveil the latest and most exciting “products” for the next school term beginning in September.  So, I think the big news here is the dramatic change in the traditional textbook sales business.  Here is a more professional analysis from the Software and Information Industry Association: “Schools in the United States spend more than $8.3 billion annually on software and digital content . . . That spending could grow significantly as school districts that now buy physical textbooks, assessment tests, professional development resources for teachers and administrative materials shift to digital systems.”  Goodbye, Mr. Chips!

This trend has certainly not gone unnoticed in the digital publishing world.  Publishing giants such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and in online higher education, edX, have easily recognized the business value of making their products and services more available digitally.  The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is now holding its annual 2016 convention in Denver this year, and if you attend the proceedings there with 16,000 other teachers and school officials, or follow them remotely,  you will be introduced to these new digital ventures in a more formal way.  Remember the days when you had to go to the Bookstore each semester?

Please believe me that I am not really trying to be nostalgic, well maybe a little.   During my college summers I packed and shipped textbooks to university campuses in the U.S. for the Collier-Macmillan Publishing Company.  Now technology can do all that for you personally.   I often wonder if I have actually been replaced by a robot?

Ray Myers



Too Many Things for Men to Wear – Fashion or Image?

Believe me, I am no fashion critic, and I doubt that I am even “fashionable,” but enough about me.  It seems like the world of fashion is in turmoil these days thanks to the power and pervasiveness of social media in tracking the latest in fashion attire.  It apparently has the greatest impact on what men might choose to wear.  In the words of one esteemed fashion critic: “The present, at the moment, is in certain ways a pretty ugly place.”  Many of these “ways” we’re on full display in Milan at the recent 2017 Men’ Wear Spring-Summer Fashion Show.  

Many are pointing fingers at social media as being the culprit in this confusion about appropriate male attire.  I think you can simply go to sites like Google Images, Instagram or Pinterest to get an idea of the current cacophony of what men should wear.  Perhaps this commentary on the show by one reviewer will help describe it best: “he (one designer) has capitalized creatively on how people consume culture in the Internet era, rummaging for imagery and information, either ignorant or agnostic about the sources of signs and symbols, references and ideas.”  To be honest, I never really worried that much about my image over the years, other than that of being a bureaucrat which simply meant that I wore a tie with a suit or sportcoat every work day.  Such an “dress code” no longer seems to apply.

Maybe it’s all a good thing.  We are no longer slaves to convention or fashion.  Or are we still?

Ray Myers

Faster Supercomputers, but no Google?

Well I guess you can’t have everything, especially if you live in China.  I really didn’t know this myself (a little hyperbole), but when I was traveling back and forth to Vietnam over the past two months and stopped in Guangzhou, compliments of Southern China Airlines, I eagerly took my iPad to the airport lounge hoping to connect with family, friends, and colleagues to update them on the status of my travels.  After a few unsuccessful tries on my own, I went to the “reception” area and learned the sad news: no Google in China!

Maybe I am not being completely fair since I only had a very small sample of government censorship in this part of the world.  I’m sure that there are some clever Chinese who have found a “work around” to this internet service blockade, but I really did not spend enough time there to find out,  and what if I did?   Oh yeah,  China is also building supercomputers, and they are the biggest and fastest in the world.  They can now claim global superiority in this area after being fourth in the world only ten years ago.  The United States had been the world leader for all the years before.

Now when you go to China, skip the Great Wall!  I’m sure that you will be equally satisfied with seeing one of these modern wonders in action, supercomputing like nobody else can.

Ray Myers 

 

Net Neutrality Backed by U.S. Court

Web users in the U.S. can now breathe a little easier because of a recent circuit court ruling which prohibits broadband companies from blocking or slowing the delivery of internet content to consumers.  The key word in all of there deliberations and previous court rulings is the definition/declaration of internet broadband service as a “utility,” not a luxury for the American consumer.  This should be good news for anyone who shops, or just looks online, for comparisons of quality and/or price across different retailers.

The challenge for retailers, of course, is to remain competitive in the online marketplace which is rapidly replacing the “bricks and mortar” stores and shopping malls.  So the consumer remains “king” in shaping marketing strategies in the twenty-first century.  And business must now use those strategies that will be most convenient for the consumer to access information about their products and prices in the easiest way.

With net neutrality, this information will now continue to reach the broadest possible audience in a very personalized way, much to the delight of Internet giants like Google and Netflix.  In effect,  the court now interprets the internet as an essential platform for consumers!  For our youngest consumers, I’m sure they wonder how you could shop without it!

Ray Myers

 

 

 

 

 

Driverless Cars and Safer Streers

Maybe this is really the answer: just take the steering well away from the human driver and our roads will be safer.  Now you will be free to text your heart away on any mobile device and not worry about your safety or the safety of others in their cars or walking the streets – you won’t be driving the car!  Google has formed a coalition with Ford in trying to make this all technologically and legally possible.  Volvo has also joined this group as well as ride-sharing firms Lyft and Uber.  They call themselves th Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets.  But I am not quite sure how Lyft and Uber fit into this self-driving initiative.  Do they just send out driverless cars when you call them for a ride?

I still think I will miss seeing a “flesh and blood” person sitting behind the steering wheel when I ask Uber to send a car to help me get somewhere.  But maybe I am overreacting.  You’ve got to trust the technology after all.  Right!  Experts have already testified before the U.S. Congress stating that ninety percent of vehicle accidents every year (32,625 deaths in 2014) were the result of decisions made by drivers at the wheel – and self-driving technology has the potential to prevent “at least” some of those accidents. 

So I am grateful that self-driving cars can be instrumental in reducing the number of fatalities on American roads.  But I guess I still have to keep an eye open for those with human beings behind the wheels!

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 

 





Is Life a Calendar to Fill Up?

Let technology do it for you.  Now you can go to your new improved Google calendar and find that “Goals” has scheduled all those things you have to do everyday.  “Goals” is the name of the software that offers you a menu of goals to choose from on a daily basis.  It can then scour the white spaces in your calendar for available times and will map out a schedule.  Of course you will still be in charge of deciding if this is all okay with you and let “Goals” make all the final arrangements.  Why not?

I don’t know about you, but all of this does scare me in my “old age.”  I really do have more spare time these days, and I would hate to have it all filled up by a virtual assistant of some kind.  I can still pretty much plan my calendar from day to day, and more often think in terms of month to month at a more leisurely pace.  And we can all thank artificial intelligence (A.I.) for making this all possible.  Yes, that’s right, your new personal assistant is really a robot after all.  And a very hard-working one at that.  He/she (your choice) can even sort your email into high and low priority items and weed out the junk.  Unfortunately, this appears to have freed up time for people to send more work email!

So be careful what you wish for, or in this case, what you really never wished for, but Google decided you needed.  Sherry Turkle at M.I.T. worries that “human” software agents can diminish authentic human interactions.  I don’t think robots ever worry about that!

Ray Myers