Tag Archives: John Naughton

From Location to Innovation (loss)

It is a real estate dream, to talk about the location and therefor get a better price; we are all about getting a nice home, yet we look at places where we know it will sell for the 100%-200% of the price we paid for it, preferably within 5 years. Most of us looking for something oversized have at some point seen 924 Bel Air Road, Los Angeles, California. It is so over the top, so expensive that most billionaires might not even consider it. No matter how much of a technological, arts and lifestyle monument it is, complete with helipad. A house like that makes you a target of some sorts. There will always be envy, there will always be the next challenge and there will always be the next addition. To live in a house that has it all is for most you desire is unsettling. Weirdly enough it is within us, when we see this and we think ‘this is as good as it will ever get’, when we have that thought before we are 40 it becomes the limitation on us, it boggles our need of creativity. Now, for the most we need not worry, 99.99% of the population will never get near to 50% of that marker, but it is there, our minds creates this. So when a few articles passed my way, they started to add up and weirdly enough it is an opinion piece by John Naughton on June 16th that started it all. With ‘How Silicon Valley’s whiz-kids finally ran out of friends‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jun/16/how-silicon-valley-whiz-kids-finally-ran-out-of-friends) it begins.

With: “Once upon a time, Silicon Valley was the jewel in the American crown, a magnet for high IQ – and predominately male – talent from all over the world. Palo Alto was the centre of what its more delusional inhabitants regarded as the Florence of Renaissance 2.0“, I was never there, but I was linked to some degree and I say early on how greed took over, how opportunity seekers would resort to Machiavelli and other means to get what they desire and they never cared how they got there, it was their ‘political game’. Then we see a truth as the quote “the commentator Alexis Madrigal identifies no fewer than 15 different groups preparing ambushes. They include angry conservatives and progressive politicians, disillusioned tech luminaries, competition lawyers, privacy advocates, European regulators, mainstream media, scholarly critics, other corporations (telecoms firms, for example, plus Oracle and other business-software companies, for example), consumer-protection organisations and, last but not least, Chinese internet companies. With enemies like these, the US tech companies are suddenly discovering that they really need some friends.” the reason is actually simple. these US tech companies were heading in a direction of maximisation through iteration, as the need for true innovation was lost (not that innovation that places like Apple claim to have), others caught on and the drive that Silicon valley once had was no longer there, it was stepwise progression whilst the marathon runners like Taiwan, Korea, Japan and China caught up. Microsoft wasted its console world through mere stupidity and a spreadsheet (and being dumb and short sighted). That is why none of them are allowed near my IP (with the optional exception of Google). As innovation becomes iteration the margins went down and it brought regulators, tax haven needs and other players like competition and IP attorneys into all of it (as fore mentioned) and suddenly the grape season was out, the harvest had diminished and what in whiskey terms is called ‘the angel’s share’ grew leaving little to the others. I believe that the writer nails it with: “And we are beginning to realise that the immense power that the valley’s uber-geeks have acquired is what Stanley Baldwin memorably nailed as “power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”” but there a mistake is made, there are two kinds in that valley, the dreamers and the combined needs of the operators and facilitators, that second group is more important to watch mainly because it stopped the first group. the second group thought that by putting their stallion in a paddock, fenced in and limited to a smaller part it would be more effective, and having 5 fields will lead to 500% of the goal, but that was stupidity speaking. Wild horses, real stallions need to race, the strongest takes the lead and together as they burn the ground under their hooves they become more agile, stronger players and their race goes towards the dream that they had no envisioned yet. that is how the iPad came, that is how Smartphone came that is how Nano technology comes and through iteration the next tier is not merely slower, the dreamers forgot to dream, they needed to produce in larger amounts with less resources, less space and that is how they got overtaken by said Korea, Japan and China. The results are in front of us and now that India is catching up in more than one way the dream of more fortune becomes the nightmare of losing it all. So when the final wisdom comes: “And once they went public they did what corporations do: maximise shareholder value, come what may, avoid regulation and pay as little tax as possible. Just like tobacco companies and arms manufacturers“, there we have it, the larger system was ignore thought compartmentalisation and no one realised just how stupid they were. that is one of two more reasons why I do not trust my IP with 98% of the tech firms, they will not learn because the inner parts are all about profit and maximisation, and through that weakness billions in revenue are lost, because of the fake dream that iteration brings the same in twice the time but at only a part of the resources, the biggest flaw is setting a profit stage to a spreadsheet, innovation can never be gained through predictive analytics, because predictive analytics gives the continuation of a product, not the consequence of a new technology beheld by a dreamer, there will never be data to do that and that is how it was all lost.

Round two

And that is how we got to round two last Saturday as Ruha Benjamin (associate professor at Princeton University) and even as she starts with ‘We definitely can’t wait for Silicon Valley to become more diverse‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jun/29/ruha-benjamin-we-cant-wait-silicon-valley-become-more-diverse-prejudice-algorithms-data-new-jim-code), she gives a truth that I partially oppose (not the diversity), as it was always about the dreamers. Larry Ellison, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Mark Zuckerberg they were all dreamers to some degree. That world needs dreamers and facilitators that push dreams into the reality of innovation. The more diverse that world is, the more diverse the dream becomes and the greater the achievement could be. It is true innovation in its purest forms and whilst the CEO’s took the words of CFO’s and marketeers that reality was forgotten. Marketeers hope and drive hypes, they cannot dream on something that they cannot fathom, it is the most destructive vicious circle imaginable. So when I see: “She founded the Just Data Lab, which aims to bring together activists, technologists and artists to reassess how data can be used for justice. Her latest book, Race After Technology, looks at how the design of technology can be discriminatory” I see both hope and failure. the hope is that as diversity of ‘activists, technologists and artists‘ unites, we see new paths, the artist sees a path and draws it, the technologist can devise it the activist can oppose the path and scream for a meadow to walk on, that is how innovation came, quote literally, the Dutch a nation the size of New Jersey gave us: ‘Dutch Solar Bike Path SolaRoad Successful & Expanding‘ (which gave me another idea with a more metropolitan and rural opportunity approach), innovated roads by catching sunshine to power the evening lights, it is true innovation in action and an optional path to reduce the carbon footprint, whilst getting the surroundings powered. When we see first results: “with 3000 kWh generated, the solar panels were outperforming the 70 kWh annual per square meter expected threshold set in the lab. In its first year, the SolaRoad produced 9,800 kWh, roughly equivalent to the annual average consumption of three Dutch households“, we see a path towards innovation. There is no doubt that data can be used for justice, but in which direction? Yet I too adhere to idea’s, I am a different dreamer and even with a law and a technology degree (including a master) I have not dreamt in that direction, perhaps this is for another dreamer, the need to recognise it is essential, to find the right dreamer.

And this is not an attack on Ruha in any way, she gives a clear premise with “Many of these automated systems are trying to identify and predict risk. So we have to look at how risk was assessed historically – whether a bank would extend a loan to someone, or if a judge would give someone a certain sentence. The decisions of the past are the input for how we teach software to make those decisions in the future. If we live in a society where police profile black and Latino people that affects the police data on who is likely to be a criminal. So you’ll have these communities overrepresented in the data sets, which are then used to train algorithms to look for future crimes, or predict who’s seen to be higher risk and lower risk“, you see this is observation towards risk, a path we have seen clearly in the last two decades, yet the opposite is also there, but how to set its dimensionality? It becomes big data in observation towards opportunity, a path never walked because opportunity is one identified once it is walked, a system cannot predict the dream if it cannot comprehend the dream, or the dreamer. It is designing a computer that will design computers. It is the ability to design Skynet (I just had to go there), with the optional danger of our own end (see the collected works of Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger). It is always most likely to fail because Ruha forgot to include a philosopher to her team. The computer fails because we forgot about philosophia, the love of wisdom, and as we forgot about that we merely ended with really clever calculators and calculators are never about predicting the future, it is about limiting cost and maximising profit in any endeavour (more money, more reserves, more energy, more resources) and these margins never lead to wisdom or innovation because the dreamer was missing and dreamers do not constitute a positive influx in that engine, sales and marketing did away with that, they always will.

To illustrate this let me give you a personal side. In 1997 I send a mail to a sales executive. I had recently by accident found the Warner Brothers Angelfire partnership site. They had united and every person could freely sign up to get a Buffy Address, a Babylon 5 address, a Charmed address and so on. It was static, you got access to fan art, you got 20Mb web space and an email address. In those days (pre Gmail) it was actually really cool, but there was no way to reach out, So I suggested that we have something similar and allow the people to reach each other and we would be in the middle being able to market to all of them. The sales executive laughed in my face, stating that it would never have any business premise, it was a useless use of resources, it was not in ‘the mission statement‘. I dropped it knowing it was a lost opportunity. Now we have Facebook. My idea was nowhere near it, it was not advanced it was merely messaging and marketing, the direct impact of no vision, 4 years before Facebook shown in two colours, Black and White, I still have the email somewhere, 4 years before the launch of Social media, I tried to introduce a path towards it. I have no doubt that Facebook would have overtaken me, I did not dream that advanced, but at least I had the dream and it is also for that reason that my IP will never go into hands like the limited ones I had to work with.

A limiting amount of opposition (from to her) is seen in “Part of that has been spurred on by Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and the US election. More and more people are realising that this idea of big tech coming to save us, it’s really been dismantled. Part of it is shifting from a kind of paranoia around technology to what my activist colleagues like to say: from paranoia to power“, I believe that data is data, it is not wisdom and I also believe that data can aid in finding solutions, yet to do that you must drive a solution, you must devise a way where data is the inspirer towards innovation and software cannot directly lead towards it, you can dashboard it to see where the needs are, you can report on it where the shortages are and you can make a slice and dice app to let people get a scope of information to feed the dream, but you cannot directly feed the dreamer as you cannot predict in what direction his dream goes. You can merely hope to bring the spark that makes the dreamer dream in his or her direction and hope it leads to innovation and at that part the CEO, COO, CFO and CTO will have come crying half a dozen times to stop the squandering of resources. She does address my view correctly when she gives us: “More diversity in Silicon Valley is important, but won’t automatically address algorithmic bias. Unless all those diverse people are empowered to challenge discriminatory design processes, diversity is a ruse” and she is correct and perhaps she also answers her own question.

In all this we forgot one group, we forgot about the children, we need to be able to look at data like a child and learn to randomly look at answers to questions that we aren’t even asking, it is the initial option of a spark (not a given) that leads to the insight we get with: ‘What If?‘, the need to embrace the obvious, not ignoring it, all this in data is required to get insights leading to wisdom, the question becomes how can this be addressed and form my personal point of view is to teach people about data as early as possible, not in a light of statistics, but in a light to something I got in the early 70’s, looking at the question ‘What is the chance something happens?‘, a simple ‘kans tol‘ (Chance spinner) which would give the younger watcher an indication on chance and statistics. When we add that to the equation what happens when creativity takes over and they start looking at what they can find, or even better, what they cannot find. The younger mind is more eager to find, and equally find missing. It is that part that we are missing out of and it matters, because it is the first step in learning the question that we are not phrasing, optionally overlooking the obvious.

Part Three (Final)

Finally we get to part three with ‘Why San Francisco techies hate the city they transformed‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/jul/01/san-francisco-big-tech-workers-industry). And we see part of the drive with “Even Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and a San Francisco native who has long urged comity between the techies and the city, has taken to calling his hometown a “train wreck”“, we can only conclude that now that he bought Tableau it will get worse for him. Even as it is not about him, but the failing infrastructure with “one-bedroom apartment reached an all-time high of $3,700 a month“, which is more than twice the price for a real decent two bedroom apartment in Chicago, we see the impact, but not what is around all of them, yet it is not new, London has similar issues. As the people who can afford to live somewhere, we see that greed takes over turning the city into a carcass because it lacks a sustainable infrastructure. As people cannot afford to live near where they work, infrastructure becomes an increasing problem and as cities cater to large investors, they forgot that affordable living is essential; they merely pushed that issue forward and forward again and again. We see he escalation even further when we consider the quote: “San Francisco has become more of a satellite campus, with South Bay stalwarts including Apple, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn competing for office space in the city proper. They’ve joined the San Francisco-native companies Twitter, Uber, and Airbnb in the cramped confines of a city of just 49 square miles, surrounded by water on three sides” instead of diversifying and clustering over a much larger area, they all moved together, and as such thousands of employees need to live where they work and now prices are through the roof, it also impacts the bottom line, so as others decided to keep their stomping grounds in Columbus Ohio and as we see those in Madison Wisconsin, we see that the bottom line changes, yet they too push for space in San Francisco, so what was once the United States of America is not the Marketing needs of California. the sad part is that these people are all separated and isolated form one another through intellectual property, and as I am happy to make fun of Zendesk and their need to “file oppositions at the United States Patent and Trademark Office to 49 trademarks including the word “zen”“, all whilst we know that “Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism” that is reported and registered as something that is 1200 years old, so to see that there are at present well over 724 active trademarks which include the word “Zen” we see the replacement from inner peace to turf wars and it links to all of it, these people all think and associate alike, and as we have seen, it leads to iteration not innovation. And there we see the hoax in the serious setting. As we are introduced to: ““I feel like San Francisco is between Seattle and New York, but rather than the best of both, it’s the worst of both,” said Beth, a 24-year-old product manager who asked not to be identified by her real name. Beth moved to the city directly after graduating from Stanford to work at a major tech company, but recently transferred to Seattle. “Everyone I met was only interested in their jobs, and their jobs weren’t very interesting,” she said of her time in San Francisco. “I get it, you’re a developer for Uber, I’ve met a million of you.”” When you cluster together you create new bias and new limitations that merely stop you from dreaming. When you are in San Francisco, North of SF International Airport, you are now mostly all the same, think the same, work the same and you are all separated on three sides by water, and a failed infrastructure, you have no way to go. There we see the benefit that the two other locations have, space created opportunity and the chance to dream, a path to innovation, and I fear that things will turn from bad to worse for San Francisco. As greed pushed out the infrastructure, it removed diversity, it is not merely the diversity that pushes us to lows, the fact that some ideas came from watching someone do something else, the ability to see their interaction with the environment that allowed for new thoughts and that cubicles took that away, even if it is not called open space, it merely made the entire open space a cubicle. So whilst these people ‘enjoy’ their 55Km bus ride to Mountain view, we see that the same distance gets us to Santa Cruz and Monterey Bay, all with opportunity and other considerations and it is the ‘other considerations’ that are the treasure trove in this, because it changes the mindset of people, considerations lead to opportunity, opportunity is the foundation of innovation, it always has been, whether the innovation is accepted or rejected does not matter, it is the one that does go through that becomes the innovation that fills a corporate coffer, iteration merely lets it go on a little longer. Diversity shows that as others embrace an idea it can truly be improved on and create a new innovation, not a new iteration, but that only happens when the accepting diversity is large enough, and that is when we get the one quote that shows the disaster. With: ““It was really hard to stomach the indifference that I witnessed from folks who’d been living in San Francisco for a while, simply stepping over the slumped bodies of people who lived outside or just cold ignoring people asking for money,” said Jessica Jin, who moved to San Francisco from Austin, Texas, to work for a tech startup, of her first impressions of the city. “I wondered how long it would take me to also become numb to it all.”” we need to see that this is the largest danger. It is not that Jessica Jin moved to SF, it is ‘how long it would take me to also become numb to it all‘, that will be the moment that her dreaming to innovation ends, when we become numb, we merely create a shell to ignore what is around us and that is the first thing to thump innovation into silence, as I see it that has always been the first hurdle to lose innovation and soon thereafter they lose the ability towards iteration as well.

It is the larger issue to a much larger problem that we never properly defined, how did we lose the ability to properly dream a path to innovation, it is what drowns the creative mind and soon thereafter we get exactly what the CEO’s and CFO’s wanted, result driven worker bees, but that is what killed their company, the dream is lost and so is creation of innovation attached to it.

It is about location, location, location, but not in the way you thought it was. It was about the space to truly dream, too bad these hundreds of board members all forgot that one simple lesson, all whilst it was in front of them all along, most of them got into the board of directors using that path in the first place, how quaint!

 

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Smear campaign vs Blame campaign

Another day, another NSA/GCHQ article! I must admit that the thread, not threat of privacy is getting a little too biased. I must admit that slapping the government comes over slightly cheap at this point (for the reason that too many articles out there are more and more based on speculation and less on actual facts). It is also the time I think that Mr John Naughton (the Guardian / Observer) should add a little more balance in his very valid opinions. As his profiles states “John Naughton is professor of the public understanding of technology at the Open University“. So the man knows his stuff (and reading his articles makes that clear), and let me be upfront that even though his pieces are definitely opinionated at times, he has not stated anything false or in error (as far as I can tell).

What does bother me to a little extent is that in his article “To the internet giants, you’re not a customer. You’re just another user” (at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/jun/09/internet-giants-just-another-customer) he states when relating to Gmail and Yahoo mail “You do however ‘pay’ in a different currency, namely your personal data.

This is the issue I have as well. Especially when comparing to the article “The NSA/GCHQ metadata reassurances are breathtakingly cynical“, where he states “the metadata is what the spooks want for the simple reason that it’s machine-readable and therefore searchable” (at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2013/jul/07/nsa-gchq-metadata-reassurances). This is correct, and it is preferred for automated systems, as it takes one person his/her entire career to get through 1 hour of non-spam e-mail for one area of London. So any chance of getting anything useful needs massive levels of automation. So it seems acceptable to be a marketing outlet (the consequence of a free service), yet the group trying to keep you alive gets tarred, feathered, drawn and quartered for doing their jobs.

I am at times slightly amazed that these security measures are such an issue for the UK population. Let us not forget that the UK had decades of issues as they needed to overcome the ‘difference of opinion’ the UK government had with the IRA. As such they have had plenty of reasons to be cautious, compared the limited amount of events the US went through.

I still remember the 1993 bombing of Liverpool street station. I also remember attending the ECTS (Electronic Consumer Trade Show) 5 months later and that area was still an indescribable mess. So the UK population clearly know the dangers of terrorism.

So is this truly about privacy or fear? Not the fear of being attacked, but the fear others have if someone read the messages they send/receive (and I am not even talking about the actual criminal ones that get mailed).

Consider that there is another attack (anywhere in London) and it was not stopped, because privacy laws stopped the intelligence community. Then what? How long until the press, who is all so up in arms on privacy comes with the text ‘why did the Intelligence community not do more?‘ whilst at the same time making people expectant that in Facebook, Google+, Gmail and Yahoo mail your data can be sold on, your details on parade like a debutante to all eligible data sources who would want to have a go at you. Seems a little short sighted doesn’t it?

I am all for privacy, I truly am! However, data being private does not mean that I am not willing to assist the government in keeping the nation safe. And the argument that ‘I’ was not guilty, so there was no reason, does not hold water here. Knowing who is innocent (read safe) is as important as those who raise flags. A raised XML flag does not make you guilty, 5 raised flags do not make you guilty. Especially when this is about automatic parsing of information (read Meta data). When we look at on how these service giants deal with privacy is actually less important than the fact that their international size allows these people to avoid taxes a lot better than Ebenezer Scrooge ever could. So people are up in arms on what governments know, yet these fat cat collecting corporations paying 0.1% tax in this day and age of economic hardship is an acceptable act? I wonder whether people have their priorities straight.

In that regard it is also interesting to read the Benjamin Franklin Quote “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither“. So many are often so easy to hide behind this quote, when siting issues on privacy, yet in those days of Franklin, they thought of war as a gentleman’s game. You know the time of clean Red uniforms. Stand up straight! Moobs forward! Aim! Fire!
Those people, if they ever saw the Vietnam War in their dreams, would wake up screaming.

In this same way we should regard data collecting a la von Clausewitz “Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain” in that light, the survivor had superior information, which means it is another form of war altogether. Our protectors must get it right all the time; a terrorist, only needs to succeed once. The quote and the premise is the issue we face today and history never properly prepared us for what we now face. I think that under these conditions I prefer the quote “War is such a dangerous business that mistakes that come from kindness are the very worst.” This one is true and also most appropriate. If Privacy is seen as a human right (which it is) and it is a driving force in humanity, then we could see the danger that our Humanity gives strength to the Terrorist (this is of course false), however, in the light of fighting terrorism it does hold a truthful foundation. This brings me to an interesting question I recently saw! “What if the right to privacy depends upon the existence of surveillance and an acknowledgement that some of it, at least, is legitimate?” This is not my question, this was voiced in a discussion paper called “Navigating the Data verse privacy, Technology, Human Rights“, which was published by the International council on Human Rights Policy and can be found at (http://www.ichrp.org/files/reports/64/132_report_en.pdf). It is well worth reading.

The question in my mind is that if we see the news as valid. Is the press on a smear campaign against the Governments? Even though I singled out John Naughton, does not mean that I call him that. His work is amongst the most interesting to read and his writing is pretty compelling, and even though I feel I cannot agree with him at times, he puts down his points clearly and precise. The reason I cannot agree is again the fact that we are expected to be marketed by those offering ‘free’ services, but must oppose those who are out to keep us safe. It seems a very topsy turvy approach from us on keeping ourselves safe.

That makes me think, this could actually be a new Gilbert and Sullivan (read with the tune of ‘A wandering minstrel’ from the Mikado)

A surfing seeker I…
A man of links and searchings
of Mails, Pics and Profiles,
and selling you on my Facebook,
my friend list is so long,
through every like and linking,
and to your e-mail sending
I mine all data for cash!
I mine all data for cash!

So are we giving up essential liberties? I feel we do not, data mining is today’s efficient way of approaching the ‘right’ population, yet this is also a danger! Not of freedom, but of choice. As these companies focus on the options that embrace the bulk of people, the outside innovation will reach us less and less likely. Is that not giving up liberties? As we become part of mass media only, the small innovator will no longer reach us? Who thought of that part of the equation? Actually, John Noughton did raise it in some way in his article “Technology is a double-edged sword” in December 2012. Even though he focusses on Evangelists and Luddites, the outcome is similar. We can look at a coin from either side, but one coin is only complete with both sides.

Consider that the police and intelligence communities are the ‘other’ side (the evangelists), then most people (the Luddites) have a point no less fair, but we must accept that if the people get their way, once things go wrong we have no right to invoke a blame campaign, for the simple reason that with the freedom of choice comes the responsibility of consequence.

A combination of views often forgotten!

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