LeapMotion Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is going to be way cooler with the LeapMotion headset; however it would be nice if developers tried to create more free/open source code for AR. There are too many proprietary players in the AR market right now.

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Big-Tech’s Ethics and Tom Lehrer at 90

Nature has published a piece on mathematician Tom Lehrer, who is turning 90 this year. He has written and sung many a satirical song highlighting the dangers of nuclear proliferation and other political issues.

One of these songs is about an ethical dilemma that it seems many big tech companies are facing:

The rousing ballad ‘Wernher von Braun’ undermines the former Nazi — who designed the V-2 ballistic missile in the Second World War and later became a key engineer in the US Apollo space programme. In Lehrer’s view, it was acceptable for NASA to hire von Braun, but making him into an American hero was grotesque. “‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?’/‘That’s not my department,’ says Wernher von Braun” — lines that still resonate in today’s big-tech ethical jungle.

It matters what we build and who we build it for.

Panera Bread data breach

Yes, Panera Bread, the place that serves great(?) bread and snacks was hacked many many months ago:

In August 2017, …reported a vulnerability to Panera Bread that allowed the full name, home address, email address, food/dietary preferences, username, phone number, birthday and last four digits of a saved credit card to be accessed in bulk for any user that had ever signed up for an account. This includes my own personal data! Despite an explicit acknowledgement of the issue and a promise to fix it, Panera Bread sat on the vulnerability and, as far as I can tell, did nothing about it for eight months.

This is why it’s important to take seriously any emails coming in that report a vulnerability on your website or web app; especially when related to data breaches. It’s important to prioritize this kind of work too, in 2018 you cannot sit idly while a data breach threat looms over the entire organization. With the Equifax data breach, maybe we’ll start to see shareholders and customers take their data more seriously and start filing lawsuits about the immense risk that organizations are not preparing for.

The Difference Between Innovators and Entrepreneurs — Steve Blank

For all the entrepreneurs out there trying to build free/open source startups:

I just received a thank-you note from a student who attended a fireside chat I held at the ranch. Something I said seemed to inspire her: “I always thought you needed to be innovative, original to be an entrepreneur. Now I have a different perception. Entrepreneurs are the ones that make things happen. (That) takes focus, […]

via The Difference Between Innovators and Entrepreneurs — Steve Blank

How the Internet Ate Movies? Really?

The Ringer has an article about how Hollywood has become “obsessed” with the internet and asks whether this has stifled the imaginations of movie makers:

“You know, desperately seeking escape is not nostalgia,” Spielberg told the L.A. Times while discussing Ready Player One. “It’s something we’re all familiar with. Escapism is something, especially today, that people are craving more than ever before just to get out of the desperately depressing news cycle. There have been desperately depressing news cycles in every decade from time to time, but it’s pretty profound now. And so I thought, ‘This is the right time for this.’”

The same could be said for Blackhat or The Social Network or Catfish or You’ve Got Mail. Movies about the consequences of the internet aren’t new, exactly. They’re just everywhere. And it has zapped movies of an inherent power—the ability to transport, to reinvent or recontextualize what’s possible in the world.

Hollywood matters insofar as they have a history of consistency and availability (the Hollywood crowd produces movies every year and they are distributed widely) and they’ve got the resources to keep doing this.

But…we have new producers and movie makers making and distributing their productions on YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms.

I think it would be more accurate to say this:

it has zapped [Hollywood] movies of an inherent power—the ability to transport, to reinvent or recontextualize what’s possible in the world

Many people are watching new shows and bite-sized content on multiple platforms. We’re no longer tied to one point of view that’s Hollywood-centric (though it is still dominant). We can choose never to watch Blackhat, The Social Network, Ready Player One, or other Hollywood movies and instead replace them with whatever good stuff we find on the Internet. We can find new stories told from unique perspectives without the Hollywood gatekeepers stopping us. The production costs of a movie and the fact that it’s produced outside of Hollywood do not prevent a movie from having the ability to transport, reinvent or recontextualize what’s possible in the world

New site launched that lists Tech companies who won’t delete your information

Every time there is a data breach or scandal involving user data (looking at you Facebook), someone comes up with an innovative idea to bring privacy to the forefront and to give people tools to protect their privacy.

In this case, Naughty List is a new site that lists the tech companies who won’t delete your information.

Some of the tech companies on the naughty list are:

  • LinkedIn which won’t let you delete your account
  • Facebook which partially lets you delete your account
  • NewEgg
  • Hacker News won’t let you delete your account

 

AI and machine learning applied to the workplace could make it super creepy

The Economist is running a story on how AI and machine learning can be very valuable for companies in “improving” their workplace. I put “improving” in quotes because while some of the applications AI/machine learning are benign and are useful, there are other uses that are more dangerous and bordering on unethical.

Good uses of AI in the workplace

The good uses of AI in the workplace:

Thanks to strides in computer vision, AI can check that workers are wearing safety gear and that no one has been harmed on the factory floor.

Machines can help ensure that pay rises and promotions go to those who deserve them. That starts with hiring. People often have biases but algorithms, if designed correctly, can be more impartial. Software can flag patterns that people might miss. Textio, a startup that uses AI to improve job descriptions, has found that women are likelier to respond to a job that mentions “developing” a team rather than “managing” one.

Bad uses of AI in the workplace: lots of surveillance and monitoring (think Black Mirror or 1984 dystopia)

The more nefarious uses of AI in the workplace:

Companies are starting to monitor how much time employees spend on breaks. Veriato, a software firm, goes so far as to track and log every keystroke employees make on their computers in order to gauge how committed they are to their company.

irms can use AI to sift through not just employees’ professional communications but their social-media profiles, too. The clue is in Slack’s name, which stands for “searchable log of all conversation and knowledge”.

In the case of Veriato, I wonder if they got the idea for monitoring all keystrokes and tracking time to see how loyal employees are from the novel Snow Crash. It’s one of my favourite science fiction/cyberpunk novels. In the novel, the FBI has software installed on all its computer which actively monitor how an employee works: how fast they’re reading through memos, how quickly they’re typing up their reports and so on. All of that data is distilled into reports that show how loyal an employee is.

This was a science fiction novel and I wonder if some developers and companies forget that dystopian ideas should stay fictional.