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Preview: Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check

Peter O'Kelly's Reality Check



Better living through collaboration and conceptual modeling



Updated: 2017-11-18T16:14:41.216-05:00

 



Digital media struggles to survive technology's chokehold - Axios

2017-11-17T08:59:04.286-05:00

Check the full post for more digital disruption dynamics
"The economic strains of technology on the entire media landscape are intensifying. Weeks after Google and Facebook announced record earnings, some of the biggest players in the digital media industry are still struggling to hit revenue projections, make profit or grow.

Why it matters: Rapid consolidation in every sector, but especially digital, shows how difficult it is for media companies to survive in an attention economy dominated by tech platforms. Tech giants, aided by decades of minimal regulation, have scaled to the point at which they are able to adjust their advertising models and adapt to consumer demands faster than most media companies can keep up with."
Digital media struggles to survive technology's chokehold - Axios



China is perfecting a new method for suppressing dissent on the internet - Vox

2017-11-17T08:34:56.645-05:00

The future looks bright ahead

"A new study by Gary King of Harvard University, Jennifer Pan of Stanford University, and Margaret Roberts of the University of California San Diego suggests that China is the leading innovator on this front. Their paper, titled “How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, Not Engaged Argument,” shows how Beijing, with the help of a massive army of government-backed internet commentators, floods the web in China with pro-regime propaganda.

What’s different about China’s approach is the content of the propaganda. The government doesn’t refute critics or defend policies; instead, it overwhelms the population with positive news (what the researchers call “cheerleading” content) in order to eclipse bad news and divert attention away from actual problems."
China is perfecting a new method for suppressing dissent on the internet - Vox



The FCC just repealed a 42-year-old rule blocking broadcast media mergers - The Washington Post

2017-11-17T07:38:50.226-05:00

Coincidentally, Comcast Said to Be in Talks to Buy 21st Century Fox Assets (NYT)

"Federal regulators rolled back decades-old rules on Thursday, making it far easier for media outlets to be bought and sold — potentially leading to more newspapers, radio stations and television broadcasters being owned by a handful of companies.

The regulations, eliminated in a 3-to-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, were first put in place in the 1970s to ensure that a diversity of voices and opinions could be heard on the air or in print. But now those rules represent a threat to small outlets that are struggling to survive in a vastly different media world, according to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. With the rise of blogs, websites and podcasts, Pai said, traditional media outlets now face more competition than ever — and rules that once enforced a diversity of viewpoints are no longer needed."
The FCC just repealed a 42-year-old rule blocking broadcast media mergers - The Washington Post



Elon Musk unveils Tesla electric truck – and a surprise new sports car | Technology | The Guardian

2017-11-17T07:25:39.008-05:00

Featuring "'thermonuclear explosion-proof glass' in the windshield;" also see Tesla Unveils an Electric Rival to Semi Trucks (NYT)
"Elon Musk unveiled Tesla’s first electric semi-truck on Thursday evening at an event in Los Angeles that also included the surprise reveal of a new Tesla sports car.

The new Roadster, which has the same name as the first electric vehicle produced by Tesla from 2008 to 2012, emerged from the back of one of the trucks at the end of a presentation that focused largely on the economic and performance needs of truck drivers. 
“The point of doing this is just to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” Musk said. “Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche.”"
Elon Musk unveils Tesla electric truck – and a surprise new sports car | Technology | The Guardian



Who Filters Your News? Why we built gobo.social | … My heart’s in Accra

2017-11-17T07:29:16.691-05:00

Check the full post for more Gobo details and The Case for a Taxpayer-Supported Version of Facebook for some broader context-setting (thanks to Dan Gillmor for the reference)
"Why don’t social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter give users powerful tools to filter their own feeds? Right now, the algorithms control what we see, but we can’t control them. As the internet maxim goes, “If you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold”. Both Twitter and Facebook offer powerful filtering tools that allow advertisers to target exactly who they want their ads to reach. You can pay money and advertise to women of color between 40-60 in Seattle, but you can’t choose to read perspectives from those women. While we’ve seen great innovation from projects like BlockTogether, which lets users who experience harassment share Twitter blocklists, we’ve seen surprisingly little innovation on user-controllable filters from the platforms themselves. And unless we see something like public-service social media platforms, it’s unlikely that we will see platforms give users much more control over what they see.

Algorithmic filters optimize platforms for user retention and engagement, keeping our eyes firmly on the site so that our attention can be sold to advertisers. We thought it was time that we all had a tool that let us filter social media the ways we choose. What if we could choose to challenge ourselves one day, encountering perspectives from outside our normal orbits, and relax another day, filtering for what’s funniest and most viral. So we built Gobo."
Who Filters Your News? Why we built gobo.social | … My heart’s in Accra



Inside Artificial Intelligence's First Church | WIRED

2017-11-16T07:43:06.364-05:00

Worship different

"Levandowski expects that a super-intelligence would do a better job of looking after the planet than humans are doing, and that it would favor individuals who had facilitated its path to power. Although he cautions against taking the analogy too far, Levandowski sees a hint of how a superhuman intelligence might treat humanity in our current relationships with animals. “Do you want to be a pet or livestock?” he asks. “We give pets medical attention, food, grooming, and entertainment. But an animal that’s biting you, attacking you, barking and being annoying? I don’t want to go there.”

Enter Way of the Future. The church’s role is to smooth the inevitable ascension of our machine deity, both technologically and culturally. In its bylaws, WOTF states that it will undertake programs of research, including the study of how machines perceive their environment and exhibit cognitive functions such as learning and problem solving."
Inside Artificial Intelligence's First Church | WIRED



Elon Musk: Inventor's Plans for Outer Space, Cars, Finding Love - Rolling Stone

2017-11-16T07:34:22.127-05:00

Excerpt from an extensive profile

""I try to do useful things," he explains. "That's a nice aspiration. And useful means it is of value to the rest of society. Are they useful things that work and make people's lives better, make the future seem better, and actually are better, too? I think we should try to make the future better."

When asked to define "better," Musk elaborates, "It would be better if we mitigated the effects of global warming and had cleaner air in our cities and weren't drilling for vast amounts of coal, oil and gas in parts of the world that are problematic and will run out anyway.

"And if we were a multiplanetary species, that would reduce the possibility of some single event, man-made or natural, taking out civilization as we know it, as it did the dinosaurs. There have been five mass-extinction events in the fossil record. People have no comprehension of these things. Unless you're a cockroach or a mushroom – or a sponge – you're fucked." He laughs sharply. "It's insurance of life as we know it, and it makes the future far more inspiring if we are out there among the stars and you could move to another planet if you wanted to.""
Elon Musk: Inventor's Plans for Outer Space, Cars, Finding Love - Rolling Stone



Do the Koch Brothers want their own media empire? - Recode

2017-11-16T07:19:57.088-05:00

If you think there's a remote chance this would be a "purely economic bet," consider this Crooked Conversations podcast: How dangerous is dark money?

"So it’s possible the Kochs are making a purely economic bet here, and they believe a version of the pitch Time Inc.’s management has been making for years: We’re going to use our declining print business to build a new digital business. (Time Inc.’s digital ad revenues passed $500 million last year — a number that Time Inc. execs like to compare to BuzzFeed, which did about half of that in the same time frame.)

On the other hand, there are lots of rich, powerful men in the U.S. But there are only a handful of big, powerful media companies. If you’re trying to get your messages across to a lot of people, even a declining one might seem attractive."
Do the Koch Brothers want their own media empire? - Recode



Bitcoin's Rivals Multiply Amid Battle for Crypto Dominance - Bloomberg

2017-11-16T07:13:07.458-05:00

What could possibly go wrong?...

"New iterations of the cryptocurrency are multiplying as disagreements over bitcoin’s design persist and opportunities for making a quick buck prove hard to pass up.

The biggest offshoot, called bitcoin cash, appeared in August after a so-called hard fork in the bitcoin blockchain. That spinoff, currently valued at $18 billion, was followed by a less successful fork to create bitcoin gold in October, and now several other planned splits are in the works.

There’s bitcoin diamond, bitcoin silver, bitcoin unlimited and super bitcoin -- the latest proposal to emerge. The website advertising super bitcoin says the offshoot is backed by Chinese cryptocurrency entrepreneur Li Xiaolai. It promises to “make bitcoin great again” by, among other things, increasing the size of blocks on which transactions are processed -- a move that would reduce confirmation times and fees."
Bitcoin's Rivals Multiply Amid Battle for Crypto Dominance - Bloomberg



Inside Google's Struggle to Filter Lies from Breaking News - Bloomberg

2017-11-16T07:10:04.229-05:00

Searching for better information integrity

"They're exploiting a weakness that cuts to the core of Google's main proposition: Delivering trusted information online. That flaw emerged as Google rewired its search engine and giant video platform to prioritize immediate and timely content to become a destination for news.

"The purveyors of misinformation are really using these methods to complicate our systems,” Nayak said.

To combat the problem, Google is revamping the place where most people first see web results with breaking news, carefully curating the carousels that list “Top Stories” and featured posts Google pulls from Twitter in a way it hasn't before. Nayak said the company is working on methods to limit false content around news events, but declined to offer specifics. Google is also overhauling video search, limiting results around news events on YouTube to verified outlets and placing more algorithmic emphasis on these sources more broadly."
Inside Google's Struggle to Filter Lies from Breaking News - Bloomberg



New tools to make your job search simpler (Google Keyword blog)

2017-11-15T08:26:28.434-05:00

Check the full post for an overview of some Google job search features that are probably making the LinkedIn team a bit nervous

"To help the millions of people who turn to Google to start their job search, we worked with leaders across the industry to introduce a new experience earlier this year. Since then, we’ve seen more than 60 percent of employers showing jobs in Search and connected tens of millions of people to new job opportunities.
Now, based on feedback from job seekers, we’re introducing some new features to help make the process more efficient. Directly in Search, you can access salary information for job postings, improved location settings, job application choices, and in a couple of weeks, the ability to save individual jobs."
New tools to make your job search simpler



Peter Thiel Gave Money to Attorney General Going After Google - Bloomberg

2017-11-15T07:49:43.457-05:00

Deeply dubious donations; also see Missouri Opens Antitrust Investigation Into Google (NYT)
"Hawley, a Republican, unveiled a probe into Alphabet Inc.’s Google for favoring its own products in search results, citing the similar case in the European Union that resulted in a record fine. His subpoena is the most significant case against Google in the U.S. since the Federal Trade Commission picked up, then dropped, a competition case in 2013.

Thiel made a $100,000 contribution in 2015 to Hawley for the attorney general race, and gave two more $100,000 donations in 2016, according to Missouri state campaign finance filings. Hawley won the election and was sworn in on Jan. 9, 2017.

Thiel, an early investor in Facebook Inc., has criticized Google for years. In 2012, he sparred with then-Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt on stage at a conference, calling the company’s search engine a monopoly. “It’s quite legal to have a monopoly as long as you don’t abuse it," he added. In his recent book, "Zero to One," Thiel argued Google was a monopoly and said every company should want to be one."
Peter Thiel Gave Money to Attorney General Going After Google - Bloomberg



Amazon’s Cashierless Store Is Almost Ready for Prime Time - Bloomberg

2017-11-15T07:40:57.918-05:00

Perhaps coming soon to a Whole Foods near you
"Shoppers visiting an Amazon Go store will scan their smartphones upon entering. Cameras and shelf sensors will then work together to figure out which items have been removed and who removed them, the person says; there will be no need for tracking devices, such as radio frequency chips, embedded in the merchandise. When shoppers leave, algorithms will total the order and bill their Amazon account.

The system is working well for individual shoppers but still struggles to accurately charge people who are moving around in groups, such as families with grabby kids, the person says. Go engineers have been studying families shopping together and are tweaking their sensors to recognize when a child eats an item while wandering around the store. Engineers are also figuring out which person to charge when a couple goes shopping together. Amazon has encouraged employees to enter the store in pairs and buy lunch."
Amazon’s Cashierless Store Is Almost Ready for Prime Time - Bloomberg



Ready for Trump TV? Inside Sinclair Broadcasting’s Plot to Take Over Your Local News – Mother Jones

2017-11-15T07:24:18.696-05:00

Minitrue c2017 -- check the full post for a detailed Sinclair profile

"But under the leadership of Ajit Pai, a Republican who joined the commission in 2012 and whom Trump elevated to chairman, the FCC has seemingly gone out of its way to grease the wheels for the Sinclair-Tribune merger, reinstating a rule from the Reagan era that could help the company avoid limits on media consolidation. “The FCC is gaming the rules to directly benefit Sinclair,” says Craig Aaron, the president of the public interest group Free Press.

If the merger is approved, Sinclair’s broadcasts will reach 72 percent of all households. Some media analysts have speculated that with Fox News reeling from cascading sexual harassment scandals, Sinclair senses an opportunity to build a rival conservative network. David Smith is reportedly eyeing a collaboration with Steve Bannon, the former Trump White House chief strategist who leads Breitbart News. There have also been reports, which Sinclair denies, that the company is pursuing the ousted Fox host Bill O’Reilly as well as Sean Hannity."
Ready for Trump TV? Inside Sinclair Broadcasting’s Plot to Take Over Your Local News – Mother Jones



TV stations are about to track you and sell targeted ads, just like Google and Facebook - The Washington Post

2017-11-15T07:18:55.826-05:00

Something to watch

"But privacy advocates say the development of highly precise digital tracking in yet another industry will mean a setback for consumers, and could further concentrate power among a small handful of corporations.

Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said the FCC failed to include any meaningful privacy safeguards for consumers in the Next Gen TV proposal.

"The FCC has placed Americans who watch TV and online video at grave risk when it comes to their privacy," said Chester. He added that other rule changes the FCC is seeking to make this week could accelerate the erosion of consumer privacy as the television industry becomes more consolidated."
TV stations are about to track you and sell targeted ads, just like Google and Facebook - The Washington Post



Amazon sells off China cloud assets as tough new rules bite (Reuters)

2017-11-14T07:31:08.308-05:00

Tangentially, see Susan Rice: Trump Is Making China Great Again (NYT)

"Beijing Sinnet Technology Co Ltd, Amazon’s China partner, said in a filing late on Monday that it would buy the U.S. firm’s Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud computing unit in China for up to 2 billion yuan ($301.2 million).

“In order to comply with Chinese law, AWS sold certain physical infrastructure assets to Sinnet,” an AWS spokesman said on Tuesday, adding AWS would still own the intellectual property for its services worldwide.

“‎We’re excited about the significant business we have in China and its growth potential.”"
Amazon sells off China cloud assets as tough new rules bite



The Apple Watch can accurately detect hypertension and sleep apnea, a new study suggests | TechCrunch

2017-11-14T07:23:13.742-05:00

Something to keep a Watch on

"Cardiogram and UCSF previously demonstrated the ability for the Apple Watch to detect abnormal heart rhythm with a 97 percent accuracy. This new study shows the Watch can detect sleep apnea with a 90 percent accuracy and hypertension with an 82 percent accuracy.

Sleep apnea affects an estimated 22 million adults in the U.S., with another 80 percent of cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea undiagnosed, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. This is a serious condition where the person affected stops breathing in their sleep and can lead to death."
The Apple Watch can accurately detect hypertension and sleep apnea, a new study suggests | TechCrunch



Yale Professors Race Google and IBM to the First Quantum Computer - The New York Times

2017-11-14T07:14:40.672-05:00

Google, IBM, or Intel acquisition timing tbd...

"After their research helped fuel the work of so many others, Mr. Schoelkopf and two other Yale professors have started their own quantum computing company, Quantum Circuits.

Based just down the road from Yale in New Haven, Conn., and backed by $18 million in funding from the venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and others, the start-up is another sign that quantum computing — for decades a distant dream of the world’s computer scientists — is edging closer to reality.

“In the last few years, it has become apparent to us and others around the world that we know enough about this that we can build a working system,” Mr. Schoelkopf said. “This is a technology that we can begin to commercialize.”"
Yale Professors Race Google and IBM to the First Quantum Computer - The New York Times



Father of the Web Confronts His Creation in the Era of Fake News - Bloomberg

2017-11-14T07:06:53.987-05:00

Final paragraphs:

"Toward the end of the chat, Berners-Lee said it was important for people to be able to own and control their own data and that companies should think twice before assuming it’s a business asset.  “It used to be said that data is the new oil,” he said. “Personally, I think it’s like nuclear fuel. It’s becoming toxic. Two years ago, the question from the board was, ‘How are we monetizing the data?’ Now the question is, “How are we protecting ourselves from the damage of this getting out?’”

I asked Berners-Lee if he owned a connected assistant like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. The answer, he said, is no; he believes that when conversations and queries are recorded in our home and transferred to the cloud, they inevitably become vulnerable to intruders and accessible to prying governments. Sounding very unlike the web pioneer who created the web nearly three decades ago, he vowed, “We must resist these technologies.”"
Father of the Web Confronts His Creation in the Era of Fake News - Bloomberg



First Digital Pill Approved to Worries About Biomedical ‘Big Brother’ - The New York Times

2017-11-14T06:39:34.376-05:00

Later in the article: "Patients who agree to take the digital medication, a version of the antipsychotic Abilify, can sign consent forms allowing their doctors and up to four other people, including family members, to receive electronic data showing the date and time pills are ingested."

"For the first time, the Food and Drug Administration has approved a digital pill — a medication embedded with a sensor that can tell doctors whether, and when, patients take their medicine.

The approval, announced late on Monday, marks a significant advance in the growing field of digital devices designed to monitor medicine-taking and to address the expensive, longstanding problem that millions of patients do not take drugs as prescribed.

Experts estimate that so-called nonadherence or noncompliance to medication costs about $100 billion a year, much of it because patients get sicker and need additional treatment or hospitalization."
First Digital Pill Approved to Worries About Biomedical ‘Big Brother’ - The New York Times



Microsoft and Google Turn to AI to Catch Amazon in the Cloud - Bloomberg

2017-11-13T07:15:28.999-05:00

Article "bottom line:" "Microsoft has taken enough customers from market leader Amazon to create a viable cloud business; Google’s cloud gains have been slower."

"It’s hard to think of a business Amazon.com Inc. dominates as convincingly as the market for cloud computing services. Andy Jassy, chief executive officer of the company’s cloud division, Amazon Web Services Inc., likes to brag that his outfit has several times as much business as the next 14 providers combined. Amazon’s next-largest cloud competitor, Microsoft Corp., is less than one-fifth Amazon’s size in terms of sales of infrastructure services, which store and run data and applications in the cloud, according to research firm Gartner Inc. Google, the No. 3 U.S. cloud services provider and the second-largest company in the world by market value, makes one-fifteenth of Amazon’s cloud revenue."
Microsoft and Google Turn to AI to Catch Amazon in the Cloud - Bloomberg



Self-Driving Trucks May Be Closer Than They Appear - The New York Times

2017-11-13T07:08:01.303-05:00

Tangentially, see Elon Musk vows Tesla semi truck will "blow your mind" (Axios)

"The industry’s size makes it a fat target for automation. Autonomous technology will help trucking companies reduce labor costs in the long run, first by extending the number of hours trucks are in operation, and later, by reducing the number of drivers. The industry spends billions of dollars a year on accidents that are largely caused by human error, and billions more on insurance premiums that should go down if and when self-driving technology is proven to be safer than human drivers.

The result is a furious race not just to develop self-driving trucks, but to get them on the road and making money. The chief executive of Waymo, the self-driving car unit owned by Google’s parent company, has said that self-driving trucks may emerge before self-driving taxis. Uber has a self-driving unit — which was founded by a former Google engineer who is now at the center of a patent-infringement suit between the companies."
Self-Driving Trucks May Be Closer Than They Appear - The New York Times



Tesla’s Dangerous Sprint Into the Future - The New York Times

2017-11-11T16:48:51.499-05:00

Excerpt from an extensive Tesla reality check

"Tesla’s goal has always been focused on going green, rather than creating the driverless future. (Its mission is emblazoned on its factory walls: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”) Yet as the automobile industry settles on the consensus that self-driving cars are coming — their promise to improve safety and to help ride-sharing replace car ownership for many Americans propels their inevitability — Tesla finds itself in the midst of a contest to do both. This set of challenges should be enough for any company, especially one led by a chief executive whose time is compromised by other business commitments as a founder of a rocket company (SpaceX), a new tunneling operation (the Boring Company), a company planning a human-computer interface (Neuralink) and a nonprofit focused on the dangers of artificial intelligence (OpenAI). But Tesla has given itself a few others too. One is to essentially reinvent modern manufacturing processes at the Gigafactory. Yet another is to create the first mass-market electric car ever. In the meantime, a company that has never made much profit needs to somehow figure out how to do so — that is, to put itself in the black before financial losses and missed deadlines curdle any hope that Tesla inspires, among customers or stockholders, into skepticism."
Tesla’s Dangerous Sprint Into the Future - The New York Times



Snapchat’s Strategic Failure – Tech.pinions

2017-11-10T07:47:30.382-05:00

Check the full post for a stark Snap reality check

"This week’s Snap Inc earnings call was an indictment of the strategy pursued by the company in regard to both its core Snapchat app and its Spectacles hardware. The company has failed to drive two of the three major metrics that are key to success in the space, and it reversed its long-standing strategic stances on several key topics during a single earnings call. Having resisted calls for change for months, it appears Snap is now trying to change everything at once."
Snapchat’s Strategic Failure – Tech.pinions



Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was invited to testify to Congress and didn’t - Recode

2017-11-10T07:11:17.322-05:00

In other Twitter truthiness news, see Twitter, Facing Another Uproar, Pauses Its Verification Process (NYT)

"Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Thursday he’s “absolutely” willing to come talk to the U.S. Congress as lawmakers continue to probe Russia’s efforts to spread disinformation on social media during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Thing is, lawmakers previously and repeatedly called on Dorsey and other tech executives to make the trip to Capitol Hill — and they’ve apparently declined.

That includes a trio of Russia-focused hearings held in October. Lawmakers on one of the three congressional committees actually invited Dorsey to testify, according to two congressional sources familiar with the investigation, but he declined to appear."
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was invited to testify to Congress and didn’t - Recode