Archive | Tech & Gadgets

How Has Technology Changed The Way We Trust?

Posted on 15 February 2017 by admin

Rachel Botsman has spent over a decade thinking about the “sharing economy.” As an an author and a visiting academic at the University of Oxford, Saïd Business School, who researches how technology is transforming trust, she’s an authority on the subject. She’s also one of Fast Company‘s Most Creative People. She is currently writing a book, due out next fall, about the new decentralized economies and how that has changed trust.

I recently chatted with her about what this means for the future of leadership. What follows is a transcript of our conversation. It has been edited for space and clarity.

Can you talk a bit about your current project and its background?

In 2009, I wrote What’s Mine Is Yours about the so-called sharing economy. And there were really two aspects that always interested me about it. One was how you can take these idle assets and unlock their value through technology, and then the second was trust. This notion that technology could breed familiarity and enable strangers to trust one another was fascinating, and the start of something much bigger.

I started to research things like the blockchain and our relationship to artificial intelligence, and all these other technologies that transformed how we trust people, ideas, things, companies. I felt that there was a paradigm shift happening.

At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the headlines that trust is really imploding. So whether it’s banks, the media, government, churches . . . this institutional trust that is really important to society is disintegrating at an alarming rate. And so how do we trust people enough to get in a car with a total stranger and yet we don’t trust a banking executive? So that’s essentially what the book unpacks.

And what I’ve discovered through writing the book is that these systems aren’t better—they still bump against human error and greed and market forces. It is very hard to have a decentralized system because you always end up with a center or a monopoly of power. What I find really frightening is this denial—and this is a leadership question—first of all [to accept] that trust is changing. And then the lack of organizations completely rethinking how you build trust, what you do with trust when it’s destroyed, whether the basic principles are really changing.

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Where are the best jobs of 2017? Look to technology

Posted on 26 January 2017 by admin

Glassdoor released its annual ranking Monday of this year’s 50 “best jobs” in the United States. Once again, perhaps unsurprisingly, tech-related positions rose to the top.

Four of the top five jobs, in fact, were for tech workers, with “data scientist” defending its spot at the top of the list. The ranking – which is based on median base salary, job satisfaction rating, and the number of positions available on Glassdoor – reflects a broader trend in a changing US labor market. As an increasing number of industries, even outside the traditional tech sector, seek to grapple with rapid technological innovation, demand for tech professionals has skyrocketed.

“This report reinforces that the best jobs are highly-skilled and are staying ahead of the growing trend toward workplace automation,” Glassdoor’s chief economist, Andrew Chamberlain, told Business Insider. Keeping one step ahead of the machines, as workplaces grow increasingly automated, requires a few notably human qualifications: a sense of creativity, discernment, and adaptability.

“Those are aspects of work that are extremely difficult to automate, and having them allows workers to team up with technology to become more productive, rather than simply being replaced by it,” Dr. Chamberlain added.

Data scientists earn a median base salary of $110,000 per year and report a job satisfaction rating of 4.4 out of 5, according to Glassdoor’s report. The job rose to No. 1 last year, up from No. 9 in 2015.

DevOps Engineer – a job that entails both software development (“Dev”) and informational technology operations (“Ops”) – came in second, followed by data engineer in third.

Fourteen of the 50 jobs that made the list require some sort of STEM-related skills(in science, technology, engineering, and/or math), as USA Today reported.

Glassdoor’s ranking comes as newly inaugurated President Trump launches his administration with an emphasis on job creation, with a special emphasis on manufacturing – having inherited a US economy showing signs of progress along a long road to recovery.

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Technology can’t replace the human touch

Posted on 19 January 2017 by admin

Everywhere you turn these days, there’s talk of automation replacing people. Technology is surely advancing at a rapid rate, and in today’s click-driven media environment, sensationalism sells, but just because tech can replace a human worker doesn’t m e a n we’re always going to want that. In some instances, even when tech can do an adequate job, we still want to deal with a person.

While a machine can perform a given task, often more efficiently than we can, what it lacks is the artistry in the activity, that uniquely human ability to cater to the needs of the individual. The protocol may suggest one approach, but a person who is good at their job understands when to adjust and the subtleties that are required.

The Obama administration’s recent report on the possible economic impact of artificial intelligence and automation looked at the issue at least partly through a policy prism. “Whether AI leads to unemployment and increases in inequality over the long run depends not only on the technology itself but also on the institutions and policies that are in place” the report stated. It went on to peg the percentage of jobs affected by automation over the next 10-20 years somewhere between 9 and 47 percent, a broad range that suggests the true impact won’t be known for some time.

Many people involved in the startup ecosystem believe that we will always push tech to its fullest extent simply because we can, but not everyone agrees that’s a desirable approach. The New York Times reported on a McKinsey study last week, that found that, while automation is growing, it may not be at the pace we have been led to believe. “How automation affects employment will not be decided simply by what is technically feasible, which is what technologists tend to focus on,” McKinsey’s James Manyika told the Times.

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Apple’s Newly Patented Edge-to-Edge Display Technology Literally Has Holes in It

Posted on 11 January 2017 by admin

Apple  on  Wednesday morning  was  granted  the patent  for  a  rather  odd,  but nonetheless  innovative, new display  technology  —  one that would, in essence, allow the  company  to  design  and build  an  iPhone  featuring  a truly borderless, edge-to-edge display, covering the entirety of  the  device’s  front-facing surface area.

Apple’s patent filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, titled “electronic devices  having  displays  with openings,”  describes  the broader concept of “a display that  may  occupy  the  entire front-face” (of an iPhone, in this instance). This type of design would be achievable, in part, thanks to the underlying “holey”  technology  covered under Cupertino’s new patent.

Speaking  in  the  most basic,  technological  terms possible, Apple’s  forthcoming, OLED-equipped iPhone could boast a display featuring a multitude of little “microscopic pores” — tiny holes in the screen, if you will, “behind which electronic components — such as a camera, a speaker, or a microphone — are mounted,”  according  to Business Insider.

In other words, Apple, by employing  its  freshly patented  technology, would be able  to create an  iPhone featuring  a  truly  edge-less display  —  a  strategically porous  panel,  underneath which all the device’s external components — the camera, earpiece, and even home button, for example — could be mounted, so as to provide unrestricted access  to  those components  even  through the display glass and underlying,  touch-sensitive  basal layers.

This  technology, having been patented by Apple, adds plenty of  fuel  to  the  fire of previous rumors suggesting that  the  curved OLED  display  destined  for  the  company’s  upcoming  iPhone  8 flagship  will  represent  the first device to feature a “truly edgeless” display. Of course, if such ultimately turns out to be the case, the move could also signify a broader shift in Apple’s design language, altogether — as the company appears  determined  and ready  to deliver several devices  featuring  minimalist displays in 2017. Although, those rumored devices likely won’t feature this advanced, porous display technology.

In  any  case, whether  or not we’ll  see  this  debut  on Apple’s upcoming 10th anniversary  iPhone 8  remains to be seen. However, according to a myriad of accounts that have  surfaced  thus  far, the iPhone 8’s internals will be sandwiched between two all-glass, front and back panels, with a steel or aluminum alloy frame holding it all together.

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In 2017 cars are at the frontier of technology

Posted on 05 January 2017 by admin

The thing that keeps me coming back to cars is how they creep into most every aspect of our lives. The obvious reason is that we spend a good portion of our time inside of them. An overwhelming 91 percent of Americans use their personal vehicles to get to work, the average American spends 55 minutes behind the wheel a day, and Americans make 1.1 billion trips everyday, according to the US Department of Transportation.

Car companies have been right in our face for a long time, but now tech companies are getting involved. The biggest shift in the perception of the automobile in America, is that in 2016 cars became part of the tech industry’s mission.

Only a year ago, if you read the comments on our car reviews, it seemed like Verge readers were divided in two camps — those who thirsted for car coverage and those who thought car companies— excluding a rare bird like Tesla — had no place among our focus on gadgetry, big ideas about security and data, and the promise of progress. It felt like the auto industry had crashed CES as the uncouth guest flashing around marketing dollars.

But 2016 was the year of surprising realignments, in virtually every aspect of society, and suddenly it became hard to find a tech company purveyor that didn’t express an interest in some aspect of autonomous car technology or wasn’t in talks with a major automaker. Car culture, which up until recently was infused with 20th century nostalgia, has piqued the imagination as transportation concepts are called into question. Artificial intelligence, LIDAR, and data security are now part of everyday car speak.

As we head into 2017 and CES abuzz with car news, we can make predictions about what’s ahead, but in reality none of us has a clear idea of what comes next. And that’s where I struggle to make forecasts. In my wildest vision, I imagine an autonomous trucking service will quietly set up shop in a remote western state to make weekly deliveries, a car company will launch a subscriber service as experiment, or a US city that will announce plans for a self-driving only zone. I imagine rideables that have wicked new designs, Uber flying to a pickup destination near you, or a new electric car company going belly up. I imagine a coalition of government and industry players that push some more practical version of hyperloop plans forward. I imagine a company, in a gutsy move, taking the steering wheel out of its car to brag about reaching level 5 autonomy in public testing, in the same way car company engineers used to street race in the 1960s, after dark when no one was watching.

But in 2017, I could also see progress hampered. A major car company could spiral into bankruptcy if its business model for manufacturing or overseas sales is challenged by political forces. I could see engineering and technician shortages increase, as not enough Americans pursue training in their fields and the diversity in the auto industry’s highest ranks continue to be abysmal. If the government dials back on emissions standards, car companies may abandon plans to make efficient cars. I could see a patchwork of self-driving laws causing heated legislative battles when the next fatal accident happens.

These are uncertain times in the world, and in a time of such flux, the automotive industry is subject to the unpredictability that looms large. Technology we have learned, can catch us by surprise, create logical solutions, but in 2016 we were reminded that it can also let us down. And so can humans.

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Why Do Facebook And Google Show Us What They Show Us?

Posted on 29 December 2016 by admin

What we have here are two seemingly disparate stories involving two of the most dominant content distributors on the planet.

In one, our friend Mathew Ingram discusses Mark Zuckerberg’s video initiative, which, he says, undercuts the Faceborg supremo’s insistence that he’s not running a media company. In a subsequent post, he highlights Faceborg’s ostensible commitment to fighting fake news.

It’s not hard to see why Zuckerberg resisted the characterization as long and as hard as he did. We’ve talked about that previously ourselves. And as Ingram points out:

Facebook likes things that are neat and tidy, like algorithms — not things that are all muddy and gray and complicated, like defining what constitutes fake news.

Well, we’ve all seen how effective the algorithms are at distinguishing genuine, authentic content from bullshit. And we’ve already talked about how those algorithms are shaped by your ultimate goal: do you want engagement, or do you want veracity? Do you want to be clicky, or do you want to be authentic? Can’t always have both.

And which one you prioritize is going to determine what floats to the top of your menu.

There’s no great insight in observing that this is going to get a lot messier before it gets any neater. The accusations of bias, censorship, lack of transparency, and hidden agendas are going to be deafening, and they’re going to be coming from all sides. The language is going to be heated and ugly. If there’s any small comfort to be drawn from this, and it’s a big “if,” it’ll be in Facebook’s acceptance of responsibility for the content it serves up.

(In any event, it might all be academic anyway. As our friend Jonathan Albright argues, fake news is soon to become the least of our problems.)

Secondly, Ra disturbing piece in the Guardian by Carole Cadwalladr. When she tried a Google search involving the Holocaust, the first thing that happened was that the search bar auto-completed her query to read “did the Holocaust happen?”

And there, at the top of the list, was a link to Stormfront, a neo-Nazi white supremacist website and an article entitled “Top 10 reasons why the Holocaust didn’t happen”.

She then recounts Google’s insistence that it would not rewrite its search algorithm* or remove the results, despite its declaration that it did not endorse those views. Eventually Cadwalladr did an end run around the organic search results by buying a paid Google ad that bumped Wikipedia’s entry about the Holocaust to the top of the page. For now, at least.

The rest of the piece examines how and why such a self-evidently repugnant outcome becomes possible. Not so much about why Google won’t edit the results, but why Stormfront would rank so highly — and, unsurprisingly: it comes down to money:

” … empirically speaking, people tend to treat Google like an authority. So this is an appalling shirking of responsibility. It’s about money. It always is. The commercial imperative trumps all other aims at the company, including moral ones.”

Why this content and not that?

So, a few revealing insights about what motivates two of the most powerful content platforms on the planet. These entities control what we see, what we read, what we’re exposed to, and what we consume. These entities control the vast majority of the information available to us. If they don’t want to show it to us, chances are we’re not going to see it.

What lessons do we draw from this? Once again: the importance of critical thinking. Why is Facebook serving up this story and burying that one? Why is Google ranking this at the top of its search results, and not that? What are we not seeing here? Why is our attention being directed to this thing at this time? There’s no need to go full-bore conspiracy theory here — just a healthy skepticism and willingness to do the work.

*In the spirit of disclosure, there are times when one doesn’t necessarily want Google to rewrite its algorithms.

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Samsung urges Galaxy Note 7 phone exchange urgently

Posted on 15 September 2016 by admin

Samsung has urged owners of its Galaxy Note 7 phones to stop using or exchange the devices as they risk exploding.

Samsung recalled 2.5 million phones last week after reports emerged of the device exploding during or after charging.

And airline passengers were warned by US authorities not to switch on or charge the phones while on board.

The South Korean company said it would replace all devices that were handed in from 19 September.

A statement by Samsung, the world’s biggest mobile phone maker, said “our customers’ safety is an absolute priority”.

“Until a replacement device is provided, Samsung asks all customers with a Galaxy Note 7 smartphone to power down your device and return it to its place of purchase at your earliest opportunity,” the statement added.

Earlier on Saturday, aviation authorities in the United Arab Emirates banned use of the devices on the Emirates and Etihad airlines.

What makes lithium batteries catch fire? Similar bans had already been put in place by Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Virgin Australia.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also advised against packing the phones into any checked-in luggage.

Samsung recalled the phone last week after reports emerged of the device exploding during or after charging.

US TV channel Fox 10 reported claims that a faulty Galaxy Note 7 had set fire to a family’s Jeep.

Samsung has said that battery problems were behind the phones catching fire, but that it was difficult to work out which phones were affected among those sold.

The phone was launched last month and has been otherwise generally well-received by consumers and critics.

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Pokémon Go’s reality is virtual, the consequences not

Posted on 14 July 2016 by admin

When Pokémon Go officially arrives in Canada, we will all see the future and find it hard to remember a time when fellow citizens were not hunting for imaginary creatures in public places.

You think the streets are teeming with distracted texters right now?

Just wait until people are also chasing cartoon characters only they can see.

There are cultural crazes and then there is the next-level hysteria that is Pokémon Go. In less than a week after it was released for iOS and Android devices in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, the mobile game is generating more news than the Kardashians, Rio, Ghostbusters, the UFC and Mr. Trump combined.

Even in countries like Canada, where the official release date is basically set at “any day now,” an early wave of Pokémania is storming towns and cities. Enthusiasts are finding ways to get around the current geo-restrictions and downloading the game. Then they are flocking to landmarks in search of elusive Pokémon.

On Monday night in Toronto, according to Reddit discussion threads, there were two planned Pokémon Go meet-ups, one at the CN Tower and another at Yonge-Dundas Square. Across the country, Canadians are trading tips and building new communities as a wave of ’90s-era nostalgia runs headfirst into augmented reality and people ditch their game consoles for the great outdoors.

Nintendo, which partnered with Niantic Labs and The Pokémon Company, is even riding Pokémon Go into territory it nearly forfeited: the business pages. When the Tokyo Stock Exchange closed on Monday, Nintendo’s share price had surged by 25 per cent. In three days of trading, the free app added $9 billion to the company’s market value. It’s like watching Pikachu turn rubber nickels into gold bullion.

But leaving aside the money and stratospheric popularity — there are reports Pokémon Go already has more Android users than Tinder and Twitter — what we have here is the first real glimpse of augmented reality as a mass phenomenon.

And if nothing else, we should at least consider the implications.

Pokémon Go uses GPS and the cameras on smartphones to blur the line between what is real and what is simulated. Pokémon are superimposed on the real world through your phone screen. They can appear anywhere. Or as the good people at Niantic explained: “We’re excited that Pokémon fans and gamers can now start exploring their very own neighbourhoods and cities to capture Pokémon using the Pokémon GO app. Players can discover and catch more than 100 Pokémon from the original Red and Blue games, take Pokémon into battle against other Pokémon at Gyms, uncover items including a variety of types of Poké Balls and eggs at PokéStops, hatch and train new Pokémon, and more.”

To the uninitiated, this might sound a bit PokéCrazy.

Especially when you realize the “and more” includes the possibility of armed robbery, stumbling upon dead bodies, walking into traffic, bumping into lampposts, falling down holes, meandering in concentric circles or loitering in public places for so long someone eventually calls 911 in a panic.

On Monday, CNN did a great job itemizing recent Pokémon snafus.

Dateline Wyoming: a 19-year-old wanders out looking for Pokémon along the banks of the Big Wind River on Friday and instead discovers a human corpse.

Dateline Massachusetts: a private home is accidentally listed as a Pokémon Gym and is overrun on the weekend by people wanting to “train their fictional characters.”

Dateline Missouri: police arrest four teens on Sunday morning and accuse them of robbery by using the game’s geolocation feature to “anticipate the location and level of seclusion of unwitting victims.”

Dateline Australia: after dozens stroll into the Darwin Police Station with their retinas glued to their phones, authorities issue a plea: “For those budding Pokemon Trainers out there using Pokemon Go — whilst the Darwin Police Station may feature as a Pokestop, please be advised that you don’t actually have to step inside in order to gain the pokeballs. It’s also a good idea to look up, away from your phone and both ways before crossing the street. That Sandshrew isn’t going anywhere fast.”

Does all of this amount to early hiccups as augmented reality — this blending of what’s really there and the illusion of what’s layered in via technology — finally blows up real big? And what might happen when the game rolls out in more countries this month and millions more rush out to capture Pokémon? What happens when every corner of Toronto — from the Distillery District to the CNE — is crawling with players staring at their phones in a state of oblivious concentration?

The upside is simple: this is a video game built upon the idea of real-life exploration. Getting people out and about, getting them active by flinging them off their couches and into their communities, all of this should be encouraged.

Now we just need to make sure nobody gets hurt as the second Pokémon craze in two decades takes cultural flight this summer.

“We encourage all people playing Pokémon GO to be aware of their surroundings and to play with friends when going to new or unfamiliar places,” said Niantic in a statement. “Please remember to be safe and alert at all times.”

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Canada’s major telecoms set to leap in to 5G technology

Posted on 27 May 2016 by admin

Canada’s major telecom operators are taking early steps toward the next great leap in wireless technology.

Bell, Rogers and Telus are all participating in a global effort to develop operating standards for fifth generation wireless networks, with Bell Canada, the nation’s largest telecommunications company, set to begin testing of the emerging architecture.

“Bell [has] built a reputation for broadband network leadership and we plan to be out front on 5G too,” said Mark Langton, a spokesman for Bell Canada parent, Montreal-based BCE Inc.

“We’ll begin 5G trials shortly and are involved in writing the 5G specs as a member of the Next Generation Mobile Networks consortium.”

Telus is partnering with third parties to research and test the evolving standards in a 5G Living Lab at the company’s Vancouver home base, while Toronto-based Rogers Communications is taking part in standards setting through the various industry bodies involved.

Rogers spokesperson Andrew Garas, however, noted that 5G isn’t a technology standard yet and likely won’t be for at least a couple of years adding that “we don’t have any details to share on future plans.” And while 5G remains in a conceptual phase, Canadian operators have a new impetus to act after the Ontario government in March announced a partnership with Chinese networking gear maker Huawei aimed at accelerating the development process in the interest of economic growth.

Participation in 5G development allows operators and equipment manufacturers input on specification requirements being codified for a network technology that aims to meet demand for digital content that is taxing the capacity of existing third-and fourth generation systems.

 

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Is technology causing us to ‘evolve’ into a new SPECIES?

Posted on 03 February 2016 by admin

Expert believes super humans called Homo optimus will talk to machines and be ‘digitally immortal’ by 2050

If you’re under the age of 40, there is a good chance you will achieve ‘electronic immortality’ during your lifetime.

This is the idea that all of your thoughts and experiences will be uploaded and stored online for future generations.

That’s according to a futurologist who not only believes technology will let humans merge with computers, that this will create an entirely new species called Homo optimus.

And, he claims this could occur as soon as 2050. The predictions were made by Dr Ian Pearson as part of the lead up to The Big Bang Fair 2016.

He believes that within the next 35 years, humans will ‘live’ online, and our pets could even ‘talk’ to us, like real-life Furbies. He also claims transhumanism – the idea we can make people technologically better – will be the norm by 2050.

‘With optimised genomes and bodies enhanced by links to external technology, people could be more beautiful… more intelligent, more emotionally sophisticated, more physically able, more socially connected, generally healthier and happier all round.’

As humans embrace technological advances and gradually become androids, we could gradually see Homo sapiens being replaced by Homo optimus.

 

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