Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thus endeth the tweet

As an amazingly great sabbatical year draws to a close, I am grateful for the connections and re-connections we have made.  Visiting family and friends in the States, savouring France and enjoying the delights of Cambridge made this year so memorable. We made new friends and had 3 wonderful home exchanges, two in France and one in the US.  Looking through the photos makes us feel very fortunate indeed.

Connectivity-wise, we discovered satellite radio while driving through the Rockies and Pandora radio in friends' homes (Pandora just became legal in New Zealand--look for it in the App Store).  Spent lots of time waiting in line for service from Orange in France and enjoyed high-speed wireless at Cambridge.  Spent more time on Facebook and even got to visit their campus.  I also spent more time writing this blog than I had imagined, but enjoyed it more than expected.  I hope you've enjoyed it and/or found it useful.

What will we remember about 2012?  Smartphones taking over the world (and driving us crazy), as the PC era officially ended. The cloud capturing our data and our imagination.  And, the Pope taking to Twitter, which pretty much says it all.

From the first time zone, Happy New Year!

Best wishes,

Friday, December 21, 2012

Apocalypse now or later?

If you're reading this, the world hasn't ended.

But, that doesn't mean we should not consider the possibility.

Recently, a philosopher, a scientist and a software engineer have come together to propose a new centre at Cambridge, the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), to address these cases – from developments in bio and nanotechnology to extreme climate change and even artificial intelligence – in which technology might pose “extinction-level” risks to our species.

Here is more, taken from the University of Cambridge website:

“At some point, this century or next, we may well be facing one of the major shifts in human history – perhaps even cosmic history – when intelligence escapes the constraints of biology,” says Huw Price, the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy and one of CSER’s three founders, speaking about the possible impact of Good’s ultra-intelligent machine, or artificial general intelligence (AGI) as we call it today.
“Nature didn’t anticipate us, and we in our turn shouldn’t take AGI for granted. We need to take seriously the possibility that there might be a ‘Pandora’s box’ moment with AGI that, if missed, could be disastrous. I don’t mean that we can predict this with certainty, no one is presently in a position to do that, but that’s the point! With so much at stake, we need to do a better job of understanding the risks of potentially catastrophic technologies.”
Price’s interest in AGI risk stems from a chance meeting with Jaan Tallinn, a former software engineer who was one of the founders of Skype, which – like Google and Facebook – has become a digital cornerstone. In recent years Tallinn has become an evangelist for the serious discussion of ethical and safety aspects of AI and AGI, and Price was intrigued by his view:
“He (Tallinn) said that in his pessimistic moments he felt he was more likely to die from an AI accident than from cancer or heart disease. I was intrigued that someone with his feet so firmly on the ground in the industry should see it as such a serious issue, and impressed by his commitment to do something about it.”
We Homo sapiens have, for Tallinn, become optimised – in the sense that we now control the future, having grabbed the reins from 4 billion years of natural evolution. Our technological progress has by and large replaced evolution as the dominant, future-shaping force.
We move faster, live longer, and can destroy at a ferocious rate. And we use our technology to do it. AI geared to specific tasks continues its rapid development – from financial trading to face recognition – and the power of computing chips doubles every two years in accordance with Moore’s law, as set out by Intel founder Gordon Moore in the same year that Good predicted the ultra-intelligence machine.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Reports and Statistics

Reports of how our world is changing.

The following reports offer 'snapshots' of how connectivity is changing our world.  Of course, some are produced by companies with a vested interest, but they nonetheless offer food for thought and should provoke thinking and dialogue about our digital future.

Technology, media and telecommunication predictions, 2013. Deloitte TMT partners.
Here are some interesting projections and predictions, like 'The PC isn't quite dead, but...' Includes videos and graphics.

Upwardly mobile: Redefining mobility in Britain, Deloitte Report on Mobile Uptake in UK, 2013
Despite high uptake of mobile devices and services (a 'revolutionary wave'), British organisations and society mobile potential is far from what it could be.  "Cultural barriers are greater than technological ones, philosophical more than financial ones."  This would never happen in your culture.

2013 Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers (KPCB) Internet Use Report (Slide Show - 117 slides). Mary Meeker and Liang Wu.  Extensive and wide-reaching statistics on connectivity trends, especially mobile computing, social networking, e-commerce and consumer trends.

McKinsey Report on Social Media in China (2013)
Offers insights into the usage rates and implications of the explosion of social media usage in China.  Links to downloadable pdf.

'Connectivity is Core' - Global mobile consumer survey. Deloitte, 2012.
This survey reports trends of mobile connectivity uptake, including demographics of tablets (older buyers as much as younger), 4G mobile service uptake.  In general, mobile cellular is still the most popular internet source for smartphones and other mobile devices.

'Connected Generation' IBM Student Study 2012
Excellent, thought-provoking statistics from 'tomorrow's leaders,' presented in contrast to today's leaders, i.e., in relation to CEOs in CEO C-Suite Study below.

IBM CEO C-Suite Study, 'Leading Through Connections' (2012) Study of 1700 CEOs and public sector leaders.  'This year, they (CEOs) identified the overflow of information as on of the most important issues influencing their strategic business decisions.'  Overall, technology topped the list of senior leader concerns, including the 'sudden convergence of the digital, social and mobile spheres' (p. 6).

'Our Future World' 2012 Report of the Australian CSIRO.  
Highlights the importance of connectivity as a future research trend.  Full free pdf document available on-line.

'The Future of Digital.'  (Large) slide deck. Source: Business Intelligence (BI), 2012. Excellent update on mobile and other digital platforms, business models and trends.

Facebook 2012 Trends 
Compilation of what was hot in social media for the Year 2012.

Ganz, James (2012). 'The cloud factories: Power, pollution and the Internet' New York Times, 22 September.

Noonan, Mary and Glass, Jennifer (2012). The Hard Truth about Telecommuting. Monthly Labor Review, 135, 6.

Perlow, Leslie (2012). HBS blog: 'Breaking the Smartphone Addiction' (14 May). 
Includes statistics of success of BCG consultants implementing 'Predictable Time Off' practices.

Rainie, Lee and Fox, Susannah (2012). 'Just in time information through mobile internet connections.' Pew Internet and American Life Project, 7 May.

Cisco Connected World Report (2011). Reports views and attitudes of college students, who will become workers of the future.

Optus (Australia) 'Future of Work' Report (2011). 
Looks at trends in telecommunication, with an emphasis on mobile technology uptake.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Type 1 Disconnects - We're all a little bit third world

Though we often use terms like 'constant' and/or 'ubiquitous' connectivity to describe contemporary life, the reality is that we (all of us) sometimes encounter unplanned disconnects that are beyond our control.

Natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy, remind us how fragile our connective infrastructure is, even in so-called developed nations.

There is a song in the Broadway musical, 'Avenue Q,' that goes, 'we're all a little bit racist.'  I often hear myself thinking that when it comes to connectivity, 'we're all a little bit third world.'  Why? Because, no matter where you live, or how advanced your personal and community infrastructure is, we are all still more or less vulnerable to disconnects.  I call these Type 1 Disconnects and they happen no matter where you live or how much money you have.

In developing nations, wireless technologies and mobile phones have circumvented the long wait for land line phones.  Type 1 Disconnects are driving the demand for more and better connective infrastructure around the world. These disconnects may last a few minutes, or may isolate us for days or longer, but we often find workarounds, that is to say we find alternative ways to re-connect with others.

Updated: Christmas Eve, 2012

Netflix goes down for nearly a day due to faults at Google's cloud computing facilities.

Updated November 2014
US falling behind on Internet speed and affordability.  See article in New York Times.

Europe begins to focus on better, not necessarily cheaper telecommunications.

"LONDON — Poor cellphone and Internet service is a fact of life in many parts of Europe.
Less than a quarter of Europeans can connect to high-speed cellphone networks, compared with about 90 percent of Americans. And broadband connections are often painstakingly sluggish.
But the prices here for these services are among the lowest in the world. Europeans spend an average of $38 for a monthly cellphone contract, about half of what Americans pay on average, according to the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, an industry group.
Now, though, the region’s top policy makers are set to change that, giving investment and costlier services higher priorities than affordability and antitrust worries."
See article.