I invested early in Google and Facebook. Now they terrify me (Roger McNamee)



"The people at Facebook and Google believe that giving consumers more of what they want and like is worthy of praise, not criticism. What they fail to recognize is that their products are not making consumers happier or more successful. Like gambling, nicotine, alcohol or heroin, Facebook and Google — most importantly through its YouTube subsidiary — produce short-term happiness with serious negative consequences in the long term. Users fail to recognize the warning signs of addiction until it is too late. There are only 24 hours in a day, and technology companies are making a play for all them. The CEO of Netflix recently noted that his company’s primary competitor is sleep.  How does this work? A 2013 study found that average consumers check their smartphones 150 times a day. And that number has probably grown. People spend 50 minutes a day on Facebook. Other social apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter combine to take up still more time. Those companies maintain a profile on every user, which grows every time you like, share, search, shop or post a photo. Google also is analyzing credit card records of millions of people. As a result, the big Internet companies know more about you than you know about yourself, which gives them huge power to influence you, to persuade you to do things that serve their economic interests. Facebook, Google and others compete for each consumer’s attention, reinforcing biases and reducing the diversity of ideas to which each is exposed. The degree of harm grows over time."

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/08/08/my-google-and-facebook-investments-made-fortune-but-now-they-menace/543755001/

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Job Opening: Leader of the Free World... Germany ?

“Economic policymakers must keep their borders open and ensure the stability of the global economy,” he said, adding that such a feat could only be accomplished on a global scale if everyone works together.

Obviously Germany must decide how much of the leadership vacuum it is prepared to fill. If Germany doesn’t step up, other countries will, and they may not share Ms. Merkel’s affection for globalization, the rule of law and Europe’s vaunted democratic values.”

Job Opening: Leader of the Free World
https://global.handelsblatt.com/politics/job-opening-leader-of-the-free-world-817611
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Ethical codes for our digital age | Futures Centre


Start in certainty and you will end in doubts. Start with doubt and you will end in certainty"

We're really excited (like, jumping up and down excited) to announce futurist, author and CEO of The Futures Agency, Gerd Leonhard as our keynote speaker for BreakOut. His latest book, Technology vs. Humanity, explores our 'Faustian' pact with technology and what it may mean to be human in the future. An absolute must see.


How Apple, Google, and Facebook Will Hasten the Next Era of TV | Backchannel

“That’s why the entrance of many of the remaining big tech companies really matters. These powerful corporations—the true masters of our current universe—are in the attention business, and they don’t necessarily hew to Hollywood’s often unexamined practices. Just as HBO, born of the cable era, changed programming with the idea of ad-free, movie-quality television, internet-era Netflix has proven that new programming models (like binge watching) can further upend viewing habits. The obsessively iterative internet companies—motivated by a determination to bolster their respective business models—will make an even bigger difference.

We will see the death of the kind of television programming that’s essentially been around since the 1950s: sitcoms, anthology dramas, general interest newsmagazines, and variety shows (whoops, already dead). Don’t be fooled that right now the numbers for broadcast television still top even the most popular offerings of HBO and Netflix. Their rigid formulas—with plotlines ebbing and flowing to accommodate infuriating commercial interruptions, adhering to standards based on minimizing offensiveness—have made them the walking dead. Already the idea of “watching television” seems like an antediluvian pursuit.”

How Apple, Google, and Facebook Will Hasten the Next Era of TV | Backchannel
https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-apple-and-google-will-hasten-the-next-era-of-tv/
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From 2012

Why Voice Assistants Will Give You a Headache | Backchannel

“Picture this: It’s evening and, after a long day at the office, you’re finally home. You’re cutting some avocados as you prepare dinner when your voice assistant pipes up and reads you an important email that just came in. Without breaking your chopping stride, you dictate a reply—perfecting your guacamole while preserving your relationship with your boss.

This might sound like heaven to you—or, just as likely, hell. Either way, it’s about to be our reality.

When Amazon introduced Alexa, the tech industry quickly anointed voice as the next big thing. Sure, she was mostly reciting the weather and answering lewd questions from nine-year-old boys, but the future held much more. The rise of voice devices will rewrite the digital playbook in unpredictable ways—including how, when, and whether we have the ability to say, “Enough!” In a time when digital detoxing, unplugging, and disconnecting are widely discussed and even yearned for, voice could turn into the platform you can’t turn off.

As we currently experience them, voice assistants are passive devices. We call their names when we have a question, want to hear some music, or need to set a timer. Otherwise, they sit idle. Having Alexa operate the light switch for you, for example, isn’t a source of psychological stress. But it’s when these assistants begin actively demanding our time and attention that, some experts say, we’ll have a problem on our hands.”

Why Voice Assistants Will Give You a Headache | Backchannel
https://www.wired.com/story/why-voice-assistants-will-give-you-a-headache/
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The age of AI surveillance is here

“Facial recognition in still images and video is already seeping into the real world. Baidu is starting a program where facial recognition is used instead of tickets for events. The venue knows who you are, maybe from a picture you upload or your social media profile, sees your face when you show up and knows if you’re allowed in. Paris tested a similar feature at its Charles de Gaulle airport for a three-month stint this year, following Japan’s pilot program in 2016, though neither have released results of the programs.

US governments are already beginning to use the technology in a limited capacity. Last week the New York department of motor vehicles announced that it had made more than 4,000 arrests using facial recognition technology. Instead of scanning police footage, the software is used to compare new drivers’ license application photos to images already in the database, making it tougher for fraudsters to steal someone’s identity. If state or federal governments expand into deploying facial recognition in public, they will already have a database of more than 50% of American adults from repositories like DMVs. And again, the bigger the dataset, the better the AI.”

The age of AI surveillance is here
https://qz.com/1060606/the-age-of-ai-surveillance-is-here/
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A Country of Fear and Courage: What I Learned from Two Years in America - SPIEGEL ONLINE - International

“Fear, of course, is nothing new in America. It's a country that has always believed that the apocalypse is somehow just around the corner. But the level of fear that has developed in the United States -- both on a smaller and larger scale -- my God! You don't have to look very far to find it. Stores provide anti-bacterial wipes to protect their customers from germs on grocery carts. Parents obsessively coddle their children by driving them to school and picking them up each day. Fences surround playgrounds to prevent anything bad from happening. Alarms to protect classrooms from school shooters are ubiquitous. Hysteria is everywhere on the cable news channels.

A study was released recently about the things Americans fear the most. It includes literally everything. Terrorism and identity theft. Corrupt companies and financial ruin. Tornadoes and adultery. There is an explanation for this. America is no longer winning wars. Other countries suddenly also have a lot of power. Everything has become insanely fast. And the fear of external threats can influence the psyche -- there's no question about that.

There's also a domestic dimension to this fear. Many Americans no longer trust their politicians or the elite. They no longer know what to believe in a situation where the macroeconomic indicators are trending positive but the amount of money that lands in their wallets is getting ever smaller. Many believe they have to take their fate in their own hands. And that can be exhausting.”

A Country of Fear and Courage: What I Learned from Two Years in America - SPIEGEL ONLINE - International
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/what-two-years-of-living-in-america-taught-me-a-1165557.html
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Why Mercedes’ decision to let its self-driving cars kill pedestrians is probably the right thing to do (says Bloomberg )

In an interview with Car and Driver, the manager of driver assistance systems at Mercedes-Benz Christoph von Hugo has revealed that the company's future autonomous vehicles will always put the driver first. In other words, it would choose to run the child over every time.

Although the fact someone has to make this choice feels uncomfortable, it would be more dangerous if they didn't, because unless a self-driving vehicle is told what to do when a child runs into the road, it won't do anything.

Previously, manufacturers have been quiet about what would happen under these circumstances, until Mercedes-Benz's announcement at the Paris Auto Show this month. According to von Hugo, all of the company's future Level 4 and Level 5 self-driving cars will be programmed with the decision to save the people they carry over anything else.

"If you know you can save at least one person, at least save that one. Save the one in the car," von Hugo said in the interview. "If all you know for sure is that one death can be prevented, then that's your first priority."”

Why Mercedes’ decision to let its self-driving cars kill pedestrians is probably the right thing to do
http://nordic.businessinsider.com/mercedes-benz-self-driving-cars-programmed-save-driver-2016-10/
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Algorithms outdo us. But we still prefer human fallibility | Rafael Behr

“It is the zone of ambiguity and imprecision whose decline Jacobson laments when he warns that Twitter reduces us to a world of statement: “There are many good statements in the world, but much of the best part of thought and conversation isn’t statement, it’s exploration, inquiry, irony.”

It often feels as if the subtlety of analogue experience is being pulverised into platitude by the digital machine. It is easy to conjure fear of enslavement to robots, and maybe resistance is futile Luddism. But maybe also we underestimate old Ned. As testimony to the power of the imagination, he is stubbornly, reassuringly immortal.”

Algorithms outdo us. But we still prefer human fallibility | Rafael Behr
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/23/algorithms-human-fallibility-technology-machines
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Help! My Son Confuses Me With Amazon's Alexa (TIME read)

“Using a voice assistant to run your home feels beamed-in-from-Star Trek cool, making mundane actions magical. You can voice-toggle your lighting, conjure your favorite Beatles' tunes or have your sprinkler system douse the lawn on command. When I get home from a run, Siri unlocks the door for me. While I'm cooking dinner, Alexa pulls together peppy playlists. In my office, I ask "Okay Google, what's my day like?" and a little Moneypenny on my bookshelf fills me in.

But life with this technology can also be a comedy of ghostly errors. As I write this, an Ed Sheeran song begins randomly playing in my house. I’m home alone. My wife intended to play it in her car, but her Spotify account is linked to our Amazon Echo smart speaker. So instead of playing on her car's audio system, "Castle on the Hill" is blaring in our suburban Portland home.”

Help! My Son Confuses Me With Amazon's Alexa
http://time.com/4906071/alexa-echo-siri-google-home/
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