This Week in Google, Disney as a Service, Toward a constructive Technology Criticism + more

A photo by Kristopher Allison.

Google unveiled its full line of products for the fall this week, with everything from a new phone (Pixel) to an Alexa competitor.  It looks as though Google Home will give Amazon’s Alexa a run for its money, however, the more interesting piece is the release of Pixel.  What with Samsung rushing to production on the Note and subsequent exploding phones (there’s even a hack that lets you turn Molotov into Notes in Grand Theft Auto V) and Google’s forays into the space in the past, it makes sense that Google would want to provide what appears to be the best mobile phone released this year without any crud wear from the manufacturer. I doubt it’ll have any impact as phone makers want some of the ever-spreading Android ecosystem, but it’d be interesting if Samsung took the route of Lenovo with Microsoft when Lenovo announced this week that they’d not make a windows 10 Phone.  All that said, Stratechery has a good dive into what’s behind the release of Pixel.  That said, the way Google (or, actually, Alphabet) wants us to leverage their technology means a continued erosion of privacy.

So what happened when a global software company scoured its salary data to determine if there was gender bias its compensation model?  Well, SAP did just that, and no surprise, they found that of the 1% of all employees that were underpaid, 70% of them were women.  So they fixed it, increasing the salaries of all underpaid employees, to a total additional cost of about $1 million annually.

Ever wonder how countries like China or Russia are able to control the internet?  Quartz explores that question in detail for you, using the Arab Spring to demonstrate.

Bloomberg thinks that Jack Dorsey is losing control over at Twitter, and they make a good case.  After a year of trying to reimagine the product, little growth has been achieved.  On the flip side of that, says Vox, are Wall Street’s unrealistic expectations for Twitter.

HBR gives us a brief history of augmented reality this week, and for those of you who’ve ignored post after post about it because I’m boring, give them a read.

I wrote of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent trip to Nigeria, but Backchannel has the story behind it and what both he and Nigeria got out of the visit – Nigeria got much more than they could’ve dreamed.

There’s an amazing essay this week from Aeon about the United States Founding Fathers and how today we tend to treat them as though they were holy relics versus the revolutionaries they were.

Redef has an in-depth look at how Disney is closer than ever to achieving Walt Disney’s 60-year-old vision, turning itself into Disney as a Service.  There have been hiccups on the road, for sure, but Disney is closer than ever to being a company that sells entertainment ecosystems.

Most newspapers in the country seem to have been behind the times and scared of technology and its impact on the medium.  The New York Times, on the other hand, has embraced it and is thriving for it.

Being first to market with an idea typically costs more and also give you first-mover advantage.  The problem is that others get to see your successes and failures and capitalize on them.  Sometimes you have enough momentum and early adopters who are loyal to win the market, other times, especially if you are arrogant by nature, you can get your legs cut out from under you.  Uber has had some pretty staggering losses to date and still seems to be the dominant force.  It also has any number of companies, like Lyft and Juno nipping at its heels. Oh, and the Freakonomics podcast this week is about how Uber is an economist’s dream.   Three guesses as to why …

A few articles this week about startups and Silicon Valley; the first is one about how non-tech companies are getting tech-frenzied by San Francisco.  Another is about how Silicon Valley punishes innovators who don’t embrace the liberal agenda by a buddy of mine, another on the easy way versus the best way to build a startup, and the last captures why startup hubs outside of Silicon Valley are built to last.  Oh, and you know one thing Silicon Valley hasn’t been able to disrupt?  Craigslist.

John McAfee was in the news this week, although not for anything as flamboyant as you’d think – he was at a local Home Depot and saw that some hackers had exploited a security flaw on a fridge to get the touch screen to display pornographic material.  There are challenges with new technology like that often, and even more so with old tech and the doors left open for cyber attackers.

We’ve seen a lot of technology disruption in the past twenty years, this week Vox argues that we’ll see a whole lot less over the next twenty and why.

Another trip of articles on Artificial Intelligence: first from Wired on how to steal and AI, second from Forbes on how Baidu is benchmarking hardware for deep learning, and last from Venture Beat from a panel on how AI can help out the C-suite.

If we’re going to discuss AI, then we should discuss Data as well, and TechCrunch does so this week in an insightful way.

So last week Elon Musk laid out his plan to colonize Mars, and perhaps you think you’d like to go.  Well, The Verge went to the trouble of outlining both the level of training that might be needed and whether or not, truly, “anyone can go” as long as they are will to face a “really high” risk of fatality.

Theranos was in the news again this week, laying off 40% of its staff.  Read the letter from Elizabeth Holmes explaining why and take from it what you will.  To me, we saw the beginning of the end weeks ago, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Even as we see more and more of a move towards using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to help our world evolve, The Guardian this last week made the point that we’ll need human input in this world driven by algorithms, and outlines from their point of view as to why.

If you hadn’t heard, most information security folks are telling people to delete their Yahoo mail accounts this week after it came to light that Yahoo has been searching user emails with impunity.

Finally this week is a 30,000 plus word scholarly article assessing the current state of technology coverage and criticism in the media and elsewhere, and some ideas of how to move that discourse forward.  I share it not because I expect you to read it word for word, but take a moment to glance through the executive summary and then the ideas the author has towards how to salvage criticism of technology and the strategies for doing so constructively.  My hope is this will help you cut the wheat from the chaff when reading the many articles that come across our desktops every day when it comes to technology.

Oddly, both my nine and five-year-old this week came home talking to me about how they got to code this week.  I’m not surprised by the nine-year-old, as she went to a computer science camp this summer (and had a blast making her own games), but the five-year-old had me pleasantly surprised.  I later learned that what her school called “coding” wasn’t exactly, but it brought to mind again that we need to be encouraging our children, including young ones, to learn to code.  This TED talk with MIT professor Mitch Resnick talks about the benefits of doing so.

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