Five for Friday: AI sans Musk, Leadership + culture, and black swans


Well, after a few busy weeks that wreaked a little havoc in my writing time, this week we’ll start with the pending downfall of mankind due to the rise of the machines.  Wait, no, that’s not what this is about … that was a few weeks ago.  But look at this article about how a couple of robots came to be the newest hires at a Wisconsin factory in search of reliable workers. It’s just the title of the article this time.  Also, there was that story about how Facebook pulled the plug on some AI that developed its own language that humans couldn’t understand, and while nothing wrong with being excited about all the opportunities that AI will bring for the future, at the same time we need to look at its consequences from all perspectives while Salesforce set out to create “AI for everyone”—to make machine learning affordable for companies who’ve been priced out of the market for experts. They’ve promised to “democratize” AI.  While we’re at it, all that big data has to be stored somewhere.  Look at how it’s impacting one small Oregon town.  Then there’s the rise of AI forcing Microsoft and Google to become chip makers and the business of artificial intelligence.  Oh, and Microsoft replaced Mobile with AI as one of its top priorities in their most recent annual report.

Think that AI isn’t really touching your life?  Check this out from Venture Beat.

I was a little surprised when I read this article from Business Insider about what three of the potential black swans are that will likely trigger a global recession in 2018 as I didn’t see any of the others I’ve seen a lot of news about of late, but I think they do a great job of laying it out.  What with the current potential instability from governmental posturing, it’s likely that the global economy will be impacted sooner rather than later, but these are some more to keep an eye on.  That said, it’s logical that we should see a major market correction based on historical data and trends.  What’s odd is how changes in the trading systems have likely artificially inflated the markets as well.

You may have heard the news about how some hackers stole a whole bunch of money from the Ethereum platform, but did you hear the story about how a bunch of other hackers stole it back?

Both Gates and Zuckerberg are sounding alarms about jobs.  Should we listen?

Being a week full of cheer and merry-making (I mean, it wasn’t a week full of bad news, just odd news, which seems to be our current era), let’s move to some leadership-focused articles.  Strategy+business has had a few good ones of late, from one about how improving company culture is not about free snacks, to another about how leaders can improve their thinking agility, to this article about what the body tells us about leadership. Along with that is an article I think every leader or hiring manager should read about why emotional intelligence is so important to consider when hiring (this is a key area I focus on with every candidate I interview) and somewhat unrelated but still “fitting” in the category is this article from HBR about the personality traits of good negotiators.

Any time I feel like I’ve had a circuitous route to the world of tech, I come across another article about how those of us with humanities backgrounds are in high demand in the tech world.  Why?  It seems to boil down to ideas explored in this article: making stuff vs. making stuff people want.

Right, so I know I’m avoiding the elephant in the room with the Google memo that came out, but I’ll leave you with this orthogonal piece instead: not only has Kalanick been removed from his job as CEO at Uber, now Benchmark Capital (an early investor) is accusing him of fraud in an attempt to have him removed from the board of the company as well.

I realize I was just bragging a bit about the liberal arts cohort to which I belong, but we can’t deny the importance of science in the world around us.  This TED talk from Naomi Oreskes gives a historical view of why we should trust scientists.  Check it out.




Five for Friday: AI + Musk, Employee Productivity, Human Curiosity + More


Yea, well, it’s more than five for sure this week, and just like Blockchain, I’m auguring in on AI plus a few other topics, but here goes …

If you’ve never checked out Wait but Why, you should. Tim Urban does a great job of going deep on every topic he touches, and he does a good job at it.  This week I thought I’d share his dive into the AI Revolution as a primer for a few other articles that follow.  So, the first few in this list are Elon Musk related … apparently he thinks that one of the biggest threats to humanity is AI.  He recently told America’s governors that we need to regulate AI before it is too late.  Maybe he had read this piece about how AI is inventing languages humans can’t understand (obviously it’s not that linear or simple, but it’s somewhat funny, and the guy is wicked smaht), but to quote him “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”  As Wired rightly points out, we need to worry about first things first with AI before we worry about the killer robots.  The flip side of this one is Parc CEO’s Tolga Kurtoglu’s belief that humans and AI will work together in almost every job.

Don’t take this as meaning it’s time to break out your Ouija boards and Tarot cards, but the U.S. Military believes that people have a sixth sense.  At least, that’s how they view the phenomena of premonition and intuition, which they spent four years and close to $4M researching.  While I’m not trying to comment on the cost of the research, it’s interesting to see the U.S. Military trying to understand these phenomena to the end of accelerate the spread of them throughout the military institution.  And incredulity aside, the article from Time is actually pretty interesting for the applications the military is looking at for this research.

Interested in how the next financial crisis may unfold?  Jim Mooney from Baustop Group says it is tied to two things: leverage and volatility.

So, there are two interesting articles this week that are related about how people do (or don’t do) the work they do: first, from Fast Company, is this piece about how our employee’s lack of productivity might be on us as managers/companies (hint: task switching), and then this piece from HuffPost about the potential big miss of coworking.

A quick side trip back to last week’s delve into digital: small nations and islands are winning the digital revolution race.

MIT is now offering a master’s program that doesn’t even require a high school degree.  How?  By letting students take rigorous courses online for credit and then, if they perform well on exams, place into master’s degree programs on campus.

The long read (from Longreads) this week is our last topic: human curiosity.  In an interview this week, astrophysicist Mario Livio is asked about what he discovered on his journey to understand what makes humans curious.  If you’ve got the time, it’s is in my opinion worth it, given the range of topics.

Two TED talks for you this week: first, from psychologist Adam Alter on why our screens are making us less happy and what to do about it, and second, this time from Tricia Wang, the human insights missing from big data, a talk in which she demystifies big data and identifies the pitfalls the lead big companies to make massive mistakes based on data.

Five for Friday: Blockchain, Digitization, and Disruption (of a sort)


So we had a pretty straightforward  (and sometimes grammatically incorrect) explanation of blockchain previously that outlined how the technology works and why it is important … well, sort of.  The importance of it doesn’t just lie in pulling the middleman out of the process, and it doesn’t just apply to financial services – a while back I threw out an article about how it was revolutionizing the shipping industry as well.  To follow on to last week’s share, this week I wanted to throw out a few other articles to keep moving us down the path: first is this piece from Infocast that outlines blockchain more technically (it’s from the Director of the IBM Blockchain Labs, so go figure –by the way, he has a series of posts about the topic through Infocast) and then this piece from HBR entitled “The Truth About Blockchain,” and finally, direct from IBM, guidelines for blockchain adoption in the enterprise … again, by Nitin Guar.

While I was perusing HBR this week, I also stumbled across an article from 2012 that I hadn’t seen before entitled “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.”  Paired with that in the same issue was a piece about how Big Data was bringing about a management revolution.   I know we’re all already aware of those facts, but it’s still good to take a moment to go back five years later and revisit.  That somewhat sets up this piece from McKinsey out this week around competing in a world of sectors without borders.  IT’s not short, but it is interesting as it outlines how we might continue to see digitization impact and influence the world next.

Also in the news this week were some interesting bits from the world of higher education: first, a piece about MIT and Stanford researchers demoing 3D computing chips capable of both storage and computing, which will dramatically impact the current limitations around compute created by having to move data between chips.  A while back I posted an article about the death of Moore’s Law.  Well, this is the kind of evolution in computing that challenges that notion.  Then there was this piece about how Texas A&M landed a $1.6M grant to study algorithmic decision making.  OK, so what?  Well, first the grant came from DARPA, the folks who brought a few other technology revolutions over the past few decades, and second, because the intent is to lead to machine-based decisions that can also outline the “why” the machine reached the decision.  It’s one more step along that path towards artificial general intelligence I’ve outlined before.

Here’s a great one from Inc. about the twenty things most valued employees do every day.  Key for us is setting forth a vision for our people and then giving them the path towards how we achieve it.

Yes, it’s a tech heavy week, but that’s just sort of where things are in the news coming through my feed, at least with what is catching my eye. More so, it’s a disruptor-heavy week, and  along those lines I’d be remiss if I didn’t include this article about DoNotPay, a bot platform that is helping people get out of paying parking tickets that just released 1000 new bots to help with legal troubles … and gives you a taste of how technology could upend the legal profession.

There’s that great ad by Apple “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” which outlined how people who used and embraced Macs were different.  Apple’s culture revolves around the why they do what they do, not the what.  Many of us are familiar with Simon Sinek’s  book Start with Why, which is based on his TED talk from 2010, “How great leaders inspire action.”  Take some time this morning and watch his follow on, “Why good leaders make you feel safe.”


Now for Something a Little Different …


I’m establishing a new rhythm for these collections and with that have a need to try a new format with them as well.  This month’s collection is a broad range, and while where I can I’ll bucket certain topics together as I have in the past, there are over 100+ articles that I’ve found interesting enough to read since my last missive and that gets a bit of a challenge from a curation standpoint.  I’m also looking at creating more evergreen content for you similar to what I’ve thrown together on machine learning or artificial intelligence, but more on that another time.

First this week, please pay attention: there is an incredibly effective Gmail scam out there right now.  Go read up about it, but essentially, a sender who looks like a trusted contact, sends what looks like a pdf but is actually an image that will take you to a fake google login page and from there, your identity is history. There’s a similar ruse going on with Apple IDs, but there’s less press about it.

If you’ve not heard and you have an iPhone, go update to 10.3 – it’ll save you on average 3gb of space on your phone, although it does convert to a new file format that is troublesome for a few.  Oh, and Apple also acquired Workflow, which is an amazing automation app for iOS devices and they made it free – go check it out.

Ever wonder which country in the world has the happiest people?  No?  Well, ever wondered how the data is analyzed to determine who are the happiest people in the world?  If you said yes, you’re in luck.

Middle management may seem like a thankless job, but according to HBR, it’s also an exhausting one.  It has to do with the constant need to code switch as you deal with different levels of the hierarchy of an organization, and they’ve got some suggestions on how to lessen the toll from it.

Robots, robots everywhere!  Not, necessarily, to the extreme that we see in Asimov’s I, Robot ( the first person to recite the three laws to me gets a prize), but they are becoming more present in our day to day lives.  Heck, I even heard a story of how robots are being tested in D.C. to help “augment” the current food delivery process.  I say augment in quotes because that’s what the company rep in the article said when asked if the robots would replace people.  Well, one person who doesn’t seem to get how robots are going to impact our society in the near term is Steve Mnuchin.  In his mind, robots won’t be displacing U.S. jobs for at least 50 to 100 years.  Problem is, he’s wrong – robots have been replacing humans for a while now.

strategy+business had a good piece recently on the Ten Principles for Leading the Next Industrial Revolution.  I don’t think there’s anything that would surprise you in these principles, but it does put them together in a logical order and is worth exploring.  Ah, and they’ve also replaced “fail fast and often” with “innovate rapidly and openly.”

Deloitte also has an interesting exploration of how the auto industry is going to change in the near and mid-term, and how massive that transformation is going to be.  With more millennials opting out of car ownership and into a sharing economy, the automation of delivery vehicles that we’ll see culminate in the next five to ten years, and the looming death of a generation who have driven car sales most of their lifetime, the auto industry is on a precipice and they’ve done a good job of analyzing and detailing all the possible outcomes.  While many of us aren’t tied directly to the automotive industry, this in addition to the previous piece on the next industrial revolution should get you thinking differently about your own challenges.  By the way, one trend that you’ll find between them has to do with data.  Oh, and stratechery wrote on the same topic with greater brevity and a very different approach, but the same outcome – car ownership is going to change.  It already is.

Speaking of data, here’s something about how big data is helping find the Achilles heel of each individual cancer.

Well, there’s been a little bit of news this last week about how individual privacy on the internet is being betrayed by “235 stooges in Washington” to quote one news source, and while I think we’ve been giving up more and more of our privacy for a long time, if you are concerned about yours, check out this article from Kevin Mitnick on how to go invisible online.  By the way, at a minimum, you should be using a virtual private network (VPN) on your personal devices to keep your personal data from being stolen as you enjoy a coffee at your local Starbucks.  And yes, I know I’ve said this before.  Also, there’s this article from the Pew Research Center on what the public know about cybersecurity.  They even have an interactive quiz.  Also, take a look at what the future of passwords may hold.

Speaking of stolen identity, check out this story on a $30k sting operation one person pulled when hackers stole her website.

Time for a quick video break: this week Fast Company has an interesting (and short) one on how circular runways could lead to more efficient airports.

We’re in the midst of Spring Break season, and with that, Legoland Florida has launched an educational, road-trip friendly app for kids.  It seems pretty cool and is a good indicator of where how we’ll continue to see content and experiences evolve.

Tech will lead to new sub-prime crunch.  That’s a bold headline, even without the missing preposition, and TechCrunch makes the case that while in the past P2P lending rates in the subprime arena have been indicators of coming economic contraction (note:  the overheated economy and tightening labor pools is a more classic indicator), the gist is that more people are going to be pushed into a lower wage earner bucket with a continuing stagnation of salaries (which have been stagnant since the 80s compared to economic growth and corporate profits – just ask a real economist), and that will push the sub-prime market to continue to grow and with that growth, eventually blow up.

OK, so, I’ve written about AI before on many occasions, and with good reason as it is a topic that is getting a lot of press these days.  I took the time to try and explain the differences between narrow and general AI, and as well to keep us all up with how it is intersecting with machine learning.  What this article points out, however, is that that interest in AI and machine learning has created so much different data sets itself that it has started to skew the data and what is “real” about … data, much less the preponderance of actual fake news that is out there.  To quote ”this pairing of interest with ignorance has created a perfect storm for a misinformation epidemic. The outsize demand for stories about AI has created a tremendous opportunity for impostors to capture some piece of this market.”  Oh, and then there’s the latest about how AI will change everything … again.

Also speaking of data, here’s an interesting article about how Charity: Water is using it to connect donors to the people they are helping.

A fun article (maybe) that relates to the world of AI and algorithms: When Machines Go Rogue.  To wit, complex systems have lots of parts, and that means there are lots of ways they can fail.  Also note, however, that there are lots of redundancies for that reason.

Google has been in the news little of late, from a big headline standpoint, but one interesting read is their approach to creating the next Silicon Valley.  Oh, and then there was the demise of Google Fiber.

In case you’re interested, here’s a look at Goldman Sachs’ Annual Report.  It’s a treasure trove, as most annual reports are, at the direction the company is going … especially when you read between the lines.  While on the topic of Goldman, take a read as to why the firm is going on a buying binge for delinquent mortgages … again (2008 sound familiar?).

I’ve written a lot about how we need to change how we are recruiting and hiring women.  Here’s an article about the need to change our strategy around this, and for obvious reasons – we’ve seen a desire by millennials to change how we work, and how we work is, in fact, changing.  Let’s not hold women to a standard and antiquated version of the workplace when we’re willing to accommodate others.

Take a moment, if you will, and go look at Business Insider’s list of the most powerful female engineers in 2017 and what they are working on.

Thank the Boston Globe for this one: the biggest threat facing middle-aged men isn’t smoking or obesity … its loneliness.  I know it’s a little off-topic, but given the audience of these missives, I thought it relevant.

There’s been a lot of news lately about the new Amazon play into the grocery business, and how they plan to make it so that we not only ever have to wait in lines, but we never even have to talk to another person!  (Now do you see my reference to loneliness above?).  Well, the ‘zon is trying to break into that $800 billion market with a splash, what with their foray into physical stores after online has failed in that domain for them.  Read about the genesis of that journey here.  And speaking of Amazon, check out why ad agencies are so afraid of what Bezos might be planning next given the 60% jump in revenue from advertising last quarter.

So why are employees at Apple and Google more productive?  Is it the swanky digs?  The free lunches?  The compensation packages?  Nope, it’s what they do with their star performers and their internal development programs.  Note: companies that lack development programs will always play in the minor leagues.  Along with that is this article about why the best employees quit, even when they love their job.

I just like the title of this article (because it’s true): iteration is not design. The point, really, is that while iteration is a great design tool, it doesn’t create great design because it can’t innovate, solve usability problems, or create delight.

SXSW has come and gone for another year, and as always there was a flurry of “new” and “hot” technology this year mixed in with weird films and lots of bands.  According to Forbes, AI dominated the SXSW conversation this year; while CNET has a good round-up of everything that happened and WIRED claims that tech is finally trying to clean up the mess it made.

Uber has been in the news of late, and while I’m sure a lot of you have already seen many articles about all that has passed, there are a few I think are important because of what they mean for the future of the company: did Uber steal their driverless car tech from Google? (If they did, there’s a company big enough to take them down). Doubtful?  Check out this timeline.  Then there’s this piece from Pando about the economic evidence that shows that Uber isn’t as innovative as we all claim it is.  And Newsweek had something to say on the matter as well and The Verge asks if Uber can be saved from itself.  And while The Guardian states that every time we take an Uber we’re spreading its social poison, one of the most interesting tidbits to come out in my mind is that Uber has been using a fake app to get around legal blocks in certain markets.  You know what really annoys me, though?  The lack of the umlaut.  Seriously, is it that hard to have a stinking umlaut in your brand?

Seriously, not to make light of all the news that has come out, it’s clear that Silicon Valley has a “bro” problem, and Über epitomizes it, even with their recently released diversity report and bringing Arianna Huffington in to clean up their image.  That’s going to be tough given all that has passed.  This goes back to the fundamental question, mind you, of why is Silicon Valley is so awful to women.

This article does a good job of exploring why sexism/harassment/discrimination is such a rampant issue in Silicon Valley.

There’s a new project at Google where they are using facial recognition software to measure gender equality in films.

Would you spend $25bn to acquire 100m new customers?  Well, Mukesh Ambani did, with the goal of transforming the telecom market in India.  And transform it he did.

So, Warren Buffet sold basically his entire stake in Wal-Mart recently, and we’re seeing a continued downward spiral with brick and mortar retail stores as more and more shopping is done online.  So what’s next for the American Mall? Oh, and if that trend continues, there will be a collapse of commercial real estate in the next few years.

Viacom may be onto something in the VR space with its new VR experience, The Melody of Dust.

There’s a really interesting conversation with Chris Anderson on how and why we should close the loop on all the new and old systems that are out there and how ongoing innovation is making that possible.  It’s worth a read.

Last time around I spent some time talking about Moore’s Law and Quantum Computing (note to self: that may be a good future deep dive), but this time around there’s an article from Quartz about how two small changes may make your phone battery last forever, even if Moore’s Law won’t.  Or, better put, how the desire to have longer lasting devices that don’t catch on fire may finally force manufacturers to think differently about design.

Another interesting piece of telecom news came out recently: NYC is suing Verizon for failing to provide fiber broadband to all its households.

We all spend so much time in meetings, and while we can’t control how others run their meetings, we can certainly control how we run ours.  HBR has a great article on that point, and, in fact, it was refreshing to see their take as it reinforces how annoyed I get when I go to a meeting without a set agenda and clear purpose.

Let me follow that up with two articles from HBR on something completely different: blockchains, how safe they are, and how they’ll move beyond finance.  Along with that is this piece from the NY Times about how blockchain is a better way to track everything from pork chops to peanut butter.

Seeking Alpha did some analysis lately on Seagate and why the hardware provider will continue to face end market challenges.  I read it as “without innovation, Seagate will decline.”

It looks like the worlds of voice recognition, AI, and Alexa is being taken on by a small outfit in Japan, whose IM Line is working on a virtual assistant to topple Amazon and its market dominance.

Oh, and remember that little glitch a few weeks back with the internet because of an errant keystroke in an AWS data center?

Elon Musk has started investing (as have others) in how we turn people into cyborgs.  No, really.  The flip side of that is using humans to teach AI to “perform” smarter.

Something else AI might lead to?  The useless class.

I’ll tell you, there’s a lot of doom and gloom out there, like this old topic made new again: medical devices are the next security nightmare.  I say old because I’m pretty sure I talked about this around this time last year.

Snap recently had their IPO, and was it a day.  This piece from the New Yorker highlights the trouble with all the SV IPO optimism.

McKinsey has a really great study that’s just come out that is all about connecting talent with opportunity in the digital age.  It’s a good read, especially with some people predicting that Big Data will make human recruiters obsolescent as early as next year … which I think is a stretch.

Almost last this week is this article on LinkedIn that captures twelve lessons on leadership from the Navy SEALs.  Most salient: there is no such thing as a bad team, just bad leaders.

So last I’ll leave you with two TED talks: the first, Dan Bell taking us through the inside of America’s dead shopping malls and the second with Joy Buolamwini on how she is fighting bias in algorithms.

Artificial Intelligence, A Bank Will Fail in 2017, the End of Moore’s Law + more


It’s been a while since I’ve last thrown a collection of what’s piqued my curiosity together and shared it with the world, and boy has a lot happened since then.  I’d like to say that I’ve been keeping tabs and can pull from the best over the past few weeks, but, honestly, it’d be too much content to share.

First off, I have to start with a topic that has gotten quite a bit of news the past week or so: Uber.  Now, I know, the story of sexism and, frankly, border line assault has gotten a lot of press, but it’s indicative of a broader problem in and out of Silicon Valley in tech firms.  For those of you who’ve been under a rock, check out this article from recode or this one from Vanity Fair.  And while we’ve known for a while that Travis Kalanick is, for lack of a better term, an asshole, that too was captured recently, his stating that he needs to “grow up” as though that’s excuse enough for that behavior and the culture he has created at Uber is ludicrous.  If you’re thinking it’s not that big a deal, recode has another piece that might change your mind.  All that said, HBR has a great article this week on what Silicon VAlley firms could do to stop driving away female engineers.   Core to that is to stop making female engineers prove themselves over and over again while we excuse unacceptable behavior from men while expecting women to fit into a tightly defined box of what’s appropriate behavior.

Not shockingly, AI and Machine Learning are driving quite a bit of M&A activity, along with IoT technology.  This article from Forbes notes that AI will be at the center of most corporate deals in 2017.  While we’re on the topic, there’s also this piece from Techcrunch about how machine learning is going to accelerate even further with greater open source adoption and how AI research reached a tipping point precipitated by a combination of low-cost ultra-powerful computing, progress in algorithm design and access to large sources of data.  While AI has been the topic of many articles these past months and few years, MIT Technology Review notes that it is “the new black” with a seismic shift in both how businesses use artificial intelligence and how that impacts all of us.  The long and the short is we’re getting even closer to cognitive computing, which puts us further down the path towards artificial general intelligence I spoke about last spring.  Scientific American goes so far to question whether democracy can survive AI and big data.  As they state, artificial intelligence is no longer programmed line by line, but is now capable of learning, thereby continuously developing itself.  That begs the question, however, of if technology leaders are scared of artificial intelligence, shouldn’t we be?

Then there’s the flip side of Big Data and how it kills businesses because it’s, well, so big.

Heard of Cloudbleed?  It’s likely you have, but if not, here’s the scoop, oh, and before you read that, you may want to change your passwords … again.  Then there’s this article about how a chip flaw has exposed hundreds of thousands of devices.

From McKinsey somewhat recently is a dive into what Telcos need to do to grow in an increasingly digital world.  Facebook’s suggestion?  Just share the infrastructure.

Then there’s this interesting article about Kernel, the company trying to hack the human brain.  While neuroscience may be far from ready, it’s amazing how much more attainable those science fiction concepts of even a decade ago are today.

OK, so a quick break from technology for a second – there’s been a few things written of late on strategy and organizations.  First, there’s this one about how leaders don’t fear risk but instead turn it into a money-making strategy.  The next is how communities go about solving problems that matter.  Another is how strategy talk creates value, while this article captures how a technology company (Microsoft) turned itself around by not accepting the status quo.

What’s that about a bank failing in 2017?  Well, that’s exactly one of the predictions from BBC News in this article.  The expectation is that a successful cyber security attack on a bank in 2017 will erode the confidence in that (and possibly other) institution and lead to a run on it.  Want to know about one of the tools hackers use?  This article has a good look at how botnets are created and used – ignore the title of the article if you will, the overview is pretty concise.  Then there’s this one that asks whether today’s cryptography can survive quantum computing.

Interested in the state of the internet in 2017?   Well, we’ve got all your statistics for you here.

So there’s been a lot of news of late about the future of work (or not working, for that matter).  Bill Gates recently said that if a robot takes your job, that robot should be expected to pay taxes.    Gates also had a number of other things to say, but that one seems to have stuck out.  Then there’s JPMorgan’s software that now does in seconds what used to take lawyers 360,000 hours (yes, you read that right).  Then there’s this piece that explores how tech leaders think that universal income is going to be driven by the “automation” or skill replacement of so much of what we do.   While it’s not the 24th century yet, it’s interesting to consider.

So, a brief side-step to look at this piece that does an excellent job of demonstrating (visually, among other ways) the fundamental differences between Apple and Google and how they have fundamentally different innovation signatures.

Elon Musk, by the by, also thinks that we will all have to merge with machines to survive.  Yup. He sure does.

There’s another good read recently from McKinsey about how CIOs need to adopt an ecosystem view of business technology.  Speaking of, here’s an interesting bit of news: over half of the CIOs out there today don’t have a digital transformation strategy.

Pew Research Center has a dive into the pros and cons of the algorithm age, and then there’s this piece about how serial killers should fear a particular algorithm.

 While Netflix may be dominating over Amazon in the states for streaming content (due, in my opinion, to a really crappy interface), the tables are turned in India – read more to find out why, but fundamentally it comes down to understanding your market and how to price your product.

Would you believe the next big blue-collar job is going to be coding?  Let Wired explain why.

Last this week is a post by Rodney Brooks about the end of Moore’s Law, the law that has driven so many of our beliefs and understanding for fifty plus years.  As Brooks puts it, we’re to a point where we’ve gotten down to a single grain of sand, which we can’t then divide into more grains of sand.  Integrated circuitry has been reduced to such a small size that to reduce it further would, in essence, make it break down due to quantum effects.  That end, however, is going to finally force a major change in computer architecture because we won’t be constrained by a law that, while insightful, in the end has constrained us as well.  This will lead, as noted elsewhere, to technology like quantum computers, and better yet, technology we can’t even fathom because we’ve haven’t been forced to yet.

So, for a TED talk this week, I thought taking a back from the edge might be a bit appropriate.  Wanis Kabbaj is a self-proclaimed transportation geek who believes that traffic can flow through our cities in an effortless flow.  In his forward-thinking talk, preview exciting concepts like modular, detachable buses, flying taxis and networks of suspended magnetic pods that could help make the dream of a dynamic, driverless world into a reality.

Machine Learning


I have been absent in sending these the past few weeks and am changing topics, but bear with me, as I feel I’ve been remiss of late to not tackle the slew of machine learning articles that have been published.  As well, given that AI and machine learning are one of Gartner’s Top Ten for 2017, it seems time to revisit.  First, though, what is machine learning?

If you remember back, I did a dive into artificial intelligence last spring, mostly because I got overly curious myself.  Machine learning and artificial intelligence go hand in hand, and in fact machine learning is a subset of AI.  It provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed and focuses on the development of computer programs that can teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data.

The process of machine learning is similar to that of data mining; both systems search through data to look for patterns. However, instead of extracting data for human comprehension — as is the case in data mining applications — machine learning uses that data to detect patterns in data and adjust program actions accordingly.  That said, there are some who argue that machine learning is not a subset of AI, but the only kind of AI there is.  Perhaps we’ll evolve to that point, but there are still many examples of artificial general intelligence out there that don’t leverage machine learning that it’s still meaningful to distinguish between the two in my mind.

So why has machine learning gained so much momentum in the past few years?  Two factors stand out: data availability and computational power.

Today, the amount of digital data being generated is huge thanks to smart devices and Internet of Things (see previous posts). This data can be analyzed to make intelligent decisions based on patterns,  and Machine Learning helps to do exactly that.  As well, Moore’s law has ensured that the current hardware has the capability to reliably store and analyze the massive data and perform massive amount of computations in a reasonable amount of time. This allows us to build complex Machine Learning models with billions of parameters which was not possible a decade ago.

Machine learning evolved from the study of pattern recognition and explores the study and construction of algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data – such algorithms overcome following strictly static program instructions by making data driven predictions or decisions.  It is a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building, allowing computers to find hidden insights without being explicitly programmed where to look.  And it is everywhere.  For example:

Financial services:  Banks and other businesses in the financial industry use machine learning technology for two key purposes: to identify important insights in data, and prevent fraud.

Government: Government agencies such as public safety and utilities have a particular need for machine learning since they have multiple sources of data that can be mined for insights. Analyzing sensor data, for example, identifies ways to increase efficiency and save money. Machine learning can also help detect fraud and minimize identity theft.

Health care: Machine learning is a fast-growing trend in the health care industry, thanks to wearable devices and sensors that can use data to assess a patient’s health in real time.

Marketing and sales: Websites recommending items you might like based on previous purchases are using machine learning to analyze your buying history – and promote other items you’d be interested in. As well, it’s the place you most often experience machine learning in an obvious way and Amazon’s predictive engine is one of the best examples out there of how machine learning can enhance a consumer’s experience and has decades of data from millions of users to pull from.

Oil and gas: Finding new energy sources, analyzing minerals in the ground, predicting refinery sensor failure, or streamlining oil distribution to make it more efficient and cost-effective; the number of machine learning use cases for this industry is vast – and still expanding.

Transportation: Analyzing data to identify patterns and trends is key to the transportation industry, which relies on making routes more efficient and predicting potential problems to increase profitability. The data analysis and modeling aspects of machine learning are important tools to delivery companies, public transportation and other transportation organizations. As well, with autonomous vehicles coming more into the mainstream (you can get an autonomous Uber in San Francisco now), machine learning will have an even greater impact.  Let’s just hope we don’t end up with Johnny Cabs.

So, those are the obvious areas, and perhaps many of you are rolling your eyes at this point wondering when I’ll get to the good stuff.  If you can bear with me a little longer, we’ll get to the articles I mentioned … or you can always scroll to the end.

Some of the base level requirements for creating a good machine learning system include data preparation capabilities, the quality of algorithms – basic and advanced (duh), automation and iterative processes, scalability, and ensemble modeling.  Wait, what’s that last one?  It’s the process of running two or more related but different analytical models and then synthesizing the results into a single score or spread in order to improve the accuracy of predictive analytics and data mining applications.  OK, so let’s clarify a few other terms that’ll help later on: in machine learning, a target is called a label, however in statistics, a target is called a dependent variable.  Right.  Great, not too confusing.  But wait, a variable in statistics is called a feature in machine learning and a transformation in statistics is called feature creation in machine learning.  Oh, and for those of you who’ve not had statistics in a while or never had it (or when you took it, it was a bit of a joke in your grad program), the Khan Academy is a great place to go get an overview, or you can try Stanford.  That doesn’t touch on fit, overfit, and underfit as it relates to machine learning.  There’s also a great visualization of machine learning from R2D3.

There are a variety of machine learning methods out there that are employed today: supervised learning, unsupervised learning, semi-supervised learning, and reinforcement learning.

Supervised learning algorithms are trained using labeled examples, such as an input where the desired output is known. For example, a piece of equipment could have data points labeled either “F” (failed) or “R” (runs). The learning algorithm receives a set of inputs along with the corresponding correct outputs, and the algorithm learns by comparing its actual output with correct outputs to find errors. It then modifies the model accordingly. Through methods like classification, regression, prediction and gradient boosting, supervised learning uses patterns to predict the values of the label on additional unlabeled data. Supervised learning is commonly used in applications where historical data predicts likely future events. For example, it can anticipate when credit card transactions are likely to be fraudulent or which insurance customer is likely to file a claim.

Unsupervised learning is used against data that has no historical labels. The system is not told the “right answer.” The algorithm must figure out what is being shown. The goal is to explore the data and find some structure within. Unsupervised learning works well on transactional data. For example, it can identify segments of customers with similar attributes who can then be treated similarly in marketing campaigns. Or it can find the main attributes that separate customer segments from each other. Popular techniques include self-organizing maps, nearest-neighbor mapping, k-means clustering and singular value decomposition. These algorithms are also used to segment text topics, recommend items and identify data outliers.

Semi-supervised learning is used for the same applications as supervised learning. But it uses both labeled and unlabeled data for training – typically a small amount of labeled data with a large amount of unlabeled data (because unlabeled data is less expensive and takes less effort to acquire). This type of learning can be used with methods such as classification, regression and prediction. Semisupervised learning is useful when the cost associated with labeling is too high to allow for a fully labeled training process. Early examples of this include identifying a person’s face on a web cam.

Reinforcement learning is often used for robotics, gaming and navigation. With reinforcement learning, the algorithm discovers through trial and error which actions yield the greatest rewards. This type of learning has three primary components: the agent (the learner or decision maker), the environment (everything the agent interacts with) and actions (what the agent can do). The objective is for the agent to choose actions that maximize the expected reward over a given amount of time. The agent will reach the goal much faster by following a good policy. So the goal in reinforcement learning is to learn the best policy.

But that brings us to the topic of deep learning.  Wait, are we talking about a subset of a subset now?  Why, yes.  Yes we are.

Deep learning combines advances in computing power and special types of neural networks to learn complicated patterns in large amounts of data. Deep learning techniques are currently state of the art for identifying objects in images and words in sounds. Researchers are now looking to apply these successes in pattern recognition to more complex tasks such as automatic language translation, medical diagnoses and numerous other important social and business problems.  Algorithmia has a great blog about why Deep Learning matters for a more detailed look, but the long and the short is that deep learning trains a computer to perform human-like tasks, such as recognizing speech, identifying images or making predictions. Instead of organizing data to run through predefined equations, deep learning sets up basic parameters about the data and trains the computer to learn on its own by recognizing patterns using many layers of processing.

So what are some of the emerging trends in machine learning?  Three came out of the  Machine Learning / Artificial Intelligence Summit last summer in Seattle: data flywheels, the algorithm economy, and cloud-hosted intelligence.

Digital data and cloud storage follow Moore’s law: the world’s data doubles every two years, while the cost of storing that data declines at roughly the same rate. This abundance of data enables more features, and better machine learning models to be created.  In the world of intelligent applications, data will be king, and the services that can generate the highest-quality data will have an unfair advantage from their data flywheel — more data leading to better models, leading to a better user experience, leading to more users, leading to more data.  Feel free to review the flywheel concept, but it’s an apt analogy here.

Next, all the data in the world isn’t very useful if you can’t leverage it. Algorithms are how you efficiently scale the manual management of business processes.  This creates an algorithm economy, where algorithm marketplaces function as the global meeting place for researchers, engineers, and organizations to create, share, and remix algorithmic intelligence at scale. As composable building blocks, algorithms can be stacked together to manipulate data, and extract key insights.  In the algorithm economy, state-of-the-art research is turned into functional, running code, and made available for others to use. The intelligent app stack illustrates the abstraction layers, which form the building blocks needed to create intelligent apps.

Last is cloud-hosted intelligence.  For a company to discover insights about their business, using algorithmic machine intelligence to iteratively learn from their data is the only scalable way. It’s historically been an expensive upfront investment with no guarantee of a significant return.  However, with more data becoming available, and the cost to store it dropping, machine learning is starting to move to the cloud, where a scalable web service is an API call away. Data scientists will no longer need to manage infrastructure or implement custom code. The systems will scale for them, generating new models on the fly, and delivering faster, more accurate results.

OK, I think that’s enough of a dive for our purposes today.  Now to the news:  first is a set of articles from Harvard Business Review that explore current trends.  These include the simple economics of machine intelligence, where HBR explores how machines learning will impact how prediction with regards to the production of goods and services and how it will impact the value of other inputs, then there’s what every manager should know about machine learning, and, last, how to make your company machine learning ready.

Alex Hern, from The Guardian, went so far as to give machine learning a go himself last summer.  You can read about his experience here.  Before we move on to other, still tech related news, I thought a few of you might be interested in how machine learning is impacting healthcare.  Forbes, HuffPost, VentureRadar, and MedCity News have their own takes on that topic.  Oh, and The Atlantic has a great article on searching for lost knowledge in the age of machines while Medium explores the public policy implications of AI and the New York Times Magazine has a long piece on “The Great AI awakening.”

I included Magic Leap in the round up a few weeks back, and already the luster is beginning to dull as The Verge notes that they are “way behind” in their VR device development.   The concept is stunning, the execution may be years away and is far behind Microsoft’s HoloLens.  Speaking of Microsoft, my former employer has rounded up 17 predictions from 17 researchers for 2017 and 2027.  Fast Company also recently published a brief history of the most important economic theory in tech, based on an HBR article by W. Brian Arthur back in 1996.  One of the best quotes form the interview is when Arthur was asked what kind of CEO can best take advantage of increasing returns that might exist: “You need an awareness of the ecology you are in. If you think of different firms and products as being different species, then you have to be very aware of how that entire network of different companies operates, even if they are quite peripheral to you.”

It seems fitting this week to revisit a TED talk by a buddy of mine from a few months ago: how computers are learning to be creative.  Blaise Aguera y Arcas is one of the more brilliant guys I’ve ever worked with, and to boot he is a renaissance musician and an avid evangelist for advancing technology.  In this talk, he discusses his work with deep neural networks for machine perception and distributed learning and shows how neural nets trained to recognize images can be run in reverse, to generate them.

2016 Global Innovation 1000 Study, The Decline in Chinese Cyberattacks (and the takedown of the Internet of Things), Microsoft/Apple round up + more


There’s been a bit going on from a tech standpoint in  the news of late, so first this week, take a look at strategy+business’s 2016 Global Innovation 1000 Study.  In it they capture not only who the top innovators and spenders are, but also trends in that spending as well.  For example, Healthcare is expected to pass Computing and Electronics to become the largest overall industry in R&D spend by 2018. Speaking of Healthcare, there’s a coming $1.5 Trillion shift in the industry according to the same people.

To follow on to that is a piece from Techonomy of the Corporation as technology.  They believe that technology is redefining business and society (duh), but they go one to discuss how the corporation is a technology for organizing labor, resources and capital towards the creation of economic and social value.

Next this week is an article from Techcrunch on the darker side of machine learning.  As we opt-in to machine learning technologies through the platforms we use, we need to be wary of their invasiveness of user privacy.  For example, blurring and pixelation are common techniques used to preserve privacy in images and video. They’re practices that have proven their effectiveness in obscuring faces, license plates and writings from the human eye, but it seems that machine learning can see through the pixels.

Researchers at University of Texas at Austin and Cornell Tech recently succeeded in training an image recognition machine learning algorithm that can undermine the privacy benefits of content-masking techniques such as pixelation and blurring. What’s worrying, the researchers underlined, is that the feat was accomplished with mainstream machine learning techniques that are widely known and available, and could be put to nefarious use by bad actors. Paired with that is this piece about when algorithms work against us.

Since Virtual Reality continues to be a hot topic in the news these days, I thought we might take a look at the top 25 innovators in VR, courtesy of Polygon.

Well, it seems like Detroit has a little less to worry about from Silicon Valley, as the big players out west have decided that it is just too hard to build a car.  There’s more to the story than that, and I don’t necessarily think that means that the auto industry will remain undisrupted.  It does point, in my mind, to how challenged Google and Apple are these days to be as innovative as they once were.

Eighty billion dollars … it sounds like it should be a punch line from a b movie where the bad actor demands it in exchange for NOT releasing a badly ginned up neurotoxin into the atmosphere over a major city, but no, it’s what the AOL/Time Warner deal was originally announced at by the media.  That linky link points to a great summary by and collection of articles around the merger, and while I won’t say whether I think it will or won’t go through, this post from Wikipedia might be of interest for context.  That’s not to say I don’t care about the deal though.

While the current administration has been touting a marked decrease in commercial cyberattacks, the real story behind that is a bit different.  Technology Review explores the reasons why in this piece.  Who is defending us from those attacks?  Here’s the oddest 15 under 15 list I’ve seen of late, and it answers just that.  Paired with that, however, was the coordinated distributed denial-of-service attacks which took place last week.  These are attacks that are designed to keep legitimate users from accessing a site.  There’s more going on than just that, however: a variety of probing attacks in addition to the DDoS attacks.  Hackers are testing the ability to manipulate Internet addresses and routes, seeing how long it takes the defenders to respond, and so on. Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services.  The access point, in this case, were a slew of hijacked internet-connected devices.  That’s right, we were responsible for your favorite website being taken down because we’ve gotten lazy about the security protocols built into our favorite internet-connected devices.  The Internet Society warned last year: “The interconnected nature of IoT [internet of things] devices means that every poorly secured device that is connected online potentially affects the security and resilience of the internet globally.”

Despite what we’re hearing in the news, start-ups are not, in fact, getting cheaper to launch today.  In fact, if anything, the opposite is true.

There were several articles out this last week about years of research done by Google about the key to good teamwork.   What was that key, you ask?  Being nice.  Did I mention that this was based on years of research?

One of my favorite reads this week was on an Aussie bank’s 7000 mile blockchain experiment and the impact that it could have on trade.  It involved shipping 88 bales of cotton around the world, but how they did it is what is fascinating, and it could point to how the shipping industry could be disrupted.

How can I not mention, though, the news this week that Uber delivered a truckload of beer with a driverless truck?  Well, not entirely driverless, but Bob and Doug McKenzie would be floored.  Then there’s this interview with the head of machine learning for Uber on how pattern-finding computing fuels Uber’s success.

So let’s start with this guy who says that Macs, long term, are three times cheaper than PCs for companies to maintain.  Sounds crazy, right?  Must be some yahoo from some small, boutique start-up that’s catering to a bunch of millennials, no?  Nope, he works for IBM, and he’s replaced thousands of PCs with Macs for that company over the past few years and has the data to back up the claim.  Next, both Microsoft and Apple had a few announcements this week, Microsoft’s top eight are summarized here, while Apple’s top seven here.  For Apple, most people are swooning over their new touch bar.  For Microsoft, it the Surface Studio. Check them both out for yourself.

What could a future driverless world look like?  In this Ted Talk, transportation geek Wanis Kabbaj broaches that topic and thinks we can find inspiration in the genius of our biology to design the transit systems of the future.

Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017


Well, it looks like the preview I shared last week wasn’t that far off the mark, although some analysis was lacking.  So, without further ado:


As I’ve noted, the Gartner Symposium is underway this week in Orlando, and David Cearley, VP of Research, has identified what he (and Gartner) believe will be the top ten strategic technologies that have the potential to be significantly disruptive over the next five years.   These break into three themes (intelligent, digital, and mesh) and are just beginning to break out of an emerging state.   Some old ones from previous years are still on the list, some new, expected ones appeared, and then there are a few unexpected surprises.

To quote Cearley “Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017 set the stage for the Intelligent Digital Mesh.  The first three embrace ‘Intelligence Everywhere,’ how data science technologies and approaches are evolving to include advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence allowing the creation of intelligent physical and software-based systems that are programmed to learn and adapt. The next three trends focus on the digital world and how the physical and digital worlds are becoming more intertwined. The last four trends focus on the mesh of platforms and services needed to deliver the intelligent digital mesh.”


Trend No. 1: AI & Advanced Machine Learning


Well, not really the T-800, however artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced machine learning (ML) are made up of technologies and processes like deep learning and neural networks. What began as algorithms to automate manual tasks, borrowing from advanced statistical techniques, has developed into a broader framework and architecture that learns like a human might, and can use historical data to predict the future.

Applied AI and machine learning (ML), which include technologies such as deep learning, neural networks and natural-language processing, can also encompass more advanced systems that understand, learn, predict, adapt and potentially operate autonomously. Systems can learn and change future behavior, leading to the creation of more intelligent devices and programs.

Examples include eye-gazing technologies in retail stores and sensory data from smartphones that create propensity-to-buy models. Organizations seeking to drive digital innovation with this trend should evaluate a number of business scenarios in which AI and machine learning could drive clear and specific business value and consider experimenting with one or two high-impact scenarios.

Cearley noted, “Applied AI and advanced machine learning give rise to a spectrum of intelligent implementations, including physical devices (robots, autonomous vehicles, consumer electronics) as well as apps and services (virtual personal assistants, smart advisors). These implementations will be delivered as a new class of obviously intelligent apps and things as well as provide embedded intelligence for a wide range of mesh devices and existing software and service solutions.”

Trend No. 2: Intelligent Apps

Intelligent apps, which include technologies like virtual personal assistants (VPAs), have the potential to transform the workplace by making everyday tasks easier (prioritizing emails) and its users more effective (highlighting important content and interactions). Using AI technology, app and service providers will focus on three areas — advanced analytics, AI-powered and increasingly autonomous business processes and AI-powered conversational interfaces.  The virtual personal assistants, or VPNs, will make tasks such as scheduling meetings and managing emails and other messaging much easier. VPNs and virtual customer assistants (which promise to enhance customer service and sales) should transform work and the how firms are staffed.

By 2018, Gartner expects most of the world’s largest 200 companies to exploit intelligent apps and utilize the full toolkit of big data and analytics tools to refine their offers and improve customer experience.

Trend No. 3: Intelligent Things

New intelligent things generally fall into three categories: robots, drones and autonomous vehicles. Like intelligent apps, intelligent things could not exist without AI or ML. As intelligent things evolve and become more popular, they will shift from a stand-alone to a collaborative intelligent things model. However, nontechnical issues such as liability and privacy, along with the complexity of creating highly specialized assistants, will slow embedded intelligence in industrial IoT and other business scenarios.  Intelligent things will leverage AI and ML to interact with humans and surroundings. Prominent examples are self-driving cars, drones, the artifacts that will increasingly make up the smart kitchen and smart home. Gartner predicts that these will increasingly be woven together into a fabric that will enhance our lives.  What the future of interconnected devices will be in the home and our lives has been envisioned for more than a decade and we’re now getting to a point where the technology is catching up to that vision.


Trend No. 4: Virtual & Augmented Reality

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) transform the way individuals interact with each other and software systems, deriving visual aspects from the digital mesh. For example, VR can be used for training scenarios. AR, which enables a blending of the real and virtual worlds, means businesses can overlay graphics onto real-world objects, such as hidden wires on the image of a wall.  Cearley says, “The landscape of immersive consumer and business content and applications will evolve dramatically through 2021. VR and AR capabilities will merge with the digital mesh to form a more seamless system of devices capable of orchestrating a flow of information that comes to the user as hyper-personalized and relevant apps and services. Integration across multiple mobile, wearable, Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor-rich environments will extend immersive applications beyond isolated and single-person experiences. Rooms and spaces will become active with things, and their connection through the mesh will appear and work in conjunction with immersive virtual worlds.”

Trend No. 5: Digital Twin

Within three to five years, billions of things will be represented by digital twins, a dynamic software model of a physical thing or system. A digital twin operates at the intersection of metadata, condition or state, event data, and analytics. Using data provided by sensors, a digital twin creates a software model that understands its state, responds to changes, improves operations and adds value. Digital twins function as proxies for the combination of skilled individuals (e.g., technicians) and traditional monitoring devices and controls (e.g., pressure gauges). Their proliferation will require a cultural change, as those who understand the maintenance of real-world things must collaborate with data scientists and IT professionals who utilize digital twins.

Cearley predicts that within the next half decade, hundreds of millions of things will have digital twins. They will be used by enterprises to plan for equipment service, to operate factories, to predict when equipment will fail, to improve operational efficiency, and to aid new product development; they will become smart controls and monitoring for the operation to an ever increasing extent.

Trend No. 6: Blockchain

This one isn’t a shock as much press as we’ve seen this past eighteen months.  Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger in which value exchange transactions (in bitcoin or other token) are sequentially grouped into blocks. The “blockchain” term is hyped to include a loosely combined set of technologies and processes that variously spans middleware, database, security, analytics/AI, monetary and identity management concepts. Blockchain and distributed-ledger concepts are gaining traction because they hold the promise of transforming industry operating models in industries such as music distribution, identify verification and title registry. Bitcoin, however, is the only proven blockchain, and the majority of blockchain initiatives are in alpha or beta phases.


Trend No. 7: Conversational Systems

Conversational user interfaces (UIs) can range from simple informal, bidirectional conversations such as an answer to “What time is it” to more complex interactions such as collecting oral testimony from crime witnesses to generate a sketch of a suspect. Conversational systems utilize conversational UI, but not necessarily as the exclusive interface, enabling people and machines to use multiple modalities (e.g., sight, sound, tactile, etc.) to communicate across the digital device mesh (e.g., sensors, appliances, IoT systems).  Speaking of, there was a head-to-head between the Google Now Assistant released with the Pixel and iPhone’s Siri.  Apple has a lot of catching up to do.

Trend No. 8: Mesh App and Service Architecture

The intelligent digital mesh will require changes to the architecture, technology and tools used for solutions. The current solution is the mesh app and service architecture (MASA), a multichannel solution architecture that supports multiple users in multiple roles using multiple devices and communicating over multiple networks. These are apps and services architecture that are more loosely connected rather than linear, monolithic designs.  However, true digital businesses will need to come up with a more effective solution due to the MASA’s challenges.

Trend No. 9: Digital Technology Platforms

Digital technology platforms are the building blocks for a digital business and are necessary to break into digital. Every organization will have some mix of five digital technology platforms: Information systems, customer experience, analytics and intelligence, the Internet of Things and business ecosystems. Companies should identify how industry platforms will evolve and plan ways to evolve their platforms to meet the challenges of digital business.

Trend No. 10: Adaptive Security Architecture

The evolution of the intelligent digital mesh and digital technology platforms and application architectures means that security has to become fluid and adaptive, and the combination of the digital mesh with digital technology platforms creates a bigger attack surface for bad actors. Security in the IoT environment is particularly challenging. Security teams need to work with application, solution and enterprise architects to build security into the overall DevOps process to create a DevSecOps model.  As Cearley notes, “the IoT edge is a new frontier for many IT security professionals creating new vulnerability areas and often requiring new remediation tools and processes that must be factored into IoT platform efforts.”

This week’s TED talk involves a wearable bioelectronics monitor that could allow doctors to monitor patients at home with the same degree of accuracy as they’d get during their stay at a hospital, a direct application of several of the technologies outlined by Gartner.

Preview of Gartner’s 10 Strategic Tech Trends for 2017 + more


While the “official” tech trends for 2017 won’t be announced until the Gartner Symposium next week, I was able to track down a preview which I’ll share later – we’ll see how accurate they are.  But first, some of the news from this week:

Bill Gates has some thoughts on how he thinks the public and private sectors needs to interact with one another when it comes to innovation and as well where he thinks we need to be focusing our efforts to innovate.

ING, a major Dutch lender, has plans to replace 5,800 jobs with machines as part of what they calling a “digital transformation.” A few years back, it was posited that the banking industry was ripe for “computerization,” and now ING and others (including Commerzbank in Germany) are making good on those predictions.  Along with that is this article from HBR on three ways work can be automated and this other one on how technology will replace us all.  Oh, and it’s obviously not just happening in banking today – take a look at the latest eBay acquisition.

As I’ve noted before, Facebook decided to fire its human news editors and The Intersect has done some initial tracking and analysis to prove that since that change, Facebook has repeatedly trended fake news.  No real surprise there, given the level of maturity of AI and how far machine learning needs to come, but still a fair warning for those who rely on social media or entertainment mediums for their news.

Speaking of AI, Deepmind, a world leader in artificial intelligence research and its application for positive impact, has a post this week about some recent work they did around creating a differentiable neural computer.  Their hope was to create a learning machine that could organize information into connected facts and then use those facts to solve problems, which they were able to do.  Then there’s this article on how vector space mathematics helps machines spot sarcasm.  Next thing you know we’ll have Deep Thought at our command. But don’t worry, it hopefully won’t destroy the world.

I honestly don’t even know how to correlate this next article to anything fantastical in the world simply because it seems so incredulous – I tried to make a correlation to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Men In Black, but I’ll just leave this here: apparently the tech industry is becoming ever more consumed as to whether our existence is actually an algorithm.  Follow on to that the desire of two tech billionaires to destroy the universe.  While we’re talking about destroying the universe, take a moment to read this summary of The McFuture podcast’s interview with Jeremy Rifkin, as well as this piece on the future of cities.

Given all the news about cutting cords the past few weeks, Business Insider decided to outline how we can expect to see wireless technology evolve over the next ten years.

Wondering where the top talent in the tech industry will land next?  Fast Company has a good overview of past trends and what we can expect for 2017.

Apparently, at Gartner’s recent event in Cape Town, Stephen Prentice gave a preview of the expected trends for 2017.  As you recall, between 3D printing and machine learning, there was a robust list of predictions last year (which I revisited a few weeks ago).  While the preview of 2017’s trends features some of the same entries, there are a few new ones as well:

Conversational systems

Prentice says that conversational AI systems will form part of the so-called “Digital Mesh” – along with the next two entries on the list.

Prentice noted that there are expected to be at least 25 conversational AI systems by 2018, citing examples already such as Siri, Cortana and Amazon‘s Echo.

“These are generation one systems… They don’t always sort of seem to understand properly, what we say. But like all technology, it’s going to improve and it’s going to improve very rapidly,” Prentice explained. He adds that we could see these systems not only comprehending what we say, but what we mean.

Augmented and virtual reality

The past 12 months have seen virtual reality and augmented reality make headlines, such as Oculus Rift and the Gear VR for the former and Pokemon Go for the latter. Prentice expects this to continue its growth.

“The mobile phone, given its location-based capabilities, its cameras, its inertial sensors and so on, is becoming a very powerful tool for augmented reality,” Prentice elaborates. He adds that distracted smartphone users are even getting guidance in the form of “traffic lights” installed in Sydney pavements.

As for virtual reality, Prentice notes that we’re seeing more powerful VR headsets, being used for everything from immersive experiences, molecular modeling, and healthcare therapy.

Digital twin

“Every physical object in this environment is going to have a digital equivalent. As we do things to the physical object, the data from that is being collected… and that’s being replicated in a digital equivalent,” Prentice explains. However, Prentice says that over time, things might flow in the other direction (i.e. manipulation of digital objects having a real-world effect).

Prentice gives the example of having one wind turbine in the real-world, but using the digital world to test the effect of having many wind turbines. He also cited NASA testing new technologies as one example of the digital twin concept.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

“If you asked me for a personal point of view… which one stands out as the most significant, the most disruptive, I would have to say… it’s machine learning and advanced artificial intelligence,” Prentice elaborates.

“Over the last couple of years, and largely due to the impact of machine learning technologies, we’ve seen artificial intelligence give us capabilities, achieve things that, even a couple of years ago, we would’ve said were impossible,” he adds. He cites the example of DARPA’s autonomous vehicle challenge from just a decade ago, taking place in a desert and seeing many cars failing. And now the likes of Google and other companies are testing self-driving cars on public roads.

“The imminent expectation is that self-driving vehicles will be commonplace – not the majority – by the middle of the next decade.”

Prentice says that AI systems tasked with doing a specific thing are reaching a point where they can often be better than humans. But there are still reasons to use humans instead.

“In some cases, they’re (the AI system) is expensive. In some cases, it’s just a lot easier to have a person doing it. In some cases, there are regulatory reasons,” the Gartner analyst says.

Intelligent applications

When you combine AI and machine learning with applications, you get intelligent applications, Prentice explains.

These applications come in a variety of forms, such as robots, drones, chat bots/Siri/Cortana, smart sensors and smart appliances.

One specific example cited by Prentice includes a machine that visually analyses burger buns to improve quality.

Another example was the use of IBM’s Watson as a virtual advisor at Memorial Sloan Kettering, helping doctors determine treatment for cancer.

Intelligent things

“One of the challenges, in fact, is when we try to forecast the number of intelligent things being connected to the network, the reality is the vast majority of them have not yet been invented,” the Gartner representative noted. “They’re in categories that we don’t even think of.”

Some examples of intelligent things include intelligent MRI scanners and stethoscopes. The former could adjust settings based on the patient’s dimensions and details, while the latter is able to detect minor variations in vitals.

Adaptive security

This was one of the trends predicted for 2016, but Prentice says that this will continue to occur next year. He adds that adaptive security will entail the use of AI to help identify threats.

“Let’s be quite clear: the cyber threat is growing all the time. The more devices out there, the more weak points there are,” Prentice says.

“So this is an arms race, and it’s an arms race that, I have to say, the good guys are never going to win. Because the bad guys have access to exactly the same technology as the good guys and they don’t feel compelled to comply with the rules and regulations…”

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as Prentice points to the auto industry’s recent focus on security as an example of manufacturers prioritizing the issue.

Blockchain and distributed ledger

“Blockchain is one of these things that’s at the peak of hype,” Prentice notes, before adding that it was providing a “decentralized, secure ledger of transactions”.

“It’s about adding trust, in an automated sense, into what is an otherwise untrustworthy environment,” he says, before stressing that it wasn’t “irrevocable”.

What about businesses wanting to use Blockchain technology? Prentice says you should be investigating the technology now.

“But at the same time, anything you do today… you should be expecting to replace in 18 months’ time.”

So if the technology is going to be changing that rapidly, why not investigate it later?

“That is an option, but we don’t believe that it’s a smart option. This is going to be an important technology, gaining some understanding into what it can do and how you might apply it, is going to be important,” Prentice explains.

Mesh app and service architecture

Gartner sees a future of “mesh type things, cloud-based servers… a lot of bots… small chunks of code… linking together in a variety of different ways”.

Prentice says that this type of architecture will allow for a different level of flexibility and faster development pace.

Digital technology platforms

When talking about digital technology platforms, Prentice said there were several main areas to take into account. These were internal systems (such as accounting systems, traditional IT), customer-facing systems (CRM, social media, websites) and the internet of things. And all of these systems will feed you or your company with intelligence.

Prentice also suggested a future where smart AI bots will become the customer. “My bot is going to be ordering products and services from your bot. So a lot of your customer relationship management is going to be turned on its head,” he added.

Prentice cautioned businesses against building an entire ecosystem of digital technology platforms on their own, calling on firms to find a “one-stop” solution instead.

Last this week is a TED talk by Jim Hemerling that speaks of five ways to lead in an era of constant change.  He contrasts the difference between how we view self-transformation versus organizational change – one we get excited about, the other we dread.

Musk’s Plan for Mars, Computer Chips that can Reprogram Themselves, How Goldman Sachs lost $1.2B of Libya’s Money + more


There’s quite a bit that’s reported on in a week, and when one misses a week because of a stomach bug, well, it leads to an even longer list for all of you.  I do hope to shift to more evergreen material in the future as time allows, but that said, here’s the round up for the last few weeks:

First, Elon Musk is at it again, this time with travel to Mars.  For the low-low price of $200k (later to be reduced to $100k), you can travel to the Red Planet.  Musk hopes to have the space program up and running in the next ten years “if things go super-well.”  Key to the success of this program?  Reusable rockets.  Ars technical notes that this is either a moment of audacity, madness, or brilliance, or perhaps all three for Musk.  CNET looks at the ethical questions around building a city on Mars – and they do make a reference to Space Jam in the process.

If you recently updated your phone OS, you likely had thirty-six pages of terms of service to read through, and it’s likely you didn’t bother.  Heck, I didn’t either.  There are some funny stories out there of companies and developers hiding jokes into their terms of service to highlight that no one ever reads them, but Quartz this week digs into how terms of service are actually changing ownership rights in a way that many of us don’t realize.  A good example of that is how John Deere owners can’t legally fix their own equipment, they are required to take it to a John Deere certified mechanic (at quite the price difference over a local shop).

Ever wondered how equity compensation works at a startup?  Fortune covers that here.

The Federal Reserve has failed, despite its best efforts over the past twenty year and three administrations, to stabilize inflation at the targeted 2%.  In the past four years it has stayed well below that, which those of you who studied economics at some point will realize speaks to a major issue in our economy: wage stagnation.  Don’t take my word for it, though, check out what Time said on the issue in 2015 and how New Constructs thinks the root of it is the Internet Economy.

As we’re on the topic of the internet, it seems that the police are raiding houses based on IP addresses … but the only issue is that sometimes those addresses can be spoofed or point to the wrong place.  Fusion had a piece a while back on a farm in Kansas that has the unfortunate fate of being the default address for MaxMind, an IP address tracker, for any IP address they couldn’t map.  MaxMind says its IP geolocation is inaccurate in the United States 12% of the time. That’s a bit more than a standard deviation, but there are extra steps the police can take, like seeking out additional information about who actually owns an IP address from an Internet Service Provider.

As a tag along to that, Venture Beat has a great article this week on how machine learning can help the security industry.  ML has been used successfully for implicit authentication, and if it lives up to the hype, it should be an excellent tool for addressing authentication-based hacks in the future.

Did you know that women launch more than half of all internet companies in China?  I certainly didn’t, and this article from Bloomberg explores the how.

Brexit hasn’t been as much of a headline of late, but The Guardian had a great article on the orchestrator of the movement and the long road he slogged.

Well, it seems the whole E-Waste recycling thing may be a sham (I don’t think this is really a shock to anyone), and Motherboard does a great job of digging deep into how the current system works and what the actual net value of many of those recyclable parts is.  That said, some good news to follow on: a UC Irvine Doctoral student accidentally invented a battery that lasts 400 years.  Seriously.  Four hundred years.

One of my oldest friends works for Illumina and so I’ve been hearing about their tech for a long while.  Fast Company has a good long read about the company this week – if you’ve ever looked at finding out who your ancestors were via genetic testing, they’re the ones who sell the machines that do the analysis.

Speaking of machine learning, one of the issues we face is the implicit gender bias that is created by our language and society and then can impact the results of even a simple search.  A group of researchers trained a machine learning system using Google news stories and then asked the question “Man is to Computer Programmer as Woman is to X.”  The answer the system came back with was homemaker.  This study revealed the bias that can be programmed into a newly created machine learning system based on the inputted data.  The team of researchers ended up having to (and were successful at) explicitly remove gender stereotypes from the embedding the machine learning algorithm was using.  This also speaks to why the AI that Microsoft unleashed on the world months ago went so hilariously awry.

Microsoft had a couple of interesting articles come out about it this week, including one about how Nadella thinks AI will transform Microsoft and another about computer chips that can reprogram themselves on the fly.  There’s a lot of hype around AI this year, so the latter article is more interesting to me for a few reasons: for one, it captures some of the culture that existed in Ballmer’s day at the reigns of the company and highlights the stark contrast under Nadella’s leadership.  Another is that the chips in question, FPGAs, let engineers build chips that are faster and less energy-hungry than an assembly-line, general-purpose CPUs, but customizable so they handle the new problems of ever-shifting technologies and business models.  Oh, and Microsoft also just announced yesterday that they are merging the Research, Bing, and Cortana divisions to create a 5000 person strong AI division.

Five thirty eight has a good piece this week on AI and bots, and it’s worth looking at just for the opening paragraph … you’ll see why.

Did you know that over 50 million people under the age of 21 are on the app and the app has over 11 million uploads a day with a user base of 120 million worldwide?  The New York Times had a good piece on the app recently, but Vice has a better one out this week, explaining both the popularity of the app and its potential impacts in the 13 – 24 demographic.

Remember Google Glass?  It’s likely that they were simply ahead of their time as I think we’ll see the how we use computers change drastically over the next ten years (especially with VR), but they failed nonetheless.  Now Snapchat is getting into the eyewear business, and there are varying opinions on whether they’ll see success.   Techcrunch spoke to the hopes and headaches of Snap, Inc.’s new frames, and Stratechery had a good piece this week on the future of wearables as a while.

Speaking of Google, they who shall “do no evil” have a plan to try and take down Amazon’s Echo that will be unveiled next week called Google Home.  It’ll be interesting to see if they can catch up where Amazon is so clearly in the lead.

HBR has a good overview of the platforms that are effectively disrupting businesses today.  Many of them won’t be a surprise to any of us, but what’s interesting is that the authors posit that it’s not traditional business being disrupted by platforms, but businesses which already play on a platform (albeit antiquated in some cases).  This leads to the conclusion that even platforms that are seeing success today can be disrupted and changed even further.

There’s a trio of articles to do with bandwidth and data speeds this week worth a read: Who Cares About 5G Wireless?  You Will, Why is America’s Internet So Slow?, and Teleportation across Calgary marks ‘major step’ toward creation of ‘quantum internet’.  That’s right … teleportation.  What’s most interesting is that in order for us to realize the full potential of the Internet of Things and Virtual Reality, how devices connect online we’re going to need a completely different way for those devices to do so, and with how the world is still going more and more mobile (even with odd claims that the mobile phone is dead out this week), that change is likely going to have to be on the order of the creation of the internet at Darpa or the iPhone by Apple for us to realize that potential.

Moving on to culture and values, there’s a great piece from GeekWire about how Zillow created a culture around six core values that empower employees and then another on how Warby Parker is getting better results by reducing managers’ control over their workers.  It seems that WP is taking some advice from GitHub.  Oh, and another one about Tower Paddle Boats, where the CEO made a commitment to five hour work days for his employees, and his employees have made up for that change by a marked increase in productivity.

There was also a bit of news in the past few weeks after the Federal Government released its thoughts on autonomous cars, leading to The Atlantic to remark that we’re entering a new era for the automobile, strategy+business to comment on the auto industry’s real challenge, the New York Times to state that in backing autonomous cars, the Fed has told automakers to figure it out, and last from O’Reilly their thoughts on how AI is propelling autonomous cars and what that means for the future of transport.

Bloomberg has a phenomenal, in-depth article into how Goldman Sachs lost $1.2 Billion of Libya’s money, but it’s interesting not just for the details of the deals that went awry, but also for how the article sets the stage and presents the history leading up to the deals as well.  All in all, well worth the long read.

No Ted talk this week, instead take seven minutes and watch Musk’s presentation on how we build out a space exploration program that will take us to Mars.