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

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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.

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

A photo by Kristopher Allison. unsplash.com/photos/6x90rJDo-WA

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.

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

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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 musical.ly 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.

 

 

Uber’s Driverless Cars go live, Apples, Apples everywhere, Revisiting Gartner’s Top Ten for 2016 + more

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As we get close to Q4 in 2016 and the release of Gartner’s Top Ten Tech Trends for 2017, I thought it’d be good to take a look back at what they predicted for 2016  to refresh our memories plus share a few articles from the world this week.  First, the news:

Uber is now letting riders experience their autonomous cars in Pittsburg.  This article highlights what the experience is like – while the writer felt safe for most of his drive, he was glad he could override the technology a couple of times as well.  It’s pretty cool to see the technology being leveraged, including LiDar on every vehicle.

The income and poverty report for 2015 came out this week, and good news: we’re as rich as we were in 1998.  Aside from the cheeky and insightful analysis from the New Yorker, there is good news in the report, although tempered.  I’ve not had a chance to finish it yet, but you can find the entire thing here if you’d like to dig in.

I, apparently, need to get a job with Wells Fargo … well, no, I don’t because I missed the window to cash in on a $124M bonus package for defrauding customers, costing the company a nearly $200m fine.

Microsoft beat Facebook in, of all places, Github with open source code submissions.  Why is that a big deal?  Well, this is the company that, under Gates and Ballmer, tried their hardest convince CIOs that open source was rife with issues.  Well, under Nadella that has changed.

There are two articles worth a look this week from HBR: to succeed in tech, women need more visibility and how cybersecurity is every executive’s job.  Definitely take the time to read the first article, as it points to an ongoing epidemic of sorts for tech companies: the highest-profile losses in tech are those at the senior level. Women at these levels “often are less satisfied with their careers, perceive that they are unlikely to advance at their current organizations, or believe they must change jobs in order to reach the next level.”

A round up of some Apple articles for the week: first, I’ve downloaded iOS 10 and between the price of the 7 for lack of innovation and some of the “features” of that new OS, it might be enough to push me off the platform, but at least I was able to get it to install.  Next, apparently the “boys” of 1 Infinite Loop are rethinking autonomous cars.  I used quotes there because then there’s this piece on leaked emails that shows how Apple is still a sexist and toxic workplace for women.  There are a few others, including how Apple will leverage ear buds to make Siri smarter, that the age of Apple is over, and what’s next for Apple now that smartphone sales continue to decline, much less stratechery’s look at beyond the iPhone.  But I feel like I buried the lead there – Cook may be much admired, but there’s critical work to be done at Apple to get rid of the “bro” culture that we thought was only an epidemic as Unicorns.

There’s a good piece this week about the state of computer science education in the United States.  While it’s important to look at how primary education is filling the pipeline of secondary education in computer science (and, thereby, industry), we also need to face the reality that we’re moving towards a degree-less future in development in part and figure out how to enable future success without straddling another generation with unnecessary debt.

Tesla and Elon Musk have been in the news of late (what with the acquisition of Solar City).  Curious about the future of the company?  Check it out here.  Hint: we’re back to autonomous cars.

For those afraid of AI, Venture Beat has an opinion piece this week about how it can actually save us from future stock market failures.

Now for Gartner:

Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with the potential for significant impact on the organization. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to the business, end users or IT, the need for a major investment, or the risk of being late to adopt. These technologies impact the organization’s long-term plans, programs and initiatives.

The top 10 strategic technology trends for 2016 are the device mesh, ambient user experience, 3D printing materials (hmmm), information of everything, advanced machine learning, autonomous agents and things, adaptive security architecture, advances system architecture, mesh app and service architecture, and IoT platforms

 The Device Mesh

The device mesh refers to an expanding set of endpoints people use to access applications and information or interact with people, social communities, governments and businesses. The device mesh includes mobile devices, wearable, consumer and home electronic devices, automotive devices and environmental devices — such as sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT).

While devices are increasingly connected to back-end systems through various networks, they have often operated in isolation from one another. As the device mesh evolves, we expect connection models to expand and greater cooperative interaction between devices to emerge.

 Ambient User Experience

The device mesh creates the foundation for a new continuous and ambient user experience. Immersive environments delivering augmented and virtual reality hold significant potential but are only one aspect of the experience. The ambient user experience preserves continuity across boundaries of device mesh, time and space. The experience seamlessly flows across a shifting set of devices and interaction channels blending physical, virtual and electronic environment as the user moves from one place to another.

 3D Printing Materials

Advances in 3D printing have already enabled 3D printing to use a wide range of materials, including advanced nickel alloys, carbon fiber, glass, conductive ink, electronics, pharmaceuticals and biological materials. These innovations are driving user demand, as the practical applications for 3D printers expand to more sectors, including aerospace, medical, automotive, energy and the military. The growing range of 3D-printable materials will drive a compound annual growth rate of 64.1 percent for enterprise 3D-printer shipments through 2019. These advances will necessitate a rethinking of assembly line and supply chain processes to exploit 3D printing.

 Information of Everything

Everything in the digital mesh produces, uses and transmits information. This information goes beyond textual, audio and video information to include sensory and contextual information. Information of everything addresses this influx with strategies and technologies to link data from all these different data sources. Information has always existed everywhere but has often been isolated, incomplete, unavailable or unintelligible. Advances in semantic tools such as graph databases as well as other emerging data classification and information analysis techniques will bring meaning to the often chaotic deluge of information.

 Advanced Machine Learning

In advanced machine learning, deep neural nets (DNNs) move beyond classic computing and information management to create systems that can autonomously learn to perceive the world, on their own. The explosion of data sources and complexity of information makes manual classification and analysis infeasible and uneconomic. DNNs automate these tasks and make it possible to address key challenges related to the information of everything trend.

DNNs (an advanced form of machine learning particularly applicable to large, complex datasets) is what makes smart machines appear “intelligent.” DNNs enable hardware- or software-based machines to learn for themselves all the features in their environment, from the finest details to broad sweeping abstract classes of content. This area is evolving quickly, and organizations must assess how they can apply these technologies to gain competitive advantage.

 Autonomous Agents and Things

Machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations — including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors — that act in an autonomous (or at least semiautonomous) manner. While advances in physical smart machines such as robots get a great deal of attention, the software-based smart machines have a more near-term and broader impact. VPAs such as Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri are becoming smarter and are precursors to autonomous agents. The emerging notion of assistance feeds into the ambient user experience in which an autonomous agent becomes the main user interface. Instead of interacting with menus, forms and buttons on a smartphone, the user speaks to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.

 Adaptive Security Architecture

The complexities of digital business and the algorithmic economy combined with an emerging “hacker industry” significantly increase the threat surface for an organization. Relying on perimeter defense and rule-based security is inadequate, especially as organizations exploit more cloud-based services and open APIs for customers and partners to integrate with their systems. IT leaders must focus on detecting and responding to threats, as well as more traditional blocking and other measures to prevent attacks. Application self-protection, as well as user and entity behavior analytics, will help fulfill the adaptive security architecture.

 Advanced System Architecture

The digital mesh and smart machines require intense computing architecture demands to make them viable for organizations. Providing this required boost are high-powered and ultraefficient neuromorphic architectures. Fueled by field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) as an underlining technology for neuromorphic architectures, there are significant gains to this architecture, such as being able to run at speeds of greater than a teraflop with high-energy efficiency.

 Mesh App and Service Architecture

Monolithic, linear application designs (e.g., the three-tier architecture) are giving way to a more loosely coupled integrative approach: the apps and services architecture. Enabled by software-defined application services, this new approach enables Web-scale performance, flexibility and agility. Microservice architecture is an emerging pattern for building distributed applications that support agile delivery and scalable deployment, both on-premises and in the cloud. Containers are emerging as a critical technology for enabling agile development and microservice architectures. Bringing mobile and IoT elements into the app and service architecture creates a comprehensive model to address back-end cloud scalability and front-end device mesh experiences. Application teams must create new modern architectures to deliver agile, flexible and dynamic cloud-based applications with agile, flexible and dynamic user experiences that span the digital mesh.

 Internet of Things Platforms

IoT platforms complement the mesh app and service architecture. The management, security, integration and other technologies and standards of the IoT platform are the base set of capabilities for building, managing and securing elements in the IoT. IoT platforms constitute the work IT does behind the scenes from an architectural and a technology standpoint to make the IoT a reality. The IoT is an integral part of the digital mesh and ambient user experience and the emerging and dynamic world of IoT platforms is what makes them possible.

I was in the midst of a conversation with a colleague yesterday when we both noticed an ant on the wall next to us.  We both watched it for a few moments before I “helped” it to the ground so it could get where it was going faster.  It reminded me of this TED talk by Deborah Gordon where she explores how ant life provides a useful model for learning about many other topics, including disease, technology, and the human brain.

Math is Racist, The End of the Bossless Workplace?, The Robot Economy + more

A photo by Steven Wei. unsplash.com/photos/g-AklIvI1aI

There are a trio of interesting articles to challenge ourselves with first this week: first from Cathy O’Neil via CNN (and other sources) about how math is racist and algorithms and big data are helping to perpetuate the poverty gap.  From targeted advertising and insurance to education and policing, O’Neil looks at how algorithms and big data are targeting the poor, reinforcing racism and amplifying inequality in her new book “Weapons of Math Destruction.”  Second up is one where researchers found that when artificial intelligence judges a beauty contest, white people win.  The why and the how behind racial preference is being programmed in to the AI platforms is what’s interesting.  Those first articles and the thought process that follows then brings into question the last, or at least, the real impact that artificial intelligence has on customer service – there is a great deal of potential, for sure, but companies have to be wary that their AI doesn’t then created a different, biased experience based on race and gender.

Vanity Fair this week has an exclusive look at how the Theranos house of cards came tumbling down.  It’s a story of silos and secrecy, among other things, and how silos and secrecy got in the way of any defense Theranos and Holmes, the founder, could mount.

Speaking of broken cultures, Inc. has an article this week about startup culture being broken and what to do about it now.

While there is some question as to the all-powerful nature of the mighty Blockchain, this article from Bloomberg unpacks what magical properties it might have.

With the Rio Olympics having come to a close, we get to the real question of the day: if we were to hold the Olympics of Programming today, which country would win and what would the US’s medal ranking be?  You’re likely not surprised to discover it isn’t even close to the top ten.  Not that it needs reinforcement, but we need to add coding to the curriculum earlier in the US.

While Uber is dominant by a wide margin in the US market, there are others out there seeing success in Europe and elsewhere, like Gett, an Israeli ride sharing company that looks to strengthen its hold on Europe and slowly make its way into the US.

As we awake to news of an earthquake off the shores of North Korea, it might bring to mind “the big one” we all fear – most people think of the San Andreas fault or if you’re from the Midwest, like me, the New Madrid fault line.  The New Yorker has an article on another: the Cascadia subduction.  It’s a really well written piece with a good look at the science and impact of that big one.

Many of us have heard about the “great experiment” at companies like Medium, Zappos, and GitHub in holocracy, where an organization is completely flat and there are no leaders.  There are champions and detractors alike, and one of those champions was Chris Wanstrath of GitHub, which started as a bossless culture in 2008 but who two years ago gathered the employees of his software startup to inform them they were all getting bosses.  That said, GitHub still pushes the traditional structure and is experimenting as they can and holocracy at Zappos has for all intents and purposes failed – just ask those leaving the company.  The obvious bigger question lies around how big is too big for a completely flat structure and when do the benefits get outweighed by the faults?

Popular Science does a great job profiling Chris White, the man who lit the dark web, this week, and how data mining is helping cops bust open online human trafficking.  On the subject of online predators, if you’re a parent (or not), take the time to read this article about the subject from the Washington Post.

There’s a pair of articles this week from Bloomberg about the state of the world economy this week: first, how manufacturing and now services are signaling fractures in the US economy and then how Saudi Arabia is on a cost-cutting spree looking to cut $20 billion in projects this year due to slow economic growth and low oil prices.

John Kotter’s name comes up frequently in the world of business and with good reason given his impact on how we run organizations and get organizations to change.  Organizational change management can be a tough nut to crack even when you have intent about it (and organizations fail to change when they ignore it), and this week strategy+business asked Kotter what his required reading was when it comes to change, and the list is short but insightful.  Also from s+b this week is this article on fostering online trust.

Well, the unthinkable has come to pass: the FCC has abandoned the set top box in favor of apps.  It’s not a surprising shift, just surprising that a government entity is an early adopter of sorts.  This shift should be a boon for consumers and cable providers alike.  Time will tell.

So, headphone jacks.  That seems to be the big news everyone is taking away from the Apple event Wednesday and with good reason.  While there are proponents and detractors, one of the bigger complaints is how one can’t charge their phone while using corded headphones.  Maybe Apple is becoming a company focused solely on increasing revenue and not innovation anymore, but recall that when the original iPod came out it didn’t work with most headphone because the jack was set so deeply in the device.  That changed, and it’s likely that wireless charging is what we can expect with the iPhone 8.

Ransomware continues to be an epidemic, but enSilo has a plan that should eliminate 70% of those attacks – learn more from Fortune.

There’s an interesting article from Fast Company about how Microsoft is trying to find and hire autisctic coders.

Last this week is an opinion piece this week outlining how the robot overlords aren’t, in fact, bearing down on us nor will the implementation of robots lead to mass unemployment as some naysayers have claimed.  While an opinion, there is plenty of data to back it up through the article.  Thea reality is that the robots are coming and we need to start planning and training our workforces now to avoid the feared obsolescence of the future.  Along with that, The Guardian explores how our three life stages will not survive much longer.

Speaking of progress, the politics around any progress brings about risk in many ways and on many levels.  Instead of avoiding that risk, however, journalist Jonathan Tepperman says we might even want to think riskier. He traveled the world to ask global leaders how they’re tackling hard problems — and unearthed surprisingly hopeful stories that he’s distilled into three tools for problem-solving featured in this TED talk.

Transportation as a Service, Apple vs. the EU, Delta gets smart about luggage + more

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Last week there was a bit a news around Uber losing a bit of money in the first half of 2016.  This week, news came out about Google’s own efforts to undercut Uber in San Francisco in the ride-sharing game leveraging its Waze app.  That goes a ways to explain why David Drummond exited from Uber’s board, and this week Stratechery has a great article on the evolution of transportation as a service.  Mind you, Google would be wise to focus on first/last mile issues like Uber and Lyft, and at the same time might not avoid “doing evil” in that pursuit.

Speaking of cars, did you know that earlier this year for the first time the net adds of connected cars surpassed that of smartphones in the US.  This all points to how connected cars are going to become revenue machines, or so says TechCrunch, and I think they’re on to something.

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a bit of a geek and I like learning about obscure or trivial things.  I like it when writers connect disparate concepts in new and insightful ways.  While these aren’t obscure, this article from Business Insider that walks through the seventeen equations that changed the world was right up my alley.

If you hadn’t heard, there’s a strike today in India which has shut down most of the country.  The strikes were driven by the belief that Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, is pursuing anti-labor policies.  Entire cities have been shut down, with transportation and banks hit hardest.  On top of that, add this article about how Tata and Infosys are starting to feel the Brexit heat and you start to see the potential storm that could hit India’s economy.

There was a great interview this week from recode with Quip CEO Bret Taylor, not just because it explores his belief that companies die when they are afraid to fail, but also for his statement that you have to aggressively recruit a diverse workforce from the start or you will fail at employee diversity.  Popular Science has a piece this week that speaks to hiring diversity in Silicon Valley as well.

I gave an overview a while back on artificial intelligence and the difference between narrow and general intelligence.  The reality is we just don’t know how far we are out from having AGI, which is likely the next internet or iPhone level innovation.  The New Yorker’s Om Malik explores the hope and hype of AI this week, and the thing that struck home for me most was this “computers do the best they can (that is being consistent, objective, precise), and humans do our best (creative, imprecise but adaptive).”  That’s the best description I’ve heard of the disconnect, and the reason why even when we achieve AGI the human race is so interesting – because we’re imprecise but adaptive.

Along with that is this article on how Facebook is trying to catch up with Google in open-sourcing AI code and then an inside look at how artificial intelligence and machine learning work at Apple.

The first software startup was founded in 1892.  Well, not really, but that kind of hyperbole catches the eye, doesn’t it?  Well, GE is that software startup, and while they just started their push to be competitive with Google and Microsoft a few years ago, they’re serious about it, to the tune of billions of dollars and thousands of people.

Speaking of click bait and hyperbole, ever wondered how government agencies can hack into your smartphone?  Well, here’s a story of how hackers from the NSA got caught doing exactly that.

You may have heard the news this week that the EU has levied a 13 Billion Euro tax on Apple for back taxes.  Apple’s response?  That the EU can either have their back taxes or jobs, but not both.  Robert Reich explores why it is so difficult for governments to stand up to Apple (and others), while The New Yorker walks through how Apple created Ireland’s economies, “real and fantastical.”  If you are wondering how Apple and others avoid paying taxes, Wired has you covered, while 9to5 Mac discusses how tone deaf Tim Cook’s response to the findings are.

There’s an interesting question that keeps popping up: why is consumer tech ignoring baby boomers?  While millennials are an important market share, the people with the money are their parents, and yes, millennials may end up inheriting a gob smacking amount of wealth, it seems short sighted to keep ignoring a generation with money to spend today for the generation that will spend money tomorrow.

Mark Zuckerberg is not a happy man this week.  You’ve likely heard about the latest SpaceX rocket explosion, and that that rocket had a Facebook satellite as its payload.  Apparently, Zuck is “deeply disappointed” that the satellite was lost, although likely not because of the $195M price tag.  Nope, it’s more to do with his mission to bring internet access to Africa, and his belief in Nigeria’s tech industry.

Did you hear the one about Amazon leasing its own fleet of airplanes?  What about the drones (even pizza delivery!)?  To date Amazon has been great business for UPS and FedEx, but the times they may be changing.

Here’s an interesting fact for you this week: 90% of software developers live outside of Silicon Valley.  It only makes sense when you think about it, but often we don’t.  What about this: in five years, the Midwest will have more startups than Silicon Valley.

So, oddly, airlines are finally catching up with warehouses and supply chain management in that Delta is using RFID tags to track baggage.  The eventual hope is that RFID tags will be incorporated into luggage at manufacture so that we, the consumer, can register our bags ourselves to take that burden off the airlines, but we’re a bit away from that.  It’s nice to see that at least one airline is finally catching on.

We all have biases, conscious or sub, and when we do become aware of them, then we face the challenge of overcoming them.  In this TED talk, Vernā Myers looks closely at our attitudes towards out-groups and how we can move towards the groups that make us uncomfortable.

VLC, interscatter communication, and Wi-Fi: what’s next?, Vehicle-to-Vehicle Communication, How (and why) to Set Up a VPN + more

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That may be one of the nerdiest post titles yet, but here we go …

As Google Fiber rethinks its approach to rolling out ubiquitous, high-speed internet access, it seems a good time to take a look at what technology options are out there aside from Wi-Fi given the current limitations of that technology.  Visible light and interscatter communications are both new technologies that are showing promise for a variety of reasons, although when I first read about VLC I have to admit I had a second of “but the lasers will melt my eyes.”  Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched all of Stranger Things this last week.

The Boston Globe (Go Red Sox!) had a great article this week on staying ahead of technologies curves; the article is more about who is keeping us on track when it comes to staying on the right side of technology versus the nefarious side and the Office of Technology Assessment.

Have you ever thought about how trust affects economic prosperity?  I mean, there has to be a belief in the strength of the dollar to keep us away from hyper-inflation as we moved away from the gold standard decades ago.  It makes sense that part of the reason why the developed world has been sustainable is because we trust the strength of those economies, while the failure of Brazil, Russia, India, and even China to take off to the extreme expected in that famous Goldman Sachs BRICs report might be because we, as a world, don’t trust those countries governments.  Tim Hartford explores trust in the Airbnb age and what it means with regards to prosperity.

One would expect that given Amazon’s dominance of eCommerce over the past fifteen years that the data collected from all those transactions would fuel an AI beast never before seen.  True, but their newest AI, DSSTNE, has only been in use since 2014 and holds much more promise given how successful Alexa has been and while the drones are coming, it appears they might be delivering pizza first.

Did you know that Uber lost $1.27 billion dollars globally in the first half of 2016?  And while Uber had a profitable first quarter in North America, in its quest to corner the ridesharing market, it lost $100 million domestically in the second quarter.  This is driven by steep price discounts and promotional fares for consumers that are subsidized by Uber’s investors as it tries to dominate the market (and drive Lyft out of it) while it figures out a business model.  What’s clear is that the current ride-sharing model isn’t sustainable, the question is can we get to autonomous vehicles fast enough for either company to survive.

Speaking of autonomous cars, there’s two articles this week of interest: one about how the co-opting of dedicated radio airwaves that would enable vehicle-to-vehicle communications, technology that has the potential to greatly reduce the number of accidents and deaths caused by them on an annual basis and another on how automakers are approaching a “fork in the road” when it comes to autonomous car design.   Curious about how the radio spectrum is auctioned off and how economists saved it from anarchy when it first become an open market?  Read about it here.

Curious on “what’s next” from an innovation standpoint? MIT Technology Review profiles 35 of the top innovators under 35 in this article.  It runs the gamut from robotics to sweatbands that monitor your health.  Oh, and there’s also their ranking of the 50 smartest companies for 2016.

Just as we learn more about how AI is being used at Apple, the Wall Street Journal walks us through how China is ramping up and investing in AI.

I posted a couple of articles by Alex Danco last week; here are the follow up articles on the paradigm shift machine (driver culture to car culture and in a world of energy mainframes).  Oh, and along those lines, there is no tech industry.

Ever heard of Fordlandia?  If so, you can explore other lost cities here.  If like me you hadn’t, check out the story behind it here.

I’ve posted a few articles about how individuals can use social engineering to both hack into your home system or steal your identity, but the reality is there are completely legal ways for someone to find out who you are and exploit that information that don’t involve breaking the law to that point.  There’s a series of videos on YouTube where a user does exactly that, and this interview discusses where those holes are.  One of the first things you can do is set up a virtual private network (VPN), which is a method used to add security and privacy to private and public networks, like WiFi Hotspots and the Internet.  PC World has a good step-by-step guide to help you set one up or you can use a site like hide.me.

I feel like a broken record on blockchain, but this week’s TED talk from Don Tapscott does an excellent job of breaking down the technology and clarifying how it works.  Tapscott has authored or co-authored 15 books about various aspects of the reshaping of our society and economy.  Give it a watch.

Uber “exits” China, Growth and Developing Economies, Minecraft and the Future of Work + more

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This last week we learned that Uber, who invested heavily trying to win in the China market, has decided to sell that investment to its competitor in the market, Didi Chuxing.  Now, while Uber “lost” while Didi won, in the end Uber is ending up with a $1B cash infusion from Didi and an ~18% stake in Didi that is worth another $7B, what the Uber venture in China was valued.  Now, some might view this as a smart move on Uber’s part, as it allows Uber to shift its expansion efforts to other markets while maintaining a stake in China, but the Wall Street Journal notes that Uber, like many other Western tech companies before it, faced the same issues of favoritism for the local competitor and obstacles being thrown in their way by the Chinese government.  By selling to Didi, it allows Uber to remain competitive in China through this new partnership, but is also allowing Didi access to Uber’s algorithms.  That said, there are other threats out there to Uber than just unfavorable governments, from driver-owned apps to Uber itself.

Apple, by far, is one of the best marketing companies in the world today.  Yup, you heard me, not technology, but marketing.  They create their message in a way that creates an identity people want to be part of.  Yes, they make great technology to boot, but also encouraged all of us to think different in the process.  What about the world of public relations at Apple though?  Well, in this article from HBR, Cameron Craig talks about four key rules: keep it simple, value reporters’ time, be hands on, stay focused, and prioritize media influencers.  While we might not be dealing with the press on a day to day basis, these rules reinforce how we as leaders should interact with our people, perhaps worded like this: keep it simple, value our people’s time, be hands on (without micromanaging), stay focused, and prioritize people over all else.

Lithium ion batteries are something we use every day and are all well aware of their capacity issues,  Well, as odd as it is for me to be this excited about, lithium-air batteries might finally have reached a point where they are no longer theory.  What does that mean for us?  Lighter batteries that will have twice the charge capacity of the batteries of today and will last longer as well.

VB has a good follow up on chat bots this week – yes, they’re the most hyped tech add in this year, but this article gives an update on how bots are progressing as well as some of the challenges faced in the UX design.

Michael Spence may not be a name you’re familiar with, but he is a nobel laureate in Economics and wrote this week on the growth models of developing countries and how robotics and technology will again shift the way and where things are manufactured.  The slow growth were seeing in advanced countries is likely to persist, and that will tempt developing countries to pursue quick fixes, fixes that would burden those economies in the long run.  One of Spence’s points is that “entrepreneurial activity is vital to translate economic potential into reality.”  That’s my long set up for another two articles on tech in Africa, one about a day in the digital life on that continent, the other about how fintech is building the African financial market (not disrupting it).

Interesting things are going on in Dubai, where AstroLabs, a tech incubator, has set up a coworking space that allows companies to obtain free-zone company licenses, without which entering that market would be a huge hurdle.  It’s the first incubator of this sort to gain traction in that region, and it will be interesting to see how companies are able to leverage it to test out the Dubai market.

For those of us not paranoid enough, Motherboard has done a good job this week of capturing some of the things we should be scared of from a hacking standpoint thanks to the internet of things.  They posit that the IoT will soon see the first large scale disaster due to hacking.  For those of us that follow the infosec space, this isn’t a shock.  Motherboard goes on to have a collection of articles about the current state of hacking you can find here.

Microsoft’s Nokia purchase is leading to even more job cuts.  Yahoo is on a hiring frenzy despite layoffs.  Our brains are on a new drug and it’s called our phone.  A radical change to how kids learn everywhere might come from an online school.  This may be the smartest thing Facebook has ever done.

Last, Jim Fowler, the CIO at GE, has some interesting observations on how Minecraft predicts the future of collaborative work.  He posits this will happen in four ways: we will live inside our designs, we will work on platforms that attract skill and unleash creativity, through collaboration, no problem becomes too difficult to solve, and last, science and technology education will be more like games and less like school, making them both more engaging and exciting.  Also critical, though, is easy access to technology and data and the freedom to find the best way to use it.

I stumbled across a great TED talk this week by John Green titled “the nerd’s guide to learning everything online.”  To Green (who starts his talk with a story about a made up town), we all need to find out how learning works best for us.  He didn’t understand, when he was younger, why people would put nooses around their necks and then head off before it was daylight out to something that seemed to make them miserable.  As a child, if education led to that, why would he want education? Eventually he did, but it took a different kind of school for him to do so.  Check it out.

First Principles, Tackling Cybercrime, Cortana Awakens + more

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When you go about thinking through a problem, how do you typically do so?  If you’re like most people, you will tend to try to solve the problem through analogy.  By doing so, however, you end up basing “new” solutions on old ideas.  While that will work in many cases, there are times when we have to break that model of thinking in order to truly challenge how a task can be completed or a problem solved.  Hearkening back to the writings of Aristotle we’re led to the concept of first principle, searching for a basic, foundational, self-evident proposition or assumption that cannot be deduced from any other proposition or assumption.  This kind of thinking is how we can go about breaking a problem down into its base issues without letting other solutions get in the way of finding a new, novel solution.  James Clear has a good summary of this process, and captures how both Bill Thurston and Elon Musk have used it.

You may have heard the Verizon/Yahoo news and thought back to other internet and communications mergers of the past that failed and wondered as to why the “can you hear me now” network is buying an out of touch internet company.  Well, it comes down to Facebook and Google.  The question is, will Verizon be able to make some magic happen by adding another logo to its brand.

We’re heard a lot about Amazon’s drones and plans for filling our skies with scores and scores of them, but this week there was news of another sort of drone.  If you recall, both Google and Facebook have been working on how to bring the internet to people that don’t have the infrastructure in place to access it by standard means.  Well, this week Facebook’s solar-powered internet drone Aquila took off with great promise.

Part of the reason why there is such a push to bring the internet to the estimated 1.6 billion people in the world who don’t have it today is the belief that free and open access to the internet can change those people’s world for the better.  To that point, there’s a great article this week from The Guardian on whether the internet can reboot Africa and another about the top ten tech entrepreneurs on that continent.  Then there’s this article from HBR on what Africa’s banking industry needs to do to survive.

Today we’re more likely to have our money stolen not by someone in the street but by a hacker half way around the world from us – 20 times more likely, in fact.  While there are no easy solutions to this problem today, many times we simply ignore the issue, frankly because it is so complex and not top of mind until it happens to us.  Just as we need to be vigilant about our physical safety, we have to guard our online presence as well.  While it doesn’t offer discrete solutions, this article from The Conversation does start that dialogue, and awareness of trends and then there are both personal and professional steps one can take to start. Side note: the Internet of Things isn’t helping things.

Did you know that only 3% of venture backed companies have female CEOs?  Sarah Lacy recently spoke to one of them, Julia Hatrz of Eventbrite, in a wide-ranging conversation including her own journey to CEO and the confidence gap that is holding many women back.  Why do I bring this up?  Other than it the critical need to bring all voices to the table when it comes to innovation, there’s this recent article on how Facebook is still failing at hiring a diverse workforce (spoiler: Facebook then blamed those results on a lack of available talent).  Contrast that with this article on the growing number of women in technology.

It is a Facebook heavy week, but here’s an interesting look at what their plans are for Virtual Reality as a follow on to the VR post a few weeks back.

3D printing had been slow to live up to all that was promised when it debuted at SXSW a few years ago.  It was the darling, and there were so many theoretical applications that just haven’t seemed to materialize.  Well, now the head of the French fashion industry has called it “the new industrial revolution,” so perhaps change is finally coming.

If you have an hour to spare, there’s an excellent Google Talk available on the past, present, and future of Blockchains.

“If you want to guarantee your kids have a job when they grow up, teach them to code!”  How many times have we heard those words or uttered them ourselves?  Well, this week there’s a great article from Venture Beat that posits that learning to code isn’t what employers need, but instead we need people who can analyze data.  While it’s a similar set of skills, it doesn’t go as deep on the coding side and adds a focus of data analysis.

HBR has a great article this issue on how to create an exponential mindset for digital business models.  It focuses on what you need to launch, build, and grow to create the opportunity for innovation.

The last article I want to share this week is more for the title than the content.  It’s good to get an update on Microsoft’s virtual assistant, but really, who can resist a title like “Cortana Awakens?”  That can only be the title to a bad 90s tech blended horror film, however it’s still a good read to get insight into how the company that wanted to put a computer in every home in the world thinks about humanizing a digital assistant.

We often find ourselves with labels, labels that we accept as who we are, including the labels of introvert and extrovert.  In this TED talk, Brian Little explores the moment when we transcend those labels and the traits that go with them, the differences between introverts and extroverts, and the malleability of personality.

$1B for a box of razors, Where Machines Could Replace Humans, Why Toxic Leaders Get Promoted + more

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When I first heard of Dollar Shave Club, it was through the same medium as most everyone else – some pretty funny Super Bowl commercials and the media following that.  I thought it looked like a fun and irreverent company, but didn’t subscribe myself until we analyzed it in B school and several guys in my class said they were subscribers and raved about it.  Now it seems that shipping a box of razors every months or so (plus some other items) turns out to be worth $1 billion, or so the offer from Unilever would have us believe.  Pando lays out what entrepreneurs should learn from this acquisition (hit or miss on the article – they’ve started locking their content) while Streatechery speaks to how the $1B price is low compared to the price of Gillette and how it is negatively disrupting the vertical.

Business Insider has once again brought us their “THE SILICON VALLEY 100: The most amazing and inspiring people in tech right now.”  While there are many names you’ll recognize on this list, there are quite a few that you may not, and for me it’s a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s driving innovation in Silicon Valley.

Ever wonder that the best TED talks ever were?  Well, according to Chris Anderson, the curator of TED, these are it.

strategy+business has a trio of good articles this week: What Consumers Most Want from Health Insurers’ Technology, an interview with Greg Beck (Silicon Valley’s Farsighted Banker), and Five Behaviors That Can Create an Innovation Culture.  In that last one, they include , building collaboration across your ecosystem, measuring and motivating your intrapreneurs, emphasize speed and agility, think like a venture capitalist, and balance operational excellence with innovation.

If you found the first strategy+business article interesting, go over and check out what STAT has to say about how ‘digitizing you and me’ could revolutionize medicine.

Bloomberg lays out for us this week something that many may not have noticed: oil isn’t looking to be the future for Big Oil.  They took a look at Royal Dutch Shell to explain why.

If we take a look at the global stage right now, it’s incredible to see how “truth” is being undermined by opinion and fact is falling by the wayside.  The Guardian has supposed that technology is the culprit.  TO me, technology has certainly made it more difficult for public and private leaders to lead and focus on the broader problems facing us.

McKinsey has a great article on how and where machines will replace humans in the near term, and it’s not where you might think.  Automation isn’t set to eliminate any job completely in the next decade, according to McKinsey, however automation will affect portions of all jobs.  In my mind, that’s a good thing, as greater efficiency through automation leads to other advances that will redefine the jobs of the “robot economy.”  While the full results of their study won’t be out until early 2017, McKinsey gives us a glimpse of what they’ve discovered and breaks it out into three main categories: those that are highly susceptible, less susceptible, and least susceptible to automation.  It’s a really fascinating read, and a hat tip goes to Mike for sharing it with me.

Along with the McKinsey piece is this one from Xerox on 19 jobs for ‘bots (and why that’s not such a bad thing).

O’Reilly has a thought provoking piece this week on how decentralization might just give us the reboot we need to reopen the web and accelerate innovation.

It’s been an interesting few weeks for Microsoft with the announcement of the LinkedIn acquisition.  With that acquisition, you may be wondering what the email, data, and privacy implications may be.  Techcrunch has taken a swing at answering those for us.  Also interesting is how Satya may have just fixed Microsoft’s biggest problem.

While I don’t have anything on Google or Apple to share this week, there were a couple of share-worthy items on Facebook, including its inability to increase diversity, again (and how they blame schools for it) and what Facebook will look like in 2026.

In my hours behind a windshield this week I got a chance to catch up on some of Tim Ferriss’s recent podcast and one of them was his interview with Chris Young, the brain behind ChefSteps.  He is obsessively focused on how to bring science into the kitchen and has had a pretty amazing journey.  Pi.co happened to interview him this week as well, it’s worth a read, and the Ferriss podcast is long but a good one.

As a good friend of mine always tells me, great leaders listen twice as much as they speak.  Here’s an article from HBR that speaks to what great listeners actually do.   Oh, and if you want to pick up a book on the subject, check out The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever.

Last this week from The Military Leader is an article on why toxic leaders keep getting promoted.  While not meant for a civilian audience, it reinforces what we already know – toxic leaders advance because we focus too much on what they accomplish, not how they accomplish it.  They may get the mission done, but the trail of destruction they leave in their wake is rarely noticed by their superiors but deeply felt by their peers and subordinates.  The parallels to our lives as leaders is clear – many of us get mired in reacting to the world around us, where the truly successful leaders initiate change in their organizations.  Our task-saturated culture keeps us from finding the cognitive space we need to create long- or even mid-range plans.  That’s the challenge for all of us: finding the space we need to grow into better leaders, and defending that space once we find it.

And on that note, I’d like to leave you this week with this talk by Drew Dudley on everyday leadership.  In it, Dudley asks us to celebrate leadership as the daily act of improving each other’s lives.