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The Surveillance Age

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The Cassandra Version:

My hope — my expectation, even — for 2014 is that the fog starts to lift.

As much as I like using the fog metaphor, the thing about surveillance is that there is no actual fog. You can’t see it. It’s everywhere and gets in everything, and it still looks like a sunny day on the internet.

But still.

[Now that are our eyes are open, and we continue to add to the piles of data companies like Amazon, Google, Twitter, etc. know about us and of course, the vast amounts of data the Government knows about us what do we do? As a technologist I have a few ideas of where I can make things better for some people. And that's what I'm going to do.]

Written by Daniel

December 31, 2013 at 9:15 am

Posted in advocacy, security, tech

screwed

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2014:

There are industries of people throwing money at other people saying they’ve found a breakthrough way of doing X for Y, where X is Instagram and Y is something that couldn’t possibly be a dishwasher because that wouldn’t make any sense whatsoever. There are companies like Everpix who try to fulfill what some other companies are promising and what we all want, but they run out of money. To the extent that they can’t survive because no one wants to pay and all the funding’s gone to Twitter-optimized coupon sites that don’t know five years in how to turn a profit, yeah, we’re screwed.

But we’re not screwed because no one wants to pay for anything and would rather file status updates during Christmas dinner. We’re screwed because no one dares to actually break the mold. No one wants to unhinge everything and fucking fix it. No one wants to stop making photo library apps for 2001 where it’s just cool that you can have those family photos on the computer or the photo sender app for 2006 where you can send pictures to people outside of the room(!) and make the photo library app that will be needed as everything will be going digital, everything will be kept forever and accessible from everywhere and no one will even remember there being a discussion about no one remembering paper copies or rolls of film.

I promised some ideas and there’ll be ideas, but I can’t do this alone. Stop wondering about what version numbers the next versions of Windows and OS X will have. Start wondering about how the hell we’re even getting along with what we have.

[+1]

Source: Brent Simmons

Written by Daniel

December 30, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Posted in advocacy, tech

So why did she get fired?

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A Twitter Message About AIDS, Followed by a Firing and an Apology – NYTimes.com:

By Saturday afternoon, Ms. Sacco was no longer an employee at IAC. The company’s statement also said:

There is no excuse for the hateful statements that have been made and we condemn them unequivocally. We hope, however, that time and action, and the forgiving human spirit, will not result in the wholesale condemnation of an individual who we have otherwise known to be a decent person at core.

[Yes, I know why she got fired. But I'm askin' "why did she get fired". If they know her to be a "decent person at core" then shouldn't they have forgiven this misstep? Nah, it's clearly expedient for the company to remove a social liability... Jobs are complicated things but it always concerned me that most companies have no moral compass of their own. Might there not have been an alternative to "off with her head?"

And BTW, don't join a mob, you cannot control the outcome and it'll rarely be what you expect.]

Written by Daniel

December 26, 2013 at 9:26 am

Posted in advocacy, news

FDA Tells Google-Backed 23andMe to Halt DNA Test Service

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FDA Tells Google-Backed 23andMe to Halt DNA Test Service – Bloomberg:

“FDA is concerned about the public health consequences of inaccurate results from the PGS device,” the agency said today. “The main purpose of compliance with FDA’s regulatory requirements is to ensure that the tests work.”

The FDA used candid language in the letter to outline the work the agency has done with 23andMe since 2009 to no avail, including more than 14 face-to-face and teleconference meetings and had hundreds of e-mail exchanges. The FDA said it has given the company feedback on study protocols, discussed regulatory pathways and provided statistical advice.

[Here's the thing... genetic testing can’t tell you whether or not you will develop a disease, only whether you carry a gene mutation that *statistically* puts you at a higher risk. Meaning they've found a correlation, but as far as I can tell, no one knows whether an individual gene by itself affects anything. It seems quite the opposite from what I've read... changing one gene seems to cause other genes to change as well and explain why in part all this is such slippery stuff... why there are no "cures" being batted about. (Yes, I know people are working on all kinds of stuff, but it all runs counter my experience that this form of "reductionism" applies well in complex systems.) Negative tests for a given gene mutation also don’t mean that you’re in the clear: For example it seems that only ~5% of breast cancers and maybe as much as 15% of ovarian cancers are caused by hereditary mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 the genes made somewhat famous by Ms. Jolie. As always, I'm not telling anyone what to do, and certainly if you're not relying it diagnostically have at it. But between the margin of errors in the tests themselves, the limited number of markers that a service like the above checks, etc... seems like a really low grade indicator of anything. I know it appears high tech and shiny, but that doesn't mean it's accurate or reliable, or that we have any idea what it means when we see it.]

Written by Daniel

November 27, 2013 at 8:09 am

Posted in advocacy, health

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

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Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule:

When you’re operating on the manager’s schedule you can do something you’d never want to do on the maker’s: you can have speculative meetings. You can meet someone just to get to know one another. If you have an empty slot in your schedule, why not? Maybe it will turn out you can help one another in some way.

Business people in Silicon Valley (and the whole world, for that matter) have speculative meetings all the time. They’re effectively free if you’re on the manager’s schedule. They’re so common that there’s distinctive language for proposing them: saying that you want to “grab coffee,” for example.

Speculative meetings are terribly costly if you’re on the maker’s schedule, though. Which puts us in something of a bind. Everyone assumes that, like other investors, we run on the manager’s schedule. So they introduce us to someone they think we ought to meet, or send us an email proposing we grab coffee. At this point we have two options, neither of them good: we can meet with them, and lose half a day’s work; or we can try to avoid meeting them, and probably offend them.

Till recently we weren’t clear in our own minds about the source of the problem. We just took it for granted that we had to either blow our schedules or offend people. But now that I’ve realized what’s going on, perhaps there’s a third option: to write something explaining the two types of schedule. Maybe eventually, if the conflict between the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule starts to be more widely understood, it will become less of a problem.

Those of us on the maker’s schedule are willing to compromise. We know we have to have some number of meetings. All we ask from those on the manager’s schedule is that they understand the cost.

[Well explained. I try and line up meetings in a given day. When they can't be aligned that way I use the middle of the day, reserving the morning and end of the day for "maker" time. Allez! ]

Written by Daniel

November 5, 2013 at 3:10 pm

The Decline of Wikipedia: Even As More People Than Ever Rely on It, Fewer People Create It

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The Decline of Wikipedia: Even As More People Than Ever Rely on It, Fewer People Create It:

Yet it may be unable to get much closer to its lofty goal of compiling all human knowledge. Wikipedia’s community built a system and resource unique in the history of civilization. It proved a worthy, perhaps fatal, match for conventional ways of building encyclopedias. But that community also constructed barriers that deter the newcomers needed to finish the job. Perhaps it was too much to expect that a crowd of Internet strangers would truly democratize knowledge. Today’s Wikipedia, even with its middling quality and poor representation of the world’s diversity, could be the best encyclopedia we will get.

[I've experienced the pain. It drove me away. I had stuff to contribute, but I don't care to contribute my way past their walls.]

Written by Daniel

October 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

Posted in advocacy, tech

Continuations : Twitter: Life is Unfair?

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Continuations : Twitter: Life is Unfair?:

So why does the Twitter story remind me of Prof. Hausman’s admonition? Because it demonstrates the relative importance of hitting upon the right thing at the right time over early execution. This goes a bit against one of the historic ideas held dear in venture capital that execution matters more than ideas. And yes it remains true that an idea alone is worthless, you have to build something. But beyond that it turns out that building the right thing at the right time will let you get away with all sorts of mistakes. Conversely, hypothetically perfect execution but too early or too late or on the wrong variant will not get you very far. For everyone working really hard on a startup that’s not going gangbuster this seems, well, unfair.

So there you have it. Prof. Hausman was right all along. Actually not quite. I used to think that but more recently I have changed my outlook to: Life just is. Unfair implies some kind of moral standard. Somewhere somebody right now is building the next big thing and most likely it is not you. Just accept that and you’ll be happier.

[Raise your hand if you think it's you?]

Written by Daniel

October 14, 2013 at 8:05 am

Posted in advocacy, education, ethics

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