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The Actuator – May 22nd

Level 17

This week's Actuator comes to you direct from the Fire Circle in my backyard because (1) I am home for a few weeks and (2) it finally stopped raining. The month of May has been filled with events for me these past nine years, but not this year. So of course, the skies have been gray for weeks. We are at 130% rainfall year to date, and only one inch of rainfall between now and September 30th will set a new record.

As always, here are some links from the Intertubz that I hope will hold your interest. Enjoy!

WhatsApp Finds and Fixes Targeted Attack Bug

I’m shocked, just shocked, to find out WhatsApp and Facebook may have intentionally been spying on their users.

Microsoft Reveals First Hardware Using Its New Compression Algorithm

And then they open sourced the technology, making it available for anyone to use, including AWS. More evidence that this is the new Microsoft.

Strong Opinions Loosely Held Might be the Worst Idea in Tech

Toxic Certainty Syndrome is a real problem, made worse by the internet. I’m not sure the proposed solution of offering percentages is the right choice for everyone, but I’m 100% certain we need to do something.

Amazon rolls out machines that pack orders and replace jobs

Amazon gets subsidies with the promise of creating jobs, then deploys robots to remove those same jobs.

San Francisco banned facial recognition tech. Here’s why other cities should too.

I’m with San Francisco on this, mostly due to the inherent bias found in the technology at the current time.

Gmail logs your purchase history, undermining Google’s commitment to privacy

Don’t be evil, unless you can get away with it for decades.

Selfie Deaths Are an Epidemic

Something, something, Darwin.

Thankful to have the opportunity to walk around Seattle after the SWUG two weeks ago:

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31 Comments
Level 12

I'm 75% sure the link to the Efren Reyes video was as inspiring or more inspiring than the Strong Opinions Loosely Held Might be the Worst Idea in Tech article was.

Level 12

Amazon rolls out machines that pack orders and replace jobs​ I need to start teaching my kids how to program and design robots.

Level 14

Thanks for the articles!  This week's are very interesting!  Gonna actually spend the time to read most of these. 

Level 12

Every job that can be automated eventually will be automated. I have a friend who is a truck driver and sees no reason to look at other job opportunities. But I am convinced that computers will be driving trucks before he is ready to retire, forcing him out of the job.

And software development is not immune; I know people who are working on AI to create custom code so development can be simplified. If they succeed at their lofty ambitions then there will be a lot fewer programmers in a decade or so.

The question that needs to be answered is what can robots not do. And since the answer will change over time, "how to change career fields" will be an essential skill.

Level 12

San Francisco banned facial recognition tech. Here’s why other cities should too.

They are only banning local government from using facial rec. I think that in the very near future workplace access badges and smart home locks will be replaced with facial rec, and I know state and federal government will increase their usage of this technology.

Several years ago I was on a cruise, was surprised when the photographers didn't ask my room number, and more surprised when family pictures were associated with our room number. Facial recognition is how they did it, and the technology has only improved since then.

Facebook and WhatApp do to your account and phone what you'd never allow anyone else to do.  You'd never blindly trust a stranger to manipulate your personal configurations and data, right?  Enabling them to see or steal your personal info?

The problem is that folks want certain functionality, or are persuaded by spin / P.R. to want it, and they're forced to trust the app.

What do we do to ensure we're not installing inappropriately-designed apps that are "bad" or insecure?  There ought to be a service to test apps and verify / validate their safety and propriety.

Or, heaven forbid, we could stop installing apps on our gear, stop using social media, and just live simpler lives that are more risk-free and happier . . .    Naw, that's CRAZY talk!

I'm all for Microsoft doing good things for all!

I'm suspicious, but optimistic.  They've burned users before, but the "new Microsoft" could be wonderful.   However, that old "fool me once . . . " saying may apply.  Let's hope it doesn't.

Yes!  Toxic Certainty is not in everyone's best interest.  This was a good read, and should open the eyes of folks who don't do their due diligence, and who have closed minds.

I'm for Amazon reducing labor as long as they retrain those laborers to be useful and more productive in other jobs.  Simply letting people go because they've been obsoleted by automation is not the solution for awesome P.R. and happy people and customers.

I worked for a company back in the 1980's that had a policy about obsoleting jobs and affect staff.  If a department or system was closed due to obsolescence, the staff were all retrained to provide service in new areas of the industry, which gave the business new products and services to sell.  No one ever lost their job because of some change in the industry or the company's offerings.  They were always retrained and kept on.  It made for awesome loyalty and great job satisfaction.

Any employer should do its best to be the kind of place people line up to join.

Amazon, I hope you're hearing this.

Banning facial recognition tech seems appropriate at this time to me, too.  It would be one thing if it were reliable, but it's not.  It must be 100% accurate, mustn't it?  Or it can do harm instead of help?

Great Britain seemed to have it going, especially at certain airports, and certainly in science fiction television.  Now?  It seems like that's not so much the case.  Or, at least the reliability isn't there yet.

https://www.google.com/search?q=uk+and+facial+recognition&rlz=1C1GCEU_enUS819US819&oq=great+britain+...

Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto sounded so wonderful when they started out.

Now, as their actual actions become more widely understood and publicized, they look to be no better than any other company.  Hopefully still better than certain oppressive governments and intrusive agents . . .

I'm probably naive about that.

Selfie-Deaths.  Hmph.

I"m more of the opinion that the actual event being attempted is probably the root cause of the risks and injuries and deaths.  But the added risks of losing one's perspective and situational awareness as part of setting up a selfie exacerbates the issue dramatically.

Rather, shouldn't we say "Climbing dangerous mountains is unnecessary" and leave it at that?  Dangerous activities are dangerous and should be avoided, no matter at a mountain top, under the sea, on a building's edge, facing wild animals too closely, traveling at unsafe speeds in unsafe conditions . . .

I'm thinking the selfy isn't the root problem; it's the thrill seeking.  Eliminate those activities and the selfy issue goes away.  Let's not focus on the selfy when it's just a symptom of a problem, not its cause.

I expect most people appreciate praise and receiving "Likes" from social media for things they share.  But at the risk of losing one's health or life?

That's just a way to join the Darwin Awards, chlorinating the gene pool of foolish people, while hurting their loved ones with their loss.

Level 12

I'd agree that the "selfy isn't the root problem; it's the thrill seeking." combined with trying to impress others. 259 deaths in approx. 7 years, (or 37 deaths a year,) I would hardly classify as an Epidemic. Unless we want to include trying to impress others as an epidemic as well.

Level 13

As always, thanks for another set of thought provoking links and a new book to read I got from one of them..

Level 12

interesting group of articles.

Automation will always happen, and it will always replace the irreplaceable.

WhatsApp, well if you are not paying for the product, you are the product!

Selfie deaths, hmmm, tragic but not an epidemic. Most were probably just unfortunate accidents, but I have to imagine that most were also avoidable.

Level 13

Thanks for the useful links.

I keep thinking about that for my kids. The best thing I can teach them is how to learn, and how to solve problems. The rest is a moving target.

MVP
MVP

Nice article.

MVP
MVP

Thankful to have the opportunity to walk around Seattle after the SWUG two weeks ago: -

Level 14

The WhatsApp one caused a lot of concern here at work where it is used extensively for team communications.  Even the IT team use it for out of hours problem solving.  I have been telling them not to put passwords in messages when someone asks for access to a system but this problem was much worse.

Level 14

Microsoft hardware.  Oh no.  It sounds like the boys from Pied Piper have sold out (TV show - Silicone Valley).

Level 14

Strong opinions.  I'm quite happy to let the loudest one say whatever they like.  I then do the job correctly.  When they then tell everyone that they were correct all along I take great pleasure in telling everyone that they weren't and that it works because I did it my way.  It's nice that the proof is already there to back me up.

Level 14

I'm quite happy for a robot to be picking and packing my order.  There's significantly less risk of it being wrong or damaging my order.  A person towards the end of a long shift will be prone to making mistakes.  It's also not a great job.  Surely it would be better if they were upskilled and given more meaningful, better paid roles.  It might also keep the prices down.

Level 14

SF bans facial recognition systems.  It's been around a lot longer than people think.  I put one in in the early 90s that monitored live CCTV and tracked known players in Belfast.

Level 14

Don't be evil.  It's probably best to assume they are all tracking everything.  It's probably true and you won't be surprised.

Level 14

I don't understand this obsession of taking photos of yourself then forcing them on others.  I take photos of things I've seen and look at them as a reminder.  If someone else wants to look at them they can but that would only be friends and family.  They last thing they want to do is look at pictures of me.  If you want to do something dangerous they do so but keep focused on what you are doing, not yourself (see what I did there).  I know as I'm both an experienced deep water scuba diver and fast motorcyclist (obviously not at the same time although I did come close once on the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm as there are a load of motorcycles in one of the holds).

Level 12

Microsoft Reveals First Hardware Using Its New Compression Algorithm

And then they open sourced the technology, making it available for anyone to use, including AWS. More evidence that this is the new Microsoft.

These are indeed strange days.  Heard a Microsoft rep on stage at a recent conference bragging about the majority percentage of servers in Azure being Linux. 

Dogs and cats living together...

MVP
MVP

WhatsApp Finds and Fixes Targeted Attack Bug - Hmm

Level 16

I always liked WhatsApp, too bad.

Level 16

Amazon rolls out machines that pack orders and replace jobs

This is nothing new. I worked at a large retailer and warehouse automation has been in use for years. They had even automated their pharmacy prescription filling into a warehouse full of robot 'order pickers' and just a few pharmacists at that location to verify orders.

The error rate was almost zero, far better than having humans do it. 

Level 16

Selfie Deaths Are an Epidemic

I was at Yellowstone last year and suprised there aren't more.. People standing at the edge of a cliff, in front of a buffalo, getting close to a bear.... not paying attention to anything around them.