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The Unintended Consequences of the GDPR

Thursday, 17 May, 2018

The blogger Yeats, as opposed to the poet Yeats, might say that the “rough beast” of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), “its hour come round at last,” slouches towards us to be born on 25 May. For Rainy Day, which runs on WordPress 4.9.5, this will have implications. Our hosting service, WP Engine, had this to say earlier today:

“With WordPress 4.9.6 coming this week, we will be seeing a few new features built around GDPR compliance. This release is different in that it is introducing new features in a Maintenance/Security update, and that it applies only to websites already running WordPress 4.9 and higher. While this is atypical of a release, it is important to include these new features because they provide an essential toolkit for handling GDPR compliance. We have weighed the risk in introducing these new features and since they are not manipulating or impacting existing WordPress features, we feel that this release is not only safe but also important in enabling you to make your site GDPR compliant.”

The Law of Unintended Consequences lays out three outcomes: Unexpected Benefit, Unexpected Drawback or Perverse Result. Which one the will the GDPR deliver? Well, the reality is that the EU can only enforce the GDPR against entities that do business in the EU. Any website hosted outside the EU doesn’t have to comply with the GDPR and the EU cannot compel China, say, to accept its notion of privacy. Companies that want to keep tracking users will either ban EU customers and visitors, or move outside the EU and do business elesewhere.

And, if a company’s servers are in the US and if it doesn’t have any EU assets, it can keep tracking EU visitors. Brussels can’t do anything about this because US courts are not going to uphold EU law against US citizens who have not broken US law. In other words, because the web is worldwide, one consequence of the GDPR will be the creation of a false sense of privacy.


Musk’s Cyborg Dragon and Kanye’s dragon energy

Thursday, 26 April, 2018 0 Comments

These are not easy days for Elon Musk. Consider: A Tesla Model S recall was followed by allegations by the Center for Investigative Reporting about workplace injuries at the company’s factory in Fremont. On top of that, there’s the dizzying cash burn because of the billions invested in preparation for the production of the Model 3. But Elon Musk is no ordinary businessman and crises that would sink any other entrepreneur seem to act as incentives for even more stimulating ideas. The latest? A cyborg dragon.

Elon Musk tweets

Say what you will about Elon Musk, the man knows how to tweet and he knows his dragons. After all, the “Dragon” is a reusable spacecraft developed by Musk’s SpaceX. On the other hand, this may go deeper. Kanye West loves cruising around in his Tesla and now he’s praising President Trump, saying “We are both dragon energy.” It’s hard to keep up with it all the dragons these days.


On being a remote

Wednesday, 18 April, 2018 0 Comments

“I’m used to working at home and now I find being at the main office a lot more distracting than working from home.” — Julia Evans

Julia Evans is a software developer. She lives in Montreal and works of the payment processing platform Stripe, on infrastructure. Her blog, she says, is about “being delighted about programming” but it’s not all Python headers, Ruby profilers and bash scripting. Back in February, she wrote about her experiences of working remotely, something she’s done for four years now. It’s a very useful post for those in the so-called “gig economy” and it addresses a lot of the questions posed by people contemplating replacing the commute with the home office.

A ton of people asked me questions about what I think of as sort of basic job health — how do you make sure your coworkers don’t ignore you / leave you out of discussions, how do you communicate, etc.

My current theory about this is — as long as I work on a team with a lot of other remotes, everything will be fine. Working as the only remote on a team of people who are all in person seems like hard mode — I have never done it and I’m not that interested in trying that.

Note: “I can’t imagine working remotely without good videoconferencing technology.”


Elizabeth Holmes and the Art of the No Easy Ask

Thursday, 12 April, 2018 0 Comments

If you think Mark Zuckerberg is having a tough week, consider the (mis)fortune of Elizabeth Holmes. Remember her? The CEO of Theranos was the poster girl for all those who bought and sold the delusion that a photogenic founder was an essential first step on the road to unimaginable riches. And, sure enough, gullible investors and sycophantic media beat a path to the golden door in the Valley in the hope of turning blood into treasure. And they ponied up an incredible $1.4 billion along the way.

Zuckerberg may have been on the hot seat, but Holmes is in deep water. Consider the letter she recently sent to shareholders regarding the company’s looming default on a $100 million loan. Snippet:

“The most viable option that we have identified to forestall a near-term sale or a potential default under our credit agreement is further investment by one or more of you. In light of where we are, this is no easy ask. However, given your support of the company over the years, we wanted to provide this opportunity before we proceed too far down the current path.”

Holmes is a fraud, but one has to admire (almost) the chutzpa of “this is no easy ask”.

Miss Fortune


Nasim Aghdam and the YouTube convergence

Saturday, 7 April, 2018 0 Comments

Recap: In Iran, she was known as “Green Nasim”, commanding a certain degree of social media clout. On Tuesday, in California, Nasim Aghdam proceeded to the headquarters of YouTube in San Bruno and went on a shooting spree. Three were wounded, with the sole death being Aghdam, who took her life after the bloody splurge.

Mark Steyn peels back the layers in a piece titled The Grand Convergence. Snippet:

“What happened is a remarkable convergence of the spirits of the age: mass shootings, immigration, the Big Tech thought-police, the long reach of the Iranian Revolution, the refugee racket, animal rights, vegan music videos… It was the latest mismatched meeting between east and west in the age of the Great Migrations: Nasim Aghdam died two days before her 39th birthday, still living (according to news reports) with either her parents or her grandmother. She came to America at the age of seventeen, and spent two decades in what appears to be a sad and confused search to find something to give her life meaning. But in a cruder sense the horror in San Bruno was also a sudden meeting of two worlds hitherto assumed to be hermetically sealed from each other: the cool, dispassionate, dehumanized, algorithmic hum of High Tech — and the raw, primal, murderous rage breaking through from those on the receiving end.”

For all those who have fallen out of love with the Silicon Valley dataopolies, Blockchain is the most promising technology as it has the potential to disrupt the centralized social media companies.


Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology

Thursday, 5 April, 2018 0 Comments

The full title of Adam Alter’s book is even longer: Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. Money quote:

“Facebook has an endless feed; Netflix automatically moves on to the next episode in a series; Tinder encourages users to keep swiping in search of a better option. Users benefit from these apps and websites, but also struggle to use them in moderation. According to Tristan Harris, a ‘design ethicist,’ the problem isn’t that people lack willpower; it’s that ‘there are a thousand people on the other side of the screen whose job it is to break down the self-regulation you have.'”

Our age of behavioural addiction is still in its infancy, but we can no longer ignore the writing on the screen. Everything from family and friendship to rest and play is being crowded out by smartphones, e-mails, social networking and on-demand viewing. Understanding the nature of addiction is a necessary first step in defending our well-being, but it will be hard to beat our new habits when thousand of dopamine pushers “on the other side of the screen” are being paid huge sums to hook us.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked


Utopia, Dystopia, Heterotopia and, now, Bettertopia

Friday, 23 March, 2018 0 Comments

Did you know that Björk used 12 flutes on her Utopia album? She has decided, however, to employ just seven flautists in her upcoming concert in Reykjavík on April 12th.

So much for Utopia in Iceland. In China, by way of contrast, they’re moving rapidly towards the opposite. “China’s Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious” warns Adam Greenfield in The Atlantic. Beijing’s Dystopia is terrifying: “Known by the anodyne name ‘social credit,’ this system is designed to reach into every corner of existence both online and off. It monitors each individual’s consumer behavior, conduct on social networks, and real-world infractions like speeding tickets or quarrels with neighbors. Then it integrates them into a single, algorithmically determined ‘sincerity’ score.”

And Heterotopia? The term was used in 1984 by Michel Foucault (who else?) in a text titled “Of other spaces” that was published in Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité.

Which brings us to Bettertopia. “Welcome to Bettertopia,” says Panasonic, the Japanese multinational electronics corporation headquartered in Osaka. “This dream city is always filled with smiles and vitality. Panasonic’s products and services, using current and future advanced technologies, are supporting people’s lives and businesses here.”

Love this bit on what happens when sports fans visit the Bettertopia Stadium:

“Thank you for coming. I’m the manager here, so let me show you around. First, come this way to the entrance gate. Where’s the line? There is no line to enter. We don’t have such a thing in our stadium. You’ve already registered with a photograph of your face, and the face recognition system does the job. So you can get in quickly. You can pick up your pre-ordered meal and drinks here. Merchandise and food can be purchased without cash or credit cards. Your face is all you need.”

If you dream of Panasonic’s dream city, note: “Your face is all you need.”


Tech Will Save Us

Monday, 19 March, 2018 0 Comments

Well, I don’t know if it will but the fact is that a UK startup called Tech Will Save Us recently raised $4.2 million in funding. What does it do? It creates STEM-based products for children that teach basic tech skills and thus prepares them for a tech-focused future. Critically, for the funders, Tech Will Save Us will partner with Disney to create a new Avengers-themed electronics play kit. Sales pitch: “Save the world with Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America by completing missions with conductive dough.”

Upon receiving the tangible dough from SaatchInvest, Backed VC, Initial Capital and Leaf VC, the founder of Tech Will Save Us, Bethany Koby, had this to day about the kindness of investors: “They will not only bring expertise and insights from the gaming industry but they align with our values as parents and entrepreneurs to use our time to impact the next generation in a positive way.” What a pity that Lucy Kellaway isn’t available to decrypt “they align with our values as parents and entrepreneurs to use our time to impact the next generation in a positive way.” She would have shredded its sanctimony.

Note: The Avengers earned more than $1.5 billion worldwide and became the third-highest-grossing film during its cinema run. It was the first Marvel production to generate $1 billion in ticket sales and became the highest-grossing film of 2012. A sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, was released in 2015, while an additional sequel, Avengers: Infinity War is scheduled for global release on 27 April. If tech will not save us, The Avengers will, is the message.


The KPMG AVRI

Thursday, 8 March, 2018 0 Comments

Which countries are most prepared for driverless cars? The question is pertinent because autonomous vehicles (AVs) will revolutionize transportation and the way people live and work. The 2018 KPMG Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI) offers an in-depth view of what’s needed for countries to meet the challenges of self-driving vehicles. This is the first study of its kind, examining where countries are in terms of progress and capacity for adapting AV technology, and the top ten are:

1 The Netherlands
2 Singapore
3 The United States
4 Sweden
5 The United Kingdom
6 Germany
7 Canada
8 United Arab Emirates
9 New Zealand
10 South Korea

Quote: “There will be economic benefits, because the time we currently spend driving a car becomes productive time in an AV that can be spent working, relaxing or sleeping. But moreover, there will be social benefit, including a vast reduction in the 1.3 million people killed each year in car accidents, and accessibility for those who currently cannot drive, because of age or disability.”

The learn more, download the KPMG AVRI PDF (2.9 MB).

KPMG


We’re on the road to Mars!

Wednesday, 7 February, 2018 0 Comments

We will look back and marvel at what Elon Musk did yesterday. In short, his SpaceX company successfully launched the most powerful rocket in the world into space. And this was done by a private business at a fraction of a cost of other systems currently being built. SpaceX claims that Falcon Heavy launches will cost about $90 million per flight, while NASA, which is working on its own heavy launch system, called the SLS, estimates it could cost about a billion dollars per flight. But the icing on the cake is that the notion of re-landing reusable rockets, which seemed like science fiction a decade ago, is now reality. SpaceX regularly lands rockets back on land or on a drone ship in the Atlantic. Yesterday, it landed two Falcon 9 rockets simultaneously, each dropping elegantly from the sky with a majestic controlled burn.

Elon Musk is making the future great again. We’re on the way to Mars!


Goat simulator acquired by Coffee Stain

Monday, 5 February, 2018 0 Comments

Yes. That’s a real English-language headline: “Goat simulator acquired by Coffee Stain”. A decade ago, it wouldn’t have been possible to write it and even today 99 percent of those who understand its six English words have no idea of what it all means. So what’s it about, then? Here goes:

“Goat Simulator is an open-ended third-person perspective game in which the player controls a goat. The player is free to explore the game’s world, a suburban setting, as a goat, and jump, run, bash things, and lick objects. Licking objects attaches the goat’s tongue to the object and lets the player drag the object around until they let go. At any time, the player can let the goat drop into a ragdoll model, allowing the game’s physics to take over.”

This is 2018, after all.

Anyway, up Scandinavia way last week up, Swedish game maker Coffee Stain Studios, based in Skövde, acquired a majority stake in the Stockholm-based Gone North Games, the makers of such hit mobile games as Goat Z and Goat Simulator: Waste of Space.

This is 2018, after all. And Goat Z is a goat simulator, not a goat stimulator, by the way.