I don’t know what happened to the Future. It’s as if we lost our ability, or our will, to envision anything beyond the next hundred years or so, as if we lacked the fundamental faith that there will in fact be any future at all beyond that not-too- distant date. Or maybe we stopped talking about the Future around the time that, with its microchips and its twenty-four-hour news cycles, it arrived. —
Michael Chabon, The Omega Glory
Futurelessness is an attribute of the postnormal era. We are confronted with so much fog — from a cascade of ambiguities, the dissolution of institutions and the collapse of solidarity, and the growing complexities of an incestuously interconnected world — that we are blocked from envisioning some extrapolated arc of history over the event horizon. And there is so much appearing and smacking us in the face everyday, it’s as if the present has been colonized by the future. As William S. Burroughs put it,
When you cut into the present the future leaks out.
If Icahn actually believed his letter, he would send it to Apple privately. - Matt Levine http://t.co/RqRgehvecG He didn’t, so he doesn’t.— Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd) October 10, 2014
The advent of Big Data has resurrected the fantasy of a social physics, promising a new data-driven technique for ratifying social facts with sheer algorithmic processing power. —
Nathan Jurgenson, View From Nowhere
One of those clever, potentially profound system-level apps that can unfortunately only work on Android for the time being. I personally use at least six different messaging clients (including unconventional ones like Twitter DM) throughout the day. It’s a chore to figure out who I’m talking to where. And it gets worse seemingly everyday with new apps constantly popping up.
That’s the first battle Snowball is choosing to fight. And why I’m pleased Google Ventures has invested in the team. Now to figure this out on iOS…
Caitlin Dewey, Teens are officially over Facebook
Between fall 2014 and spring 2014, when Piper Jaffray last conducted this survey, Facebook use among teenagers aged 13 to 19 plummeted from 72 percent to 45 percent. In other words, less than half of the teenagers surveyed said “yes” when asked if they use Facebook. (A note: There’s no spring data available for the “no networks” option, which is why that spot is blank.)
This is confirmation of Mary Meeker’s prediction about the defection of users from large social-scale networks like Twitter and Facebook to small social scale chat solutions. And that defection will happen first in teens, who are the biggest adopters of mobile.
As I wrote at the time,
Meeker makes a really smart analysis of this trend, and contrasts it with services like Facebook: people are transitioning to messaging tools geared toward frequent communication with a small group of contacts — or what I have been calling communications with a set — and moving away from broadcasting messages to large audiences — like Twitter and Facebook — which is communication with a scene, in my terms.
As Meeker describes it, this means the action is moving from supporting sets and away from scenes, where the value of the network is not principally about the number of nodes, but the number of sets and the amount of messaging going on. (Note that this sounds like a rediscovery of Reed’s Law, which states that the utility of a network grows exponentially over the number of nodes, based on the number of groups that form.)
In the consumer web, this shift is going to pose interesting challenges for businesses and advertisers, because users will be less willing to accept ad tracking, or ads at all, in what they generally consider a private context for communications in sets.
We are seeing the same trend in work tech: the surge of interest in tools like Slack, Hipchat, and the like, and the relative decline of now-conventional ‘social collaboration’ tools. Note that Piper Jaffray missed the swing to chat tools, because they didn’t ask.
This is going to be the big work tech trend of the year. And I will be talking about that subject in the Bixtrix24 webinar Oct 14 at 11am Eastern: see here for more deets.
People are beginning to understand the nature of their new technology, but not yet nearly enough of them — and not nearly well enough. Most people, as I indicated, still cling to what I call the rearview-mirror view of their world. By this I mean to say that because of the invisibility of any environment during the period of its innovation, man is only consciously aware of the environment that has preceded it; in other words, an environment becomes fully visible only when it has been superseded by a new environment; thus we are always one step behind in our view of the world. Because we are benumbed by any new technology — which in turn creates a totally new environment — we tend to make the old environment more visible; we do so by turning it into an art form and by attaching ourselves to the objects and atmosphere that characterized it, just as we’ve done with jazz, and as we’re now doing with the garbage of the mechanical environment via pop art.
The present is always invisible because it’s environmental and saturates the whole field of attention so overwhelmingly; thus everyone but the artist, the man of integral awareness, is alive in an earlier day. In the midst of the electronic age of software, of instant information movement, we still believe we’re living in the mechanical age of hardware. At the height of the mechanical age, man turned back to earlier centuries in search of “pastoral” values. The Renaissance and the Middle Ages were completely oriented toward Rome; Rome was oriented toward Greece, and the Greeks were oriented toward the pre-Homeric primitives. We reverse the old educational dictum of learning by proceeding from the familiar to the unfamiliar by going from the unfamiliar to the familiar, which is nothing more or less than the numbing mechanism that takes place whenever new media drastically extend our senses. —
Marshall McLuhan, The Playboy Interview
BlueTouch is a patch for back pain that uses blue LED light to alleviate pain. Blue LED light stimulates the production of nitric oxide in the target area, which helps to stimulate blood circulation to the affected area. This helps the body to better heal itself, making for a much more reliable and long-term pain relief solution than relying on traditional, medical painkillers. Philips did a test run of BlueTouch, and found that 76.8 percent of BlueTouch users reported experiencing mild pain (as opposed to moderate or severe pain), versus 26 percent before use. (via Philips BlueTouch and PulseRelief Provide Wireless Pain Relief)
*Hmmm, there are some rather familiar sentiments here.
"IV. ”BIG DATA” IS BIG BUSINESS
"Let’s see if we can use these ideas to understand some things about „big data.” The analysis of massive data sets began as a way to reduce uncertainty by discovering the probabilities of future patterns in the behavior of people and systems. Now the focus has quietly shifted to the commercial monetization of knowledge about current behavior as well as influencing and shaping emerging behavior for future revenue streams. The opportunity is to analyze, predict, and shape, while profiting from each point in the value chain.
"There are many sources from which these new flows are generated: sensors, sur-veillance cameras, phones, satellites, street view, corporate and government databases (from banks, credit card, credit rating, and telecom companies) are just a few.
"The most significant component is what some call “data exhaust.” This is user-generated data harvested from the haphazard ephemera of everyday life, especially the tiniest details of our online engagements— captured, datafied ( translated into machine-readable code), abstracted, aggregated, packaged, sold, and analyzed. This includes eve-rything from Facebook likes and Google searches to tweets, emails, texts, photos, songs, and videos, location and movement, purchases, every click, misspelled word, every page view, and more.
"The largest and most successful „big data“ company is Google, because it is the most visited website and therefore has the largest data exhaust. AdWords, Google’s algo-rithmic method for targeting online advertising, gets its edge from access to the most data exhaust. Google gives away products like “search” in order to increase the amount of data exhaust it has available to harvest for its customers— its advertisers and other data buyers. To quote a popular 2013 book on „big data“, “every action a user performs is considered a signal to be analyzed and fed back into the system.” Facebook,Linked In, Yahoo, Twitter, and thousands of companies and apps do something similar. On the strength of these capabilities, Google’s ad revenues were $21 billion in 2008 and climbed to over $50 billion in 2013. By February 2014, Google’s $400 billion dollar market value had edged out Exxon for the #2 spot in market capitalization.
"V. “BIG DATA” IS BIG CONTRABAND
"What can an understanding of declarations reveal about “big data?” I begin by suggesting that „big data“ is a big euphemism. As Orwell once observed, euphemisms are used in politics, war, and business “to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”. Euphemisms like “enhanced interrogation methods” or “ethnic cleansing” distract us from the ugly truth behind the words.
"The ugly truth here is that much of „big data“ is plucked from our lives without our knowledge or informed consent. It is the fruit of a rich array of surveillance practices designed to be invisible and undetectable as we make our way across the virtual and real worlds. The pace of these developments is accelerating: drones, Google Glass, wearable technologies, the Internet of Everything (which is perhaps the biggest euphemism of all).
"These surveillance practices represent profound harms—material, psychological, social, and political— that we are only beginning to understand and codify, largely because of the secret nature of these operations and how long it’s taken for us to understand them. As the recent outcry over the British National Health Service’s plan to sell patient data to insurance companies underscored, one person’s „big data“ is another person’s stolen goods. The neutral technocratic euphemism, „big data“, can more accurately be labeled “big contraband” or “big pirate booty.” My interest here is less in the details of these surveillance operations than in how they have been allowed to stand and what can be done about it.
"VI. THE INTERNET COMPANIES DECLARE THE FUTURE
"The answer to how these practices have been allowed to stand is straightforward: Declaration. We never said they could take these things from us. They simply declared them to be theirs for the taking—- by taking them. All sorts of institutional facts were established with the words and deeds of this declaration.
"Users were constituted as an unpaid workforce, whether slaves or volunteers is something for reasonable people to debate. Our output was asserted as “exhaust” — waste without value—that it might be expropriated without resistance. A wasteland is easily claimed and colonized. Who would protest the transformation of rubbish into value? Because the new data assets were produced through surveillance, they constitute a new asset class that I call “surveillance assets.” Surveillance assets, as we’ve seen, attract significant capital and investment that I suggest we call “surveillance capital.” The declaration thus established a radically disembedded and extractive variant of information capitalism that can I label “surveillance capitalism.”
"This new market form entails wholly new moral and social complexities along with new risks. For example, if the declarations that established surveillance capitalism are challenged, we might discover that „big data“ are larded with illicit surveillance assets who’s ownership is subject to legal contest and liability. In an alternative social and legal regime, surveillance assets could become toxic assets strewn through the world’s data flows in much the same way that bad mortgage debt was baked into financial instruments that abruptly lost value when their status function was challenged by new facts.
"What’s key to understand here is that this logic of “accumulation by surveillance” is a wholly new breed. In the past, populations were the source of employees and consumers. Under surveillance capitalism, populations are not to be employed and served. Instead, they are to be harvested for behavioral data…."