This week, I didn’t just want to quit Facebook. I wanted to quit the internet.

The outpouring of vitriol surrounding President Donald Trump and the media’s response was endless. My Facebook page was overwhelmed with angry statuses (or depressed statuses). My aunt chose to share a picture of firefighters holding puppies, and several friends shared the latest “Beauty & the Beast” preview, so there were some moments of humor and non-political friendship. But they were few.

Twitter proffered an endless onslaught of fear and anger. Every newspaper and magazine I read was overflowing with Trump-centric news. And everyone seemed to be shouting at someone else.

How Do We Combat Our Depressing Dialogue?

Regardless of one’s stance on partisan issues, the past several days have been frustrating. This isn’t about Trump’s executive order, its goodness or badness. This is about the way we’ve responded to it, and the way our feelings have prompted us to act toward each other.

Some people—those who aren’t active on social media, say, or those who’ve selected their friend group carefully—may have felt safe and sheltered from all of this.

But many others have felt this same sense of depression and lowness. As Bethany Mandel wrote yesterday, it’s tempting to just get off Facebook and leave the drama behind. It’s tempting to leave the news alone, turn off the computer, and do something else.

But as a journalist, my job is to read. And to analyze. And to write. This week, I assure you, I wanted to do anything but.

The Internet Prevents Us From Truly Seeing Each Other

The internet sets up a sort of emotional veil. It enables us to respond in ways we would not if we were meeting in person. As one friend put it, “We’re a society untethered by the restraints of what used to be considered propriety. No longer is there the interactional stability that once existed in … public discourse, where you were forced to realize the human being across from you at any moment could burst into tears or laughter so you’d better speak accordingly.”

When we can’t see each other, we needn’t love each other—at least, not in the same way.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We Need To Talk In Person, Not On Facebook

Perhaps the first step to take is the simplest one: meet. With real people, in real time. Have actual conversations—political and apolitical. Over coffee, or Friday night pizza. While walking the dogs in the park, or playing with our kids at the playground. During lunch breaks at work, or after the Super Bowl. While we pass around the wine, or drop a plate of cookies off at a friend’s house. Meet. Don’t “post.”

Because what happens when we meet with people is that we see their particularities, their differences, their unique beauty and feeling. As Aldous Huxley puts it in “Brave New World,” “For particulars, as everyone knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils.”

Things are a lot easier when we see peoples as mass groupings of “good” and “evil”—when Obama or Trump can be our arch-nemesis, and their followers a group of fiends that we can castigate and condemn. It’s easier when we can forget etiquette and propriety. When we can spew words without seeing their effect.

But physicality demands respect. It shows us the particulars, the details that differentiate and illuminate.

It Won’t Be Perfect—But We Need To Have These Conversations

That doesn’t mean the conversations will always be easy and simple in real-time, either. There will still be differences and disagreements. As someone who doesn’t seem to fit party definitions or stereotypes easily, I find myself disagreeing with people more often than I’d like. Too often, I hide behind a mask of nodding and smiling, avoiding conflict at every turn.


But this is sometimes—often—a copout. I’m trying to figure out how to explore disagreements in a civil and loving manner, in a way that entices people to dig deeper into their beliefs. In a way that prompts me to dig deeper into my own.

I’m still figuring it out. But it’s vital that we extend grace with our truth, and truth with our grace—that we do not shirk one or the other when we talk to those outside our bubbles of comfort. It’s important that we bring our true selves to the table, and are willing to be both vulnerable and loving, kind and truthful.

We Should Break Bread Together

It’s also important that food be part of these equations, more often than not. That sounds like a funny statement. Perhaps it is. But something happens when we break bread together—when we offer food or drink to those different from us. It break downs barriers, and helps us to connect. It enables us to serve each other in an exceedingly practical and meaningful way. The table connects us, when little else does or can. We can all agree that a good bottle of wine and a plate of chocolate chip cookies are good. We can all join together around a bowl of popcorn and a fun movie. We can set aside our differences and grievances to enjoy a breakfast of pancakes and bacon.

When we make room for each other around the table, we open up opportunities for generosity and understanding that might not exist otherwise.

Hospitality is often the virtue that fosters and makes room for all the others. If so, it’s more important than ever before that we extend it in our day-to-day lives.

It’s Time To Stop Living On The Internet

It’s time to stop living on the internet. It’s easy to do: checking news, reading stories, browsing our news feed, catching up on Instagram. The hours disappear before we realize. But the internet is not real life. It’s visceral emotion and mind dumps. It’s vibrant pixels and pictures.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for the internet. It enables me to do my job, as a mom. But it is not—it cannot be—my life. It cannot be my basis for social interaction. In order for it to cease having such a strong presence in my day-to-day existence, I’m going to have to change: to be more proactive, to seek people out, to open my doors with increasing regularity.

But the point is, the world is more deep, poignant, and meaningful outside the drama of Facebook. And in order to combat the worst tendencies of our Trump-centric news cycle, I think I’m going to have to spend more time out there, and less time on here.

Gracy Olmstead is associate managing editor at The Federalist and the Thursday editor of BRIGHT, a weekly newsletter for women. Her writings can also be found at The American Conservative, The Week, Christianity Today, Acculturated, The University Bookman, and Catholic Rural Life.
Author : Gracy Olmstead
Categorized in Science & Tech

What’s that thing Bill Gates said? “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” When Robert Kahn and Vincent Cerf laid the bedrocks to what we call the modern cyberspace in 1973, they envisioned the Internet to be a storehouse of information, a massive, decentralized library that housed the collective brainchild of every great thinker in the free world. It was supposed to be the one solution to every problem. Have a question? Well, here’s your answer. Unfortunately, though, the reality has never been that simple. The internet is no magic wand, it can offer no single solution to all of life’s problems. Instead, just like all of humanity’s greatest inventions, it’s a very complicated and highly precise mechanism. One with exceeding capability and admirable outreach. However, as with any other mechanism, the internet is shaped by the people who use it, for better or for worse. In the last decade, we saw this beast take center stage in much of the world’s greatest events, socially, economically and politically. From human rights crusaders to advocates of political reform, from scientific visionaries to cancer patients in need of funds, everyone made use of the internet as a podium for sharing concerns and asking for assistance. In inventing the internet, we unleashed a hydra. What remains to be seen is whether we can control it.


“It’s not honest to roll that answer off as saying we didn’t have any idea what we had done, or what the opportunity was.” - Vincent Cerf in an interview with Wired Magazine, 2012.

“The internet is deep waters,” said Cassandra, mother of three and my next-door neighbour for the last six years, “I could never trust my kids around it until they are older”. She is a good parent, Cassie, but her concerns for her children’s safety sometimes extend to the point of paranoia. In this case, though, her concerns are quite genuine. From pedophiles lurking behind false social media accounts to cyber-bullies looking for easy prey, the last few years showed us just how dangerous certain places on the internet can be for the underaged. The keyword here is ‘certain places’. “This is something I think about every day as a parent”, said Denelle Dixon, Chief Business and Legal Officer at the Mozilla Foundation, while also making known that her own approach was that of teaching her children to use the internet responsibly rather than having them shut out of the system altogether. The reason? As parents, we often think it best to keep our kids away from the web until they are a certain age. The problem with this attitude, however, is that teaching someone to use the internet sensibly while they are still young goes a long way towards making them responsible netizens when they are older. By shutting them out of the cyber-scenario altogether, parents raise ignorant children who have no idea how the internet works and are unfit to participate in it even when they are old enough. In fact, as evidence would suggest it, a recent report found that two-thirds of teenagers in the UK can’t even tell the search results away from the advertisements on Google.

The aforementioned is one of the many points brought forth by the Internet Health Report released by the Mozilla Foundation on January 19, a comprehensive document that chronicles the failing health of the internet as we know it. A quick web search reveals that the number of websites currently live on the internet is as many as 1.1 billion. While that sounds like a great victory for free speech champions, dig deeper and you will find that about 60% of the traffic that goes into these 1.1 billion websites is essentially directed towards behemoths such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, while only 40% of the web traffic goes to the rest of the internet. For the average user, ‘surfing the internet’ consists of nothing but performing a search on Google, updating their status on Facebook and uploading a picture on Instagram. It is sad how the internet, which is supposed to be a gladiator of free speech, is essentially controlled by a few large content providers with their own corporate agendas. What’s more, content providers aren’t the only ones fighting to take control over the internet. Network companies such as AT&T and Verizon have long opposed the free and open environment that has made the internet such a great medium of communication.


When I spoke to retired FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, now a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, he expressed clear concerns over the imminent collapse of the structures and regulations that he put in place during his tenure at the FCC to keep the internet free from the grasp of network overlords. The new administration’s largely corporate outlook, combined with their public dissent over the current ‘net neutrality’ regulations, are a strong indication of troubled times according to Mr. Wheeler. He expressed his obvious distaste for the duplicitous ways of net neutrality opponents such as AT&T, going above and beyond to say that the free internet is something that must be protected at all costs. As for reducing the corporate hold over the internet, Mozilla Director Mark Surman recommended implementing open source standards for programming and design on the web, something that his organization has already taken great interest in lately.

“If we have proper legislation in the networks, the rest will fall into place on its own.” - Tom Wheeler, Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute and Retired Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

When it all started out, the Internet was heralded as the one platform where everybody could open up to each other secured by a veil of anonymity. However, the way corporate interests have been using the internet as a weapon for surveillance has presented it as a threat to the very privacy it was supposed to defend. Just last December, the widely used note sharing app Evernote made a seemingly innocuous change to their privacy policy, one which basically allowed its executives to snoop around people’s private notes in order to improve its machine learning technology. In the meantime, almost every website that you visit today inserts a delicious cookie into your web browser that allows it to track your every moment, from the sites you visit to the location you are in, and in some extreme cases, even the sensitive data you share online. Adwords, the interest-based advertising giant from Google, is especially known for its behavioral targeting technology, which now uses personally identifiable information in an attempt to shove more lucrative advertisements down your throat as you surf the web each day. When it comes to safeguarding user privacy, the internet clearly lacks the necessary legislation and infrastructure required to secure the activities that occur as a result of the myriad new opportunities offered by the infobahn.

The last five years haven’t been all bad for the internet. Several educational programs such as the EU Code Week and the New York Public Library TechConnect have sprung up in support of web literacy. Intense activism has led to the formulation of net neutrality laws in the US, UK and India. More and more instant messaging applications are offering ‘end-to-end encryption’ technology as an initiative towards securing privacy. However, if we were to just sit down and compare the ups and downs, we would find that the bad greatly outweighs the good for the internet in the last half-decade. The internet may be the ultimate platform for personal expression, but it isn’t entirely self-sufficient. Every now and then, it requires careful guidance to shove it in the right direction. While the last few years have clearly shown us that such guidance has been inadequate, it may not be too late to get behind these issues while there is time, at least, that is what I would like to believe.

Author : Harold Stark 

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/haroldstark/2017/02/03/mozilla-thinks-that-the-internet-is-under-attack-they-are-not-wrong/#6eaeb9e8e6df

Categorized in Internet Ethics

In 1995, some 40 million people all over the world were connected to the Internet. By 2000 that had grown to around 400 million, and by 2016 it reached 3.5 billion. That means almost half the global population is connected to a single technology.

That’s an extraordinary statistic and one that raises an interesting possibility. With so many people connected in this way, it should become possible to use this technology as a kind of demographic sensor that measures human behavior on an almost unimaginable scale.

Today, Klaus Ackermann at the University of Chicago and a couple of pals say they have done just this by studying how devices connected to, and disconnected from, the Internet between 2006 and 2013. They have done this on a global scale at a time resolution of every 15 minutes to produce a truly mind-boggling number of observations—one trillion of them.


So what does this enormous data set reveal about humanity?

Ackermann and co built their data set by combining information from two sources. The first is a set of scans between 2006 and 2012 in which every IP address was periodically probed to see whether it connected to a device or not. The second is a commercial database of IP geolocations which reveals the location of each device. Together this information produces a vast database covering Internet use in 122 countries every 15 minutes between 2006 and 2012.

The researchers start out by studying how Internet connectivity grows and eventually becomes saturated in societies all over the world. It turns out that Internet growth follows the same pattern everywhere.

Growth starts slowly, ramps up at dizzying rates, and eventually levels off as almost everyone gains access. This creates an S-shaped curve, as the researchers expected. Saturation occurs when there is about one IP address for every three-person household in a country.

More surprising is that it takes about 16 years on average for Internet use to saturate in any given country. That’s significantly faster than other technologies that have revolutionized societies, such as steam power, which took about 100 years, and electrification, which took about 60 years.

Curiously, only four countries had reached full saturation by 2012. These were Germany, Denmark, Estonia, and South Korea.  Others, such as Turkey, have growth rates so slow that saturation will take decades.

Ackermann and co also look at the link between IP connectivity and economic productivity. They say that GDP per capita is positively correlated with IP connectivity per capita. In other words, countries with greater Internet penetration grow faster economically.

And the correlation is not trivial, either. They estimate that a 10 percent increase in IP per capita corresponds to an 0.8 percent increase in GDP per capita.

But they also point out that growth depends on the industry involved. “Broadly speaking, we find that service sectors amenable to digital competition through outsourcing (publishing, news, film production, administrative support, education) have suffered with increasing local IP concentration,” say Ackermann and co. “Whilst location-constrained sectors have prospered from higher Internet concentrations (wholesale, retail, real estate, repairs, hairdressing, mining, transportation, accommodation).”


The new database also allowed the team to study global sleep patterns. They did this by assuming that the switch from a device being online to offline corresponds with a person going to sleep (and vice versa). “The association need not be exact, instead a systematically leading or lagging relationship carries the required information,” say Ackermann and co. They then crunch the data for people in more than 600 cities around the world (having calibrated it against data gathered by the American Time Use Survey).

The result is the first global estimate of overnight sleep duration in 645 cities over seven years, and it makes for interesting reading. “In general, major cities tend to have longer sleeping times compared to surrounding satellite cities,” say the team.  

But they say there is evidence that sleep patterns are changing, perhaps due to technology use. “Whilst North America has remained largely static over the study window, Europe sleep duration has declined, and East Asian sleep duration has grown,” they say. By this reckoning, global sleep patterns are converging. Exactly why is a fascinating open question.

That’s interesting work with significant potential. Of course, it’s not the first time that researchers have crunched big data sets to reveal insights about human behavior. These big data sets generally fall into three categories. The first comes from mobile phones but can only be studied by agreement with phone companies who choose whether or not to reveal it.

Other big data sets come from online services such as Google search, Twitter, and Facebook. However, these data sets have significant limitations, not least of which is that they are not representative of the general population.

And then there are satellite data sets, showing nighttime luminosity on the Earth’s surface, for example. These are certainly global but limited in geographical and temporal resolution.

But Ackermann and co’s data set is yet another approach on a truly global scale. “We view node-to-node online/offline scan data of the kind used in the present work as complementary to these other passive data sources,” they say. “It provides a first glimpse of the potential of global Internet activity to change profoundly the way research in this realm is conducted.”

We’ll look forward to seeing what other insights they can reveal.

Source : https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603541/the-trillion-internet-observations-showing-how-global-sleep-patterns-are-changing/

Categorized in Science & Tech

Next week, if all goes well, someone will win the presidency. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Will the losing side believe the results? Will the bulk of Americans recognize the legitimacy of the new president? And will we all be able to clean up the piles of lies, hoaxes and other dung that have been hurled so freely in this hyper-charged, fact-free election?

Much of that remains unclear, because the internet is distorting our collective grasp on the truth. Polls show that many of us have burrowed into our own echo chambers of information. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 81 percent of respondents said that partisans not only differed about policies, but also about “basic facts.”

For years, technologists and other utopians have argued that online news would be a boon to democracy. That has not been the case.

More than a decade ago, as a young reporter covering the intersection of technology and politics, I noticed the opposite. The internet was filled with 9/11 truthers, and partisans who believed against all evidence that George W. Bush stole the 2004 election from John Kerry, or that Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim. (He was born in Hawaii and is a practicing Christian.)

Sign off from Twitter and Facebook and you instantly divorce yourself from loads of this junk; life without those sites is easy and gives... 

Of course, America has long been entranced by conspiracy theories. But the online hoaxes and fringe theories appeared more virulent than their offline predecessors. They were also more numerous and more persistent. During Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, every attempt to debunk the birther rumor seemed to raise its prevalence online.

In a 2008 book, I argued that the internet would usher in a “post-fact” age. Eight years later, in the death throes of an election that features a candidate who once led the campaign to lie about President Obama’s birth, there is more reason to despair about truth in the online age.

Why? Because if you study the dynamics of how information moves online today, pretty much everything conspires against truth.

You’re Not Rational

The root of the problem with online news is something that initially sounds great: We have a lot more media to choose from.

In the last 20 years, the internet has overrun your morning paper and evening newscast with a smorgasbord of information sources, from well-funded online magazines to muckraking fact-checkers to the three guys in your country club whose Facebook group claims proof that Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are really the same person.


A wider variety of news sources was supposed to be the bulwark of a rational age — “the marketplace of ideas,” the boosters called it.

But that’s not how any of this works. Psychologists and other social scientists have repeatedly shown that when confronted with diverse information choices, people rarely act like rational, civic-minded automatons. Instead, we are roiled by preconceptions and biases, and we usually do what feels easiest — we gorge on information that confirms our ideas, and we shun what does not.

This dynamic becomes especially problematic in a news landscape of near-infinite choice. Whether navigating Facebook, Google or The New York Times’s smartphone app, you are given ultimate control — if you see something you don’t like, you can easily tap away to something more pleasing. Then we all share what we found with our like-minded social networks, creating closed-off, shoulder-patting circles online.

That’s the theory, at least. The empirical research on so-called echo chambers is mixed. Facebook’s data scientists have run large studies on the idea and found it wanting. The social networking company says that by exposing you to more people, Facebook adds diversity to your news diet.

Others disagree. A study published last year by researchers at the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, in Italy, found that homogeneous online networks help conspiracy theories persist and grow online.

“This creates an ecosystem in which the truth value of the information doesn’t matter,” said Walter Quattrociocchi, one of the study’s authors. “All that matters is whether the information fits in your narrative.”

No Power in Proof

Digital technology has blessed us with better ways to capture and disseminate news. There are cameras and audio recorders everywhere, and as soon as something happens, you can find primary proof of it online.


You would think that greater primary documentation would lead to a better cultural agreement about the “truth.” In fact, the opposite has happened.


Consider the difference in the examples of the John F. Kennedy assassination and 9/11. While you’ve probably seen only a single film clip of the scene from Dealey Plaza in 1963 when President Kennedy was shot, hundreds of television and amateur cameras were pointed at the scene on 9/11. Yet neither issue is settled for Americans; in one recent survey, about as many people said the government was concealing the truth about 9/11 as those who said the same about the Kennedy assassination.

Documentary proof seems to have lost its power. If the Kennedy conspiracies were rooted in an absence of documentary evidence, the 9/11 theories benefited from a surfeit of it. So many pictures from 9/11 flooded the internet, often without much context about what was being shown, that conspiracy theorists could pick and choose among them to show off exactly the narrative they preferred. There is also the looming specter of Photoshop: Now, because any digital image can be doctored, people can freely dismiss any bit of inconvenient documentary evidence as having been somehow altered.

This gets to the deeper problem: We all tend to filter documentary evidence through our own biases. Researchers have shown that two people with differing points of view can look at the same picture, video or document and come away with strikingly different ideas about what it shows.

That dynamic has played out repeatedly this year. Some people look at the WikiLeaks revelations about Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and see a smoking gun, while others say it’s no big deal, and that besides, it’s been doctored or stolen or taken out of context. Surveys show that people who liked Mr. Trump saw the Access Hollywood tape where he casually referenced groping women as mere “locker room talk”; those who didn’t like him considered it the worst thing in the world.

Lies as an Institution

One of the apparent advantages of online news is persistent fact-checking. Now when someone says something false, journalists can show they’re lying. And if the fact-checking sites do their jobs well, they’re likely to show up in online searches and social networks, providing a ready reference for people who want to correct the record.

But that hasn’t quite happened. Today dozens of news outlets routinely fact-check the candidates and much else online, but the endeavor has proved largely ineffective against a tide of fakery.


That’s because the lies have also become institutionalized. There are now entire sites whose only mission is to publish outrageous, completely fake news online (like real news, fake news has become a business). Partisan Facebook pages have gotten into the act; a recent BuzzFeed analysis of top political pages on Facebook showed that right-wing sites published false or misleading information 38 percent of the time, and lefty sites did so 20 percent of the time.

“Where hoaxes before were shared by your great-aunt who didn’t understand the internet, the misinformation that circulates online is now being reinforced by political campaigns, by political candidates or by amorphous groups of tweeters working around the campaigns,” said Caitlin Dewey, a reporter at The Washington Post who once wrote a column called “What Was Fake on the Internet This Week.”

Ms. Dewey’s column began in 2014, but by the end of last year, she decided to hang up her fact-checking hat because she had doubts that she was convincing anyone.

“In many ways the debunking just reinforced the sense of alienation or outrage that people feel about the topic, and ultimately you’ve done more harm than good,” she said.

Other fact-checkers are more sanguine, recognizing the limits of exposing online hoaxes, but also standing by the utility of the effort.

“There’s always more work to be done,” said Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of Snopes.com, one of the internet’s oldest rumor-checking sites. “There’s always more. It’s Sisyphean — we’re all pushing that boulder up the hill, only to see it roll back down.”

Yeah. Though soon, I suspect, that boulder is going to squash us all.

Author : Farhad Manjoo

Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/03/technology/how-the-internet-is-loosening-our-grip-on-the-truth.html?_r=1

Categorized in Online Research

Back in 1995, everyone’s favourite astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, published a book called The Demon-Haunted World, which warned against the dangers of pseudoscience and scientific illiteracy, and encouraged its readers to learn critical and skeptical thinking.

Pretty standard stuff for a socially conscious scientist, but one passage in particular has been blowing up on Twitter this week, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Somehow, (we’re not saying time machine, but probably time machine) Sagan managed to predict the state of things as they are today - and it’s unnervingly accurate.

We’re talking the decline in manufacturing jobs; people feeling hopeless about politics; politicians refusing or unable to represent the public interest; and brilliant, revolutionary technologies that never seem to change the lives of anyone but the 1 percent.


The result? Sagan predicts people will opt for superstition and pseudoscience over reality - and even more concerning, he says the public will be intellectually incapable of distinguishing between what makes us feel good, and what’s actually true. Fake news, anyone?

Yep, this passage has got it all:

View image on Twitter 

So did Sagan somehow know enough about society in 1995 that he could accurately predict what life would be like in a couple of generations, or are we all reading too much into it?

Oddly enough, the way we interpret this kind of prediction actually has a lot to do with how we interpret horoscopes - one of Sagan’s biggest bugbears. 

Horoscopes have nothing to do with reality, but they owe their enormous success to the fact that humans tend to see what they want to see.

So while we can be pessimistic about the future of society as a whole, humans are generally pretty optimistic about their individual future prospects - a concept known as optimism bias.

It's actually an evolutionary survival tactic - and that's something horoscopes directly tap into.

As Tali Sharot, a cognitive neuroscientist from University College London, explains for TIME:

"You might expect optimism to erode under the tide of news about violent conflicts, high unemployment, tornadoes and floods and all the threats and failures that shape human life. Collectively we can grow pessimistic - about the direction of our country or the ability of our leaders to improve education and reduce crime. But private optimism, about our personal future, remains incredibly resilient."

Thanks to humanity's optimism bias, you could show someone all the statistics related to divorce, cancer, and average lifespan, and more often than not, they'll choose to believe that those negative experiences won't happen to them.


So when we see horoscopes that tell us we're going to meet our soulmate or get a big promotion this month, we choose to believe it, and don't tend to go back and fact-check it - the horoscope has already done its job by making us feel good.

A similar thing goes on when we're presented with a spookily accurate prediction of the future - part of the cognitive bias that's wired into all humans is that we are drawn to details that confirm our existing beliefs.

As Matt Novak points out over at Gizmodo: "[I]t’s important to remember that the 'accuracy' of predictions is often a Rorschach test. An interpretation of a particular prediction’s accuracy usually says a lot about the people interpreting them, and their own hopes or fears for the future."

We also need to put these predictions into context, because once you read past the viral passage, you'll see that Sagan is kinda trying to blame the state of things in the future on... Beavis and Butthead?

"The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

As I write, the number one video cassette rental in America is the movie Dumb and Dumber. Beavis and Butthead remains popular (and influential) with young TV viewers. The plain lesson is that study and learning - not just of science, but of anything - are avoidable, even undesirable."

How delighted Sagan would be to know that in 2016, more young people were watching David Attenborough than The X Factor. Mind-numbing television is actually the least of our problems right now.

But even with all that said, we do have to give props to Sagan for coming up with a really cracking prediction for the beginning of 2017. Let's hope for better things to come in the months and years ahead.

Author : BEC CREW

Source : http://www.sciencealert.com/the-internet-is-freaking-out-over-this-spooky-prediction-by-carl-sagan-about-the-future

Categorized in Others

With the advancement of technology, we have become more connected with each other. Yet the current estimates say only 40 percent of the global population is connected to the Internet. That is why more and more innovations are being created to bring the Internet even to the places which are very difficult to access. Here are some of the new Internet technologies that will revolutionize how we connect with each other in the distant future.

Light Fidelity or Li-Fi 

Oledcomm, a French startup company introduced Li-Fi last year during the Mobile World Congress. As opposed to Wi-Fi, Li-Fi is based on LED, specifically, it uses the flicker rate of LED lamps, which are much faster than the radio waves used in Wi-Fi connections. However, since it uses the power of light, it cannot pass through walls like the radio waves. Its biggest advantages are security and speed because it is confined at a specific place.

Solar-Powered Drone Routers

Mark Zuckerberg dreams of connecting the world using solar-powered drones equipped with internet technology. His Connectivity Lab is developing such technology. They began tests for the first phase when they launched Aquila, a solar-powered drone with a wing span as big as the Boeing 747. The test flight lasted 93 minutes which is faster than the team's projected 66 minutes.

Satellite "Routers"

If Facebook is looking into solar-powered drones to bring the Internet to the world, Samsung is proposing a network of 4,600 satellites to connect all of us globally. These satellites have the capacity to send out 1 zettabyte a month. In case you have no idea how much a zettabyte is, that is 1 trillion gigabytes.

MegaMIMO 2.0 

The MegaMIMO is MIT's breakthrough technology for a faster Internet connection. According to the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT, the MegaMIMO is 330 times faster than the regular Internet connection we have now.

Author : Chris Brandt

Source : http://www.universityherald.com/articles/59400/20170109/internet-technologies.htm

Categorized in Science & Tech

To put it bluntly: There’s an art to Internet lurking. It goes beyond a simple Google search or typing a name into Facebook. A master Internet lurker knows how to find intel on those hard to find unicorns who don’t have social media accounts, or have them so secured, it’s impossible to find any trace of their existence. However, if you use a little ingenuity and know your Internet it’s possible to dig up something. Think you’re good at lurking? Check out these seven signs you should probably be working for the CIA.

1. You understand that just looking for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts is for amateurs.


2. It’s a no brainer to never look at their LinkedIn profile or Snapchat…there will be notification.


3. You always search for an online portfolio or website for photos and links that are buried in the world wide web.


4. You don’t just search their name, but their friend’s names. You then scour their profiles for photos, check ins, hangs etc. with your subject’s name tagged.


5. You figure out the kind of things they like and Google search their name, plus keywords that might turn something up.


6. No one ever thinks to lurk YouTube, but you do.


7. You can find virtually ANYONE in under 15 minutes.

Categorized in Online Research

How do you say “Netflix and chill” in Mandarin? It doesn’t really matter, because they can’t do it.

At the end of 2016, Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) became the latest online services company to admit defeat in the Chinese market. The video streaming goliath announced that it will syndicate content to Chinese partners. It’s given up on pursuing full service in the country.

Netflix is hardly the first American tech company to run into this problem. Alphabet (Nasdaq: GOOG) has a single-digit percent share of China’s search market. Facebook (NYSE: FB) is almost completely blocked on the mainland.


As we’ve covered in previous Investment U articles, other American industries have done just fine in the Chinese market. American clothes and sporting goods are status symbols there. But time after time, the online services industry has failed to breach the Great Firewall.

These failures aren’t the result of low demand. China is a rapidly developing country of 1.3 billion people. The Chinese love their computers as much as anybody else. But for a multitude of reasons, Chinese people tend to use Chinese internet services instead of their American competitors.

Let’s look at the cultural, political and economic forces keeping American tech companies out of Chinese markets. In the process, we’ll learn how to invest in the homegrown firms that are dominating China’s growing online presence.

Culture Shock in the Chinese Market

As Matthew Carr explained in a recent article on savings habits, your language has a huge influence on how you see the world. And thus, it influences your actions as a consumer.

The Chinese language is one piece of the puzzle in understanding why American internet companies have failed there. Specifically, their writing system is too different.

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Americans love to type. Our language is written in an alphabet, which makes it easy for us to rattle off our thoughts on a keyboard. That’s why search is so crucial to the structure of the internet in the West.

But Chinese is a pictographic language with no alphabet. It has thousands of character glyphs. And that makes it tough for a Chinese speaker to navigate the web by keyboard.

Instead, they tend to click around much more than we do. That might seem like a small difference, but it leads to very different website architectures. Just look at this screenshot of a Chinese news site below.


Chinese sites have far more links than our sites do and far less text fields. It’s a whole different approach to how you design a website. This is one reason why American sites like Facebook, Google and Netflix haven’t gotten traction there. Chinese websites work best when designed by Chinese people.


Of course, it would be wrong to say that writing systems are the only reason Facebook and Google have failed in Chinese markets. That would ignore the political side of China’s unusual internet culture.

Beijing Doesn’t Approve

Western internet companies tend to use a lot of the same buzzwords. Openness. Sharing. Personalization.

These concepts are all well and good in a democracy. But they’re kind of problematic if you’re trying to run a single-party police state. That’s part of the reason why Beijing has been less than welcoming to Western tech firms. Online transparency and Maoism don’t really mix.

The demise of Facebook in China is the best example of conflict between the Chinese Communist Party and Western online services firms.

Western China is home to the Uyghur people, a Muslim minority that has long suffered under Beijing’s rule. In 2009, Uyghur independence activists staged a series of protests around the western Chinese city of Ürümqi. And they used Facebook to coordinate groups of dissidents.

Obviously, this was user-end activity with no involvement from Silicon Valley. But it rattled Chinese authorities and eventually led to a pervasive ban on Facebook on the mainland.

Google has had similar struggles in China. The government demanded that it remove dissenter websites from its search results. Google wasn’t willing to play along, so Beijing regulated it into irrelevance.

Investing in China’s Home-Grown Online Services

Fortunately, there’s a workaround for American investors who want in on Chinese internet growth. Chinese entrepreneurs understand their culture much better than we do. And they know what their government will and won’t tolerate.

As a result, China is home to many successful home-grown online services companies. With support from Beijing, they’ve managed to outcompete their foreign rivals. And many of them are even listed on U.S. stock exchanges.

Want to invest in Chinese Google? Pick up some shares in Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), the country’s No. 1 search engine. Instead of Facebook, try Renren (NYSE: RENN).

The failure of American online services firms in Chinese markets teaches us a valuable lesson. We’re living in the age of the internet - where connectivity is king. But there are still cultural differences between regions of the world. And those differences should not be ignored by investors.

By understanding the unique circumstances of China’s internet market, you can be a more worldly (and profitable) tech investor.

Source : http://www.investmentu.com/article/detail/53183/why-our-online-services-sector-fails-in-chinese-market#.WHCrVFV95dh

Categorized in Market Research

Middle-aged people who consider themselves tech-savvy are a prime target for internet fraudsters, according to research by the insurer Aviva.

More than a million over-45s have fallen victim to an online scam, even though two thirds call themselves “tech adopters” who embrace new devices.

Aviva’s Real Retirement Report found that those aged between 45 and 64 were more likely to be conned than those between 65 and 74 and are almost as at risk as the over-75s.

The survey showed that 6 per cent of over-45s with internet access had been victims of scams, compared with 4 per cent of 65 to 74-year-olds and 8 per cent of over-75s.

Author : Philip Aldrick

Source : http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/business/internet-fraudsters-take-aim-at-savvy-over-45s-qmp7jwrmh

Categorized in Internet Privacy

The CRTC promises high-speed connections to the rural areas lacking it, but their plan has holes

Going home for the holidays is always a welcome escape from school and the everyday hustle and bustle of life. However, ‘back home’ for me is the boonies, the sticks, the country. While the slower pace is nice, I always get a little more slow than I bargain for. Slow Internet, that is.

Sometimes, it’s slow enough to be deemed unusable. The idea of Internet in the bush is more of a symbol or an idea, a technological feat to strive for, than an actual service. With the United Nations declaring the Internet a basic human right in today’s technology-minded world, it’s astonishing that some rural areas still don’t even have basic access.

I’m not just a millennial with a socially acceptable addiction to being connected: the Internet is essential and crucial to functioning in our current society. So, it’s about time the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) decided to treat broadband Internet access as a “basic telecommunications service,” which means it’s finally time for them to give us in the countryside all the Internet.


They report that they hope to reduce the 18% of Canadian homes without adequate Internet to 10% in the next five years, and eradicate it entirely within the next 10 or 15. They’re also requiring service providers to put money into a fund — projected to grow to about $750 million worth — to facilitate these changes.

This may translate to increased prices on services to compensate. With no regulation on rates accompanying the new mandate, consumers are in a tight spot: if the CRTC makes service providers pay more money, those providers will take it straight from our pockets, and without proper policies in place, there’s no telling whether or not we’re going to be charged fairly.

The overall goal is to be able to offer high-speed Internet services to rural areas, with only the hope that they will be affordable. This isn’t good enough. This doesn’t equate to providing adequate Internet to all citizens, not when that access might itself be unfairly inaccessible for financial reasons. This lack of foresight demonstrates a real failure to provide the fundamental human right. What, exactly, is the CRTC doing?

The CRTC has come under fire for being stuck in the past and an obsolete regulator, but in spite of those flaws, it’s still the only credible Canadian regulator which is separate from government. While policing the Internet has always been frowned upon, financial regulation done in the interest of providing it for everyone at an affordable price would be in the best interests of Canadians.


The Internet has become key to meeting our most basic human needs. Newspaper classifieds have gone the way of the dodo. Finding a job, finding a place to live, and, not to mention, socializing is all done via a broadband connection. Even inmates have the right to access the web. Providing Internet service to all at a respectable speed is imperative, but not the final goal — it needs to be at a reasonable price, and we need to do more to ensure that.

Canada is ranked only 33rd in the world for Internet speed. If the CRTC is going to be relevant in our expanding technological society, it needs to work harder to protect the ‘public interest,’ even if the regulations and policies necessary to truly accomplish that are at the expense of the companies which provide Internet services.

Author: Kendra Nelson
Source: http://www.the-peak.ca/2017/01/stronger-internet-needs-to-come-with-stronger-policies

Categorized in Science & Tech

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