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The Tech Slant

Bad Apple

One Bad Apple

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*Most addicts never see it coming.  They just cruise along enjoying a harmless vice, one they are in complete control of, placing themselves above the many that have succumbed.  Then the day of Josie’s graduation comes along, which means three hours in the car with family and a long day away from home before there will be any alone time, and they panic a little.  Mr. Jones is knocking.  That’s when the compromises begin.

One little lie here, one unfact there, twenty dollars here, a couple hours there.  They will compromise their own integrity.  They will compromise their own reality.  They will compromise almost anything just to get at that drink, that pill, that gram, that bet, that cupcake.  They start doing things that they never would have dreamed of doing a year ago, or two.

Bad Apple

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CRISPR - Gene Altering Technology

CRISPR – New Gene Altering Technology

*A new technology that will change the world has emerged, called CRISPR, an acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeat. While the mechanics of this technology are an essay all by itself, suffice to say that it is a technique that alters genes, the formula for life in DNA. Discovered by a food company that was studying a bacterium called Streptococcus thermophiles, it turns out that CRISPR has the ability to alter the genetic makeup of whatever DNA where ever it is applied. Even if CRISPR turns out unable to genetically alter human beings, it is one step closer to our ability to do so.

The backlash against GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) still rages, while disease-resistant plants that could keep populations healthy are ignored. Golden rice, which would prevent blindness in children in Third World countries, was shunned for quite some time, all due to unjustified fear of GMOs. (I wrote a very sad research paper on that topic.) CRISPR is (from my admittedly shallow understanding) another method of altering DNA to resist diseases, among other things. The question before us is whether we should use CRISPR to alter our genetic makeup, and, more importantly, to alter the DNA of our offspring to make them healthier.

If the genetic investigation indicates that your child will be autistic, and you had the ability to stop it, would you do it?”

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The Golden Age of Linux

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*“Do you wanna run up to Egghead with me?  The new version of Netscape is out and I want to get it before they run out again.”

Egghead – for the uninitiated – was a brick and mortar retail store in your town that sold software released on floppy disks or CDs and packaged in colorful shrink-wrapped boxes.  Netscape was the first widely-used web browser; in 1996 it cost $49 and had to be installed separately.

The biggest difference between then and now is that we don’t buy or own software anymore; like beer, we only rent it.  Fortunately beer doesn’t prompt us to log into our mountain fresh account by tapping a secret code on the can before being enabled to enjoy the product we’ve paid good money for, or force us to wait while the beer is infused with updated hops, or require us to agree to ‘terms’ so one-sided as to actually be jocular – except that it is not funny.

The days of spacing out and alternating software purchases to help stay within a budget have gone the way of the floppy disk.  Monthly and/or yearly subscription fees for specialty software used for image editing, audio/video creation, publishing and developing can quickly add up to hundreds every year.  Once MS moves its Windows operating system to a subscription plan the average household can be looking at annual fees of between five hundred and a thousand dollars per year just to check email! Keep Reading

Forensics, Fraud and Fairness

*Jennifer Mnookin, Dean of UCLA’s School of Law recently released a research paper on “The Uncertain Future of Forensic Science.” To begin with, the “science” of forensics always had a goal, and that was to “scientifically” prove that discovered evidence supported the conclusion that a person was guilty of a crime. The intention was to convict citizens who had committed crimes, an altogether honorable mission.

Iniquitous Experts

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Tightening the Tether on Tasteless Tech

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*As economies have moved forward, more and more complex arrangements, instruments, and machines have come into existence. For example, the reason we can make music earbuds so small now is because of rare earth magnets, made of praseodymium, which is mined in the U.S., China, Russia, Australia, and India. Many of the resources needed to produce the inventions of our modern society are linked around the world. As I have stated on numerous occasions, we have been in a global economy since the East India Company of 1600.

Big Tech - Global Economy
Image Credit: The Economist

There have been several game-changers in economics, mostly two Industrial Revolutions, the revolution of the late 19th century when machines became essential to make other machines, and the more recent tech boom. Let’s review some of the industries that tech has affected.

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Facebook’s Fickle Finger of Fate

*Some years ago, there was a comedy show that had as a part of its weekly bits, the “Flying fickle Finger of Fate” award, which went to people in the news who accomplished “dubious achievements.” From The Wall Street Journal, Friday July 27, 2018: “Facebook shares fell 19% to $176.26, erasing about $119.1 billion in market value, after the Menlo Park Calif., company warned late Wednesday about slowing growth. Facebook’s loss in market value Thursday is larger than 457 of the 500 companies in the S&P 500. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg alone lost almost $16 billion in the value of his stock holdings.”

But Mark Zuckerberg is a genius.

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg poses a question during the CEO Summit.

Perhaps Zuckerberg will have to skip the Wadyu steak Friday night, and just have the regular filet mignon. Keep Reading

Big Data

Big Data & Big Business = Big Bucks

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NICE GUYS FINISH LAST

I’m not in opposition to “big” things. I am, however, fearful of “big” things going bad. Hedge funds losing billions of dollars (Knight Capital) and having the stones to ask for their money back. Brian Hunter of Aramanth losing $6 billion. Big moves can lead to big mistakes. Torch Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, where catching fire on a regular basis is the norm. The Titanic, which was the biggest ocean liner in the world, within a short period of time, became the biggest ocean liner at the bottom of the Atlantic.

Make no mistake about it; we are in the era of Big Data. Data collected on every click you make, every time you press a key on your keyboard.  Insight, pattern recognition and projection, all aspects of human intelligence, are being performed by machines that may or may not be making the best of judgments.

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Theranos Sunny Balwani

Sunny Balwani – Pecunious, Punctilious, and Prosecuted

*Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani was the president and Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of a company named Theranos for seven years. The founder of Theranos was Elizabeth Holmes, whose life goal was to be a Silicon Valley billionaire. The unfolding of the story is rather sad, a story whose path was not unlike the fictional character Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” theme. Theranos’s business concept was a great idea, and should a company such as one like Theranos actually work, it would change a lot of how we view medicine, but the concept and reality never actualized.
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Cryptocurrency

The Cryptocurrency Conspiracy Continues

*As it was once said, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  Bitcoin has been joined by 1,450 digital coin offerings. I have never been happy with the term “coin” since we associate coins with metal objects we can hold in our hands, except for maybe the island of Yap that has stone coins.

I think they attempt to assuage people by using the term “coin” so that the chumps who invest in them really think that there is, somewhere, something that they can put in their pocket and stroll down to the local drug store and by a soda.

Bitcoin closed Friday May 18, 2018 at $8,487.61, in case you’re interested. Tulips were once very valuable, too (look that up in your history books).

Let me say I have no animosity for those who invest in Bitcoin. If you make a fortune, good for you, and make sure and thank the Winklevoss twins, who dreamed up Facebook and any other moneymaking investment that might have a sketchy, hard to nail down origin.

I think they slept through their ethics classes at Harvard; the only thing they learned was “once you have it, no one really cares how you got it” which was certainly true of I.G. Farben along with the International Bank of Settlements during the 1940s, or Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.

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Audi A8

Audi A8 – Valiant in Valencia

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Taking the Audi A8 out for a prance in Spain

*When the Audi A8 last rebooted, people were hardly in an uproar over the changes. No, Audi plays it safe with their big limo, a flagship that necessarily must embody all the aspirations implicit in the marque’s “russian dolls” approach to carmaking.

The car is especially handsome under Valencia’s ochre, wintertime sun— even the tourists are straining for a look at the handsome car as it cruise the wide boulevard near L’Oceanogràfic, a stunning oceanarium situated in the east of the city of Valencia, Spain, where different marine habitats are represented. Designed by the architect Félix Candela and the structural engineers Alberto Domingo and Carlos Lázaro, the structure echoes the curving grace of the A8, casting an impressionistic reflection on my press car’s highly reflective hood in the afternoon light.

AUdi A8 in Valencia
PHOTO CREDIT: SHARPMAGAZINEME.COM

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