EssentialstheDiagonal is a personal blog by Mike Gerra, skeptic, technologist, psychologist, artist, humanist, collector of grand, eclectic ideas.theDiagonal blog connects the dots across multiple disciplines for inquisitive, objective and critical thinkers, exploring the vertices of big science, disruptive innovation, global sustainability, illuminating literature and leftfield art. It is on this diagonal that creativity thrives, big ideas take flight and reason triumphs.
Tag Archives: internet
Friday, May 17, 2013
Ubiquitous connectivity for, and between, individuals and businesses is widely held to be beneficial for all concerned. We can connect rapidly and reliably with family, friends and colleagues from almost anywhere to anywhere via a wide array of internet enabled devices. Yet, as these devices become more powerful and interconnected, and enabled with location-based awareness, such as GPS (Global Positioning System) services, we are likely to face an increasing acute dilemma — connectedness or privacy?
From the Guardian:
The internet has turned into a massive surveillance tool. We’re constantly monitored on the internet by hundreds of companies — both familiar and unfamiliar. Everything we do there is recorded, collected, and collated – sometimes by corporations wanting to sell us stuff and sometimes by governments wanting to keep an eye on us....read more
Sunday, May 5, 2013
The internet has revolutionized retailing, the music business, and the media landscape. It has anointed countless entrepreneurial millionaires and billionaires and helped launch arrays of new businesses in all spheres of life.
Of course, due to the peculiarities of human nature the internet has also become an enabler and/or a new home to less upstanding ventures such as online pornography, spamming, identify theft and phishing.
Now comes “catfishing“: posting false information online with the intent of reeling someone in (usually found on online dating sites). While this behavior is nothing new in the vast catalog of human deviousness, the internet has enabled an explosion in “catfishers“. This fascinating infographic below gives a neat summary.
Infographic courtesy of Checkmate.
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Thursday, April 25, 2013
Google chair Eric Schmidt is in a very elite group. Not only does he run a major and very profitable U.S. corporation, and by extrapolation is thus a “googillionaire”, he’s also been to North Korea.
We excerpt below Schmidt’s recent essay, with co-author Jared Cohen, about freedom in both the real and digital worlds.
From the Wall Street Journal:...read more
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Sunday, October 28, 2012
The internet has the potential to make our current political process obsolete. A review of “The End of Politics” by British politician Douglas Carswell shows how connectedness provides a significant opportunity to reshape the political process, and in some cases completely undermine government, for the good.
Charles Moore for the Telegraph:
I think I can help you tackle this thought-provoking book. First of all, the title misleads. Enchanting though the idea will sound to many people, this is not about the end of politics. It is, after all, written by a Member of Parliament, Douglas Carswell (Con., Clacton) and he is fascinated by the subject. There’ll always be politics, he is saying, but not as we know it....read more
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Google lets the world peek at the many tubes that form a critical part of its search engine infrastructure — functional and pretty too.
From the Independent:
They are the cathedrals of the information age – with the colour scheme of an adventure playground.
For the first time, Google has allowed cameras into its high security data centres – the beating hearts of its global network that allow the web giant to process 3 billion internet searches every day.
Only a small band of Google employees have ever been inside the doors of the data centres, which are hidden away in remote parts of North America, Belgium and Finland.
Their workplaces glow with the blinking lights of LEDs on internet servers reassuring technicians that all is well with the web, and hum to the sound of hundreds of giant fans and thousands of gallons of water, that stop the whole thing overheating....read more
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Online social networks have expanded to include hundreds of millions of twitterati and their followers. An ever increasing volume of data, images, videos and documents continues to move into the expanding virtual “cloud”, hosted in many nameless data centers. Virtual processing and computation on demand is growing by leaps and bounds.
Yet while business models for the providers of these internet services remain ethereal, one segment of this business ecosystem is salivating — electricity companies and utilities — at the staggering demand for electrical power.
From the New York Times:
Jeff Rothschild’s machines at Facebook had a problem he knew he had to solve immediately. They were about to melt....read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
There is no doubt that online reviews for products and services, from books to news cars to a vacation spot, have revolutionized shopping behavior. Internet and mobile technology has made gathering, reviewing and publishing open and honest crowdsourced opinion simple, efficient and ubiquitous.
However, the same tools that allow frank online discussion empower those wishing to cheat and manipulate the system. Cyberspace is rife with fake reviews, fake reviewers, inflated ratings, edited opinion, and paid insertions.
So, just as in any purchase transaction since the time when buyers and sellers first met, caveat emptor still applies.
Monday, May 28, 2012
Friday, May 25, 2012
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Author Lewis Lapham reminds us of the phrase made (in)famous by Emperor Charles V:
“I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.”
So, what of the language of the internet? Again, Lapham offers a fitting and damning summary, this time courtesy of a lesser mortal, critic George Steiner:
“The true catastrophe of Babel is not the scattering of tongues. It is the reduction of human speech to a handful of planetary, ‘multinational’ tongues…Anglo-American standardized vocabularies” and grammar shaped by “military technocratic megalomania” and “the imperatives of commercial greed.”
More from the keyboard of Lewis Lapham on how the communicative promise of the internet is being usurped by commerce and the “lowest common denominator”.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The term “Internet of Things” was first coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton. It refers to the notion whereby physical objects of all kinds are equipped with small identifying devices and connected to a network. In essence: everything connected to anytime, anywhere by anyone. One of the potential benefits is that this would allow objects to be tracked, inventoried and status continuously monitored.
From the New York Times:
THE Internet likes you, really likes you. It offers you so much, just a mouse click or finger tap away. Go Christmas shopping, find restaurants, locate partying friends, tell the world what you’re up to. Some of the finest minds in computer science, working at start-ups and big companies, are obsessed with tracking your online habits to offer targeted ads and coupons, just for you....read more
Sunday, October 30, 2011
There are clear signs that Internet-radicalization was behind the terrorism of Anders Behring Breivik. Though most research on this points to jihadism, it can teach us a lot about how Internet-radicalization of all kinds can be fought.
On 21 September 2010, Interpol released a press statement on their homepage warning against extremist websites. They pointed out that this is a global threat and that ever more terrorist groups use the Internet to radicalize young people.
“Terrorist recruiters exploit the web to their full advantage as they target young, middle class vulnerable individuals who are usually not on the radar of law enforcement”, said Secretary General Ronald K. Noble. He continued: “The threat is global; it is virtual; and it is on our doorsteps. It is a global threat that only international police networks can fully address.”...read more
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Apparently only 1 percent of global internet traffic is transmitted via satellite or terrestrially-based radio frequency. The remaining 99 percent is still carried via cable – fiber optic and copper. Much of this cable is strewn for many thousands of miles across the seabeds of our deepest oceans.
For a fascinating view of these intricate systems and to learn why and how Brazil is connected to Angola, or Auckland, New Zealand connected to Redondo Beach California via the 12,750 km long Pacific Fiber check the interactive Submarine Cable Map from TeleGeography.
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Thursday, September 15, 2011
Twenty or so years ago the economic prognosticators and technology pundits would all have had us believe that the internet would transform society; it would level the playing field; it would help the little guy compete against the corporate behemoth; it would make us all “socially” rich if not financially. Yet, the promise of those early, heady days seems remarkably narrow nowadays. What happened? Or rather, what didn’t happen?
We excerpt a lengthy interview with Jaron Lanier over at the Edge. Lanier, a pioneer in the sphere of virtual reality, offers some well-laid arguments for and against concentration of market power as enabled by information systems and the internet. Though he leaves his most powerful criticism at the doors of Google. Their (in)famous corporate mantra — “do no evil” — will start to look remarkably disingenuous.
From the Edge:
Thursday, August 25, 2011
A whimsical look at your favorite piece of internet software — the web browser.
Infographic courtesy of Wix:
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Monday, August 8, 2011
In early 1990 at CERN headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau published a formal proposal to build a “Hypertext project” called “WorldWideWeb” as a “web” of “hypertext documents” to be viewed by “browsers”.
Following development work the pair introduced the proposal to a wider audience in December, and on August 6, 1991, 20 years ago, the World Wide Web officially opened for business on the internet. On that day Berners-Lee posted the first web page — a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup....read more
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
From the New York Times:
“WHEN people don’t answer my e-mails, I always think maybe something tragic happened,” said John Leguizamo, the writer and performer, whose first marriage ended when his wife asked him by e-mail for a divorce. “Like maybe they got hit by a meteorite.”
Betsy Rapoport, an editor and life coach, said: “I don’t believe I have ever received an answer from any e-mail I’ve ever sent my children, now 21 and 18. Unless you count ‘idk’ as a response.”
The British linguist David Crystal said that his wife recently got a reply to an e-mail she sent in 2006. “It was like getting a postcard from the Second World War,” he said.
The roaring silence. The pause that does not refresh. The world is full of examples of how the anonymity and remove of the Internet cause us to write and post things that we later regret. But what of the way that anonymity and remove sometimes leave us dangling like a cartoon character that has run off a cliff?...read more
Saturday, July 23, 2011
The lives of 2 technological marvels came to a close this week. First, NASA officially concluded the space shuttle program with the final flight of Atlantis.
Then, France Telecom announced the imminent demise of Minitel. Sacre Bleu! What next? Will the United Kingdom phase out afternoon tea and the Royal Family?...read more
Friday, July 22, 2011
Phew! Another heartfelt call to action from business blogger Seth Godin to become indispensable.
Author, public speaker, orthogonal thinker and internet marketing maven, Seth Godin makes a compelling case to the artist within us all to get off our backsides, ignore the risk averse “lizard brain” as he puts it, get creative, and give the gift of art. After all there is no way to win the “race to the bottom” wrought by commoditization of both product and labor.
Bear in mind, Godin uses “art” in its most widely used sense, not merely a canvas or a sculpture. Here, art is anything that its maker so creates; it may be a service just as well as an object. Importantly also, to be art it has to be given with the correct intent — as a gift (a transcendent, unexpected act that surpasses expectation)....read more
Friday, July 15, 2011
Imagine a world without books; you’d have to commit useful experiences, narratives and data to handwritten form and memory.Imagine a world without the internet and real-time search; you’d have to rely on a trusted expert or a printed dictionary to find answers to your questions. Imagine a world without the written word; you’d have to revert to memory and oral tradition to pass on meaningful life lessons and stories.
Technology is a wonderfully double-edged mechanism. It brings convenience. It helps in most aspects of our lives. Yet, it also brings fundamental cognitive change that brain scientists have only recently begun to fathom. Recent studies, including the one cited below from Columbia University explore this in detail.
From Technology Review:
A study says that we rely on external tools, including the Internet, to augment our memory....read more
Monday, July 4, 2011
Echo and Narcissus, John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
About 12 months ago I committed suicide — internet suicide that is. I closed my personal Facebook account after recognizing several important issues. First, it was a colossal waste of time; time that I could and should be using more productively. Second, it became apparent that following, belonging and agreeing with others through the trivial “wall” status-in-a-can postings and now pervasive “like button” was nothing other than a declaration of mindless group-think and a curious way to maintain social standing. So, my choice was clear: become part of a group that had similar interests, like-minded activities, same politics, parallel beliefs, common likes and dislikes; or revert to my own weirdly independent path. I chose the latter, rejecting the road towards a homogeneity of ideas and a points-based system of instant self-esteem....read more
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A decade ago in another place and era during my days as director of technology research for a Fortune X company I tinkered with a cool array of then new personalization tools. The aim was simple, use some of these emerging technologies to deliver a more customized and personalized user experience for our customers and suppliers. What could be wrong with that? Surely, custom tools and more personalized data could do nothing but improve knowledge and enhance business relationships for all concerned. Our customers would benefit from seeing only the information they asked for, our suppliers would benefit from better analysis and filtered feedback, and we, the corporation in the middle, would benefit from making everyone in our supply chain more efficient and happy. Advertisers would be even happier since with more focused data they would be able to deliver messages that were increasingly more precise and relevant based on personal context....read more
Friday, June 25, 2010
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
As his friends flocked to social networks like Facebook and MySpace, Alessandro Acquisti, an associate professor of information technology at Carnegie Mellon University, worried about the downside of all this online sharing. “The personal information is not particularly sensitive, but what happens when you combine those pieces together?” he asks. “You can come up with something that is much more sensitive than the individual pieces.”...read more
Wednesday, January 30, 2008