Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Web Secret 506: the best of iWebU - Tech Proof

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #309: Tech Proof.

Why? A lot of things are changing very fast, but others - not so much. Identifying what stays the same is important.

Web Secret #309: Tech Proof - May 7, 2014

A few months ago I returned to Vegas.

I was last there 40 years ago.

A lot had changed:
  • from seedy to glitzy
  • from flashing light bulbs to state of the art projections
  • from a Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed, to a flat screen TV.
But a lot hadn't changed at all:
  • in the casinos, pretty girls with very little clothing delivered drinks to thirsty gamblers
  • the slot machines were still slot machines
  • you could still play poker, blackjack and shoot craps
  • the Cirque du Soleil show was a circus show
  • I went to a comedy show and it was just like any comedy show I had ever attended - a person stood on stage, talked and made me laugh
  • the magician escaped from a water flooded tank - just like Houdini did, over 100 years ago.
In it's very essence, the Vegas experience hadn't changed at all.

The Internet, computers and cell phones hadn't touched it. It was "tech proof."

We spend a lot of time focusing on what is rapidly changing in our world. The change has been remarkable.

But equally remarkable is what remains "tech proof."

What will be "tech proof" ten years from now? 50 years from now? 100 years from now?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Web Secret 505: the best of iWebU - The Singularity

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #298: The Singularity .

Why? The singularity, is a theoretical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature. Some years ago, experts said there was an 80% probability that it would occur between 2017 and 2112. It didn't happen last year, and it's pretty obvious that it's not going to happen this year. But it is going to happen way sooner than 2112. Everyone should understand the concept.

Note to my readers: one of the links no longer functions but does not detract.

Web Secret #298: The Singularity - February 19, 2014

Do you want to experience fear?

You don't need to ride a roller coaster, bungee jump, or parachute. Just read this post.

Remember Watson? Watson is the artificially intelligent computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language, developed by IBM. The computer system was specifically developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! In 2011, Watson competed and won Jeopardy! against former super champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings.

That's a little concerning. But that's just the beginning.

The technological singularity, or simply the singularity, is a theoretical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature. Since the capabilities of such an intelligence may be difficult for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is often seen as an occurrence (akin to a gravitational singularity) beyond which the future course of human history is unpredictable or even unfathomable.

The first use of the term "singularity" in this context was by mathematician John von Neumann in the mid-1950s.

I have to digress to let you know that von Neumann was not one of your average mathematicians. As a 6-year-old, he could divide two 8-digit numbers in his head. By the age of 8, he was familiar with differential and integral calculus. By the age of 26 he had published 32 papers, at a rate of nearly one major paper per month. Von Neumann's powers of speedy, massive memorization and recall allowed him to recite volumes of information, and even entire directories, with ease.

Ray Kurzweil, our greatest contemporary futurist, predicts the singularity will occur around 2045. At the 2012 Singularity Summit, Stuart Armstrong did a study of artificial generalized intelligence (AGI) predictions by experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040. His own prediction on reviewing the data is that there's an 80% probability that the singularity will occur between 2017 and 2112.

So it's not if, but when...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Web Secret 504: the best of iWebU - I Live Like a Billionaire

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am rereleasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #225: I Live Like a Billionaire - February 29, 2012.

Why? If you live in a Western country, above the poverty line, you have a better life than a 19th century titan of industry. This explains why:

Web Secret #225: I Live Like a Billionaire - September 26, 2012

Two months ago, while I was sitting in my virtual front row seat watching the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games on my HDTV, it occurred to me that I have a better quality of life than John Jacob Astor IV.

In 1912, Astor was considered to be the richest man in the world, with a fortune of close to $3 billion in 2012 dollars. In case you don't remember from watching Titanic reruns, he drowned during the sinking of the ship, (interesting but irrelevant to the point I am trying to make.)

True, I don't have a summer "cottage" in Newport, Rhode Island. Nor am I likely to travel first class anywhere, anytime. But in every other respect, compared to him, I live like a billionaire.
  • I have air conditioning (not in widespread use until the 1940s.)
  • I have hot and cold water
  • , anytime, (not in widespread use until the 1920s.)
  • My car, a modest Honda CRV, is equipped with GPS (invented in 1990) and satellite radio (Sirius Satellite Radio, 1990.)
  • Through my cable TV set, I always have a seat to an endless list of concerts, shows, and sporting events, (HBO was created in November 1972.)
  • I am vaccinated against multiple horrific diseases, (polio vaccine 1952) and have access to antibiotics (penicillin, commercially available in 1945) if I get an infection, and insulin (discovered in 1922,) if I get diabetes.
  • I own or have access to a dozen other wonderful technical wonders that help make my life pleasant, safe, longer, and entertaining.
I am very rich indeed.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Web Secret 503: the best of iWebU - Nobody Knows You're a Dog

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008 and moving forward.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #195: Nobody Knows You're a Dog.

Why? To function in the 21st century, most of us need a profound understanding of the power the Internet. This means that what we throw up on the web is a representation of who we are. Put up a crappy website, Tweet a thoughtless remark, post something idiotic on Facebook and that becomes who you are in the minds of many.

Conversely, a well crafted web presence can provide us with amazing opportunities because nobody knows there is only one person behind the curtain.

Web Secret #195: Nobody Knows You're a Dog - February 29, 2012

Raise your hand if you've ever heard the saying "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

This adage began life as the caption of a cartoon published by The New Yorker in 1993. It features two dogs: one sitting on a chair in front of a computer, speaking to a second dog sitting on the floor. As of 2000, the panel was the most reproduced cartoon from "The New Yorker."

Now raise your hand if you knew what the Internet was in 1993...

Initially, some argued that the cartoon marked a critical moment in Internet history, when it moved from being the exclusive domain of geeks and academics, to being a topic of general interest.

To others, the cartoon symbolizes an understanding of Internet privacy that stresses the ability of users to anonymously send and receive messages.

But what does this concept mean for you, a professional?

Simply put, on the Internet, nobody will know whether you are a two or a two hundred person operation, nor an expert with one or twenty years of experience - unless your online presentation is unprofessional.

If you have a professional looking website, use Twitter, Facebook and other social media appropriately, upload professional photos instead of candid snapshots, users will think that you are smart, current, honest and dependable.

If you are going to put yourself out there, whatever you do, it better be sharp, and classy.

Otherwise, users will assume you are a dog.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Web Secret 502: the best of iWebU - Krulwich Wonders

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am rereleasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #146: Krulwich Wonders .

Why? Until 2014, there was an NPR science radio program "Krulwich Wonders" hosted by the brilliant Robert Krulwich. The episode I discuss in this post is about a profound and counter intuitive idea: "there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet." Especially significant because of the rapidity with which tech evolves.

Web Secret #146: Krulwich Wonders - March 23, 2011

I have found the online equivalent of eating a chocolate truffle. Krulwich Wonders, an "NPR Science Blog" post written by Robert Krulwich.

Sounds kinda boring, right?

I had a hunch it would't be. Let me self-disclose. I was in the audience when Robert delivered the graduation speech at his high school. He must have been seventeen or eighteen at the time. I was ten. I have no recollection what he spoke about. But I remember clear as day that I was laughing and entertained during the entire speech.

Fast forward a couple (or more) decades, and most of Robert's posts literally make me squeal with delight. (Fortunately, I work from home, so I do not embarrass myself.)

One of my favorite posts was "Tools Never Die". I will quote:
"Kevin Kelly should know better, but boldly, brassily, (and totally incorrectly, I'm sure), he said this on NPR: "I say there is no species of technology that have ever gone globally extinct on this planet."... That means, he said, "I can't find any [invention, tool, technology] that has disappeared completely from Earth."

Nothing? I asked. Brass helmets? Detachable shirt collars? Chariot wheels?

Nothing, he said.

Can't be, I told him. Tools do hang around, but some must go extinct.

... I told him it would take me a half hour to find a tool, an invention that is no longer being made anywhere by anybody.

Go ahead, he said. Try.

I tried carbon paper (still being made), steam powered car engine parts (still being made), Paleolithic hammers (still being made), 6 pages of agricultural tools from an 1895 Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue (every one of them still being made), and to my utter astonishment, I couldn't find a provable example of an technology that has disappeared completely".

Robert's entire post is not much longer than the above passage, yet it is amusing, intensely thought provoking, and important. There is nothing trivial about the topic being discussed.

He posts about three times a week. Somehow, post after post, he delivers an intellectual bonbon.

Which reminds me, what are the implications if no technologies truly become extinct?

I am not clever enough to figure it out. But Robert's post makes me want to try.


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Web Secret 501: the best of iWebU - Dunbar's Number

On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU - that's over 500 weekly posts .

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re-releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #141: Dunbar's Number.

Why? In 1992, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar hypothesized that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. By stable, he meant relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Though Dunbar did not assign a precise value to the number, (it lies between 100 and 230), the commonly used value is 150. So 150 is referred to as Dunbar's Number.

In my presentations on social media for mental health and EAP providers, I always refer to Dunbar's number because the implication for professionals is that a handful of key colleagues are usually more instrumental in getting referrals, speaking gigs, or even a new job, than hundreds of random "friends.". True in 2011, true in 2018.

Note to my readers: Most of the links in this post - the important ones - continue to work.

Web Secret #141: Dunbar's Number - February 16, 2011 In all of my presentations about social media, I emphasize that the quality of one's friends, followers, readers, etc. is far more important than the number.

Well there is some hard core science behind my recommendation.

In 1992, long before the advent of social media, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar hypothesized that there is a cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. By stable, he meant relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. Though Dunbar did not assign a precise value to the number, (it lies between 100 and 230), the commonly used value is 150. So 150 is referred to as Dunbar's Number.

Well, the 1990s came and went and nobody, except social scientists, were paying much attention to Dunbar's work, until....the social media explosion of the 21st century.

Consider:
One social media expert, Jacob Morgan, has even argued that Dunbar's number is irrelevant:
I have around 1k+ linkedin connections, 1k facebook friends, and over 4,300 twitter followers. A very tiny portion of these people are strong ties. What social networks have allowed us to do is to build massive networks of weak ties. I use these weak ties all the time to reach out to folks for guest articles, business requests, speaking engagements, or ideas and advice...

We shouldn't be trying to figure out how we can maximize the number of strong relationships we can build or how we can beat Dunbar's number... Build weak ties where you can because they are extremely valuable, more so than strong ties.
Well, I am not sure I entirely agree with Mr. Morgan. People are constantly asking me questions about social media. Should they have a Facebook? Be on LinkedIn? Do both? To these and other similar queries, I always answer with a question. "What are you going to use it for?" Once you can answer that question, making a useful recommendation is easy.

Say you want to use Twitter to be elected to public office, it would make sense to work very hard to get a million weak tie followers.

But for most professionals, Dunbar's 150 strong ties will do just fine.

A handful of key colleagues are usually more instrumental in getting referrals, speaking gigs, or even a new job, than hundreds of random "friends."


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Web Secret 500: the best of iWebU - The World Is Changing Fast

This is my 500th post - how fitting that it is the first of 2018. On August 15, 2018, I will be celebrating 10 years of iWebU.

Leading up to that momentous date, I am re releasing the "best of iWebU", starting in 2008.

These are the posts that stand the test of time and remain as valuable today as they did then.

And so, I revisit Web Secret #121: The World Is Changing Fast.

Why? Because we are all struggling with how quickly events, scientific discoveries and changing social mores develop and impact us. My hip replacement in October was performed by a robot. I rest my case. In 2010, when I wrote this post, many of us were just beginning to realize that this was not your mother's world. And we were beginning to understand the importance of turning our devices off.

Web Secret #121: The World Is Changing Fast - September 29, 2010

Recently, I watched a brilliant TED India presentation on "6th Sense Technology." Basically, this genius guy created a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world and a computer. He did this using the innards of two computer mice.

Honestly, I was kind of zoning out during his talk, (maybe because the air-conditioning in my house had broken and it was about 90 degrees in my office.) But, what caught my attention was the mice - because they looked, well, antiquated. I checked the date of the presentation - November 2009. Figure my guy did his work in early 2009, maybe late 2008 - from my 2010 perspective the mice looked old.

I started to think about how fast the world is changing. I came across a video that made that point vividly, Shift Happens 2.0:



The video pointed out:
  • The top 10 in demand jobs in 2010 did not exist in 2004.
  • Current students are preparing for jobs that don't yet exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems.
  • The amount of new technological information is doubling every two years.
  • By 2013, a supercomputer will be built that exceeds the computational capability of the human brain.
What does it all mean?

Honestly, I don't believe anyone has a clue. This exponentially accelerated change is unprecedented in human history.

I do have one piece of advice.

TURN IT OFF. Your computer, iPad, smartphone, cable TV with 400 channels, satellite radio, Facebook, Twitter. One week per year, one day per week, one hour a day.

Whatever you can handle.