Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Web Secret #277: Web 3.0 Redux

Over 4 years ago (yikes - I've been blogging that long!) I wrote a post predicting what web 3.0 would do :
"Many experts believe that the Web 3.0 browser will act like a personal assistant. As you search the Web, the browser learns what you are interested in. The more you use the Web, the more your browser learns about you and the less specific you'll need to be with your questions. Eventually you might be able to ask your browser open questions like "where should I go for lunch?" Your browser would consult its records of what you like and dislike, take into account your current location and then suggest a list of restaurants."
It appears that Web 3.0 may actually take this a step further, as a New York Times article reports:

"A range of start-ups and big companies... are working on what is known as predictive search — new tools that act as robotic personal assistants, anticipating what you need before you ask for it. Glance at your phone in the morning, for instance, and see an alert that you need to leave early for your next meeting because of traffic, even though you never told your phone you had a meeting, or where it was....How does the phone know? Because an application has read your e-mail, scanned your calendar, tracked your location, parsed traffic patterns and figured out you need an extra half-hour to drive to the meeting."

Excuse me while I FREAK OUT!

As Claire Cain Miller, the article's author, explains "The technology is emerging now because people are desperate for ways to deal with the inundation of digital information, and because much of it is stored in the cloud where apps can easily access it."

Claire goes on to quote Amit Singhal, (Google’s senior vice president for search,) as he cheerfully remarks, "You can just imagine several years down the road, if that personal assistant was an expert in every field known to humankind."

That's the problem - I can imagine. I am a student of history and literature.

When I was a kid, 10 years before the first Apple I computer was sold, I read "The Feeling of Power" a science fiction short story by Isaac Asimov, written in 1958. Isaac wasn't your run of the mill sci-fi author, he was also a brilliant scientist. He coined the term "robotics" in 1941.

But I digress. "The Feeling of Power" describes a distant future, in which humans live in a computer-aided society and have forgotten the fundamentals of mathematics, including even the rudimentary skill of counting. Only one guy on the planet, (and he has to rediscover how to do it,) can add and subtract, multiply and divide. I never forgot that story.

So I don't really want my iPhone 9 to predict that I want Chinese food, rent "I, Robot," and set my alarm clock for 7:30 am, because tomorrow is a work day. Maybe I want sushi, maybe I want to call in sick tomorrow. Maybe I don't know what I want.

Maybe I want to be in control.

I may want my iPhone 9 to drive my car. But only after I ask it.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Web Secret #276: the future is here

Don't know if you are aware, but almost every course given at MIT is available on line, for free.

You can learn Spanish, study "Godzilla and the Bullet Train: Technology and Culture in Modern Japan", or take "The Making of a Roman Emperor."

Of course there are endless courses on Mathematics, Computer Science, and Electrical Engineering. Along with offerings like "Einstein, Oppenheimer, Feynman: Physics in the 20th Century," "The Anthropology of Cybercultures", and even a graduate course entitled "Genetics, Neurobiology, and Pathophysiology of Psychiatric Disorders."

Did I say it was FREE?

I don't really understand why MIT is doing this. The explanation on their website is rather vague, "The idea is simple: to publish all of our course materials online and make them widely available to everyone.”

"OK, but why are you doing this?"

Before they change their minds, I am quietly going to take advantage of this.

Now I know I'm in the 21st century.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Web Secret #275: 10 Essential Apps

There are hundreds of thousands of apps. It's overwhelming. It's annoying. Most of them are crap.

Which ones are really useful?

Here is my completely biased opinion:

The DSM-5 App - while the battle rages on about whether to abandon this nomenclature, clinicians in the trenches will have to use it to get insurance reimbursement and other useful purposes. Yes, the App costs $69.99 and you can get the 20 lbs book for slightly less. But seriously - would you rather lug the book around or just prefer to have the handy dandy virtual version on your tablet or smartphone? I thought so.

A free banking app - Do you still go to a bank to make deposits? What a waste of time. Banking apps have been around long enough that most of the kinks have been worked out. They help you take a photo of a check and voila - the depositing process took 20 seconds.

Square - wouldn't it be cool if your clients could pay you with a credit card? They can. Combine the app with the free Square reader and you are in business. And you don't need an accounting degree to use it.

An entertainment app - You stand on line - often. How to escape? I admit to a serious addiction to Words with Friends, but others may use that time to read the NY Times, or the latest bestselling book. Angry Birds anyone?

Hootsuite - this is a free social media dashboard that allows you to post and manage multiple networks at once including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Skype - no it isn't HIPAA compliant, but you shouldn't be chatting with clients while you are out and about anyway. On the other hand, it allows you to make internet and video calls for free.

Dropbox - let's you bring your documents, photos and videos anywhere and share them easily. Let's you back up stuff. You always back up your files right?

Find my iPhone or equivalent - tablets, smartphones, laptops are expensive. When you lose them, or they are stolen it's freak out time. Install a finder app and learn to use it.

iTranslate - in the old days if a client didn't speak English, you scrambled. Now you can use this app to translate words, phrases and even whole sentences into 50 languages. Oh, and it provides voice recognition too.

Yelp - whether you have just moved to a new area or travel for business, you need recommendations of where to eat, shop, find a hair salon and more. Yelp does that.

What are your favorite apps?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Web Secret #274: The Power of One

Here are three important facts about the impact of technology on the world we live in:

1. It's flat - when it comes to just about everything , the world is increasingly becoming a level playing field, where all participants have an equal opportunity.

2. We live in different "time zones" - across our planet some of us are wearing Google Glass while others are plowing their fields with oxen. Even in the US there is a broad spectrum of technology adopters, from people who are just coming around to using a cell phone, to users who program their own websites.  Every time zone can be impacted by technology.

3. There is less than 5 degrees of separation between any two people on the planet - people can share ideas with only a few jumps to a large portion of the world’s population and with even fewer steps to the entire population of a nation.

Experts tell us that even the average tech involved person is more "famous" than the most famous people of the 19th century. Many Facebook and Twitter users have thousands of followers. A lone individual can have a huge impact on others. 

It's both an opportunity and a curse.