The NSA has been collecting information through our emails, our “metadata”, our cell phone calls, and now we can add to the list “Leaky Apps.” In a recently released article on The Guardian, it’s been revealed that the NSA was using Angry Birds, on both iOS and Android, to collect information directly from the cell phone of a user. This completely changes the type of information the NSA knows about you. It’s not just who you recently talked to (in the past five years) but for many smart phones it could be significantly longer than that. For example, if the App is leaky enough to allow access to other applications on the phone, then it’s possible for the NSA to access the full all of their email, my Gmail account has emails from 2005 or earlier on it still. I archive things – probably going to go delete all of these emails.
According to the NSA, access to the full collection of social networks is even more valuable than access to phone records. With apps like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter/Vine, Google+ and SnapChat, we are uploading and sending real time pictures and video of our lives. For a group of people interested in knowing everything about everyone, seeing real pictures is really valuable – especially since those same pictures will likely be associated with a GPS signal and at least one or two cell towers. In the case of an ongoing criminal investigation that will be invaluable.
This is infinitely more intrusive than only collecting the bulk information that we knew of before. In cases of snapchat and Vine it’s likely that the government is capturing our very private, personal, and nude images. There’s no reason the NSA needs to be capturing this data on everyone that has downloaded Angry Birds. The App has been downloaded approximately 1.7billion times – that’s a lot of phones and tablets that are effectively compromised. If the NSA figured out that these apps are leaky, it’s likely someone else did too.
This weekend I was hanging out with a friend talking about different life experiences. She argued that I was an interesting person and she was boring, when I said “he who dies with the most stories wins.” I can safely attribute 90% of my stories are not because of me, they are because of who I surrounded myself with – intentionally or otherwise. I think I’m a pretty boring person to be honest.
One of things that I’ve done through my life is to put myself into a position where I can grow as a person. To do this I’ve done a combination of playing it safe but making decisions that allowed me to meet new people. For example when I went to Pitt a big group of my friends went there with me. However, I decided to live with new people and ended up living on a floor with all engineers. Which allowed me to meet a ton of new people as well as hang out with my old friends from high school. This choice had a pretty significant impact on my social life and likely enabled many of the craziest of stories that have happened at my places. I met 2 guys my freshman year that led me to meeting the 5 girls I lived with where my HS buddies and our extended group of friends really did some crazy things.
After graduating I again decided to do something different than most of my friends. I moved to Austin. I had 4 job offers and I decided to pick the job that was in the best city with the largest number of people that would be my age starting – this is the main reason I picked Samsung. Because of this choice I met some awesome people and some really interesting opportunities in Austin and met my beautiful unicorn of a wife.
This decision then led me to the Netherlands, which was a practical choice for a Master’s because it was so much cheaper than studying here in the US. While there I was put with a range of interesting people and I got to learn a lot about Pakistan, Colombia, Turkey, Netherlands, and the rest of Europe. I’ve spent a lot of time around people with very different backgrounds, life expectations, the definition of a good life, and all of that. These have influence how I think and helped me become a more interesting person because of these experiences.
Now after moving back from the Netherlands I eventually ended up in Portland because of my wife’s job. I’m again putting myself in a new situation and growing and learning a lot of new skills.
If I’m at all interesting, it’s because of the people around me that have influenced me. I think that for anyone in highschool, college, or without kids take advantage of spending time in Europe for school or some other country. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and meet people with some fantastic different perspectives on life. If you can’t or don’t want to get another degree at least spend some time working over there. In many cases you’ll get special benefits being a knowledge worker and help learning about the culture and language while you’re there.
Go out an meet new people and try to learn new hobbies. This is really hard being an introvert. I know that because I am one. It’s even more important that you force yourself to do it. Not every day, but at least once or twice a month try to get out and meet new people and try new things – especially when you’re in a new area. I’m currently struggling with this and I’ve fallen into a routine of watching my friend from High school stream on twitch.
So, try to surround yourself with people you find interesting. Because of them, you’ll have interesting stories and through keeping a networks of interesting people you’ll be a “structural hole” in all of their networks to keep sharing new and interesting ideas to them. These all make you a more interesting person. That’s what I’ve done to be the person I am today. If i’m interesting, it’s because my friends are interesting, not because I am. I’ve written about the value of friendship on here before, and this is why it’s so valuable to me.
Apparently, today is the 30th year since the Macintosh computer was introduced. All over the internet was a big masturbatory fest over this great achievement. Honestly, I don’t really give two shits. Quite frankly, I don’t think that it really changed everything and anything – similarly I don’t think that the iPhone did. In both of these cases the technology had been in the market, it just required the right type of interface or marketing. It’s well known that there were a lot of similarities between the work that was being done at Xerox PARC and at Apple. In fact, Steve Jobs went to visit and learned a lot about what the computer gods of Xerox were doing. Did he steal ideas from there? No, but I’m sure that his ideas were enhanced and improved because of his visit. Similarly to the way that his ideas were enhanced and improved by all the competition to the iPod including the Palm Pilots, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and so on.
Apple was the first to market for really easy to use printing interfaces as well as type faces. However, at the same time that Apple came out with their product, Adobe was developing their similar product which was a spin off from Xerox. Similar, Microsoft Office was developed by an ex-Xerox employee.
Did the Macintosh change things? It’s likely from a design perspective more than anything as both Windows and Apple’s operating system were similar to the Xerox operating system. What happened, why did Apple succeed and change things and not Xerox? Because Xerox didn’t know what to do with what they had. Apple, coming from a different perspective, different cost structure and different corporate culture, was able to move into the market with only competition from IBM. IBM was a business first company and didn’t really understand the market they were helping to develop. This is why IBM wasn’t able to dominate the market the way they did in the minicomputer and mainframe days – in fact, IBM has completely exited the x86 market. Because of IBM’s business decisions we now have Microsoft and Intel (and others of course).
We idolize the great personalities and the beginning of a new technology. But the movement and technology wasn’t created by Apple even though they get the credit. Apple did do great work, they helped to shape an early portion of the computer age, but the introduction of a specific product only notes a specific point in the total arc of that technology. Computers went racing on by, new ways to interface with computers have emerged and were even invented before the Macintosh was released.
The Macintosh was certainly was a high mark at the time and was a great introduction to many people to the greater opportunity of computing. It allowed more people to access computers. I know that I used a version of Macintosh while I was growing up in elementary school, however at home we never owned a Mac, we only ever owned PCs while I was growing up. The Mac was already on the way out by the early 90s, which at the time was fairly fast, considering the quick ramp of computer since then.
Should we honor the Mac? No more than we should honor the first Palm, Blackberry or Android phone. I fully expect the iPhone will be honored as much or more in 3 years when the iPhone hits ten.
We didn’t get to have a national conversation about government espionage until Snowden released all those documents and now we’re having a pretty vocal one in 2/3 branches of our government (well all three since Obama seems to contradict himself fairly often). Today on Vice’s Motherboard I read an article claiming the military is going cyberpunk. As the article notes, the military has used flight simulators for years, because crashing in one of those is a lot cheaper than crashing a real plane. The Stealth Bombers cost close to 2 Billion each, so learning how to fly one of those is best done in a simulator than in a real plane, plus it reduces the risk of death in the event of a crash.
How will this trend continue? Apparently the military is investing in virtual reality battle grounds. This will help train soldiers in different combat situations without having to build extremely expensive facilities, use blank rounds, damage guns, and any other types of explosive that would be used in those situations. Never mind the logistics to get the equipment there and all that.
It’s likely that these battle grounds will incorporate things like the Oculus Rift and omnidirectional treadmills. This will allow soldiers to move crouch and actually feel like they are in direct combat. For people at home, it’s not going to be as useful, but it could work well in this type of situation. If they add in the ability to make the environment cold or hot and wet or dry they could simulate a great deal of the virtual environment to build skills of soldiers.
The military is also working on robotics as a way to reduce the number of men we have on a battle field. This of course could be extendable beyond simply having robots like the Boston Dynamics Dog, but we could eventually mix the VR environment with a “robot” to have a remote soldier that is bullet proof, never tires (as you could replace the driver), and moves around like a person. This opens up an entirely new type of warfare. It takes the idea of drone combat and moves it to the next level – foot soldier drones that truly make the battle field imbalanced. Of course the final step would be fully autonomous robotic soldiers – but I think most people wouldn’t accept those.
In any of these cases we need to have a serious national conversation about the application of these technologies. Looking from an ethical standpoint there are conflicting views. First, it’s ethical to protect our soldiers as much as possible when we’re in a justifiable defensible conflict. Second, it’s unethical to enter combat as an aggressor where your military cannot be stopped from the position of the defender. Furthermore, if we’re talking about completely robotic military force it’s even less defensible to be using these forces as we don’t have any human control in the case of a software failure – or a hack and remote theft of the system.
As a society we need to have a conversation about if we think we should allow our military to do this. As it is we already routinely have operations that the citizens aren’t really aware of in countries like Yemen and god knows where else. These put our men and women at risk which no one wants for arguable benefit in taking out terrorists – it’s unclear if it’s working or we’re just making more enemies. If we are able to replace real live Seals with a team robotic bodies controlled by a Seal team remotely, how many more of these missions could we run? How much more of this sort of activity would we believe is an acceptable level?
I believe that this goes back to what we value as a society. If we value privacy, safety, freedom, and true constitutional control over the military then we need to make sure that we control this before the military just morphs without really any thought. The NSA morphed into a data sponge pulling in everything that moves on the internet. As a society, based on the outrage, we do value our privacy and we’re trying to pull back control from the NSA – some people disagree with that, which is fine that’s why we need a conversation.
I believe that having robotic avatar’s will lead to a higher likelihood of abuse – similar to what we’ve seen with the NSA. I think this is what’s happened with the Drone Program, where Obama has a kill list that they are proud of having. Having more humanoid drones that can shoot sniper rifles will reduce the amount of collateral damage, but will be abused. It’s also very debatable if the kill list is even constitutional.
I think that the innovation for reducing our military expenditure is a good thing. However, I think we need to have a conversation around what the end goal of these programs.
I just visited a nutritionist today. I’ve had issues with Gluten for years and I’ve also been diagonosed with Hypoglycima which is a condition where my blood sugar levels aren’t well regulated by my body. The combination of the two has caused me no end of issues. At this point, it’s been difficult to tell the difference between a glutening and low blood sugar, at least a low level glutening anyway, a serious glutening it’s pretty obvious. I feel drunk within a few hours and then have the shits the next day or two. It’s pretty bad. Anyway, the combination has been pretty difficult to pull a part. When i have spikes in my blood sugar it makes me feel out of it as well. So, I’m going to really address both of these issues through better nutrition and probably more working out as well.
How does this connect to work and lean process improvement though? Well, at Cambia, we get a discount for eating salad’s and other healthy foods, so I’ve already been doing that, but that’s not the work connection I’m talking about. I just started reading a book called “Lean is Healthcare” which I picked up because I thought it was actually a book on Lean in Healthcare – pretty understandable confusion I think. I’ve only read a few pages, but as a lean practitioner it really ressonated with me. The premise is that Lean is a way of improving your employee’s health. Thinking about it now, it’s pretty obvious, but it definitely was an Ah HA moment when I read that.
Lean helps create flow in work. This is for both the product as well as the worker. Flow can be described as feeling you get when everything is just clicking. It’s like when a basketball player can’t miss a basic, they are in a state where they are relaxed and feeling good. It’s similar to a meditative state – think about any of the projects that you’ve gotten into and time just flew by. When you think about work, you never think about flow like that. I’m sure you’ve had bits and pieces of flow – but they don’t last very long. However, imagine if you were able to get into a job where everything you did flowed like that. Where you walked into the office and you walked out feeling accomplished, got things done, and excited to come back tomorrow.
I think there are a few companies that encourage that – companies that encourage creative coding and design are likely the best at this type of work. Why? Because they are all about thinking and connecting ideas and concepts to each other. It’s easy to get into a meditative state when you’re really jamming away at code. I feel a similar mode of thought when I’m blogging with a keyboard that works.
Work like this makes you feel better. It’s better for your health, better for your life balance, and better for your confidence. With that in mind, shouldn’t it be a moral imperative for a company to shift to enabling work like this? Work that makes you feel accomplished, healthy, and productive? Isn’t it also a financial imperative as well as all these things increase the value the company gets out of you as an employee?
I think the answer is yes to all these questions. I will be thinking about this as I work at Cambia continually driving towards for productive work and healthier stress balance for the employees.