Know Thyself and Thy Internet Economics

Before getting deeper in today’s blog, I would like to share a video made by CGP Grey.  It is called “Humans Need not Apply,” and it is a deep-dive into how automation is impacting or world.  Link is right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq-S557XQU

There were many interesting topics discussed in class, and as Prof. Smith said, there is no right or wrong answers when discussing the future of the Internet.  Not all the topics will be covered, but the ones that were intriguing were M-Pesa, Chinese monitoring, Amazon, and data mining.  

After Tito told me about M-Pesa, I ran a quick search and read up about it.  It is a really well-developed e-banking system that reduces the need for a bank.  Furthermore, it reduces time and cost in obtaining the physical cash required for transactions or distribution.  For instance, according to the Economist, M-Pesa was used by city workers to send money back to their families in rural areas.  Hopefully, a system like this could be spread to more countries, such as the Philippines, where many people would benefit from such a system.

Another really interesting yet chilling topic is Chinese surveillance.  Researching this a little more in depth, China really has invested in their Internet-control-and-censorship technology.  If a person who is connected to the network tries to search for instance “Tiananmen Square,” they would get no search results.  And according to this New York Times article, even words that are somehow connected to sex will be filtered.  However, what is the most chilling part is the how much monitoring they are doing.  Frankly, it is unreal to think that my computer needs to be wiped completely clean to ensure that a network won’t be monitored or hacked.  Although this is frightening, it is also interesting how sophisticated software can be.  

Right now, Amazon is disrupting the economy.  How can a retailer that does not even have a retail store make billions?  What started from books eventually became food delivery, which is fascinating when one takes a step back and looks at it.  Although Amazon is making it easier for us to shop, it’s economic power must be one to take note of.  A company that facilitates one of the most basic of human behaviors, transactions, must have immense power.  This will only continue to grow.

And last but certainly not the least, data mining.  Hearing the story about targeted advertising and how the father found out about her daughter’s pregnancy appears like a crazy story, but machine learning and data mining algorithms are out there silently collecting your personal data.  These kinds of data are what I like to call ‘subconscious data.’  We are not aware that they are being collected, but they are.  Every Google search, YouTube video watched, item purchased or music listened to has some information about your unique taste and self.  It is hard to imagine and even crazy to say, but a computer that does not live like you or even care about you knows more about you than anybody or you will even know more about yourself.  Looks like this give Socrates’ quote ‘know thyself’ a whole new meaning.  

 

-PS. If anyone has suggestions about how I can learn more about data mining or machine learning, I would be interested to hear about it.

-PSS. Here are the websites that I used for my quick research.

https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/05/economist-explains-18

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/24/world/asia/china-internet-censorship.html?mcubz=1

2 Comments »

  1. Jim Waldo

    September 26, 2017 @ 9:19 pm

    1

    Great post, with lots to think about…

    One of the things I find most curious about the arguments around automation and jobs is the way that the issues are presented as either/or– either the machines will have the jobs, or the humans will have the jobs. There are cases where this might be true– autonomous vehicles are a good example. But I think the more common case will be using technology to enhance the human. Doctors will use Watson as a check, but Watson won’t replace the doctor. We have been using computers to make programming easier and less error prone for a long time (think compilers and integrated development environments). Automatic pilots do most of the flying on airplanes now (including landings and takeoffs), but it is still a good idea to have a pilot there “just in case.”

    The future is going to be interestingly different. How is hard to say. It’s fun to be part of the group of people who are inventing it, though…

  2. Mike Smith

    September 27, 2017 @ 10:09 pm

    2

    Connecting a few things you said, Amazon has a whole robotics division too. amazonrobotics.com

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