Monday, November 25, 2013

Orwell has nothing on the NSA consultants writing white papers

Over at my fav online magazine comes revelations of wide-spread "corporate speak" used to pepper NSA documents. The insidious nature of obfuscation and deliberately vague word-smithing helps lend credence to the agency's desire for ubiquitous/universal surveillance.

Here are some excellent examples from the leaked document:

“We must proactively position ourselves to dominate that environment”
“Fully leverage internal and external partnerships to collaboratively discover targets”
“a collaborative information space that mirrors how people interact in the information age”
“Drive an agile technology base mapped to the cognitive processes”
“Integrate the SIGINT system into a national network of sensors which interactively sense, respond, and alert one another at machine speed”
“Collectively foster an environment that encourages and rewards diversity, empowerment, innovation, risk-taking and agility” [Which reminds Vulture South, the Human Resources sector seems to have contributed to the infiltration task-force]
“Enable better, more efficient management of the mission and business by establishing new, modifying current, and eliminating inefficient, business processes; by strengthening customer relationships; and by building necessary internal and external partnerships.”
“Align and standardize administrative business processes”
“Champion the development of a unified NSA/CSS U.S. customer engagement strategy”
“Counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor*”

This kind of language deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words -- euphemisms primarily meant to make the truth sound more reasonable. This intentional ambiguity in language or actual inversions of meaning disguises the nature of the true message.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

End the welfare state -- by giving everyone a base income?

The concept of paying people to sit around has an upside, writes Tim Harford in the Financial Times. The idea was endorsed by Oxford’s Sir Tony Atkinson as well as (the now decease) Milton Friedman, who reasoned a stipend to every adult would serve as an alternative to the current welfare state. Governments pay money to certain people of working age, but often only on the condition that they are not working. Then, in an attempt to overcome the obvious problem that we’re paying people not to work, the government badgers them to get a job -- efforts that are frequently demeaning and bureaucratic without being particularly effective. A basic income goes to all, whether they work or not.

But how would this be paid for? In Switzerland, it will depend on whether people withdraw en masse from the labor pool. If most people keep working, such a basic income could replace all sorts of benefits, and would also presumably replace the personal allowance for income tax. Harford see that, in some ways, the size of the state would have to rise. Some tax, such as VAT, income tax, or both, would have to increase to collect more money. In other ways the size of the state would shrink, appealing to some conservatives. Friedman believed that with a reasonable basic income for all, the welfare state as we know it would wither.

Fred Hubleur argues...

The important thing is that this revenue is fixed for everyone without there being a requirement to work; that's right, it is income without employment. This might seem shocking. But at its heart it is an entirely defensible idea. On the one hand, we are fighting against poverty and insecurity, there will no longer be a need for social security to bolster other incomes, and dozens of different and unwieldy benefits. This unconditional income is equally good news for innovation and creativity. (…) We have also made a paradigm shift that dyed-in-the-wool capitalists might find alarming: the liberation of working man, returning him to his status as homo sapiens over that of homo travaillus (ed's note: Homo travaillus is a play on word to describe the working man) which holds such sway in our society.

Read more details here...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Surveillance = Control

Just a decent article about the ramifications of the surveillance culture we love in...


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Permissionless innovation -- can the internet break us free?

Permissionless innovation means that the Internet serves as a global platform on which anyone can try out new, unorthodox ideas without the need to secure authorization from anyone -- and that freedom to experiment results in the flourishing of innovative online services that we have seen over the last decade or more. Is permissionless innovation reserved for just certain types of innovators, such as software developers? Anyone with a dynamic idea can leverage innovation and competition to grow within this electronic ecosystem. We see the ability to innovate spring to life without having to seek permission from your mom and pop, the boss, or investors. Freedom to build new mousetraps, better or not, is critical to the continued success of the Internet.

What risks could an entrepreneur run into? Prohibition attempts to eliminate potential risk through suppression of technology, products, or services, or outright censorship of content. Worse, governments may make anticipatory regulation controls -- preemptive, precautionary safeguards, including administrative regulation, government ownership or licensing controls, or restrictive defaults. In terms of market conditions, we might see a resilient space, where a business owner might need to employ education, awareness propagation, and empowerment to propel his/her idea forward. In my mind, ultimately adaptation serves as the greatest mitigation to these risks -- learn to live with risk, embrace trial-and-error experimentation, and evolve as one's understanding of one's audience or potential buys changes.

Let's look at Kickstarter, which, since its launch in 2009, has become the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. What makes the their model so interesting is accessibility for individuals and small organizations seeking a fresh way to build support for their work. With a winner-take all funding approach (if you don't reach your funding goal, no money changes hands), the most fleshed out ideas move forward. This is an awesome resource for testing concepts. Another interesting take-away is the core concept of “offering products and experiences unique to the project” rather than having funders “own” projects in any way. What is the real and unique value our potential contributors are seeking? Many times, it is a product. Kickstarted is not about investing, but about brining new products to market, without anyone's permission.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Distributed, Independent Workforce -- Freelances Plus+

With knowledge workers able to link together via the internet, and the accelerating rate of economic development and innovations in business models, there is room for a new kind of workforce.

In the past, employment with one or two organizations might have been commonplace. Instead of a single career with a single company lasting from graduation to retirement, employees are increasingly on the move. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that people born between 1957 and 1964 held, on average, 11 jobs from ages 18 to 44. That’s roughly one new job every 2.4 years. In today’s world, 5 to 7 careers during a lifetime is becoming commonplace.

What's needed for the 24/7 as-needed knowledge worker? This article outlines several: From a participant in this pool of labor, a different education approach is called for. In addition to hard skills, freelancing requires selling and marketing abilities. Finding new clients is the number one challenge for every freelancer. Remaining visible to potential clients worldwide requires skill as an online marketer, website designer and social network guru. Negotiating skills are also a necessity. All of these abilities must be acquired early on in a freelancer’s career. To remain highly motivated, working in a field with passion is the only sustainable solution. Thus, education will have to be closely aligned with personal preferences and talents. Continuous learning will become an important habit. Keeping up with rapidly changing industry trends must be an integral part of media consumption and social networking.
Freelance workers will increasingly face global competition. Thus, comprehensive English-language skills will become indispensable. A different mindset is also required to endure the freelancer’s low level of job security. Instead of hoping to land a permanent position, confidence and the entrepreneurial spirit are vital to future success.

Telecommuting for knowledge workers is growing rapidly. The International Telework Association and Council (ITAC) forecasts a more than a 50 percent increase in the next three years. This growth is occurring across all sectors of business – business and legal services, health care, banking and finance, and others. The “knowledge worker” pool of labor is one of the best positioned to take advantage of this work option.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Strongest Security is Probably Just Following Your Existing Policies

The materials leaked by Edward Snowden include data that he should not have been able to get access to. So how did he get the materials? He apparently persuaded more than twenty co-workers to give him their login IDs and passwords. He told them he needed the credentials to do his job as a systems administrator. The use of so-called "social engineering" is a tried-and-true method of gaining access to off-limits resources. This is the psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information.

A famous use of social engineering was by Kevin Mitnick, some think the world's most infamous hacker. His exploits as a cyber-desperado and fugitive from one of the most exhaustive FBI manhunts in history and has spawned books and movies. Since his release from federal prison, in 1998, Mitnick has turned his life around and established himself as one of the most sought-after computer security experts worldwide. He was an expert at getting people to trust him, and give him the "keys to the kingdom" so he could access all sorts of information.

A lesson all of us in the cyber security business know -- all the firewalls and encryption protocols in the world will never be enough to stop a savvy con-man intent on stealing a database or an irate ex-employee determined to crash systems. Next time the government should think of preventing these types of social engineering hacks through better-enforced security protocols, training programs, and educating the right people to address this all-to-human element of security.

The New Face of Microsoft is... a robot-slaying teenage anime girl?!

I will say, I like the artwork, and it isn't the first time Japanimation-style cartoon characters have been used to sell Microsoft products. This one has high production values, however.

View it here...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Steve Jobs jumped in bed too soon with micr$oft in the 80s, Google in the double-oughts

When Steve Jobs recruited Microsoft to be the first outside developer of applications for the Macintosh in 1981, he was concerned that they might try to copy Apple's ideas into a PC-based user interface. As a condition of getting an early start at Macintosh development, Steve Jobs made Microsoft agree not to ship any software that used a mouse until at least one year after the first shipment of the Macintosh.

In 1983, after his visit to Apple, Bill Gates made an exciting announcement at the industry's biggest trade show, Comdex -- he had a new, mouse-based graphical user interface called Windows. It worked just like the top-secret one Steve Jobs had shown him. Bill gates had stolen Steve's thunder before the Macintosh had been released yet. When Steve found out, he went ballistic. A rift that took decades to heal was formed. And the crucial lead in bringing a product to market was hampered.

Fast forward to this century. Apple allied itself with Google,

In 2001, when Google was a noob start-up with roughly $50 million in revenues, Google's co-founders met Steve Jobs and wanted him to become Google's CEO. Having just developed the iconic iPod, Jobs demurred and took Larry Page and Sergey Brin under his wing and mentored them.

In secrecy, Apple started development of the iPhone in 2004. In August 2005, Google quietly bought the Android start-up, when no one outside of Apple was supposed to know that Apple was working on the iPhone. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt joined Apple's Board in August 2006.

Apple launched the iPhone in 2007; later that year Google showed a video that compared Google-Android's original pre-iPhone "before" prototype -- it looked and operated more like a Blackberry than the "smart" phone look we all know today. That video compared the old look to a post-iPhone-launch "after" prototype that heavily-resembled the look-and-feel of iOS. This new look incorporated many of Apple's signature touch-screen innovations.

Google's leaders betrayed a longtime personal trust and friendship of Steve Jobs, stealing what he believed was Apple's most prized possession.

In Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs famously quoted,

"…I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Steve Jobs is widely regarded as a visionary leader but could be harsh with people working around him. Leaders with a high degree of emotional intelligence know what they're feeling, what their emotions mean, and how these emotions can affect other people. For many, high levels of emotional intelligence is essential for success.

Will Apple thrive as a creative company without Jobs? Did Steve Jobs balance emotion and intelligence as a leader? I believe he did -- his mistakes were from honest efforts at cooperation and collaboration, and an emotional commitment to others. Sure he was flawed -- we all are -- but his creative instincts were coupled with his emotional side. Even with some mistakes, we all move forward, if we persevere.