Digital Darwinism and the Age of Assistance

It is an evolution that I have been following and I have written about how AI and machine learning are pushing us closer to that new age. I jokingly said that I was accepting resumes for a digital assistant. And most recently, the amazing and also frightening Google Duplex demo made me wonder if we don't need a reverse Turing test for AI.

It has been suggested that in this era where technology and society are evolving faster than businesses and schools can naturally adapt, the mantra of “adapt or die” comes into play. You can react to change, be disrupted by it, or adapt. Brian Solis and others have referred to this as "Digital Darwinism."

As with the more established Darwinism, the digital version is pretty indiscriminate when it comes to which products or companies survive, thrive or fade.

digital DarwinismI suppose we are still officially in the Information Age, but I think we may be evolving into an Age of Assistance. There is some evidence of this when you hear people say things like "Google, dim the bedroom lights" or "Alexa, play music by James Taylor."  

As in nature, we need experimentation and adpatations and even new species to survive. And some will have to go extinct. Goodbye Blockbuster, Circuit City, Borders Books, Tower Records, Pontiac, Saturn, and Palm. Hello Netflix, which then had to evolve (and is still doing so) to be a streaming rather than discs-in-the-mail service.

This pruning is clearly happening in business. Have any colleges fallen aside via Digital Darwinism? (A colleague answered that question by only half-sarcastically saying "Trump University.")

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are big drivers in Digital Darwinism. Is it true that Digital Darwinism has pushed open the door to an age of assitance a bit wider?  

That push comes from artifical intelligence combined with speech recognition.

Though smartphones and standalone devices with Siri, Alexa et al have put this assistance in front of consumers, digital speech recognition didn't start with those devices. The IBM Shoebox was shown to the general public during the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. It was launched in 1961 - almost 20 years before the introduction of the first IBM Personal Computer. It was able to recognize 16 spoken words and the digits 0 to 9. 

Most speech recognition systems require some "training" from users and with AI they learn to respond more accurately and efficiently. We have moved away from the earlier "speaker dependent" systems in some ways. They have to learn a particular user's speech patterns, accent, pronunciation etc. Newer systems tend to be independent and aggregate patterns from the many users that are connected to them more than focus on one user. It's not your Alexa. It's everyone's Alexa.

The rise of smart speakers in the past year via their sales (sales that have more than tripled) like Google Home and Amazon Echo have made some humans more reliant on voice commands.

Google has been talking and offering voice search for a few years and we ceratinly sometimes use voice to seach on our phones. But, if you're like me, you still find that technology lacking in most instances. But the voice search revolution is still predicted to happen and I don't doubt that it will occur, though perhaps more evolutionarily than revolutionariy.

The sophistication of voice-recognition systems is improving rapidly. Microsoft’s Cortana voice recognition software (which doesn't get as much attention it seems) now has an error rate of 5.1 percent, which gets it up there with human counterparts. With Microsoft large installed base of Windows-based personal computers, smartphones and smart speakers, they will certain be players in this area.

Google Assistant is a virtual assistant primarily available on mobile and smart home devices, and (unlike Google Now) it can engage in two-way conversations.

What I find on this topic online is primarily about marketing, but I believe it also applies to education.

Consumers are researching just about everything they buy and want relevant results. they want assistance. In an Age of Assistance, we are finding that assistance in what is being refferred to as mobile-first “micro-moments.”

This is way beyond classical marketing. Currently, I don't see many examples in eduction of schools getting into new opportunities for “assisted” engagement. Is your help desk using voivce recognition and AI? Is it in other student support services? can a student in a course that is online or in a classroom use voice to aska question of a digital assistent at 1 AM when they are stuck on a problem?

Those few schools that are adapting and experimenting with these technologies might be safer down the evolutionary road when Digital Darwinism starts to make programs or colleges digital Dodo birds.

 

Digital Darwinism: Survival of the Fittest in the Age of Business Disruption

Digital Darwinism: Branding and Business Models in Jeopardy

                 

 

FURTHER READING

thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-154/insights-inspiration/thought-leadership/marketing-age-assistance/

thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-gb/consumer-insights/search-in-the-age-of-assistance/

forbes.com/sites/briansolis/2017/10/11/wtf-whats-the-future-of-marketing-in-the-age-of-assistance/

business2community.com/tech-gadgets/the-age-of-assistance

Is Your Website GDPR Ready?


                                    What is the GDPR? from Evidon on Vimeo 

What is GDPR? GDPR is the General Data Protection Regulation. It is a European privacy law approved by the European Commission in 2016 which is designed to unify and regulate EU residents’ control of their personal data. It is set to replace Directive 95/46/EC and will be enforced by May 25, 2018.

What does it mean for you if you are website owner? Well, if you collect personal data via webforms especially from people who live in the European Union, you'll need to make your website compliant to this regulation by May 25, 2018. It is also important that you update your site's Privacy Policy to cover all personal information that are being collected through your site.

What if you don't operate in the EU? Well, you may think you are outside the EU, but do you get visitors from the EU?  Aren't all websites "global" by default?

MORE INFORMATION

https://www.eugdpr.org/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Data_Protection_Regulation

https://www.codeinwp.com/blog/complete-wordpress-gdpr-guide/

Revealing Photos

camera phoneYou're probably tired of stories about privacy, Facebook and social media. But in the midst of all that the past few months, I continue to see lots of my online friends taking quizzes, liking posts and especially uploading photos.

Oh, what's the harm in posting a photo?

Your camera or phone adds a lot of data to a photo file. Especially with your camera's phone (on Flickr and many photo sharing sites, the most popular "camera" is a phone) you are sharing your location, the date and time, the kind of device you used and its device ID and your mobile provider. It will also ping off any nearby Wi-Fi spots or cell towers, so your location is there even if you don't add that to the image post.

Add in facial recognition, which Facebook and Google use on your photos, and features will try to determine who is in that photo. If you tagged anyone or captioned the photo or added a new specific location, you are feeding the database. Thanks, users!

Think about how this data along with knowing who your friends are and their data and where you go with or without them and it builds a very robust picture of you and your world.

Can't this be controlled by us? To a degree, yes, but not totally. Your phone and some cameras will automatically record that data for every shot. You can turn off location services/geotagging in some instances, but I'm not even convinced that the data still isn't there anyway. And if you are automatically backing up your photos to iCloud or Google or somewhere in the cloud, I'm not positive that even your deleted photos are forever gone along with their metadata.

Am I overly paranoid? Can anyone be overly paranoid about privacy these days?

 

Analyzing Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and You

The Cambridge Analytica scandal involving Facebook hit this month because of its involvement in the election of Donald Trump in 2016. The company used an app developed legitimately by a Cambridge University researcher, Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, as a personality survey called "This is Your Digital Life."

I recall learning about that app about 3 years ago in a presentation at an EdTech conference. By using it as a quiz on Facebook, about 270,000 users gave permission (because most people are unaware of the access they allow) to their data which was collected but then used to additionally collect some public data from their friends.

I suspect a majority of social media users are unaware of how their data is used, and what permissions they have granted (perhaps by default in some instances).

Have you ever used your Facebook login as a way to sign in to another website or app? It asks you if you want to login using your Facebook ID and that seems to save a step or two and is great if you forgot your actual login to that other site. 

When those Facebook users took the "This is your digital life" quiz using their Facebook login, they allowed that app's developer to tap into all of the information in their Facebook profile (that includes your name, where you live, email address and friends list).  [Note: Currently, apps are no longer permitted to collect data from your Facebook friends.]

I don't give Dr. Kogan, Cambridge Analytica or Facebook a pass on this activity even if users did opt in. Kogan shared it with Cambridge Analytica which Facebook says that was against its policy. Facebook says it asked Cambridge Analytica to delete all of the data back in 2015. Facebook also claims that it only recently found out that wasn't done.

A lot of people seem to have given up on privacy, accepting it as something we just can't control any more. But there is a lot you can and should do.

settings

For example, a very simple change to make in your Facebook privacy settings is to "Limit The Audience for Old Posts on Your Timeline." That means that posts on your timeline that you've shared with Friends of friends, and Public posts, will now be shared only with Friends. Anyone tagged in these posts, and their friends, may also still see these posts, but the public (which includes apps) will not be able to access them legitimately.

Facebook's API, called Platform, allows third-party apps and websites to integrate with your Facebook account and exchange data with them via developer tools. It can be convenient for users, such as decreasing the number of login/password combinations you need to remember, but it has potential for abuse.

When you use the "Log in With Facebook" feature on a site, you grant a third-party app or service access to your Facebook account. It will ask for permission to receive specific Facebook data from you - email address, birthdate, gender, public posts, likes and also things beyond your basic profile info. I have seen cases where when I deny access to some information, it tells me the app can't be loaded. That is a warning. But some legitimate apps, like the scheduling apps Hootsuite and Buffer, do need a lot of permissions in order to allow them to post as you on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. In these cases, by using the app I need to trust that developer and the service it is connecting to via an API.

Being educated about how technology works and knowing how you can protect your own data and privacy is more important than ever. And, of course, you can always not use a service that doesn't seem to help you do that.

Are You Ready for HTTPS?

police tape

A post from Doc Searls reminds me that “Google Condemns the Archival Web.” What web is that? It is the one when the URL is HTTP rather than HTTPS – the “S” for “secure.”  Google’s Chrome browser will mark all those older pages as “insecure” this summer, possibly striking fear in the clicking fingers of many users.

Google says:   “For the past several years, we’ve moved toward a more secure web by strongly advocating that sites adopt HTTPS encryption…Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as ‘not secure’ on every current Chrome browser.”

So many “legacy” websites created in the days of yore, though they will still exist, will have a kind of Google crime tape around them. Will people dare to enter, or be scared off? I would assume all those insecure sites will see a drop off in visitors.

SSo why doesn’t everyone just fix what Google says to fix and make their site “secure?”  Well, there is some cost in money and/or time. For plain old folks who aren’t web wizards, they may not even know what needs to be done. There are old sites that no longer have an owner or webmaster but still exist on the World Wide Web that becomes more of a museum each year. For many sites -like blogs – there is no “cost benefit” to upgrading.

As of this writing this site is http://www.serendipity35.net without the magic "S." Will Brother Tim come to the rescue like a caped web crusader and make everything secure and Chrome-ready?

What happens if you use another browser like Firefox or Safari? I assume all will be well. For now. And you will be able to sneak under that police tape to those other sites – but you have been warned.

Google trumpets that developers have been transitioning their sites to HTTPS and that “progress last year was incredible” – Over 68% of Chrome traffic on both Android and Windows is now protected and over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac is now protected. I am a bit surprised that though they trumpet this stat: “81 of the top 100 sites on the web use HTTPS by default”  I would have thought that 100% of the top 100 sites would have complied.

This in the same week that it is announced that Wikispaces is shutting down. Soon young kids will ask what you mean when you say “Internet.”

Make a mental note for July so that you’re not shocked when you see some warning signs on the information superhighway.