Poor rich America, the first nation?

I was reading why America is the World’s First Poor Rich Country by Umair and was pretty much agreeing with everything he wrote.

The crux of his blog is about the basics of life which you need to pay for in America.

In Europe, Canada, and even Australia, society invests in all these things — and the costs of basic necessities societies don’t provide are regulated. For example, I pay $50 dollars for broadband and TV in London — but $200 for the same thing in New York — yet in London, I get vastly more and better media for my money (even including, yes, American junk like Ancient Aliens). That’s regulation at work. And when basic goods like healthcare or elderly care or education are provided and managed at a social scale, that is when they are cheapest, and often of the best quality, too. Hence, healthcare costs far less in London, Paris, or Geneva — and life expectancy is longer, too.

So if you are earning $50k in America, it is a very different thing than earning $50k in France, Germany, or Sweden — in America, you must pay steeply for the basics of life, for basic necessities. Thus, incomes stretch much further in other countries, which enjoy a vastly higher quality of life, even though people there earn roughly the same amount, because they pay vastly less for basic necessities. Americans are rich, but only nominally — their money doesn’t buy nearly as much as their peers does, where it matters and counts most, for the basics of life.

I remember many friends moving to America and reporting the wages they were getting as a result.

One friend for example said he was earning 6 figures as a contractor and I replied great, are you paying health insurance? He replied no, he will be fine. I said GET health insurance because one slip and you are so screwed.

America is pioneering a new kind of poverty. The kind of poverty that’s developed in America isn’t just bizarre and gruesome — it’s novel and unseen. It isn’t something that we understand well, economists, intellectuals, thinkers, because we have no good framework to think about it. It’s not absolute poverty like Somalia, and it’s not just relative poverty, like in gilded banana republics. It’s a uniquely American creation. It’s extreme capitalism meets Social Darwinism by way of rugged self-reliance crossed with puritanical cruelty.

Its a big deal and Umair is right. I do have a worry that the UK is sleep walking in the same direction too!

Been thinking about this a lot as the Brexit drama turns into full on insanity. Really good to finally watch Noam Chomsky’s Requiem for the American Dream.

https://twitter.com/cubicgarden/status/1105614199512883200

We need a PBS for the Internet age

PBS - Public Broadcasting Service Logo

Its quite amazing to read this opinion piece in the Washington Post recently… (if you like me are reading it in Europe, you might want to try this one)

Some bits I found amazing to read, especially since the united states’s public broadcast networks are so crippled. This says it all..

Americans like public media. NPR still consistently ranks among the most trusted news sources. Likewise, Americans have rated PBS among the most trusted institutions in the United States for the past decade and a half, according to polls conducted on PBS’s behalf. But these services operate in an increasingly challenging environment. Government cuts have forced public media to become far more dependent on listener contributions, sponsorships and private donors. These organizations have had to chase audiences migrating to private platforms along with the rest of the media, meeting audiences “where they’re at.”

To their credit, public media have made an impressive effort to upgrade on a dime. PBS states that its Digital Studios division averaged more than 38 million views per month on YouTube. NPR recently co-published a report about the promise of smart-speaker devices such as Amazon Echo for audience growth.

Rather than let public broadcasters who have accrued so much public trust languish — or, worse, be co-opted by a tech industry that has a vast interest in how its portrayed — both our federal and state governments need to play a more active role in public media’s health and digital future.

What the Internet needs is a fresh infusion of public media, properly funded and paired with federal policy that puts the public interest first.

Reading this piece, further reminds me why the public service internet research work is so critical. Without public media, we are lost. Can’t even really imagine what it must be like working for PBS and NPR consistently being knocked and sliced down. I mean the BBC has troubles but not like these (yet).

Facial recognition’s ‘dirty little secret’: Millions of online photos scraped without consent

By Olivia Solon

Facial recognition can log you into your iPhone, track criminals through crowds and identify loyal customers in stores.

The technology — which is imperfect but improving rapidly — is based on algorithms that learn how to recognize human faces and the hundreds of ways in which each one is unique.

To do this well, the algorithms must be fed hundreds of thousands of images of a diverse array of faces. Increasingly, those photos are coming from the internet, where they’re swept up by the millions without the knowledge of the people who posted them, categorized by age, gender, skin tone and dozens of other metrics, and shared with researchers at universities and companies.

When I first heard about this story I was annoyed but didn’t think too much about it. Then later down the story, its clear they used creative commons Flickr photos.

“This is the dirty little secret of AI training sets. Researchers often just grab whatever images are available in the wild,” said NYU School of Law professor Jason Schultz.

The latest company to enter this territory was IBM, which in January released a collection of nearly a million photos that were taken from the photo hosting site Flickr and coded to describe the subjects’ appearance. IBM promoted the collection to researchers as a progressive step toward reducing bias in facial recognition.

But some of the photographers whose images were included in IBM’s dataset were surprised and disconcerted when NBC News told them that their photographs had been annotated with details including facial geometry and skin tone and may be used to develop facial recognition algorithms. (NBC News obtained IBM’s dataset from a source after the company declined to share it, saying it could be used only by academic or corporate research groups.)

And then there is a checker to see if your photos were used in the teaching of machines. After typing my username, I found out I have 207 photo(s) in the IBM dataset. This is one of them:

Not my choice of photo, just the one which comes up when using the website

Georg Holzer, uploaded his photos to Flickr to remember great moments with his family and friends, and he used Creative Commons licenses to allow nonprofits and artists to use his photos for free. He did not expect more than 700 of his images to be swept up to study facial recognition technology.

“I know about the harm such a technology can cause,” he said over Skype, after NBC News told him his photos were in IBM’s dataset. “Of course, you can never forget about the good uses of image recognition such as finding family pictures faster, but it can also be used to restrict fundamental rights and privacy. I can never approve or accept the widespread use of such a technology.”

I have a similar view to Georg, I publish almost all my flickr photos under a creative commons non-commercial sharealike licence. I swear this has been broken. I’m also not sure if the pictures are all private or not. But I’m going to find out thanks to GDPR

There may, however, be legal recourse in some jurisdictions thanks to the rise of privacy laws acknowledging the unique value of photos of people’s faces. Under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, photos are considered “sensitive personal information” if they are used to confirm an individual’s identity. Residents of Europe who don’t want their data included can ask IBM to delete it. If IBM doesn’t comply, they can complain to their country’s data protection authority, which, if the particular photos fall under the definition of “sensitive personal information,” can levy fines against companies that violate the law.

Expect a GDPR request soon IBM! Anything I can do to send a message I wasn’t happy with this.

Will breaking up GAFFA do any good?

Elizabeth Warren wants to break up the monopoly of the big tech companies (GAFFA) nothing that new as Tim Berners-Lee’s been saying similar for a year or so.

I do find it interesting watching the calls for Europe to get in the game, but then applying the same metrics to the European market? Something is not quite right there? Why would you want a copy of GAFFA’s, therefore recreating the cycle again?

#web30: The world wide web at 30 years old

We owe a lot to Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the 30th Anniversary of the web.

Tim Berners-Lee helped invent the world wide web 30 years ago. And he has consistently pointed out that the original dream that gave rise to it is under threat.

It is exactly 30 years since Sir Tim submitted a paper to his colleagues at CERN, suggesting a way of sharing data across networks, under the title “Information Management: A Proposal”. The humble title belies the importance of what was contained inside, which included a complete sketch for the networked information system that would on to become the internet we know today.

But its really important to think about the next 30 years.

Surveillance capitalism and governmental/state control are hot topics which very much threaten the fabric of the web. But so does our use of the web and the way we treat each other.

I had a really good 10min talk with Sir Tim Berners-Lee during the last Mozilla Festival, while talking about Solid, Databox and data trust. What got me as we talked, was ultimately we were talking about power and where it lies. Power in the hands of governments (Chinese model) , corporations (American model) or people? (could be the European model?)

I think remembering their are humans, not eyeballs, not lefties/rightwingers, etc is so important. Lets celebrate the people of the web!

https://twitter.com/whynotadoc/status/1105400124447039489

Gender diversity on twitter?

Results of who I follow on twitter

I rarely read twitter due to the API changes which I’ve talked about in the past. But I saw Teknoteacher talking about changing his followers after reading about Male tech CEOs follower accounts. I thought I’d share some things I discovered too. Especially reading this a while back.

So my results are above, using the online tool – https://www.proporti.onl.

But a while ago I used Open Human’s twitter archive analyzer by Bastian Greshake Tzovaras. It was super sobering!

Here is my replies by gender from when I first started using Twitter back in 2017. As you can see there was a massive spike of conversation with males in 2012, I also generally talk to more men than women on twitter.

My replies & gender Likewise when retweeting based on gender its mainly males. Recently its a lot closer to 50% which is great but I wonder with my lack of twitter use, how that will effect things? (I have requested a new update of my twitter data)

My retweets & genderOf course my instant thought is there is noise in the figures as its not always clear if people are male or female for many reasons. But its disappointing to read Elon Musk’s tweet.

And read about others such as…

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, follows 267 accounts on Twitter. Of those, 238 appear to be men. He follows nearly as many Twitter Eggs (15) as women (21).

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, followed the most women (39) of any of the accounts examined by the Guardian, though that is still half the number of men he follows (78) out of a total of 165 accounts.

I’d really like to see this applied to race not just gender too. It reminds me how I was going to learn more Python so I can create this as a Juno personal notebook in Open Humans.

Updated…

I updated Open Humans with my latest Twitter data export and here are the results.
Once again very sobering to see. Got to make some changes.

Screenshot of replies for 2019

Worth adding from TwArχiv site.

The graph shows you the number of replies to Twitter users that are classified as either male or female. The classifications are predictions based on users’ first names as given in their Twitter accounts. The predictions itself are performed by the Python package gender_guesser . It uses name/gender-frequencies from a larger text corpus. mostly male, mostly female, andy and unknown classifications are ignored. To decrease the noise the daily values have been averaged by a daily average over a 180 day window (dataframe.rolling('180d').mean()).

Ideally these graphs would include non-binary folks. Doing this is a bit trickier. It is thus a work in progress.

Screenshot of retweets for 2019Also worth mentioned…

Even more interesting than whether replying to people might be gendered can be the question which voices are being amplified . On Twitter a good indicator of amplification are retweets. These can be gender balanced or show biases, similarly to the replies to other users.

The graph shows you the number of retweets to Twitter users that are classified as either male or female. The classifications are again predictions made by the Python package gender_guesser . To decrease the noise the daily values have again been averaged by a daily average over a 180 day window (dataframe.rolling('180d').mean()).

Ideally these graphs would include non-binary folks. Doing this is a bit trickier. It is thus a work in progress.

We should all believe in better masculinity

I never got the chance to write about the Gillette advert and the absolutely insanity of the outcry by some men around it. Theres a ton of discussion, press and frankly shouting about it.

The best commentary/deconstruction I found of the debate is from Dr Nerdlove.

I released a video where I touched on the fact that Gillette released a new commercial that directly addressed toxic masculinity, asking men to do better and the reaction that a lot of people, mostly men, had to it.

As it turns out, I have a lot more to say about it because, well, it’s made people lose their goddamn monkey minds. This is an ad that is literally just saying “hey, men can do better” and people are acting as though this was the announcement that XY chromosomes have been made illegal and having chest hair means that you’re going to get rounded up to camps.

When I first saw the advert I felt impressed by the tone and expression.  Yes they must have known calling out toxic masculinity was going to have a big backlash but they did it anyway. Hopefully knowing how important it is.

The accusation that this is an attack on men and manhood is kind of absurd on its face. Because we see a lot of traditional positive masculinity in here. We see dads barbecuing over the weekend with their kids, dads propping up, teaching and encouraging their sons, nurturing their daughters. We see the guys calling out bad behavior and ending fights and showing respect for others. And we see fathers protecting other people and — importantly — teaching their sons to be brave.

It’s a little disingenuous to say that this is an attack on men when the point of the entire ad is all but literally spelled out for you:

We believe in the best in men.

If I was to add anything else to the advert it would be Tony Porter’s words.

My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman

56 Black men changing stereotypes

56 black men

I first heard about the 56 black men project through a podcast by the resource group’s Jonathan.

In the podcast Jonathan talks about archetypes and stereotypes, defining them very carefully.

Archetypes & Stereotypes are similar but not the same

“I find when people think of positive stereotypes, they are more likely to use the word archetype”

Humans find Archetypes And Stereotypes Useful

“Stereotypes are great examples of heuristics or mental shortcuts that we use to help us negotiate our day-to-day lives.”

Archetypes & Stereotypes Can and Should Evolve

“existing archetypes and stereotypes have led to the world we live in now, new archetypes and stereotypes could lead us to a new world”

This all leads nicely in to his role taking part in the 56 black men project.

Reading through the twitter feed and hashtag, there’s some really interesting comments from others. I personally have avoided wearing hoods slightly because of the stereotype and I don’t find them that comfortable to wear. I like seeing around me (being aware of my surroundings is important for me).

I’m super aware of my presence on people around me, especially females. Its been drummed into me from a very early age mainly media like films and tv. Anything to help change this stereotype especially around black males, is very welcomed!

Follow up from MyHeritage GDPR request

Shadow profile
I got this from MyHeritage today… after submitting my GDPR request to them to find out the history of my account.
We apologize for this breach and the fact that your email address might have been part of it. The email addresses were included in the breach along with a hashed password – not the actual password (which has been expired and can no longer be used to access the account on MyHeritage). Other than this, there has not been a violation of the data. See our official statement here and an updated statement here.

Please be advised that this incident does not affect the privacy of any sensitive information you have on your online family site, including DNA information and family trees. Only hashed versions of passwords were stolen, which means they cannot be used to log in to your private account on MyHeritage.

There has been no evidence that the stolen information was ever used by the perpetrators. Since Oct 26, 2017 (the date of the breach) and the present we have not seen any activity indicating that any MyHeritage accounts had been compromised.

The privacy and the security of your information is our highest priority and we continually assess our procedures and policies and seek the best methods to secure information. The work on adding two-factor authentication to MyHeritage is completed and you can read the full explanation about this feature here.

In addition to that, I have carried out a search within our system, and I was not able to locate an account using your email address: **********************************

If you had an account using this email address and the account was deleted, we currently do not retain any information from your registered account and therefore, I cannot provide you with any information regarding it as it no longer exists.

However, if you registered to MyHeritage using another email address, please let me know with which so I will be able to locate it. In addition to that, as an extra security measure, if you still have access to this email address would you please be so kind to send us an email using that address?

If you run into any further issues, by all means, please don’t hesitate to reply. I’m here for you.

MyHeritage Support team

Maybe I deleted my account too soon, unfortunately giving them a easy out. I should have done the GDPR request then deleted my account afterwards! I was looking forward seeing proof the account was a shadow profile

Shadow profiles and my Heritage security breach

Shadow profile

I received a email from have have I been pwned that my email address and password had been exposed in breach from My Heritage.  Most breaches are somewhat worry-some but as I don’t use the same passwords because I have a password manager with lengthy random passwords; its less of a problem.

MyHeritage Statement About a Cybersecurity Incident

What was shocking about the myheritage breach for me, was that I have never logged in to or used myheritage ever. If I had an account, I would have an entry in my password manager. To confirm this I have requested my data via GDPR.

I believe a member of my large family entered my email address and then added details about me into myheritage, therefore creating a shadow profile for me to log into. It makes sense, as others in the family can fill in details they have for me. So the password which was leaked isn’t even set by me, but rather auto generated by myhertiage? The only way I could get access to the account was via a password reset. Once in I deleted my account straight away, but I thought about it some more.

The leaked/breached password and login would give the buyer access to any information my family member entered including date of birth, relationships with other members of the family, etc.

If I’m right this is deeply troubling and a worrying precedent!

39 days till Brexit and we still don’t know whats going to happen…

Its super depressing and even with 39 days left till Brexit, we still don’t know what on earth is going to happen. Even Jon Oliver can’t express how painful it is to watch the news everyday and see the PM of the UK trying to act strong with a crappy deal and following the will of the UK people.

Its a crappy situation the PM stepped into but I’m far from forgiving as she could delay article 50 and delay this clusterf**k. There is no way we should be allowed to leave without clear plans and a proper deal, if thats what we must do (I of course don’t buy it, I want to stay in the European union and always have done).

All I can do is put my head in my hands and think about how to escape the UK.

Moon Festival: 50 years since we landed on the moon!

The Moon 50 Festival

Every once in a while delight of getting involved with something from near the start of its journey. These types of projects tend to have some very driven but cool people behind it.

Livia Filotico is the founder/creative director of the festival and been my main contact. She started the whole thing with a kickstarter. She didn’t get the money she requested but is pursuing the whole thing anyway, looking for other funding elsewhere.

So why the moon festival?

Celebrating people’s relationship with the Moon across cultures, time and disciplines and coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing in July 2019.

This year it will be 50 years since we first landed on the moon! It feels like lifetimes ago but actually its 50 years this July. When Livia explained this to me, I was shocked there was more celebrations planned for a massive achievement of human engineering and spirit.

Moon 50 Festival

Plans are a foot including a magical first event with Margaret Atwood. The festival was recently in the guardian’s 10 european art anniversaries in 2019 alongside some incredible art events.

I have been in talks with Livia for the BBC to be involved in some way too, but more importantly helping her out by connecting her with different people I know. We tried a number of things including attempting to put on a TEDxMoon! How amazing would that have been?!

The whole festival has a human storytelling emphases, which fits well with some of my research. But I was very happy for Livia to take me on board as a digital advisor recently…

The whole thing is shaping up well but could be massively accelerated with a few more sponsors behind some of the planned events. Interestingly its not just happening in birth place of modern time (London greenwich/woolwich) but also a couple of other places in the world. Maybe if you are interested in running a part of the moon festival in your city/country, get in touch with Livia. Would be amazing to see more international connected events.

Sharing really is caring? Something we seem to have forgotten?

Sharing is caring

I haven’t been to a Manchester Futurists for a long while, But I saw the topic of The Future of Transportation with Nick King and Gary Barker and decided it would be a good one to attend with my petrol head partner. Now to be fair Nick and Gary did say it was going to be all about the car and it makes sense with them both coming from Autotrader. So will forgiven them for talking about cars and ownership not transport.

During the Nick and Garry talked about many things but one of their main points was about how selfish we are as a nation/culture. This is why ownership of cars is still going to be a large part of the future and things like car sharing, pooling, etc will still be a rarity.

I can’t remember the exact questions but generally they asked;

Who has used Airbnb? Quite a few yes were heard
Who has booked an Airbnb in the last year? Fewer people say yes
Who has booked a place with a stranger? People smile and giggle but theres about one or two yes’s.

Conclusion people value their privacy and the sharing economy will be mainly lost on Brits because of this. Now thats quite a step but lets go with it… They used Airbnb but also suggested similar for Uber, Zipcar and all the carpooling systems.

Future of transport slide

Now I was slightly seething at this. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of problems including diversity with the sharing economy if you like to call it that (how ironic).

I don’t disagree with what was said or pointed out but its worrying. As populations move into cities, the very idea of sharing resources is critical.

Over the last year I’ve watched when people talk about their ideal homes, default to a physically detached house. Then watched the confusion when I talk about a duplex flat. Why would you want that? Surely you want your own garden, your own space, your own…. Well actually no. I like shared gardens, I like real public spaces. I like public transport and as a host of Airbnb a shared spare room.

I do like doing Airbnb in a similar fashion. Some of the best Airbnb’s I’ve been in are when there is one host and myself. For example when I went to Madrid and Copenhagen. I spent a bit of time in the company of the host but never too much time. We both understood, when to back off and give some room.

i know its just me but the difference is the planet is becoming over populated and resources are getting tighter and more costly. The ability to sharing is not just important but is becoming critical. In the future of transport there was a suggestion that autonomous cars will have their own lane. I shook my head thinking when is there going to be room to fit another lane in. Most of the lanes are being converted to bus and bike lanes.

Through out I felt like I needed to remind people being human is a team sport. If sharing isn’t part of your thing, its time to fight it out with the millionaires in New Zealand.

Update

I noticed the latest NPR/TED radio hour is all about Finite resource, something I was thinking while listening to the original talk and writing this blog post.

In a world with limited resources, can we find ways to salvage what’s disappearing? Can we innovate our way out of a finite landscape? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about living with less.

Rather than living with less, can we also share more and make our limited resources go further?

Wired Live: Why We Need to Talk More About Mental Health

When rapper Professor Green was a kid, the word ‘mental’ was chucked about carelessly – but the phrase ‘mental health’ was something he never heard mentioned. When he was 24, his dad took his own life – and there began a course towards greater self-awareness about mental illness and understanding of the need to talk about mental suffering collectively. He speaks to journalist Stephen Armstrong about his work since then, and why things still aren’t getting better.

I found this really good and refreshing to hear. I know very little about Professor Green but its really good to hear his thoughts, in this short wired live interview.