Is silicon valleys dystopia the public sectors utopia?

I was listening to the start of This week in Tech on Monday morning as they talked about the Guardian piece titled Smartphone addiction, Silicon valley dystopia and other related stories. I couldn’t help but feel something was missing from the discussion.

The discussion focused on how to solve some of the points about unethical attention manipulation, filter bubbles, smartphone addiction, etc; all from an North American point of view. There was a sense if this was left to the government to regulate it would be a very bad thing but they were searching for a middle ground and failing. They acknowledged companies need to make money and making their services addictive/sticky is a part of this, but there was a feeling there has to be something in the middle?

Of course they never mention the public sector, as it doesn’t really factor? Its very binary and thinking about it, even in Tristan’s essay there is little notation of the middle ground.

I wonder if silicon valleys dystopia could be the public sectors utopia? However if the message is North American, it’s very unlikely to include anything about the public sector, just governments and business?

Quantifying your smartphone usage mentioned recently

There’s a recent BBC documentary titled Secrets Of Silicon Valley, its not a bad watch at all. In part 2, the presenter installs an app to see how much time he spends on his phone through out the day. Very similar to what happened at the Quantified Self 2017 conference, but even I almost coked on my tea when the final figure of over 5 hours was announced for the day.

My monthly smartphone usage

Looking at my own usage, over the last month I spent 19hrs 1minute over 384 pickups, looking at my mobile phone.

I admit this is so very low in comparison to others.

By the way I’m still looking for a decent way to do this without abundance of features, battery use and in a data ethical way.

Decentralise or Decentralize this and everything?

Silicon Valley season 4

Decentralise or Decentralize that is always a question I have… Of course being British, the first one is correct (I joke!)

Its fair to say I have been thinking about decentralisation quite a lot recently, but its not the first time. Conversations with Adewale has always got me thinking about this all.

Partly due to Mozfest/Mozretreat this year and thinking about it in terms of power structures; which I’ll explain more in another blog post soon. But I found a number of interesting points about decentralisation which I thought I’d share….

I’ve been thinking about the differences between Centralised, Decentralisation, Distributed and Federated; as I joined Mastodon and thought a lot about Jabber, Status.net and Laconica. Can the user the experience be better than the centralised services? Theres potential but is the will there?

Kevin Marks shared a link to a piece about Silicon Valley series 4 and how the main character Richard is interested in building a more decentralised internet.

In the first episode of the new season (Season 4) of HBO’s Silicon Valley, beleaguered entrepreneur Richard Hendricks, asked by eccentric venture capitalist Russ Hanneman, what, given unlimited time and resources, he would want to build.

“A new Internet,” says Hendricks.

“Why?” asks Hanneman.

Hendricks babbles about telescopes and the moon landing and calculators and the massive computing power in phones today, and says: “What if we used all those phones to build a massive network?… We use my compression algorithm to make everything small and efficient, to move things around…. If we could do it, we could build a completely decentralized version of our current Internet with no firewalls, no tolls, no government regulation, no spying. Information would be totally free in every sense of the word.”

Hel-lo! Decentralized Internet? That’s a concept I’ve heard bubbling around the tech world for a while now, but not so much in the consciousness of the general public. Is HBO’s Silicon Valley about to take the push for a Decentralized Web mainstream?

Of course decentralisation isn’t a panacea and shifting the power from a centralised power comes with roles and lots more responsibility. It also relies on correctly informed citizens. This is why the distributed and federated models are much more interesting in my mind…

A couple people mentioned Brexit is a type of decentraisation, and I guess it is but further encourages thoughts about distributed and federated. Manchester recently got its first Mayor because of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act 2016 which is a type of decentralisation I guess.

Its clear the internet could do with less centralisation but unless its as good or better a experience for people; why would they switch? That warm fuzzy feeling is powerful but not strong enough, you only have to look at the wake of decentralised social networks to see evidence of this.

People’s enthusiasm for federated decentralised $WHATEVER seems inversely proportional to the practicality of their plan for achieving it

And thats just the developers, goodness knows what the users enthusiasm levels are like? Surely one day it will just work and users won’t even know its been built that way.

Dare I mention my thoughts about distributed online dating? Imagine that!

Little diversity changes in the valley?

Nancy Lee

Google’s head of diversity, Nancy Lee, is retiring from Google after several years of leading the company’s global diversity and inclusion team

In Google’s latest diversity report, we saw that overall representation of women went from 30 percent female in 2014 to 31 percent female in 2015. But the overall percentage of black and Hispanic people did not increase at all, with overall representation of blacks remaining at 2 percent and Hispanics remaining at 3 percent. In 2015, only 4 percent of Google’s hires were black and 5 percent of its hires were Hispanic.

It’s not clear who will take over as head of diversity or when Lee’s last day is. Google declined to comment for this story.

Although still (at the moment I write this) not confirmed and this isn’t a criticism of Nancy’s initiatives. But its not great news and looking back at the afrofutures talk I gave a while back, little seems to have changed when it comes to non-white or non-asian people in tech. I would have hoped the increase in women would be higher too, especially with all work and attention.

Seems little is going to change in the valley, at least for diversity and inclusion. I’m sure we will find out about Nancy’s difficult position very soon.

Zuckerberg casts doubt on Silicon Valley

Some interesting comments from Mark Zuckerberg recently

In a rare interview conducted over the weekend at Y Combinator’s Startup Schoool, the brash, young CEO admits he would have stayed on the east coast if he could have his time again.

He said: “If I were starting now I would do things very differently. I didn’t know anything.

“In Silicon Valley, you get this feeling that you have to be out here. But it’s not the only place to be. If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston.

“But I think that now, knowing more of what I know, I think I might have been able to pull it off. You don’t have to move out here to do this.

“Silicon Valley is a little short-term focused and that bothers me.”

Many others would say he benefited from Silicon Valley’s short-term focused nature and I would agree with that statement. I would like to see if he’s going to now shift Facebook out of the Silicon Valley area? I very much doubt it and that as far as I’m concerned is like moaning about where you live and not lifting a finger to do anything about it…

hindsight is always wonderful

Although I got to say its a very small victory for other places such as silicon roundabout… Hopefully they will read this as a sign NOT to clone silicon valley

Build tech city or go one better?

rain rain go away

Not wrote anything about London’s TechCity and Silicon Roundabout for quite sometime but I’ve been thinking about it… The recent talk from Matt Brittin at MediaCityUK reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while.

The Silicon Roundabout thing slightly bugs me and the Techcity thing winds me up but not for the reasons you would imagine. Silicon roundabout is frankly a silly name but I can live with that. The area is full of hopeful startups and internet powered companies. Its great and to be fair east London was always a cool place. I actually spent quite a lot of time in the last startup boom.

My problem is copying the states… Not only copying the concept but somewhat getting it seriously wrong or backwards. I’ll save the reasons for others but this is different times, different circumstances and a totally different country. Part of the solution is diversity of ideas and process, something the UK is very good at in one way or another.

Its no mistake Google’s Eric Schmitt mentions “you’re either a ‘luvvy’ or a ‘boffin’.”

A cultural thing which has got to stop, along with simply copying…

To coin an old phrase, think differently…?