Older people and technology

“By 2050, 22% of Americans will be 65 and older, according to U.S. Census Bureau projections. […] Around four-in-ten (42%) adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18% in 2013. Internet use and home broadband adoption among this group have also risen substantially. Today, 67% of seniors use the internet – a 55-percentage-point increase in just under two decades. And for the first time, half of older Americans now have broadband at home. […] Smartphone ownership among seniors whose annual household income is $75,000 or more increased by 39 percentage points since 2013 – 15 points higher than the growth reported among seniors overall.”

World Economic Forum »

When every conversation is recorded

You might have seen a story about an embarrassing recording from 2016:

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016, exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post.

I don’t care much about the exchange but I would like to know more about how the recording was made. Surreptitiously, one would think. Perhaps a smartphone in a jacket or shirt pocket? Doesn’t sound like the sort of gab-fest reporters would be invited to so it was one of The Boys. Did he know something embarrassing would be discussed? Did he record every such discussion… just in case? And if one guy is doing this, doesn’t it follow others would as well? Every question spawns three more.

Are there meetings where the Alpha Dog demands everyone put their phones in a basket which is placed in another room? Does everyone get a pat-down?

I started the recording app on my iPhone and put it in my pocket (mic up), to see what kind of audio quality I could get. Not bad. Good enough to end a career.

Let’s say I turn on a small jamming device that prevents recording within a 10 foot radius. Could someone on the other side of the room capture so

Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future

When I share something here, I try to include a paragraph or two to give the reader a sense of what the piece is about and some feel for what I thought was interesting/important. It’s difficult to know what to excerpt with this… I don’t even know what to call it… “explainer” by Tim Urban. At 38,000 words it is the longest thing I’ve ever read on the Internet (not counting books). He explains the brain. Where it’s been and where it might be going. That I was able to read such a long piece is a testament to a) the subject matter and b) his writing style. I said I wasn’t going to include any excerpts but here’s a couple:

“Die Progress Unit (DPU) – How many years one would need to go into the future that the ensuing shock from the level of progress would kill you.”

“Putting our technology into our brains isn’t about whether it’s good or bad to become cyborgs. It’s that we are cyborgs and we will continue to be cyborgs—so it probably makes sense to upgrade ourselves from primitive, low-bandwidth cyborgs to modern, high-bandwidth cyborgs.”

How self-driving cars could change real estate

Driverless cars could become a reality in five years, and will profoundly affect real estate within eight or nine years. A few possibilities:

  • Roughly 15 to 20% of your living space constructed in the average home is devoted to the garage
  • Each urban area will have a hub, but it won’t be in the expensive part of town — it will be in the cheaper part of town, right off the freeway
  • Fewer parking lots. In 2016, in the D.C. area, commercial underground parking garages added 10-12% to the cost of office construction. In residences, each additional parking space increased the cost of development per unit by 25%. Driverless cars could make these parking lots a relic of the past
  • There are 125,000 gas stations in the United States in prime real estate, you won’t need those anymore

Rise of the Robolawyers

From an excellent piece in The Atlantic by Jason Koebler:

In the past year, more than 10 major law firms have “hired” Ross, a robotic attorney powered in part by IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence, to perform legal research. Ross is designed to approximate the experience of working with a human lawyer: It can understand questions asked in normal English and provide specific, analytic answers.

Beyond helping prepare cases, AI could also predict how they’ll hold up in court. Lex Machina, a company owned by LexisNexis, offers what it calls “moneyball lawyering.” It applies natural-language processing to millions of court decisions to find trends that can be used to a law firm’s advantage. For instance, the software can determine which judges tend to favor plaintiffs, summarize the legal strategies of opposing lawyers based on their case histories, and determine the arguments most likely to convince specific judges. A Miami-based company called Premonition goes one step further and promises to predict the winner of a case before it even goes to court, based on statistical analyses of verdicts in similar cases.

A Silicon Valley startup called Legalist offers “commercial litigation financing,” meaning it will pay a lawsuit’s fees and expenses if its algorithm determines that you have a good chance of winning, in exchange for a portion of any judgment in your favor.

A company called Clause is creating “intelligent contracts” that can detect when a set of prearranged conditions are met (or broken). Though Clause deals primarily with industrial clients, other companies could soon bring the technology to consumers. For example, if you agree with your landlord to keep the temperature in your house between 68 and 72 degrees and you crank the thermostat to 74, an intelligent contract might automatically deduct a penalty from your bank account.

A Blockchain for Facts

The most interesting idea associated with blockchain have nothing to do with money. It’s ideas like this that really grab me. I fiddled with Klout when it first came out but quickly decided I didn’t care much about my ‘influence’ score. But it would be cool to have a high Rep score.

Here’s how it works: After one group of people joins a prediction market and bets on an outcome, Augur pays others to identify that outcome—to verify what happened. But it doesn’t just pay them a flat fee. On its blockchain, Augur houses its own cryptocurrency, a digital token that encourages people to get things right. “If you’re not telling the truth, you stand to lose a bunch of money,” Krug says.

Augur calls its digital token the Rep. This cryptocurrency doesn’t let you buy and sell stuff. It tracks your reputation—that is, how often you tell the truth. People bet their Rep tokens that they are indeed telling the truth—reporting the facts as they actually are. If most others agree, the system returns their tokens and pays them in cash.

No more car chase movies?

Everything I’ve read to date about autonomous vehicles has led me to believe this technology is inevitable. Not if, just when. But something (finally?) occurred to me a couple of days ago that has me reconsidering. This would mean the end of car chases in movies, wouldn’t it? The horror! Think of all the great car chases in the last fifty years.

“The consensus among historians and film critics is that the first modern car chase movie was 1968’s Bullitt. The revolutionary 10-minute-long chase scene in Bullitt was far longer and far faster than what had gone before, and placed cameras so that the audience felt as though they were inside the cars.” (Wikipedia)

Terminator, French Connection, The Blues Brothers, To Live and Die in L.A., The Bourne Identity, The Italian Job, Mad Max: Road Warrior (okay, we’d probably still have that), Vanishing Point, The Matrix Reloaded (will we have autonomous motorcycles?). And the list goes on and on.

You’re gonna tell me it will drone chases or something like those vertical “highways” in Minority report or The Fifth Element but, man, it won’t be the same. Is it too late to stop this train?