Jul 27, 2012

Brand Human

Identity in the Age of Ubiquitous Computing


Something we need to be aware of is that the bigger issue of social media overall is simply that when given the ability to freely share our lives, we are quick to share our lives. That may sound like an oxymoron or counter-intuitive as a statement, but it means in the digital world we have a bad habit of over sharing.

Remember, a social graph is literally designed to infer who you are at all levels through your interactions, preferences and relationships. The more you share, the more you should care - since companies like Google, Facebook, etc wind up knowing more about you than you may ever realize, and more than you may even know about yourself through relational inference.






Digital Identification

National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

If you've never heard about this initiative, you really should read up on it (link below). Essentially it's a government initiative to further online identity and secure interaction through participation of third party private sector efforts.

In short, think of it like a manner by which to identify a person online reasonably. The solution to make that happen is a trusted social graph which strengthens as you use it, and eventually can become verified by the third party (or collaborating third parties), creating a trusted identity online for situations when an elevated level of trust is required.

The best way to accomplish that, then, is to implement systems like Google Plus, Facebook, etc wherein your "social graph" creates that unique online identity and eventually gets verified. Compelling people to use these systems isn't exactly hard, either. Just add a dose of gameification element to it all and viola!

People click "Like" or "+1" on stuff and build their social graph all over the Internet, which in turn strengthens their "trusted identity". The problem is that, while you are compelled to share with your friends online all those details about yourself, there is a third party that is also looking in on you and your friends - namely Google, Facebook, etc which in turn has an open channel to the NSA, CIA and Department of Homeland Security who are privy to the raw information you are submitting.

It's a double edged sword, and we need to keep it in mind as we go bravely (or stupidly) into the future.

The Real Issue

For now it's all fine and well that we're getting all of these online services for "free" and sites are integrating the social graph into their own systems for authentication, etc... It is not uncommon to see sites these days that encourage you to log-in using Twitter, Facebook, etc as a one click step. Ease of use makes it really compelling, but in the long run you are giving up just a bit more than you realize through doing so.

The price you pay for these services is not measured because you are paying with a currency that is completely invaluable - which is to say, namely yourself. As +Gary Vaynerchuk says - Brand Human is the most underrated brand there is. The most important brand in the future and today is not Nike, Coca-Cola, or Pringles - it's you.

As you use those social graphs to log into other sites, you are adding those sites to your social graph as part of your "online identity system". It's still a double edged sword but one that can easily be abused by third parties and government if not careful.

For instance, I'm sure being branded a terrorist for clicking "Like" on #Occupy streams or sites seems far fetched, but if you're not careful that's exactly what happens in your social graph. The same could be said about people who show a public interest in things like #Anonymous or whatever other non-sanctioned and fringe outlets exist such as #Wikileaks or #BradleyManning

What's more, the further these services become collective, the more likely there is a single choking point for access online. Sure, you could just use another service, but as they start implementing social graph log-in methods over their own, those sites become part of the Google and Facebook extension as well, even if they are run by parties outside of Google and Facebook. So if Google and Facebook decide to shut off access to your account and services - those sites outside of them shut down your access as well by default.

Even more interesting is the implementation of cloud storage and applications into this ecosystem, whereby you are perpetually renting access to your own data and the programs that allow you to manipulate it. We see this with Tablets recently, whereby the on-board storage is myopic by default and the App-stores compel you to rent cloud storage to offload your files to. Google already does this with Google Drive, giving you a preset "entry" storage account and then setting “reasonable” rental prices for more.

As computing moves in that direction, I get a little nervous at the implications. Do something a third party doesn't like or disagrees with, and in a single request you're essentially cut off from anything meaningful online as a result, losing a majority of your data as well.

Email, videos, documents, social media, calendar, pictures, music, blogs, and (over time) the rest of the useful Internet itself that uses those social graphs to let you log in.

Something to mull over in our race to ubiquitous computing.



External Links


National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace

Image by:

Ragaru | deviantArt - http://ragaru.deviantart.com/art/Cyber-Eye-111574083


Jul 24, 2012

Sanity Control

In the wake of the Aurora shooting, more gun control isn’t a solution.


It’s time for me to open up a can of worms today that many people are already locked in a heated debate about. For the record, I’m actually against violence and own no weapons. That being said, there seems to be reignited this ongoing debate for and against gun control in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado shooting which took 12 lives and severely injured 58 others.


One the pro-gun control side, we have the same assertion that had the person in question not had access to the weapons he did, then the killing spree wouldn’t have occurred. While on the opposing side, the assertion is that tighter gun control would not have made a difference.


I had just finished watching a video post by The Young Turks asserting the pro-gun control side of things and all I could do was shake my head. I couldn’t even get all the way through the video, because frankly I just don’t have enough brain cells that I voluntarily wish to give up in order to do so.


The Right To Bare Arms


That’s not to say that I’m all for the other side of the logical extreme, making it easier to obtain these sorts of weapons. Nor am I asserting somehow that I don’t sympathize with the families of the lost victims to this atrocity.


What I’m getting at is simply that there already exists a law against murder itself.


Increasing the gun control or banning particular options isn’t really the answer. Murder itself is a symptom of a larger problem, and it doesn’t really matter what the murderer used to accomplish the goal. If we took away the assault rifles and high capacity magazines, why would that somehow be construed as deterring somebody who is bent on murdering many people?


It’s a lot like saying that because a drunk driver decided to plow through a shopping mall, killing 30 people, that we need to ban automobiles or alcohol. The reality of the situation in this analogy is that neither automobiles nor alcohol are illegal, but driving while intoxicated actually is illegal as well as vehicular homicide.


It’s the law against murder itself which supersedes all the tools that could possibly be used to implement murder. Instead of trying to regulate countless tools and methods, like death by stabbing somebody in the jugular with a McDonald’s Spork, or premeditated murder through the mixing of copious amounts of Clorox Bleach and Ammonia in that same movie theater and then locking the doors from the outside, or maybe gaining lawful employment at said movie theater in advance, working at the concessions counter and poisoning an entire batch of popcorn… see, it doesn’t actually matter how a murderer chose to enact the crime or what they use to accomplish the task.





The thing about Ronnie is that he’s really just misunderstood. Ok, maybe a little evil.




All that actually matters is the root of the problem, which is murder in this case.


But then, murder itself isn’t even the root of the problem. In order to figure that out, we’d actually have to take a long, hard look at the society which breeds such contempt for a living person that murder becomes an option. The underlying root of the problem is a sick society in general; especially one where a majority of people blame the tools and not the person wielding them.


There are plenty of lawfully owned automatic/semi-automatic assault rifles. For every hundred thousand or so lawfully owned weapons, there’s going to be an isolated situation where one person decides it’s alright to use those weapons for murder. But does that, by comparison make every owner of that weapon a murderer?


Of course not.


There are plenty of accidental deaths in the United States every year due to firearm related reasons. Weapons are dangerous. That’s precisely what they are for. In the same manner, eating McDonalds every day will likely kill you or produce millions of morbidly obese citizens. Are we on a crusade to outright ban McDonalds?


I don’t know about you, but I can see about half a dozen fast food places down the road from me and not once did I ever make the decision to gain a few hundred pounds stuffing an endless array of Quarter Pounders down my noisy meat-hole.






Because we all know that one guy who can’t get enough McDonalds…

and he ruins it for everyone else



Just the Facts


I’m not the sort of person to talk about this sort of thing without actually doing some homework ahead of time. So let’s look at just how dangerous firearms are, by the statistical numbers (compiled by GunSafe.org in Connecticut) The statistics are probably outdated by maybe ten years, but considering they aren’t that huge of a difference since 1959, it should be safe to use these as a general idea overall -




United States population...  273,000,000


Firearms (handguns, rifles, and shotguns) owned by civilians...  235,000,000


How much has this increased in the past 40 years?... Tripled


What fraction of U.S. households owns firearms?...42%


What fraction of U.S. residents owns firearms?...28%




Damn, that’s a lot of firearms in the United States. You’d think with all of those firearms the homicide and accidental death rate from firearms would be insanely high, right?




Total accidental deaths per year (all causes), U.S....96,000


Motor vehicle accidental deaths per year...43,000


Fatal firearms accidents per year...1,100




Ok, so fatal accidents aren’t that high. With 273,000,000 people in the United States and about 235,000,000 firearms, at least the gun safety education is working really well. 1,100 firearms related deaths from accidents is miniscule compared to the total residency and total number of firearms owned.


But wait, we’re forgetting the homicide rate and murder! Surely that number will bring about a clear justification for banning these firearms or enforcing stricter regulations!



Suicides by firearm, per year...18.000


Murders by firearm, per year...14,000



No dice… Let’s do some quick mental math and figure out the percentages.


I’ll even throw people a bone and give them the accidental firearms accidents and suicides.


Let’s see…



+ 14,000

+   1,100





Fair enough. 23,000 deaths is not actually a good thing. Let’s punch that into the calculator and find out what percentage that is against the actual population of the United States.


23,000 / 273,000,000


Ok, that’s just asinine to do that math. Anyone with half a mind can see the percentage is going to be ridiculously small by comparison. But just in case you were seriously bent on knowing that percentage, it’s:


8.42490842 × 10-5


It’s such a small percentage that I’m pretty certain it’s well below 1% and likely far below a tenth of a percent of the population. It’s 7:30 in the morning, so working that math out exactly isn’t happening right now, but you get the point.


But there’s obviously more to this… I mean, what is the percentage of crimes that are committed with “Assault Rifles”? I bet if we look at that figure we’ll find justification to ban them!


"Assault weapons" are about 1 percent of the guns used in crime


Son of a b…





On the bright side, less than 1% of the population thinks they’re Rambo – as opposed to the entire world thinking all Americans think they’re Rambo.




Alright… have we done enough math yet? The point here is that we’re looking at the problem from a really stupid perspective and then acting on emotion and not logic in our quest to solve the problem. It happens every time – just look at September 11th, 2001 if you need proof of that. Two wars and not a damned thing accomplished except a bunch of defense contractors with raging hard-ons balancing cheeseburgers at the end.


Oh, and a near collapsed economy.


So, uh… what the hell were we talking abou… oh, right. Assault Rifles and banning them because some psychotic moron thought it would be great to storm a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises and open fire on defenseless patrons.


As you’re reading this, you’re likely thinking I’m some sort of die-hard NRA Republican gun-nut, but I’m not. Hell, I’m not even a card carrying Democrat or any political affiliation for that matter. All I really care about are the base things in a country.


This country exists because of guns, in the hands of citizens. The founding fathers made damned sure that right was written right into the fabric of the nation as an inalienable right. It’s a freedom we take for granted, and too quickly forget why we should never restrict it too harshly.


It’s not because Bob needs automatic weapons to shoot some deer (though defense against Bear is a good reason). It’s because an armed public discourages wholesale tyranny from government. That is why we have the right to bare arms, along with the right for self defense. At the end of the day, the government answers to its people, and when the people are well armed and ready to defend their sovereignty and freedoms, then there is no government that will stand in that path. No law or decree which the majority refuses to submit to will hold any weight.


That’s why we have a country. 


Those weapons can be used for offense or defense, but it’s the person pulling the trigger that is making that decision. So we solve the problem by figuring out what’s wrong with the people… not the weapons.


So let’s get this one thing straight, shall we?



John E Holmes

This is the man accused of killing 12 moviegoers and wounding 58 more in Aurora, Colo., last week. He made his first appearance in court Monday morning.


James Holmes, a 24-year-old former doctoral student at the University of Colorado, Denver, has been held on first-degree murder charges in the July 20 shooting spree at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."


The brief procedural hearing, known as an advisement, took place at the Arapahoe County Justice Center. Holmes, who was represented by a public defender, appeared in court with brightly dyed orange hair and wore a burgundy jail uniform. He seemed sleepy or dazed and often had his eyes shut.


Holmes will face formal charges from prosecutors on July 30, and District Attorney Carol Chambers said her office is considering the death penalty against him, according to the Associated Press. District Court Judge William Sylvester issued an order forbidding Holmes from having contact with victims or witnesses.


If first degree murder charges and a possible death penalty didn’t deter this guy from murdering people, then what makes anyone think outlawing the gun he did it with will deter future murderers?


The first question anyone should have about this situation isn’t “What gun did he use?” – that’s totally irrelevant. Instead it should be “What the hell brought him to a state of mind where murdering innocent people seemed like a viable option?”


Banning the weapons he used is a lot like sending inanimate objects to jail when you think about it. So let’s get to the root of the problem instead of sidestepping it. It takes a decision from a person operating a firearm to kill people, they don’t just magically get up and start mowing people down on their own.


My sympathies and condolences go out to the victims of this tragic event, but the harsh reality is – at less than 1% of crimes using assault rifles, it was just bad luck they were there at the time. I’m sure this guy is likely to see the death penalty for what he has done, and for that – justice is served as best as can be.





Jul 18, 2012


To the outsider, the Singularity looks like madness | #SecondLife


In a recent Newsweek cover story, it is asserted that technology in general and (more precisely) access to the Internet and mass communication is somehow driving us insane.



Tweets, texts, emails, posts. New research says the Internet can make us lonely and depressed—and may even create more extreme forms of mental illness.



Let’s start the ball rolling by stating this is absolute hogwash. What we are seeing are the effects of an accelerated mind adapting to ubiquitous presence and access.







I know, the kids these days with their iPhones, MP3 players, and computers. Tablets and other electronic cocaine addictions up the wazoo only compound the issue, right? I’m not so certain about that assertion.


What I’ve noticed is that these studies clearly take the situation out of context and make half-witted assertions about what they feel is going on with the participants. Yes, they are more apt to multitask and become irritable when disconnected from the Internet. Of course their attention span is lower and not able to concentrate on a single thing… or maybe they really can focus on a single thing but only if they truly are interested in it?


That’s something I’ve noticed more than anything.


In a world of endless information at our fingertips, we’re mentally adapting to the situation by becoming exceedingly quick at deciding what is important and what isn’t. So when we’re talking to our teenagers and they’re staring at their smart phones in a text messaging conversation, maybe they are deciding in a moment that what you are saying is really not as important as you are making it out to be? More to the point is that in an overwhelming onslaught of ubiquitous information and interaction, it’s not so much what you are saying but how you are choosing to convey that information that counts? Generally speaking, we’re simply not choosing the most efficient manner to convey information, nor is that information worth the sustained attention of the person you are trying to convey it to.


I wouldn’t say this is an unhealthy addiction. If anything, this is promising because what I see from my end is a population quickly adapting to the singularity context. Accelerating returns essentially mandates that progress will quicken, information will continue to expand and time will compress. In short, it’ll take less time to do more when compared to the same task in a prior generation.


So our population is adapting to this time compression. On the surface, I suppose it looks like a sort of mental illness or addiction. We’re already in a multiplicity of persona through or digital interactions, and we refer to ourselves in many differing contexts. A generation ago that notion would have immediately been characterized as a mental instability, but by today’s standards we are expected to engage the world as a multiplicity.


However, that isn’t to say that everyone is actually capable of this transition.


There are the digital natives and the digital immigrants, the prior are the younger generation that were born into the digital context and had access to these devices and technologies from birth, while the latter generation is not so lucky to have been a native and must retrain their minds to adapt to the technology and implications it brings.


Digital natives are most likely to handle this singularity transition without much of an issue, while the ones who will see the adverse effects are likely the digital immigrants who aren’t mentally prepared for this accelerated time shifting and ubiquity.


From a medical standpoint, we term this issue Reactive Psychosis, which essentially boils down to a sudden and overwhelming shift in engagement from relative quiet to an onslaught of information overload. To put it more precisely, we’re back to the notion of the monkey sphere (or Dunbar’s Number if you will) and how the mind is adapting to handle the inner-sphere and the outer-sphere. In the case of digital natives, they are already adapting to handle both inner and outer-sphere through highly adaptive prioritization of importance. To a digital immigrant, however, they have a predisposition to believe that all interactions hold relatively the same attention weight in order to remain courteous, and that mentality is the precursory to a mental breakdown when all things seemingly require full attention to be polite but the sheer number of interactions is overwhelming.


When we look at this more in-depth, I suppose we can assert that the recent generation has a much higher affliction of A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. but I’m wary to say that is really a bad thing. I’m sure in an analog context, those things are bad, but instead of diagnosing the individual with an attention problem, maybe we should be diagnosing our means of information stream myopic instead?


I’d like to hypothesize that those with attention deficit disorder really have nothing wrong with them at all, but instead they are adapted to handle a hyper-contextual environment which the standard methodologies today aren’t capable of delivering. A single mode of communication and, more importantly, a single thread of interaction is not appropriate in a ubiquitous environment. These digital natives are adapting to handle many things at once and actually perform better when able to interact with many things in shorter bursts.


In an education aspect, and I know many reading this are keen to perk up their ears, this means that the textbook approach to learning is dying a quick death. What education needs is a multi-sensory and immersive context in order for our digital natives to focus. Not only that, but there needs to be an open-ended context in which exploration of that immersion and many paths can lead to not just a predetermined outcome but the possibility of different outcomes.


If you’re an educator and into virtual worlds, then this is a perfect justification for integrating virtual environments into your classroom context. That doesn’t mean a linear environment that walks students through a lesson plan is appropriate, however. What it means is that the students literally thrive and focus on multi-faceted immersive contexts.






Now, I know Rupert Murdoch isn’t exactly the most trustworthy person to quote concerning all of this, but if you put aside the unsavory actions what you have is at least a man who understood this situation from his own perspective and what would need to be done in order to move forward.


I’m not one to agree with Rupert Murdoch, but on this he is absolutely correct.


So far our solution has been to diagnose our kids with a disorder and pump them full of drugs to slow them down. I find this disturbing and amusing simultaneously because we’re approaching the situation in the same manner as the scientists in the game Portal where GladOS was becoming too smart and too fast, so the solution was to attach other cores to her in order to add noise and slow her down.


It’s disturbing because we’re addressing a symptom and not the problem, and amusing because instead of evolving our own methodologies, the digital immigrants immediately see this behavioral change as bad because it is very different than their own, and so they have to “solve” it by diagnosing it as a problem and prescribing drugs to handle it.


The problem isn’t the kids, and the problem isn’t technology. The problem is now that the digital natives aren’t being spoon fed information and context in a trickle that is an analog or singular context scenario, they simply aren’t tolerant of the old methodologies any longer. Yet our classrooms and digital immigrant society is still rooted in analog methodologies and contexts, so they decide that something is wrong with the new generation for not acting like they did at their age.


The problem is the methodologies and approach to interaction and learning. It’s no longer a world of single stream context, but instead we’re in a world of ubiquitous and hyper-threading context. Short bursts and high impact.


I suspect this is also the reason why my own blog is considered “hard to parse” or read for the average person. We’re used to a single graphic and a burst of text, 30 seconds of context and then we move on. However when we’re faced with long reads and deeper context, many people refer to the Cliff Notes version.


That being said, I’m still a digital native myself. I can get on with a smart phone and short burst conversations, but sometimes there are things which need to be given due diligence and time in a discussion. I think when we begin to cultivate a balance between the two, we’ll get along just fine. For those that are full-tilt digital natives; These are the people who are the future. Don’t treat it as a disorder or negative addiction. We’re addicted to information and the world. We’re soaking up all things of interest at a hyper-active pace. We’re retraining our minds to learn like we did when we were children…


Think about it.