Until January 3, 2019, no human being had ever set eyes on the “dark side” of the moon — the side always facing away from the Earth. It was a mystery. But no longer. China’s National Space Administration successfully landed a lunar lander, Chang’e-4, at South Pole-Aitken, the moon’s largest and deepest basin. Its lunar rover Yutu-2 is sending home dozens of pictures so that we can see the soil, rocks, and craters for ourselves. Seeds it took on the journey also germinated (before freezing to death), making this the first time any biological matter from Earth has been cultivated on the Moon. Continue reading
Two notable Americans faced firestorms of criticism last week: A governor whose medical school yearbook page showed a racist image and a billionaire whose infidelity was exposed by a tabloid. The politician — Virginia governor Ralph Northam — handled the PR crisis in the worst way possible by deflecting and denying, which led to calls for his resignation. The reclusive billionaire, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, turned crisis into opportunity by disclosing embarrassing information and positioning himself as a superhero, telling everyone that he was standing up to a bully on their behalf. Continue reading
One of the signature trends of technology in the Internet age has been the reversal of technology adoption flows. In the past, the copy machine, the fax, the mobile phone (before smartphones), and the personal computer all started as work tools and then moved into the consumer realm. With the Internet, and with smartphones, that trend reversed. Unexpectedly, consumer tools such as chat, e-mail, and social networks were brought into the workplace — not by IT managers, but by employees looking to increase their productivity. This path had been greased by the demands of workers that they be able to use their own smartphones (and, to a lesser degree, laptops and tablets) to conduct work business such as making phone calls and sending e-mails. Continue reading
When Western companies moved manufacturing to China, it was all about minimizing costs. China was a developing country with labor costs among the lowest in the world. It also offered massive subsidies and readily turned a blind eye to labor abuse and environmental degradation. Continue reading
Many of us are addicted to social media. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Twitter, the technologies’ creators have found ways to keep us coming back for more. Google design ethicist Tristan Harris has called the smartphone a “slot machine in our pocket”: one carrying a litany of addictive applications and fostering harmful behaviors.
Now, that same slot machine is becoming entrenched at work. And it is making our lives more disconnected, more disjointed, less productive, and less satisfying. Continue reading
Product design doesn’t have to make dependency the priority
It’s the summer of 2018, the summer of Fortnite, and we all know we are addicted. Addicted to email, Snapchat, Instagram, Fortnite, Facebook. We swap outdoor time on the trail for indoor time around the console. Our kids log into Snapchat every day on vacation to keep their streaks alive and then get lost in the stream. Continue reading
Your refrigerator will talk to your toothbrush, your gym shoes, your car, and your bathroom scale. They will all have a direct line to your smartphone and tell your digital doctor whether you have been eating right, exercising, brushing your teeth, or driving too fast. I have no idea what they will think of us or gossip about; but I know that many more of our electronic devices will soon be sharing information about us— with each other and with the companies that make or support them.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a fancy name for the increasing array of sensors embedded in our commonly used appliances and electronic devices, our vehicles, our homes, our offices, and our public places. Those sensors will be connected to each other via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or mobile-phone technology. Continue reading
Not long ago, schoolchildren chose what they wanted to be when they grew up, and later selected the best college they could gain admission to, spent years gaining proficiency in their fields, and joined a company that had a need for their skills. Careers lasted lifetimes.
Now, by my estimates, the half-life of a career is about 10 years. I expect that it will decrease, within a decade, to five years. Advancing technologies will cause so much disruptionto almost every industry that entire professions will disappear. Continue reading
In the 1930s, psychologist B.F. Skinner put rats in boxes and taught them to push levers to receive a food pellet. They pushed the levers only when hungry, though. To get the rats to press the lever repeatedly, even when they did not need food, he gave them a pellet only some of the time, a concept now known as intermittent variable rewards. Casinos have used this same technique for decades to keep us pouring money into slot machines. And now the technology industry is using it to keep us checking our smartphones for emails, for new followers on Twitter, or for more “likes” on photographs we posted on Facebook.
First he was a well-known optimist in Silicon Valley, now Vivek Wadhwa warns against the downsides of technology.“Social media is used as a weapon against ourselves and we are unhappy about it.”
Vivek Wadhwa has made a huge turn in recent years. The legendary entrepreneur, writer and keynote speaker originally made his name as one of the most prominent ‘cheerleaders’ of Silicon Valley. He was closely involved with Singularity University, an almost evangelistic club that has been hammering on the huge promises of the technological revolution in recent years. He taught at Stanford University, the Silicon Valley nursery school, and wrote optimistic books and columns about the future.
Vivek Wadhwa is rejoining his former colleagues at Harvard Law School to run a critically important research project on the impact of technology on jobs and developing policies to mitigate the dangers.
This is with Richard Freeman, the world renowned labor economist, Sharon Block, who helped key labor policies for the Obama administration, and historian/scholar John Trumpbour. The 3-year project at Harvard’s Labor and Worklife program will bring together a who’s who to analyze new data on automation and jobs and to brainstorm on policy.
Congratulations to Vivek Wadhwa for being recognized by the Silicon Valley Forum 2018 VISIONARY AWARD-WINNER. Past honorees include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Linda Rottenberg, Scott McNealy, Ray Kurzweil, Reed Hastings, Tim O’Reilly, Padmasree Warrior, Anne Wojcicki, Reid Hoffman and many other icons.