Personal note: Take a look at Ubuntu Core with Qt for Internet of Things development (6/25/2017)
Last week, Amazon launched Greengrass, their new IoT platform allowing developers to create intelligent edge software. Amazon is collaborating with a variety of manufacturers to make Greengrass available on as many devices as possible from home gateways, industrial gateways to smart microphones. This is a reflection of the increased appetite from hardware vendors and developers to bring software definable devices to market, where third party developers can add new functionalities to existing devices and get rewarded for it. By deploying more intelligence at the edge, developers can build devices with more offline functions, faster responses that are cheaper for them to operate and give users an improved experience. By offering software definable devices they also give themselves the opportunity to offer a continuously improving experience but also new paid services that help them monetise their device even after they’ve been purchased.
AWS Greengrass is a step in this direction and solves one of the major problems associated with the software definable internet of things, namely how to give developers a simple and familiar development experience on edge devices by letting them re-use their backend code. With AWS Greengrass developers can now use the same skills and code they use in the cloud to write Lambda functions of MQTT based rules to write internet of things applications right at the edge of the network.
For device makers, building a software definable device using AWS Greengrass is, therefore, the guarantee of building an attractive option for developers. To facilitate this process Amazon has collaborated to make Greengrass available as a snap – the universal Linux packaging format. Snaps allow software companies like Amazon to distribute their software in immutable packages that will run consistently across hardware independent of the operating system they use and regardless of the state of that OS. This makes it simple for device manufacturers like Advantech to include Amazon Greengrass in their devices and thus propose a certified Greengrass device for developers to use. Combined with Ubuntu Core, the all snap version of Ubuntu for IoT devices, Greengrass as a snap also offers an opportunity for device makers and developers to monetise their software by building an app store for things.
About 10 years after TVs began to be ubiquitous in American homes, television broadcasting was a staggering financial success. As the head of the Federal Communications Commission observed in a 1961 speech to broadcast executives, the industry’s revenue, more than $1 billion a year, was rising 9 percent annually, even in a recession. The problem, the FCC chairman told the group, was the way the business was making money: not by serving the public interest above all but by airing a lot of dumb shows and “cajoling and offending” commercials. “When television is bad, nothing is worse,” he said.
That speech would become known for the pejorative that the FCC chairman, Newton Minow, used to describe TV: he called it “a vast wasteland.” It’s a great line, but there are other reasons to revisit the speech now, about 10 years after the emergence of another communications service—Facebook—that has become ubiquitous in American homes, a staggering financial success, and a transmitter of a lot of pernicious schlock. What’s striking today is why Minow said the vast-wasteland problem mattered—and what he wanted to do about it.
Personal note: Unfortunately, pop culture is characterized by dumb shows and other meaningless stuff. No exception.
As for why it mattered, Minow told the TV executives:
“Your industry possesses the most powerful voice in America. It has an inescapable duty to make that voice ring with intelligence and with leadership. In a few years, this exciting industry has grown from a novelty to an instrument of overwhelming impact on the American people. It should be making ready for the kind of leadership that newspapers and magazines assumed years ago, to make our people aware of their world.”
On that point in particular, Mark Zuckerberg apparently would agree. “Are we building the world we all want?” he wrote in February, in a 5,700-word manifesto that reflected on the sometimes dubious role Facebook has been playing in civic life. Referring to its propensity to turbocharge hoaxes and to the way it tends to make news feel sensational, he wrote that Facebook’s goal “must be to help people see a more complete picture” of the world.
But how to make a mass communication medium better for us? In 1961, Minow had a clear answer: “I believe that most of television’s problems stem from lack of competition.” He said he looked forward to seeing more channels becoming available through new technologies, such as UHF frequencies, pay TV, and international broadcasts. And he said he would look for ways to strengthen local stations that could best serve local communities. “I am deeply concerned with concentration of power in the hands of the networks,” Minow said.
That’s where Mark Zuckerberg would probably get a little uncomfortable. Because Facebook is all about concentrating power in one network—his, which he calls “a global community.” If in reality Facebook tends to promote polarization and tribalism, Zuckerberg seems to believe that can be fixed with a few tweaks. In his February letter he said Facebook would try to reduce sensationalism on the site and take other steps to help make people better informed and more engaged in democracy.
Zuckerberg doubtless means well, but the problem is not that we need a slightly better Facebook. It’s that Facebook—a company worth $400 billion because it vacuums up information about our tastes, our shopping habits, our political beliefs, and just about anything else you might think of—is too powerful in the first place. What we need is to spend less time on Facebook.
In his February letter, Zuckerberg essentially acknowledged what was obvious to anyone who had a Facebook account during the 2016 election: the social network has not exactly enhanced our democracy. The News Feed, the main scroll of posts that you see when you open Facebook, fueled hoaxes (which were overwhelmingly “tilted in favor” of Donald Trump, according to an analysis by Hunt Allcott of New York University and Matthew Gentzkow at Stanford), and it overfed people stories and memes that fit preconceived notions. On social media, “resonant messages get amplified many times,” Zuckerberg wrote. “This rewards simplicity and discourages nuance. At its best, this focuses messages and exposes people to different ideas. At its worst, it oversimplifies important topics and pushes us towards extremes.”
To try to counteract the fake-news problem, Facebook is now flagging hoax stories that are shared on the site with a warning that third-party fact checkers have declared them to be false. And in hopes of promulgating fewer stories that are apparently true but nonetheless uninformative, the company has adjusted the News Feed to give more weight to stories that people share after reading (or at least opening) them, rather than the ones they share after only seeing the headlines. The thinking is that a story shared largely based on the headline alone is less likely to be what Zuckerberg calls “good in-depth content.”
Good for Facebook for trying these strategies. They fit with other civic-minded steps the company has taken in the past, such as encouraging people to vote and urging them to donate to the victims of floods and earthquakes. But the latest efforts probably won’t do much to help create what Zuckerberg calls a more “informed community.” The structure of Facebook works against that.
Facebook is fundamentally not a network of ideas. It’s a network of people. And though it has two billion active users every month, you can’t just start trading insights with all of them. As Facebook advises, your Facebook friends are generally people you already know in real life. That makes it more likely, not less, to stimulate homogeneity of thought. You can encounter strangers if you join groups that interest you, but those people’s posts are not necessarily going to get much airtime in your News Feed. The News Feed is engineered to show you things you probably will want to click on. It exists to keep you happy to be on Facebook and coming back many times a day, which by its nature means it is going to favor emotional and sensational stories.
As Zuckerberg himself noted in his February letter, most of what people come to Facebook for is ultimately social—“friends sharing jokes and families staying in touch across cities,” or people finding support groups for everything from parenting to coping with a disease. For Facebook to be all that as well as a modern-day agora, a place of enlightened civic and political engagement, seems like a mismatch.
If you need a reminder that Facebook’s primary reason for existence is not to enlighten you, consider the fact that the company catalogues a huge amount of information about you.
The behavior is not surprising—Zuckerberg claimed years ago that privacy was no longer a social norm—but the scale still astonishes. Last summer the Washington Post listed 98 of the data points that Facebook captures about its users. For example, by cross-referencing your behavior on Facebook with files maintained by third-party data brokers, the company gathers data on your income, your net worth, your home’s value, your lines of credit, whether you have donated to charity, whether you listen to the radio, and whether you buy over-the-counter allergy medicine. It does this so that it can give companies an unprecedented ability to post ads that are presumably likelier to appeal to you. (I asked Facebook whether anything has changed to make the Post’s report no longer accurate; the company had no comment.)
This system may or may not work for advertisers, but it works very well for Facebook, which chalked up a net income of $10 billion on $28 billion in revenue last year. Does it work well for us? As Sue Halpern wrote in the New York Review of Books, the services that we get from Facebook are requiring us to give up something that is very hard to ever get back:
Many of us have been concerned about digital overreach by our governments, especially after the Snowden revelations. But the consumerist impulse that feeds the promiscuous divulgence of personal information similarly threatens our rights as individuals and our collective welfare. Indeed, it may be more threatening, as we mindlessly trade ninety-eight degrees of freedom for a bunch of stuff we have been mesmerized into thinking costs us nothing.
When you look at Facebook that way, it’s hard to root for the company to find ways to be a platform for more civic engagement. In fact, unless we think people should be required to shoulder whatever privacy costs Facebook decides to impose, it probably should not be the main place we go to find groups that, in Zuckerberg’s words, “support our personal, emotional, and spiritual needs.” Ideally, people would be able to form robust online communities and engage in the public square without letting any single company build a comprehensive dossier on them.
Lots of niches
What if we followed Minow’s reasoning with TV in 1961 and decided that we ought to have many more powerful networks for disseminating ideas and shaping public discussions?
The first step would be to acknowledge that even with the seemingly limitless competition that already exists on the Internet, Facebook has an outsize role in our society. Sixty-eight percent of all American adults use it, according to the Pew Research Center. That compares with 28 percent for Instagram (also owned by Facebook), 26 percent for Pinterest, 25 percent for LinkedIn, and 21 percent for Twitter. And none of these other sites aspire to be as many things to as many people as Facebook does.
One of the interesting things about Minow’s “vast wasteland” speech is that his encouragement of more competition helped inspire the expansion of public broadcasting in the United States. And perhaps it’s time for similar efforts today, to support more varieties of social media.
These noncommercial alternatives would not have to be funded by the government (which is fortunate, given that government funding for public media such as PBS is in doubt these days). Ralph Engelman, a media historian at Long Island University who wrote Public Radio and Television in America: A Political History, points out that the creation of public broadcasting was led by—and partially funded by—prominent nonprofit groups such as the Ford and Carnegie Foundations. In the past few years, several nonprofit journalism outlets such as ProPublica have sprung up; perhaps now their backers and other foundations could do more to ensure the existence of more avenues for such work to be read and shared.
High-minded alternatives to Facebook have been introduced before. A now-defunct discussion site called Gather once got investment from American Public Media, a producer of public-radio programs. Among the platforms that still exist, Diaspora gives people ways to socialize without relinquishing control of their data. Parlio, now owned by Quora, was cofounded by a leading figure from the Arab Spring in Egypt to promote online discussions with “thoughtfulness, civility, and diversity.” But we still could use more options that collectively counteract Facebook’s enormous reach and influence and bring out more of social media’s most constructive qualities—the way it connects us to far-flung people, information, and ideas.
Because noncommercial alternatives would be free of the imperative to capture as much information about your interests as possible, they’d be likelier to experiment with new ways of stimulating interactions between people. Maybe they would do away with the News Feed model that rewards virality more than importance. Perhaps some would be more reliant on algorithms to serve up stories and ideas, while others would rely on human curators to elevate discussion and eliminate abuse by booting trolls or deleting hoaxes.
Competitors to Facebook that harnessed the powers of social media only in an effort to make us wiser would probably be niche services, like National Public Radio and PBS. “Most people aren’t that fussy,” says Jack Mitchell, a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin and the author of Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio. “PBS’s market share is not that high. Public radio is a little higher. It’s a minority taste.”
But having many more niche alternatives to Facebook could be exactly what we need. Even if none stole a significant chunk of Facebook’s users, it might be enough to remind people that even as Facebook becomes more powerful than ever—rolling up massive profits and preparing to beam down Internet access to offline corners of the globe—other options are possible, and vital.
Why are we finally now in what’s often called a golden age of television, with culturally influential, sophisticated shows that don’t insult our intelligence? It’s not because broadcasters stopped airing schlock. It’s because the audience is more fragmented than ever—thanks to the rise of public broadcasting and cable TV and streaming services and many other challenges to big networks. It required a flourishing of choices rather than a reliance on those huge networks to become better versions of themselves. As Zuckerberg wrote in February, “History has had many moments like today.”
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned in response to demands from key investors for a change in leadership, Recode has confirmed.
It’s about time.
Kalanick had become a giant liability to the car-hailing company for a growing number of reasons, from sketchy business practices to troubling lawsuits to a basic management situation that was akin to really toxic goat rodeo.
Thus, he had to go, even though some sources said he had the voting power to stay.
But big investors also have leverage and a big enough group of them joined to use it. Those investors include Benchmark, Fidelity and Menlo Ventures, all of whom sent Kalanick a joint letter called “Moving Uber Forward” on Tuesday afternoon. Interestingly, Google Ventures was not among the group, even though its parent company Alphabet is now in a major lawsuit with Uber over the alleged theft of self-driving car technology from its Waymo unit.
While a lot of the focus at Uber has been on pervasive sexism and sexual harassment — due to an explosive blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler (kudos to her, by the way) — many think the Waymo litigation is a bigger threat to Uber.
Uber will now be searching for a new leader to replace Kalanick, which should greatly widen the pool of candidates from its COO search — many of those people did not want to be the No. 2 to the volatile Kalanick. Among the names who had been considered: Former Disney COO Tom Staggs, CVS’ Helena Foulkes and a range of media and transportation execs.
In addition, many expect Uber will need to raise more cash soon. It has already raised over $12 billion at a nearly $70 billion valuation, but it has heavily spent to expand globally and loses enormous amounts of money in the process.
Now, it will have to move on without key employees like Kalanick and his closest confidante Emil Michael, who was also forced to resign last week. Uber also does not have a CFO, CMO, head of engineering and attrition is increasing dramatically with all the scandals and investigations.
In a statement Kalanick provided to the New York Times, he wrote “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors’ request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”
Fights that Kalanick largely started, an unfortunate attribute of his pugnacious leadership style.
But Kalanick has yet to tell Uber employees about his departure, which seems to put a perfectly awful end point to his rocky tenure.
Uber confirmed the resignation, and the company’s board issued a statement that said, in part: “Travis has always put Uber first. This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber.” (For those who don’t speak fluent tech director, there are four things in those two sentences that are not true.)
That board includes Benchmark’s Bill Gurley, who had grown weary of the growing range of troubles at the company, and of Kalanick.
Still, Gurley managed to dance the classic Silicon Valley two-step when he tweeted tonight about Kalanick. (For those who do not know it — you kill someone far later than you should have and then praise them.)
Kalanick’s supporters on the board included Arianna Huffington and Uber co-founder Garrett Camp.
Whether there will be a board shake-up due to the Kalanick departure is also a good question to ask right about now. That is because, in the end, the entire board of Uber has been complicit in this mess that has manifested itself over years. The directors coddled Kalanick’s antics — part of a founder-above-all ethos in tech — and looked the other way as evidence of trouble continued to grow.
Kalanick announced that he was taking a leave of absence last week, as the company revealed the findings of an investigation into what many call a broken culture and a deeply dysfunctional management. Kalanick — who wrote in an email to staff announcing his leave that he intended to return to the company as “Travis 2.0” — will remain on the board of the company.
Many inside and outside the company did not agree with this move, noting the many legal and ethical messes that had been created under Kalanick’s leadership, and that he had not paid the price for them and had become too radioactive to stay.
Well, now that Kalanick is gone, Uber can close a chapter and presumably start building a fresh start to its uncertain future.
Peter Thiel has some wild ideas, but transfusing teen blood into his own body might not be his bag.
Update: Correction below
Stories of countesses bathing in virgin blood, or vampiric nobles sucking the juice out of the young, have captured our attention for centuries. But when stories started coming out that tech billionaire Peter Thiel was interested in transfusing teen blood into his own body, it sent Silicon Valley into a fever dream. Peter Thiel, the vampire!
Then, of course, he joined Trump, a pariah in the tech world. No wonder everyone was quick to believe that Thiel would be willing to suck the blood of the young if it added a few more years to his own life.
Inc. wrote that Thiel was so afraid of dying that he was looking at “having younger people’s blood transfused into his own veins.” The story reported that Thiel Capital medical director Jason Camm (who is also an angel investor) had even contacted a startup called Ambrosia that was harvesting the blood of teens.
In short order, Vanity Fair, Gawker and numerous other media sites repeated the story. Ambrosia received so much press attention that founder Jesse Karmazin was even invited to talk about his work at Recode’s recent Code Conference. Meanwhile, an episode of HBO’s “Silicon Valley” poked fun at the unsettling idea.
But the story that took shape, that Thiel was looking to harvest the blood of the young, simply isn’t true, according to Karmazin. “I wish I did know Peter Thiel,” he said. “He’s not even a patient. If he were, I would have to say ‘We can’t disclose that information.’ But he’s not even a patient so I can tell you, he’s not a patient’.”
Unquestionably, Thiel has been interested in cheating death for several years. He told Business Insider back in 2012, “Death is a problem that can be solved.” He’s also investing in life extension research, funding Cynthia Kenyon, Aubrey de Grey and a number of other researchers who are focused on anti-aging. Last fall, the life extension startup Unity Biotechnology also raised an enormous round of funding from Thiel and other Silicon Valley billionaires interested in the prospect of humans living much longer lives.
Ambrosia — which takes donated teen blood and pumps it into anyone age 35 or older for $8,000 a pop — seems like just the type of wild startup that would interest Thiel.
As questionable as the idea sounds, blood from the young is not new. The process, known as parabiosis, has at least been successful in mice. Karmazin also says he’s seen his own patients’ hair return from gray back to its original color, and he says he has noted a remarkable difference in pep in the 600 or so people now going through treatment in his facility.
Contrary to the depiction in “Silicon Valley,” however, Ambrosia cannot directly hire the teens. Due to fairly strict regulations, people can’t be compensated for their blood, so the startup relies heavily instead on donor facilities.
It’s also a very experimental procedure for humans at this point, with repeated sessions needed to keep up the effects, Karmazin says. (“You don’t look like you are 20 after one treatment,” he tells me.)
That’s saying nothing of the fact that the process can be duplicated. Anyone with a certain medical understanding could set up their own shop and charge people for the same service. Asked about the challenge, Karmazin says Ambrosia is by design “not structured as a money-making operation.”
The risks associated with blood transfusions also sound pretty risky and the pay-to-play aspect of Ambrosia has drawn criticism in the science world. Others have called into question the idea of filling old people’s veins with teen blood as an anti-aging solution.
Still, Karmazin is hopeful he’ll have some good results from a preliminary human trial in the next year. As for the media frenzy, Karmazin says the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad press is true, and that all the wild stories have led to a lot of inquiry.
“It’s amazing how many journalists just repeat what they’ve read,” he says.
Update: An earlier version of this story misrepresented reporting of Inc. by stating that Thiel Capital was looking to invest in Ambrosia. In a story titled, “Peter Thiel Is Very, Very Interested in Young People’s Blood,” Inc reported instead that a Thiel associate expressed interest in what the company was doing. Ambrosia Jesse Karmazin maintains this was never the case.
百度在这一两年的变化很大，现在我们的思路相当清晰，从 PC 互联到移动互联到 AI，这中间不可能一个东西忽然没了，再换一个东西，肯定是一个连续的发展。在这个 AI 时代我们要做三件事儿，第一个是打造一个 AI 实地的操作系统，就像 PC 时代是 Windows，移动时代是安卓和 iOS，那么 AI 也需要一个 OS，我们的度秘其实就是一个 AI 时代的操作系统。这个操作系统上面有我们的应用，也有第三方的应用。