Tech reading list. Week one, September 2017

The first three articles of this weeks tech reading list are part of what some term ‘the growing backlash against big tech’. This ‘backlash’ is not new but it’s been gathering steam in recent years. The question remains where will the power created by this steam lead us? What is the destination? and will it translate beyond the ‘chattering classes’ to the users of social networks declining?

The three articles below have the following in common (1) Tim Wu whose 2010 book ‘The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires’ were these empires are built up then sometimes broken up. This was the fate of Bell in the 1980's, a break up leading to today’s Verizon and AT & T. (2) Evgeny Morozov a writer who did not start the ‘backlash’ but has been questioning, probing and looking deeply at affect big technology has on society. He is an essential academic voice questioning the power of ‘big tech’ whether you agree with him or not. (3) Reading all three articles together can leave you more enlightened and a bit gloomy. I still remain dazzled by the tech we have today, what’s coming and where it will take us. Those of us who are dazzled need to be dampened down from time to time. These articles provide that service.

So what is dazzling me now? the looming battle between Apple and Google in the augment reality (AR) space. This is sketched in an article by Samuel Gibbs ‘Augmented reality: Apple and Google’s next battleground’ (30/08/17) . The high end smartphones from 2018 will have AR baked into them. The real test, will users care or will the AR feature momentarily dazzle but then fizzles out. Reasons for caution are abound in this article TonyVT SkarredGhost ‘Why I’m not completely sold on the ARKit revolution (25/08/17). He highlights the issue with AR on phones, you need to hold up the phone to see the what AR overlays

AR through a screen is less magical than AR through glasses like HoloLens

How you experience AR is key, through holding up the phone or from glasses over your eyes. Makes me wonder what the next generation of Snap Spectacles will deliver in the AR space.

Next up an interview with Ev Williams done by Nieman Lab ‘Ev Williams on Medium’s Spotify-ish future, why publishers left, and why he changed his mind about ads’ (30/08/17). The music industry has turned a corner, consumers are in a place were they will pay subscriptions for music. Will they do the same for reading material? The pitch for Medium is that it becomes akin to a Spotify for reading. Time will tell but I was prepared to back Medium by becoming a member.

This announcement is hardly earth shattering but certainly of interest for those tracking and using Amazon Echo and Google Home; ‘Microsoft and Amazon partner to integrate Alexa and Cortana digital assistants (The Verge, 30/08/17). This tie up suits Microsoft better as it is well behind in this space with Amazon striding ahead. More interesting though was this quote from Bezos that the article teases out:

“There are going to be multiple successful intelligent agents, each with access to different sets of data and with different specialized skill areas,” said Bezos in a press statement. “Together, their strengths will complement each other.” Nadella also appears to welcome the idea of collaboration with Apple and Google, saying “Hopefully, they’ll be inspired by it” in an NYT interview.”

At the moment quantum computing holds out the promise of better cyber security. BBC Click have put a short video explaining all with ice cream thrown in ‘What next to improve cyber-security? (BBC Click, 30/08/17) What quantum computing will add value too . We want find out in 5, 10 or perhaps 2o years.

Lastly a film reference. The science fiction write Brian Aldiss who died recently discusses how Steven Spielberg took over from Stanley Kubrick to shoot the film AI (2001) This was based on Aldiss book Supertoys Last All Summer Long (1969). Aldiss disliked the film, others did as well but I would like to see it again.

Have a happy tech week.

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