Shootings in El Paso and Dayton

Another bloody weekend…this time in El Paso and Dayton. 


With at least 29 dead and 53 injured in mass shootings.


We still don’t seem to be able to get a state of security in our country. 


Whether it’s gangs and violence in our decaying cities (yes, like Baltimore). 


Or mass shootings by racists and nut jobs attacking our schools, houses of worship, shopping malls, and places of work. 


People can buy assault rifles with mega mags of ammunition and go crazy.


And they do!


While I was impressed with the response in Dayton especially, they killed the perpetrator within 30 seconds of the start to his killing spree, in other cases it takes considerably longer,


Moreover, while generally the first responders are brave and heroic in going after and taking out the bad guys, in places like the Parkland shooting, the officer apparently hid behind a tree while the students got massacred. 


We need a rethinking of how we deal with these terror situations. 


Can technology help (and I know these may sound crazy, but we have to think out-of-the-box at some point)?


We have the ShotSpotter technology to pinpoint where shootings are occurring. 


Why can’t we have persistent armed drones on patrol with AI ready to swoop in (even through an open door or window) and respond and neutralize the shooter (while law enforcement makes their way through our busy city streets). 


Other ideas…embedded chips in humans (yes, it is coming) that would drive the privacy wonks nuts, but can identify occurrences of extreme violence and potentially stop it.  


I am sure there are other technology ideas out there.


Certainly, we do need to balance privacy with safety, and it will be tricky to make sure the AI is getting it right, but as we figure this out, tragically there are fathers, mothers, children not coming home because they are dead.  😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Face Vase

Thought this was a pretty cool Face Vase. 


If you add a digital home assistant to this (like Amazon Echo or Google Assistant) and make the lips move on this vase, it would be quite the futuristic home assistant!


I don’t think I’d feel comfortable living in my own house anymore. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Take Your Head Out of My Shopping Cart

So this was funny today at Harris Teeter. 


I’m checking out on the express line with a few things. 


First some tofu.


The lady at the cash register goes:

Hmm.  Healthy!


Then some Meal Mart Buffalo Style Chicken Wings.


Again, the lady at the cash register comments:

Have you tried that?  Is it good?  It looks good!


Politely, I replied:

Yes, they are really good.


At the same time I was feeing smart-alecy, like what the heck, should I open the package on the conveyer belt and let you taste one–right here, right now.   


Sure privacy is a big issue when it comes to technology, social media, and all sorts of surveillance these days


But even when one simply goes to the grocery store–there is the very basic privacy about what one is buying. 


Yes, I see people looking into my cart, with eyebrows raised eyeing my goodies.  I can hear them thinking:

What is he buying?  Is it marked Kosher? (Uh, actually it is!]  That doesn’t seem like a balanced diet!


Another time, the checkout person asked me when I was buying a bunch of something:

Oh, are you having a party? What’s the occasion?


While I appreciate the good-natured banter and people being friendly, it seems more than weird in a way to be discussing what I’m buying, why, and for whom.  


Not quite Big Brother, but maybe that’s the leftover small town feel in our lonely urban and high-tech living.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

A Social System that Inspires Pride and Shame

This story continues to fascinate me. 


China’s social credit system started in 2015. 


China scores individuals based on public data (social media, financial, insurance, health, shopping, dating, and more), and they have people that act as “information collectors” (i.e. neighborhood watchers) who record what their neighbors are doing–good and bad. 


Each individual starts with a 1,000 points. 


If you do good things in Chinese society–helping people, cleaning up, being honest–you get points added. 


If you do bad things in China–fight with people, make a mess, be dishonest–you get points deducted. 


Fail below 1,000 points and you are in trouble–and can get blacklisted!


A good score is something to be proud of and a bad score is something that shames people to hopefully change for the better. 


But more than that, your social score has tangible social impacts–it can determine your ability to get into certain schools, obtain better jobs, homes, loans/mortgages, high-speed internet, and even high-speed train tickets/airplane flights. 


While maybe well intentioned, certainly, this has the very real potential to become a surveillance state and the embodiment of “Big Brother”!


On one hand, it seems like a great thing to drive people and society to be better. Isn’t that what we do with recognizing and rewarding good behavior and with our laws and justice system in punishing bad behavior?


Yet, to me this type of all-encompassing social credit system risks too much from a freedom and privacy perspective. Should the government and all your neighbors be privy to your most intimate doings and dealings?  And should people be controlled to such an extent that literally everything you do is monitored and measured and counted for/against you?


It seems to me that the price of sacrificing your very personal liberty is too high to make in order to push people towards positive social goals.


Guiding people is one thing, and rewarding outstanding acts and punishing horrific ones is understandable, but getting into people’s knickers is another. 


This type of social credit system really borders on social control and moves us towards a very disturbing, dystopian future. 😉

Don’t Just Sit There

Really liked this robot (Cubebot) in the store.


Love the colors and that you can change the pose in all different ways. 


This robot is pretty darn cute!


It’s funny in this sitting position though.


Just want to say: 

Don’t just sit there, do something!


Probably not that long before robots will be all over the place.


We’ll wish for just a little privacy from the darn things, just like from our 24/7 computer gadgets that we can’t let go of now.


Yes, we’re hopelessly dependent on the technology–it’s so helpful and we love it, but we can’t turn it off. 


They won’t be sitting for long. 


Robots–big and small, alone and in swarms, male and female, strong and intricate, smart and simple, worker and homemaker, doer and helper, companion and lover, where will it stop–it won’t. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Weaponizing Your Privacy

So this was the funniest War of the Roses on the Kane Show that I ever heard. 


They use the Alexa personal assistant from Amazon (voiceover) to call the cheater. 


In this skit, we really see the potential power of these home computing devices. 


Alexa hears and knows everything that goes on in the house (including the cheating).


Alexa confronts the cheater and calls him a few descript names for his infidelity.


Alexa punishes the cheater by going online to purchase items with his credit card. 


Alexa betrays him by calling his girlfriend and telling her about the cheating. 


Cheating aside, maybe this is a great lesson how we should all be considering our privacy in our homes and on our persons before we install Alexa, Siri, Cortana, the Google Assistant or any other personal or home surveillance systems. 


With all the bad actors out there and people that want to steal everything from your money, identity, secrets, and maybe even your wife–these devices are a direct line into your personal life.


This is called weaponizing your privacy!


Tell me, do you really believe that no one is listening or watching you?  😉