The Critical Need to Integrate The Humanities With Deep Technology

After watching “The Great Hack” on Netflix I am appalled by the absence of any moral compass at Cambridge Analytica, which transformed Big Data into a political weapon. Other disturbing examples are Uber’s former corporate culture and Facebook’s collusion with CA in abusing our privacy. These cases are prima facie evidence of the crucial need and the opportunity to integrate the Humanities and ethics with deep technology development. I began my career as a Humanities graduate at Intel Corporation working closely with Ivy League MBA’s and senior engineers. We shared our knowledge and learned together to enable the company to excel. The best companies are those grounded in an appreciation of human values, companies that seek out Humanities graduates with a passion for technology to balance out their teams.

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Internet of Things At A Strategic Inflection Point

This post focuses on a particularly important technology market, the Internet of Things. IoT is at a strategic inflection point, due to explosive projected market growth and unresolved problems of wireless data throughput and energy-efficiency needs. The IoT market is projected to grow to 75 Billion devices by 2025. This growth is predicated on very high throughput wireless networks combined with high energy-efficiency which are not yet available.  Existing wireless technologies, including 5G, will not meet this market need. Also, the extreme diversity of IoT applications will require both small sensors that operate using minimal energy and bandwidth and virtual reality applications with very high Gigabit per second data rates and substantial power requirements.

Five years ago, I wrote a post on this blog disparaging the state of the Internet of Things/home automation market as a “Tower of Proprietary Babble.” Vendors of many different home and industrial product offerings were literally speaking different languages, making their products inoperable with other complementary products from other vendors.  The market was being constrained by its immaturity and a failure to grasp the importance of open standards. A 2017 Verizon report concluded that “an absence of industry-wide standards…represented greater than 50% of executives concerns about IoT. Today I can report that finally, the solutions and technologies are beginning to come together, albeit still slowly. 

IEEE Talk: Integrated Big Data, The Cloud, & Smart Mobile: Actually One Big Thing by David Mayes This IEEE […]

The term “Internet of Things”  (IoT) is being loosely tossed around in the media.  But what does it […]

In 1981, Richard Feynman, probably the most famous physicist of his time asked the question: “Can we simulate physics on a computer?” At the time the answer was “theoretically yes,” but practically not at that time. Today, we may be on the verge of answering “yes” in practice to Feynman’s original question. Quantum computers operate in such a strange way and are so radically different from today’s computers that it requires some understanding of quantum mechanics and bizarre properties like “quantum entanglement.” Quantum computers are in a realm orders of magnitude beyond today’s supercomputers and their application in specific computational problems like cryptography, Big Data analysis, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and sub-atomic physics will change our World. Canadian quantum computing company, D-Wave Systems has been at the center of Google’s efforts to pioneer this technology.

This is another in my occasional series on Big Ideas. Last night I had my first opportunity to watch Particle Fever, the acclaimed 2014 documentary on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle. This followed my reading of a much more recent New York Times Op-Ed, describing a crisis in physics resulting from the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Essentially, the science of physics has no ability any time in the foreseeable future to experimentally go beyond the Higgs Boson. Physics is unlikely to be able to find The Holy Grail: a unifying Theory of Everything tying Einstein and the Higgs Boson into one simple elegant explanation.

In an extraordinary turn of events, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission appears set to implement strong new rules, later this month to enforce Net Neutrality on the Internet. If the new rules are implemented, it will have major favorable implications for future global Internet policy with the International Telecommunications Union in Geneva, Switzerland. This means simply that all traffic on the Internet will be treated equally and fairly, which is one of the founding principles of the Internet, since its invention by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Vin Cerf and others back in the 1980’s.

In October of 2013, I first met Energy Aware’s management team, led by UBC alumni founders Janice Cheam and VP of Software, Ali Kashani in their modest East Vancouver offices. I had encountered Ali commenting on the Internet of Things (IoT) on LinkedIn, and I challenged his arguments, as the skeptic that I am. Ali very graciously invited me to meet with him to discuss it further. Home automation and its new iteration, IoT, has been around for at least twenty years and had been going absolutely nowhere. Added to that was what I termed “the Tower of Babble,” a term now also used by Qualcomm to describe the data communication hairball in the IoT space. Indeed, Energy Aware had struggled for quite awhile in this immature market. What I learned in that first meeting with Ali and Janice turned this skeptic into a believer, and I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with Al and Janice since that time providing them with tidbits of advice here and there. My gut told me that Energy Aware was on to something with significant potential, as IoT was finally achieving technological “convergence,” and the Big Dogs in Silicon Valley were now gearing up their own IoT efforts. There is a Tsunami coming, and Energy Aware is well-positioned to ride it.

Over the last few months there has been a flood of reports from me and a host of other journalists, predicting the imminent fragmentation of the Internet we have all known” an unrestricted global network. Some, including Eric Schmidt of Google, and others have argued that it is a recent phenomenon precipitated largely by the NSA Prsim and Thinthread snooping of all Internet traffic, and perhaps also including Chinese military snooping. Bill Gates, Vin Cerf, and Mark Andreeson have all pooh poohed the end of the Internet as we know it, arguing that it is “too big to fail.” Where have we heard that before? The reality is that the fragmentation of the Internet has been evolving for years as numerous governments attempt to prevent the Internet from undermining their power and authority, long before the NSA, GCHQ and the Chinese military began messing with the Net. The old Internet we knew is dead, and we had better get accustomed to dealing with the NEW Internet