Verizon, AT&T said to deny sales of Huawei cell phones

Allegedly, both AT&T and Verizon have denied Huawei the opportunity to sell their Honor brand cell phones in their U.S. stores – ostensibly under orders of the U.S. government over security issues regarding China. It sounds, though, that it might actually be about Huawei not cooperating with the U.S. government to spy using Huawei technology vis a vis this item:

The US government was apparently able to negotiate these agreements even with foreign entities by leveraging existing legal regulations. In some cases, officials held up proposed business dealings using the Federal Communications Commission’s oversight of telecommunications. According to the Post, this helped government lawyers in persuading foreign companies to allow the US to maintain such extensive access. It’s unclear just how many companies the US has made these deals with, and for now, the extent of the federal government’s access remains classified.

Huawei also makes Internet switches and is a big competitor to Cisco – in other words, Huawei makes Internet backbone gear.

Source: Major internet backbones required to give US government quick access to data – The Verge

It is clear, at this point, that the U.S. government has the means to spy on everyone, 24 x 7, if they wish. Nothing we do online is secure. Period.

Within 20 years, a majority of today’s jobs may be automated

Study finds that 2 in 3 jobs in Las Vegas may be automated by 2035. That’s just the headline.

The real story is that 50% or more of jobs in most metro areas at a risk of automation by 2035. Areas in yellow, orange and red indicate where more than 50% of local jobs are at risk of being automated by 2035.

Source: Future job automation to hit hardest in low wage metropolitan areas like Las Vegas, Orlando and Riverside-San Bernardino | ISEA

Studies like these should be viewed as “possible scenarios” and not as absolute predictions for the future.

Automation has been happening for a hundred years. New, low cost technology enables automation to be applied in places where it was previously cost prohibitive or the tasks were too difficult to automate. This change is happening quickly.

Again, as frequently noted on this blog, automation is happening. The rapid increase in minimum wage and benefit requirements is accelerating the trend towards automation, improved work place efficiency and variable cost cutting – and a loss of many types of jobs (not all job losses will be low skilled either).

The primary business of the Internet is surveillance

Similar to Uber’s “God View” scandal, Lyft staffers have been abusing customer insight software to view the personal contact info and ride history of the startup’s passengers. One source that formerly worked with Lyft tells TechCrunch that widespread access to the company’s backend let staffers “see pretty much everything including feedback, and yes, pick up and drop off coordinates.”When asked if staffers, ranging from core team members to customer service reps, abused this privilege, the source said “Hell yes. I definitely looked at my friends’ rider history and looked at what drivers said about them. I never got in trouble.”

Source: Former employees say Lyft staffers spied on passengers | TechCrunch

Web site Quartz recently discovered that Google routinely logs quite a bit of information in your Location History, plus uses Bluetooth devices as an additional source of location information – even when you have Location turned off. Even on phones not having a SIM card installed.

Surveillance and privacy violations are the primary business purpose of the Internet.

Major demographic change could lead to more robotics, automation because fewer workers available

This discussion by Charles Schwab & Co highlights that the ratio of workers to non-workers is dropping and may reach 1 to 1 in another 20 years in many parts of the world.

When labor is abundant businesses make less investment in “productivity enhancing technology”. Presumably the opposite is true – as labor supply shrinks, businesses will invest in more automation. This comes at a time when the capabilities of automation are increasing rapidly while the costs are dropping dramatically.

When the global labor supply became more abundant, spending on productivity enhancing technology by businesses became less attractive or necessary. Wages stagnated along with productivity and spare capacity helped keep inflation in check. But as labor becomes more scarce, the opposite should occur: greater investment in productivity enhancing technologies, faster wage growth, and tighter capacity leading to higher—but not runaway—inflation.

Inflation may be kept from a destructive resurgence and social programs for the elderly from becoming overburdened if productivity rebounds with more business investment in productivity-enhancing technologies, including robots and artificial intelligence.

Source: Expecting the Unexpected: Is a Demographic Disaster Looming? | Charles Schwab

As noted repeatedly on this blog, automation is coming anyway – rising minimum wages are not the cause of increasing use of automation. However, rising wages, including mandated higher minimum wages, accelerate the adoption of new tech to eliminate jobs.

High tech lobbyist thinks US tech needs more government subsidies

“Other nations have responded with smart, well-funded innovation policies like better R&D tax incentives, more government funding for research, more funding for technology commercialization initiatives.”

Source: The U.S. Drops Out of the Top 10 in Innovation Ranking – Bloomberg

Basically, the bastions of free market capitalism want taxpayer funded subsidies like everyone else.

Bitcoin now viewed as not useful for most modest transactions

Over the past year or two, as block size limits have been reached, Bitcoin has evolved to become better-suited to being an asset than being a means of exchange. Given the overall success that the Bitcoin community has achieved, it’s hard to quibble with the decisions that have been made along the way. (And we’re certainly happy to see any novel, ambitious project do so well.)

This has led to Bitcoin becoming less useful for payments, however. Transaction confirmation times have risen substantially; this, in turn, has led to an increase in the failure rate of transactions denominated in fiat currencies. (By the time the transaction is confirmed, fluctuations in Bitcoin price mean that it’s for the “wrong” amount.) Furthermore, fees have risen a great deal. For a regular Bitcoin transaction, a fee of tens of U.S. dollars is common, making Bitcoin transactions about as expensive as bank wires.

Source: Ending Bitcoin support

Hawaii missile false alarm due to badly designed user interface, reports say

The user was to select from a menu of options including “Missile Alert” and “Test Missile Alert”, which were next to each other on the options menu.

The system also lacked a “Cancel missile alert” feature so no one knew how to un-do the transmission of the fake missile alert.

As I suspected, the system design was so bad, they never thought to add a “cancel alert” feature to the system. Other news reports say no one will lose their job over this or be reprimanded. This sounds like an organizational leadership and organizational culture failure – bad design, bad implementation, bad procedures, lack of leadership.

Source: Hawaii missile false alarm due to badly designed user interface, reports say

Increasing minimum wage leading to more automation

If workers can keep their jobs, they’ll enjoy higher wages. But rising labor costs are pushing employers toward robots.

Source: California’s $15 minimum wage may mean more automated jobs | The Sacramento Bee

Automation has been coming and is coming, regardless of minimum wage hikes. However, large mandated wage hikes encourage rapid adoption of automation.

When automation is introduced, businesses often re-think their business processes too and invent more efficient ways to get things done.

The combination of automation – and improved business processes –  reduces the labor required just as the costs of automation are plummeting.

Mandated wage hikes lead to automation and improving business processes – which leads to greater economic efficiency. But it also leads to the loss of low wage jobs.

If workers retrain to add more value, this can be a positive development. However, for a variety of reasons, many workers will not improve their skills to add more value and end up out of work.

The bottom line is minimum wage hike laws are speeding up investment in automation and improvements to business processes that lead directly to low wage, low skilled job losses.

Author advocates more control and censorship over Youtube video content

In a free advertisement courtesy of USA Today, author Andrew Keen, who has made his living writing books condemning the Internet is quoted:

Andrew Keen says the real problem lies with YouTube, a platform without gatekeepers. The rules on the content that’s allowed on television, particularly children’s television, should extend to YouTube, which is soaking up more and more of young people’s screen time, says Keen, author of the upcoming book How to Fix the Future: Staying Human in the Digital Age.

“It’s the same old story. No curation, no mediation, no taste, no boundaries. All clicks,” says Keen. “How many times does this need to happen?”

Source: Logan Paul Japan vlog video raises issue: Is YouTube is safe for kids?

While I have similar concerns I do not advocate heavy handed, top down, centralized content control nor censorship programs; Keen thinks user generated content is evil. I do advocate that information consumers turn off the spigot and take charge over what they subject themselves to each day.