Tag Archive | "TED"

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Ed Snowden at TED 2014

Posted on 24 March 2014 by JasonK

Last week Ed Snowden appeared at the TED 2014 conference via telepresence robot. Of the 2046 registered TED members who have rated that talk so far most of the votes were that the presentation was “courageous” and “informative”.

ted-ed-snowdonI would encourage everyone who is interested in the balance between individual privacy and security intelligence ( oxymoron alert right there) to watch this video and the follow up by the NSA spokesperson (Richard Ledgett) which came a couple of days later.

Here is a snippet of the transcript where Edward (ES) is talking about the PRISM programme.

“ES: The best way to understand PRISM, because there’s been a little bit of controversy, is to first talk about what PRISM isn’t. Much of the debate in the U.S. has been about metadata. They’ve said it’s just metadata, it’s just metadata, and they’re talking about a specific legal authority called Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
That allows sort of a warrantless wiretapping, mass surveillance of the entire country’s phone records, things like that — who you’re talking to, when you’re talking to them, where you traveled. These are all metadata events.

PRISM is about content. It’s a program through which the government could compel corporate America, it could deputize corporate America to do its dirty work for the NSA. And even though some of these companies did resist, even though some of them — I believe Yahoo was one of them — challenged them in court, they all lost, because it was never tried by an open court.

They were only tried by a secret court. And something that we’ve seen, something about the PRISM program that’s very concerning to me is, there’s been a talking point in the U.S. government where they’ve said 15 federal judges have reviewed these programs and found them to be lawful, but what they don’t tell you is those are secret judges in a secret court based on secret interpretations of law that’s considered 34,000 warrant requests over 33 years, and in 33 years only rejected 11 government requests.

These aren’t the people that we want deciding what the role of corporate America in a free and open Internet should be.”

Further into the conversation Ed notes the the difference between public interest and national interest and that there are many more revelations to come. (CA) stands for Chris Anderson who was asking the questions.

ES: “The public interest is not always the same as the national interest. Going to war with people who are not our enemy in places that are not a threat doesn’t make us safe, and that applies whether it’s in Iraq or on the Internet. The Internet is not the enemy. Our economy is not the enemy. American businesses, Chinese businesses, and any other company out there is a part of our society. It’s a part of our interconnected world. There are ties of fraternity that bond us together, and if we destroy these bonds by undermining the standards, the security, the manner of behavior, that nations and citizens all around the world expect us to abide by.

CA: But it’s alleged that you’ve stolen 1.7 million documents. It seems only a few hundred of them have been shared with journalists so far. Are there more revelations to come?

ES: There are absolutely more revelations to come. I don’t think there’s any question that some of the most important reporting to be done is yet to come.”

Here is the clip.

“CA: Sorry. Do you think there’s a deeper motivation for them other than the war against terrorism?

ES: Yeah. The bottom line is that terrorism has always been what we in the intelligence world would call a cover for action. Terrorism is something that provokes an emotional response that allows people to rationalize authorizing powers and programs that they wouldn’t give otherwise. The Bullrun and Edgehill-type programs, the NSA asked for these authorities back in the 1990s. They asked the FBI to go to Congress and make the case.

The FBI went to Congress and did make the case. But Congress and the American people said no. They said, it’s not worth the risk to our economy. They said it’s worth too much damage to our society to justify the gains.

But what we saw is, in the post-9/11 era, they used secrecy and they used the justification of terrorism to start these programs in secret without asking Congress, without asking the American people, and it’s that kind of government behind closed doors that we need to guard ourselves against, because it makes us less safe, and it offers no value.”

Tim Berners Lee was on stage for a couple of questions at one point.

“CA: And Ed, I think you’ve read the proposal that Sir Tim has talked about about a new Magna Carta to take back the Internet. Is that something that makes sense?

ES: Absolutely. I mean, my generation, I grew up not just thinking about the Internet, but I grew up in the Internet, and although I never expected to have the chance to defend it in such a direct and practical manner and to embody it in this unusual, almost avatar manner, I think there’s something poetic about the fact that one of the sons of the Internet has actually become close to the Internet as a result of their political expression.

And I believe that a Magna Carta for the Internet is exactly what we need. We need to encode our values not just in writing but in the structure of the Internet, and it’s something that I hope, I invite everyone in the audience, not just here in Vancouver but around the world, to join and participate in.”

Feel free to join the debate over on the main TED site – Edward Snowden

The talk about a magna carta for the internet is a clear marker for the divide between concerned internet users and those in the “intelligence community”. We see the debate in terms of privacy and the protection of hard won freedoms of speech and thought and yet the NSA claims the same interests prevent them from doing that.

For New Zealanders the claims by Ed that the NSA is proactive to weaken legal protections and encryption technologies globally is one to watch. In this story just last week Snowden: US helped create loopholes in NZ law

“NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden says the United States’ spy agency has helped find or create loopholes in New Zealand law to enable widespread spying.

In testimony to the European Parliament, the exiled former NSA worker said the agency’s Foreign Affairs Division put pressure on other countries to change laws to create legal gaps through which mass surveillance could be carried out.”

… and later in that article it says:

“In listing New Zealand among countries targeted, he said: “Each of these countries received instruction from the NSA, sometimes under the guise of the US Department of Defense and other bodies, on how to degrade the legal protections of their countries’ communications.”

Cyber rights group Tech Liberty’s spokesman Thomas Beagle said the new laws introduced in New Zealand last year appeared surprisingly quickly.

“It was like someone had it sitting in a drawer ready to go. Who is really writing these laws.”

He said the greater concern was the lack of oversight. “It’s never being able to test what they are doing what they say.”

It seems like the NZ government is being disingenuous in claiming NZ is acting independently when behind the scenes deliberate measures are being taken to undermine trust and faith in the very government it seeks to protect.

After TED managed to get Ed Snowden to present they also asked the NSA if they wanted to offer their view. That presenation was delivered via video conferencing and Richard Ledgett: The NSA responds to Edward Snowden’s TED Talk gave a somewhat defensive pitch on behalf of the NSA.

Crucially Ledgett agreed that a greater level of debate over the governance and activities was needed. He still strongly believed that Snowden should have used internal mechanisms at the NSA to raise his concerns but as Edward noted those avenues were not available to contractors.

Ledgett clearly has had some media training and none of the questions put to hime were disclosed in advance so he did well to present an alternative view of the various NSA programmes but in the end he wasn’t that convincing and in my view gave a more idealogical viewpoint than something that would help to rebuild trust and faith in the NSA processes and various oversight structures.

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Robert Gordon on the end of growth at TED 2013

Posted on 28 April 2013 by JasonK

Here is the Prof Robert Gordon TED2013 talk on the end of growth which was answered by the Erik Brynjolfsson counter view (posted on last week.) Then the two of them had a 12 minute debate. The first point I noted is that instead of the 6 headwinds the presentation is now about 4 headwinds. ( Losing 2 headwinds seems odd to me*.)

“So I started wondering and pondering, could it be that the best years of American economic growth are behind us? And that leads to the suggestion, maybe economic growth is almost over. Some of the reasons for this are not really very controversial.

There are four headwinds that are just hitting the American economy in the face. They’re demographics, education, debt and inequality.

They’re powerful enough to cut growth in half. So we need a lot of innovation to offset this decline. And here’s my theme: Because of the headwinds, if innovation continues to be as powerful as it has been in the last 150 years, growth is cut in half. If innovation is less powerful, invents less great, wonderful things, then growth is going to be even lower than half of history.” ….

“The problem we face is that all these great inventions, we have to match them in the future, and my prediction that we’re not going to match them brings us down from the original two-percent growth down to 0.2, the fanciful curve that I drew you at the beginning.” ….

“If so, that’s going to require that our inventions are as important as the ones that happened over the last 150 years.”

Twelve minutes is not long enough for this kind of argument but so far most viewers of the clip seem to think that Gordon is unconvincing. Note: * The 2 headwinds Gordon left out of this updated version of his thesis were environmental impacts and the twin deficits of government and consumer debt.

I wonder if this is because we all want to be more optimistic in the face of some grim economic news and we just hope that the economy will improve or we really do believe in the brave new world of technology driven change.

Brynjolfsson makes a couple of telling points in his talk on how the impacts of change are measured. GDP doesn’t do that at all for the “weightless economy” and also that for a number of key innovations it took a time lag of decades before we not only worked them out but before we changed the work paradigms we were used to.

Zero pricing for “free products & services” and huge price reductions don’t show up in GDP measurements which undermeasures the economic growth and related changes.

It is highly probable that Gordon and Brynjolfsson are both right.

Innovation is very hard to measure because as a species we don’t really like change but the irony here is that some of the headwinds Gordon refers to as slowing innovation are exactly the same ones which will stimulate more innovation.

In the education space ( where I work part time) the increasing costs of tertiary qualifications and the globalisation of markets means that educators are very much looking at ways to improve the learning ecosystems all round. I think the quality of education will improve and that the cost will go down because of technology innovations which are here but not yet well understood.

The real kicker though is that my 11 year old daughter may train for a job that hasn’t been invented yet in only a few years time. These future jobs will have a connection to current ones but measuring the impact of that kind of technological change is too difficult for most of us to imagine.

Here is a clip from one of the masters of innovation on how we have to start with the customer experience rather than the technology because it is not the technology itself that brings the real changes.

When innovation comes along there is a very well known dynamic which sees early adopters and tech users who can make use of new products and services but it is not until they mainstream ( “crossing the chasm”) that they truly become useful products.

I remember the Apple Newton from 1993 to about 1998 and it failed then for various reasons but look around today at tablet computing including iPads and it is a very different world.

An iPad now is a consumer device for all whereas the Newton was a geek toy which was innovative but not really that useful but perhaps without that product evolution we wouldn’t have got to where we are today.

To be fair to Gordon – many innovation stories are hard to measure well in the GDP numbers but the journey from idea to product is one that is gaining in velocity and usefulness.

There are also other localised innovations which are being held up because of finance or political will. These innovations that may not seem hugely significant in terms of GDP impact will have a huge impact in quality of life terms.

The examples I’m thinking of are wider availability of malaria nets and cleaner (less smoke) cooking techniques in parts of the world outside the U.S. Equivalent quality of life innovations happened many years ago in the U.S which is where Gordon’s data is focussed.

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Progress Enigma or is it a Paradox? – TED2013

Posted on 27 February 2013 by JasonK

Progress Enigma was the title of a debate shared at TED 2013 a few hours ago. Economists Robert Gordon and Erik Brynjolfsson debated the future of work. The paradox of our technology enabled times is that (despite the writing having been on the wall for decades ) we are still surprised, shocked and disappointed when jobs disappear.

This is a global issue and even as workers get more educated and technology enabled there still does not seem to be the jobs to go around.

Sadly this debate does not seem to have come up with any answers. It does highlight the paradox though.

We appear to be in a jobless recovery but at the same time we love the technology that is contributing to these job losses.

An example – at Sydney airport last year while stuck in another long ticketing queue I asked one of the staff why that airport doesn’t have ticket kiosks like Auckland does. I wondered if anyone in the queue or anyone doing the ticketing really liked the existing ticketing process which includes some technology but is held up by the human work processes still in place. The ticketing person said if kiosks came in that would likely be the end of her job and that she had been at the airport for many years and she wasn’t that keen on the idea.

We both know those ticket kiosks will be deployed at some point as as passengers we love anything that speeds up the queue but as workers and parents of future workers it is hard to see a way to manage the transition to new jobs.

Any time we can save time by using technology – chances are that we will do that. The real challenge is to see if we can do something else with that time and all of the people resource that is no longer needed. This is a difficult and sensitive topic and bravo to TED2013 for pitching the question so early in the conference

Gordon asked again about the purpose of all this progress, asking: “What good is a world in which we can listening to a bunch of free music, but no one has any jobs?” The crowd went wild.

Indeed, the two agreed that the main issue we face is that growth isn’t happening for the bottom 99 percent. Brynjolfsson argued that we are innovating at an insane rate, while Gordon’s consistent response was, What’s the point, if people don’t have jobs? Chris posed the question to the audience: Would you rather live for a year without the Internet, but without plumbing, or with plumbing and without Internet? Yet after an undoubtedly exciting debate, at the close the audience’s vote remained 6-1 in favor of accelerated growth.”

Part of the issue with many of the new online services and products that are available is that the price of them is free or at least substantially reduced over the previous prices. This presents problems for conventional economists like Gordon who are looking at GDP for clues on the impact.

As Brynjolfsson has argued before much of the new tech economy does not register with the same level of impact because network pricing and ubiquity brings prices down. The economic impact is still there but we have trouble measuring it in a meaningful way. Bynjolfsson followed the debate with his talk on augmented reality.

I hope that the debate on the future of work is renewed when this video gets published. It would have been great to have had Hazel Henderson on the stage as well.

Hazel Henderson famously wrote about (how GDP misses too much) many years ago and so I was delighted to catch up on a recent clip where she notes we have reached the end of the fossil fuelled early industrial era. She goes on to talk about the idea of shipping “recipes rather than cakes”.

Even in New Zealand global trade is increasingly more about IP, services and software. A recent TV news item on the NZ tech sector noted that the local IT sector is now worth $NZ7.28b of which 5.2b of that is export revenues. For more data on the NZ economy check out the TIN 100 Report The report is published annually and provides a unique and valuable reference on New Zealand’s technology export sector by measuring the performance of the country’s 200 largest export-focused companies in the ITC, Biotech and high tech manufacturing sector.

Hazel notes “we have to re-perceive everything… we have a crisis of perception”…

Hazel Henderson on the design revolution

What we need is as design revolution and to see the technology as an opportunity for change for the better but that doesn’t make an easy discussion to have.

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