Author: hkarner

Do online courses spell the end for the traditional university?

University – A thing of the past? Source: Observer

Two years ago, I sat in the back seat of a Toyota Prius in a rooftop car park in California and gripped the door handle as the car roared away from the kerb, headed straight towards the roof’s edge and then at the last second sped around a corner without slowing down. There was no one in the driver’s seat.

It was the prototype of Google’s self-driving car and it felt a bit like being Buck Rogers and catapulted into another century. Later, I listened to Sebastian Thrun, a German-born professor of artificial intelligence at Stanford University, explain how he’d built it, how it had already clocked up 200,000 miles driving around California, and how one day he believed it would mean that there would be no traffic accidents.

A few months later, the New York Times revealed that Thrun was the head of Google’s top-secret experimental laboratory Google X, and was developing, among other things, Google Glasses – augmented reality spectacles. And then, a few months after that, I came across Thrun again.

The self-driving car, the glasses, Google X, his prestigious university position – they’d all gone. He’d resigned his tenure from Stanford, and was working just a day a week at Google. He had a new project. Though he didn’t call it a project. “It’s my mission now,” he said. “This is the future. I’m absolutely convinced of it.” (more…)

Consumer Data, but Not for Consumers


Date: 22-07-2012
Source: The New York Times

I recently asked to see the information held about me by the Acxiom Corporation, a database marketing company that collects and sells details about consumers’ financial status, shopping and recreational activities to banks, retailers, automakers and other businesses. In investor presentations and interviews, Acxiom executives have said that the company — the subject of a Sunday Business article last month — has information on about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. Acxiom also promotes a program for consumers who wish to see the information the company has on them.

read all:

Rethinking Privacy in the Era of Big Data

From the Blog: Funkensprungnuts

Some years ago an engineer at Google told me why Google wasn’t collecting information linked to people’s names. “We don’t want the name. The name is noise.” There was enough information in Google’s large database of search queries, location, and online behavior, he said, that you could tell a lot about somebody through indirect means.

The point was that actually finding out people’s names isn’t necessary for sending them targeted ads. It can probably lead to trouble, as Google’s own adventures in Wi-Fi snooping show. Even without knowing your name, increasingly, everything about you is out there. Whether and how you guard your privacy in an online world we are building up every day has become increasingly urgent.

“Privacy is a source of tremendous tension and anxiety in Big Data,”

read the complete article

How to Cope with Information Overload

“Information overload” is one of the biggest irritations in our modern life. There are e-mails to answer, virtual friends to pester, YouTube videos to watch and, back in the physical world, meetings to attend, papers to shuffle and spouses to appease. Occasionally, surveys even find that the data deluge has made our jobs less satisfying or has hurt our personal relationships.

Commentators have coined a profusion of phrases to describe the anxiety and anomie caused by too much information: “data asphyxiation” (William van Winkle), “data smog” (David Shenk), “information fatigue syndrome” (David Lewis), “cognitive overload” (Eric Schmidt) and “time famine” (Leslie Perlow). Johann Hari, a British journalist, notes that there is a good reason why “wired” means both “connected to the internet” and “high, frantic, unable to concentrate”.

Some suggestions on what to do with information overload can be found at this blog entry:

Revolution 2.0

“New communication technologies – from the printing press to Facebook and Twitter don’t cause revolutions alone, argues Mark Sedra in an essay for the Globe and Mail. But fast means for distributing criticism and making plans can spur activism, particularly in promoting democracy. Social networking has emerged as the Web communication “medium of choice in the developing world, with those who are wired typically spending more time on social networking sites than e-mail,” explains Sedra. Foreign intervention or haranguing can backfire, leading to setbacks for local movements. Instead, democracy promoters in the West can develop a strong infrastructure, enabling social-media tools and innovations that allow citizens living in authoritarian states to access a free internet. Of course, the same principles apply for governments and citizens in the West – blocking or criminalizing criticism, as has been done with WikiLeaks, protects a powerful few rather than society. Sedra concludes that an open and free internet is a strong internet.” – YaleGlobal Online, 18-02-2011.

A free and open internet spreads the best ideas and unnerves the powerful

Read the article by Mark Sedra, “Revolution 2.0: democracy promotion in the age of social media.” The Globe and Mail, 18-02-2011.