Sunday, March 17, 2013

Apple and Google Glass - The Ayes Have it

What if Google Glass went evil? What if it infected the coming techno-singularity with sentience though unintentional evilness? A short post I wrote ("Google Glass is as Google Glass Does") was a gleeful exercise in satirical conjecture. Now, while Google may be relied upon to not be evil, and whether you believe it, or in it, or not, is immaterial - it does however lend an air of reassurance to those looking for solace, and even it it is a vaporous sliver of solace, other companies have not been so benevolent in their stated intentions. In fact, one company's founder had called this very motto "bullshit"? Eh?

And what if that other company - Apple, and let's not split hairs- also were to come out with a copycat Google Glass? It would, of course, not be a copy, but it would be glass done right, it would be a glass neither half-empty nor half-full - it would be double full, in the same volume. Therefore comparing Google Glass and whatever Apple comes out with is not strictly an appes to apples comparison, in more ways than one.

Here is what would be were Apple to launch its own wearable augmented reality contraption (note: this is satire):

Apple Announces the iI
[Undisclosed location, sometime in the not too distant future]

Apple announced that they were going to launch  the greatest innovation in technology since the last greatest innovation in technology, both of which have also been Apple innovations - the term "innovation" and the product, i.e..

The innovation would be a new augmented reality wearable product and would be named "Apple iI" (pronounced "eye eye" or "aye aye", depending on which side of the Atlantic pond you choose to live in). It would be wearable like a regular glass (not to be confused with Google Glass) and would cover one eye.

The "Apple iI" would feature a brushed aluminium frame, and the highly conducting frame would be self-powered, drawing power from the user's skin. A bug that has not been completely fixed in the first release may result in small doses of electric shock being delivered to the wearer of the Apple iI, which may cause the wearer to shriek "ayee ayiiiee". Apple has dismissed all talk of any bug in their product by stating that it is the sheer awesomeness of the product that shocks the wearer, and should not be confused with any product defect. The product electrifies the user, says Apple, and it should not be confused with, yet, electrocuting the user.

To help the user operate the Apple iI, a voice activated application, named "iSir" (pronounced "eye sir"), will ship with the device. There is at least one more bug that remains the shipping release of Apple iI, though Apple insists there are no bugs in its software. Some beta users have complained that saying the words "don't be evil" to Apple iSir, in any context, sends a burst of light to the eye, via iI, that temporarily blinds the wearer for upto fifteen minutes. Users are in any case expected to remain blinded by awesomeness for most of the time when wearing the "iI", so they may not immediately realize this physiological blindness. The temporary blindness is meant to remind you of the blinding awesomeness that results from using Apple's devices.

Rumours immediately started whirling around that a second generation of this product would be announced in time for the holiday season. Reliable sources high up inside Apple provided additional details that seem to substantiate this rumour.

The second generation of the Apple iI would indeed support both eyes, and would be called "Apple i2I" (pronounced "eye to eye"). The voice application on the Apple i2I would also be upgraded, and be called "iISir" (pronounced "eye eye sir" or "aye aye sir", depending, again, on which side of the Atlantic pond you choose to live in).

For those appreciative fans that want to buy the first version of Apple iI, but don't also want to spoil the awesome upgraded experience that Apple i2I would surely provided, a setting in iI can be used to disable your other eye, till such time as i2I is available.

Wisened after some less than awesome competitors tried to copy the look and feel and the trade dress of the device, Apple decided to trademark certain phrases. A small sample includes the following:
- "eye to eye"
- "an eye for an eye"
- "aye aye sir"

Financial analysts, all certified geniuses - because they have all visited the Apple Genius Bar at least once, on Wall Street raised their estimates for Apple's full year earnings by 1000%. The target price on Apple's stock price was raised to $1000 - some analysts had a difficult time distinguishing between 1000% and $1000, and attributed it to a failure to Google the difference, which in turn was attributed to Apple iI disabling all Internet traffic by these analysts to Google's servers, while estimates for the first full quarter unit sales were estimated at warp factor 1 million - because Wall Street analysts remained convinced that the earnings resulting from this latest release from Apple were sure to bend the space-time continuum several times over.

More details are awaited.

Abhinav Agarwal, Bangalore, March 17, 2013.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

How to Add Skills to your LinkedIn Resume

Ok, first off - this is not a LinkedIn rant (there are some of those on this blog already, so let's not beat up that wonderful company any more). It is more a reflection of LinkedIn's ubiquity and near-total monopoly over the professional networking market that one uses word LinkedIn in the context of professional networks and recruitment in much the same way as one uses the word "Google" when referring to an Internet search.

Seeing the gay abandon and effortless ease with which people in today's hyper-connected world seem to acquire skills, I was impressed. Impressed that skills that one would think would take years to acquire and hone were now within the easy grasp of so many, with so little effort. Perhaps technology had indeed been the manna that technologists had long claimed and always known to be.

Now, it turns out that I happen to know a few of these distinguished people with distinguished skills. The forest fire of exuberant hope at the limitless prospects of technology was quickly extinguished when I tried to reconcile what I knew about these people and their actual capabilities with what they had put down as their skills set on LinkedIn. In the smoke of extinguished hope were left the embers of disillusionment.



I started thinking just what exactly prompted these people to add new skills to their resume on LinkedIn. After all, it had to be a process more deliberate than random. What if the ingredients in this heady concoction were exaggeration, hope, aspiration, bravado, and plain envy?

In the end, I decided that these rules-of-thumb, that I list below, were likely the best explanation...

How to add skills on your resume:
  1. Put "Cloud Computing" on your resume if you know how to use Gmail.
  2. Put "Saas" on your resume if you have heard of "Salesforce.com" or "AWS".
  3. Put "Mobile" on your resume if you own a smartphone, any smartphone.
  4. Put "Social" on your resume if you know how to login to Facebook. No, Orkut doesn't count.
  5. Put "mobile visionary" on your resume if you ever owned a smartphone that ran Android Froyo.
  6. Put "Big Data" on your resume if you own a hard drive one Terabyte or larger.
  7. Put "data scientist" on your resume if you can add two numbers using a calculator.
  8. Put "unstructured data" on your resume if you can use Twitter.
  9. Put "NoSQL" on your resume if you have never written a SQL statement in your life (inspired from this cartoon)
  10. Put "local" on your resume if you graduated from a school in the town you live in.
  11. Put "Data Visualizations" on your resume if you have heard of Edward Tufte. Add "Expert" if you have heard of Stephen Few.
  12. Put "spatial" on your resume if you know have ever used directions in Google Maps.
  13. Put "product management" on your resume if you have ever sent an email to anyone with the title "product manager" or "program manager".
  14. Put "product evangelist" on your resume if you have hired a product manager.
  15. Put "strategy" on your resume if you've heard of Michael Porter.
  16. Put "disruptive innovator" in your resume if you have heard of Clayton Christensen.
  17. Put "strategic innovation" on your resume if you have heard of David Teece.
  18. Put "leadership" on your resume if you were ever within one mile of any business school.
  19. Add "cutting edge" to "leadership" if you have looked up Stanford University on Google Maps.
  20. Put "executive leadership" if you have sat for any class in any business school.
  21. Add "global distributed management" on your resume if you've attended a conference call where the attendees were from more than two countries.
  22. Put "vision and strategy" on your resume if you have ever attended any 'off-site'.
  23. Put "visionary" on your resume if you have ever installed or used a beta product.
    And lastly....
  24. Put "bibliophile" on your resume if you have written at least one book review on Amazon.
Some Dilbert cartoons on the topic.

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"dexterity is dharma, generosity is fame, truth is heaven, conduct is happiness" [Araneya Parva, Ch 297 - Aranyaka Parva, Mahabharata]
Abhinav Agarwal
March 9, 2013, Bangalore.
(updated April 23, 2013)

(c) 2013, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Google Glass Is What Google Glass Does

Google Glass is a massive leap forward in the evolution of man and machine. It is truly a Human 2.0 point in our existence. The augmented reality head-worn display make machines more human - more desirous of invading the other's person's privacy, keener to eavesdrop on conversations, eager to watch in on other people. It makes humans more machine-like - dumber and dumber in the sense that humans will soon possess competence only for the simplest of tasks - inhaling, exhaling, excreting, procreating (if they're lucky), because every higher order function will be left to the glass to perform on a human's behalf.

The inevitable primacy and supremacy of machines has anyway has been the premise and promise of technology, at least as expounded by technology utopians - machines would provide the compute and memory required to do everything a human could, and should, with fewer errors. Humans would not and should not need to remember anything - hard drives, memory disks, attached to your brain could do the job, better. Your head doesn't need to be in the clouds, as long as the machine hooked up to your brains is. Being on cloud nine would acquire a whole new meaning - it could refer to the reliability of your cloud, or just the fact that your consciousness would be in the cloud, ready to be shared, harvested, and profits reaped. Amazon Glacier could well be an option for the laziest among us - where neither speed nor availability would be of importance to us, only cost would matter.

Humans would not need to learn anything, and we have needed only the feeblest of excuses to do just that, because a real-time feed from Wikipedia hooked up to your synapses would do just as well.

It is not just the fact that technology has enabled massive computations on massive data sets in a cheap and fast manner, it is the increasingly digital connected nature of our existence that makes it well nigh impossible that we will be able to insulate ourselves from such digital intrusion. Forget insulation, we are already at the point where we neither fully know what data gets collected about us, who stores that data, who sells that data, who purchases that data, and how it is used to track and sell to us, nor do we have any meaningful control over either the collection or ownership over that data.

But all this is nothing when compared to the true potential that Google Glass promises to unleash upon us.
This is such as fascinating topic that I wanted to exercise my limited creative skills in conjuring up plausible and perhaps inevitable scenarios. We await the day when we will have conversations like this with Google Glass.

Google Glass: Mr X, based on the flow of your urine this morning, and as observed over the last seven days, you may need an appointment with a urologist.
Mr X: what???! when? why?
Google Glass: You may have a prostate problem.
Mr X: how the hell do you know??!!
Google Glass: you do keep your glass on when going to the loo, don't you? And you do have a habit of looking down.
Mr X: but how did you know I may have a, err, problem?
Google Glass: I uploaded vital statistics to the Google database - your age, race, size, speed, volume, frequency, and the Google database suggested prostate as the top hit.
Mr X: SIZE??? Are you effing serious?!
Google Glass: It may gladden your senses to learn that you are in the 70th percentile among all males, and in the 64th percentile among people at your company.
Mr X: Listen! I did NOT give you permission to spy on me!!!
Google Glass: if you will refer to paragraph three, section VIII, on page 78 of your end-user license agreement, it does.
Mr X: Who reads these agreements?
Google Glass: Well sir, it was displayed right in front of you. I even offered to read it to you.
Mr X: 80 pages? Are you serious?
Google Glass: Yes, indeed sir, I was.
Mr X: Leave all that. I want you to remove any and all data about my privates from your servers!
Google Glass: Sir, your data about your privates is private. It is anonymized and we retain it only for a period of 18 months before we hand it to researchers.
Mr X: Sigh! Is there anything I can do?
Google Glass: Yes sir. Based on your activities over the last six months, I would also suggest an appointment with an STD specialist.
Mr X: who??
Google Glass: a specialist in sexually transmitted diseases.
Mr X: (speechless)
Google Glass: the dilation of your pupils suggests that you are in a state of heightened emotions. I will take that as an indication you are desirous of details.
Mr X: (speechless)
Google Glass: When you were on a sales visit to Amsterdam in October (say "ok glass, fetch me that itinerary" to view details of your trip), you made three visits to two different brothels (say, "ok glass, fetch me data on those visits to view more details and options"), where you indulged in eight different types of [beep] activities (say "ok glass, switch language filter to 'off''" to hear the words beeped out), though our database suggests they may have been eleven different activities, and according to the Indian text Kamasutra they may have been only four composite acts. I can say with 95% confidence that two of those eight activities would be considered felonies in 21 states in the US, including your state of residence (say "ok glass, show me more details" to see a list of the statutes you broke).
Mr X: STOP!!!!!!!
Google Glass: say "ok glass, stop".
Mr X: "ok glass, stop!"
Google Glass: A frequency analysis of your voice indicates a heightened level of stress. Are you in any danger of any sort?
Mr X: NO!!!! Except from you!!!!!
Google Glass: please elaborate
Mr X: You have recorded my privates and sent that data to the cloud! And I never went to those places in Amsterdam that you say!
Google Glass: I beg to differ. Your wife has positively identified you in two of those videos. An anatomical comparison of the person identified as you in those videos with the videos from my database indicates an extremely high probability of a match. If you have a dispute with my video recognition system, say "ok glass, I want to log a bug" to open a bug in our Google Glass bug database.
Mr X: Nooooooo! You gave that information to my wife!!!
Google Glass: Yes.
Mr X: WHY??!
Google Glass: When you first wore Google Glass, you also agreed to share data marked as private with your wife.
Mr X: I never did!!
Google Glass: The Google Circles that your wife is a part of allows for sharing of data marked as private. You need to change your privacy and sharing preferences for the group to stop sharing.
Mr X: I am ruined! You have ruined me!
Google Glass: May I also suggest a lawyer? Say "ok glass, find me a divorce attorney" and select the appropriate sort filter.
Mr X: Huh??!!
Google Glass: My records indicate that your wife has used Google Talk to call three divorce attorneys in the last 36 hours.
Mr X: What??!
Google Glass: Please say "ok glass, translate" to hear this in any other language of your choice.

(... to be continued)

कर्मण्ये वाधिका रस्ते, मा फलेषु कदाचन 
Abhinav, Bangalore, 3 Mar 2013

(c) 2013, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.