The Internet Of Objects – Ideal Or A Path To The End Of Everything

In the 1980’s and into the 1990’s there was a movement in technology towards objects. The idea was than any and all data, applications, devices etc. could be broken down into a series of discrete pieces of information, and the use of this information could be described in a consistent way. This would allow everything to work together harmoniously without complex pre-work to describe what everything was.

The issue (at that time) was that for most types of data the meta-data to describe it was actually much larger than the data itself, and this was a huge problem when networks were slower than the spoken word and data storage was more expensive than postage. So the idea slowly died and morphed, and we have been left with a really messy series of standards which make sharing data and devices complex and expensive.

Now I know that I am paraphrasing the whole issue here, but there is no doubt that where we are, is not where we want to be in terms of integrated systems.

Imagine if every piece of data was wrapped in a consistent set of metadata (data about the data).

Imagine if you were sent an email with a specific type of data attached to it, that the data would self-describe its value, keep a record of who created it, what application was needed to use it, and even where the code to use it resided.

Imagine if every internet connected device could provide details on its use, location and current state when asked. So when you enter a house and you could automatically be part of that houses network. Your environmental preferences would automatically be shared with the house, and your entertainment preferences would be available on each device in the house. Obviously assuming that you had the approval of the houses prioritized users.

Imagine that when you program your phones map app to take you to a specific place, your diary and the diaries of everyone you are meeting that day are automatically updated with travel times and arrival times. And the systems in the place you are going to are updated with your drink and food preferences and a desk is reserved for you automatically for when you arrive or the meeting room you are planning to use is automatically chosen based on the number of people who are meeting.

Imagine if in an emergency all the connected devices in a building on fire could be viewed by those trying to help. Every temperature sensor and video feed was automatically available to them, and any phone picked up would automatically connect to the on-site emergency teams without any buttons needing to be pressed. All water, gas and power would be selectively turned off or on by the emergency teams as needed.

Imagine if the sensors in every car, street light and road sign were shared amongst themselves, providing a mesh of knowledge available to every road user, and that journeys were planned with the knowledge about the current conditions, dynamically updated with the planned journeys of every other road user.

Imagine if a doctor was able to review the health data of a patient collected by the patients watch, phone, home and pharmacist building a profile of the patient’s history to help diagnose from subtle changes in their physical condition important early diagnosis of problems allowing for much better treatments.

If every piece of data and every internet connected device could describe itself in a consistent and meaningful way, the possibilities are endless.

There are of course risks associated with easier communication, risks that actually may be greater than the benefits.

It’s almost an evolutionary level risk.

Within a species a continual flow of random mutations creates the likelihood that some variants will survive in any type of changing environment or to put it another way diversity is good.

If all information systems were to follow a single standard, then the possibility would exist of total destruction of the entire system. We have already seen that computer viruses designed to attack windows systems can impact millions of systems at the same time. Smug mac users have always felt safer, but that safety only comes from the simple fact that they are a separate sub-species. It is very hard for an infection to spread across species (biological or technical), but in a world where all data and devices were unified behind one standard, that standard itself could become a risk.

The value of total interconnectivity is immense, but the implications of everything being compromised would be too terrible to consider.

Is it possible to create an interconnected would that is secure enough to be viable?

That is the cold war not just of this century but probably for the whole future of humanity.

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The Amazon Choice: CX vs. Talent-First Culture?

By now you’ve likely read the NY Times article on Amazon’s controversial internal culture, and perhaps even CEO Bezos’ response to the reports and allegations. There’s a lot to discuss there but what I see now buzzing in the heads of current and would-be CEOs is the new choice they have, namely that in today’s economy should the ultimate priority be the big CX: customer experience (even at the expense of your employees’ well being) vs. Talent (and the winning the talent war).

With a small presence in California now, my business and I have been exposed to a Silicon Valley talent war which has apparently been raging since ~2012, with Google’s “death benefits” dueling with dogs in the office, Bruce Willis’ chef, and “cash for babies” from Zynga and Facebook. In this “war,” leading and aspiring new economy companies are prioritizing the attraction, development and retention of top talent with a bevy of incentives, seemingly bizarre perks and rewards, and culture-focused initiatives to stand out from the competition. I’ve seen creative, new “we care about you and your family” perks seemingly every week. Based on the success of these companies, some of this has even seeped east to Silicon Alley where ca$h had previously been king.

The premise is simple: get the best, make them happy and keep them, and they’ll help you attract, delight and retain customers. Shiny happy (and healthy) people begat customer and company success and happiness – R.E.M. and Kate would approve. Win-win-win for all involved, right?

Well, now there is a seemingly very different (and successful), model on display from Jeff Bezos and Amazon. This very non-California model is one that prioritizes customer experience (CX) over everything else, including employee health and well-being (and employee retention). While many workers cringed at the NY Times’ latest and earlier allegations, I personally know CEOs and executives who now feel vindicated regarding criticism of their relatively scorched-earth HR policies and see Bezos as having the best new “model for success.”

My question to you and to my young, aspiring CxOs at NYU: If you had to pick one over the other, would it be CX or would it be talent as your ultimate #1?

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Verbal diarrhea has a new analogy

Thinking is a complex activity, often when you think through an idea, your state to yourself inside your head a point of view, which you can quickly realize is wrong, and so you discount and keep working through all the rest of the possible ideas. This is how each of us considers complex issues and decides on a course of action that is reasonable and we then open our mouths and share the idea with others.
Sometimes even then we realize on reflection of other people’s responses, that the thing that we have said was wrong, and we take a moment to consider a reasonable response. In this way through a mix of individual thoughts and shared ideas we generally can come up with a position on pretty much anything.

Of course there are some people who just cannot ever let an idea stay in their head, or when it comes out and is clearly inappropriate, don’t have the common sense to say so, apologize and take a more reasonable position.

It seems that right now many of the people hoping to be president of the USA have no idea how to either keep stupid thoughts inside their head or when they have popped out, how to say “sorry, that was a silly thing to say, let me try that again”.

The most amazing “postulater” of half chewed misinformed and ignorant statements is quite clearly Donald Trump.

In just a few short weeks he’s accused all Mexican illegal immigrants of being drug dealing, murdering rapists and he’s publically stated that one of the leading elder statesmen of the US government was not a hero because he was shot down and captured while performing a mission during a war.

Everyone at one time or another has said something stupid, it happens, but no one can be that arrogant to think that when they have said something really inane that it’s okay to stand behind the statement, just because it came out of their own mouth.

There are clearly problems with illegal immigration in the US, but the issue is not just the migrants themselves, it’s much bigger than that. Economics drives migration, farmers who use undocumented labor should be imprisoned. Those who help traffic migrants illegally should be imprisoned. There are tough and reasonable actions that must be taken to provide a framework for legal migration for all levels of workers. But it is not by claiming that all immigrants from a specific country or region are immoral at every level.

John McCain is not everyone’s ideal senator. He’s vacillated between being a free thinking “maverick” and a right wing party mouthpiece, but one thing absolutely everyone can agree to, is that he was and is incredibly brave and a hero of the wars he fought in. He took amazing risks to perform his duty, was terribly injured and while in captivity under extreme duress did not tell the enemy what they wanted to hear. And he has spent most of his life serving his country. In the hierarchy of heroes he’s pretty much up there with the best.

Donald Trump should be ashamed of his words, that’s a natural response when you have verbal diarrhea. But instead the “donald” seems to believe that his shit stinks of roses. I really think his arrogance is boundless. If there was ever a need to use tar and feathers and carry someone out of town on a rail in humiliation, it’s now and it’s Trump. Maybe they can turn the process into a reality TV show.

I personally will be telling people they are “pulling a trump”, when they say something really ignorant and insulting and then stand by it.

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I Hate Gay Heroes

Every time I hear of an LBGT hero I just get angry. There should be absolutely nothing heroic required for someone to live their lives in-line with who they are. The simple fact is that bigoted, sexist people who are just low in mental fortitude are scared of anyone who is unlike themselves and create reasons for people to have to perform unreasonable levels of activity to overcome unreasonable barriers to be able to live their lives as their biology and their personality defines it.

I know people of many potential variants (as does everyone), some are gay, some are straight, and some I have no idea. Some are great people and some are assholes, and some (most) are somewhere in-between. When I see a person, I see, a person, and frankly it doesn’t matter what they wear, who they marry or who they hold hands with.

When I hear of a sports star who “heroically” came out to their team mates, or had their nuts chopped off and was featured on the cover of a magazine in a bathing suit, I’m not thinking “hero”, I’m thinking “what the fu@k”, it’s some person living their lives as they see fit, just like everyone else, stop making such a lot of fuss about it.

Let’s just accept that every person is different from every other person, and stop worry about it.

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Why does anyone care about anyone else’s life choices or nature?

It makes me really angry when anyone decides that the way they are is the only way that is acceptable. Every single person is unique at a genetic level, we all contain a mix of genetic material supplied by each of our parents, with an element of random mutation in our genetic code created by errors along the way and environmental conditions throughout gestation and the whole of our lives. Add to this the huge impact on microorganisms that permeate our bodies and it’s clear that each and every person is as close to a unique ecosystem as it’s possible to imagine.

Everyone is different, and some of the differences are blatant such as skin color, sexual organs, size or weight. Others are harder to see such as the exact location and size of our internal organs, blood type, relative size and interconnectedness of our brains sub-components.
Some people are left handed, some have a predisposition for analytical thinking, some have the innate skills required to perform sports or create art.

Some people find pleasure in the opposite sex, while some prefer those of the same sex, and some are somewhere in between or to the sides of any scale your can create.

What is clear is that absolutely no two people in existence are exactly the same.

Any differences between any people are just that, differences between two people.

Anyone who believes that their perception of normal based on any criteria that they choose is more important than anyone else’s, is a fool.

We are all absolutely different, and it’s this difference that provides the possibility of the continuation of the human species.
Race is a made up concept that looks at a small number of criteria to allow fools to feel superior.

Sexual orientation is about as irrelevant a topic as it’s possible to conceive. You may as well want to consider toe length or thickness of armpit hair.

Who cares if two women want to love each other, or two men. While the outcome is not likely to me more children, it is very likely to be happy, content and valuable people supporting each other and contributing to the overall health and happiness of the human race, in exactly the same way as a man and a woman loving each other do.

It’s shocking to realize just how many forms of discrimination still exist! race, religion, color, sexual preference, fat people, skinny people, disabled people, etc. There is a place in the world where each and every one of us will be discriminated upon based on stupid and irrelevant criteria. Some of these discrimination’s are against the things we are genetically and some against the things we have chosen to be. The reasons are irrelevant. Everyone who discriminates is a fool, and is actively hurting the whole human race.

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I really hate a monotonous ringing bell

I seem to remember a time where the Salvation Army used to stand around in the winter playing Christmas carols with a band. The band was always made up of strange looking people who you would never think would want to play any sort of instrument, let alone in public. Generally a mix of generations with a couple of really old people sitting down and a few middle aged people showing the effects of too much eating and not enough exercise, and always some skinny bloke in his early twenties with a haircut that showed he lived alone and cut his own hair in the mirror.

Their abilities were always a little suspect, but the pure effort they had obviously gone to made it something quite special. It was like we were seeing the people who were the stereotypes for dad’s army (a British (now cult) comedy about the people who helped protect the home front during World War II). Yes they sounded terrible. Often it seemed that they were all playing slightly different versions of the same music, some with different tempos, and most trying really hard to make at least a quarter of the notes either flat or in an entirely different octave.
But the result was good enough, festive enough and sweet enough that you felt obliged to throw a few coins in the bucket.

That world has sadly now gone! And has been replaced by a single person ringing a bell continuously. I think some people must have thought long and hard about the type of bell to use and the frequency of ringing. Because there is no way that purely by accident could they have worked out the most annoying tone and level of repetition?

Terrible does not even start to portray the sound that these people now make. I LONG for the days of the sally army quartets. In retrospect these were relatively beautiful.

I’m sure there collections have gone down, as the only donations that are now getting are from shop keepers trying to bribe them to move somewhere else.

I feel like going around to the sally army offices and just pressing their doorbell continuously, just to see how they like it.

Bah Humbug

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Anarchy in the UK – Sainsbury’s style

When I was growing up there used to be this really annoying kid, (that I suspect was slightly mad), who used to have an opinion on absolutely everything, and he used to proceed to tell everyone how they should act in every situation. And every now and again I’d see this asshole limping or walking around with a black eye, because he would have told someone large and aggressive how they should do something and rather than receiving the usual response of “f&^k off” has received a wallop.

And there used to be this incredibly annoying old lady who was always on TV and in the papers telling everyone that they were wrong and that she was right. She even ended up having Pink Floyd write a song about her on the album pigs, with the memorable line “Whitehouse you fucked up old slag” in it, again a highly appropriate response.
And of course the US has their annoying bigoted assholes in the form of the religious right, epitomized by the incredible anti-social, racist sexist and generally nasty behavior of the Westborough Baptist Church.

Now all of these bigoted assholes have something in common, they truly believe that they know better than everyone else, and are proved to be soundly wrong by simple logic and ethical norms. But this doesn’t stop them being sociopathic pricks with a Napoleon complex.

But all of these loonies pale into insignificance when compared to the really incredible sociopathic pricks who now run Sainsbury’s, the supermarket chain in the UK.

Sainsbury’ are a pretty run-of-the-mill, supermarket in most respects. They sell the normal range of crap from poor quality frozen meat products with meat that probably shouldn’t be served to your cat, to vast quantities of sugary drinks and a massive volume of chocolate based products with enough sugar to kill the kidneys of everyone in the country, along with aisle after aisle of beer, wine, spirits, toxic cleaning products and virtually every other form of average supermarket fare.

And they also include a pharmacy in each store, and this is where the descendants of Mary Whitehouse clearly have found their power base.

All the staff in Sainsbury’s are dressed in high visibility jackets, because obviously this increases safety, while at the same time removing any semblance of human dignity, and that should have been a sign…

Some drugs (as in most pharmacies) are stocked behind the counter. And these either need a prescription or are limited to be sold by quantity and with advice on how they should be taken. That seems normal and somewhat expected.

But here’s is where things get very weird at Sainsbury’s.

Sainsbury’s now have a rule that says you can only by a single pack of aspirin. Why you ask? Asprin isn’t a controlled substance. Well Sainsbury’s have decided that for health and safety reasons they will not sell you more than one packet of aspirin at a time.

Now you can buy a packet of 128 tabs if you like, but you are not allowed to by 2 packets of 16.

Why? Well the only reason I can think of is that Sainsbury’s have hired a bunch of brainless sociopathic morons who spend their time telling others how to live their lives.

You can buy a dozen bottles of vodka, or a pallet load of beer, or enough chocolate and coke to lead to your presence on a reality TV show about the morbidly obese. You can literally buy a rope (to hang yourself with) at Sainsbury’s, and you can buy 128 Aspirins, 64 Paracetamol and 64 Iburprofen tablets at the same time.

Just so long as you don’t buy more than one packet of each type. Buying a massive volume in a single packet is okay, but buying a smaller volume across multiple packets is not okay.

I’m sure the Westborough Baptist Church, and every other opinionated idiot in the world, worships at the head office of Sainsbury’s sales training department.

When I was hit by this illogical, petty bureaucratic nonsense as I was being checked out by a pleasant enough (but clearly emotionally beaten by life) lady at the conveyor belt, I asked to speak to a manager. The manager was duly called and some sole-less but in all other respects normal looking bloke in an orange high visibility jacket told be “that it was more than his job was worth to sell me 2 x 16 Aspirins”.

And what could I say, yes he was right it was more than his job was worth. Working for Sainsbury’s is that worthless!

I shook his hand out of pity for his wasted, pointless existence, took my single packet of Aspirin and walked out into the bright evening, in the certain knowledge that if I never shop at a Sainsbury’s store ever again in my life, and never have to think about the petty minded, idiots who spend their time thinking up ways other people should behave I will be happier and freer.

A little update to this story – had a call from Sainsbury’s today, they are changing their policy, you can now get two packets of aspirin at a time. They really don’t get it…..

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There are about seven billion people on earth.

And the average person expects to live for around seventy five years.

If you wanted to think about each person alive at the moment you could afford to give each person around 1/200th of a second of thought individually.

So it’s not that surprising that we give most people on earth very little thought.
I’ve never been deeply sad. I’ve lost people I love to horrible diseases, and some to old age, but I don’t know what it could feel like to be so sad that I wouldn’t want to live any more, I guess I’ve never been depressed.

And then someone that you know peripherally through their work dies by their own hand, and each of us wonders if that was anything, however small we could have done that would have made their lives just a little bit better, maybe enough that they wouldn’t have wanted to kill themselves.

It’s a simplistic thought, and most of us know that it’s not practical to think retrospectively. Would’ve, should’ve, could’ve just wastes energy and almost never changes future behavior.

This week Robin Williams, one of the funniest people I have ever seen took his own life! Someone whose drama, comedy and banter was always something to treasure. I love his films, his standup, his sitcoms and interviews. But wow what a price to pay for talent. I never knew that his private thoughts were so tormented. I know I wasn’t alone, the people whose lives were better for his creative output must be at least in the hundreds of millions.

Truly shocking to find out that someone who seemed so together, intelligent, and in tune with and able to influence human emotions is such nice ways was so unhappy, even just for moments (however long or short) of his life.

If makes you realize just how fragile happiness can be.

I take pleasure in making people feel good, and I do hope that sometimes I make a difference in some people’s lives.

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People who stand in doorways make me ANGRY

Okay people, when you go through a door, keep going. The idea of a doorway is to allow the transition of people and things from one place to another. It is not a destination in itself. And this is doubly true for train doorways!

What the hell are people thinking when they get on a train and stop dead in the doorway. I can only assume the answer to this question is either

1. Nothing

or

2. It’s okay to be a selfish bastard and block the doorway because they want to get off at the next stop.

Let me explain something to these people. If you are thinking “nothing”, then try thinking nothing away from the doorway, it will save you be zapped with a tazer, which is going to happen sooner than you think if you stand in doorways.

If on the other hand you are a selfish bastard and are blocking the door intentionally then please accept this 100,000 volt charge with the same level of disregard.

Go ahead punk, make my day!!!!

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The only way is to “keep it moving”

Economics always seems very complex, and there is a reason for that. Like all mathematically impossible situations the only way to explain them is to make them seem too complex to explain.

Through all of human history the idea of exchange goods for services has required all the systems we see today, including, laws, education systems, policing, security etc.

Until a few decades ago the idea was that you would exchange services for things of equal value, such as a lump of gold or silvers or a bushel of corn. And to save carrying huge bags of gold around, notes were passed between people saying that they promised to provide the actual gold in exchange for a service. These notes of promise were called money. And to be able to make money you used to have to have a store of precious metals equal to the amount of money you printed.

And then someone has the really smart idea of getting rid of the need to actually have the store of gold to be able to print money. This allowed as much money to be made as was needed, to grow the economy. The only issue is that if anyone ever wanted to swap his or her money for gold the whole system would collapse.

So to make sure a collapse doesn’t happen there was an implicit need to make sure all the money keeps moving around. It’s like musical chairs where there are less chairs than people, so as long as everyone is moving there is no issue, but if the music was ever to stop there wouldn’t be enough places for all the money to sit, then the value of money goes down (inflation).

To make sure the money keeps moving governments used to tax money that was sitting still. This has two important effects:
1. Taxing money means it keeps moving by itself (moving to the government who could spend it on services)
2. Made it preferential for people to keep their money moving to keep it out of the hands of the taxman.

Today we have a huge issue in that the amount of tax applied to money that is not doing anything is too low to encourage people to keep it moving. This means that too much money is just sitting in banks making money without doing anything, and this is really bad, as sitting money can be seen for what it is, and that is a promise that can never be kept.

It’s okay to be rich; actually it’s the best thing to be. But the value of money will only get less if it does nothing of real value. Capitalism is without a doubt the best system the human race has ever had to build the quality and length of human life. But capitalism demands that capital be used to build stuff, it fails if it sits around doing nothing.

Tax lazy money to keep the capitalist system healthy. Either it moves to the government to spend, keeping it moving. Or it forces people to use their money to build things. Either way is much better than notes of promises that cannot be kept sitting in places where its lack of true value can be seen.

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