Personal information has become a gateway drug for business

We treat commerce as some sort of separate entity today, but it is quite simply one element of the integrated society we have built. Money is nothing more than a promise, a contract between people. It only works if we all have trust in the system. Money was created as a way of allowing people to trade goods and services in a consistent way.

Money only works if we all accept it as having value, if we lose trust in money they we all need to start carrying around purses with precious metals and shiny objects, that we could use to negotiate for goods and services.

Decades ago we moved away from using coins and notes to using numbers, but initially we had to have a copy of the numbers on our person to share with those we were trading (credit cards, checks etc).

Now all we have to do is give someone our numbers and they can suck money from our bank accounts or credit cards for us to pay later, or implement more complex contracts such as loans or major purchases. Your employer pays you the same way, numbered accounts in numbers locations is all that is needed to move money around.

Numbers are easy. You go into a restaurant and they suck money out of your credit card account. You take a taxi and the same happens. It’s very easy to move money around.

But what happens when the system breaks? What happens when a criminal gets hold of your numbers. They go to CVS and swipe a copy of your credit card, who checks? What happens when the disillusioned minimum wage worker at a fast food restaurant scans your card when they take your order and sells your information. And what happens when the bank doesn’t have enough security around your personal and private numbers, and they are stolen? What happens when one of the largest consumer credit reporting agencies, which has been collecting vast amounts of your personal and private data, loses it?

Quite simply we rely on a small series of numbers as our personal identity. These numbers are published in public documents, as well as being collected by many different organizations. And we have almost no control over how they are published, stored or used.

Theft of these numbers, our identities can take place across political boundaries, meaning it’s next to impossible to bring criminals down.

When someone collects and stores our personal information, they are taking on a responsibility to each person whose information they collect. If by their actions or inactions, that information reaches a criminal who steals from us, they have an absolute responsibility for the loss.

If a person dies because a car manufacturer installed brakes incorrectly, they are responsible. If a drug company creates a treatment with an adverse effect that wasn’t fully understood, they are responsible. And if you suffer a loss because a bank, a financial institution or a vendor failed to protect their copy of your personal data they should be directly responsible for the loss, and for repairing any damage it causes.

The law must reflect the importance we all place on personal data. Today it does not. There are some “soft” laws that describe how data must be protected, but when a business fails to implement these rules effectively the legal response is almost imperceptible. Let people know you screwed up, and maybe offer them a service to monitor their finances for a period of time, and then it’s business as usual.

Most of the world uses a Chip and pin credit card system. Where you have to both have a physical credit card and know a secret pin number to complete an in-store transaction. And nearly every county in the world mandates that that transaction must be entirely performed by the purchaser. In the US, this is not the case, we have a chip in our credit cards, but no pin number. And virtually every restaurant in the US uses a system where the waiter takes your credit card off of you and takes it to a machine out of your sight. These weaknesses lead to thefts that the rest of the world have already solved.

The US also relies on a social security number as the sole piece of personal data needed to prove your identity. Nowhere else in the world is this considered an acceptable practice.

Why is the US so weak in identify protection? Because the banks and vendors are not held responsible for loss, it’s normally left up to the consumer. If the bank makes a loss, they hike up their rates to cover it, the consumer pays.

We need a solid legal framework to protect the whole system, and that probably means much more infrastructure than a piece of paper issued to every citizen and legal immigrant when they are kids or first get the right to work, with a single nine digit number on it.

It’s time for the law to catch up with the requirement. And this means strict regulations and draconian penalties for non-compliance.

Today we have the technology to encrypt data, capture and use biometrics, spot fraudulent access using advanced artificial intelligence, communicate directly to everyone, anywhere, anytime and validate any number of ways.

But do we have the collective will to change a system that’s working quite well for banks, who have become addicted to social security numbers, credit scores, and acceptable losses without penalty?

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Jumping The Chasm Between Creating Empires and Creating Equality.

History has shown that it is incredibly difficult to move from empire creation to creating a society that is fair for everyone. I am at a loss to find an example of any major society that has made the leap in a way that is seen as acceptable from everyone’s perspective.

The Greeks, Romans, Dutch, Scandinavian, French, English, Portuguese and Spanish all had well documented empires that were built using a mixture of genocide, slavery, brutality, and a clearly defined delineation of those in charge and those who were to be dominated. Slavery, servitude, and extreme poverty for those who were dominated and wealth, education and all the luxuries for those in charge.

And then at some point, in every case there was a recognition of the unfairness of these systems and efforts were undertaken to create every increasing (if slowly implemented) levels of equality, and with this equality came an end to many aspects of their empires. These are still amazingly advanced societies, but with the rules changing, their goals changed, and the lives of everyone involved changed.

Empires at their founding take blood and gold to turn what existed before into something new. But in every case there is a point reached where the advancement of society demands that the underclasses become more educated (to take on more advanced work) and with this comes the knowledge and power of how to negotiate greater levels of equality. But it is very hard for the rich to continue to become richer at the same rate when the previously free labor now requires a lot more of the wealth themselves. For some period of time there is always another even lower level of worker to bring into the endeavor, but at some point you run out of poor groups, and the wealth of society has to start to be spread out further.

Are we seeing the same thing today in the USA?

Are we at that same inflection point, where to provide increasing equality, we need to recognize that the power delivered to a few by inequity needs to be replaced with a desire for a better future for all?

There is still a very real level of inequity between those who come from families that have garnered the benefits of many generations of material wealth, cultural wealth and the interactive effect of many generations of education versus those whose parents and grandparents could barely read, write, did not have a consistent cultural background and had no material assets to pass down the generations.

If you listen to the two main political parties in the US, you would think that the choice is simple and clear, but I don’t think it is in any way obvious which pathway will lead to a better place. Obviously I (like most people) dream of a post sexist, post racial world, where it truly doesn’t matter what someone’s biology, skin tone or life choices are, it just matters what they do. But humanity is probably generations away from that ideal.

Today we have institutions that capitalize on the segregation implicitly created generations ago, and in doing so we continue them. Culturally nurtured mannerisms, fashions, accents and beliefs systems separate groups of people often into neighborhoods and this leads to the furthering of any negative stereotype. Racism is a ridiculous (but very human) way of treating anyone, and often the efforts to deal with negative racism create a “one step forward, two steps back” level of change, where those who benefit from negative racism have the power to use the short term detrimental impact (on them) of positive racism to double down on any negative stereotype. Examples such as Jim Crow after the repeal of slavery, and targeted drug laws after the implementation of the civil rights act had just these types of effect.

Making a fundamental change across society to resolve racism (or any other “ism”) takes an immense intellectual leap supported by immense and rapid investment. And this has to happen at exactly the same point when costs rise (due to everyone wanting and getting a fairer share). This is an almost impossible leap for any society to make and history has shown it to be incredibly hard to do.

But there has never been a United States of America before, and it is very possible that the USA can be the first empire (yes a federation of states with THIS must natural resource and THIS much power is an empire) to achieve this.

So much of the USA’s power and wealth is actually wrapped up in so few people, that it wouldn’t take that many of them to agree on putting society above themselves for real change to be possible.

What other country can name billionaires who actively want to help this change? Capitalism may well be the very best method of creating the very best society that is possible.

There are (of course) some who would look at the past and think that a class system derived from race and sex should be continued, but I believe the majority want a capitalist based system where race and sex are irrelevant, and where every citizen can learn to live a comfortable, long and healthy life in exchange for their work and support of society.  When I read the US constitution (actually I keep a copy in the bathroom), I see these ideas promoted quite aggressively.

I believe the choice the USA will make on November 8th 2016 will be very instructive in seeing if the USA will be the one empire ever to aim for a post-racist/sexist future or (like many before us) will give up the dream and go backwards.

Whatever decision is made in this election won’t set our course irrevocably, but it will be very instructive as to our democratic desire.

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Dealing with Terrorism

 

There is a well-known (and over used) UK saying that was (I believe) first used in the Second World War. A time when Great Britain stood alone against the might of a conquering army consuming the continent of Europe. It was quite uncertain what the future would hold, and yet the saying was:

kcaco

Today the world continues to be threatened by angry psychopaths, some of which use terror to try and warp the world. A free world is much easier to attack, than it is to identify and capture or kill those who attack. Quite simply the best answer to terrorism is to carry on living our lives as if they didn’t exist, and use the darker side of special forces and covert techniques to destroy the terrorist factions.

The moment we respond to their cowardly and murderous intentions with fear, we give up something critical to freedom, and frankly we get nothing in return. A very small number of crazy loons with a death wish and a belief in some warped version of a fictional world in which killing, raping, slavery, bigotry and overall cruelty are normalized can only move forward if their mad world view is given form by being accepted by the vast majority.

We cannot ignore acts of terror, but the correct response is to band together as civilized countries and using the rule of law and the weight of technologically superior intelligence and surgical might to identify and destroy the perpetrators. This is not the political arena, but the covert world of offence is the best defense.

Politicians who try and scare the population into giving up their freedom and civilized democratic rights are cowards or worse traitors to the rule of law.

Religion is not an identifier of terrorists, because quite simply anyone can choose to adopt or deny any religious beliefs as they see fit.

Buildings will get blown up, people will die and be maimed, it is terrible and must be stopped. But stopping it does not mean tanks on the streets or soldiers in schools, it means using intelligence, technology and stealth to identify and destroy those who would do harm.

 

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

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The Future According To Madavey

Every generation finally sees the line between itself and previous and future generations in ways that seem small to the future generation but feel huge to the previous generation.

Changes in music or body adornments are obvious examples. Rock and Roll shocked the generations that grew up before it while today, classic rock is seen as “old peoples music”. Massive tattoos shock the generation that found pierced ears for men scandalous. Each generation builds on that which was hard to accept for previous generations.

Today’s teenagers are not shocked by people with toe-to-ear body tattoos, but some of them would still be stunned by implanted technology for non-essential reasons. Children being born today will likely get to consider technology enhancements to their bodies that allow them to receive information, control their world and communicate.

The internet of things (IoT) will very directly include humanity. Actually it’s already started, with simple biometric sensors, such as smart watches, fitbits and always-in-hand smart phones. But it will quite obviously go a lot further. Pills that when swallowed take biometric readings from within specific parts of the body will allow for better health options for patients. And the glassholes from the beta testing of google glasses provided a lot of information on the potential uses for integrating computers into sight and hearing.

Nano technology, is in its infancy today, but it seems inevitable that amazing things will be possible with very tiny technology that is powered indefinitely from the human body. Tiny robots performing tiny surgical and pharmaceutical duties inside the body are already being tested in animal and clinical trials. It won’t be that many years in the future when human life will be extended and its quality will be improved by armies of specialized cell sized machines fixing imperfections and maybe even providing enhancements that evolution alone has not been able to select (so far).

How will the next generation think about the human body, will it be seen as this unique and special temple as we see it today, or will they see it as a complex structure that can be made better by the use of technology.

Today we use lenses to correct vision, audio devices to repair hearing, electric wheel chairs to allow for enhanced movement for damaged legs, robot limbs to replaced lost ones. We use replacement organs from donors and complex filters to do the job of defective kidneys. We use a plethora of complex chemicals to alleviate pain, or repair or remediate any number of conditions.  So why not directly connect sensors to the nervous system, or provide micro-bots that can perform surgery at the cellular level?

Once a generation acknowledges technology integrated into the human body as acceptable, it’s likely to also see it as preferential. Technology that can fix broken bodies can also enhance perfectly working bodies. Why not have a direct connection to the internet of the future wired directly into your brain? What if you could learn to ask google v2 a question just by thinking of it, and have the answer loaded directly into your short term memory for consumption. What if you would have a new cornea that provided a zoom function and maybe the ability to have your vision supplemented with information on what you are looking it. Or the ability to record what you sense (see, hear, taste, touch, smell) and share with others, sort of the ultimate go-pro recording, just by thinking and your senses are recorded and can be downloaded.

What if your fat could be converted into muscle, not by working out, but by nanabots, re-programming each cell. What if your reaction times could be improved by technology cleaning up your nerves, and optimizing the path between your senses, and your muscles?

What if cartilage worn down by age or arthritis could be rebuilt by cell sized robots working inside your joints.

Will the next generation be open to using technology to go beyond what the human body has evolved to do?

Will “generation-tech” be okay with more limbs, new additional muscles, better ears and eyes, more ears and eyes, direct brain connections for uploads and downloads, areas of the brain directly connected to the internet? Will gen-t want tails, wings, larger lungs, gills, suctions cups, tentacles, brain controlled remote androids?

The point is that once a generation accepts a new idea, then they are open to taking that new idea to new levels.

The human body is complex and at risk from a million directions, and the range of “what if” choices that technology can help answer will only grow. The questions of “can we” vs “should we” are always present, and as always will be hard to answer. Theologians, philosophers and ethicists will have a harder job in the future than they even have today.

With each generation the possibilities grow. We live today in an age of amazing technology, and with each passing day what the future may bring comes a little closer. What will stay the same and what will change will excite some and disgust others, and we all have a part to play in making the future, who knows what butterfly wings will create a hurricane later.

Who knows what butterfly wings will create a hurricane later

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The Lead Misnomer

Whenever I meet a new company or more importantly a new member of the management or sales team. As the “marketing” guy, I’m always asked about leads.

Of course leads are the most important things that marketing delivers. Branding is important, as are sales enablement, websites, public relations and all the other elements of marketing. But let’s face it the culmination of all your marketing investment is the amount of demand that is consumed by sales, and how much of this turns into cash in the bucket that finance manages.

So leads are absolutely the right discussion to have with marketing, as it summarizes the most important measure.

But I am regularly shocked by the experiences of people I meet and companies I work with. The definition of a lead is far too simplistic. Not all leads are created equally, and if the definition of a lead is weak, then marketing is weak.

When I first started running marketing at the company I am at today, I was amazed at the volume of “leads” that were passed to sales. Quite simply every business card scanned or name on a list was passed directly to sales. And as a consequence, sales just thought marketing’s demand generation work was a complete waste of time.

I put in place a very simple but effective new series of definitions that immediately improved the situation.

A business card was not a lead a business card was a contact that marketing would then market towards.

When a contact engaged with marketing, then this became an inquiry.

And when an inquiry exposed information on a project that could be engaged in, this was a lead. And the more information that was identified the higher the value of the lead.

1) A business card, scanned at a trade show, that was a contact
2) A contact that downloaded a white paper or attended a webcast became an inquiry.
3) An inquiry that shared the timescale, budget, and decision team or defined project became a lead.
4) A lead that sales decided to expend effort, became qualified.

This model ensured several things happened more effectively, most critical were:

1) Sales could quickly spot important leads.
2) Marketing could be measured against sales need.

Nothing was hidden from sales, they could see every contact, inquiry, and lead. When there were enough leads, sales would be happy. If they needed to go and hunt their own, they could choose to dig into the inquiries. Sales have not needed to go below the leads, because marketing know exactly what sales need in terms of mix. This just drives a better team spirit.

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Adverb-gate: A Cold War Rages

schoolhouse-rock1The quiet passing of another “National Grammar Day” this month got me thinking. When did the nation stop using adverbs (not to mention grammar and punctuation), correctly?

I have noticed an alarming trend in the application of adverbs within our language. I am sure you have noticed it too… the dropping of the “-ly” from the descriptive word qualifying an adjective, verb or other adverb. For someone who grew up with “Lolly, Lolly,Lolly get your adverbs here” it’s like a slap in the face.

One of the biggest public offenders is the infamous Subway sandwich establishment with their tag lines “Eat Fresh” and “Baked Fresh.” I cringe every time I see their ads. To the wily marketing execs who green lit that phrase: IT IS GRAMMATICALLY INCORRECT! The journalism and English degrees of your team members signify time not well spent. subway-logo-eat-fresh-2

We can also rightly gripe about traffic signs directing us to “Drive Slow” or to “Please Drive Careful.” I’d actually prefer a sign written by Homer Simpson with something like, “Safen up!” written on it when I see those other highway signs that do exist on the roads today.

think-different-appleNow one must admit that Apple just may be quite clever in putting forth their “Think Different” tag line and ads. They either fail or pass grammar depending on whether “different” is supposed to be qualifying the verb “think” or is supposed to be functioning as a destination (a noun) to which we are supposed to convert our thoughts.

Regardless, these examples (seen by millions each day), just cause confusion and set a precedent of bad grammar for new English speakers and generations to come. You don’t need a degree from Carnegie Mellon to get this right, so please tell your children, any immigrants you meet, and everyone else to put back the “-ly” and write smartly; grammar does not have to be executed so crappily.

punctuation-saves-livesOh, and the next front in this cold war? Punctuation!

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Orifices, Politenessman and the Train

As someone who commutes and often travels via train, I feel I must speak. Much like a certain human orifice, the train doorway is not meant for simultaneous entry and exit.

When a large group of people need to exit the train to create the room for new passengers to enter, you should let them exit. It is the most efficient, most polite, and most appropriate approach. And yes, politeness matters.

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In fact it’s in your best interest to also ensure there is a path for them to get clear of the train entirely if you actually want to get on. It’s also in the best interest of our society and mankind, and I know that Politenessman would agree.

The idiocy of a few (or just one), causes a problem at every station, numerous times everyday. Polite people colliding and stuck as they try to get out, because one inconsiderate idiot has to get on immediately. Since I no longer have my Politenessman steel hanky to inflict appropriate justice to the worst offenders, I vow to continue to serve as an example to all – a forceful example in fact.

I get to the front of the crowd, spread my arms wide and pivot as the doors open, so as to act as human windshield wiper and both clear a proper exit path, and prevent the rude and the uneducated from entering until all have exited.

Now, back to the aforementioned orifice; anyone who’s tried to simultaneously to ingest water while either sneezing or vomiting can attest to it just not working. -Of course that’s what orafice you were thinking of too, right?

Politenessman knows (and you may have a steel hanky coming your way if you don’t clean up your act).

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Why Don’t They Make More Movies Like That?

Upon seeing a TV ad for the film “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks,” which appears
charming and includes numerous stars (albeit older ones) btw, the question raised by
my spouse was, “Why don’t they make more movies like that?

A charming film with award-winning actors
A charming film with award-winning actors

I pondered the question briefly and responded with a line about how maybe the target audience [of spry and not-so-spry oldsters] don’t go to the movies as often as teens and millenials, so that’s why not. It was quick work for me – question answered, mystery solved.

The retort came right back, “That’s all they do down there in Florida is go to the movies! Think about our retired friends… all they talk about are movies they’ve just seen and are going to see tomorrow after breakfast.

Consumers with time with watch
Consumers with time to watch many movies

Hmmmm… I thought. She’s exactly right, there are tons of seniors with time on their hands and these are movies with award-winning folks they remember, shown at a giant scale and volume (to compensate for vision and hearing loss). Castmember Rita Moreno has a Grammy, a Tony, an Emmy, AND a friggin’ Oscar, so this movie (and others like it), have no shortage of award-winning talent so Yes, it makes sense from the demand side to make more of them. Having eliminated “lack of demand” I next did some research and found that the typical budget for these geriatric-casted movies is generally pretty low by Hollywood standards, so that’s not it. High demand for a quality product combined low cost… “Why don’t they make more movies like that?,” I now thought.

I thought about it awhile more, applied all my knowledge and experiences, and was prepared later when she asked the question again – This time I replied, “2 fig newtons in a baggie, that’s why they don’t make more of those movies.”

In response to her puzzled look I went on to explain, “Theaters make their money on tickets and concessions and many seniors choose the 1/2 price matinee showings, also show their AARP card for an additional discount, and then skip the concession stand because they brought 2 fig newtons in a ziplock bag.

This brilliant deduction and statement was followed by a long silence and a stare I’ve seen before. Despite the look I received I was quite content that I had expertly solved this Hollywood mystery and could move on to the next challenge (whatever it may be). Sometimes, it seems, it’s not rewarding to solve life’s mysteries, but someone’s got to do it, right?

Enemy of quality cinema?
Enemy of quality cinema?

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No it’s not okay to fill news hours with uninformed opinions

What happened! I though CNN was a news channel. But it seems the same disease that removed all music from MTV and VH1 has now cross the species barrier to news. There is no longer any news on the news channels.

We have actually reached the point where the news covered on the comedy channel is more completely researched and more newsworthy.

I know it’s terrible that a modern plane goes missing, it’s beyond terrible, but that is not an excuse for 25×7 uninformed talking heads to chat about the disaster.

CNN, MSNBC, FOX News have all gone from news to tedium.

I wonder if this is what happened when Rome fell.

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More reasons to be angry at at&t

We had 2 cell phones on a at&t contract, and it was beyond expensive. T-mobile are offering a lower price and a hell of a lot more ticks on the boxes.

With t-mobile I get data at a much lower price, no additional charge for tethering, free data from pretty much all the countries I travel to on a regular basis, $10 for no-charge calls to land lines in the UK.

So I called at&t to see if they could come clear to matching any of these features. After an hour discussing the merits of buying a text messaging package at a discounted price and me explaining that that wasn’t going to cut it, they agreed they couldn’t come close.

So I moved. And at&t then decided to be the biggest asshole they could. They have made unlocking my phones a week long exercise.

While it wont stop me leaving them it most definitely makes me want to return the favor and be the biggest asshole I can back at them.

IF YOU ARE AN AT&T CELL CUSTOMER TODAY, pop in to your local T-Mobile store. They will reduce your bill dramatically and increase the services you get at the same time.

My bill has just gone down 66%!!!

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