Sunday, February 28, 2016

Views on Apple vs. the FBI

The Apple vs. FBI encryption controversy has triggered many views. The following are a few:
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook - “This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation, so when we received the government’s order we knew we had to speak out. At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties.” 
  • Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam -  "We support the availability of strong encryption with no backdoors … The case with Apple presents unique issues that should be addressed by Congress, not on an ad-hoc basis."
  • T-Mobile CEO John Legere -  “what we have got is an unheralded situation where [Tim Cook’s] being requested to help authorities deal with the security of the device.  … We will see where it goes. I wouldn’t know how to advise him. But I understand both sides of the issue. I think it’s groundbreaking."
  • Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency -  “America is simply more secure with unbreakable end-to-end encryption.”  Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao - "It's very complicated, we don't have a clear position … We have privacy and customer safeguards as our number one value...I understand why Apple has a similar concern."
  • Orange CEO Stephane Richard  - "Do I understand Apple’s position? No, honestly, it's difficult for us to say that we share it," "to have the maximum means to catch people who have bad intentions".
  • U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton - “Regrettably, the position Tim Cook and Apple have taken shows that they are unwilling to compromise and that legislation is likely the only way to resolve this issue.”
  • Brookings Institute, from  “Apple is Selling You a Phone, Not Civil Liberties” -  “Apple is being mischievous here, and the company’s self-presentation as crusading on behalf of the privacy of its customers is largely self-congratulatory nonsense. … it would have been akin to malpractice for the FBI and Justice Department to not fully explore the scope of Apple’s obligation to help the government effectuate a warrant in a major ISIS case.” .. “But the final decision here doesn't belong to Tim Cook. It belongs to the people—and it's time for Congress to act.”

  • As technology companiesU.S. citizens and global trading partners share their concerns about the government’s reachencryption and related solutions continue to evolve.
  • The U.S Congress’ attempts to address the problem will be challenging, but  law enforcement organizations will face the reality that encryption use will continue to expand across computing and communication infrastructures.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

To Swim, Soar and Drive - with Virtual Reality

  • Last week, Sports Illustrated distributed a virtual reality (VR) version of its annual Swimsuit issue and Chris Hercik, its creative director said “Everybody wants to know what it’s like to be on the Swimsuit photo shoot. It’s the question I get all the time … This year we are allowing everyone to be there in the Dominican Republic, with us and the models, to experience the Swimsuit issue in a completely immersive way.” Note: Wevr, a virtual-reality studio produced the content, which can be viewed using Google Cardboard.
  • In addition, Facebook’s Oculus unit began taking pre-orders for a virtual reality bundle of Rift and “Oculus Ready PCs” that will ship in April. (Initial pricing for the bundle is $1,499.) Among the titles that will be available is “Apollo 11 VR Experience” which focuses on the first manned spaceflight that landed on the Moon.  
  • Separately, Honeywell Aerospace said it will develop VR technologies for military ground vehicles, including an instrument panel that replaces windows, and Carey Smith, president of its Defense and Space unit said "The development of virtual window technology is a significant shift in the concept of design for military ground vehicles …  this technology would provide [drivers] with improved awareness that could impact the survivability of a new, more agile ground vehicle solution.”


  • Regarding Swimming with Sports Illustrated -  its content is one of many early stage VR initiatives in the media industry. Quality VR offerings will increasingly be dependent on 1) the skill of the production team, 2) understanding the expectations of the target audience and 3) keeping up with the pace of VR innovation.
  • Regarding Soaring with Oculus –  While there has been a lot of focus on video game content for the platform, Apollo 11 is an example of its use in providing an educational immersion experience. Note: Oculus' current pricing and hardware requirements may not be mainstream, but technology innovationcompetition and economies of scale should, over time, bring its capabilities to a larger audience.
  • Regarding Driving with Honeywell – VR, as a tool to provide “enhanced awareness”, will likely be used in many areas including defensemedicinesurveillanceagricultureland and property management and education.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

On Global Threats and Cyber-Security, from a U.S. Intelligence Chieft

Last week, during testimony to the U.S. Senate Armed Services CommitteeDirector of National Intelligence James Clapper said “In my 50-plus years in the intelligence business, I cannot recall a more diverse array of challenges and crises that we confront as we do today … The threat from foreign intelligence entities, both state and non-state, is persistent, complex and evolving.”  

His comments on cyber-security included:

  • Devices, designed and fielded with minimal security requirements and testing, and an ever-increasing complexity of networks could lead to widespread vulnerabilities in civilian infrastructures and US Government systems. These developments will pose challenges to our cyber defenses and operational tradecraft but also create new opportunities for our own intelligence collectors"
  • ” [Internet of Things] … are improving efficiency, energy conservation, and convenience. However, security industry analysts have demonstrated that many of these new systems can threaten data privacy, data integrity, or continuity of services.”, 
  • “The increased reliance on [artificial intelligence] for autonomous decisionmaking is creating new vulnerabilities to cyberattacks and influence operations … Efficiency and performance benefits can be derived from increased reliance on AI systems in both civilian industries and national security, as well as potential gains to cybersecurity from automated computer network defense. However, AI systems are susceptible to a range of disruptive and deceptive tactics that might be difficult to anticipate or quickly understand. Efforts to mislead or compromise automated systems might create or enable further opportunities to disrupt or damage critical infrastructure or national security networks.
  • Future cyber operations will almost certainly include an increased emphasis on changing or manipulating data to compromise its integrity (i.e., accuracy and reliability) to affect decisionmaking, reduce trust in systems, or cause adverse physical effects. Broader adoption of IoT devices and AI—in settings such as public utilities and health care—will only exacerbate these potential effects.  


  • While “data breaches” no longer seem like new news, the increasing pace on innovation will likely introduce many new classes of security vulnerabilities.
  • At the same time, many of the “vulnerabilities” that Clapper cites also become “surveillance” opportunities – which should continue to drive debates about personal privacy rights.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

Can Artificial Intelligence, Robots, 3D printing and Digital Innovation Drive Growth?

Comments about economist Robert J. Gordon’s recently published book "The Rise and Fall of American Growth” include: 

  • Peter Thiel (entrepreneur, investor) -” If we're going to create more wealth in the future instead of arguing about dividing a shrinking pie, we have to read and understand this book”,
  • Larry Summers (Harvard University) - “Gordon makes a compelling case that the golden age of growth is over. Anyone concerned with our economic future needs to carefully consider his argument" 
  • Robert Samuelson, (Washington Post) - “What Gordon has provided is not a rejection of technology but a sobering reminder of its limits."
Excerpts from the book:
  • “Will artificial intelligence, robots3D printing and other offspring of the digital revolution do for economic growth what the second industrial revolution did between 1920 and 1970? The techno-optimist school of economics says yes. I disagree.  The rise in the U.S. standard of living from 1870 to 1970 was a special century -- and won't likely be repeated"
  • "The good news is that the economy will be able to maintain relatively full employment as the fruits of computerization cause work to evolve slowly, rather than in a great rush. I'm optimistic that job growth will continue and that new jobs will appear as rapidly as technology destroys old ones.” 
  • “True, innovation continues. Almost weekly, the stock market rewards new companies with initial public offering valuations of a billion dollars or more. But it's important to distinguish between the pace of innovation and the impact of innovation on productivity.”
  • The problem created by the computer age isn't mass unemployment but the gradual disappearance of good, steady, mid-level jobs that have been lost to robots and algorithms and also to globalization and outsourcingEmployment growth is also concentrated in routine, manual jobs that offer relatively low wagesSlower productivity growth and low-wage jobs are leading to the unequal distribution of productivity gains. Those are the real headwinds that America faces.”

  • Gordon's research, which focuses on factors driving historical growth trends, makes many good points.
  • We should remember that productivity improvements and population growth, rather than the pace of innovation, are fundamental drivers of economic growth.
  • Hopefully, Gordon’s views can provide a constructive framework for policy makersbusiness leaders and citizens as they consider their strategies for the future.