Cypherpunks and surveillance power

A persuasively argued essay by Scott Ludlum about the global struggle for our digital rights, published May 2019 in Griffith Review 64: The New Disruptors . Scott is a former Australian politician representing the Australian Greens. He served as a senator from Western Australia from 2008 to 2017, and as co-deputy leader of his party from 2015 to 2017. He is currently a columnist for The Guardian.

Conspiracy thinking and partisan conflict

Wikipedia describes Sam Harris as “an American neuroscientist, philosopher, author, critic of religion, blogger, public intellectual, and podcast host“. In his Making Sense podcasts he converses with a wide range of people whose experiences, thinking and analysis of what is happening in the world today have much to offer us.

A recent conversation with Renée DiResta explored the methods used by Russia to influence society in the United States. She gives a very clear explanation of how these are made possible by the way social media have developed and discusses the main lines of attack, which are to increase the polarisation that already exists in society and to amplify conspiracy thinking.

Insights to surveillance capitalism

Two conversations by Kara Swisher, recently published on her podcast recode decode, offer thought provoking insights to surveillance capitalism and what we can do to counter it.

One is with Roger McNamee, venture capitalist, erstwhile mentor to Mark Zuckerberg and early investor in Facebook. He is now speaking out against the social media platform and has written a book with the title Zucked: waking up to the Facebook catastrophe.

The other conversation is with Nuala O’Connor, CEO of the Center for Democracy and Technology, around the question ‘Can big tech be fixed?’ Her organisation is headquartered in Washington, with an international presence in Brussels; it supports laws, corporate policies and technology tools to protect the privacy of internet users, and advocates for stronger legal controls on government surveillance.

Surveillance capitalism

On her website, the Harvard professor Shoshana Zubhoff says: “I’ve dedicated this part of my life to understanding and conceptualising the transition to an information civilization“. Her latest book is ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power’ . It draws together four themes to argue that we have allowed the global technology companies – notably Google and Facebook – to become dangerously out of control. Her themes are the historical emergence of psychological individuality, the conditions for human development, the digital revolution and the evolution of capitalism. In Start the Week on 4 February, Andrew Marr explored these ideas with her.

Continue reading “Surveillance capitalism”

A recent newsletter from Plymouth Social Enterprise Network introduced its board members. I was interested to see that one of these – Dave Kilroy – is an NHS Digital Innovation Associate and that, according to his LinkedIn profile, in this role he is involved with LiveCode, OpenEHR and the Code4Health platform.

OpenEHR was at the heart of a project I managed from 2001 to 2003; our purpose was to demonstrate the feasibility of creating an Electronic Health Record  by gathering together clinical records and messages already produced within the care pathway. Although widely used in research programmes, at that time OpenEHR had not been deployed in many operational systems. There are now more, one of them being OPENeP – a paperless prescribing and medications administration (ePMA) system being implemented by Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust.

Teacher workload: three key issues

In 2014, the DfE launched a ‘workload challenge’ seeking information from teachers about their day-to-day challenges. About 34,000 teachers responded.  Three key issues emerged: marking; planning and resources; and data management. Independent review groups (led by serving teachers) looked further at these issues and reported in March 2016.

Reviewers found that marking was taking precedence over all other forms of feedback, with little evidence that this improves pupil outcomes. Marking should be “meaningful, manageable and motivating”.

Reviewers found that the act of creating a lesson plan doesn’t necessarily add anything to the quality of the lesson. Governing boards should ask senior leaders what expectations they place on staff and ask them for the evidence that any requirements around lesson planning have an impact on pupil outcomes.

Reviewers highlighted the temptation for senior leaders to collect data simply because they can – data for the sake of data. Governing boards have a role in making sure that the data collected is fit for purpose; ask senior leaders what data they are collecting and why. It may be that the data would be useful, but a second question should be whether the time collecting it outweighs its usefulness.

Due diligence for research papers

Derek Lowe writes here [link] about “the sudden demise of Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers“.  He explains that these are publishers whose journals “publish verbatim whatever gets sent in, despite promises of peer review and editing, as soon as the funds hit their bank account“.  The list was controversial and the reasons for it’s demise are not public. However copies have been retrieved from the internet archives, for example here [link]. The problem with a blacklist such as this is that publications deserving to be on it keep mutating and growing in number, so it is difficult to keep track of them. An arguably better approach is to focus on publishers and publications that can be trusted, a list that will change more controllably. Helpful sources for locating these include: Continue reading “Due diligence for research papers”

Three categories of entrepreneur

Carland & Carland (1997) noted three categories of entrepreneur:

Macro-entrepreneur Risk-taker seeking self-actualization. Innovative and creative, and highly driven despite extreme wealth. More willing to accept debt and equity financing in order to grow their businesses rapidly.
Micro-entrepreneur  Includes the smaller family businesses with only a few employees. These individuals could be described as those who work to live, rather than live to work. They are also typically much more casual about their businesses.
Entrepreneur This group falls in between the other two groups and is less likely to take risks, as their goal was to preserve the business. Would likely include the accidental entrepreneurs, whose businesses developed gradually out of a hobby or a particular interest.