“I’m shocked, shocked to find that tech companies are selling users’ data.”
“Your sales proceeds, sir.”
“Oh, thank you very much.”
As I’m writing this, Mark Zuckerberg is making some interesting stops on his apology tour. Zuckerberg, the beleaguered head of Facebook, has been invited to explain to legislators in the US, Britain, and other jurisdictions, just what exactly Facebook has been doing with its users’ personal data. My expectation is that the current congressional hearings will achieve little more than providing an opportunity for representatives to do a little grandstanding, and getting Zuckerberg to wear a suit and tie. Those representatives are not prepared to take the steps necessary to guard individuals’ privacy when dealing with not just Facebook, but thousands of companies. Continue reading “Nice suit, Mark. Now, let’s take this privacy matter out of your hands.”
Diet courtesy of Amazon
In a recent Globe and Mail column, Sylvain Charlebois, dean of the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University, wrote about how technology is revolutionising food distribution and consumption. He suggests that online ordering and home delivery is making consumers more rational, more informed, and even healthier. A dubious claim, but let’s go with it for a minute. The professor wrote excitedly about the prospect of automatic ordering of groceries and delivery to a consumer’s fridge. He imagined companies delivering to our kitchens the food we need to better our health, based on data downloaded from people’s portable devices. He calls this sort of diet management the “fitbitization” of food, after the ubiquitous wrist-worn reminder of people’s inactivity.
Picture a scenario whereby Amazon analyzes personal data from our wrist-worn devices, determines our nutritional requirements, and has Alexa order us to eat more broccoli. It’s technology run amok – the result of technophilia. Continue reading “When Technophilia Rules: From Coffee-pot Cameras to Smart Appliances and Beyond”
“I can handle things – I’m smart. Unlike everybody says, like dumb. I’m smart, and I want respect!”
Donald J. Trump or Fredo Corleone?
2017: a year of “Trumpery”
Donald Trump has been president of the US for a full year. He finishes his first year in office with a historically low approval rating within his own country, historically low confidence in the US being able to fulfill its traditional role of global leadership, a criminal investigation closing in on his advisors and family, unprecedented divisions within the country, a foreign policy running madly off in all directions, and now, a very public discussion as to whether the president really is an incompetent fool. Continue reading “Moving Beyond Trumpery. How to Survive 2018”
Tax policy by Leona?
A long, long time ago, I learned in business school the difference between tax evasion and tax avoidance. Simply, one is legal, one is not. I learned more about the distinction from my first employer, when the company deferred indefinitely the payment of a full year of income tax by essentially forming a partnership with itself. That was avoidance. And it was entirely legal at the time. So was Donald Trump’s claiming of $916 million in business losses to shield his income from taxes for subsequent years, even though the majority of the losses had been absorbed by his bankers, not by him or his companies. So was Apple Inc.’s parking of the bulk of its income in low-tax Ireland, by claiming a corporate residency of…nowhere. So is the wholesale reduction of corporate tax by tech giants Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. by housing their IP assets (and hence reported income from those assets) in tax havens. It’s not a stretch to suggest that the most creative, innovative people within these companies are not involved in product design and development – they’re in the tax department. Continue reading “Tax reform, the hard way. How Morneau and Trump screwed it up”
Donald Trump gets a new hat?
The editors of both the New York Times and Scientific American recently expressed their concerns about the fact that the US president can decide unilaterally to launch a nuclear attack against an enemy. Since the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, the president can order a nuclear strike – alone. That is, Donald Trump can exert sole control over a decision to unleash a nuclear arsenal against North Korea, Iran, or any other enemy state. That should frighten everyone, for as Hillary Clinton pointed out during the 2016 campaign, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” Unfortunately, as Alex Wellerstein said in the Washington Post last year, the one sure way to keep President Trump from launching a nuclear attack would have been to elect someone else. Continue reading “Still unanswered: how to keep the nuclear reins from the hands of an unbalanced president.”
“My offer is this….nothing.”
Ever since Amazon.com announced that it was searching for a location for its “second headquarters,“ cities across North America have been falling over each other trying to make a case for their own sites. In Canada, representatives from Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Waterloo, Montreal and Halifax have all said publicly that they should be considered, and committed to submitting a “bid” for the privilege of hosting a company that promises tens of thousands of jobs, a new focus for technology-driven business, and bragging rights associated with hosting one of the world’s most valuable companies.
To those developing lucrative packages with possible tax holidays, direct incentives, subsidies, and other contributions, I suggest that they instead offer the Michael Corleone package…nothing. Continue reading “A Suggested Bid for Amazon HQ2”
“The superiority of his genius consists in nothing else but an inexhaustible fund of political lies, which he plentifully distributes every minute he speaks, and by an unparalleled generosity forgets, and consequently contradicts, the next half hour. He never yet considered whether any proposition were true or false, but whether it were convenient for the present minute or company to affirm or deny it…”
Hands up – who thinks this refers to one Donald J. Trump? Continue reading “The Art of Political Lying”