miércoles, 11 de septiembre de 2019

The end of confidence and trust on digitalisation

We take as guaranteed the digital transformation of economy and society. It is almost impossible to imagine a world that will not be fully digitised in few years taking into consideration the pace of adoption of the sucessive wave of innovations, however we should not discard that black swans exist. The black swans may be already flying over our heads as a collection of events that have broken the needed confidence to continue the accelerated adoption of digital technologies. 

Trust and confidence have been the base of the adoption of digital technologies. People has got used to include digital services as facilitators and enablers of their daily life because they didn´t feel them as the threat on private life denounced by some experts. Companies adopted the succesive wave of technological inventions due to the existance of a legal certainty that guarantee a return of investment period of the money spent. 2019 is being the year when these trust and confidence is disappearing in thin air.

On one hand, we have started the year the year with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Although it would have been just another breach of personal data of a digital platform, the supposed consequences on the electoral processes on USA and UK make more people conscious of the unleashed power of the GAFA. Even this feeling of distrust could have vanished  as in the past (e.g remember for instance the many cases of supposed misuse of personal data by Google) with the purpose for repentance expressed, but the first leaks of the incorrect handling of private data in the personal assistant devices have reaffirmed the distrust feeling. It is yet to be seen if the adoption of this technology would be as quick as expected a year ago.

The companies and firms on their side are beginning to experience legal uncertainty on digital technologies. On one hand, technology has started to be a central element of the political debate. This circumstance is positive by itself, I believe that once a first phase has been overcome there is a need for reinforce the regulation of what is a key element of our lives. I do not think that this regulatory trend by itself may stop the adoption of technology, what deter the digital transformation is the unstability of the legal framework. This uncertainty is what companies are living with the Huawei affair and the inclusion of the company in the US govedrnment blacklist. It is bad to include a company in this kind of list with weak evidences, but it is worst to build up an environment of an undetermined grace period to work with the mentioned company.

Probably, the current conditions if they are not worsen would not be enough to stop digital transformation. However, I think that in years to come we will see on figures and statistics that the effect of this break of confidence and trust will have been a brake on the pace of global digitalisation.

miércoles, 4 de septiembre de 2019

New digital intermediaries and the lessons from history

As Shoshana Zuboff details in her book "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism", the raison d'être of digital platforms is the continuous search of new sources of data surplus. First, they started with the explotation of data sources from the virtual world. Once exhausted and taking advantage of technological advances, the logical step is the explotation of data coming from the physical world. Our location was the first target, now it is the turn of our conversations and faces. 

Let's start with the case of the explotation of our conversations. This have been the year of the first battle among the digital giants (Apple-Siri, Google-Google Assistant, Amazon-Alexa, Microsoft-Cortana) for the nascent market that promises big benefits.  According with Reuters, the Voice Assistant Market is growing rapidly over 39% of CAGR and is expected to reach at approx. USD 7.8 Billion by 2023. Other sources  are more more modest and forecast approximately USD 7.7 billion by 2025, although with a similar CAGR of above 39% between 2019 and 2025.

The new market of products and services has begun to raise the eyebrows of regulators, particularly after the leak of private conversations recorded with Google Assistant and the confirmation of the recording and listening of conversations as regular practice to improve the product, furthermore they identified the practice as "a critical part of the process of building speech technology, and is necessary to creating products like the Google Assistant”.  The practice was also recognised by Amazon and Apple, and the three market leaders agreed on a temporal pause for the recording and listening process (particularly in Europe). However, Amazon quickly restarted the practice although under an opt-out option of the users.

Beside the invasion of privacy that some European privacy watchdogs started to denounce, there may be further harming consequences to competition (similar to those we are currently experiencing in search, social networks or market places) if we do not take preventive measures. The French regulator, HADOPI, has already published a first report on the possible threats for the creative and audiovisual markets of the integration of voice assistants with audiovisual platforms. Other French regulator, ARCEP, has included voice assistants as one of the critical intermediaries between users and an open internet, and therefore as a possible target for net neutrality regulation.

The precautions with this new kind of intermediaries are more than justified due to what have happened in the short history of the digital era. Perhaps, if the same cautions would have taken in the past the present would be different.



sábado, 24 de agosto de 2019

"Malaherba" - @ManuelJabois

MalaherbaMalaherba by Manuel Jabois
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Me aproxime a la primera novela de Manuel Jabois con expectativas encontradas. De un lado, esperando leer el gran libro propio de quien a mi juicio es hoy día el mejor articulista de la prensa diaria. De otro lado, temiendo la decepción que sintió tras su lectura una persona cercana. Afortunadamente, en mi caso pudo más la satisfacción y placer en las horas invertidas en la novela, devorada en cuestión de días durante la parada biológica de las vacaciones estivales. Una lectura fácil y apasionante por cercana, todos hemos sido niños y el autor recoge con maestría la inocente visión que recordamos haber tenido durante la infancia.

El libro es una inmersión en primera persona en la la vida de Tambu, un niño que rechaza su nombre real, reconociéndose a si mismo con el nombre Mister Tamburino, nombre italianizado del Mr Tambourine Man dylanesco con el que Franco Battiato inicia su canción "Bandera Blanca". Con las diferencias vitales de cada uno, es difícil no sentir la infancia de Tambu como propia. Recuerdo en mi infancia haber sentido igualmente el mundo de los adultos como una esfera de misterios vedada a mi entendimiento, solo interpretable desde una mitología propia que compartía con otros compañeros de juegos. Lo de menos son los hitos diferentes o coincidentes que tengamos con la infancia de Tambu, aunque en mi caso me sienta reconocible en su sensación de desarraigo o recuerde las horas pasadas en salas de juegos recreativos similares a esas en que nos sumerge Jabois.

Pero la primer novela de Jabois es también un viaje desde la inocencia a la madurez. En las páginas de libro, vivimos las tensiones de crecimiento de un niño que descubre su radical diferencia respecto a otros niños, y que descubre trágicamente la necesidad de defenderla. En otros modos, algunos también hemos descubierto la obligación de hacer las cosas "para que alguien esté orgullos de nosotros", ese alguien somos nosotros mismos, el alguien del que nunca podremos escapar.

La infancia de Tambu no puede tener otra final que un final agridulce, como la de todos y cada uno de nosotros. Y es que ninguna infancia puede tener final feliz, todos terminamos descubriendo que el mundo está repleto de gente que duerme a pierna suelta sabiendo que alguien sufre por su culpa".



View all my reviews

jueves, 22 de agosto de 2019

"Amateur" by Thomas Page McBee

Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a ManAmateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man by Thomas Page McBee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sometimes, you read so much about a book that it disappoints to you when you actually read it. This maybe the case of my experience with Thomas Page McBee´s partial autobiography, "Amateur". The central issue of the book has always haunted me, what makes a man a man, even before my own son started his own gender transition, maybe that is the reason it has failed to provide me with any new idea that I will remember as a lesson learned from this book.

Perhaps, this is also the case of a book that has attracted so much more press attraction that it can bear. On one hand, I´m happy for the visibility given to trans people, particularly trans men who used to be less in the papers. On the other hand, I think that the many long articles about the book published have exhausted (like this in The Guardian ) has exhausted the topic of the book and the experience of the author as the first transgender boxer who fighted in the Madison Square Garden.

Nevertheless, I recommend reading the book to the majority of men, or at least the article I linked above. The book faces you with questions that you should make yourself at least once in your life, in case you have not done yet, in order to explore your own reality as a person and your attitudes towards the gender issue: Am I a Real Man? Am I Sexist? What are the social expectations around me? What attitudes from you expect other men and women in work, love, sport and friendship? Having been grown in a womenize environment (my grandma, mom, my sister and me) and the case of my own transgender son has without doubt helped me in facing these questions, but I understand that this kind of book may be the support other men would need to make his own inquiry about himself regarding gender.




View all my reviews

lunes, 19 de agosto de 2019

"La saga/fuga de J.B." - Gonzalo Torrente Ballester

La Saga/fuga de J.BLa Saga/fuga de J.B by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

La mayor parte de la obra de Gonzalo Torrente Ballester quedó oculta para el gran público tras el tardío éxito televisivo de "Los gozos y las sombras". Un mundo de fantasía quedo por siempre sepultado bajo el descarnado relato social de la vida a comienzos del siglo XX en Pueblanueva del Conde y el final decadente de la benefactora saga de los Churruchao incapaz de enfrentarse a la brutalidad de los nuevos señoritos. Y, sin embargo, lo mejor de la larga obra del autor gallego transcurre más por los caminos de la experimentación vanguardista que por las sendas del realismo. Torrente Ballester encontró su propia fórmula de supervivencia en el exilio interior
refugiándose en una suerte de antecesor del realismo mágico, del cual "La saga/fuga de J.B." es la cumbre.

La novela relata la onírica (?) vida e historia de Castroforte del Baralla, en continuo enfrentamiento con el vecino pueblo de Villasanta de la Estrella. El pueblo protagonista del relato ha hecho de la defensa de la reliquia del Cuerpo Santo el eje de su existencia a través de los siglos, liderado por una saga de héroes que siempre coinciden en las siglas J.B. de sus nombres. La sangre de los J.B. en los momentos clave de la historia castrofortina, junto con la capacidad de la villa de levitar sobre el suelo y refugiarse en las nubes, ha permitido la supervivencia de Castrofuerte frente al centralismo absolutista. La rivalidad de Castroforte frente a Villasanta, materializado en el enfrentamiento entre los Barallobre y los Beldaña, es un trasunto fantasioso de la pugna de los Churruchao y los Salgado de "Los gozos y las sombras", con el grado mayor de libertada que daba la presunta fantasía.

El libro nos sitúa ante un nuevo momento clave de Castroforte, la desaparición de la reliquia, que habilita un viaje en el tiempo por la historia del pueblo y sus J.B. Los hilos y planos de la historia se entremezclan y suceden de la mano del relator, un J.B. impostado de nombre Juan Bastida, por más señas maestro represaliado con prisión y pérdida de oficio tras la guerra civil española. Bastida nos arrastra por un viaje en el tiempo, tomando el cuerpo de los sucesivos J.B., en una extensión de la "profesión" de medium espiritista que ejerce para ganarse pensión y manutención.

"La saga/fuga de J.B." es un libro para navegar, dejarse arrastrar por las corrientes de sus páginas hasta desembocar en su final, que no puede ser otra cosa que el inicio de un nuevo comienzo que de origen a una nueva iteración de la vida castrofortina. O quizás no, también puede ser el punto de partida una improbable ruptura con todas las ataduras y predestinaciones que llevan una y otra vez a los mismos callejones sin salida.






View all my reviews

miércoles, 7 de agosto de 2019

"Normal people" - Sally Rooney

Normal PeopleNormal People by Sally Rooney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

"Normal people" is a book that deserves a reading, probably it is not the first reading I would recommend among the many of them I finish on a year but I have enjoyed it, particularly the second half of the book. Because the first impression you will have reading the book is that nothing happens and nothing will arise your interest about the story of Marianne and Connell, and perhaps that is the intention of the author. Nothing in first one hundred pages make you expect something more than a story of two friends-with-benefits involved forever in a vicious circle of a never declared love for each other and a lack of capacity for commitment in both.

But things begin to change when you start thinking that perhaps is a story of perhaps extremely normal and boring people, with few differents with yours and other normal people that surround you everyday. The first clue is small hint of a case of gender violence at home in Marianne´s childhood, and suddenly you find yourself face to face with a story full of many other social tabooes like cases of suicide or depression, masochist loves and more gender violence. A raw reflect of the dark side behind so many normal people.

Nevertheless, you should not be worry about traveling the desert with the reading of the first hundred pages. The authoress masters the profiling of the different people that appears in the novel, and you will enjoy the way she introduces each of them and how she is capable of providing you with a complete portray of the main characters with an impressionist style across the many pages and scenes where they appear. As many of characters start in the novel in their last teen years and finish it at the pick of their youth, the impression is that you are attending the construction on real time of their personality as they experiment their first vital successes and failures.

As this is just the second novel of Sally Rooney, I think I would probably read her next one full of expectations.

View all my reviews

miércoles, 31 de julio de 2019

Ursula´s digital plan

On July 16th, the European Parliament confirm the election of Ursula Von der Leyen as the first woman to preside the European Commission. In her inaugural speech, the new President outlined what is going to be  the Union priorities for the period 2019-2024 under the vision of "A European Union that strives for more". Although she mentioned twice at the beginning of her addressing to the Parliament her worries about the effects of digitalisation on society and economy, few more details were given about her ideas on this area. Just a paragraph on her standing in favor of a fair taxation system where tech giants pay the just share of their benefits.

Perhaps, the new President gave in her speech quite few importance for digital issues compared with what those responsables for digital sector policies in Member States and sectoral stakeholders expected. Nevertheless, the fears were partially soothed wit the publication her full political guidelines. Building up "A Europe fit for the digital age" is among what she calls the six headline ambitions for Europe over the next five years. Unfortunately, in the brochure the digital policies look again as the less fortunate member of the family, with a space of less than two pages, the shorter space dedicated to one of the six of her policy axis.

On the bright side, we should welcome that the goal to achieve digital sovereignty is rightly highlighted as the basis for the forthcoming digital policies. The need to invest in artificial intelligence, 5G, blockchain, high-performance computing, quantum computing, algorithms and tools to allow data sharing and data usage is underlined. Nevertheless, it is missed a clear bet on shared projects of common interest as the the target of these investments. Either Union Member States pool resources for the development of the platforms of the future or all the efforts were doomed to failure and Europe will reamain technological dependance on China and US.

The new Commission´s President also declares in her political programe the intention to continue with Union´s digital regulatory tradition, where Europe has excelled and contributed to leash the American laissez-faire approach. It's courageous her proposal for an AI regulation within her first 100 days in office, which will certainly face criticism from an industry that is calling for a wait-and-see regulatory approach to the matter. The promise of a new Digital Services Act is diffuse, but it is out of discussion the need go deeper in the regulation of digital platforms. There are hopeful these ideas as a sign of the purpose to maitain the goal of the development of a Digital Single Market.

On Cybersecurity, it may looks short that only the idea of the creation of a joint Cyber Unit is included among the ideas for the future digital policies, although it´s highly needed because the landscape of cybersecurity units and agencies has grown in the past without an aim. However, this renewal of the governance is complemented with her statement in favour to reinforce the European Union response and resilience to hybrid threats which is included among the ideas for building a "Stronger Europe in the world", another of the six headline ambitions for Europe proposed by the new President.

Finally, Ursula´s idea of making Europe fit to the digital age includes the commitment to create the digital capacities and skills base through a Digital Education Plan. The prioritisation of digital inclusiveness for individuals is complemented with the promise to support of the SMEs role as large digital innovators by reducing red tape and improving their access to the market, which is part of her idea of "An economy that works for people", another six Europe´s headline ambitions.

To conclude, it looks that the European digital vision new European Commission's President based on building-up digital sovereignty for Europe based on the completion of the Digital Single Market, the reinforcement of Cybersecurity and bridging the digital divides.  Definitively, it may be a good base for building "A Europe fit for the digital age" , although once the music is written the lyrics are needed to compose a good music piece, as well as the election of the right European Commissioner to perform it.




palyginti kainas