Recently for English, we had to write a quick paragraph using a bunch of vocabulary words we had learned while reading American literature. I chose to write about a potential conversation that I would love to have with Larry Page. Here it is:
“I sat down in the theater for what would become an arduous, yet interesting conversation with Larry Page, one of the founders of Google. I started off by asking him if the new social network Google had been working on was received with much approbation. He said it was doing great, with tens of millions of users and active engagement with everyone on the site, though Facebook’s new Timeline feature and Open Graph would require Google’s vigilance to come up with new innovations in the social space. My next question led to a change in his disposition, as I asked him whether “free” products such as the ones from Facebook and Google were artifices to gather immense amounts of data to give marketers super-focused ad placement. He then said that the usurpations I was alleging were incredibly false, that I was an insidious person, and that he was going to leave.”
As Dediu acknowledges, this in itself is not a new insight — there has been plenty of coverage of privacy controversies at Facebook, Google and other companies. What was interesting, however, was that he linked this to a larger historical context, referring to the process of institutions (state and private) gathering information about individuals over the last few centuries. This reminded me of an interview that Cabinet Magazine conducted with Valentin Groebner in 2006, about the medieval and pre-modern tracking of individuals.
Groebner,? Professor of History at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, is the author of Who Are You?: Identification, Deception, and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe, and his interview with David Serlin talks about the history of passports, in the context of larger historical surrenderings of privacy in the last two hundred years.
It is possible that the current wave of institutional data-hoarding may in effect be the last. The companies who are leading it are far more efficient than previous authorities — historically, state and church authorities. They are taking the data from people who are apparently far more willing to give it than in previous eras. And they are going to be able to analyse and process personal data far more finely than anyone else ever has. This is not really an alarmist conclusion — although the situation itself is alarming — but simply an acknowledgement of existing reality. Dediu’s comment that “this will become a political question” and that “these things are doomsday issues for some” is interesting in the context of the recent successes of the privacy-advocating Piratenpartei (Pirate Party) in the 2011 Berlin state elections.
The Pap smear is the most effective cancer-screening test ever developed. When it was introduced in the United States in the 1940s, about 26,000 women died every of year of cervical cancer. Today, the exam—now known as the Pap test, since the modern method of preparation no longer requires smearing cells on a slide—is performed about 55 million times a year in this country, and about 120 million times annually worldwide. The effect of widespread, routine testing has been dramatic: Fewer than 5,000 American women now die each year of cervical cancer. If you account for population growth since the 1940s, the Pap test has reduced cervical cancer mortality by more than 90 percent.
The Pap test isn’t just good for women. It’s also a good business for doctors and diagnostic laboratories—maybe as much as a $500 million industry in the United States. The techs and doctors who look at Pap slides are the TSA agents of the medical world: They spend their days examining dozens of slides in search of tiny, subtle, and rare visual cues of disease. The process begins with a doctor collecting a sample of cells from a woman’s cervix. The cells are preserved in liquid, mixed with laboratory reagents, separated from blood and other biological material by centrifuge, and then deposited onto a slide. The cervical cells are examined first by cytotechnologists—specialists trained to analyze certain types of medical slides. If abnormalities are found, the Pap slides are then screened by pathologists, medical doctors who diagnose disease. Because the vast majority of Pap tests are performed on healthy women, about 90 percent of the slides seen by a typical lab are completely normal. The entire process costs about $25 to $100 per test, depending on the lab’s efficiency.
OK, that headline is probably over the top, but after reading Dave Winer and Nik Cubrilovic’s warnings this past weekend about Facebook’s new “frictionless sharing” system, I was left wondering if Julian Assange of WikiLeaks wasn’t on to something when he said that “Facebook in particular is the most appalling spying machine that has ever been invented.”
Assange was talking about how Facebook collects information that people actively share about their relationships with each other (thus making such data prey to US intelligence prying), whereas Winer is raising the alarm about Facebook’s new policy of proactively sharing information about what websites people are visiting, without them even affirmatively entering any kind of data onto their Facebook page. Winer offers this hypothetical scenario:
“What is Google? What do they sell?” asks Don Norman, the author of The Design of Everyday Things and a demigod of the design world.
It’s a question that gets asked a lot, especially as the company’s power and products continue to expand. In a talk on Friday at the dConstruct conference in Brighton, England, he pointed out that –despite the complexity of the organization — the answer usually looks pretty simple.
“They have lots of people, lots of servers, they have Android, they have Google Docs, they just bought Motorola. Most people would say ‘we’re the users, and the product is advertising’,” he said. “But in fact the advertisers are the users and you are the product.”
Then he went further. “They say their goal is to gather all the knowledge in the world in one place, but really their goal is to gather all of the people in the world and sell them.”
One of the things the world will miss most about Steve Jobs, now that he’s officially retired for a second time as Apple’s CEO, is his mouth.
Jobs is a master of hype, hyperbole and the catchy phrase — and his cocky performances, while clad always in jeans and turtleneck, were as entertaining as the products he was shucking.
Here’s a selection of some of the most entertaining things the man has said, organized by topic: innovation and design, fixing Apple, his greatest sales pitches, life’s lessons, taking the fight to the enemy and Pixar.
On Android vs. iOS
“It is worthwhile to remember that open systems don’t always win. Open versus closed is a smokescreen. Google likes to characterize Android as open and iOS as closed. We think this is disingenuous.”
— In October 2010, talking to analysts about the challenge from Google’s Android, which Apple perceived as a stab in the back by Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt — a member of Apple’s board of directors. Hark Oct. 18, 2010.
“Don’t be evil is a load of crap.”
— In January 2010 townhall with Apple employees, Jobs tore into Google for getting into the smartphone business, saying Google got into smartphones, and Apple didn’t get into search. Wired Jan. 30, 2010.
This page is a growing collection of all the mobile app coverage that has appeared in The New York Times, both in print and online. Check back often, as this page will be updated regularly. We will also feature lists of favorite apps from Times writers. Click on any of the headings below to see all the coverage of a specific app category.
Earlier this month, Kazuma Obara became the first photojournalist to gain unauthorised access to the power plant and produced an exclusive glimpse of life inside the facility
Maynard Hill, a pioneer in unmanned and model aircraft who sent an 11-pound airplane across the Atlantic in 2003, died June 7 at his home in Silver Spring, Md., The Washington Post has reported. He was 85.
Hill, a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) Hall of Fame and former president of the academy, earned 25 world records for speed, distance, and altitude over a long career of modeling. He led a team that flew a balsa-wood model airplane carrying 5.5 pounds of Coleman lantern fuel from Newfoundland to Ireland, a distance of 1,882 statute miles, on Aug. 11, 2003.