The Inevitable Death of Privacy

//just a disclaimer, I did write this for school, but because of the severe lack of content on my site (and also I kinda like what I wrote), I decided to post it here.

The Inevitable Death of Privacy by Jack McCoy

 

Privacy is something most people take for granted. It’s not something to think about often, except for when turning off the privacy settings on facebook. After all, if your profile isn’t public, how else can your friends and relatives find you? To counter this, I quote Edward Snowden:

 

“Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

 

In The Circle by Dave Eggers, Mae Holland is given the opportunity to work at the mysterious and much revered Circle. Founded by a young genius, Ty Gospodinov, with an annoyance at the disorganization of accounts on the internet, the Circle gained traction with a program called “TruYou”. The purpose of this program was to unify the internet: one social media platform, one payment method, one identity across all of the web. The program required a social security number and driver's license. This was to seemingly eliminate identity theft, and on the surface it worked. The circle created and improved upon a number of programs like this, having seemingly unending capital and international influence. Not everyone is thrilled about the seemingly totalitarian future the circle was bringing, such as Mae’s parents, and her ex boyfriend Mercer.

 

At a party during her first week at the Circle, Mae meets a man named Francis. They seemingly hit it off, but Francis continually insults her unintentionally. A particular compliment leaves Mae feeling “like she’d been slapped.” Francis had been abused as a child, which gave him a particular drive to create a program called ChildTrack. The purpose of the program was to implant every child with a tracking device, which could be seen by the parents, and an automated system at the circle that would tell the parents if anything was wrong. Because of the invasive nature of the implants, it was unlikely that the children would opt to have them removed once they became adults. This would provide a private corporation with accurate location data (even when cell phones and other electronics were disabled) on every citizen with wealthy, concerned, or overprotective parents. Eventually the program could become a requirement for all children, or even all citizens.

 

The seemingly endless influence and power of the Circle did not excite all as it excited the employee’s at the circle. Even Mae Holland had her misgivings at first, and was surprised at being scolded for not attending optional social events. On some weekends she decided to visit her sick father, and was questioned as to why she wasn’t posting about her journey every step of the way. Sharing her every move became second nature after awhile of conforming to the circle, so much so that getting caught stealing a kayak (a crime she was not charged for), which she later returned, became the catalyst for her going “fully transparent.” A move originally thought of to improve transparency in politicians, going “transparent” would require one to wear a camera at all parts of the day, save bathrooms and bedtimes.

 

Privacy might not be something you think about in day to day life, but for people living in oppressive countries, people with abusive parents or spouses, or even people with a desire to keep their personal and professional lives separate, privacy is a very important thing. Every day more people become connected, and with that, more people lose their privacy. Everything you do online is tracked, sent to the government, sold to advertisers, and used countless other ways. The Circle is a book meant to educate people on the need for privacy, but if you share the same utopic view as Mae Holland, is can also be a book detailing the need for a lack of privacy. Giving up that one freedom could lead to countless benefits. In the long run, we might not have much choice. Privacy is dead, and there’s not much we can do about it.

Artificial Intelligence, Big data, and the robot uprising

AI. Something you use in your daily life, but maybe not something you've even heard of. IBM Watson, Siri, Google Now, those are all basic forms of AI. But it's getting better. And it's worrying people. Especially the government. Recently the white house released a report titled "Big Data: A Report on Algorithmic Systems, Opportunity, and Civil Rights". In essence, it shows how the big names in politics are worried about the criminal aspects of AI and Big Data. This is shown here:

"What really matters about big data is what it does. Aside from how we define big data as a technological phenomenon, the wide variety of potential uses for big data analytics raises crucial questions about whether our legal, ethical, and social norms are sufficient to protect privacy and other values in a big data world. Unprecedented computational power and sophistication make possible unexpected discoveries, innovations, and ad- vancements in our quality of life. But these capabilities, most of which are not visible or available to the average consumer, also create an asymmetry of power between those who hold the data and those who intentionally or inadvertently supply it."  -The White House

But it's not only the government who is worried about this. Two of the biggest names in science and technology are also researching ways to combat the AI takeover. Elon Musk, and Steven Hawking. But I'm more worried about the Robot Uprising. I'm not talking about the Matrix, but rather robots making humans obsolete. Regardless of how much you study, or practice, when put up against a robot, you'll lose 99% of the time. It's inevitable that manual labour jobs are going to go to the 'bots as opposed to the people. But this isn't such a bad thing. In poor countries where factory workers have terrible work conditions, and low pay, they will be able to pursue an education instead of being forced into work. The robots could gradually increase the quality of life for people around the world. Not only by making jobs better, but also around the home. Companies like iRobot, who makes the roomba, and jibo, who make the worlds first social robot, are changing the face of robotics and making them less scary. On that happy note, here's a video of a cat riding a roomba.

Oh yeah, and may the fourth be with you.

A brave new (Virtual) world.

It's in the news, it's on twitter, it's everywhere and everyone's talking about it. Virtual Reality. It doesn't matter if you've heard of the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, or just Google Cardboard. What matters is that you've heard of it. And you're going to be hearing a lot more about it. Very recently, Oculus started shipping preorders from it's Kickstarter all the way back in 2012. Why does this matter you might be asking? Why should I care that some obscure company started shipping preorders of an obscure product? Because that obscure company was bought by Facebook. Facebook has a habit of predicting the future of technology, and the fact that they think virtual reality is going to be big, means it will be.

 

image taken from kotaku.com

image taken from kotaku.com

 

First, some history. In 1995 Nintendo created the Virtual Boy. It sucked. Fast forward  to 2012, and one person was changing how the world would think about entertainment. Palmer Luckey.  Luckey is the founder of Oculus, which (much akin to Apple) started in a garage. He was 17 when he created the first prototype of the Oculus Rift, and 22 when he sold his company to Facebook for 2 Billion Dollars. People were worried that Facebook was going to change Luckeys vision for VR, but (surprisingly) they didn't. 2015 was when VR came into the mainstream, with more people seeing the Developer Editions online and trying out the prototypes on the rare occasions that one left Oculus headquarters. People were finally understanding the hype. And with that understanding, the hype got bigger. Now everyone's heard of it. 

 

image taken from fastcompany.com

image taken from fastcompany.com

 

If you're going to make it in this brave new (virtual) world, your going to need to know some things. Let's address the first question your undoubtedly thinking. How does it work. There are two lenses, one on each eye, which (simply put) combine into one 3d image. The quality of that image depends, however, on the quality of the headset you're using. For example, the quality of the HTC Vive is much better than that of the Google Cardboard. If you're still confused as to what VR is, put simply, it is the replication of reality through technology.

 

image taken from cubicleninjas.com

image taken from cubicleninjas.com

 

Now for the headsets. I've mentioned the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and the Google Cardboard. They are all very different. The Oculus Rift is meant for people who will play mainly VR games while sitting down. The HTC Vive is meant for people who want to play more active VR games, and is made by the gaming giant Steam. Both of these require a beefy (over $1,000) computer. Google Cardboard is meant for the average consumer because you can buy it for less than twenty dollars, or even make it yourself. All you need is a smartphone. When you buy (or make) a Google Cardboard, you will have access to the plethora of apps available to you on the Google Play and iTunes stores, but there are sacrifices. Mainly the FOV, which is greatly reduced in comparison to the Rift and Vive. FOV stands for field of view, which is essentially how much of the Virtual World you will be able to see. The human eye has a FOV of approximately 180 degrees, and the HTC Vive has a FOV of 110 degrees. Google Cardboard FOV's vary, with the smallest being the View Master headset, and the largest (as of the time of posting, there are new one's popping up in the market every day) being the BoboVR Z4. All of the headsets have had many setbacks, so the official release dates (i.e. when I can get my hands on one) are kind of iffy, but you can preorder all of them if you would like (except the google cardboard, that has been available for a while). VR is here, but not entirely. Not yet, anyways.

 

Personally, I have tried both the Google Cardboard and the HTC Vive. The latter was an awe-inspiring experience. I highly recommend you to try it out if you get the chance, and to grab a Google Cardboard if you can so you can have a taste of what VR will be. Virtual Reality is undoubtedly the future, it's only a question of when that future will become mainstream.

Neje DK-8 Pro-5 500mW Laser Engraver Review

Introduction:

When I first opened the Neje DK-8 Pro-5 Laser Engraver out of it's packaging, my first impressions were of how premium the whole package looked and felt. Made by Neje (an obscure Chinese company) and sold by Gearbest.com, you can buy one for 79.99 here: http://goo.gl/b2Ig8H.

The Neje DK-8 Pro-5 500mW Laser Engraver I received

The Neje DK-8 Pro-5 500mW Laser Engraver I received

Contents:

Inside the box I received the laser engraver, the power cord, the data cable, Allen Wrench and the safety glasses. The laser engraver did come with a power brick, but I opted to plug it into my computer to save an outlet slot. The data cable is your standard Micro USB, whereas it is a bit shorter than I would have liked, it does the job just fine. The Allen Wrench was included to tighten any loose parts, although after using it for 3 days I haven't found a need for it. The laser itself is a Violet 500mW diode, which (if looked at directly) would blind you. The safety glasses were included mainly for the purpose of focusing the laser (which I haven't needed to do), but I've worn them during use as the laser is quite powerful. However, the reflection alone would not be enough to blind you.

Software:

The software is made by another obscure Chinese company called Trusfer. It is extremely easy to use, and can translate color photo's into black-and-white engravable ones. It has options to move the laser on the print bed, which can prove useful to make minor positional changes before carving. It also has the option to initiate a Carving Preview, which is especially useful to see where you are going to carve before you do so. In addition to those features, it also gives you the ability to stop in the middle of a print (if you need to adjust something) and then pick up exactly where you left off.

Image taken from http://www.trusfer.com/#Download

Image taken from http://www.trusfer.com/#Download

Pro's:

Let me start off with how premium the entire package feels, as though it should cost much more than $79.99. In terms of ease of use, this product is a 10/10. It took me less than 5 minutes to set up, which was surprising as I expected to spend much longer setting it up. The quality of the prints was also surprising, being much more precise and high quality than I anticipated. I went out to my local craft store, and bought some leather bracelets to test out the printer, and I can't say I wasn't impressed. The quality was good, and it was simple to carve the bracelets. To show how intricate the designs can be, I engraved my face into a spatula.

A Jackdm.com Engraved bracelet

A Jackdm.com Engraved bracelet

A Yin-&-Yang engraved bracelet, with some minor errors in the top left corner

A Yin-&-Yang engraved bracelet, with some minor errors in the top left corner

My face. On a spatula.

My face. On a spatula.

Con's:

To reiterate, this Laser Engraver is top-of-the-line, but that does not mean it's without flaws. The biggest problem I encountered was with the rubber bands used to hold down the engraved objects. They work fine for things that don't bend (i.e. wood, plastic, etc.) but when you put objects that bend (i.e. bracelets), you may encounter some problems. I've also found that due to the dramatic movement of the print bed, some objects which appear to be in the correct position for engraving at first glance, may not be towards the end of the print. For an example of this, see the picture of the engraved sunglasses below. I also found the Safety Glasses to be of questionable quality, but they did the job just fine.

Jackdm.com engraved sunglasses, with a minor error in the right-hand side of the M.

Jackdm.com engraved sunglasses, with a minor error in the right-hand side of the M.

 

Conclusion:

In conclusion, this product is not for people who need to make large laser engraved prints, but if you're in the market for a small high-quality laser engraver, this is the product for you. I would also like to note that Gearbest sent this product to me for free (which is pretty cool, thanks Gearbest!) to review.

And so it begins.

Welcome! This is my first blog post on Jackdm.com. I've decided I'm going to exercise my rights dictated by the First Amendment and voice my opinions on the internet. I'm going to post everything from funny stuff I see on the internet, to product reviews, to my opinions on various topics. If you've managed to read this far (congrats!) be sure to check back every Friday, when I plan on posting every week.