HUMANS OF THE NEAR FUTURE

What does it mean to be human? With cyborgs, biohackers, transhumanism and cryonics rising in influence – and ‘mind uploading’ only decades – this existential question is increasingly complex to answer

 

By Oliver Pickup

The world’s preeminent ‘cyborg artist’, Neil Harbisson, has been stopped “several times a day, every single day, since March 22, 2004”. It’s impossible for him to forget the date: that Monday, 13 years ago, he had an antenna fixed to his skull in order to ‘hear’ colour. The attention generated by the unique appendage can be “really tiring”, Camden-born Harbisson admits to me. But, he believes, such sights will be the norm, and sooner rather than later thanks to the inexorable march of technology.

“Initially people questioned whether my antenna was a reading light,” says the 35-yearold, who sees in grayscale but can sense colours (the majority of which are beyond the visual spectrum) 360 degrees around him through audible vibrations. “By 2005 those who approached me thought it was a microphone; in 2007 most reckoned it was a hands-free device; and the following year a lot of them suggested it could be a GoPro camera. In 2012 the top guess was something to do with Google Glass, and more recently a selfie stick has been popular. Lately, people shout ‘Pokémon’ at me.”

Similarly, officials at Her Majesty’s Passport Office didn’t quite know what to make of Harbisson’s antenna to begin with. “On the photograph I submitted I argued that it was not electronic equipment but a new body part, and that I felt that I was a cyborg, a union between cybernetics and organism,” he continues. “I’m not wearing technology; I am technology. It doesn’t feel that I’m wearing anything, it’s just an integrated part of my body; it’s merged with my skull so it is part of my skeleton. There is no difference between an arm, my nose, an ear, or my antenna. In the end, they agreed and allowed me to appear in my passport photograph with the antenna.”

Harbisson had no real issue adjusting to sleeping with an antenna atop his head, but there were other teething problems. “As I had become taller, at the beginning I would bump into doors upon entering cars, and get stuck in branches of trees,” he says. “And I would struggle to put jumpers on. I had to become used to the organ, the body part, as well as get used to the new sense, and it took a while. Having a new sense is something that most people have never experienced. It transforms your life because you perceive absolutely everything differently.”

Moon Ribas, Harbisson’s Catalonian partner and fellow cyborg artist who he met when the pair studied at Dartington College of Arts in Devon, has two implants in her arms that allow her to perceive the seismic activity of the Earth and the Moon. Formerly, she warped her vision for a three-month period by using kaleidoscope glasses, and would wear earrings that quivered depending on the velocity of people moving behind her.

For fun, the out-there pair enjoy linking to satellites using NASA’s live feed from the International Space Station. “Instead of using my eyes to see the images, I simply connect the antenna to the data that comes from the satellites, and then I receive vibrations in my head, depending on the colours,” Harbisson says. “They have so many sensors in space that are collecting data, but no-one is actually looking at it. I feel I’m a ‘sensestronaut’ or a ‘mindstronaut’ because my senses are in space while my body is here on Earth.”

THE SHAPE OF HUMANITY TO COME

Mindstronauting aside, 2017 has been a busy year for Harbisson, and a significant one for the future of humanity, with cyborgs in the ascendancy. At March’s South by Southwest – the annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, music festivals and conferences held in Austin, Texas – Harbisson, Ribas, and BorgFest founder Rich MacKinnon presented a draft of the declaration of cyborg rights and also introduced an accompanying flag “which you can only detect if you can sense infrared”.

“We believe it should be a universal right for anyone to have a new sense or a new organ,” argues Harbisson. “Many people can identify strongly with cybernetics without having any type of implant, and there has been a lot of support. There may even be a ‘cyborg pride’ parade in Austin next year.”

Additionally, in February his startup Cyborg Nest, co-founded with Ribas in 2015, began shipping its first product, North Sense – a $425 DIY embeddable device that gently vibrates when the user faces magnetic north.” (Mind-boggling pipeline projects, kept under wraps, reportedly include silent communication using Bluetooth, a pollution-detecting device, and eyes in the back of the head.)

Cyborg Nest is just one of a growing cluster of ‘biohacker’ startups offering a variety of sense-augmenting implants, with body enhancements, prosthetics and genetic modifications are increasingly popular. Pittsburgh-based Grindhouse Wetware, for instance, has been developing ‘implantables’ since 2012, such as Circadia, a device that sends biometric data wirelessly via Bluetooth to a phone or tablet, and Northstar, which allows gesture recognition and can detect magnetic north (as well as the rather gimmicky feature of mimicking bioluminescence with subdermal LEDs).

What does it mean to be human? The answering of this existential puzzler has powered progression for millennia, but now, as nascent technologies fuse physical, digital and biological worlds, it has never been more complex, and critical, to define the age-old question.

We are hurtling inexorably towards the ‘singularity’: a hypothetical point when artificial intelligence advances so much that humanity will be irreversibly disrupted. And while conventional wisdom posits that this epochal scenario is at least a half century away, the migration from man to machine is well underway.

WHAT IS TRANSHUMANISM?

Searching(Sir) ‘Tim Berners-Lee’ – the Briton who created the World Wide Web 28 years ago – in Google throws up almost 400,000 results. That figure is almost five times fewer than ‘transhumanism’, a movement few have heard of, yet one which is beating the heart of progress, albeit beneath the radar.

The touchstone definition from a 1990 essay by Dr. Max More, the Oxford University-educated chief executive officer of Arizona-based Alcor Life Extension Foundation, states: “Transhumanism is a class of philosophies of life that seek the continuation and acceleration of the evolution of intelligent life beyond its currently human form and human limitations by means of science and technology, guided by life-promoting principles and values.”

A raft of tech billionaires are considered either ‘de facto transhumanists’ or are fully signed up to the movement. Luminaries include Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and Facebook’s first professional investor worth an estimated $2.7 billion by Forbes, Elon Musk, of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX fame, Google co-founder Sergey Brin, and – according to H+Pedia (an online resource that aims to “spread accurate, accessible, non-sensational information about transhumanism”) – Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Dr. Anders Sandberg, a research fellow at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, suggests that transhumanism “questions the human condition”, and tells me: “It is in many ways a continuation of the humanist project, seeing human flourishing as a goal, but recognising that human nature is not fixed. Rather than assume it is all going to be an entropic mess, transhumanism suggests that many serious problems can be solved and that we do have a chance for a great future.”

There are practical, utilitarian, reasons why submitting one’s body to technology makes sense – at least to Dr. Sandberg and his fellow transhumanists. “Consider that the Government spends £85.2 billion on education every year; even a slight improvement of the results would either be a huge saving or enable much better outcomes,” he continues. “One intelligence quotient (IQ) point gives you about a two per cent income increase, although the benefits would be even broader across the whole of society if everybody got a little bit smarter.

“Childhood intelligence also predicts better health in later life, longer lives, less risk of being a victim of crime, more long-term oriented and altruistic planning – controlling for socioeconomic status, etc. Intelligence does not make us happier, but it does prevent a fair number of bad things – from divorce to suicide – and unhappiness.”

While Dr. Sandberg suggests that the aforementioned DIY ‘grinder’ self-surgery movement “problematic” he is “firmly in favour of self-experimentation and bodyhacking”. He flags up the apparent triumph of Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of Seattle-based BioViva, who in September 2015 underwent what her company labelled “the first gene therapy successful against human ageing”; it was claimed that the treatment had reversed the biological age of Parrish’s immune cells by 20 years.

The Swede is also optimistic about the prospect of ‘mind uploading’, or ‘whole-brain emulation’, as he prefers to call it. He acknowledges that the enabling technology is “decades away” but believes we could “become software people with fantastic benefits: no ageing; customisable bodies; backups in case something went wrong; space travel via radio or laser transmission; and existing as multiple copies.”

Little surprise, then, that Dr. Sandberg is keen on ‘cryonics’ – the deep-freezing of recently deceased people in the belief that scientific advances will revive them – and is signed up for Dr. More’s Alcor, the largest of the world’s four cryopreservation facilities. It currently houses 117 ‘patients’, who are “considered suspended, rather than deceased: detained in some liminal stasis between this world and whatever follows it, or does not,” Irish author Mark O’Connell writes in his brilliant book To Be a Machine, which centres on humans of the future.

For Dr. Sandberg, the $200,000 cost of whole-body perseveration is justifiable as it would be “irrational not to” take the negligible odds that technologic advances will revive him, at some point. “Sure, the chance of it working is small – say five per cent – but that is still worth it to me, a bit like Pascal’s Wager,” he says. “And after all, to truly be a human is to be a self-changing creature.”

THE MORALS OF HUMAN ENHANCEMENT

Is it morally wrong to augment humans? David Wood, chairman of London Futurists, counters that question by firing a cluster of his own, asking me: “Is it morally wrong to teach people to read, or vaccinate people? Is it morally wrong to extend people’s lives by using new medical treatments, or seek a cure for motor neurone disease, or cancer, or Alzheimer’s? They are all forms of augmentations.”

Having warmed up the Scot, who spent eight years studying mathematics and then the philosophy of science (specialist subject quantum mechanics) at Cambridge University, he says: “Recall the initial moral repugnance expressed by people when heart transplants first took place. Or when test-tube babies were created, or when transgender operations were introduced. This moral repugnance has, thankfully, largely subsided. It will be the same, in due course, for most of the other enhancements foreseen by transhumanists.”

Wood, a science-fiction lover from childhood, was switched on to transhumanism “in the early 2000s”, after reading The Age of Spiritual Machines, a seminal book written by futurist Ray Kurzweil, who would later be personally hired by Google co-founder Larry Page “to bring natural language understanding” to the organisation. Famously, the American author has predicted that the ‘singularity’ is on course to happen in 2045, though many critics dismiss his forecast as fanciful and dogmatic.

We could become software people with fantastic benefits

Regardless, transhumanism is on the rise in Britain. “The UK Transhumanist Association (UKTA) used to half-jokingly refer to themselves as ‘six men in a pub’,” says Wood, who in July 2015 co-founded H+Pedia “The UKTA was superseded, in stages, by London Futurists – which covers a wider range of topics – and we now have over 6,000 members in our Meetup group.”

So, what does the near future hold for humanity?“We can envision ever larger gaps in capability between enhanced humans and unenhanced humans,” adds Wood. “This will be like the difference between literate and illiterate humans, except that the difference will be orders of magnitude larger.

“Transhumanists anticipate transcending the limitations which have been characteristics of human experience since the beginnings of Prehistory: ageing; death; and deep flaws in reasoning. Maybe once that happens, the resulting beings will no longer be called humans.”

-ENDS-

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Cybersecurity is Powering Digitalization

Trendsetter Elon Musk and leader of SpaceX and Tesla see “Failure as an option and if things aren’t failing, you aren’t innovating enough”. Today many enterprises rapidly disrupt bringing change with strategy, giving rise to opportunities while simultaneously rendering existing business models obsolete. Enterprises and customers outfit their expectations by exploring new source, products, and engagement. An enterprise that doesn’t welcome this change disappears slowly giving way to their competitors.

The discussion is about the Enterprise Technology, a skill that all company must possess not only to overcome corporate inertia but to survive in a business environment filled with instability and disruption. The task ahead of this is not small. Though many companies are in the race, only selected few deliver real value. Companies have the responsibility to explore all the cutting-edge innovations that deliver value. Despite the presence of numerous technology advancement overtime, few forces (digital, analytics, cloud, core systems, and changing role of IT within enterprise) haven’t changed after years of driving disruption and transformation.

The few technologies (Cyber-security, Analytics, Digitalization, Cloud Computing, and Networking) discussed in this article have now and in the near future will get advanced multiple times and make potential trend to make human-centered design a mandate and a critical discipline for next generation.

Cybersecurity is Powering Digitalization

With the heads-up to digital business, things keep changing. We experience lots of data shared with one another. We can always predict the need for a more decentralized computing and security architecture. All industries that accelerate their move towards digital have now recognized the growing potential of Cyber security. Updating the security patches on these huge connected devices is labor accelerated; instead automating these services are potential. Today, we see security is fabricated on the connected network devices by activating the security features in these devices or by combining them with specialist security devices or software. According to Forbes study, by year 2020, there will be 80 billion devices connected. The numbers of distributed devices that keep growing have greater demands on the central processing power.

Changing Face of Multi-Factor Authentication

User Identity and authentication have been the biggest challenges. Today, Identity is tackled using GPS built into users devices. This technology is leveraged to include the geo-location and geo-sensing that need to access devices independently whose information are primarily stored in the cloud. In the year ahead, the way one-time-passwords are used to perform critical banking transactions will be gone. Biometrics and Metadata will evolve to play crucial role.

Artificial Intelligence is the Driving Force of Future Cybersecurity

Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and advanced machine learning are used to identify threats. The inclusion of AI has started slowly to achieve business impact by bringing all the three actionable items (algorithms, actionable data, and applications) together. Security companies analyze large sets of unstructured data. If suspicious activity is detected, the data is tested to come to conclusions about their source and next intrusion progression. Data is moving towards multiple environments back-and-forth and businesses are liable to strict compliance regulations in the place where data resides. Organizations consider how to embed security controls in the applications and in data that leaves your organization.

Future Trends in Cyber-security

The increasing cyber threats and attacks will force cyber-security industry to move the zero trust security models. With this approach, users have to access systems explicitly to establish trust. A few years before, users were not allowed to access corporate applications using unauthorized devices. However, in the future users have to verify their identity through multiple layers of credentials.

Enterprises authenticate whether users are entitled to access specific sets of data, before making them accessible. A Cloud-based system can be implemented to instantly authenticate and verify the process.

Deception Technology to Tackle Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)

Deception technology is the solution created to fake cyber criminals who access a legitimate set of user identities. Deception technology makes the cyber criminals to use the fake credentials and alerting the security operations team about an unauthorized user’s entry. Deception technology helps organizations to study cyber criminal’s pattern of attack and combat their entry.

Growing Artificial Intelligence and Behavioral Analytics Demand Revisit on Identity

Deep learning technique will take Artificial Intelligence and Behavioral analytics to the next level. So, what is Deep Learning? Deep Learning will allow machines to learn by themselves, rather than providing algorithms. With the help of Deep Learning, machines will start learning granular analysis of user actions.

Consider, machines analyzing humans online behavior over a period of time, to predict whether or not the person attempting to access the data or applications is really the authorized person. Enterprises will integrate artificial intelligence into their products to improve their ability to detect cyber threats in this way.

Robo-Hunters in Action

Keeping security in mind, Organizations will become predictive than being proactive. Artificial Intelligence enabled Robo-hunters will act as threat analyzer to scan, analyzes, and takes appropriate action against potential threats. These machines do a retrospective analysis to identify patterns in historical attacks.

Blockchain as Disruptor

Blockchain is another form of Zero trust security model that we discussed earlier. But, this will allow transactions to be public. Having said that, it is highly accessible and transparent to all participants, Blockchain can detect suspicious online behavior and isolate the connection, giving the user restricted access until the transactions have been sanctioned by system administrators. Already partial use of Blockchain in public key infrastructure (cryptography used to secure emails, websites, and messaging applications) is in place.

Digital Infrastructure meets Business Expectation

The hybrid IT environment meets today business demand by integrating different elements to deliver a single integrated set of services. The hybrid IT acquires capabilities from different sources. Consider a data centre that has to unite different technologies; you will have to evaluate the different tools like security, middleware, application layers guided by many decisions to deliver an end-to-end customer experience.

Today, the developers work in different clouds (Amazon, Azure, and more) to create application using different toolsets. While moving to production, it may happen in the cloud where development happened or in an internal VMware, Microsoft, and Red hat production environment.

Now, the biggest challenge is how to bring these services securely to deliver a single cohesive experience. One way is to develop your hybrid IT environment to rationalize the number of cloud participants that is used. In this situation, leveraging just one single cloud isn’t an option, but it’s good that you need more than three or four at the infrastructure level.

Today, many organizations have started to value the expertise of a managed service provider to help them integrate the disparate elements within their environments to deliver the speed and user experience their business requires,

Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) and Flash Storage bring Operational Benefits

Hyper-convergence is the representation of the future data centre design. Service providers offering hyper-converged environment deploy infrastructures that are fully integrated and tuned to the workloads to assure optimal performance.  Hyper converged systems with fine tuned hardware with software-defined compute, storage, and networking components will be able to pool all resources to be centrally managed and deliver success to the enterprise IT department.

Enterprises have started considering Flash storage as much more cost-effective, efficient storage solution than hard drives. IT experts consider active data to run on flash storage to ensure data center efficiency, while inactive data will move to the cloud and hard-disk drives will continue to decline and be a smaller part of enterprise storage owing to their performance and reliability.

Summary and Conclusion

Today, the Cloud computing (Private and Public) over the internet delivers scalable and dynamic IT resources as services. These services share some key attributes, such as elasticity, resource sharing, multi-tenancy, self-service, and pay per use.

Enterprises deploy the private cloud on physical infrastructure. The cloud abstract away the physical infrastructure and present to the application layer virtual computing servers, virtual storage, and virtual networking.

Enterprises gain cost advantages through virtualization and have greater security and control of resources because the infrastructure resides behind an enterprise’s firewall. Private cloud costs are accounted by IT managers at appropriate levels in the enterprise by enforcing BI analytics and chargeback. Resource usage can be proactively monitored and controlled by business intelligent dashboards and reports.

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The Blockchain Revolution

The Blockchain will do for transactions what the Internet did for information.

The Blockchain revolution is a showstopper in today’s digital age. It has transformed the way transactions are done and is on its way to revolutionize society. The ripples of its enormous disruptive potential are being felt beyond the world of finance.

Blockchain is an open, distributed and incorruptible digital ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions across a worldwide network of distributed computers or “nodes”. It helps in tracking tangible, intangible and digital assets in a business network in a verifiable and permanent manner. Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, with minimal risk and reduced cost.

Blockchain should not be confused with Bitcoin. Blockchain is a concept whereas bitcoin or “digital gold” is just one of its many applications. One may think of blockchain as an operating system and bitcoin as one of the many applications that run on that operating system. It is the underlying technology for bitcoin and other virtual currencies.

Blockchain owes its name to the way it stores transaction data i.e. in blocks that are linked together to form a chain. The transactions executed during a given period of time are recorded into a file called a block. The blocks are added in a linear, chronological order and the chain keeps growing as new events are added unto it. Each block contains a hash which is a cryptographic function, resembling a digital fingerprint or unique identifier. It is a string of code that makes a key to encrypt the event and its details like date, timestamp and block place.

The hashes link the blocks together and each hash contains information about the prior block(s) on the chain. The previous hash prevents any block from being altered or a block being inserted between two existing blocks because the hash in the edited block would no longer match with what came before and what came after. In this way, each subsequent block strengthens the verification of the previous block and hence the entire blockchain. The block can be made up of any type of information. For instance, blocks created by bitcoin, record sale and purchase transactions among other information.

Blocks record and confirm the time and sequence of transactions, which are then logged into the blockchain, within a discrete network governed by rules agreed on by the network participants.

In the traditional methods for recording transactions, participants maintain their own ledgers and records. Intermediaries who charge fees for their services make these traditional methods quite expensive. The delay in executing agreements and duplication of efforts in maintaining several ledgers make the whole process cumbersome and inefficient. In addition, a centralized system, say a bank, is highly susceptible to frauds or cyber attacks and a simple mistake can wreak havoc on the entire business network. In the wake of these hassles, there has always been scope for a technological disruption that would bring about an efficient, cost-effective, reliable, and secure system for conducting and recording financial transactions.

A blockchain network offers several key features that enable transparency, security, authenticity and efficiency in transactions.

One of the many remarkable features of the blockchain is its ability to establish trust, transparency and accountability through the consensus mechanism. Each blockchain network can collectively establish the conditions that govern a transaction or asset exchange. A transaction is considered valid only if all the members agree on its validity, which is established with the help of consensus algorithms.

Members of a blockchain network are also aware of the origin of an asset, change in ownership over time or conclusion of a transaction, thanks to the shared ledger system. Transactions are time-stamped and can be verified in near real time. No member can tamper with a transaction once it has been recorded in the ledger. In case an erroneous transaction occurs, a new transaction must be used to rectify the error and both transactions become visible.

With its exquisite and powerful features blockchain offers many business benefits as well.

Business networks that use the blockchain technology provide members the ability to share a ledger that is updated through peer-to-peer replication for every transaction. In a peer-to-peer replication each participant or node in the network can receive or send transactions to other nodes and the data is synchronized across the network as it is transferred.

The transaction times for complex transactions are greatly reduced and settlements are done extremely faster due to the absence of a central authority for verification.

All the participants on a network are known to each other and the network activities are self-monitored by the members, thereby minimizing the need for supervision. Ability to exchange items of value directly eliminates intermediaries and access to the shared ledger among the members of the network at any given time reduces duplication of efforts.

Blockchains built for businesses are usually permissioned, especially within a regulated industry. In a permissioned “members-only” network, participants can be verified to be who they claim they are and goods or assets are traded exactly as represented. With the ability to constrain network participation, organizations can more easily comply with data protection regulations. Permissioned blockchains can more effectively control the consistency of the data which gets added to the blockchain.

Blockchain also enables increased operational efficiency through digitization of assets and streamlined transfer of ownership between any two participants, which enables transactions to be conducted at a speed in line with the pace of doing business. Cryptographic and data partitioning techniques provide the participants selective visibility into the ledger and the ability to mask both transactions and the identity of the transacting parties. Originally devised for the digital currencybitcoin, many other potential uses for the technology are now becoming evident.

Blockchain technology has immense potential to address the colossal challenges in today’s business environment. Market frictions like taxes, bureaucracy, fraud, involvement of intermediaries, delays in executing contracts, restrictive regulations and more add to business costs and delays. They throttle the pace of business in different industries in various ways and to varying degrees. Technological risks to information arising from hacking, cybercrime, privacy concerns and identity theft, incur tremendous costs and damage brand reputations.

Blockchain offers a one-stop solution to address the aforementioned impediments. Its ‘consensus’ mechanism ensures trust, accountability, and transparency across the network. By storing data across its network, the blockchain eliminates the risks and vulnerabilities associated with centralized data that computer hackers can exploit. Encryption technology further reinforces the security of the blockchain network.

Blockchain technology can open up new horizons of innovation in business by enabling industries and enterprises to develop new competitive business models. It can simplify complex operational activities within organizations and boost growth results by lowering costs. It can dramatically reduce delays inherent in regulatory processes through smart contracts. A smart contract is set of rules stored on the blockchain which governs a business transaction and is executed automatically as part of a transaction. Smart contracts eliminate the hassles and delays intrinsic to contracts by building the contract into a transaction and doing away with the needs of exchanging documents back and forth for reviews and approvals.

Blockchain has the capability to transform entire ecosystems across industries. For instance, in the supply chain industry, initial blockchain efforts could have quick impact through improved logistics. Costly delays and losses due to missing paperwork could be avoided. Manufacturers and retailers can improve inventory management through better demand forecasting and stock replenishment. Regulators would be able to trace the cycle of products and goods from “hook to fork” making it easier to identify counterfeit items and their sources.

Blockchain can be a potential disruptor in the banking and financial services industry. Since most banking systems around the world are built on a centralized database, they are more vulnerable to cyber attack because of a single point of failure. Once hackers break into the one system, they have complete access. Blockchain on the other hand, being a decentralized ledger with increased visibility, has each block with a timestamp and individual batches of information with a link to a previous block  which makes it extremely difficult to be tampered with.

Blockchain so far has emerged as a platform for trust and truth. However, when compared to the internet which has a sophisticated global governance system, blockchain is still in its infancy and mostly predominant in the west. Though there are controversies surrounding this technology in terms of its governance or its capacity to displace many humans from their jobs, yet the power of this opportunity is indisputable. It has enormous potential to dominate the financial world and be the next frontier for online marketplaces. With its powerful features and ability to turn any business on its head, blockchain shows great promise to create a better world where people get to have a say in the value they create. It can be a cornerstone of a whole new era whereby our right to privacy along with our identity is safeguarded.

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Hi-Tech High Fashion

As high fashion goes hi tech, Stitch Fix, an online personal shopping service, presents a more practical, personalized and perhaps profitable model for future collaborations between fashion and technology.

Google Glass first made its way down the runway in 2012 as part of Diane von Furstenburg’s Spring/Summer 2013 collection. Each pair of glasses complemented the show’s color palette of corals, blues and grays. The augmented reality glasses could check calendars, receive messages, take pictures and record video, which one model did to share the show from her vantage point. “Uberchic met ubergeek” headlines abounded, and Sergey Brin was a breakout star of New York Fashion Week.

In June 2014, luxury online fashion retailer Net-a-Porter announced it would sell limited edition Diane von Furstenberg Google Glasses, but the collaboration never got off the ground. Each attempt to cross Google Glass into fashion fizzled, and Google closed Google Glass in early 2015. Product cost was certainly a factor, lenses cost over $1,500, but the product was also flashy, intrusive, impractical and maybe just too strange. (While Google Glass failed in fashion it did prove useful in fields where professionals can benefit from being able to record without using their hands. This summer Google re-introduced the Glass Enterprise Edition for businesses).

This summer’s high fashion hi-tech wearable was the Louis Vuitton smartwatch. Of the wearables, smartwatches are the most mainstream, but there seems to be a stubborn desire to bring tech into the high-end fashion market. Apple collaborated with Hermes to make a luxury smartwatch costing over $1,000 and the Louis Vuitton watch costs over $2,400. Vuitton also has plans to go further make other connected products. Perhaps these brands see tech integration as key to their products as well as their brands or perhaps they see a mission to counter the ugliness of wearables, but they are playing in a small and rarefied space.

Meanwhile, on October 19 online personal shopping service Stitch Fix publicly filed for an IPO to raise $100 million, though the number is likely a placeholder. This followed a confidential filing on July 28 and early reports had indicated that the company might be looking for a valuation of $3-$4 billion. Stitch Fix announced that it generated revenue of $730 million, profitably, in its 2016 fiscal year ending last July and estimates cited by Recode and TechCruch right after the confidential filing expected that Stitch Fix’s revenue had grown around 33% in the first 11-plus months of its current fiscal year, making 2017 revenue just under $1 billion. Stitch Fix looks like a very rare case of a profitable tech company heading for an IPO.

Stitch Fix was started in 2011 and has expanded in size and scope — into men’s clothing in 2016 and plus size this year. They use algorithms and human stylists to curate boxes of clothing and accessories based on a customer profile detailing his or her size, body shape and style preferences. They then ship the box of clothes to the customer who can choose which of the items they’d like to buy. Customers pay an initial $20 styling fee that can be used towards purchasing clothing they keep, and get a 25% discount if they purchase every item. The service has been especially popular in middle America among busy professionals and people without easy access to a wide range of shopping options.

Competition for Stitch Fix comes from other smaller established players like Trunk Club for men, Dia & Co. for plus size, Rent the Runway for dress rentals, and from Amazon, especially given Amazon’s launch of their own try-before-you-buy service, Prime Wardrobe. But Stitch Fix does what it does well, and the appeal is obvious. You don’t need to browse endless store racks or site pages, for something you like that suits you, they do it all. And that is where the tech really comes in. Stitch Fix’s Chief Algorithms Officer, Eric Colson, came from Netflix and put his expertise to good use. Stitch Fix gathers data on every attribute of every piece of clothing and algorithms propose pieces for customers based on preferences and past purchases. Human stylists work off those recommendations, and together they create a styled box.

The world of fashion that dominates screens and magazines is an unattainable aspiration, miles from the average person. Wildly expensive Google Glasses and stunning smartwatches fit in that realm, automatically-generated boxes of blouses don’t. The social world of fashion is the space between aspiration and real life, where many fashion consumers live. Stitch Fix doesn’t quite fit there either. With platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, the social world of fashion emphasizes fashion choices as expressions of individual identity. Fashion is expected to be about personality, not data-driven personalization. Social media remains the dream world we wish to inhabit, the elaborate, curated facade of the life we want. But when it comes to making a purchase, consumers may still dress for the life they have, and want a little practical, personalized help doing so.

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How brands can use big data without creeping people out

Back in the old days, sometime around 1992, the most information that advertisers could glean about you was your age and where you lived. In today’s mobile marketplace, that seems almost quaint.

Modern media companies and their advertisers can parse each page impression down to almost every single attribute of a viewer. They collect data from across all digital platforms, including phones, tablets, desktops, and televisions, and distill it into specific data groups: “working women over 40 who like tennis and live in the Pacific Northwest”; or “men 18-35 who watch Game of Thrones and pay for online transactions with American Express.” Thanks to ongoing digital advancements, you can be sure: Advertisers know you — they really know you. And they can target ads that are personalized just for you and your habits.

“When someone visits one of our guides about the best accounting software, we can retarget them on Facebook, Google, and elsewhere with an ad for another piece of content about accounting software, or a direct offer to purchase accounting software,” says David Waring, co-founder and editor-in-chief of FitSmallBusiness.com, an online magazine for small business.

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Article Credit: The Week

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Big Data, Big Deal! 5 Ways It’s Going to Be Revolutionized In 2018

Big data is a big deal. From reducing their costs and making better decisions, to creating products and services that are in demand by customers, businesses will increasingly benefit by using big-data analytics.

There’s a reason for the prediction that the big-data market will be worth $46.34 billion by 2018: It’s constantly evolving, changing the ways that we find, understand, and use data and data analytics.

Next year will be no exception. Because of incoming innovations in technology and data science, exciting, revolutionary changes in big data can be expected in 2018. Here are my top predictions:

1. Cognitive technologies are on the rise.

One of the most exciting changes for big data will be the evolution of cognitive technologies. Tasks that were once possible only for humans — from identifying faces to recognizing handwriting — are being automated. Additionally, automation is being applied to cognitive skills such as planning, reasoning with limited or uncertain information and learning.

Previously, computing systems could only capture, move and store unstructured data — without understanding it. Now, the ongoing changes in cognitive technologies mean that systems can, in fact, comprehend what the data means.

2. There’ll be more growth in prescriptive analytics.

Analytics systems are going to work better, too. For analytics to work at all, these systems have to help us make more informed decisions and make our actions more effective. With prescriptive analytics, this will be easier.

Prescriptive analytics involves finding the best course of action for a given situation, and because the field is getting better, in 2018, it will make a big difference for big data. Cognitive computing is extending analytics levels to new kinds of data, using new technologies.

Using analytics and being able to analyze data at the same time provides a faster, fuller picture of a business’s data. So, when you’re trying to find out how to drive more traffic to your online store, for example, prescriptive analytics will make this much easier.

3. Machines will be learning faster than ever.

The more we develop our machines, the faster their ability to learn will become. Machine-learning (ML) technology is growing rapidly these days, meaning that soon these machines will be able to analyze bigger, more complex data and deliver faster and more accurate results.

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Article Credit: Entrepreneur

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The internet wants YOU: Consider a career in cyber security

Why pursue a career in cyber security? First 2 reasons are job security & good pay. Stay tuned all week for more reasons

If job security is important to you, then there are few fields with more opportunity than cybersecurity. Everyone agrees that there are not enough candidates with even rudimentary skills to fill the available openings. The only disagreement is how many openings need to be filled – estimates range from 1.8 to 3.5 million by 2020.

With that many openings, security professionals can pretty much pick their industry, company, and location. And should one position not work out for whatever reason, there are many, many other openings from which to choose. And salaries easily reach six figures. This recent article in Forbes magazine summarises the situation well.

If you’re thinking that IT and info security are not particularly flashy or cool, stay tuned for our other reasons throughout this week that may change your mind.

Be the hero! An appealing aspect of cyber security is that every day you’re fighting the good fight against the bad guys

Look around at the industries in which your friends work. Maybe they’re working on technology to help people to watch more TV, or play cooler games.

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Article Credit: Information Age

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AI system can identify emotions in voice

Scientists have created a new artificial intelligence system that can identify a range of emotions — from happiness to disgust — in human speech.

For a long time, computers have converted speech into text. However, the emotional component, which is important for conveying meaning, has been neglected. Neural networks are processors connected with each other and capable of learning, analysis and synthesis. This system surpasses traditional algorithms in that the interaction between a person and computer becomes more interactive.

Researchers at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Russia trained a neural network to recognise eight different emotions: neutral, calm, happy, sad, angry, scared, disgusted and surprised. In 70% of the cases, the computer identified the emotion correctly, the researchers said.

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Article Credit: The Hindu

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