Three tech-related headlines caught my eye this week. Google is behind Amazon and Microsoft in cloud computing. Yahoo is selling its core business to Verizon. Russia figured in the Democratic National Committee hack … with a possible implication of a Russia connection to WikiLeaks.
New York Times’ Quentin Hardy’s article about Google had a twist in it. Forever innovative, Google is roaring into the game with “machine intelligence” designed to cut costs by a significant margin (15% was mentioned) through which the company can begin to undercut its competitors. Machine intelligence’s doppelganger is artificial intelligence. Could our tech readers help me to understand the distinctions between an algorithm and AI? Where does one stop, the algorithm, and the other, AI, begin? I ask out of genuine curiosity but with a policy undercurrent. Long a supporter of algorithm transparency, at least for the purposes of minimal regulatory oversight, I can only imagine how out of whack regulation will become augmented by a market move to AI.
Something Hardy said at the end of the article got me thinking. “Amazon views the customer as the person paying the bill, while Google believes the customer is the end user of a service[.]” Google can believe whatever it wants, and has historically spun its self-serving beliefs into a verbal shell game. That spin and those games does not reality make. Its customers are its advertisers, the ones who pay cold, hard cash. Its users are still some yet-not-fully-defined form of a commodity. See John Locke, Karl Marx and Google’s own Hal Varian.
Yahoo has been wearing a death mask since Marissa Mayer came on board, if not before. Lesson learned is cover your core assets, branch out only after you have decided what they are, and observe national boundaries. The France (Nazi memorabilia) and China (giving the PRC information about a user that the government used to arrest and impression a free speech advocate) episodes were warning bells in the night. Those stories make great textbook reading for the role that nation-states play in and on the internet. Yahoo continues to be useful in academia, now as a case study in early, and failed, Internet businesses.
Does it surprise you that Russian fingerprints are on the WikiLeaks emails? It shouldn’t. Assange is dirty business. That he trucks with Russia is consistent with his rotten at the core morality. More important, not only does Russia have a very impressive cybercrime portfolio, it has a long-standing, historical gripe against the U.S. The end of the U.S.S.R. signaled the beginning of a playing-dead fight technique that should be front and center of foreign service strategy checklist. Russia made a United Nations play for control of the internet a couple of years ago, and failed. Now, the Russian prowess for math and computer science is in service to undermining the U.S. through cyber warfare, organized crime, and random vandalism. Rather than playing war, the U.S. should recognize the long game. In light of this and other threats – does China’s nation-state attacks ring a bell? – the U.S should view these challenges as another vote to exercise not just control on the internet but leadership in the development of sound global internet governance.
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