Archive for ‘Money’

August 1, 2012

Project Glass

Project Glass is a research and development program by Google to develop an augmented reality head-mounted display (HMD). The intended purpose of Project Glass products would be the hands free displaying of information currently available to most smartphone users, and allowing for interaction with the Internet via natural language voice commands, in a manner which has been compared to the iPhone feature Siri. The functionality and physical appearance (minimalist design of the aluminium strip with 2 nose pads) has been compared to the EyeTap (developed by Steve Mann at the University of Toronto), which was also referred to as ‘Glass’ (‘EyeTap Digital Eye Glass’). Though head-worn displays for augmented reality are not a new idea, the project has drawn media attention primarily due to its backing by Google, as well as the prototype, which is smaller and slimmer than previous designs for head-mounted displays. The first Project Glass demo resembles a pair of normal eyeglasses where the lens is replaced by a heads-up display. In the future, new designs may allow integration of the display into people’s normal eyewear. The product (Google Glass Explorer Edition) will be available to developers for $1,500, shipping early in 2013, while a consumer version is slated to be ready within a year of that.

Project Glass is part of the Google X Lab (a secret facility thought to be located in Northern California) which has worked on other futuristic technologies, such as a self-driving car, a space elevator, a neural network that uses semi-supervised learning to recognize pictures of cats, and the Web of Things (objects that contain an embedded device or computer, integrating them into the Web). Project Glass was announced on Google+ by Babak Parviz, an electrical engineer who has also worked on putting displays into contact lenses; Steve Lee, a project manager and ‘geolocation specialist'; and Sebastian Thrun, who developed Udacity (a private educational organization with the stated goal of democratizing education) as well as worked on the self-driving car project. The product began testing in 2012. Sergey Brin wore a prototype set of glasses to a Foundation Fighting Blindness event in San Francisco. He demoed the glasses at a Google conference where skydivers and mountain bikers wore the glasses and live streamed their point of view to a Google+ Hangout, which was also shown live at the presentation. Despite the generally positive reception for the prototype, there have been numerous parodies and criticisms aimed at the general notion of augmented reality glasses, ranging from the potential for Google to insert advertising (its main source of revenue) to more dystopian outcomes.

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July 31, 2012


Kinect is a motion sensing input device released by Microsoft in 2010 for the Xbox 360 game console, and in 2012 for Windows PC. Based around a webcam-style add-on peripheral, it enables users to control and interact with software without the need to touch a game controller (through a natural user interface using gestures and spoken commands). The project is aimed at broadening the Xbox 360’s audience beyond its typical gamer base. Kinect competes with the Wii Remote Plus and PlayStation Move with PlayStation Eye motion controllers for the Wii and PlayStation 3 home consoles, respectively. After selling a total of 8 million units in its first 60 days, the Kinect holds the Guinness World Record of being the ‘fastest selling consumer electronics device.’

Kinect builds on software technology developed internally by Rare, a subsidiary of Microsoft Game Studios owned by Microsoft, and on range camera technology by Israeli developer PrimeSense, which developed a system that can interpret specific gestures, making completely hands-free control of electronic devices possible by using an infrared projector and camera and a special microchip to track the movement of objects and individuals in three dimension. This 3D scanner system called ‘Light Coding’ employs a variant of image-based 3D reconstruction. The Kinect sensor is a horizontal bar connected to a small base with a motorized pivot and is designed to be positioned lengthwise above or below the video display. The device features an ‘RGB camera, depth sensor, and multi-array microphone running proprietary software,’ which provide full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition, and voice recognition capabilities. The Kinect sensor’s microphone array enables the Xbox 360 to conduct acoustic source localization and ambient noise suppression, allowing for things such as headset-free party chat over Xbox Live.

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July 30, 2012

Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder is an adventure sports company that hosts 10-12 mile endurance event obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie that are billed as ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’ and regularly attract 15-20,000 participants over a two day weekend. Tough Mudder events are a new type of team endurance challenge. According to ‘The New York Times,’ the events are ‘more convivial than marathons and triathlons, but more grueling than shorter runs or novelty events (for example, ‘Warrior Dash’ courses are 3-4 miles).’ Contestants are not timed and organizers encourage ‘mudders’ to demonstrate teamwork by helping fellow participants over difficult obstacles to complete the course. The prize for completing a Tough Mudder challenge is an official orange sweatband and a free beer. It is estimated that 15-20% of participants do not finish. Each event is designed to be unique and incorporates challenges and obstacles that utilize the local terrain.

Tough Mudder was founded by Will Dean and Guy Livingstone. Dean developed the concept while studying at Harvard Business School, where Tough Mudder was a finalist in the annual business plan contest. Tough Mudder is headquartered in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Tough Mudder’s first event was held in 2010 at Bear Creek Ski Resort near Allentown, PA. The capacity of 4,500 tickets sold out in just 35 days and the event raised more than $200,000 for ‘The Wounded Warrior Project.’ Tough Mudder plans to host 30-40 events in 2012 while expanding internationally to the UK and Australia. Tough Mudder strives to shift the focus of endurance sports away from personal performance and repetitive exercise to varied challenges, teamwork, camaraderie, and fun. At the end of each year, the top 5% of previous Tough Mudder participants are eligible to compete in the ‘World’s Toughest Mudder’ competition, a timed 24-hour championship competition designed to ‘find the toughest man and woman on the planet.’

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July 30, 2012

Po Bronson

Po Bronson (b. 1964) is an American journalist and author who lives in San Francisco. After attending Lakeside School in Seattle, he graduated from Stanford University in 1986 and briefly worked as an assistant bond salesman in San Francisco. He abandoned finance to pursue writing, publishing short stories and eventually a comedic novel based upon his bond trading experiences. ‘Bombardiers’ was an international best seller in 1995. Bronson went on to write articles for ‘The New York Times Magazine’ and other periodicals, but perhaps became best known for his work in ‘Wired’ magazine and other technology-related publications. In the late 1990s, Bronson became a leading chronicler of Silicon Valley in its heyday, writing two more best sellers. The first, ‘The First $20 Million Is Always the Hardest,’ was a novel sending up technology start-ups. The second, ‘The Nudist on the Late Shift,’ was a nonfiction portrayal of those who had followed the modern day gold rush to Silicon Valley.

With the collapse of the internet bubble in 2000, and after creating ‘The $treet,’ a short-lived television drama for Fox (again drawing upon his bond trading days), Bronson began searching for a new direction for his career. Realizing he was not alone in this quest, he began to focus on others in similar quandaries. He spent the next two years working on a new nonfiction book, ‘What Should I Do With My Life?’ which profiles about 50 people, exploring how each had confronted the question. Bronson’s followed-up with ‘Why Do I Love These People?’ The book tells the stories of about 20 people who have had extraordinary experiences with their families. Partly as a result of the research Bronson did for those two books, he became a columnist for ‘TIME’ online. His columns frequently draw on his research data to challenge arguments that American society is on a moral decline. For example, he argues against the idea that the institution of marriage has disintegrated from an ideal past filled with stable nuclear families. He also argues that most young adults who live with their parents are not slackers, but are working, attending school, and volunteering full time. With co-author Ashley Merryman, he released a book in September 2009 entitled ‘NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children.’ The book discusses theories and scientific aspects of parenting.

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July 30, 2012


Machine-to-machine (M2M) refers to technologies that allow both wireless and wired systems to communicate with other devices of the same ability. M2M uses a device (such as a sensor or meter) to capture an event (such as temperature, inventory level, etc.), which is relayed through a network (wireless, wired, or hybrid) to an application (software program), that translates the captured event into meaningful information (for example, ‘items need to be restocked’). Such communication was originally accomplished by having a remote network of machines relay information back to a central hub for analysis, which would then be rerouted into a system like a personal computer. However, modern M2M communication has expanded beyond a one-to-one connection and changed into a system of networks that transmits data to personal appliances. The expansion of IP networks across the world has made it far easier for M2M communication to take place and has lessened the amount of power and time necessary for information to be communicated between machines. These networks also allow an array of new business opportunities and connections between consumers and producers in terms of the products being sold.

M2M predates Cellular communication. It has been around and referred to as Telemetry (measurements from a distance), Industrial Automation, and Scada (supervisory control and data acquisition), among other terms. Cellular M2M emerged around 2000 (an early example is GM’s OnStar system). In Norway, Telenor concluded ten years of M2M research by setting up two entities serving the upper (services) and lower (connectivity) parts of the value-chain. Drawing on that experience, they became a market leader in Europe for logistics, fleet management, car safety, healthcare, and smart metering of electricity consumption. Another application of M2M technology is the use of wireless networks to update digital billboards. This allows advertisers to display different messages based on time of day or day-of-week, and allows quick global changes for messages, such as pricing changes for gasoline. Telematics and in-vehicle entertainment is another area of focus for M2M developers. Recent examples include Ford Motor Company, which has teamed with AT&T to wirelessly connect the Ford Focus Electric to a dedicated app that includes the ability for the owner to monitor and control vehicle charge settings, plan single- or multiple-stop journeys, locate charging stations, pre-heat or cool the car.

July 27, 2012

Participatory Culture

Participatory culture is a neologism in reference of, but opposite to a Consumer culture — in other words a culture in which private persons (the public) do not act as consumers only, but also as contributors or producers (‘prosumers’). The term is most often applied to the production or creation of some type of published media.

This new culture as it relates to the Internet has been described as ‘Web 2.0.’ In participatory culture ‘young people creatively respond to a plethora of electronic signals and cultural commodities in ways that surprise their makers, finding meanings and identities never meant to be there and defying simple nostrums that bewail the manipulation or passivity of ‘consumers.”

July 27, 2012


Counter-economics is a term originally used by libertarian activists Samuel Edward Konkin III and J. Neil Schulman, defined as ‘the study and/or practice of all peaceful human action which is forbidden by the State.’ The term is short for ‘counter-establishment economics.’ Counter-economics was integrated by Schulman into Konkin’s doctrine of agorism (a philosophy that advocates the goal of the bringing about of a society in which all relations between people are voluntary exchanges). The first presentation of the theory at a conference in 1974 in Massachusetts. The first book to portray counter-economics as a strategy for achieving a libertarian society was Schulman’s novel ‘Alongside Night’ (1979). Konkin’s agorism, as exposited in his ‘New Libertarian Manifesto,’ postulates that the correct method of achieving a voluntary society is through advocacy and growth of the underground economy or ‘black market’ – the ‘counter-economy’ as Konkin put it – until such a point that the State’s perceived moral authority and outright power have been so thoroughly undermined that revolutionary market anarchist legal and security enterprises are able to arise from underground and ultimately suppress government as a criminal activity (with taxation being treated as theft, war being treated as mass murder, et cetera).

According to Konkin’s pamphlet ‘Counter-Economics': ‘The Counter-Economy is the sum of all non-aggressive Human Action which is forbidden by the State. Counter-economics is the study of the Counter-Economy and its practices. The Counter-Economy includes the free market, the Black Market, the ‘underground economy,’ all acts of civil and social disobedience, all acts of forbidden association (sexual, racial, cross-religious), and anything else the State, at any place or time, chooses to prohibit, control, regulate, tax, or tariff. The Counter-Economy excludes all State-approved action (the ‘White Market’) and the Red Market (violence and theft not approved by the State). According to Konkin, counter-economics also allows for immediate self-liberation from statist controls, to whatever degree practical, by applying entrepreneurial logic to rationally decide which laws to discreetly break and when. The fundamental principle is to trade risk for profit, although profit can refer to any gain in perceived value rather than strictly monetary gains (as a consequence of the subjective theory of value). Various practices of counter-economics include these voluntary practices: arms trafficking; bartering and alternative currency use; being or hiring illegal immigrants; drug trafficking; smuggling; subsistence farming; and tax evasion.

July 26, 2012

The Hidden Wiki

The Hidden Wiki is a website that uses hidden services available through the Tor network. The use of Tor to provide anonymity allows the site to advertise links to a range of other sites, including ones offering illegal drugs and child pornography. The site provides a range of links in a wiki format to other hidden services and sites on the clearnet (sites that can be accessed in a standard browser). These include links to child pornography sites, sites selling drugs and other contraband such as the Silk Road. Scot Terban, an independent security researcher, commented: ‘It’s kind of like any black market operation except this one was in cyberspace and pretty much completely anonymous. Because it was anonymous, people felt free to trade openly in illegal things, mess around by putting up ads for services like hired assassins, and in the end, became a haven for pedophiles and their content.’

In 2011, the hacktivist collective Anonymous launched ‘Operation Darknet,’ in an attempt to disrupt the activities of child porn sites accessed through hidden services. Anonymous published a link that it claimed were the user names of 1,589 members of ‘Lolita City,’ a child porn site accessed via the Tor network. Anonymous said that it had found the site via ‘The Hidden Wiki,’ and that it contained over 100 gigabytes of child pornography. ‘Lolita City’ was taken offline in a denial-of-service attack by Anonymous. Graham Cluley, a security expert, argued that attacks on hidden child porn websites could be counterproductive, commenting: ‘Their intentions may have been good, but take-downs of illegal websites and sharing networks should be done by the authorities, not internet vigilantes.’

July 26, 2012

Silk Road

Silk Road is an online marketplace that its operators run as a Tor hidden service (anonymous and encrypted). Visitors must use Tor software to access the marketplace. The majority of products that sellers list on Silk Road qualify as contraband in most jurisdictions. ‘NPR’ has referred to the site as the ‘ of illegal drugs.’ Buyers and sellers conduct all transactions with bitcoins (an encrypted digital currency). Although the bitcoin’s exchange rate may fluctuate greatly in short periods of time, most of the prices on Silk Road are bound to United States dollar to prevent too drastic inflation or deflation. Buyers can register on Silk Road for free, but sellers must purchase new accounts through auctions to mitigate the possibility of malicious individuals distributing tainted goods.

Senators Charles Schumer and Joe Manchin sent a letter to US Attorney General Eric Holder and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart insisting that the agency shut down the marketplace. Subsequently, Silk Road’s administrators posted on the Silk Road forums the following statement: ‘The die have [sic] been cast and now we will see how they land [sic]. We will be diverting even more effort into countering their attacks and making the site as resilient as possible, which means we may not be as responsive to messages for a while. I’m sure this news will scare some off, but should we win the fight, a new era will be born. Even if we lose, the genie is out of the bottle and they are fighting a losing War already.’ After this attention, traffic to the website increased dramatically and the bitcoin saw a corresponding rise in value. The site was also used during the markup hearing for the 2011 Stop Online Piracy Act as an example of distributed networking and computer systems which by design are not blockable by domain name filtering such as proposed in SOPA.

July 25, 2012

Joke Thievery

Joke thievery is the act of performing and taking credit for comic material written by another person without their consent. This is a form of plagiarism and sometimes can be copyright infringement. A common epithet for a joke thief is ‘hack,’ which is derived from the term, ‘hackneyed’ (over used and thus cheapened, or trite). From the music hall and vaudeville beginnings of stand-up comedy, joke thievery was common as there were few chances that a performer from one area would meet one from another and a single twenty-minute set could sustain a comic for a decade. Most jokes at the time were one-liners and there was little in the way of proof of a joke’s origin, but the value of each joke was immeasurable to a comedian. Milton Berle and Bob Hope had a long-standing feud due to Hope’s accusation that Berle had stolen some of his jokes. Berle never refuted the claim, but instead embraced the title ‘The Thief of Bad Gag.’

There is, historically, very little legal recourse taken in cases of joke theft. Some comics, however, have chosen to exact their own justice. W. C. Fields reportedly paid fifty dollars to have a thieving comic’s legs broken. ‘You have a better chance of stopping a serial killer than a serial thief in comedy,’ said comedian David Brenner. ‘If we could protect our jokes, I’d be a retired billionaire in Europe somewhere — and what I just said is original.’

July 25, 2012

Ambient Awareness

Ambient awareness is a term used by social scientists to describe a new form of peripheral social awareness. This awareness is propagated from relatively constant contact with one’s friends and colleagues via social networking platforms on the Internet. Marketing professor Andreas Kaplan defines ambient awareness as ‘awareness created through regular and constant reception, and/or exchange of information fragments through social media.’ The term essentially defines the sort of omnipresent knowledge one experiences by being a regular user of media outlets that allow a constant connection with one’s social circle. According to Clive Thompson of ‘The New York Times,’ ambient awareness is ‘very much like being physically near someone and picking up on mood through the little things; body language, sighs, stray comments…’ Therefore, in effect two friends who regularly follow one another’s digital information can already be aware of each other’s lives without actually being physically present to have a conversation.

July 24, 2012

Late Modernity

Late modernity (or liquid modernity) is a term that has been used to describe the condition or state of some highly developed present day societies. It regards their state as a continuation or development of modernity, rather than as a distinct new state, post-modernity. ‘Late modernity is defined by complex, global capitalist economies and a shift from state support and welfare to the privatization of services…a process fuelled by the information revolution, the capacity to move capital and information around the world instantaneously.’ Social theorists, ‘criticize adherents of postmodernity that presume the ending of the modernization process and the dawning of a new era. Contemporary modernity, they argue, rather involves a continuation or even a radicalization of the modernization process.’

On technological and social changes since the 1960s, the concept of late modernity proposes that contemporary societies are a clear continuation of modern institutional transitions and cultural developments. Such authors talk about a reflexive modernization process: ‘social practices are constantly examined and reformed in the light of incoming information about those very practices, thus constitutively altering their character.’ Modernity now tends to be self-referring, instead of being defined largely in opposition to traditionalism, as with classical modernity.

July 23, 2012

Rhythm Game

Rhythm game refers to a genre of music-themed action video games. Games in the genre typically focus on dance or the simulated performance of musical instruments, and require players to press buttons in a sequence dictated on the screen. Doing so causes the game’s protagonist or avatar to dance or to play their instrument correctly, which increases the player’s score. Many rhythm games include multiplayer modes in which players compete for the highest score or cooperate as a simulated musical ensemble. While conventional control pads may be used as input devices, rhythm games often feature novel game controllers that emulate musical instruments. Certain dance-based games require the player to physically dance on a mat, with pressure-sensitive pads acting as the input device.

July 19, 2012

Energy Independence

US energy independence relates to the goal of reducing the US imports of oil and other foreign sources of energy. If total energy is looked at, the US is over 70% self-sufficient. Energy independence is espoused by those who want to leave America unaffected by global energy supply disruptions, and to restrict a reliance upon politically unstable states for its energy purposes. Energy independence is highly concerned with oil, being perhaps the most important imported energy sources for purposes of both transportation and electricity. The United States is the world’s third largest producer of oil, but it also relies on imported oil. More oil is imported from Canada than any other country. 19% of imported oil comes from the Middle East. Such resources are finite and decreasing, despite an increase in demand. World-wide demand for oil is projected to grow 60% over the next two decades.

The US currently produces about 40% of the oil that it consumes; its oil production peaked in 1970 and its imports have exceeded domestic production since the early 1990s. Greater energy self-sufficiency, it is claimed, would prevent major supply disruptions like the 1973 oil crisis and the 1979 energy crisis from recurring. Proponents argue that the potential for political unrest in major oil suppliers, such as Saudi Arabia (15% of domestic consumption), Venezuela (13%), and Nigeria (10%), is abundant, and often cause great fluctuations in crude oil prices (especially in the short-term), despite the risk-potential being factored into market prices.

July 19, 2012

Jevons Paradox

In economics, the Jevons [jev-uhnzparadox is the proposition that technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource. In 1865, the English economist William Stanley Jevons observed that technological improvements that increased the efficiency of coal use led to increased consumption of coal in a wide range of industries. He argued that, contrary to intuition, technological improvements could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption.

The issue has been re-examined by modern economists studying consumption rebound effects from improved energy efficiency. In addition to reducing the amount needed for a given use, improved efficiency lowers the relative cost of using a resource, which tends to increase the quantity of the resource demanded, potentially counteracting any savings from increased efficiency. Additionally, increased efficiency accelerates economic growth, further increasing the demand for resources. The Jevons paradox occurs when the effect from increased demand predominates, causing resource use to increase.


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