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Fanfare for the Common Man

4 September Subscribe
Tech news with a HAT perspective 
Issue 91
Inexorably to the top
Another ringing indictment of the state of technology is coming up in next month's Atlantic magazine, from Yuval Noah Harari.
 
"Information technology is continuing to leap forward; biotechnology is beginning to provide a window into our inner lives—our emotions, thoughts, and choices. Together, infotech and biotech will create unprecedented upheavals in human society, eroding human agency and, possibly, subverting human desires. Under such conditions, liberal democracy and free-market economics might become obsolete."
 
We're swirling in the clamour of Brexit over here in the UK, and it's hard not to hear his words and not think it already has. I mean, great goodness are we ever tired of sounding the alarm bells? Of course, he had to get his sample material for "because AI, no democracy" from somewhere, right? I wonder what he would have written were  when fire was invented/discovered.
 
One of the "last generation great tech companies" (maybe next generation great tech companies) built a machine which, in 2017, beat a chess computer that had been trained on human learnings without having learned a human chess strategy in its life. Google's AlphaZero fought 100 games against the Stockfish 8, its human-trained rival, and never lost; not once. We maybe have to square ourselves to the idea that today's dominant companies don't naturally lead to bigger and badder human companies. Maybe they lead to big machines.

As our organisations advance in capacity we need to start talking about plugging the gap they leave behind - obviously. And our argument here is most certainly not "there goes that Google again, mucking everything up." We released our Android version of the HAT last month - we're all about the Goog. I guess instead, we are trying to find ways to show off more of our humanity in technology. Find the new and exciting stuff that enhances us and our worth in the world. AI probably does that somehow. Yuval and I need examples how.
 
His point in the article is tinged with sadness. He argues that the common citizen today cannot feel valued, important, or even useful anymore - not when the headlines sing with bioengineering and AI. In an era where we feel we are losing our connection to the humanity that has brought us here, it is probably natural to feel passionately  about plotting a course home. The instinct of the human person to always strive to come back to the middle, almost immediately after trying to touch the edge. Will that save us all?

Personal technology in all its iterations is just that - a way to be human and technologically advanced at the same time.

Yours in HAT

Leila Trilby, Editor-in-chief

Something to spend your time on

One of the best 'this isn't important but it sure is valuable' email newsletters I receive is called the History of the Web, and it wrote an edition yesterday that I wish I had titled called "Your Privacy Policy Doesn't Mean a Thing."
 
It's a good read if you have a spare couple years, and it ends with the most wonderful, optimistic tone. "GDPR has once again sparked a conversation about how data collection and user privacy should be regulated. One need not look too far to find evidence of user privacy being violated, and the devastating effects it can have on our political and cultural landscape. The time for change feels once again renewed, and awareness on the part of web users is at an all time high." I mean, we're all dark and broken over here, but at least there's someone out there looking at the data world around them and seeing a beautiful Spring. Hats off to you, Jay Hoffman.

On the Horizon

Much of online advertising relies on imprecise algorithms that govern where marketing messages appear, and what impact they have on actual sales. Here, Amazon has a big advantage over its competitors. Thanks to its wealth of data and analytics on consumer shopping habits, it can put ads in front of people when they are more likely to be hunting for specific products and to welcome them as suggestions rather than see them as intrusions. That's not my opinion, that's a quote from an article about Amazon's awesome advertising ambition that's worth a read.

And on the other side of the street, many successful stores are now a cross between a fast-food drive-through and a hotel concierge. Target’s shoppers can order sunscreen or a Tokidoki Unicorno T-shirt on their phone, pull up to the parking lot and have the items brought to their car.

Cool things


Last this week is that apparently there is a military technique that can help you fall asleep in just two minutes. Now you can bene-zzzzzzzz .

Comic of the Week
big thanks to the xkcd.com team for this one. Irene is the philosopher, I'm the nihilist, and Marios our iOS dev is the Sage.

HAT News
 
All of the releaseeeeees. We have put out a new version of all of the things. Thank you and congratulations very much to an excited engineering team - great work.
 
HAT App, now available in Google. The HAT App for Android was released a few weeks ago, and has now come through bug testing and QA. Congratulations to Lefty for being such a badass, and welcome to the team. Also, some guy called Marios shipped the iOS version to Apple (which I guess we should also mention). Get yours (both) at the HATstore
 
Panama. HATs themselves got an update last Monday, bringing them up to speed with the latest code in other products and setting up for SHE feed algorithm readiness.
 
Smarties. Algorithms-in-the-feed were pushed to two of the live HAT clusters. If your HAT is hosted on the hat.direct or hubofallthings.com cluster (most are) your HAT is now algorithm-capable.
 
Mailman. The DEX service was also updated last week, partly to accomodate all of that other code rollout.
HAT-erface. In all of that foofera (sp?) Rumpel (the way you see HATs on a browser) got an update as well. It can now show offers for your HAT data (and may get a name change soon).
 
Git yer data here. Finally, the artist-formerly-known-as-DataBuyer (soon to be known as DataTrader) shipped as well. Many features that had been testing on staging went to live, and the service now supports an open market of offers for HAT owners' personal data and can be used by anyone in the ecosystem. Learn more online at databuyer.hubofallthings.com.

Till next time,

Jonathan Holtby, Community Manager

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