22. July 2012
Source: The New York Times
BUPKIS. Zilch. Zip. Niente. Zero. Nada.
I recently asked to see the information held about me by the Acxiom Corporation, a database marketing company that collects and sells details about consumers’ financial status, shopping and recreational activities to banks, retailers, automakers and other businesses. In investor presentations and interviews, Acxiom executives have said that the company — the subject of a Sunday Business article last month — has information on about 500 million active consumers worldwide, with about 1,500 data points per person. Acxiom also promotes a program for consumers who wish to see the information the company has on them.
As a former pharmaceuticals industry reporter who has researched all kinds of diseases, drugs and quack cures online, I wanted to learn, for one, whether Acxiom had pegged me as concerned about arthritis, diabetes or allergies. Acxiom also has a proprietary household classification system that places people in one of 70 socioeconomic categories, like “Downtown Dwellers” or “Flush Families,” and I hoped to discover the caste to which it had assigned me.
But after I filled out an online request form and sent a personal check for $5 to cover the processing fee, the company simply sent me a list of some of my previous residential addresses. In other words, rather than learning the details about myself that marketers might use to profile and judge me, I received information I knew already. Read the rest of this entry »
22. July 2012
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Businesses today tend to herd customers as if they were cattle, but a revolution in personal empowerment is under way—and buying will never be the same again. .
Businesses today tend to herd customers as if they were cattle, but a revolution in personal empowerment is under way-and buying will never be the same again, says author Doc Searls. He discusses his new book, “The Intention Economy,” with WSJ’s Gary Rosen.
It’s a Saturday morning in 2022, and you’re trying to decide what to wear to the dinner party you’re throwing that evening. All the clothes hanging in your closet are “smart”—that is, they can tell you when you last wore them, what else you wore them with, and where and when they were last cleaned. Some do this with microchips. Others have tiny printed tags that you can scan on your hand-held device.
As you prepare for your guests, you discover that your espresso machine isn’t working and you need another one. So you pull the same hand-held device from your pocket, scan the little square code on the back of the machine, and tell your hand-held, by voice, that this one is broken and you need another one, to rent or buy. An “intentcast” goes out to the marketplace, revealing only what’s required to attract offers. No personal information is revealed, except to vendors with whom you already have a trusted relationship.
Within a minute offers come in, displayed on your device. You compare the offers and pick an espresso machine to rent from a reputable vendor who also can fix your old one. When the replacement arrives, the delivery service scans and picks up the broken machine and transports it to the vendor, who has agreed to your service conditions by committing not to share any of your data with other parties and not to put you on a list for promotional messages. The agreement happened automatically when your intentcast went out and your terms matched up with the vendor’s. Read the rest of this entry »
11. July 2012
Source: Technology Review
Researcher Andrew McAfee says advances in computing and artificial intelligence could create a more unequal society.
Future work: Andrew McAfee says machines are replacing human workers in more types of occupations.
Are American workers losing their jobs to machines?
That was the question posed by Race Against the Machine, an influential e-book published last October by MIT business school researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. The pair looked at troubling U.S. employment numbers—which have declined since the recession of 2008-2009 even as economic output has risen—and concluded that computer technology was partly to blame.
Advances in hardware and software mean it’s possible to automate more white-collar jobs, and to do so more quickly than in the past. Think of the airline staffers whose job checking in passengers has been taken by self-service kiosks. While more productivity is a positive, wealth is becoming more concentrated, and more middle-class workers are getting left behind. Read the rest of this entry »
5. July 2012
Source: Technology Review
Successful businesses will be those that optimize the mix of humans, robots, and algorithms.
In Automate This, a book due out next month, author and entrepreneur Christopher Steiner tells the story of stockbroker Thomas Peterffy, the creator of the first automated Wall Street trading system. Using a computer to execute trades, without humans entering them manually on a keyboard, was controversial in 1987—so controversial that Nasdaq pressured him to unplug from its network. Then, with a wink, Peterffy built an automated machine that could tap out the trades on a traditional keyboard—technically obeying Nasdaq rules. Peterffy made $25 million in 1987 and is now a billionaire.
Today, automated trading bots account for nearly three-quarters of U.S. equity trading by volume. Trading houses plow millions into fiber optics and microwave dishes so their algorithms can send trades a millisecond faster than the next guys’. And although the first trading robot was built 25 years ago, most of the change on Wall Street has occurred during just the last few years. When it comes to automation, we may be in the elbow of an exponential curve. Read the rest of this entry »