Category Archives: Future

Weekly Newsletter – March 16, 2014

This Week’s Top Stories

Edward Snowden appears on livestream at SxSW. This was the first time the NSA whistleblower addressed the US public since he leaked scandal in June. You can watch the full (non-optimized audio) interview on YouTube.

Omlet – A safe way to connect with friends. A start-up from the Stanford StartX incubator created a mobile messaging system and promises to never monetize or sell user data.

Bill Gates thinks cameras in inner cities could be a good thing. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gates said that cameras could be useful, specifically alluding to London where petty crime has gone down and terrorism prevented with the help of cameras.

The NSA’s plan to infect millions through malware. The Intercept revealed that the NSA has relied on more sophisticated techniques to siphon data from targets. One is a man-on-the-side attack where they disguise themselves as a Facebook server and are able send data packets to users containing malware.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee thinks the Web should have a bill of rights. With the 25-year anniversary of the Web, inventor of the internet Tim Berners-Lee told the BBC that there should be a ‘Magna Carta’ bill of rights in order to protect users.

Zuckerberg called Obama to talk about surveillance. It doesn’t seem like there will be reform any time soon according to Zuckerberg. In a post on Facebook, Zuckerberg said, ”So it’s up to us — all of us — to build the internet we want. Together, we can build a space that is greater and a more important part of the world than anything we have today, but is also safe and secure. I’m committed to seeing this happen, and you can count on Facebook to do our part.”


Drones will cause an upheaval of society like we haven’t seen in 700 years. Noah Smith from Quartz talks about the dangers of drones and autonomous robots.

A look at how the Immunity Project handles HIV in the lab. The company developing a free vaccine for HIV shows how they work with the virus in their lab.


Weekly Newsletter March

This Week’s Top Stories

Julian Assange delivered a speech at SXSW yesterday. Assange participated in a ‘virtual’ interview with Benjamin Palmer from the Barbarian Group to talk about surveillance and democracy on the web. A recording of the hour-long interview is on YouTube and The Guardian has also written a summary piece. Both Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald will appear for virtual interviews on Monday.

Snowden tried to go through official channels over ten times before leaking the highly controversial NSA program. The Washington Post reported that Snowden reached out to over 10 officials before finally taking matters into his own hands. The NSA previously told the Washington Post that Snowden never made any attempt to do so.

Experts say government cyber-intelligence is compromising online securitySan Francisco held the annual RSA conference last week where cyber enthusiasts gathered from all around the world. Many security experts are worried that the tools used by the NSA could be acquired by black-hat hackers.

A Vietnamese blogger was sentenced to two years in prison for “abusing democratic reforms”. Truong Duy Nhat was convicted under article 258 of the penal code. Nhat denied that he broke the law in his criticisms of the government, but his defense didn’t hold up in court.

Wikileaks cable from 2006 hinted at possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. Joshua Keating from Slate uncovered cables on Wikileaks dating back to 2006 that foreshadowed the events that have unfolded in Ukraine. The cable warned of instability in Crimea and the potential threat from pro-Russians.

British politician accuses Google of storing private patient data. Prominent Tory MP Sarah Wollaston brought to light that private health data from the NHS is being stored on Google servers. Wollaston tweeted, “So HES [hospital episode statistics] data uploaded to ‘google’s immense army of servers’, who consented to that?”

Facebook is rumored to be acquiring solar-powered drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace for $60 million. Sources from TechCrunch indicate that Facebook is purchasing the drone manufacturer to help increase internet access in the developing world. Facebook wants to ensure that every new user connected to the internet starts using Facebook.

Eurotech companies using streetlights to expand cellphone coverage. The average US mobile phone user consumed 1.2 gigabytes of data a month over cellular networks which was double the average amount used in 2012. European based companies Ericsson and Phillips revealed a new project last Monday which will incorporate cellphone antennas into LED streetlights.


Has Privacy Become a Luxury? Long gone are the days when we had to pay for news and mail. It’s not cheap to buy privacy, as Julia Angwin on the New York Times explains.

Government Surveillance – This is Just the Beginning. Privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian gave a TED talk (8 minutes) on the proliferation of private enterprises selling surveillance software to governments around the world. 

A Visit to Haiti, and the biggest Hellraiser I Know. Bill Gates recounts his visit to Haiti last week and the tremendous work Paul Farmer has done with Partners in Health (PIH), a non-profit that runs medical clinics at 12 sites in Haiti.

Photo courtesy of Johan Larsson |

Facebook rumored to purchase drone company with hopes to bring internet to the developing world

TechCrunch has purportedly heard that Facebook is acquiring solar-powered drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace for $60 million.  The company’s  drones can fly up in the air for nearly five years without landing.

Facebook would be interested in using the drones to increase internet access in developing countries. Though, Facebook also has a vested interest in ensuring that every new person connected to the internet uses Facebook.  With less air regulations in developing countries, they’ll be fewer hurdles to overcome to bring the technology to market.

Titan Aerospace is a New Mexico based company led by the ex CEO of Eclipse Aviation Vern Raburn.  It was founded in 2012 by Max Yaney.  The video below provides an overview of their drones.

via TechCrunch


Photo courtesy of Antana on Flickr |

Does Bitcoin have the potential to change the financial landscape?

Last year the price of a Bitcoin was hovering at a little over $13USD. Fast forward a year later and it’s now trading at $800USD.  Many wouldn’t have anticipated the sudden spark in interest from consumers; such is the dynamic of the internet and the pace of technological change today.

Those who are bullish on Bitcoin (or,  digital currency for that matter) rave about the potential of Bitcoin to  disrupt the financial sector. One of the main benefits of Bitcoin are the low transaction fees, which make it a much more appealing currency for online merchants who already suffer from low profit margins. Low transaction fees also make micropayments a much more feasible business model for digital publishers (see Bitwall). Instead of relying solely on ads or subscriptions, small Bitcoin payments to read an article has the potential to be the norm.  The ad model de-couples the value that a news organization provides to readers and how they generate revenue. It’s created a conflict of interest of sorts, since news sites end up prioritizing over-sensationalism rather than quality and accuracy.

For now though, the instability of Bitcoin makes the aforementioned benefits infeasible. Such volatility is expected given the decentralized nature of the currency. Building consumer confidence in the currency takes time, and many are also speculating on the hundreds of other iterations of Bitcoin (Dodgecoin, Litecoin etc.),  further fueling the digital currency bubble. Whether Bitcoin or another competitor comes out of this bubble alive is a question to be answered in the near future.

And then there’s the politics. Decentralization is ideologically in line with the libertarian philosophy – many of the early supporters of Bitcoin were in fact libertarians. The battle for Bitcoin may very well end up being political, with governments seeking to regulate the currency on the grounds of providing stability. Such actions are already taking place in countries such as India and China where the currency was banned to prevent criminal activity. Governments might not be able to directly control the flow of the currency,  but some level of government intervention is possible which will usher in the old debate of left versus right.

The benefits of digital currency – decentralization, low transaction fees, and speed, are big enough reasons to consider it as a viable alternative to traditional currencies.  Whether it becomes relevant is an entirely different question, and will depend on the myriad of decisions from the government, corporations, and every day citizens.