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World's longest pedestrian suspension bridge opens in Switzerland

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Longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world officially opens in Switzerland, connects two sections of a walking trail

      
 
 
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Looms
20 days ago
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Me on Restaurant Surveillance Technology

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I attended the National Restaurant Association exposition in Chicago earlier this year, and looked at all the ways modern restaurant IT is spying on people.

But there's also a fundamentally creepy aspect to much of this. One of the prime ways to increase value for your brand is to use the Internet to practice surveillance of both your customers and employees. The customer side feels less invasive: Loyalty apps are pretty nice, if in fact you generally go to the same place, as is the ability to place orders electronically or make reservations with a click. The question, Schneier asks, is "who owns the data?" There's value to collecting data on spending habits, as we've seen across e-commerce. Are restaurants fully aware of what they are giving away? Schneier, a critic of data mining, points out that it becomes especially invasive through "secondary uses," when the "data is correlated with other data and sold to third parties." For example, perhaps you've entered your name, gender, and age into a taco loyalty app (12th taco free!). Later, the vendors of that app sell your data to other merchants who know where and when you eat, whether you are a vegetarian, and lots of other data that you have accidentally shed. Is that what customers really want?

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Looms
22 days ago
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Does this mean I have to remove my McDs app? Hmm....mmm :)
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Zuckerberg and Musk are both wrong about AI

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Enlarge / Enjoy your little squabbles. You foolish men know nothing about AI. (credit: Universal Pictures)

Back in 2015, a group of business leaders and scientists published an "open letter" about how controlling artificial superintelligence might be the most urgent task of the twenty-first century. Signed by luminaries like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, the letter has defined debates over AI in the years since. Bill Gates said in a Reddit AMA that he agrees with the letter. But, at last, there is a high-profile skeptic: Facebook giant Mark Zuckerberg, who has just come out strongly against the idea that AI is a threat to humanity.

At a backyard barbecue over the weekend, Zuckerberg fielded questions from Facebook Live. One asked about AI, and the social media mogul launched into a passionate rant:

I have pretty strong opinions on this. I am optimistic. I think you can build things and the world gets better. But with AI especially, I am really optimistic. And I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios—I just, I don't understand it. It's really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible

In the next five to 10 years, AI is going to deliver so many improvements in the quality of our lives... Whenever I hear people saying AI is going to hurt people in the future, I think, "yeah, you know, technology can generally always be used for good and bad, and you need to be careful about how you build it, and you need to be careful about what you build and how it is going to be used."

But people who are arguing for slowing down the process of building AI, I just find that really questionable. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that.

Zuckerberg was clearly referring to Musk and Gates here, and he is trying to set himself up in the reasonable alternative position. He mentioned that AI is right on the cusp of improving healthcare with disease diagnosis and saving lives with self-driving cars that get into fewer accidents. Musk has already replied dismissively on Twitter, saying that Zuckerberg has little understanding of AI.

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Looms
25 days ago
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Lunch in Kabul

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A few years ago, SH International did a project in Kabul, Afghanistan. I personally oversaw this project, albeit from the US, managing subcontractors on the ground in Kabul. We were helping an ICT company position itself for market entry into Afghanistan and Central Asia. 

I had the opportunity to go to Kabul myself, but turned it down. I did a lot of "soul searching" about whether or not it would be practical for me to go, and ultimately decided the following. I was more concerned about what the US government would think of me on my way back through US border control and customs, than I was of actually being in Kabul. So I missed my opportunity to have "Lunch in Kabul."

Today, while I did not get to go to Kabul, I did get to go to the City Club of Washington D.C. for a lunch and learn with His Excellency the Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States, Hamdullah Mohib.

As an entrepreneur, and an advisor to multinational entrepreneurs, I do not have a strict agenda when I go to these events. My job is to simply learn, take notes of interest, and meet people who might be able to help my clients. These are the notes that I took today, based on a mix of comments made and my own thoughts. These are not the views of the others in the room, unless noted:

  • There seems to be a gap between what Afghanistan is ready for, and what U.S. business people believe that Afghanistan is ready for. While I see most companies interested in Afghanistan in terms of developmental and military work, there are rich opportunities to get involved across sectors, and with all sizes of businesses. There needs to be work done in order to bridge the gap between what they are ready for, and U.S. companies' capacity to take advantage of those economic opportunities.
  • According to the Ambassador, there are more women in the Parliament of Afghanistan than there are women in the U.S. Congress. These strong women were there before liberation from the Taliban as well, but they were working underground, in schools and in other capacities, fighting passionately for the future of their people and of their families.
  •  Americans need to be educated in general on the state of affairs of Afghanistan as a nation. We really have such a limited grasp of the reality on the ground, of the feelings in the hearts of Afghans, on the future and vision that they are working towards. I remembered Afghan refugees I met almost two decades ago, people living simple lives, selling french fries on the streets of Islamabad. I would ask them why they had left Afghanistan, and they would answer that they wanted their daughters to be educated and the Taliban were restricting them. Malala isn't the only girl from that general region of the world whose father wants a future for her. 
  • Finally, I wanted to note something about H.E. the Ambassador. I ended up incidentally sitting at his table. When he arrived, I laughed and said "I hope you do not mind that I am breaking up your diplomatic ranks as an ordinary person." He said, quite seriously, "We are all ordinary people." This was charming, but took on a whole other level of resonance when I learned about his background. His family fled Afghanistan to Pakistan, and as a child he grew up in the harsh environment of a refugee camp. From where he was then, to where he is now, is a testament to the human capacity to take charge of one's own destiny and come out a strong and brilliant servant to one's people. It was an honor to meet him.

On another note, just for fun, I asked my friend who owns Afghan antique shops in Georgetown and in the Hamptons, to lend me a necklace worthy of the occasion. Temur Zamani generously complied, and this is the lovely piece of lapiz lazuli art that I wore. I met Temur as part of my personal odyssey to embrace getting to know my clientele, the multinational entrepreneurs of the world. I have taken great effort to identify these entrepreneurs, and to fall in love with their work. I encourage you to check out his stores. Walking through his store in Georgetown (3145 Dumbarton St. NW) is reminiscent of walking through a bazaar or souk, and I recognize items from Turkey, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Some of his items appear to be antiques from the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, collected by his grandfather ages ago. His stores are an experience, and he is a fine example of a multinational entrepreneur bringing the beauty of the world to his clients. 

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Looms
36 days ago
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It's a Good Time to Listen to Young Lincoln

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A 28-year-old future president saw respect for law as the cure for divisive passions.

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Looms
48 days ago
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The complete history of the IBM PC, part one: The deal of the century

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One could claim that the IBM PC was not really IBM's first PC at all. In September 1975 the company introduced the IBM 5100, its first "portable" computer. ("Portable" meant that it weighed just 55 pounds and you could buy a special travel case to lug it around in.)

The 5100 was not technically a microcomputer; it used a processor IBM had developed in-house called the PALM which was spread over an entire circuit board rather than being housed in a single microchip. From the end user's standpoint, however, that made little difference; certainly it would seem to qualify as a personal computer if not a microcomputer. It was a self-contained, Turing complete, programmable machine no larger than a suitcase, with a tape drive for loading and saving programs, a keyboard, and a 5-inch screen all built right in along with 16K or more of RAM.

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Looms
50 days ago
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