Amazon, Capital One, Microsoft, AI, Surveillance, Broadband & Break UpsAI & Surroundings

3d rendering of the word “SOS” with an orange lifebuoy instead of letter O. Emergency need. Dire straits. Desperate situation. Time for action.

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What a month!  De ja vu all over again. Over the past year or so I’ve written about broadband access, loving/hating Amazon, the Capital One data breachcivilian surveillanceMicrosoft, AI and the technology oligarchy, and over the past month or so all seven hit the headlines somewhere. So let’s review with some prescriptions: 

Amazon is a blessing and a curse. Even CNN got into the act with its “The United States of Amazon.” Amazon’s a blessing because it makes life easier. It’s a curse because it displaces traditional retailers, often charges more than brick-and-mortar stores and makes us dependent upon a digital platform beyond our control. But Amazon isn’t the only tech company upon which we’ve become dependent. The invasion is growing and unstoppable as we all learn about digital addiction. Rehab is impractical and likely ineffective. It is a macro trend that shows no signs of slowing.  Exploit the convenience after conducting pricing due diligence.     

The Capital One breach is just the latest cyberattack upon large institutions, and now we learn that the accused Capital One hacker may have hacked thirty other companies. As I’ve argued many times here before, breaches are growing in number and severity. CIOs, CTOs and CISOs should re-double their efforts and investments in cybersecurity (with no guarantee that they won’t be hacked). The worst outcome is a breach without a solid defense. If you haven’t done a penetration test recently, do one ASAP. Check your team as well to make sure they have the right skills and competencies. Your vendors can be your friends here as well – and if there’s a breach they can be enlisted to support their cybersecurity products and services (and share some of the blame).   

Microsoft will probably end up bigger than Apple, Amazon and Google. It’s recent announcement about the OpenAI partnership formalizes its most recent focus on AI/ML and one of its key growth strategies:

  • “Microsoft and OpenAI will jointly build new Azure AI supercomputing technologies
  • “OpenAI will port its services to run on Microsoft Azure, which it will use to create new AI technologies and deliver on the promise of artificial general intelligence
  • “Microsoft will become OpenAI’s preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies”

Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) will run much of the digital world. Microsoft’s decision to invest $1B in AI/ML speaks directly to the role that AI will play in software engineering, augmented analytics and automation, among other functional and non-functional domains. Microsoft’s aggressive bet on OpenAI: 

“ … will focus on building a computational platform in Azure of unprecedented scale, which will train and run increasingly advanced AI models, include hardware technologies that build on Microsoft’s supercomputing technology, and adhere to the two companies’ shared principles on ethics and trust. This will create the foundation for advancements in AI to be implemented in a safe, secure and trustworthy way and is a critical reason the companies chose to partner together.”

Track progress here – along with the progress that all of the major hardware and software vendors – and your vendors – make. Request monthly updates from your vendors on their AI/ML strategies and how AI/ML will impact the products and services your buy from them. The focus here should be on process improvement and expense reduction.  New TCO and ROI models should be developed to measure the impact AI/ML will have on your operations and strategy. 

Surveillance is still with us. If you’re into marketing analytics, you love the data regardless of how it’s collected. If you’re concerned about privacy, you have a problem if you’re in any way, shape or form “digital.” Amazon, Facebook, Waze, Instagram, Google, Twitter – you name the platform – is collecting – and monetizing – your data. Privacy remains a conundrum. Convenience creates vulnerability. The very business models of the major digital media platforms require data monetization without which prices would increase where “free” platforms would be forced to charge for their services. How many of us would be willing to pay for Google searches? Location tracking is one form of surveillance that can be semi-controlled. You can turn off location tracking features when you’re not using location apps. But if you shop online, you’re helping vendors learn more and more about who you are, what you like and what you’re likely to buy.

Want Vs Need Priorities Jigsaw Depicting Importance Of Necessities Over Desires. The Concept Of Order Of Priority – 3d Illustration

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Elizabeth Warren wants broadband for everyone: obviously a good thing, especially since about a quarter of Americans in rural areas have no home Internet. Her idea to create an Office of Broadband Access will help expand broadband a lot, and of course she supports Net Neutrality. These are solid proposals if the government wants to directly or indirectly subsidize access. The counter-argument – that some Americans should not have broadband – is a difficult one to defend.

There’s a wide and deep technology oligarchy in place today. Even the “FTC Chief Says He’s Willing to Break Up Big tech Companies.” Joe Simons says that he’s even prepared to undo past mergers. As I’ve argued in the past, break-ups make sense if leveling the competitive playing field is the objective. If it’s not, then the oligarchy will grow.

Are we prepared for all this?

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