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Archive for the category “News”

Backing up your brain. One little app at a time.

A few weeks ago I celebrated by birthday. While I am not an 8 year old anymore to care about birthdays, what struck me most was the number of good wishes I received. From a dozen or so greetings a few years ago, I received hundreds, perhaps a thousand messages this time.

So what has changed? Facebook, obviously. Those useful little notifications that appear on the right top of our streams. Sure. But that’s missing a broader trend.

Einstein’s telephone number. The story goes that when someone asked Albert Einstein his phone number, Einstein replied that he didn’t remember it. This startled the man who was well aware of Einstein’s genius. Mr Relativity had to then clarify that when his phone number was easily available in a telephone directory, there was no point of him remembering it and crowding up his memory,

Remembering to forget. Starting with a telephone directory to new digital platforms like Facebook, Google and Outlook calendar, apps like Rememeberthemilk and programs like Basecamp we have started to slowly outsource our brain. By setting up alerts and reminders we are using technology to help us forget days, times and activities that would have otherwise added noise to our already overwhelmed brains.

I don’t bother to remember to pay my utility bills anymore as I have set them all up in the automated system that my bank provides. With SMS messages that arrive month after month, I only keep a notional track of bills that have come in and have automatically been paid out.

I have gone further, with tools like CarLocator that helps me remember where I parked my car in a busy parking lot.  Or whosthat?, an app that I, err, use discreetly, to help me remember names of people who I have met, and may have forgotten, and therefore avoid real world social embarrassments.

Carbon meets silicone. The brain outsourcing business is still in its infancy with simple apps that need our intervention to take over things we want them to. But this could soon change, with scientists finding ways to connect carbon based humans and silicon based computers seamlessly. British Scientist Kevin Warwick has been working on wiring silicon based interfaces that can send signals between a human body and a computer. In fact he has had a chip implanted in his own arm more than a decade ago and has been experimenting with ways to turn analog signals from his body into little pieces of digital software that once activated on a computer will be able to create a reaction in his body.

Others believe we can take it further. With inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil foreseeing that we will, in our own lifetimes, be able to download our memories, thoughts, emotions and consciousness into a hard drive. He has written several books on the subject and at 63 is working towards being one of the first humans to be able to seamlessly move from being a man to a machine. Computers are already better than humans at logic, he says and it is just a matter of time when we will be able to transfer our emotional intelligence into a computer.

There are others too who agree with the Kurzweil line of thinking. Ian Pearson, head of the futurology at British Telecom has put a date to when we will be able to seamlessly download minds into a machine. 2050, he says, if you are rich enough, add another 25 years for poor guys like me.

I have seen heaven. So what does happy birthday alerts and online bill payment systems tell us about longevity and immortality? That, unbeknownst to us, we have started our journey from being creatures of carbon, to having our memory and our consciousness preserved in a server farm somewhere. With Apple launching iOS 5 sometime in October, and the promise of free or low cost digital storage on iCloud and elsewhere, we are slowly and steadily uploading our lives onto silicon. With his ongoing battle with cancer, Steve Jobs may not make it. But his vision could help me live forever, in silicon heaven, on a cloud somewhere.

This story appeared in FirstPost. You can read it here 

Unfriending: the new friending

I almost missed the one line status update as it trickled down my wall “spring cleaning my friend list”. Even when I saw it, I was sure I wouldn’t be among the ones cleaned out so I didn’t bother to check.

As days and weeks went by, I started to miss those updates. Auto posts from her subscriptions to astrology sites, odd pictures from late night parties, Farmville notifications. Nothing profound or insightful, yet enough to tell me we were still friends.

I have to admit I have been a lurker, a virtual fly on her virtual wall. Sent her birthday messages every year, early in the morning, without fail. Liked the odd post now and then, just so she knew I am around.Her pictures. Looked them up all, many times over.

And this is what I get in return. A virtual dumping!

Did she think I wouldn’t know? Hey I do now. Don’t know how long ago I was nixed. It hurts OK! It does, even now.

Is unfriending the new friending? Spring cleaning my friend list. Is there a meme of sorts out there that I missed out on?

I remember reading a month or so ago that Facebook was losing users in the US. It was later retracted though. How did she get to that. GigaOm? She doesn’t read that.

New evidence popped up again yesterday that the Facebook juggernaut maybe beginning to slow down. This time from Hitwise in the UK. Refuted again! Lies, damned lies and web statistics as Jemima Kiss wrote in her Guardian Blog.

So what happened to me? Has she been so unemployed recently to manicure their friend lists? Are there new taxes for having too many friends on a FB account? Has the monsoon brought in a new virus? Unfrienditis?

I Googled frantically. Nothing!

And then I noticed this little maroon button gleaming “1” on my Google+ toolbar. Intrigued, I clicked.

It was a notification from her. XYZ has added you in a circle.

Digital Guy Reviews Traditional TV.

I wrote this for the dead tree version of Campaign India.

This is a disaster. Seriously is.
It’s been a while since I watched TV. My DTH bill, I just discovered, has been in the negative for months. Also, I am a digital guy. Adept at talking about the nuances of Ajax and PHP rather than the skills needed to tell brand stories in 30 seconds.
So to have the privilege of doing Private View in this fortnight’s issue of Campaign. They didn’t mail the wrong guy, I called to check.
But hey! Wait a minute!
Aren’t I the average consumer? One that spends a disproportionate amount of his disposable income buying “advertised” stuff?
Hello Tubelight!
The guys at Campaign Magazine, smart I must admit, got it way earlier than I did.
Brace yourselves creative directors, copy writers, art directors, film makers and marketing people. The consumer is speaking. Er writing really, in this case. I THE CONSUMER speaking from the heart.

Speaking of the heart, here’s the first. A pensive looking Shahrukh Khan for Linc Pens, a commercial that was designed to tug at my heartstrings. Blimey did nothing, the turd. 50 seconds of slo-mo poetry. Was it supposed to get me a lump in the throat? Raise a hair to two on my neck? Nothing!. Maybe I am dead or something. A purveyor of pens trying analog stuff on a digital guy. Not their fault I guess. Broken! For me.

Then came the midgets, or perhaps Gulliver in a Coffee Shop. What can I say? A poor bloke being accosted by a family of dwarfs for State Bank of India Mobile Banking. Maybe you deserve it man. You maybe paying the bills but you forgot to feed them vitamins.

You know something. After seeing the KFC Kafeccino ad, even I’ve started to fantasize about losing my cold coffee virginity. Exploding biscuits, little nibbles of chocolate, three voyeuristic friends egging me on and a cute sales girl asking “first time”? Orgasmic it will be as the ad promised.

This one foxed me. TVS Sport featuring Virat Kholi. Virat, ask any consumer, and they will say is a smart bloke. But I don’t get the same vibe about the guys who made this one. Get on the bike and run Virat.

Idea’s 3G Population Control. This one should have connected with the geek in me. The service, not so much the ad. But the ad did for some reason. It’s corniness, innuendo and all. That tongue in cheek repartee in the end from Abhishek. Imagine an ad for 3G mobile service actually making me want to restore my cable connection to watch more of this. What an etc, you know.

To the final one.
I can see some social service messages are being spread using humour, like this one from Amaron Batteries.
Sing along with me…
Dear Malu country cousins.
Don’t piss standing under coconut trees.
Don’t ride bicycles on weak bridges.
Don’t do a Jesus on crocodile infested lakes.
THE CONSUMER really needs to call the cable guy. Silver ting and silver tong.

Advertising Struggles

The Economist reports of the continuing problems that the advertising industry is going through across the world. While India and China maybe bucking the trend, in the US the numbers are expected to be down by some 14%. The actual decline is even bigger, which is why Magna has adjusted the numbers to reflect the lack of big quadrennial spending events, such as last year’s Olympic games and American elections. For many businesses that carry ads the pain is even greater still. Advertising in magazines is expected to fall by 18.3%. Radio advertising is predicted to plunge by 21.8% and newspaper advertising by 26.5%, which is why so many papers are struggling to survive. Even the much hyped rise of online advertising has been reversed, with spending forecast to decline by 2.2% in America this year. The coming year is not going to be any better according to Magna. Next year Magna projects a further decline in total spending of 2.1%. As Sir Martin Sorrell put it. We Led into the downturn. We will lag the upturn. More in the Economist

Saintsbury. User Generated Electricity.

Saintsbury has installed a new Kinetic Road Plate system at the supermarket giant’s new store in Gloucester, U.K., and will harness enough energy from vehicles driving in and out of the store’s car park to power all the store’s check outs. More

Uk Continues To Prohibit Product Placement On Tv

Despite pressures from broadcasters who are facing a bleak future and from the Europen Union that allows for product placement on TV, the British Government continues to oppose product placement in TV shows that are produced and run in Britain. While shows imported from around the world can feature paid for products placed in them, the UK government continues to resist. “Britain is known around the world for the high quality of its broadcasting output. We need to continue to preserve editorial integrity as technology advances.” Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said. Read the story here.

Analysing The Financial Crisis

One of the best pieces of reporting we have read about the continuing economic woes, specifically what’s ailing the Asian tigers, The Economist quotes a recent report from HSBC by Frederic Neumann and Robert Prior-Wandesforde; Asia is suffering two recessions: a domestic one as well as an external one. Domestic demand had been expected to cushion the blow of weaker exports, but instead it was hit by two forces. First, the surge in food and energy prices in the first half of 2008 squeezed companies’ profits and consumers’ purchasing power. Food and energy account for a larger portion of household budgets in Asia than in most other regions. Second, in several countries, including China, South Korea and Taiwan, tighter monetary policy intended to curb inflation choked domestic spending further. With hindsight, it appears that China’s credit restrictions to cool its property sector worked rather too well. Tiding over the downturn, the Economist thinks will have to come from within. However, Asian governments have more than this year’s growth rate to worry about. Beyond the immediate crisis, where will growth come from? America’s consumer boom and widening trade deficit, which powered much of Asia’s growth over the past decade, has come to an end. Asia’s export-led growth therefore seems to have reached its limits. It needs a new engine of growth: in future it must rely more on domestic demand, especially consumption. Click here to go to the story. Sure is some interesting insight.

Banks Bailout Windfall.

As the Obama administration decides how to fix the economy, the troubles of the banking system have become particularly vexing. Congress has so far approved the $700 billion rescue plan with the idea that banks would help struggling borrowers and increase lending to stimulate the economy, and many lawmakers want to know how the first half of that money has been spent before approving the second half. But many banks that have received bailout money so far are reluctant to lend, worrying that if new loans go bad, they will be in worse shape if the economy deteriorates. Fearful that the economic downturn could deepen and wary of risking additional losses, the question of what to do with the bailout money comes down to self-preservation. Read more in NY Times.

The Economist. Reimagining Finance.

A new draft policy getting some notice around the world and in Washington in particular, is looking at some strong steps to set right the financial system that fell apart in 2008. The paper titled “Financial Reform: A Framework for Financial Stability” contains some muscular stuff, according to The Economist. The 18-point agenda includes “strict” capital requirements on high-risk proprietary activities, that is, bets made using their own money. For banks and non-banks alike, the report calls for a more refined analysis of liquidity in stressed markets and more robust contingency-planning. Central banks should have a stronger role in policing such things, the authors argue, and need to be especially vigilant in good times, when credit is expanding quickly. They should also be more involved in supervising bank safety and soundness—although, to safeguard central-bank integrity, the role of chief firefighter is best played by others once trouble ignites. The other important message is that a global crisis requires a global fix. International co-ordination should go beyond rule-making closer to harmonisation including enforcement,
say the authors, and more needs to be done to curb the uneven application of international rules at national level—although they shed little light on how this could be achieved. More in The Economist.

Bank Of Twitter

Bank of America becomes yet another bank to embrace Twitter with a customer service stream. Manned by customer relations specialist David Knapp, customers can tweet him if they have problems with their accounts or general questions. Wachovia, which in August started an account to seek out and serve customers on this micro blogging platform, now has over a thousand followers. While some banks have active twitter accounts, there are others who have created accounts and not followed up on it. Read more in Finextra.

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