Silicon Valley’s On Going Existential Gender Dynamics Crises: Ellen Pao vs Kleiner

It is a bit of a “he-said she-said game” in the Ellen Pao case against Venture Capital Firm Kleiner – Silicon Valley’s most recent gender discrimination case. Silicon Valley, over the past decade, has become notorious for it’s patriarchal corporate culture, a place where women are constantly at odds with it’s male dominance. The Valley has become analogous to a fraternity scene, but for grown men. A culture where the movement for egalitarianism and the push for moving women out on the “second class citizen” in corporate cultures has perhaps been an agenda placed on the back burner.

Ellen Pao, a previous partner of Kleiner, had sued the V.C. Firm under allegations of unprofessional gender dynamics in the work environment. Her attorney argued that although Pao had many successful efforts in the firm, including investments with RPX – the patent company – along with twitter investments, she had little-to-no traction for upward mobility, hitting a lower than normal “glass ceiling”. Although Pao’s case shines light, once again, on how women are still minorities in Silicon Valley, faced with blatant discrimination due to a product of the culture’s lake of exposure to gender diversity, the Venture Capital firm, in the end, was cleared by a California Jury for all claims brought against it. Even claims that involved more personal matter of Pao being terminated from her position at the firm – thought to be a result of a retaliation against Pao for her suing the firm in 2012 – was also cleared.

Although there was no major triumph for Ellen Pao personally, there is some pay off. With the more gender inequality cases brought out of the wood-work in the V. C culture, perhaps there will be a larger, more sustainable push for equality and integrity within Silicon Valley corporate world.

Unfortunately, the scene got a little messy for Pao’s case when the jurors brought up the affair Pao had with former Kleiner partner, Ajit Nazre. Pao claimed Nazre used business trips as opportune courting situations, arguing that she was more of a victim of his habits than a romanic interest. Whether or not it was appropriate for her to get involved with a married business partner who she was told had already separated from his wife, is news for the tabloids. I believe the coverage on this case is most important in the fact that it is not the first, and most likely will not be the last given the culture’s history. Therefore, it is a symbolic slap in the face for the Silicon Valley to wake up and get their act together when it comes to gender dynamics. Or perhaps I live in a fantasy world believing everyone to be educated about gender politics, human rights and to have read Simone’s de Beauvoir’s 1949 book “The Second Sex”. But no, in fact I’d be lying to myself if I said I truly believed this was reality.

 

Kayleigh Stack

Tech Blogger and Marketing Assistant

Don’t make it Happn

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the lack of privacy we are facing this days. Today I came across a blog post that that talks about a new dating app, and it made me so furious that I may just get a casting call to be in the next Vin Diesel movie (I’m a fast driver by nature).

Don’t worry, I’m not turning this into a three-page essay, I would just like to say that there is an app out there called Happn that you should never use. Why? I’m so glad you asked!

 This is a dating app. Basically it’s Tinder, but it shows you profiles of people that “you cross paths with”. Let me give you an example to make things a bit clearer. You are at the supermarket and see a person you like. You now have 3 choices:

 

1- You do absolutely nothing (most opted choice in history).

2- You talk to that person.

3- You use your stalker app.

 

If the other person has the app, you can let them know you like them. You can track every-time you cross paths with them (when and where). Creepy right? It is essential simply an excellent stalker tool.

What you may not realize, especially if you use the app, is you are being stalked by the app itself. This app has to constantly run in order to track others, therefore, it is always tracking….you. Where you go and when you were there. I would assume all your daily habits are being tracked and probably used to sell things tailored to you that you probably don’t want or need. I’m sure the peeps at Google maps are very jealous of Happn.

 

I’m just going to print my life schedule (including bathroom breaks) and staple it to every light post in SF. This way you guys know where I am 24-7.

If you have no love for your own privacy, at least have some love for your phone. The poor bastard has to run this app in the background all day long.


See you guys (along with everyone else that runs this app) around!

Federico Pisani.

Tech Blogger.

 

Note: This is only my opinion since I have never used the app nor have any intentions of doing so (I prefer to stalk people the old-fashion way, with binoculars).

 

How public is your Wifi?

When we go to an internet cafe, sign into a free network and access our accounts, we generally assume that most people in the building are there using the internet for similar reasons. Although this may often be the case, it is not true all the time. Internet cafes and places that offer free internet access to paying customers are seen as lucrative havens for the unethical hacker. Unethical hacker meaning – those technology nerds that use their expertise of knowing all the bugs and loop holes of systems, programs, and devices for personal gain. So why preface hacker with a negative value proposition of “unethical” when the term “hacker” in itself is generally loaded with connotations? Because, nowadays there are “ethical hackers. Since the internet has become somewhat of its own sovereign country, they are similar to that of a travel agent who, once upon a time, helped to devise one’s trips, giving travels tip on how to travel safe and smartly – the “Ethical” Hackers do the same for the internet. Ethical Hackers are consultants for safety, or maybe the better analogue here is, they are like the Sex Education teachers of the internet. They show people how easy it is to get in trouble, and what one can do to stay protected – if you get my drift.

How is there even an outlet for an Ethical Hacker career? With over 1.43 billion smartphone users world-wide, among other personal devices, it is very likely that many of those users have at one point in time used an open WiFi sources to sign into programs with sensitive information about themselves or their company, leaving them vulnerable to hackers with malicious intent. In 2013 alone Risk Based Security reported that more than 822 million records were exposed – records of which every detail of one’s identity was accessible. And although most educated technology consumers are aware of the privacy risks they take when signing into unsecured networks, it is often forgotten, or inadvertently ignored out of necessity – hence the need for ethical hackers to reinforce to people, and businesses alike, just how easy it is for someone with a little skill, a half of brain, and the right tools, to gather all the information one needs within minutes to ruin an anonymous person’s life. This is the reality of the world we live in these days, and we need to get serious about wearing protection.

Here are just three, out of the many things, internet users can do to prevent themselves from being a vulnerable target.

1) Encryption:

It is best to make sure, and double check a few times over, that the network for which you are signing into is encrypted. Encrypted networks are there to protect users from unwarranted surfers– i.e. hackers. However, it is important to also make sure that, even though a network says they are encrypted, the network you are signing into in the public space is in-fact the network it says it is. Hacking trolls redirect traffic to networks of their own that they create for open source settings with a few tools and tricks of the trade. Often times a personal smart device will scan all the networks available and connect to the first readily available option. Hackers generally label their networks something benign, like a fictitious cafe name, to come across as safe to the user. If your device ends up connecting to a less-than-trusted source such as this type, it is even more vulnerable to be hacked, with or without decryption software.

2) Keep Operating Systems Updated:

It is easier for hackers to find bugs in the system of outdated operating systems, these bugs providing loop holes making them more at risk. While it is a simple form of protection to update your system, often times it is easier said than done since most people don’t keep on top of their updates, due to time, money, or laziness. However, those annoying reminders on our smart devices that pop up every two weeks innocuously telling us our systems needs to be updated, might just be able to save our virtual lives.

3) Not Using Internet Cafes

Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t log onto to any network outside the iron fence on our fancy office building or the isolation of our four-walled home, but rather I am suggesting to not do all your bills, emails, and SSN juggling on an open source WiFi network. However, if you are just wanting to plop yourself down next to a big cup of your favorite local coffee and get into a raging game of virtual scrabble with a buddy halfway across the world, I think that should be fine, although I would use an alias.

To get a little smarter about the reality of digital identity fraud, Read Maurtis Martijin’s article on ethical hacker Wouter Slotboom on Matter.

By Kayleigh Stack

I once was young, and a VP (Part 1)

In the very short six years that have gone by since moving to the city where I currently live, I’ve seen the culture change dramatically. Someone more blunt might say it has “gone straight to the crapper.” Of course, this is my own subjective perspective. Since, if you consider all the new construction going on, the flourishing businesses, and the amount of people constantly moving to beautiful San Francisco, then you could easily say this city is doing fantastic. But sometimes, looks can be deceiving and if you think that everything is fantastic in the city then you would be wrong. If you think I’m going to rant about the changes taking place in San Francisco (specifically with regard to the tech world), well, then at least you are half right.

Let me clarify something here, I’m no expert in economics, and my academic background doesn’t include sociology. I studied circuit design and how to make diodes, electrodes, and resistors do my bidding. You may ask: why then do you think you have the right to discuss the subject? Well, I, Fede was once (for a whole year) 22, and in that magical year, the co-founder and VP of a honest-to-goodness business. Besides that experience, I also have the phenomenal faculty of common sense ( I prefer to call it “uncommon sense”, since most people seem to lack the ability to understand and judge basic things). If you would be so kind as to allow me to continue, I would like to point out the big flaws in the very big picture.

To begin, I would like to summarize my experience as co-founder and VP of a company. As previously mentioned, I was 22 when my friend (which was not even of legal drinking age) approached me with what seemed to be a genius, bullet-proof plan at the time. This guy was young, bright, and very ambitious. He worked for five years at a local shop, learning the business inside and out.

One afternoon, we sat down and ran some numbers, figuring that, with an initial investment of $6000 we could start our own shop. I thought, “Hey! I have $3000 laying around, so lets do it!” Just a few months later we were in business.

I once read somewhere that experience is the hardest teacher, because it will hand you the test first, and then gives you the lesson after. I don’t want to waste your time telling you about my business experience (read: failure), we can leave that for some other post (I’ll title it “How to fail hard in business”). However, I do want to talk about the way I felt throughout this period of my life.

While most people my age were in school, or working for the man, I was running my own business and calling the shots with my business partner. Heck, I was the man! We even had some employees that I bossed around. Yeah yeah, I was that guy. You know that guy right? The one that when he is talking to you, you see the “I’m way smarter and better than you” pour out of his facial expressions. Yea, I was him.

Ok, lets fast forward to the present (my finger is very itchy to start pointing).

Back then young adults were discouraged to start businesses. There were no other 20-something year old kids trying to start a business (at least not like the outrageous numbers you see today). You were lucky to get a bank to give you a credit card that had a $500 limit. We were not trying to change the world either, my business partner and I. We were just wanting to have a successful business and make some money.

These days it’s much more common to walk into a VC firm and demand some exorbitant amount of money for… for… an app? Yes! an app! An app that will innovate life by… by… by doing something! Yeah! Now, where is my (10) million dollars? Here…Sold! (See “Yo.”)

How is this even possible?! How are we letting this happen?! Because even if you have (or stole) a great idea, there is maybe one Bill Gates every 10 to 20 years (I know you are thinking Mark Zuckerberg would be better example to mention for this article, but Bill Gates has glasses and probably still plays dungeon and dragons). The point is, if you don’t wake up in the morning with body pain from, I don’t know, just sleeping, you are too young and by no means in a position to run a company.

Young people should not be trusted with gobs of money and power. For evidence of this, please look up Justin Bieber. What do you think will happen when you have an entire fleet of Justin Biebers in charge of funded companies with lots of cash to throw around? Well, they are going to Bieber things up. And what happens when things are Biebered up in your town? I think you know the answer, yet I will give you a very simple break down.

The Very Simple Breakdown Of What Happens When Things are Biebered Up In Your Town

  1. You get money to build your business
  2. You hire a bunch of new talent
  3. To get the new talent, you need to offer what everyone else offers in this market. Crazy salaries will simply not do any more. You need the coolest office space in the best part of San Francisco. You need a chef to come cook for everyone three meals a day. You need someone to do your employees laundry. You need someone to do the laundry of the guy that does the laundry. See where I’m going?
  4. Live the #CrazyStart-upAwesomeLife (also known as Biebers running around the streets of SF)
  5. A year goes by and you still don’t even know what your super cool app does
  6. New talent may not have actual experience building stuff
  7. You’ve run out of money
  8. Ask for more money
  9. Repeat until there is no more money

Stay tuned for the second part of this article…

Federico Pisani.

Technical Blogger.

I Was Once Young, and a VP (Part 2)

Now, lets be serious for a minute. An over-saturated market is never a good thing, and right now, the market is over-saturated with job offerings. There are more people seeking “talent” than the amount of actual “talent” out there. Employers take whatever they can (my neighbor’s dog just got a job offer from Google). That means they hire a person that calls himself a “Software Engineer” after learning HTML/JS for a few weeks or just getting out of college.

So lets all move to SF where we’ll get lots of money for just calling ourselves “Software Engineers.” Did Someone just say gold rush?

Since there is only so much gold in the mine. You can only dig for so long until you get it all out, and we are close to the end of this rush. You can only build lies upon lies for so long before everything collapses, and when it happens, the over-saturated market will do a 180 flip leaving us with the complete opposite situation. Tons of people (most of them completely unqualified) and not enough jobs.

But what about the big guys? What about Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc?  The well established companies are not relying on finding gold anymore. They are now making investments with all the gold that they have. And they will eventually take advantage of the situation in a market saturated with people looking for jobs. Today they have to hire who they can, tomorrow they get to pick. And when they get to pick, they also get to offer whatever they feel like – and what they feel like it won’t be as sweet as it is today (not even close).

Do you know all that new construction that targets “young professionals” making all that money? Who will be the target when the bubble bursts and 22 year-old kids begin to fall from the sky and hit the ground hard?

Do you know all those new fancy bars and expensive restaurants that just opened up? How will they stay open when people can’t afford $15 cocktails? I still remember the days where booze were cheap in this city (lonely tear running down my cheek).

Clearly we are living in a culture that is based on a big lie, and as my mom always said, lies have short legs, so they can’t get too far. We are about to see the end of this start-up-lie era.

Don’t get me wrong, by no means am I implying that tech is going away, and we are all going to have to move back to caves. In fact, I obviously believe in the ability of technological progress to help not only improve lives, but the world around us. All I’m saying is, this particular bubble is about to readjust, and when  that happens, we are going to shovel the dead dreams of all those young CEOs out of San Francisco.

To be perfectly honest, I can’t wait to go back to the times where no one listen to you if you are under 40.

Fede Pisani (Age of 30).

Technical Blogger.

Note: If you don’t know what HTML is, go learn it. You could be making over $100k in little over 2 weeks.

Is Texting Contributing to a Bidialectical Culture?

When reflecting on the history of literacy and its advancements, one might reference poetry, koans, or sonnets – Rumi, Shakespeare, maybe Sinclair Lewis or Ernest Hemingway – all of which had a distinguished nature to their writing, making it less a form of dry, solemn communication and more of an art of high resonate notes. Their writing was often a vehicle to discuss ethics in politics, societal morals, or human’s idiosyncratic nature. Most literary laureates are given great praise over their ability to use language as an artist would use a paintbrush – masterfully coloring in the world with their gifted narration abilities, one pen stroke at a time.

Individuals who consider such literary accomplishments as major advancements to the written word and furthering our communication style, may scoff at the way the current generation is utilizing – or not utilizing – writing in text messages, seeing it as a form of abuse. Some may even consider the shorthand, so often found in text messages– such as LOL, JK, & NVM – as degrading the artistry of language, giving children bad habits, and making it difficult for them to have intellectually rich and verbose conversations with their peers. However, most of the distrust circulating around the texting culture are people opinionating, with their hypotheses not really grounded in any sound research, just mere speculation, and perhaps a pitch of nostalgia for the past.

In a recent TEDtalk on communication, linguist John McWhorter discussed a less popular angle of texting and its effects on literacy, debunking the very premise of texting being damaging to the written language. Rather than creating a generation of subpar writers, he believes that it is actually helping people become better communicators, as it serves a similar function in the brain to that of a second language. Texting is now being seen as a new form of second language – with all its shorthand, slang and brevity- making it difficult to understand for those individuals who are unfamiliar to the nuances of the code. Studies have shown that people who are bilingual are cognitively nimbler, quicker, and even able to resolve conflicts better. Therefore, if texting is now seen to have similar advantages to that of being bilingual, then our generation might just be experiencing, as McWhorter mentioned “a linguistic miracle”.

McWhorter discussed that through texting we have mastered ways of communicating empathy with the challenge of not physically seeing a person’s body language or facial features. The LOL or LMAO texters are generally not literally “Laughing Out Loud”. Rather the LOL conveys resonances, showing how one relates to the other, just as someone who has a face-to-face conversation may demonstrate this emotion through locked eyes or a cocked head. We are now using additional methods to convey our physical reaction and body language through emoji, written slang and acronyms.

Remember, in the history of humanity, the written word, compared to the spoken word, has been around for a minuscule amount of time. Therefore, perhaps every ounce of development we have contributed to written language is expanding our written repertoire, whether high-brow or not. From this lens, no slang or alternative dialect can ever be degrading the english lexicon, rather it makes it even more meatier, subtly advancing our culture, one LOL at a time.

So go ahead “Text up” and be apart of the growing bidialectical generation of english speakers, pigeon, ebonics, shorthand, and LOLers.

DeepMind and Machine learning

Google has been on the cutting edge of A.I development for some time and recently had a major advancement. Google’s DeepMind research center, consisting of a team of machine learning researchers, computational neuroscientists, and software engineers based in London, recently crafted a program that, without feeding any information to it from a human brain, learned how to play Atari games.

Machine learning has been ground breaking since its development- the ability to teach technology how to operate and learn. Educating machines has been akin to that of an infant; we have “raised” them to adopt our language, and learn from patterned experiences. Inputting information into machines over a long period of time enables the machine to pick up on patterns to eventually be able to execute on its own. But the “on its own” part has, up until recently, only been possible with human help – programing the machine with information in the effort for the technology to create relevant algorithms. However, Google’s DeepMind labs has crafted a type of machine learning program that does not require excessive inputted data from humans to effectively learn.

How is this possible?

Combining machine learning and systems neuroscience to produce general algorithms, DeepMind’s A.I. Program, coined “Deep Q-Network” (DQN), recently taught itself  how to play arcade games on its own.  Not only did DQN teach itself, the program was also able to  established farsighted strategies. It was reported that the A.I agent was capable to function right out of the box, given only “raw screen pixels, the set of actions available, and game score.”

DQN works from a combination of deep neural network and reinforcement learning – through seeking to find the familiarity and balance between the unknown, and that which is known. Reinforcement learning, inspired by behaviorist psychology, is unlike most supervised learning in that it does not correct weak actions or define the right input or output pairs. Rather, it allows software and machines to find the best context specific behavior automatically, to exploit its performance. It is trained in a way similar to how our brain experience and realize dreams and flashbacks – trained from stored samples of information taken directly from the learning phase. DQN is the attempt to create a supercomputer, a program that replicates the human brain.

Future of Machine Learning

DeepMind was initiated out of concerns over the future dangers of AI. It prioritizes the importance of human nuances, which are believed to be too complex for technology to ever understand entirely. However, the evolution of machine learning currently serves as an excellent asset to numerous fields.

A.I. has proven beneficial for certain diagnostics, especially in the medical world, where opinions and outcomes drawn from a large pool of continuously updated, world-wide data has been a great tool for providing the most relevant up-to-date information to patients. It generates global statistics from analyzed data that can then referenced to support a patient’s diagnosis. Perhaps machine learning will eventually be replacing the scientific method.

What lies ahead for machine learning is still unknown.  Perhaps leading machines will be replacing the researcher – learning as they go, coming out with the most relevant information that further helps in an endless amount of fields (stocks, economics, academia, health, etc..). Providing not only data, but data along with solutions. However, the emotional decision making and illogical tendencies of human choices is still too abstract to be captured in a program. The more advanced machine learning  that researchers are looking to develop would require complex algorithms and memory span that is, at the moment, unimaginable.

The Connectivity of The Internet of Things (IoT)

There are approximately over 7 billion people walking the global, almost half of which – 320 billion – are internet users. Just over 270 million of them are within the United States. As our worldwide connectivity continues to grows at an unfaltering rate, not only will people have more connection to people -contributing to more opportunities for economic growth and global collaboration- but more animals, devices and “things” will also be embedded with technology, thus leading to the ever-growing Internet of Things (IoT).

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

IoT is essentially a gigantic network of connected “things” (gadgets, cars, engines, computers, pens, glasses, cities, etc). Gartner describes it as:

The IoT is the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology to communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment.”

The concept itself signifies the evolution of a global culture; the IoT represents the increasing connectivity among machines, people, and things. It is becoming a new “age/era/ epoch”, another stage of creativity and transformation in human history- The Dark ages, Post Modernism, & now The Internet of Thing.

How does the IoT work

Technology is proliferating at an unprecedented rate. As Google Fiber speeds up broadband in smaller cities, and digital smart collars expands connectivity to more rural and nomadic areas, it is projected that by 2020 there will be 5 billion internet users, out of a global population of 8 billion. In just 5 years more than 2/3 of the population worldwide will be plugged-in. Internet speed is now being suggested as a Human right on Google’s fiber optics website. Their site contains an uploaded video of Kista Grammatis, from A Human Right organization, discussing how increased internet connectivity, reaching more areas of the globe, can help communities educate, connect, grow, and take initiative for themselves.

So will internet connectivity be added to the list of human rights: the right to life, freedom of expression and internet connectivity? In that case, the era of the “IoT” would then be manipulating the definition of human rights, traditionally referring to something that is not possessed by anyone, but the rights inherent to all beings, and therefore would demonstrate how  technology is largely contributing to a global etymological shift.

To help understand the whys, hows, pros and cons of the Internet of Things, I have created some bulleted lists below to give readers a quick glance at the ins-and-outs of the IoT:

IoT at a quick glance

What Has Enabled the IoT?

  • Broadband internet  becoming increasingly more available and accessible
  • Decreasing costs
  • More devices
  • More built-in censors and GPS
  • Increase in Smart Phone sales

How will the IoT effect the future

  • Everything we do, from how we work to how we live is going to be increasingly affected by this concept
  • Any device with a power button will be connected to the internet, making all devices “smart”
  • By 2020 over 26 billion “things” will be connected
  • Changing relationships from machine-to-machine to People-to-people, people-to-things, and things-to-things will increase

Some Opportunities with the IoT

  • Reduces the need to multi-task on menial activities
  • Redirects the mundane everyday tasks to “smart” devices and allots humans to more complex tasks, tasks that we can’t even imagine at the moment because they have yet to be created.
  • Reduces waste and improves efficiency for Transportation and Cities- The IoT with be making smarter cities
  • New job opportunities
  • Provides endless opportunities and connections.

The Challenges of the IoT

  • Increased security issues
  • Privacy and data sharing problems
  • An overproduction of Data
  • Data storage challenge

Sources:

http://www.business2community.com/tech-gadgets/tech-trends-cant-ignore-business-2015-01165769

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobmorgan/2014/05/13/simple-explanation-internet-things-that-anyone-can-understand/

http://www.census.gov/popclock/

http://variety.com/2014/biz/news/media-stocks-fall-after-discovery-report-stirs-advertising-worries-1201347664/

 

By: Kayleigh Stack

Tech Blogger & Market Researcher