Saturday, November 26, 2016

Draining the Swamp: Social Media Dominates Presidential Race

In a presidential race like no other in the history of our nation, social media played a determining factor in winning the top position of the world, President of the United States. Thousands of real-time “tweets” helped people connect with any of the candidates at any time during the election process. There was no scientific study done that proved exactly how many people read all the candidates’ posts, but based on the number of followers, someone was analyzing their opinions. These same tweets were also posted on various CNN and MSNBC talk shows. Even during heated-debate topics and finger-pointing arguments, the public, made up of centennials, millennials, Generation Xers, traditionalists and baby boomers, could turn to the Internet and get real-time reactions, unlike anything ever seen or read of before.
Even though “draining the swamp” became the theme to the presidential race of 2016, it was technology that connected the dots. It’s almost as if technology drove the campaigns to their final outcomes, fueled by the millions upon millions of people who followed every waking minute of the year-long event using Twitter or Facebook.
But it has been more than 10 years that Twitter, with more than 25 offices around the world, began to make a 140-character message called a “tweet” a most enduring legacy. In fact, ordinary people are able to address a nation with little effort and with little marketing ability. Celebrities can update their fans about their lives and their opinions on all relevant topics. Government can make public announcements to the masses. Politicians can share their own views and positions without fanfare. Even the President can sprinkle the Internet with opinion and commentary way after the day is through.
The more practical use for Twitter has been as a communication system for breaking news to the public. Before the news becomes news, someone tweets the storyline and leaves everyone wanting more (because a tweet can only hold 140 characters). Although the system wasn’t designed for high performance information and details, it has been used with ongoing media events like the Boston Marathon bombing and the Westgate Shopping Mall attack, including the 2016 presidential race of the United States.
It’s true to say that social media is now taken seriously. Once thought of as a self-righteous, self-centered, narcissistic tool, social media (including Facebook) is beginning to formulate into a valid voice, a pivotal connection to a large following of hungry consumers in desperate need of raw, readable information. People want information like they crave love, nicotine and alcohol—because, for some reason or another, it’s bold, tasteful and fine. There’s plenty of information out there to satisfy the millions of voices projecting a million more new ideas each night—and that doesn’t even include the final two candidates of the election. Even so, let’s not forget how many tweets and Facebook postings they left for you to review (forever and ever) after the debates and elections are finished. What’s interesting about social media postings is that they never go away. When someone takes a position and voices it, that passage lives on in cyberland forever. 
And let’s not forget this fact, either: old routines are dying off fast due to social media’s consistent growth and popularity in society. For example, reading a news article or watching a rerun of the debate the day after the event doesn’t work anymore; that’s not fast enough; that’s not instant enough. We live in a world of instant gratification, instant replay, instant coffee, instant fame, instant rewards, and instant messaging. Then it should come as no surprise how technology plays a key role in the presidential race, causing the exit polls to be way off their mark. Think about this: the number of monthly active users on Twitter is way over 317 million (as of mid-2016). That’s 317 million votes. That’s 317 million active accounts. That’s power; and that’s a determining factor if a presidential race ends up being close or not—similar to the one that just concluded.
Strangely enough, in a twist of fate and good luck, three states determined the final outcome: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—with 112,158 voters giving us a new president. You see, social media does influence people on every level possible—even the underlying working-class, blue-collar worker who desires a change of heart in the pool of political correctness and digital connectedness. The world didn’t consider their vote.

Author's Note: The presidential race of 2016 is in the books. We have a new president. We have a change of power in government. This entire election process has been moderated and dictated through the use of technology, thought the use of social media, and through the Internet's long-withstanding power. Let's face it: the impact of technology on the political arena has been massive during this presidential race, if not even more enduring than any other race in the history of the nation. You can almost envision technology connecting the dots in the next race.
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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ethical Debate: Cut, Copy and Paste Culture

Cut, copy and paste. Everyone’s doing it. Everyone “borrows” text and information for emails, text messages, writing papers, and replicating important articles. At this point in computer history, this is the most-utilized skill with both Apple and Windows users. In fact, the skill is world-wide based, and it covers every language and every culture on the planet.

When you get down to it, people love to share information. We are living in a cut, copy and paste culture where collaboration and sharing drives society and cultural values—thus driving technology forward. We can see that development with each new app that simplifies the computer user's life and their ability to get things done on both computers and smartphones.

Young people are at the heart of the new culture (more so than the aging baby boomers). Some experts agree that millennials are ignorant of academic honesty and think that authors (real, living, breathing people) don’t write articles on websites, such as Wikipedia, Infoplease, MSN Encarta, Encyclopedia Britannica Online, and Scholarpedia. According to Teresa Fishman, director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University, everything out there is available for anyone to take. She states that “now we have a whole generation of students who’ve grown up with information that just seems to be hanging out there in cyberspace and doesn’t seem to have an author.”

That’s where the ethical debate comes into play. A world without barriers, without rules, without structure, and without any restrictions is bound to fail. That really explains why so much information out there in cyberland is unprovable, unreliable, and unusable. The Internet has no formal structure, no common leader, and continues to stay open-ended in development. The ethical struggle continues to climb with this widely-used, wildly-popular tool, and grows even deeper with this cut, copy and paste culture.

What’s wrong with copying and pasting something? It seems innocent enough, and it’s a luxury and a time-saver for most users. What could be wrong by copying some article or a picture of a mountain scene from the Internet into your computer? The FBI isn’t going to break down your doorway. The local police isn’t going to arrest you. So, what’s the real problem?

The problem arises through the use of sharing information in such a free, unbiased manner. It’s true that local law enforcement, or even worse, the FBI, is not going to open an investigation into why you copied and pasted a picture of a mountain scene into your computer. But it goes way beyond an innocent act. Some of the main issues include the following: academic plagiarism, Copyright infringement, academic test cheating, false news stories, fake identities, false claims, and fake financial accounts. All of these issues are crucial and ethical. Any of these issues could have big impacts on someone’s life, someone’s advancement, someone’s well-being, and someone’s safety.

Look no further than what the government does with digital data.

One of the freedoms you get to enjoy the most in America is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This act became law in 1967 (way before personal computers became a household name), and it allows previously unreleased information and documents, which are controlled by government branch agencies, to be released to the public. Think of this freedom act as the ultimate in copy and paste technology. You get to read digital articles that are posted online, posted for public view, but, in the end, could be used in the cut, copy and paste culture to be abused, used, and altered from their original form. You see, a good deed is not always followed with another good deed in a digital world.

Is this ethical issue growing? Yes, this is just the start. Look at the American presidential race of 2016. Look at the impact that Wikileaks is having on voters’ minds.

Hackers and spammers love that the American government is releasing more information to the public. Not only do you have the private level of cut, copy and paste abuse, but the door widens when you put thieves and terrorists into the mix. You got everyone manipulating the system, manipulating the Internet in ways no one can imagine.

All you have to do is press two keys. That’s it. Ctrl + C puts you in control to copy whatever you want—whenever you want—and you can’t deny that’s a powerful button, powerful enough to put the world into an ethical and digital war.

Author's Note: We do live in a cut, copy and paste culture. Everyone's doing this. Everyone's looking up information and sharing it with others at an undetectable level. We would have to study the keystrokes of a billion people to understand the exact and precise number of times someone is copying raw information from the Internet and placing it in their computer. The government doesn't have the manpower or the abilities to oversee such a large number of activities, legal or not, being performed on a daily basis. Don't expect their to be any spying, either. Hackers and spammers are doing it for them. 
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Our New Digital World: Living with Denial of Service (DoS)

Living in today’s “connected” world requires high security and a deep toleration of patience for denial of service (DoS) interruptions—interruptions that can take down the Internet in a relatively short period of time, creating a lost sense in all people. This situation raises the panic level to an all-time high. People don’t want to live without their precious Internet connection.

In computer terms, according to Wikipedia’s latest definition, “a denial-of-service (DoS) attack is a cyber-attack where the perpetrator seeks to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users, such as to temporarily or indefinitely interrupt or suspend services of a host connected to the Internet.” To put this in general layman’s terms: the Internet’s looking back at itself (which creates an endless loop).

Imagine waking up one day, opening your computer, and watching a blue circle going around and around. This dream is getting closer to reality.

Here comes the hard part: this fast-paced lifestyle of free-flowing information, endless amounts of raw data, time-sensitive financial data, and real-time news comes at a price. Hackers realize the value of digital data in today’s world, and they are willing to go the distance to separate you from what you want. Their deep-seated desire is to “disconnect” you from all the benefits and privileges that come from a digital lifestyle. They know that inconvenience will create a pandemic-effect across many cultures, crippling government systems into a disaster of confusion, vulnerability, and an ultimate breakdown in communication.

Imagine every website disappearing, in a series of days, across the globe. Every form of communication (email, text message, phone, and video talk) would cease to exist. It sounds like the future plot to a blockbuster movie. But in true reality form, imagination and fantasy and science fiction are starting to come into the mainstream way of thinking.

Anything is possible. Anything can fail. Anything can fall off the map. Anything can be next day’s news. Anything can be perfect. Anything can be interrupted. Anything’s possible.

And hackers know how to stop everything from working right.

Welcome to our New Digital World: Living with Denial of Service (DoS).

Take a good look at the latest developments across the globe. Hackers are attacking the central nervous system of the Internet. Websites like Twitter, Netflix, PayPal, Spotify, Airbnb, Reddit, Etsy, SoundCloud and The New York Times are getting a taste of what it’s like to be attacked and shut down for a series of days. This perfectly coincides with the latest presidential race in the United States, giving good reason for hackers and spammers alike to disrupt and distribute their message of terrorism to the masses. Think of this denial-of-service attack as a means to end all means—a way to destroy mankind and end his privileged, self-centered life.

The basic infrastructure (or the basis to the Internet’s backbone) is through the access and utilization of website names, or URLs (Uniform Resource Locators). Hackers send thousands of requests to a server, thus overwhelming the system and causing it to fail. When you type in the name of your favorite website, you get a slow response time, unavailability to the site, or a complete disconnection from the Internet.

The constant interruption is going to turn main stream in the years ahead, and it is also going to become a permanent fixture in the minds of ordinary people. These types of disturbances shall carry with them new kinds of malware, viruses and scams. You better be ready for the mix of new ways that hackers will hold you hostage from your own data. Their complex strategies will destroy what’s valuable and meaningful to you.

But wait until tomorrow. Constant interruption shall drive this world into true mayhem, testing people’s digital knowledge and overall toleration skills, making it almost impossible to deny the fact that terrorism is at the root of all this insanity.

Before the digital madness and disruption of 2016 is forgotten, hackers will once again use imagination to reach new levels of dominance over society.

Author's Note: The computer problems of 2016 are almost in the books. The most common issue this year had to be the dominance of malware, fake ads, and 1-800 numbers that offered service and support for problems that didn't exist in your computer. Living in a world of trickery is a difficult thing to handle, because you fight between the lines of fantasy and realism to try to get to the truth. The truth, however, is almost lost in the madness of the psychological way that computer issues arise. Expect more, much more, in the following year. Expect more aggressive malware that tests your skills and abilities. Expect more frustrations and possibilities of losing private information. Expect more.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Digital Dementia: Is this the end of Critical Thinking?

It’s a new phenomenon in the medical field—something that’s robbing millions of people of their mental and physical well-being. And all they have to do is reach in their pocket and pull out their smartphone to begin a long, intimate, emotional relationship with technology.

It’s a simple act that everyone’s doing: tap on a smartphone, get information, and feel smarter in the process. But what is this doing to their critical thinking abilities? What about the old-fashioned methods of pure memorization? How about taking time to ponder, reflect, and make a proper decision?

This is truly the age of electronics; and this is also the age of digital dementia. Yes, digital dementia means “resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities in a way that is more commonly seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness,” according to Neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer uses this term to describe the on-going deterioration in cerebral performance in the use of short-term memory abilities. In other words, the common man is losing his ability to remember things, simple things, important facts and figures, dates and times, a simple phone number, and even his own email address.

What Evidence Supports this Claim?
You don’t have to look far for answers and/or proof. Ask anyone this simple question: Name 10 email addresses of your friends? Or this one: Write out 10 of your favorite websites?  How about this one: What’s your cell phone number? Honestly, the third one they should get, but it’s becoming more and more common that people can’t answer that simple request. Do consider that people are using technology on an average of 4-5 hours per day, leaving them the opportunity to indulge in long, long hours, in silence, asking questions and getting answers without any human interaction.

Why memory loss? Why can’t we focus? It’s simple. The database of endless answers is in place. Ask Google anything, anything at all. You get answers. Football scores. Historical facts. Distances between places. Celebrities. Health news. Political news. Weather. Gobs and gobs of raw information that can be pulled from the greatest tool ever created, the greatest tool that brings everything into the palm of your hand. Where’s the memory loss, then, if all information is good? The loss happens because people don’t have to think to get answers. You ask. You receive. It’s convenience over convention; it’s lifestyle over tediousness; it’s entertainment over boredom. Thus, the decline and deterioration spells the end of critical thinking skills in people. 

No wonder people can’t focus. So much precious time is spent juggling all the digital aspects of our modern world: emailing, texting, posting, Facebooking, Twittering and Googling. Even this small list could be even larger for those hardcore addicts who use technology to run and manage every aspect of their lives.

People tend to fall into loneliness and depression with these types of behaviors. Because of the lack of human connection and critical thinking, the average person looms on the brink of disaster, both emotionally and physically. In some strange way, we internalize our knowledge construction. We tend to keep things inside, rather than express; we tend to sit back in silence, rather than speak. That leaves many people overly dependent on the Internet and incapable of understanding complex concepts.

This explains why suicide is the highest it’s been, statistically, in 30 years. The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent, while it rose by 43 percent for men in that age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age.

People, it seems, are reeling in the arms of digital dementia, but don’t really understand various solutions to the matter. These few simple suggestions may help ease the pain of electronic dependency:
  • Use Your Head. Sit and think about something. Thinking is good.
  • Crack Open a Book. Reading an actual book rather than a tablet has been shown to improve memory retention.
  • Learn a new language. Putting you outside your comfort zone helps your brain work harder, which makes you smarter.
  • Play a new instrument. Instruments require the use of both sides of the brain.
  • Get physical. Physical exercise increases blood flow to the brain.
  • Talk to others. Talking to strangers is a skill. Engage. Converse.
Any of these steps above require critical thinking. It’s time people get busy!

Author's Note: Let's get one thing straight: It's impossible to turn back the hands of time. We live in an electronic world, the age of digital living. We live in an age where everyone has a voice, an opinion, and a message to send to the masses. But in all of the hype, we let technology slowly take over some control over our thinking abilities, especially critical thinking skills. Ask anyone. They'll admit they spend too much time mesmerized by a small gadget that provides endless information into their weakening brains, but bleeds them dry of their spirit and personality, unknowingly. 
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Monday, September 5, 2016

Sensory Control: The Internet of Things

Let’s face it: computers are appearing everywhere. You can’t escape the harsh reality of technology. Its presence is gaining strength by the sheer amount of uses a computer has in society. As of late, they’re being put in toys, appliances, heart monitors, automobiles, traffic lights, smart grids, electrical stations, pop machines, gas stations, and even in modern homes. And even that list doesn’t cover the extent of the devices possible to connect to the Internet and collect data.

What does the Internet of Things mean?
“The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects, devices, vehicles, buildings and other items which are embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data.” Simply put, technology’s being used in smaller, unknown objects that would otherwise be meaningless to collect data. Times are obviously changing. There’s some incredible goldmine in collecting data from small, unassuming things. Experts may indicate that it’s making for a “smarter society,” but I beg to differ. It’s a true invasion of one’s privacy in an already nosy world of personal affairs turned into national news stories and national headlines. Our world is becoming a “he-said” “she-said” dramafest. These objects only add to the variety of ways one could learn more about an individual and what they do in private.

Believe me—that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

As of 2013, the vision to the Internet of Things has rapidly evolved due the increase in wireless communications to the Internet and embedded systems. Small computer sensory chips are monitoring and exposing useful, potential data to top corporate companies.

Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020. That’s 50 billion objects transmitting data, through wireless means, back to the mother ship. What do you do with all that data? What does it all mean? Is it a way to control your habits, shape your behaviors, alter your beliefs, or, better yet, turn you toward new products similar to what you like?

To me, this is the next level of advertising gold (that’s if you believe someone out there is trying to top what advertisers did to the Internet). Not only will they sell you those jeans you like at the gas pump terminal, but now, because you own a wireless device that updates itself, you’ll get suggestions and insights from an object on what is best to suit your needs. It’s a perfect world of sensors watching every little thing you do, and then taking the initiative to shell out advice for free. The digital world is becoming more real by the day; humans are taking a step back.

Imagine little sensors in your car. Little sensors in your clothes. Little sensors in your flower garden. Little sensors in your coffee cup. Okay, okay. Maybe not that far. But, then again, maybe the sensor in the coffee cup will indicate when the drink turns cold and then heats it back up.

Some support this technology. For example, Philip N. Howard, a professor and author, writes that "the Internet of Things offers immense potential for empowering citizens, making government transparent, and broadening information access." Howard cautions, however, "that privacy threats are enormous, as is the potential for social control and political manipulation.”

But there seems to be a build-up of doubt about how good this technology will work in real life. Specifically, editorials at WIRED magazine have also expressed concern, one stating “What you’re about to lose is your privacy. Actually, it’s worse than that. You aren’t just going to lose your privacy, you’re going to have to watch the very concept of privacy be rewritten under your nose.”

However you look at this subject, the Internet of Things may look good on paper and great in theory, but people are curious creatures. They will notice these behaviors and these suggestions. They’ll hear the beeps, and then be immediately annoyed by its presence. Because in the real world, people want to be private. It’s in their hearts to be private. People desire to do things on their own terms. And, honestly, if they are monitored and watched, they won’t like it. Not one bit.

You won’t either.

Author's Note: It's easy to understand all the "hype" behind the Internet of Things. Having an imaginary helper seems useful, right? Honestly, everyone could use a little help at times. Some quick suggestions and reminders could be useful with certain products and devices. Then, again, you're allowing yourself to trust that this friendly product or device will keep things private. Is your little helper that trustworthy? One will never know.
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