If you are touching your smartphone 1,500 times a week, you are normal

Author: LISA KAAKIFri, 2017-04-28 03:00ID: 1493324801714020300Networks are everywhere and yet most users do not even know that information gathered by Google and Facebook is sold to advertising sites. “The Power of Networks” sheds some light on the issue of digital privacy and gives us an insight into the big ideas driving the social and technical networks we use every day. Many of the materials in this book have been used by the authors to teach more than 100,000 students in a Massive Online Course from 2013 till now.We always carry a mobile phone. We cannot go anywhere without one. The use of our smartphones, iPads and laptops depend on technologies that have made communications faster. Dennis Strigl, former president and CEO Verizon Wireless (which sells broadband) tells the authors that when he first worked in the wireless business. McKinsey & Company estimated there would be 900,000 wireless subscribers by 2000. That figure was beaten a hundredfold and by the end of 2014, there were 344 million users worldwide. “And we can attribute that to an outstanding network, a good product that works for our customers, and also to the fact that prices have continually come down over the years, from what was an executive’s backseat-of-a-limousine device to what is now an everyday device,” Strigl is quoted as saying in “The Power of Networks.In the late 1990s, not many believed in the future of text messages but now smartphones have pictures and stream videos.The quality of the network and its continuous improvement over the years are the backbone of Verizon’s success. “The big challenge that we had was that we spent almost $15 billion a year on buildings, plant and equipment. In the early 2000s, what we saw was a diminishing portion of our revenues coming from voice and a growing portion coming from data,” said Strigl, who guarantees that “the price per unit of usage will continue to come down as the usage grows, the consumer and the commercial usage grows and the revenue stream to the carrier grows, and as the costs continually come down both from manufacturers and from the carriers themselves.” In 2006, the word “Googling” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Google has more than 55,000 employees and in 2014, it generated $66 billion with 90 percent of its revenues from ads alone. But what is truly remarkable about Google is that we are always able to find what we are looking for. And this is due to the creative genius of Google’s founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. They came up with a new approach for ranking web pages based on two factors: relevance and importance. The concept of relevance set Google’s vision apart because it shows how relevant the content of the page is to a given search query. “But it’s the notion of importance that made Page Rank, Google’s ranking algorithm (a clever pun on Larry Page’s name), much more successful than previous approaches. It has been a driving force in bringing Google fame since the late 1990s,” wrote Brinton and Chiang.The authors also interview Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011. Asked what he considers an ideal way to communicate with one other, Schmidt replies: “If you look at society today, people are over-communicating all the time, and I think that the lesson from technology is that people want to communicate all the time in every conceivable way, and that you’ll see a multiplicity of ways that they communicate… So I think you’re going to see lots of different forms of communication. So while I’m talking to you, I’m getting e-mails, I’m getting texts, I’m getting voice-mails… One of the more interesting statistics is that, in a given week, someone touches their phone 1,500 times. The average teenager sends more than 100 texts a day. So the revolution in communications is deep and profound. It’s a very, very, very large explosion of communication in all forms.”A growing amount of retail shopping is done on the Internet. In 2014, people spent $1.3 trillion buying items online. This number is expected to double by 2018.The largest online retailer in the US is Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 as an online bookstore. Amazon did not plan to make any profit until the turn of the century and it was one of few online companies to survive when the dot.com bubble burst around 2000. Amazon made its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2001. Nowadays it not only sells books but everything including clothing, shoes, software and electronic devices. It offers competitive prices, free shipping in some cases and, most of all, it provides its customers with practical feedback through product reviews.YouTube, founded by three former PayPal employees in February 2005, grew very fast. By July 2006, YouTube was getting 65,000 new videos and 100 million views daily. A few months later, Google bought it for $1.65 billion. In October 2009, the site registered 1 billion daily views. By mid-2016, the number of views had reached 5 billion.The most famous video to go viral is “Gangnam Style.” This four-minute video by the Korean singer PSY was the first video to register 1 billion views, in December 2012. Two years later, it reached 2 billion views.Facebook remains the largest social networking site; it is used today by 1.65 billion people representing more than one-fifth of all the people on earth. Mark Zuckerberg launched a social networking site in 2004 known then as “Thefacebook” for his classmates at Harvard University. It kept attracting students from Ivy League universities until in 2006, the site began allowing anyone 13 years or older with a valid e-mail address to join. In 2012, Facebook registered 1 billion users and had its first public offering.Twitter, launched in July 2006, is another social network, which gives its users the possibility of sending tweets which are text messages with a maximum of 140 characters. It grew from 400,000 tweets per quarter in 2007 to 100 million per quarter in 2008 and in 2015 Twitter was handling almost 500 million tweets per day.Nowadays, besides social, communication and economic networks, we are witnessing the rise of cyber physical systems also called the Internet of Things. There are wearable objects that help track our bodies’ vital signs while we exercise and there are also devices that allow us to remotely control the temperature or to look at video cameras monitoring the security of our houses. During a conversation with the authors, Vinton Cerf, recognized as one of the fathers of the Internet with Bob Kahn, is asked which of these devices are science fiction and which ones will be happening.“I think that we’re going to see progress literally on all fronts at some pace over the course of the next several decades. So I don’t see much of this as science fiction, to be honest. Even things like self-driving cars that we work on at Google are not science fiction anymore…“The one thing I do worry about though is that a lot of these devices may be designed and are built with relatively small processing power. The question is whether or not there is enough processing power, for example to encrypt traffic to ensure privacy of data. And we should be very concerned about the safety and security, and privacy of these systems, since a lot of the data that’s collected could be interpreted and abused … So we have a whole lot of safety, security and privacy challenges in the cyber physical systems.”“The Power of Networks” explains how networks are transforming our society. Networking is changing the way we think, live and work. Our success depends on our ability to understand how these new technologies are creating the digital economy. We use the Internet and we still do not know enough about how our personal data is being traded by advertising markets. Internet companies have gone some way to showing their users what information about them has been sold to advertisers. It has been suggested that a reasonable regulation would require that the disclosures are always a click away and mandate periodic “push” notifications about the information being gathered.—life.style@arabnews.com
Main category: Art & Culture

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