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Understanding Coders
May16

Understanding Coders

The following is a review of Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World, by Clive Thompson. The original, abridged version was published last week in the Globe & Mail. Digital technologies surround us, and we all know there are digital criminals that can hurt us. They include identity thieves, phishers, spies, zombie farmers, hackers, cyberbullies, and data hostage takers. (I’m constantly battling impersonators on social media who are trying to entice my network into some cryptocurrency scam.) However, we don’t know much about the tens of millions of other digital technicians that are the good guys. They write the underlying algorithms encoded in software that set the hidden, implicit or explicit rules governing our digital existence. These coders create the pervasive algorithms embedded in the technologies of work, play, commerce, learning, social media, and entertainment. Given the mounting concern about the impact of digital technology on our lives, it would be good to know more about the people who are building our digital realities. Journalist Clive Thompson’s lucid, yet breezy new book — Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World— is a great way to learn. Thompson is a gifted seer of the digital age, and a brilliant writer for publications such as Wired and The New York Times magazine.   He examines who the coders are, their culture and what makes them tick.  He tells great stories.  The first female coder to work at Facebook, ended up creating the iconic “Newsfeed” capability. She immediately loved her job, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s motto of “Move fast and break things.”  Users hated the Newsfeed but they held the course and now it’s foundational to everything there. Compared to traditional coding work, “It was different, it was vibrant, it was alive.” Coders are not typical office employees like those who work in marketing or accounting. Thompson identifies some of common traits of the coders who are building the world today.  He finds that they deeply prize efficiency, loving the feeling of taking something slow and repetitive and automating it. They’re in a constant war with bugs and errors, and their code is often failing and breaking, so they have “a masochistic ability to endure brutal, grinding frustration.” More often than not they’re more lean towards being introverted, and prefer to work in long, immersive dives into programming. He finds they work rhythms are less like typical white-collar workers and more like novelists or artists: They want to be left alone while they build things in their heads. They’re an increasingly diverse bunch these days, personality-wise; the hackers who work on crypto are often deeply concerned about civil rights, and the...

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Norway is the best country in the world to live in, according to the WEF
Feb05

Norway is the best country in the world to live in, according to the WEF

US president Donald Trump said last week that he wanted more of America’s immigrants to come from Norway, instead of “shithole countries” in Africa. When he comes to Davos this Friday, he will find out why that is not happening. According to World Economic Forum, Norway is the best country in the world in which to live. Norway is given top prize because the World Economic Forum analysts use a different metric than the Gross Domestic Product. They think GDP is a narrow and blinkered measure of economic activity. It doesn’t care whether that activity benefits its citizens. Read the full...

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Trump’s view of world ‘direct attack on spirit of co-operation’
Feb05

Trump’s view of world ‘direct attack on spirit of co-operation’

Don Tapscott is chief executive of the Tapscott Group and the chancellor of Trent University. With his son Alex, he is the co-author of Blockchain Revolution: How the Technology Behind Bitcoin is Changing Money, Business and the World and the co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute, a think tank conducting 70 projects about blockchain opportunities and challenges. The theme of this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum was “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.” Delegates were asked to consider a renewed commitment to international collaboration to solve global challenges. “Our first response must be to develop new models for co-operation that are not based on narrow interests, but on the destiny of humanity as a whole,” WEF founder Klaus Schwab said. Read the full...

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Why blockchain is dominating discussions in Davos
Jan27

Why blockchain is dominating discussions in Davos

One technology topic here towers over all others: blockchain. It is bigger than artificial intelligence, social media, robotics or anything else. Every year, more and more companies descend on this small Swiss ski village to show their leadership and pitch their services. This action around blockchain (the technology behind cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin) is striking. What a change from two years ago. Back in 2016, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked me for my technology predictions for the near-to-mid term. I said blockchain would change our lives in the next 20 years as much as the Internet has changed our lives in the past 20 years. The book that I wrote with my son Alex, Blockchain Revolution, hadn’t been published yet. Bitcoin was trading for $100 and ethereum was still little more than a University of Waterloo dropout’s science experiment. The reporter was dubious. So were many others. In 2017, the same reporter interviewed me and admitted blockchain was beginning to generate a bit of a buzz, albeit most of it centred on the financial industry and bitcoin. I agreed with him, and said bitcoin was just an early application of blockchain, like e-mail was an early app of the old internet. I bet him 2018 would be the year blockchain was one of the hottest Davos topics. Read the full article   Photo via GovernmentZA (Flickr) – (CC BY-ND...

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Will Trump in Davos be the elephant in the china shop?
Jan25

Will Trump in Davos be the elephant in the china shop?

The World Economic Forum in Davos started today, and US president Donald Trump is attending. He is no doubt happy to be invited. Last year I described him as “the elephant not in the room.” This year he’s more likely to be the elephant in the china shop. The theme of the meeting is Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World. Discussions will focus on finding ways to reaffirm international cooperation on crucial shared interests, such as international security, the environment and the global economy. “We need collaborative efforts,” Forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab said earlier this week. He warns that “There is today a real danger of a collapse of our global systems… It is in our hands to change the state of the world.” Read the full article on Quartz Photo: Reuters/Denis...

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Will Trump in Davos be the elephant in the china shop?
Jan22

Will Trump in Davos be the elephant in the china shop?

Last year I described him as “the elephant not in the room.” This year he’s more likely to be the elephant in the china shop. The World Economic Forum starts in Davos on Monday – and there’s a star attraction, or distraction, in U.S. President Donald Trump. On the agenda of the Monday-to-Friday event: more than 400 sessions, with Mr. Trump scheduled to speak on Friday. On the minds of organizers: collaboration. “We need collaborative efforts,” forum founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab said last week. “There is today a real danger of a collapse of our global systems. … It is in our hands to change the state of the world.” Read the full article in The Globe and...

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