Product Owner Man

Welcome to the Fascinating World of Product

Software is becoming more important with every passing year. We now live in a world where processes across the economic and social spectrum can be scaled, optimized and improved through software. Sometimes it’s automation, at other times it’s reinterpreting and transforming entire workflows into something that can be done remotely and collaboratively via various centralized systems (applications, websites, etc.).

Software is also a very new concept in the world of engineering. Its completely immaterial nature makes it difficult to craft using known techniques and processes. Unfortunately, the vast majority of companies out there haven’t yet adapted to software. Sometimes even companies that think of themselves that they are doing software go about it in a completely mechanical way. They put everything underneath the umbrella term “IT” (Information Technology). There is a very important distinction between technology and correctly (profitably) applying that technology.

Ajit Pai

How Corporations Get to Own the Internet

Once upon a time, governments were major stakeholders in most large-scale technological and scientific ventures. Such projects were either built directly by the government, or by companies in which the people had a lot of say. But all that is far behind us. Now-a-days, government isn’t exactly “the people” anymore. And now, it’s corporations who build the telecommunication infrastructure for tomorrow.

I find it rather sad that as I’m typing this, I am pondering which is worse: having my digital life in the hands of corporations that will exploit it however they see fit, or (/and?) allowing governments to keep encroaching on our privacy and freedom? It’s becoming harder to distinguish between the two, especially as corporations have proven time and again that they can easily buy government.

Smartphone Privacy

Why It’s Not Surprising That Smartphone Privacy Is Going from Bad to Worse

Throughout the past years there have been several high-profile occasions when apps were in the news for questionable tracking strategies. Even applications that do not use novel means of compromising our privacy are gobbling up increasing amounts of data while their creators cash in on the profits obtained from selling the user’s digital life to the highest bidder. At the receiving end of this deluge of spyware are we, the people.

Even for those of us that do read the list of permissions an app requests upon installation, it is hard to avoid installing certain apps because they come with other features that we need. It’s an old trick that is akin to the Trojan horse. This is how these dubious app creators get in our back yard: by offering something that is 90% useful and 10% spyware, but which must be accepted as a whole.

Machine Learning and Our Future

Machine Learning and Our Future

Machine Learning is all the rage these days. Be it computer vision, speech recognition, pattern matching or high-speed decisional capabilities, this century is the century of software. Like all technological revolutions, there’s potential for miracles and catastrophes.

Large corporations have started to realize that Machine Learning is a way to prevent smaller competitors from threatening them. This is because small companies can’t (yet) afford the huge infrastructure and Big Data investments that ML requires. It’s not surprising then that Microsoft, Google, FaceBook and others have open-sourced ML platforms, trying to attract developers and smaller companies to their ecosystems.

This post will touch on but a few of the changes we can expect in the coming decades thanks to the upcoming advances in Machine Learning. Looking at our history, we can see how the industrial revolution has supercharged our progress as a species. I believe that the Machine Learning revolution will make the industrial revolution seem like a snail in slow motion. This is both hopeful and scary.

Artist's impression of space junk

Careful with That Orbit Now

Scientists and aerospace engineers alike have long been worried about the consequences of junking Earth’s orbit. On this site the topic was first mentioned shortly after North Korea put an (apparently) useless satellite up there. This is a serious issue, as highlighted by this year’s conference on space debris, which was understandably worried about recent initiatives that consist of launching entire constellations of micro-satellites.

Should we expect the worst to happen? With SpaceX alone planning to plant about 3000 (yes, that’s three thousand) satellites in orbit during the next decade, I think it is a valid concern. Especially as this is done with little (if any) preparation to mitigate orbital pollution.

Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors May Be in Trouble, but Remember These Facts

A respected investigative journalist has recently penned a rather worrying piece about Tesla Motors’ progress with its high-stakes Model 3 vehicle. Things are far from going according to plan. What is even more disturbing for me are some of the recent shock & awe declarations of CEO Elon Musk. For example his unrealistic plans for colonizing Mars or sending people around the world aboard modified ballistic rockets, both of which would be a complete waste of critical resources and a mockery of the critical situation in other parts of the planet. The following Seeking Alpha article pours some cold water on all the Musk hype.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Musk. He’s done great with Tesla Motors. In fact, he’s done so great that now Big Motor is out to get him. It’s amazing how much competition he managed to ignite and thus has done the world a great favor. He’s done even better with Space X given how much the enterprise has helped our extra-terrestrial research and development. But some of his statements are scientifically unsound and that devalues him in the eyes of those that matter a lot for his ventures’ future. I have no problem with idealism, but I do have a problem with cheap PR tactics.


Behind China’s Success

Like pretty much everybody that is up to date with current events, I’ve been following China’s rise as a high-tech superpower with great interest. The article touches on some very important points concerning innovation while showing some interesting statistics about one of China’s innovation hubs, Shenzhen.

But there’s more than patent applications that will power China’s success. The country’s social system is more competitive than many of its Western adversaries. Many Westerners (including me) would have ethical qualms in toying with genetically engineered human embryos. I’m quite sure that China is willing to go further and faster with such experiments. It is quite possible that this is an even greater game-changer than our so-called efforts into artificial “intelligence”.

Smartphones & Tablets

Smartphones, Tablets and How Social Media Hijacks Our Minds

It’s no news that the use of smartphones and tablets has been found to be detrimental for the usual brain development of children. Recent studies, however, have shown that the exaggerated use of smartphones is causing damage in adults too. One of the most serious effects of smartphone abuse is social retardation, which has grave repercussions across a wide spectrum of behaviors.

But wait, there’s more. The “hardware” side of the problem is further compounded by the software that we use. According to Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, our minds are being hijacked by social media (and other similar online products).

The smartphone is not only made to capture our attention, but also to encourage changes in how our brain works (neuroplasticity plays a huge role in this). As a result of these changes, our attention is easier to capture and once baited, it can be manipulated so that it doesn’t escape the trap. It wouldn’t be so bad if our attention and time would be invested in something useful, but many times this is not the case.

A Dark Side Of Software

A Dark Side of Software

Lying and cheating to get a competitive edge is nothing new and certainly not limited to human beings. But Earth has plenty of resources and there’s no serious threat to our existence in sight (other than ourselves, of course). Because companies affect so many beings, cheating has serious effects.

Thanks to software, never before has cheating had so many ways of staying hidden through complexity and obscurity. Thankfully, some people still have a conscience and this is how we found out about the way Uber, Volkswagen and probably many other companies have stayed above the law and ruined the lives of countless people.