Privacy As Currency

Privacy As Currency

Arguments for and against the use of "Big Data" to tailor services and advertisements litter the blogosphere, but one thing is certain: Without this data, many of the tools society depends on would be inconceivable. However, these revolutionary tools aren't without consequences.  In one prolific example, captured by Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habit, the national retailer Target predicts the pregnancy of, and sends relevant advertisements to, a teenage girl at such an early stage of her pregnancy that her family, friends, and boyfriend had not yet been informed of the new development. The situation caused such an uproar among privacy advocates and those against general 'creepiness' of the situation, that Target artificially diluted the accuracy of its algorithms in order to prevent alienating future customers. 

While companies like Target grapple with the nuances of using this data, break through technologies have emerged that enable us to turn our unused rooms into mini-hostels, prevent food shortages in Philadelphia, and create insanely popular TV shows like Luke Cage. Unfortunately, these technologies face the same privacy concerns that Target once grappled with, and the privacy debate continues to evolve.  This evolution must continuously be refined as society and technology advance, or the political, legal, and ethical frameworks it helped create will no longer provide much protection. Unfortunately, while this debate has evolved around the safety of consumers and the protection of data, there has been little discussion about the economic security of consumers and their data.

Just as countless technological innovations were made possible throughout human history by capitalizing on previously wasted byproducts, data must one day cease to be treated as happenstance, and be understood for the value it possesses. It's not enough for the government to protect the only physical safety of its citizens, it must enable its citizens to be educated and capable enough to fight for their economic security in light of a booming industry. It's only in doing so that consumers will be able to understand the true cost of their consumerism.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

After watching this movie in theaters three times, I think I can finally articulate my thoughts on the new installment with something approaching objectivity:  The movie is fucking awesome.  It absolutely crushed records, it explained away many of the complaints people had about the trailer (e.g. black stormtrooper, the crossguard of Kylo Ren's lightsaber), and it restored the faith of the anti-prequel crowd.  It, quite frankly, was an immensely enjoyable movie going experience that was only amplified by the hype and expectations that I had because of its universe.

It's not without it's problems though: For all of the originality and complexity of Kylo Ren, and all the mystery of Rey, The Force Awakens simply falls flat on the actual plot itself.  Which is absolutely surprising because the characters - aside from a few minor annoyances, looking at you Captain Phasma - absolutely drove the movie.  Which, if you look back at all six movies objectively, is completely opposite of every single movie:  The acting was abysmal and the characters were difficult to empathize with.

This saga of Star Wars, led by this new generation of actors, seems to flip that problem on its head:  Retell the old, unoriginal stories, with new and relateable actors. While the actors capture the hearts of the viewers, it's up to the writers of Episode IIX to come up with a new story arc, one that captures our imaginations and minds.  The ground work is set, and J.J. Abrams has instilled new life into an old franchise, but fans will be eagerly waiting to see if a new universe can be built atop the ashes of hundreds of fan-fiction novels.

Cable Cutting

You've probably heard a lot about Netflix and Hulu; Roku and Chromecast; cable cutting or using the Internet to get your TV, but are you really using these solutions to their fullest extent?  Do you actually save any money in the long term? Is it feasible for you?  I use Netflix to stream archived movies and episodic television shows, Hulu to stream day-old content, and Plex to stream local content, and web content that is otherwise unavailable (e.g. How I Met Your Mother and The Big Bang Theory).  Once it's all set up, the process is actually pretty simple: I pull the app up on Roku or smartphone and get ready to stream my local content or binge watch my favorite Netflix show.  But that doesn't really help you find out what works for you, does it?

Assuming your cable costs are average ($60/mo), then a pay-off date for your cable-cutting system will be fairly easy to figure out.  The graph below outlines two types of cable cutters, your Basic Cable Cutters which will be served by Option One below, and your Advanced Cable Cutters which are served by Option Two below.  We'll get into what the options mean in the next section, but for now take a look at the graph.

Operating Costs (Running Totals)

As you can see, the red line (Cable) costs grow by $60 every month, whereas the Cable Cutter options only grow by $16 every month (Hulu and Netflix), but start $300 or $700 higher than Cable due to the cost of buying your own equipment.