🎭 The Free-Range Technologist #23 with Extra Flair!🥳
DID I REALLY SAY THAT?
No! I love Hedgehogs! After being trained on my voice, the audio above was modified and generated by a computer. This audio clip is a "deepfake."
Now imagine how scammers might use this technology—creating a phishing phone call to my family and friends pleading for bail money? Or to a business partner asking for an immediate money transfer? Or a call to a journalist with a racist screed? These scenarios are not fiction but reality. Tens of millions of dollars have been scammed by using deepfake technology, and it is getting so easy to make deep fakes that scammers are making deep fakes of the non-famous. And this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the nefarious ways this technology can be used.
I'll be giving a couple of talks about the Dangers of Deepfakes (see below for registration information). I hope you can join in. In the meantime, I am compiling a list of resources and news on this topic; check it out here and let me know your suggestions.
🧰Tools to Use: 🥳 Icons and Emojis! Oh My!
As readers will notice, I like to include little emojis and icons in the Free-Range Technologist and on my website (I went a little overboard with this issue). Here are my two main sources for these images:
Emojipedia is a searchable database of emojis from the most common to the highly specialized. Check it out here. The people behind this site monitor the state of the emoji industry as it stands (Top Emoji Trends of 2021) and make sure that everyone is ready to celebrate World Emoji Day. (FYI, if you ever wondered who determines what is and is not an emoji, it is The Unicode Consortium.)
Simple Icons is a library of icons for all your favorite websites and brands. Visit their site here for a searchable database or visit their GitHub site to download the raw files and upload your own contributions!
Hopefully, these sites will help you add some flair to your life. And I think we can agree, you could use a little more flair!
🎙️ Featured Talks and Articles 🗞️
I had the opportunity to be on a brilliant podcast recently, Dr. D’s Social Network Podcast, and talk about the dangers of Deepfakes:
I also recorded a new Paul Pepper 🌶️ show. It was a blast and we covered a lot of AI topics.
And we scheduled another AI chat for March. Please let me know if you have AI topics that you think I should talk about with Paul (in 8 minutes or less).
📚 Book Review: Who Gets What and Why? 🤔
by Alvin E. Roth 👍
This book is a well-written and fascinating look into market design, recommended to me by John Howe. Markets are well designed when they are:
thick (lots of "buyer and sellers" or "offers and recipients" )
not congested (quick),
safe (a participant can disclose their true choices)
and easy to use.
Well-designed markets should naturally nudge participants into honest behaviors (no side deals or gray markets).
When we speak about a free market, we shouldn't be thinking of a free-for-all, but rather a market with well-designed rules that make it work well. A market that can operate freely is like a wheel that can turn freely: it needs an axle and well-oiled bearings. How to provide that axle and keep those bearings well oiled is what market design is about.
The author is an economist by trade who won a noble prize for his market design and game theory work. He tells the story of creating markets as diverse as organ (kidney) matches among living human donors (as opposed to cadavers) and recipients, matching football teams to bowl games, and doctors to residency programs.
I would HIGHLY recommend this book to any entrepreneurs involved in the sharing economy. How you match your customers is essential, and this book will help you understand some of the ways that customers can signal that they are likely customers, and companies can signal they are the best providers of services and products.
Marketplaces as varied as eBay, FreeMarkets, and the New York City public school system reveal a challenge that must be faced by virtually all markets: how to manage the flow of information. No matter how well a market is otherwise designed, it will have trouble giving people what they want if it doesn't make it safe for them to try to get what they want.
While a little dated (written in 2016), all the examples are clearly explained, including several excellent examples about market designs that didn't work. The author also does an excellent job of explaining how some of the more complex markets work (for example, the market for radio spectrum and how those auctions are conducted).
Get: Amazon Link
Note on audiobooks: I have found that biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs work well in an audio format. I can keep the details about what is happening if most of the book is about one person and it is not a book that dives into technical details. BTW, I use Libro.fm to purchase audiobooks so that the sale goes to my local independent bookstore, Skylark books.
🎧 AudioBook Review: The Contrarian🤨
Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley's Pursuit of Power 👎
By Max Chafkin
In the epilogue of this book, author Max Chafkin includes quotes from Thiel's friends who discuss Thiel's better qualities and new role as a husband and father. To discount these positive remarks, Chafkin tells readers that "One of Thiel's talents is to present a canvas onto which others can ascribe their own ideas."
Ironically, Chafkin uses the canvas of his writing to present his idea that Thiel is a one-dimensional tech-bro who doesn't understand tech and manages to luck into money or force his way into it by being a jerk. I don't know enough to judge if Thiel is good or evil, but I do know that he is a much more profound thinker than Chafkin presents.
Chafkin delights in Thiel's missteps and points to them as examples that Thiel doesn't understand what is going on in the tech world. For instance, Thiel cashed out a large portion of his Facebook stock after the IPO. That stock has increased in value substantially since. However, hindsight is 20/20, and it was entirely reasonable to harvest a significant return (638 million-plus or minus) when it was first possible and eliminate the risk that it would decline. At the time, facebook's dominance was not a sure thing, and selling was a good strategy. When Thiel does the same with Palentar after its IPO, again harvesting 100s of millions, Chafkin sees a pattern of poor decision making. I wish I could be so stupid...
Besides the author's bias, there are numerous errors or exaggerations. I have read and re-read Ryan Holiday's book "Conspiracy" about Thiel's efforts (eventually successful) efforts to take down Gawker. Chafkin claims that Holiday fawningly compares Thiel to various leaders (Eisenhower, Patton, etc.). Holiday doesn't. He relates the principles that those leaders used when dealing with conflict and draws parallels to the situation with Gawker. He doesn't say that Thiel is comparable to these leaders.
I am not a fan of this book, but parts of Thiel's timeline filled in for me. If you are super interested in the life of tech leaders and are willing to read with a skeptical eye about the options of the author, then check it out. Otherwise, skip it.
Get: Libro.fm link
🎧 AudioBook Review: Finding My Virginity 🤴
by Richard Branson 👎
I will not spend much time on this one, except to say that if you are enjoyed “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” when it was on TV, or watch Youtube videos about yachts and flying first Class (guilty), then this might be a book for you. Otherwise, I would skip it. To say that Richard Branson has a big ego is like saying that the sun's surface is a little on the warmish side.☀️
I admire his entrepreneurial spirit and his tales about building various businesses. And unlike many successful people, he admits that luck played a big part in his success. However, most of us will have a hard time relating to his tales of hardship. For example, Branson provides a long explanation of how exhausting it is to fly back and forth on his private jet from his private Caribbean island to New Mexico while negotiating the financing for Virgin Galactic (This book was published before his recent space trip).
Get: Libro.fm link
💸Special: 50% discount on Academia Premium 💸
During the holiday break recently did a short course for Academia.edu about Business Analytics. As such, I got an affiliate link that you can use to get 50% off an Academic Premium account (I do get a small percentage of the registration fee). Here is the link: www.academia.edu/learn/JScottChristianson
What is Academia? The best I can describe it is a cross between Google Scholar, Research Gate, Coursera, and Linkedin Learning. It has been around for a bit, and you can check it out for free and then decide if you are interested in the Premium features. Of course, the site has received criticism from its users/customers for trying to charge for premium features. (Who in their right mind would think that academics would be good customers??🤣🤣)
👨🏫 Upcoming Talks:
I will be presenting a brown-bag session for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Mizzou: Deepfakes and the future of content creation, society, and business: January 21 from 11:30 - 1:00. Registration details will be available at: https://extension.missouri.edu/programs/osher-lifelong-learning-institute
Special Opportunity Only for Mizzou Students (Undergrad and Graduate)
For the first time, three workshops from Mizzou’s Entrepreneur Quest two-month education program are open to any Mizzou student. They will be led by Prof C from 4 to 5:15 p.m. in the MU Student Center, Room 2206, A, B & C.
Feb. 2 – Understanding your customer’s story
Feb. 9 – Ideation, user journey maps, building prototypes, and testing ideas
Feb. 16 – Building low-fidelity products and improving the user experience.
I will be presenting “Deepfakes and the future of content creation, society, and business.” on two dates in February. Here is the description and the details are below: The emergence of deep fake content will play a major role in public trust and the way we operate in the online world. What are the pros and cons of this new technology, how can we identify deepfakes, and what can we do to protect ourselves from deceptive deepfakes? Explore this technology with Prof C!
Date one: Feb 3 (Thursday), 2022 08:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada) Register in advance for this meeting using this link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Date two: Feb 5 (Saturday), 2022 09:00 AM Central Time (US and Canada). Register in advance for this meeting using this link. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
I will be presenting a lecture at the College of Business International Week: Balkanization and Borders in Cyberspace on Monday, February 21st at 1 pm in Room 205. Let me know if you are interested in attending and I will get you the details (and perhaps even free parking!). If you have been following the turmoil in Kazakhstan you might have noticed that access to social media and the Internet was turned off by the government!
I will be hosting a number of events via on.zoom.us. These are optional events for my online class that I open up for the public via the On Zoom platform. They include:
🔗 Links of the Week
From my cousin Ben P: “The James Webb Space Telescope is by far the most complex machine ever put into space. However, the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 space probes were equally impressive in their time. This video is all about Voyager 2 and is really cool. Still operating even though it is 11 billion miles away.
I have had the opportunity to travel to many exciting places, but the one that surprised and impacted me the most was a trip to Florence, Italy. A big part of that impact was seeing and learning about the work of Michelangelo. This New York Times article helps me understand more about this artist's amazing life:
The restoration of a statue the artist created for his own tomb shines light on the psychology of the aging Renaissance master.
This article from Karen Hao (published in the MIT Technology Review) does an excellent job of explaining the issues that social media misinformation on social media journalists face when reporting.
In 2016 “..legitimate publishers accounted for only two of the top 10 publishers on Facebook in Myanmar. By 2018, they accounted for zero. All the engagement had instead gone to fake news and clickbait websites. In a country where Facebook is synonymous with the internet, the low-grade content overwhelmed other information sources.”
“But there’s a crucial piece missing from the story. Facebook isn’t just amplifying misinformation.
The company is also funding it.
An MIT Technology Review investigation, based on expert interviews, data analyses, and documents that were not included in the Facebook Papers, has found that Facebook and Google are paying millions of ad dollars to bankroll clickbait actors, fueling the deterioration of information ecosystems around the world.”
As always, be sure to hit reply and tell me what you have been up to, what you are reading, and what neat stuff you have discovered lately! I always look forward to getting responses from you all, hearing about what you have been creating recently, and the resources/lifehacks you are using!! And thanks to the 900+ colleagues and friends who read my monthly emails!