You can pay for your Starbucks with a pen in Japan


Starbucks in Japan sells a wide range of products that can be used for wireless payment when buying coffee. The line of products is called “Starbucks Touch," and they sell them inside stores and also online.

For example, you can buy stuff with this "Touch Pen," which costs around 50 bucks.

Why don't they have this in the US? What are we, chopped liver?

Deepfakes get real (and real easy)


Call it "deepfake panic." The world is waking up to the fact that artificial intelligence (AI) will soon enable anyone to produce fake photographs, videos and audio transcripts that look and sound real.

The panic is misplaced.

Deepfake panic centers on the fear that some famous person, such as a politician, will be blamed for saying or doing things they never said or did.

A bigger risk is that notable people actually caught transgressing on video or audio recordings will be able to convince the public that the authentic media is actually a deepfake. In other words, where pictures and videos and audio recordings once served as proof, deepfake technology will enable people to believe or not believe in the authenticity of any media based on their biases or preferences.

Deepfakes represent a further slipping away of the world of shared truths and toward a world where everyone has their own truth and all sources of information are suspect.

The biggest risk of all, however, is not in deepfake media that's published or mass-distributed, but in the one-on-one use of deepfake fraud in social engineering attacks.

Here's how deepfakes will take social engineering attacks to a whole new level.

Why Amazon is making so many crazy copycat hardware products


Wait, smart glasses? Smart night light? Smart ring?

Sounds dumb. Amazon seemed to go nuts with its announcement of new hardware products on Wednesday.

The company also announced a high-end smart speaker, earbuds, a smart oven, an updated Echo Dot with a clock, a new regular Echo, a lower-priced Echo Flex, a higher-priced Echo Studio, an updated Echo Show 8 and even an Echo Glow smart lamp for kids. It even launched a pet tracker called Fetch, and a long-range, low-power networking technology called Sidewalk to go with it — 15 new products in all.

The glue that holds together most of these disparate products, of course, is Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. Amazon understands that we WILL wear our AI voice assistants.

Why TikTok should be boycotted and banned


TikTok is the latest social media sensation, and it's favored globally by mostly young people as a platform for sometimes creative and always short videos.

Anyone can post videos on TikTok, but it's dominated by "the self-made celebrities of Generation Z” who "have spent a decade filming themselves through a front-facing camera and meticulously honing their understanding of what their peers will respond to," according to a brilliant piece in The New Yorker by Jia Tolentino.

Unfortunately, as reported in The Guardian newspaper by Alex Hern, TikTok is used by the Chinese Communist Party as an instrument of global censorship to the aims of the Chinese government.

Specifically, the Party forces ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, to censor mentions of the Hong Kong protests, Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the Falun Gong and indeed criticism of socialism or any country or politician and any topics deemed threatening by the Chinese government, including Democracy, free speech and self determination.

The company has reportedly spent more than a billion dollars on Facebook and Instagram advertising to drive growth.

TikTok now has more than a half-billion users. It's bigger than Twitter or Snapchat.

"ByteDance often hacks its way into a market, aggressively courting influencers on other social-media networks and spending huge amounts on advertising, much of which runs on competing platforms," according to The New Yorker. Most of TikTok's growth comes at the expense of participation in other social networks that are not censored by the Communist Party.

The app surfaces the most compelling videos using ByteDance's AI -- the company's core competency-- so the app always promises a dopamine hit of pointless but addictive entertainment.

TikTok is a product of the Chinese Communist Party's policy on social media, which is to say that it bans social networks it cannot control -- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc., are all banned in China. But the rest of the world does not ban Chinese social networks.

As a result, by default, only social networks controlled by the Chinese Communist Party can be global sensations.

Bans and censorship is Beijing's policy for controlling global conversations.

We should boycott, and our governments should ban, TikTok for these reasons. But we won't.

Welcome to our dystopian idiocracy of the future, where young minds are captured by sub-literate, AI-selected snippets of digital soma censored by a totalitarian government and nobody cares.

Forget BYOD. Welcome to the era of BYOO (bring your own office)


OK, I'm calling it. The controversy is over. The results are in. The remote work trend will continue growing indefinitely, and nobody can stop it. More to the point, nobody should stop it.

Remote work is expanding. With each passing year, more kinds of technology-driven options are emerging. Work-from-home employees. Co-working space workers. Digital nomads. Overseas employees. "Flex" employees. Telepresence-robot workers.

Just as the reality of consumer devices drove the BYOD policy trend, the reality of remote work demands the systematic thinking and communication of a bring your own office (BYOO) policy.

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Facebook to launch its own "Supreme Court"


I told you last month in a Fast Company piece I wrote that the trendlines point to a future in which many of our laws will be enforced by technology companies, who will serve as judge and jury.

Now, Facebook says they’re launching a “Supreme Court” in the form of an oversight board that will serve as the final court of appeals in disputes about blacklisted users and companies.

Does that mean you’ll have rights like the presumption of innocence, right to an attorney, right to not self-incriminate, etc.? Of course not!

Shining light on dark data, shadow IT and shadow IoT


What's lurking in the shadows of YOUR organization? What you don't know can hurt you.

Dark data, shadow IT and it's insidious nephew, shadow IoT, are dangerous and bad for business.

Here's what's new and urgent about dark data and shadow IT, with an extensive look at shadow IoT -- and what to do about it.

Why patch management is an art, not a science

Malware exists to exploit vulnerabilities discovered in software. Patches exist to fix those vulnerabilities. So why do so many vulnerabilities remain unpatched? Why is patch management so complicated?

Read my column at SecurityIntelligence.

Sadly, security and IT professionals don’t live in a patch-everything-right-away fantasy land. Trade-offs and compromises are dictated by the conflicting priorities and interests within large organizations. People have cognitive biases that prevent them from acting rationally. And not all patches are created equal.

Patch management is very important, and very difficult. Let's face it. Patch management is an art.

I love this simple timer!


Deep work is hard these days, what with the internet's ever-addictive distractions and all, but more valuable than ever -- especially to me, as a prolific writer.

I believe in not mixing business with pleasure -- or, work with fun (like social media, YouTube videos, Twitter bickering, Amazon shopping, games and so on). I see so many people falling into the continuous partial attention trap where they're never fully working, never fully playing and never fully engaging with the people around them. Such people are never fully living.

And I want to avoid that. My goal is to, at any given time, be fully working, fully playing or giving my full attention to family and friends.

I also believe attention management will become a major application for consumer and business electronics.

And when I work, I like to have a gun to my head -- a deadline that drives me to work faster.

Pomodoro is impossible. 25 minutes of work between breaks? The breaks themselves become attention-exploding, creativity-killing distractions.

Two hours is more like it. Two hours of deep work, with ten-minute breaks between, fits my schedule just about right.

I like a big, visible timer doing the countdown. My iPad is perfect for that while I write with my Pixelbook.

Trouble is, iPad timers are annoying. They're either freemium, which means I have to pay or see ads, or they're super fugly, which is another annoyance.

I've been looking for a non-annoying, pleasant and elegant iPad timer for years. And I finally found one.

It's called Big Timer for iPhone and iPad. (They’ve got an Apple TV app, too.)

Big Timer has one review. The app is two years old. I don't care. It's beautiful, elegant and has a minimal and simple user interface. It also comes with a range of fun robot-voice timer sounds.

My favorite way to use it while hammering away on a deadline is to put the Big Timer side-by-side with Apple's World Clock app, where I have three time zones: one where my family is; one where my editors are; and one where I am. I use Big Timer’s grey background, and there’s no distracting color on my iPad screen.

This combination keeps me centered and contextually aware, which helps me focus on the task at hand.

Me talking about America's "social credit system" on the Daily Dive podcast!

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I had fun recently talking with Daily Dive host Oscar Ramirez, where we talked about my Fast Company piece on America's "social credit system."

Just go here and hit "Play."

(Picture not necessarily related.)

Phrase of the moment: "Volfefe index"


JPMorgan has created an index to track and quantify Trump’s tweets on the financial markets. They call it the "Volfefe Index" -- a portmanteau of "volatility" and "covfefe."

OMG, I love this phrase.

What I don't love is that it's based on the understanding that 146 tweets by the "president" have actually moved the stock market.

Phrase of the moment: "emergency pork"


China is gripped by a pork shortage because of an epidemic of African swine fever.

China’s hog herd is down (more than 30%) and prices are up.

The government is in a panic because food prices can drive social unrest and anti-government protests. (Totalitarianism is fine, just keep prices down.)

The Chinese government is ready, and keeps huge stockpiles of frozen pork (more than a million tons) for emergencies, which it is now selling at 10% below the market price. Call it “emergency pork.”

This is not a good time for China to be engaged with a trade war with the United States.

On a cheese farm in Catalonia


This organic goat farm and cheese making operation had dozens of baby goats averaging two weeks old. Cute overload.

Phrase of the moment: "information gerrymandering"


You've heard about the filter bubble idea, whereby social algorithms show you want you want, and you end up getting information about the world from mostly agreeable people and sources.

New research has found a new way that information filtering or sorting on social networks can shape your opinion, and therefore voting behavior. They call it "information gerrymandering."

The idea is that, instead of a filter bubble effect where information comes from only like-minded people, the “information gerrymandering” is when information within a filter bubble comes from people inside the filter bubble who also get information from outside the filter bubble.

When you have two filter bubbles — say, politically left and right filter bubbles — the filter bubble that is more “open minded” (has more information coming from members who are aware of information from outside the filter bubble) has an electoral disadvantage.

In other words, keeping party members ignorant of opposing political viewpoints is a winning strategy for shameless political operatives.

According to the research:

“The researchers’ analysis revealed that information gerrymandering could easily produce biases of 20%. In other words, a group that was evenly split into two parties could nonetheless arrive at 60-40 decision due solely to information gerrymandering.”