Tag Archives: technology

How An AI Defines Customers

mccannjapan

Recently, in the Business Insider, a story spoke about how a Japanese Advertising agency hired an AI (see above picture) to do an ad campaign (http://www.businessinsider.com/mccann-japans-ai-creative-director-creates-better-ads-than-a-human-2017-3).

Surprising, it was rather successful.

The inventor, Shun Matsuzaka, “wanted to create the world’s first AI creative director, capable of directing a TV commercial”.

He did it. But before you can say “holy crap!” consider that the AI, like any electronically developed and programmed instrument, must be designed and have focus in order to do its job. You gotta tell it what to do and how to do it. So Matsuzaka’s team, “McCann Millennials” outlined two basic approaches necessary to capture an effective ad campaign:

The creative brief: The type of brand, the campaign goal, the target audience, and the claim the ad should make.

The elements of the TV ad: Including things such as tone, manner, celebrity, music, context, and the key takeout.

Confectionary corporation Mondelez took on the contract and hired the team’s AI, and so the contest was on. Selecting an industry expert to take on the challenge of creating a wining ad campaign against that of the McCann machine, the application approach was that the client was asked to fill out a form with all the elements they wanted to appear in the ad. The AI robot then scrambled the database for ideas (humans were required to actually produce the final creative).

The two spots would then be thrown to a nationwide poll, where consumers could vote for which ad they preferred.

The key phrase in which the ad was to revolve around was the following:

“Instant-effect fresh breath that lasts for 10 minutes.”

The winner?

Depends; 54% of the public participating in the vote voted for the human.

But for the ad executives, the AI won hands down. As the article stated: “when the 200-or-so advertising executives at the ISBA Conference were asked which they preferred, they voted for the crazy dog spot, directed by the robot. Clearly those advertising executives were not the target market for this particular campaign, but the experiment appeared to demonstrate just how creative — and funny — AI can be.”

Humor in AI?  Viewers familiar with science fiction will hear the common refrain that ‘robots can’t make people laugh.’ Guess that’s not the case anymore. Meantime, the McCann Millennials are at it again – this time, working on a “commercial database for the music industry to see if it can create the next pop smash hit.”

Somehow, I think  this latest project will be proved to be far easily for them to achieve.

(To see the ads, go to the link above and judge for yourself).

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The Age of Alexa

 

As a birthday gift for my daughters, Flora and Cora, their grandfather purchased for them an Amazon Echo (aka “Alexa”).

If you’re not familiar, the Amazon Echo / Alexa is a voice command controlled free-standing computer (with a nice speaker system to boot!) that links with your wireless network. Measuring some 9.3 inches with a circumference of 3.3 inches, Alexa can just about fit anywhere. In addition, it looks attractive (in a manner of speaking) and readily plugs into a regular wall outlet for power (it connects to your wireless network; no wired connections are required). With some adjustments and minimal amount of programming (took me all of 15 minutes to get it going) you’ll be able to give direct voice commands. Alexa can either answer your inquiries or (depending on your set up) control the lights in your house, control your thermostat, give you automatic news and sports updates as well as tell you the weather, your commuting time or even where the nearest restaurant (down to the type – Belgium ale house, Indian, Chinese, etc.) is to your house.

But doing a little research and experimentation, Alexa can do a lot more – and not just for your home (more on this in a moment).

As an old-timer, I’m amazed at this recent technological development if for no reason than I can appreciate what’s involved. First off, I’ve been working with voice command / recognition software since it first came out back in the 1990’s: things have come a long way. Used to be you had to spend about an hour just to ‘train’ the software/computer to recognize your voice (what with your inflections, accents, voice idioms, etc.) and then more time spent on getting it to do what you wanted it to do – open files, do basic computer commands, etc. And even then, it was rarely perfect: if you were hitting 95% accuracy, you were down great.

With Alexa, there was no hesitation: no training. Alexa was out of the box and running down the road in mere minutes.

Damn; that’s powerful.

No matter who you are, so long as you speak the language that it’s set for, it’ll respond. So literally out of the box, I and both my daughters were taking and using Alexa. Even now, my guests – upon visiting – now ask Alexa for the weather or for sport scores, along with local news as a matter of course, just as they would ask anyone else.

But aside from Alexa being able to give you a host of information – such as cooking recipes, bartending (excuse me, “Mixology”) recipes for drinks or for random facts (‘on this date,…’), with some adjustments and hardware / interface additions, Alexa can water your lawn, control /monitor your house alarms.

Sometimes, amusing situations can arise – such as when my younger daughter asked “Alexa: how old is the Earth?”

Alexa replied “The Earth is 5.35 Billion years old.”

“I knew it! Those people who keep saying that the Earth is only 7,000 years old don’t know what they’re talking about!”

So it’s all fun and games, right?

Not when you check out the IFTTT page for Alexa (IFTT – “If / then” user programming routines). Alexa comes with an ability for folks to program basic interface commands enabling users to link Alexa to various apps and also create routines. Want something done automatically? With a little bit of simple programming, anyone can make their Alexa do things automatically and with a mere voice command.

The potential for Alexa can go beyond just a cool item for the average household: the potential for business applications is also well worth considering. Aside from stock indexes, one could create business services and routines both for the average user and for the business / service end of things. Already, there are ‘recipes’ for users to link to their Evernote and Todoiast, along with dictating short emails (sending them out) or dictating voice message for your Skype. As one example, I can set up and schedule calendar events on my Google calendar just by using my voice – and it’ll appear on all of my calendars (phone, computer, etc. simultaneously).

I would not be surprised to see businesses – especially those who profess the notion of being ‘lean and mean’ – installing Echoes in their offices as means to better streamline operations (not to mention that Echoes could also be of good use for non-profit and governmental agencies as well).

In a manner of speaking, although this is not exactly new technology, the way it’s being recast is nothing short of remarkable. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Echo came from Amazon. After all, as I had previously written, Amazon and the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been quietly working together for seveal years now, with Amazon’s in-house computer network now being the repository of the CIA’s records – and ground zero for a development project based in Vancouver, Canada for true AI (Artificial Intelligence) development (https://shockwaveriderblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/the-cia-and-jeff-bezos-working-together-for-our-the-future/) utilizing quantum computing. Feel free to read my past posting on this subject matter: it’s well worth the read and helps one to better appreciate what’s taking place now.

I cannot help but wonder if Alexa is but one minor result  / spin-off from that ongoing effort. And granted, Alexa may sound awesome and smart, but it’s certainly not about to pass the Turing Test.

If Alexa is any indication, we are indeed entering a new age  – the Age of Alexa.

New Future Careers (A Slightly Cynical Overview)

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For quite some time, I’ve been reading a number of reports, white pages, books, blogs and whatnot about the future state of work. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s pretty much a crap shoot however you look at it. And so, like many others, I’d figure I’d give my insight into the future career development trends.

It used to be that there would always be jobs that could be considered ‘safe’ and ‘stable’. No more. With the constant and exponential advance of technology now becoming so prevalent, what were once considered safe careers are going to require – at the very last, some major revamping on some folks part, while other careers are going to – within the next 10 or 20 years – simply disappear. So how can you tell where things are going to go? What’s a good job to have now that’ll be there later on? Kind of a silly question when you think about it, especially when you consider that on average, a person can expect to hold anywhere from 3 to 5 CAREERS, let alone more than a dozen jobs – at a minimum – given today’s economy.

So,…

Want to know what jobs are really going to be hot? Where you should look to catch the next wave? Look no further and read here!

Let’s look into the crystal ball to see the future (we’re talking about 10 to 20 years; any more and it gets tricky).

And please, try not to laugh too hard, get shocked or disgusted: this is merely a ‘suggested listing. Take it or leave it as you please.
Professional Assassin

It’s a rough and tumble world: hiring somebody who can make ‘incidents’ look like accidents will truly be irreplaceable. This kind of work can be applicable to both the private and public world. Fort example, as elections become more demanding and costly, removing pesky political candidates seeking ‘meaningful’ change can be irritating if not upsetting to your electoral base; make it look like a heart attack or a car accident.

Similarly, working for that promotion can be so much easier when your competition suddenly chokes on their morning muffin or has that sudden heart attack at their local coffee place. When you think about it, if you could ‘eliminate’ your competition at the cost of a year’s salary knowing that you’ll be able to get it all back – and more – within two years (and depending on your career track, maybe even move up higher in the food chain) maybe the ROI (Return On Investment) is something to consider. Just remember to ask yourself if you can live with yourself afterwards and deal with the morality later on.

Unlikely to happen? Well, think again. Statistically speaking the U.S. national homicide solution rate is around 50%. In others words, on average, 1 out of 2 homicides goes unsolved. The figure varies from start to state, so before you think that folks are going to get caught – well, yes, there’s always a good chance as not everyone can go out and commit a ‘successful’ murder: but surprisingly, the odds do favor folks more than many realize: http://anepigone.blogspot.com/2013/01/rates-of-unsolved-murder-by-state.html

And please spare me your shock: assassins over the course of the centuries have often been employed and extensively used. In some time periods, it was often de’rigor (witness the Italian Renaissance of the 1400’s) as assassins were not so much used just for killing, but also for defense against possible options of entry, methods of poisons or other dangers. Sometimes the best defense is hiring those who know the inside tricks: who better to know a professional than another professional?

Law Enforcement / Criminal Intelligence

With the sudden expansion of assassinations, who else better to solve murders than a detective?

But criminal intelligence will be much, much more than just detectives solving crimes. With the rising influence of the Internet and crimes being committed long distance and across boundaries, having an innate sense of patterns coupled with a strong knowledge of the law and technology / database processes will be fundamental in this growing job field. Having good shoes can always help, but more and more it will more a matter of professionals able to research, review and seek out information online and from a wide variety of sources (in addition to good old fashion direct contact) – and often all done at the convenience of a computer terminal.

The good news what with folks turning more and more to computer usage and the growth of the Internet, law enforcement agencies are better able to share information and with some good old fashion sleuthing and persistence, you could be one of the good guys who gets the bad guys.

Research Analyst

Along the same lines, Research Analysts will become very useful for journalists, attorneys, people seeking electoral office or other gig level professionals. Knowing the dirt on your opponents, seeking market opportunities and potential patents and licenses to exploit will be invaluable in the coming 21st century. Likewise, publications seeking to do a story will need background and having somebody on hand to do just that – whether it’s the office intern trying to make a name for themselves.

Social Media Expert

You are only as good as your reputation and word – and given the prevalence of the Internet, how you appear on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. ultimately impacts your business and your professional standing. Having the expert(s) on hand to help guide you through the jungle of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) will become important as there are a number of routines, services / website worth focusing on (and others that are on the way out) as well as ‘tricks’ you need to know to have a positive impact. The good news is that SEO’s are becoming more common, and with that, more career opportunities are starting to open up.
Writers – Creative

Nothing can readily replace good, creative writing (but then again, there’s also television, so it evens out). Fact is, the most despised, abused and neglected part of many marketing, film or other work involving a mediocrum of creative work is that of writing. Still, if you can live at shit wages and live the life of a professional dealing with routine neglect and abuse, there’s a future in here – somewhere, I’m sure but don’t ask me; I still haven’t found it.

Artists – varied

Ditto for graphic artists, although now it helps to have a good computer / graphic design background if you’re going to have any sort of ‘serious’ career (although I’m not sure a lot of artists are going to be happy over this. I sometimes wonder what would Picasso do with an Apple,…?).

Alternate Energy Professionals

Whether you’re a salesman selling solar panels or a journalists writing about new energy trends, having a good knowledge of alternative energy systems will be a crucial skill in the coming decades. Knowing the cost effectiveness of various energy processes, how they actually work and where each energy system would be most effective and applicable will be a vital role throughout the world, regardless if you’re looking into credential or commercial applications. many lesser developed nations are turning to alternative energy solutions owing to the greater return on investment that alternative energies offer and the ease in which they could be installed. In some instances, military forces worldwide are looking into this function as operations become more far-flung and with rising logistical challenges, having a self-sufficient force in the field can offer a serious tactical advantages.

Nurse

As the population grows and ages, the need for professional care takers will be needed, whether at the home (for the few select ones) or for larger medical institutions. This will become even more acute as universal health are grows and service demands rise. In addition, rising violence in some locations may offer greater need for emergency staff capable of assistance that could save lives, especially with those assassins and crazed morticians running about.

Morticians
Speaking of morticians,…

Somebody has to bury the bodies; as the population grows so too does the demand for burials. Granted, it ain’t your grandfather’s mortuary service anymore and morticians are now being franchised ala McDonald’s, but still the skills will come into ever greater demand in the coming decades. Thing is, however, it’ll likely evolve into a ‘cut throat’ business so I’d be careful about hanging out with morticians after work.

Non-Profit Professionals

As governments become more and more stretched to the limits of spending, social gaps are growing and with that, having the skill set of non-profit management will become more prevalent and necessary.

Non-profits increasingly carry the load of many governmental agencies, as governmental agencies increasingly sub-contract out what normally would be covered by governments. Thus, having the ability to fund raise, effectively manage and maintain cost-effective non-profit service and keeping those costs down will be vital skills to have in the continuing century as public service weakens even as public needs continue to rise.

Mercenary

In today’s world, security is becoming paramount and possessing the skills to kill (aside form being that of an assassin) will become ever more needed. Whether you’ll wind up with a Blackwater (now known “Academi”) subsidiary or working as a security guard for some corporate entity, having muscle on hand is always good for some folks as there are a lot of weird and dangerous people out there (perhaps including assassins or hungry morticians).
Jobs that are on the way out:
Programmer

While it is good – if not important – to understand programming, owing to the number of programmers found throughout the world the cost/value ratio of programming is dropping. To be certain, it will always be vital to have on hand good / expert programmers, but increasingly, as with any over-flooded market, having too much of a skill set is bound to thin things out and thus, unless you’re really good with solid experience, changes are you’re going to find it hard to get by on just being a programmer alone.

Add to this how many HR departments really don’t have a clue what it is they’re looking for (Java script? Are you f**king serious?) along with now many programming jobs being simply ‘off shored’ for pennies to the dollars (witness the story of the gentleman who offshored his work to programmers while still collecting his salary and making a profit in the process – that is, until his HR found out and gave him a test for his programming skills, which he failed and was promptly fired).

Financial Analyst

For those of you who despise Wall Street and their minions of money, you can cheer; soon, many of these so-called financial whizzes will find themselves on the receiving end of pink slips. What’s replacing them, however, may be even more scary: computers.

Wall Street is fast becoming a land of algorithms and high-speed / power processing. Much of what financial analysts do today on Wall Street can – and in many instances already are – being replaced. If you’re a financial analyst reading this, better sharpen up your resume or learn about computers while you still can. So now we can look forward to getting endless emails about potential investment opportunities as you face your home foreclosure.

Attorneys

Increasingly, attorney’s are a dime a dozen. Granted, nothing can replace a ‘good attorney;’ but as computers and advanced legal services go online with computer algorithms, you’re really not going to need as many attorneys to conduct legal review and/or research. Utilization of the law requires much more than just key words or phrases; legal analysis is a tricky realm to navigate but increasingly, it’s being mapped out and navigated (some have even suggested that in the coming 10 to 20 years, it may be a big as nearly 9 out of 10 lawyers today will no longer find work!). Word to the wise: IBM’s Watkins (http://www.ibm.com/cognitive/outthink/).

In time, the cost of having access to an advanced legal service is going to be more cost-effective than maintaining legal experts on staff. Soon, even many in-house secretaries and paralegals may soon themselves facing new and uncertain futures owing to templates and online services replacing much of what is being done in-house, along with Siri-like secretarial assistants and document imaging / file management systems. Still, somebody has to make the coffee and clean the office dishes (wait a minute; that’s why we have unpaid interns!).
Knowing the direction of trends and where things are going is something that the graduating class of 2025 (if not sooner) had better keep in mind as clearly things aren’t what they used to be. Change doesn’t have to be bad; just to be willing to see change and to adjust for it is, as Charles Darwin pointed out in his “Origins of Species”, necessary for survival.

That and a twisted sense of humor.

No, Technology Is Not Causing Unemployment,…

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A rather short but very revealing article recently appeared at Slate, “The Myth of Technological Unemployment” which pretty much lays to rest once and for all this notion that machines are the cause of people not working.

The argument goes as follows: as we load up on more and more computers, fewer and fewer people are needed to do the work as much of the work can be automated or managed by machines.

Not so, according to this study:

Machines are replacing workers, in other words, but they’ve been doing so since the cotton gin and the spinning jenny. Over the long run this leads to higher incomes and more leisure. But across short spans of time, the ups and downs in the level of employment and the number of hours available to people who want to earn more money is driven by the ups and downs of the business cycle.

So how is this derived? The numbers don’t lie:

…a chart of real output in the United States over the past 10 years compared to aggregate hours worked by nonsupervisory workers over the past 10 years. Both are indexed to 2001 levels. What you can see is that productivity increases are real (i.e., the red line of output grows faster than the blue line of hours worked) but that there’s tremendous co-variance between these series. The big rise and fall and rise again in output is caused by a big rise and fall and rise again in the amount of time people put on the job. Or alternatively, the big rise and fall and rise again in working time is caused by a big rise and fall and rise again in the amount of demand for goods and services.

So in effect, the more demand for good and services, the moe jobs, which makes sense. Can’t have jobs unless there’s a demand for work. No demand, no work. ‘But gee’ you say; ‘don’t; computers and machines make the difference? If there are more machines and computers then wouldn’t that meant that there are fewer jobs owing to them being eliminated?’

Nope.

Or stated more accurately, there isn’t a direct causal relationship between computers and jobs. statistically speaking, there’s more of a direct, strong relationship between whether or not the economy is going and any demand for more work and services:

In 2012, a lot of firms employed a lot of new labor-saving technology in order to increase profits. That’s true. But the same happened in 1992 and 1972 and 1952 and, for that matter, 1852. But whenever you have a prolonged labor market downturn, the salience of this fact increases and you start hearing more and more talk about how there isn’t as much need for workers anymore because of mechanization. In the contemporary context, people often use the word robots in this context because mechanization is obviously a trend that’s been going on for more than 200 years so robots makes it sound more plausible that something new has happened recently.

So all this talk about jobs not being there are not about a lack of computer skills on the part of the unemployed, or that there more and more computers doing the work of people: it’s just that economically speaking, things just plain suck.

Happy job hunting.

Click here to read the original article and to view the chart and analysis: (http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/01/15/the_myth_of_technological_unemployment.html)

From the ‘Duh Files’: Tracking Students – And Doing A Bad Job At It

dunce-cap

Recently, an article in Wired magazine reported on an event in which a student attending a high school refused to wear an RFID tracker on the basis of their religious belief, with this challenge being overturned. Thus, the student is still forced to wear an RFID tracker: (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/01/student-rfid-suspension/).

The reason for the RFID tracker, as the school explained, was simple:

Northside Independent School District in San Antonio (Texas) began issuing the RFID-chip-laden student-body cards when the semester began in the fall. The ID badge has a bar code associated with a student’s Social Security number, and the RFID chip monitors pupils’ movements on campus, from when they arrive until when they leave.

As the arguments went:

Sophomore Andrea Hernandez was notified in November by the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio that she won’t be able to continue attending John Jay High School unless she wears the badge around her neck. The district said the girl, who objects largely on religious grounds, would have to attend another high school that does not employ the RFID tags. She sued, a judge tentatively halted the suspension, but changed course Tuesday after concluding that the 15-year-old’s right of religion was not breached. That’s because the district eventually agreed to accommodate the girl and allow her to remove the RFID chip while still demanding that she wear the identification like the other students. The Hernandez family claims the badge and its chip signifies Satan, or the “Mark of the Beast” warning in Revelations 13:16-18. The girl refused the district’s offer, sued, and was represented by the Rutherford Institute. “The accommodation offered by the district is not only reasonable it removes plaintiff’s religious objection from legal scrutiny all together,” (.pdf) U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia wrote.

So why tag the students in the first place? As explained, the motive behind the RFID tagging appears largely financial:

Like most state-financed schools, the district’s budget is tied to average daily attendance. If a student is not in his seat during morning roll call, the district doesn’t receive daily funding for that pupil because the school has no way of knowing for sure if the student is there. But with the RFID tracking, students not at their desks but tracked on campus are counted as being in school that day, and the district receives its daily allotment for that student.

Okay; so that’s a reasonable explanation: the school needs to know if the student is attending school so that the school can retain its allotment of funding to continue operating. That makes sense, except for one point:

Why not just simply take attendance?

Back in the ancient days before RFID, there was a procedure – now evidently forgotten – in which the school bell would ring, the students would gather in their assigned classroom(s) and the teacher(s) would call out the students names – directly seeing who was attending – and then noting it down on a type of record known as the “attendance sheet”. These “attendance sheets” were then forwarded to the Main Office were they were filed and noted for the appropriate action.

This situation begs several questions:

1) How did schools managed to operate without the introduction of RFID tags?

2) If schools are so concerned about students whereabouts, are they more concerned that students are running away from school at the very first chance they get – and if so, why is that? When my fellow students and I attended school, we generally remained in school: to us, school wasn’t necessarily a prison. If there is a serious problem of students avoiding / leaving school, then it behooves one to wonder just what is going on at the school to make students want to leave.

3) Using Students SSI number for RFID tagging is not what the Social Security intended it’s assigned numerical system for (let along the potential for identity theft is rather rife in this situation!): if anyone is interested, this point alone would be enough to win at a court of appeals.

4) Why are people so incompetent as to forget how to take attendance manually?

5) Why are we allowing people this ignorant to teach to our children, much less mange educational institutions?

Kind of ironic when you think about how some folk who are strongly intent upon personal freedoms are among those who are the first to remove such freedoms.

It also points to how we’re teaching our children to expect this kind of control and oversight: witness how we’re seeing the creep of “Big Brother” more and more at an earlier, impressionable age,…

Cable is Dead. Period. And FIOs and Satellite TV Had Better Watch It, Too.

Happy Yom Kippur!

As sit before my computer, creating a post while watching that rare – and somewhat bizarre film, “The Saragossa Manuscript” (Polish, 1965). From the IMBD website:

In the Napoleonic wars, an officer finds an old book that relates his grandfather’s story, Alfons van Worden, captain in the Walloon guard. A man of honor and courage, he seeks the shortest route through the Sierra Morena. At an inn, the Venta Quemada, he sups with two Islamic princesses. They call him their cousin and seduce him; he wakes beside corpses under a gallows. He meets a hermit priest and a goatherd; each tells his story; he wakes again by the gallows. He’s rescued from the Inquisition, meets a cabalist and hears more stories within stories, usually of love. He returns to Venta Quemada, the women await with astonishing news.

So I’m watching a weird and obscure film. So what? Well, considering that it’s a film that is:

1) rarely, if ever shown in a cinema (I happen to see it at the Prince in Philadelphia, PA back in 2002);

2) Is one of those films that doesn’t get too many DVD sales;

3) is NEVER seen on cable, and is hard to find even on iTunes;

…and yet I am now watching it on YouTube – the entire 2 hour 55 minutes. In the original polish with English tag lines. For free. At my leisure, on a big 60″ screen at my home during a holiday.

Cable is flawed technology: it’s based upon the old Token Ring technology developed by IBM in the late 1970’s / early 1980’s for computer networks. Sure, there have been some improvements but the fact remains, the security on a token ring system is not too hard to penetrate (ah, fond memories of my younger days ‘scamming’ and ‘cracking’ into HBO for our free cable shows!) (Thanks to the Highland Avenue Gang).

Now enter Verizon’s FIO’s. Cool; debonair: FIOs is to James Bond as Cable is to Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry PD: nice guy and somebody we’re all familiar with, but who’s going to be better able to beat the bad guys and get the really hot chicks?

And now the real meat of the situation: FIOs is also flawed: it’s merely cable but in a different technology (and for that matter, so is satellite TV).

Let’s face it: you sign up and get some 400+ channels (whoopee!) – but do you really see these channels?

No.

Chances are you’re more likely to focus on shows and topics of interest, rather than channels. Channels are merely an ends to a means: you’re likely going to spend more time bouncing around looking for those older episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” regardless of what channel they’re on, rather than “gee, I’ll just sit here and watch anything that appears on channel whatever” (to be sure, there are the Food Channel fanatics or maybe the SciFi – excuse me, SyFy channel – people, but frankly, it get’s tiring watching Lake Placid Part 18).

Now, enter the wireless realm and the direct linking of hardware through a truly uniform series of software platforms ala Apple.

As Apple has demonstrated for the past several years, it’s all about the ecology, stupid: you’re no longer buying hardware for the sake of hardware: you’re buying systems for the sake of platform – but to the Nth degree. When you buy an Apple system, you’re buying into iTunes, music, movies, phone services / apps as well as hardware and software (Lutz prediction #467: be wary of Apple, for in the coming years, chances are they will also become yet another Evil Monopoly – but for now, it’s pretty cool).

And where does that leave cable and FIOS? Sure, Verizon sells phones, but there’s no there there – no ecology: it’s just hardware. I buy Verizon for generic transmission services (I note that when I had cable I could tell when the late night action was going on and folks were busy downloading their porn: the service got r-e-a-l-l-y S-L-O-W) but not for anything else. The pricing for FIOs movie’s is now being matched by Apple TV – along with the number of movies.

Regardless, Apple is not the entire solution, but they are on to something.

And add into this mix the odd bits and truly make this stew into something really tasty: the latest efforts by Nigerian and other African expat’s who, while abroad and homesick for movies, they turn to,…YouTube. And YouTube has been rather cool about all of this, allowing folks to download entire film libraries for viewing. So, if you’re abroad, and want to watch a Bollywood special, you can – for free. More are following suite. So why should I bother to worry about where I have my copy of the The Saragossa Manuscript” when I can upload it on YouTube and view it anywhere I can so long as I have Internet access?

For free.

As the great (and sadly, largely forgotten) media sage Marshall McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message.”

Get the picture?