Will Machines Destroy Us?

2 minutes

Here’s the new end-of-the-world plot line that’s been suffocating my newsfeeds. Technologists are scared of machines becoming too smart for us and plotting to end or enslave humans.

While the apocalyptic scenario rings familiar with all the Hollywood theatrics and childhood stories. It’s worth remembering a few elemental things.
1) Machines are non-feeling (“feelings” when available are programmed by a human)
2) Machine mobility is still super complex
3) Human learning starts at infancy and is administered through a far more complex pattern than scientists have decoded into machine learning.
4) Most importantly: We project our inner weaknesses onto those around us.

The first time (Google’s AI) AlphaGo beats a world Champion at the Chinese board game Go — This robot can do no other task though, nor has other cognitive abilities

Us humans have been brain-washed into mistrusting each other and always expecting the worst from the person in front of us. We have become so mistrustful that that has almost become the default for everyone.
The US has enough Nuclear missiles to end the planet, but doesn’t trust anyone they don’t get along (or do at this stage) with to have any (while today the threat may just as well be from the inside).

In the Middle East many countries don’t trust their governments (even democratic nations). We don’t trust refugees, westerners, Asians, Africans, our fellow citizens of different sects and our neighbors. We have a trust issue.

Here comes the machines. Why did we expect that we will fall into their arms in safety? Our inherent psychology prompts us that the “machine-race” are to be mis-trusted. They have metal power, access to our connectivity and superior vertical self-learning intelligence.

When facebook’s machines developed their own language, it made absolute sense! Machine’s don’t need the syntax and language rules that humans use to communicate (even coding languages are designed for humans), nor do they come lumbered with cultural references. Therefore in light of efficiency the machines will logically communicate in a machine inherent language.

Just because machines are getting “smarter” than humans from programmed and designed machine learning research is not equal to “machines will end the human race”. I would be more concerned about the human race ending the human race through global warming and war machines within the next few decades instead.


“Why did you kill my family?” Graffiti in Yemen. The war on Yemen has been a ground for Drone testing and Intelligent Military

This post originally appeared on Medium in the Breathe Publication on Sep 24, 2017

I am a Millennial raised by Baby Boomers

3 minutes

… and frankly tired of being told that i’m an incompetent brat, that I want free money and no responsibility.

Lets get the first few facts straight. Millennials (in all their forms and sub-cultures) are an answer to the parenting and pop-culture of GenX and Babyboomers.

When we entered the work force the economic situation we’ve inherited has been less than ideal. Dot Com Bubble, Economic Crises(s), Economic Sanctions, even the worlds highest refugee count in history is happening in our era. Most of the above is controlled by, not us.

That title should be: percentage of millennials that can afford to own their own household [source]

While you’d think that the trend may be different in from market to another, it’s not. As a millennial living in the Middle East my baby boomer parents were able to raise a family of 4 kids on low income, something which I cannot even fathom with today’s inflation, housing, petrol and medical costs. At my age (28) the average price of a 2 bedroom apartment in Beirut was 3x my father’s annual salary in his time, today the average price of that apartment is almost 9x my annual salary (not accounting for taxes & accumulated interest for both, though taxes were lower then as well).

I don’t own a car because owning one doesn’t make mathematical sense while living in the city. I don’t own a house (I pay rent) because I frankly can’t imagine spending that much money on a property that doesn’t justify it’s current market value (commercial construction & stupendous prices). I don’t own many “things” that i’m attached too since I travel a lot (for work) and have adapted my life to practicality. Yet, I enjoy my life and cherish the time I spend with family and friends, not in the company of objects (except books, those I do).

I don’t mind ads if their entertaining or relevant, unfortunately there’s too few of those. I don’t mind paying for music, movies and content because I value the time that’s being invested into creating them. I do spend time on Snapchat, where I play around with different formats of content creation and sharing, meet new people, and have conversations about startup ecosystems and technology.

One thing that frustrates me the most is the clinging of “researchers” and authors of previous generations to self-victimization and finger-pointing at millennials for the most mundane things. It almost feels like a sleazy SEO stunt!

For example, the last line of an article about “founder-friendly” VCs calls out “immature millennials” with no precedent from earlier in the article:

Recently, publishers have been churning out books about “adulting,” meant to deliver tough love to immature millennials. Maybe they should consider selling a startup edition.

Or endless articles blaming millennials for not wanting to overspend on carbon stones that reflect light (also known as diamonds). A good round-up of such shambles can be found here, most notably through Business Insider.
Ironically articles bashing millennials are in listicle, mobile, meme-friendly form, a content format blamed on millennials.

Someone raised (parents and schools included) this “Everyone gets a Trophy” Generation, heck, someone even developed that pre-k curriculum that everyone seems to despise. And believe me it’s not the millennials who did it.

So next time you decide to write an article about a change in consumer behavior and adoption, the rise of a technology, a shift in workplace culture, new CEOs or startups, or simply the lackluster of golf, ask yourself:

What would our older generations have written about us if they had the internet?


This post originally appeared on Medium on Aug 22, 2017

Dear Facebook, The World beyond the American borders is not a grey blob

2 minutes

Facebook (and many US based tech companies) seem to treat the world as great grey blob, even when they have international headquarters in Dubai, UK & beyond.

A recurring annoyance i’ve been facing with Facebook (and for a while with Uber) is the basic lack of understanding of: countries. While Lebanon is a relatively small country (<$11,000km2) it doesn’t justify facebook’s ignorance of suggested pages & events. For example, suggesting events in Israel (which Lebanese cannot visit and are at war with) or in Cyprus (where Lebanese need a visa + 2hrs pre-departure at the airport + ~35min flight) or even Syria, which may not be restricted to Lebanese, yet remains a totally different sovereign country. All while facebook decides to skip things that may be distance-wise slightly further but within the same country.

A simple search for events near me earlier today showed events in the three above mentioned countries:

Maybe it’s about time algorithms take into consideration the basics: where an event is taking place and if that’s the same country as the search origin? Instead of circles?

Facebook is an obvious example since it represents a significant percent of our mobile footprint

However, I have had that problem with Uber for a long time as well. Uber doesn’t send too many email marketing campaigns (thank goodness) so it’s quite noticeable when you start receiving campaigns in Hebrew, as a user that has only ever used the service in English in Lebanon, UAE, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi & Kuwait… all non-hebrew native countries. This goes beyond an algorithm acting of it’s own will, this is a significant data mis-management and disregard to geography of a consumer.

The actual frustration is that when such a basic and obvious feature has failed on world-dominating technology platforms, then how can such platforms even begin managing fake news and net-neutrality?

This has also clear from when Facebook ignorantly rolled out the Pride button in countries where homosexuality is legal, however somehow skipped Lebanon among other countries while at it. More on this: Facebook Celebrates Pride, Except Where Homosexuality Is Illegal

Is targeting people based on country so hard, if it is… what does that say about facebook’s ad targeting capabilities, the core business of the book behemoth?

This post originally appeared on Medium on Jun 26, 2017