For the Week of October 28, 2002
This one is going to be hard on my libertarian friends.
Moore's Law is not on your side.
Moore's Law can make cameras and sensors so tiny they can dance on the head of a pin. Moore's Law lets you build databases with algorithms which scour for abnormalities in real-time, and which can track anyone's actions, not just in cyberspace, but in real space.
Many of these technologies are only just emerging, but you can see their power easily by looking at the growing controversy over "red light cameras." .
My neighbors in Decatur, Georgia put one up recently . There's a sensor, a camera and a network, focused on an intersection. When the light turns red the camera starts taking pictures. Anyone in the intersection when the camera goes on gets their license plate picture taken. The picture is sent, along with a ticket, to the address at which the license plate is registered. The recipient is expected to pay the ticket.
Washington D.C. wants to go beyond this. The Mayor wants to empower the cameras to detect speeding, and make money sending those people tickets, too. The same network of cameras installed for the red lights is given sensors and software to detect people speeding through the intersection on green lights. (Presumably a lot of those recipients will be from out-of-town.)
Conservatives and liberals are both appalled.
I have a theory as to one reason everyone's upset. Most of us are speeders. We don't really want the traffic laws enforced - not against us anyway. We speed to beat the light, and we all speed on the freeway. (Anyone going under 80 on an Atlanta freeway takes their life in their hands.) We've built speeding into our schedules, despite the dangers. Speeding lets us live comfortably 50 or 60 miles from town, getting back home in time for dinner. The problem with "speed on green" cameras is they would work. Most of us would be forced to slow down, which would be terrible. Otherwise law-abiding speeding scofflaws would pile up bills to rival the Bush defense budget.
OK. But the same system can also catch a killer. Apply it to find, say, white Astro vans with broken tail lights at the precise time and location of a shooting and voila! Computer Recognition Systems, a British outfit that specializes in these things, has a camera in Massachusetts that could handle such a job today, it says.
But some say the price is too high. "I am concerned that this may be seen as a step toward a Big Brother surveillance state, where the government monitors the comings and goings of its citizens," wrote outgoing House majority leader Dick Armey recently.
Because, of course, when you apply "red light" cameras against the DC Sniper you're crossing a line over to "surveillance cameras." England is very big on these things, and plans to have over 2 million installed over the next few years. "They're bloody everywhere in England," a salesman says. . When deployed with a wireless network, they cost no more to activate than a cellphone.
Stories of many heinous English crimes over the last decade have featured grainy pictures taken in malls and on streets, of shrouded faces about to do dirty deeds, and of unsuspecting victims. When the names of two 11-year old boys who killed a three-year old were given, with plans to release them upon their majority, some vowed vengeance, and a surveillance photo of one, taken on a supervised outing, later raced across the Internet. .
This isn't going away. These cameras will be installed. It is inevitable. You say privacy, they say terrorism. You say rights, they say pedophilia. And the systems are going to get cheaper, faster, better, the database algorithms more precise. They will become commonplace here, as they are in England . Those who fight the technology physically will simply be Luddites. (Within a few years the cameras will be too small to see.) It's a war they can't win - not that way.
In his book "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace" Lawrence Lessig talked of "West Coast Law" (software) and "East Coast Law" (statute) in terms of the copyright wars. I argued against him. There are too many smart people out there on the Internet, working too hard on too many technologies to crack copyright and distribute whatever the copyright industries forbid, I said.
I was wrong.
It is East Coast law, the protections of a Constitution that no one, not even a President, can stand above, which is our only protection against surveillance cameras and the database technologies that follow them.
Do you want to stop the kind of depredations Spielberg predicted in this year's hit "Minority Report?" They're already coming and the law - East Coast law - is your only protection.
That's where the fight must be won, and we're all in it. It's your duty to think, hard, about the proper balance between safety and privacy. It's your duty to agitate, to vote, and to demonstrate on behalf of your right to be presumed innocent, and for this mountain of evidence against everyone to be used very carefully, with strict protections for everyone's rights (even those who might be guilty). It's also your duty, as a citizen, to compromise - this is not an either-or question. It's something that must be balanced by cases, by rules, by laws, and by the Constitution. (If you don't have a Constitution, get one.) Elections, in other words, do matter.
Because we all might be guilty, or seen to be guilty. We're all potential philanderers or speeders, even if most of us aren't potential murderers, terrorists or child molesters. The principles of the law must be applied equally to all, no matter what we might have done or what others fear we might do.
Technology won't save us. If it's not constrained by law, technology will be our final gulag. Moore's Law is inevitable.
SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)
Forget what I wrote last week. If you tried to buy "Moore's Lore" and failed, write me a note and I'll take care of you.
The book has a new name. "The Blankenhorn Effect: How to Put Moore's Law to Work for You." It has a new publisher, and I have a new attitude.
You can still follow the continuing story on my "Moore's Lore" blog . My other books (which will also get new names soon) include "Boom, Bust & Beyond: The Best of Dana Blankenhorn," , "The Time Mirror," and "Living on the Internet" . I still write for Boardwatch , Boardroom , Marketing Profs Thom Reece's eComProfits and BtoB . I still produce I-Strategy for Adventive
I'd like more readers, so tell your friends, clients, partners, and Congressperson about a-clue.com. You have my permission to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know .
Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...
I'm a very, very lucky fellow. The World's Best Branding Expert, Rob Frankel, is a personal friend of mine.
Rob doesn't have a glamorous lobby or a huge entourage of sycophants. He just has great ideas. This is the only reason the world doesn't acknowledge Rob for what he is, which is, of course, The World's Best Branding Expert.
Before he figures this out, before he gets an entourage, shades, and a skyscraper with his name on it (because he increased his prices by a factor of 10), get the book , the tapes , and buy an hour of his time .
Do it now, before his prices go up and you can't afford him! Become a Big-Time Brand like me! You'll be glad you did.
Takes on the News
The Blankenhorn Effect
I'm a writer, a journalist. I ask other people what they think for a living, then I repeat it to readers, in simple words they can understand. I'm not accustomed to standing in front of the story and shouting "look at me." I was taught in journalism school this is bad form.
Yet this is the inevitable path to success in my chosen field. TV reporters all want to be anchors. Print reporters all want to be columnists. The idea is, always, to stand in front of the story, and so to gain power, "The Sweet Smell of Success."
After years of resisting this, I've finally embraced it. Call it The Frankel Effect.. From now on, I put my own name out there, with no apologies.
I've made this choice, reluctantly, after finding myself moving from beat-to-beat-to-beat since launching this letter. If you came to this letter looking only for ideas on selling goods online you're probably feeling cheated right now, and rightly so.
But there's a lesson here for you, the Internet Commerce guy (or gal), a hard lesson I've had to learn the hard way. (This is especially important to people like Mark Eppley, whose Traveling Software has flailed in the market recently.)
You are the brand. You, personally. You've got to get people to look at you as the personification of something that's not just a product, a service, or a journalistic beat. You've got to represent a set of values, and identify with those values.
Products and services change. Brands represent enduring values. If you can't stand in front of your brand and represent something enduring, you're not going to succeed. That's true online as well as offline.
New Paradigm Needed
Dave Winer and Lawrence Lessig seem to have reached a conclusion I've been moving toward here and in my blog .
We need a new computing paradigm. It must be divorced from proprietary software and copyrighted content. It must be demanding on hardware, it must be expandable, and it must lure people into spending big money because it offers great value.
In a recent issue of this newsletter, I called it "Isaac" . It starts as a Linux box offering security to your 802.11 internal network and whatever broadband you may have coming in. But it supports development of a voice interface . And among the early add-ons to it should be control of your domestic robots . Then you can add your TiVo, burglar alarm, lights and coffee maker.
If smart folks can get to work on this, they'll have gotten the Blankenhorn Effect. It's ideas that inspire confidence, ideas that make money, and ideas that liberate people with technology.
Another Way to Find the Fiber
In my coverage of 802.11 WISPS I've often written that the name of the game is to "find the fiber." Only when a Wireless ISP finds a competitive fiber trunk - one that's not owned by the local carrier - can they assure their future.
If your backhaul comes from your local carrier that carrier will crush you by overcharging for the trunk. If you can reach a long distance company or alternative fiber network like Level 3, however, there's competition for your business, and you'll get the benefits of Moore's Law applied to fiber. Instead of paying thousands per month for a 1.5 Mbps T-1 line, you can suddenly afford a 10 Gbps OC-192 line. That makes a huge difference in your capacity to do business.
But finding a place where the fiber connects is tough. There's usually just one location, or "POP," in a town. But Ken Haase, director of product marketing and business development for Proxim , a leading supplier of WISP gear, offered a solution to me recently.
Instead of starting with the fiber POP, he suggests, just find a big fiber customer. Hospitals work great. You get a contract to manage the hospital's internal 802.11 network - securing it from attack and getting rid of "dead spots" so doctors and nurses can access patient records with palmtops. Then you extend the network from the hospital's fiber trunk connection.
If you can't find a hospital, you might be able to find a big local business, or a school system, or a college campus. The key is that you don't have to reach the local fiber POP, just a place where a fiber interconnect has been created by a big customer. Tie in there, and extend from there.
Clued-in is Kartoo , which will give Google a run for its money not because its database is better, but because its user presentation is more visual.
Clueless is the New York Times blaming capital spending for Intel's troubles , especially with a paid-link below the text to a Times story about Asia catching up in semiconductors.
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