The social dilemma

Sometimes, on this blog, we offer some recommended reading. Today, I’d like to suggest some recommended watching, at least for those that have a Netflix subscription or know someone who does. The documentary ‘The Social Dilemma‘ is a fascinating story, related by Silicon Valley insiders, about how social media have slowly turned into gruesomely effective tools to capture your attention and sell it to the highest bidder.

To paraphrase from the movie: on one side of the screen is you, and on the other side of the screen are dozens of the world’s best experts, aided by supercomputer AI’s. They do not have your best interest in mind. Imagine how that battle is going to play out?

While I’m certainly very worried by such developments, I still strongly believe computer networks can be a force for good, bringing people together and sharing knowledge ever more widely. In the end, it’s in our own hands to decide how we’ll design the tools of the future and at what price we’re willing to use them. Initiatives like the Decentralised Web offer a different vision for the future, where we could take control of our data back from big business.

Mouth mask
Image: Anna Shvets on Pexels

When talking about networks, the spread of viruses has always been a concern. Still, with the spread of the real-life Coronavirus bringing turmoil all over the world, it’s easy to realise some things are more important than computer networks: our health and the health professionals working tirelessly to keep us safe.

In the meantime, let’s have a look at some of the different ways the Covid-19 virus is not just influencing the daily lives of millions of people, but our networks as well.

  • Many of us are now working from home, increasing the demand for applications that support online collaboration, video conferencing and distance learning. Many companies are now providing free access to such services. Also, demand for webcams is reaching new heights.
  • While we’re sitting behind our computer, working from home, one of the best things we could be doing is to participate in Folding at home: using our computer’s processing power to simulate the dynamics of COVID-19 proteins and help in the hunt for new therapeutic opportunities.
  • Netflix and Youtube will reduce the quality of their video streams at the request of the European Union. With many of us confined to our homes, streaming services are seeing increased use and this measure will help ensure enough Internet bandwidth will stay available to conduct our other business online.
  • The registry of domainnames within the .org top level domain was going to be sold to a private equity company. This sale might be delayed, as many charities, NGO’s and right groups are depending on these .org domains for their online presence.
  • Finally, for all of us still trying to ‘catch ’em all’, Pokemon Go has made it easier to capture those rare ones, without having to leave your home.