Tarheeltalker

The Third Half of Your Brain

Most of us are aware that our brain is divided into 2 parts or hemispheres, often known as the left brain and the right brain. This division is brought about by something known as the great longitudinal fissure, which is in essence a deep grove. We also are familiar with studies that show the two sides of the brain  contain different functions.

But what if we were not quite correct all this time into thinking there were just two halves? What if there could be a third half ? Mathematical impossibility you say? That  is what I would have said before yesterday when I read an interesting article about  the previously unknown half.

From whom does this information come?  The source is none other than Sergey Brin who as you well know is half of the dynamic Google duo that wants to take over the world, own the world, be the world’s only search engine or as Brin put it  yesterday  at a big Google shindig, ” We want Google to be the third  half of your brain.”

The statement was made at the event announcing  the latest search innovation that according to  Google’s Marissa Mayer will have you wondering how you ever did without it. Doubtless, Google investors and potential investors will be/are thrilled. I’m just not so sure. When I  think of Google, I often hark back to  a Ray Stevens Christmas song from  a few years ago. These lyrics might just fit our friends at Google.

  •                            Be careful what you say and do
  •                            ‘Cause Santa Claus is watchin’ you
  •                            He’s everywhere , he’s everywhere

         Just so you know.

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September 10, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Technology | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ultimate Nosy Neighbor?

 Once again, I read about Google in a way that leaves me somewhat disturbed. This time, the words come right from the source, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and they have an ominous ring to them. What makes them so for me is not just their content but the matter of fact way in which they are expressed.

Mr Schmidt  recently did an interview with the Wall Street Journal in which he spoke a lot about money and how the company intends to continue making large sums of said commodity. But there were several other points he made that  could easily be described as Orwellian. In fact, one of the online comments  said it quite well. Not only is Big Brother watching you  but is taking notes as well. How so? Let us examine some of Mr Schmidt’s statements.

Before that, I have an issue that often comes to mind when I think of Google. Why are there not more concerns about their monopolistic position or their domination of their field or fields? They have YouTube, their dominant search engine, Blogger( twice as large as my friends at WordPress)  not to mention  Google Earth and  so on. Sure they have some competition but they are a big gorilla in the industry. If memory serves correct, when Microsoft was quite dominant there were lawsuits filed  screaming antitrust. One of the leading voices was Eric Schmidt as  chief technology officer of Sun Microsystems. Microsoft has also had to deal with those issues in Europe as well. Here, it seems that Europe may be ahead of the game as Spain is now raising issues  with Google.

Mr Schmidt acknowledges the issue  by admitting there  are people  “who are intrinsic oppositionists to everything Google does.” Insert Microsoft here. How does his company intend to combat such charges? Easy, by  making sure that everything  they do is ” good for consumers” and ” fair” for competitors. Doesn’t that sound great ? Certainly, but then woud Google not be the arbiter of the goodness and fairness? But I have digressed fair afield.

My original premise was my concerns about their future. Try these on for size. Mr Schmidt envisions a day when search engines will be passe and what does he say about that? Among other things he envisions a time when Google will not be answering your search questions but rather telling  you what you should be doing next. That, folks, is  something to think about. He continues by saying that because of the info they have about you ” we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.”  He adds that there are next generation handheld devices that will be capable  of surprising you with information that you didn’t even know you wanted. Wow, is that not a lot to consider?

Just remember that the Google motto is ” Don’t be evil.”  Guess we will have to continue these lovable folks for they are surely watching us.

August 18, 2010 Posted by | Business, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Too Much Money

Can one have too much money? I have no clue, since I don’t think I have ever been  in that position. I can remember being told by a prospective employer that they could not afford me , since I made too much. That was somewhat ironic since  I was working a lot of unpaid overtime at the time and we were struggling a bit to make ends meet. But thanks anyway, Tom’s Foods  for the ego boost.

But, now I learn that it may actually be  possible to be making too much money. My source for this knowledge is none other than President Obama himself. I will confess in the interest of full disclosure that I have thought on numerous occasions that this or that celebrity or media  personality ( Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer for starters) or pro athlete or actor made wayyyy  too much money.

But I shall  explore the President’s opinion first before sharing any more of my choices. Just this week the President was speaking in Quincy,Il promoting the  idea of  financial reform over which Congress is itself battling. He made this statement.” Now, what we’re doing, I want to be clear, we’re ( read Democrats here) not trying to push financial reform because we begrudge success that’s fairly earned. I mean, I do think at a certain point you’ve made enough money.”

Of course, there have been posts galore , replete with crowing conservatives saying we’ ve got him. Not so fast, folks. I  believe that there are lots of people who believe that very thing and I suspect that they overwhelmingly vote Democrat. It was actually a rather safe thing for him to say, playing to the base, as it were.

But, just for kicks, wonder what Obama supporters like Eric Schmidt and the Google guys thought of his comment as well as all  his Hollywood  friends ? Believe I have that one covered as well. All he need to do in response  to such a  query would be to place those folks and others like them into the “fairly earned ” category, lumping Rush, Glenn Beck etc in another category indeed. The quote actually reminds me of a phrase I have read several times in regard to baseball teams swapping players’; a trade that benefits both teams.

May 1, 2010 Posted by | economy, Media, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Ides of Google?

March 15, 44 B.C. marked the assassination of Roman emperor Julius Caesar. The emperor had been warned to beware of that day by  a soothsayer and a fateful day it became. Thanks to Shakespeare, we are quite familiar with the term and have transformed it into  an almost generic term fora sense of foreboding. And yet, for Romans of that era it was a way to refer to the 15th of March, May, July and October.

Perhaps, in a different way, we have another example of somethings that should make us wary. The pervasive one, aka Google, has made quite an interesting offer to virtually any community in these United States. On February 10, the company announced an  unprecendented  offer. Although the offer was scant with detail, it has generated enormous response.

It was described thusly in the News and Observer on March 13 in an article by Sarah Ovaska.  Founded in 1998 (hard to believe) by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the Mountain View,Ca company issued this proposal. “…to rewire an entire community,free, with Internet service more than 100 times faster than what most people experience.Think gravel road meets Autobahn( great analogy, by the way).”

Her article was entitled, “Area Towns preen for Google, ” with an opening line of “The Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, NC) is getting all googly-eyed.”

No doubt that similar articles have appeared elsewhere. Certainly, cities all across the fruited plain and from sea to shining sea are making their pitch. The deadline for proposals is March 26, so time is short. Google says it has not tallied a number of responses. Don’t believe that for a second. Betcha they are analyzing the dickens out of this stuff already.

Now, why are they doing this? Google spokesman Dan Martin says, ” We want to see more people online, and we want to see the Internet become easier and faster.” I actually believe that statement, but, I also believe that it is by no means their real motivation. With details so sketchy, what will happen and when is as unknown as to whom it will happen. How much is Google willing to spend? Will it require financial participation from local government? How significant is the offer if computer ownership is not significant? Will there be  a corporate partner? Say Dell or Hewlett-Packard?

There are so many intriguing questions. It brings to mind  a line from my favorite tv show, NCIS. When queried about Gibbs past, “Ducky” has this telling response.”With Gibbs, there are always more questions than answers.”

Since our little town is probably not in the running, I will watch with interest to see the winner and what happens next. The whole thing is almost eerily similar to those instances when a federal agency solicits comment about a proposed ruling or decision. Could there be any connection( pun most definitely intended) to the FCC announcement of its 10 year plan to make high-speed Internet the country’s dominant communication network. Yep, that would mean the eclipsing of radio, cable tv and telephone comapnies by  whom?  Talk about ramifications. As Yoda might say, plentiful they would be.

March 14, 2010 Posted by | economy, Media, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Google Gets Religion

If one spends just a modicum of time online, one is well acquainted with Google. Search engine giant, owner of  YouTube,etc. It has to be  called ubiquitous and would probably like to be known as somewhat altruistic. After all, its motto is “don’t be evil.”

So, one has to wonder why, way back in 2006, it struck a deal with China censor search results there. To obtain its Chinese license , Google agreed to omit content that the Chinese government found to be objectionable.  Google execs struggled with their decision since it seemed (actually did) go against their motto. Dollars and cents anyone?

But now, some 4 years later there may be  a change of heart. Google says it will stop censoring its search results in China and may leave the country entirely. Why, it has discovered human rights activists are being tricked by hackers into opening the email accounts . Currently Google has about 30% of the search market in China versus about 60% for local rival Baidu.

One Clothilde Le Coz, who is the Washington director for Reporters Without Borders, has long  criticized Google for its behavior in China, but is not quite patting them on the back. The Chinese government, of course has no plans to change its demands on internet companies. Nor did it accept responsibility for the hacker attacks.

What is also interesting is that Google briefed the White  House on its actions. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs would provide no details. I seem to remember that the head honchos at Google were, and probably still are, big Obama supporters.

Might this action impair Chinese-American relations? Does our government have its fingerprints on this action? Or, is Google being used by the Administration in some way? Who knows. Sure is fun to contemplate though.

If none of the preceding is the case, why in the world is Google threatening to pull out now, of all times. Just cannot believe the Chinese government has been playing nice and, all of a sudden, precipitated the hacking.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Technology | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Backwards, Forwards or Both?

We have at last left the oughts and entered the decade  of the  what, not teens yet. Let’s just call it pre-teens for now. So, we get not only year-end reviews, but end of  decade  reviews. Some actually  have been rather good.  I enjoyed Sports Illustrated’s  issue of the decade and montage that ESPN did this am. How quickly we forget things that make the news. Some of the all decade stuff seemed eons ago.Right now, Tiger Woods still makes headlines for sports and gossip mags.What will his wife do, when will he  play golf, what sponsor will drop him, next(AT&T being the latest) and with whom will they replace him?

What strikes me most is two things. One I have alluded to about the transitory  or near disposable nature of an event. Tiger will like that. Example,Charlie Sheen is arrested for alleged domestic abuse. another in a checkered career. Who cares, not his tv audience or his fans. The second and more compelling is how unpredictable the ” news” really is.

Look back at the decade at images that drew us. Of course, the 9/11 attacks come to the fore. What about the  death of Michael Jackson, or the election of an unknown , minority senator as President. Global warming now  dominates the news in many ways. Alas, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have come and stayed.

What about the rise of Google, You Tube, Twitter and Facebook and the fall of General Motors and the worst recession in many a day.  No longer can one live without  a cell phone and  what you have no Ipod? What a heathen you must  be, me too.But what about those things that began the decade with us and are  still here. The intractable Middle East with its Arab-Israeli issue, how we relate to Russia and China and vice-versa. Those are still around but whatever happened to the doomsday of y2k?

So, another decade launches and those who purport to tell us with any certainty what will  happen should revisit a quote from  a former head of the  U S Patent Office who offered to resign since everything that could be invented had already been invented. His name was Charles Duell and the quote dates to 1899.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Culture, economy, Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Changing The Brain

It seems that so called brain food, blueberries, wild salmon and coffee beans- I knew it!, are have become a bit passe. What is really good for your brain is the internet. Somewhere, Google and Yahoo among others, must be singing hosannas.

Yes, a UCLA study has determined that one’s brain can be altered for the good by use of the internet.This  article was of particular interest to me since it made reference to aging brains and how they can be helped. That resonated strongly since I possess one of those aging brains and at times it does need  some help.

The UCLA study was headed by Dr Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. His study used people between the ages of 55 and 78 . Half were internet veterans and education and gender were balanced in the group as well.

This next sounds  a bit challenging. The subjects performed internet searches while undergoing  functional  MRI’s. the goal was to measure the subtle changes in brain circuitry while the activity was in progress.

Group members then went home and did normal  internet searches for a period of  1 hour per day for 7 days withing  a 2 week period of time. They then returned for another fMRI . Results of this  somewhat limited study indicated that us old geezers could achieve improved  cognition , stimulate neural activation patterns (that must be good) and enhance brain function.

Teena Moody, study author and UCLA researcher  said this  about the results. “…suggest that searching online may be  a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in  older adults.” Previous studies had also shown promising results while additional studies will likely address the issues more fully.

Wouldn’t it be great to be  a volunteer in such a study, I thought. Then I noticed one small phrase that was used to describe the  volunteers. They had to be neurologically normal. Oh well. there goes my shot at being a volunteer. Don’t you wonder if they were given prescribed searches or were allowed to choose their search topics? Got to believe that could have an impact on the results.

October 21, 2009 Posted by | Technology | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Are You Gonna Get Latitude?

Our “friends” at Google have yet another must have technological advance. Beginning tomorrow, they will offer Latitude, a device available for your ubiquitous mobile phone that will allow you to let people know where you are.Privacy concerns, not a problem. One must allow themselves to be located, so to speak. And even then, one retains the capability to reveal as much or as little info about ones location as is deemed necessary.

Isn’t this just great? There is yet another way to be tracked or located or found.etc The human mind being what it is  and everyone not having the most altruistic of motives, how long before it is misused? How about a week or less. When it becomes the must have techno gadget and everyone who is anyone has it, it just seems to me that the potential for unscrupulous use will ultimately far outweigh its benign purpose of bringing loved ones together.

Of course, being a bit of an old fogey, I still have  land-line, no bluetooth and no laptop, I could be a little paranoid.  Doubtful, people may really be  trying  to get me. If they are, I certainly do not intend to help with the latitude or longitude.

February 4, 2009 Posted by | Technology | , , | 3 Comments

Collective Intelligence

Rather interesting term that I used for my title . I had never heard the term until today and dont know if I am entirely certain about what it means . Having said that , what little I have gleaned tends to make me a bit concerned . First , a definition of sorts . Apparently  , researchers coined this phrase to represent the material published  on the  Web . This info can be used to identify trends and perhaps make predictions . Carrying this further,  search engine data can be especially useful or powerful ( hold on to that concept ). The theory goes that our searches represent our most immediate intentions  and represent  the world’s collective  likes , dislikes , wants , needs etc . Both Yahoo and Google are  already  making  use of this type of data . ( Google trends)

Example: Google. org is the philanthropic arm of Google ( yeah, right ) and it has discovered a concept called Google Flu Trends that may be able to detect regional flu outbreaks as much  as 10 days quicker than than the CDC . Good ? Of course  the jury is still out on the use of this tool with some medical experts  seeing promise and some not so sure .

But to me this is a side issue and perhaps an example of the proverbial l camel’s nose under the tent . Says MIT Professor Thomas Malone ” I think we are just scratching the surface of what’s possible with collective intelligence . ” just dont be surprised if this topic and its uses surface more and more frequently and with who knows what effect . BTW , Google and President-elect Obama have what could be called a good relationship .

November 12, 2008 Posted by | Culture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment