2020年5月22日 星期五

On Tech: Why all the shouting about Google?

Here's the one question that matters: Does Google rig the system to squash its rivals and hurt us?

Why all the shouting about Google?

Delcan & Company

You may have seen (or ignored) a gazillion articles about the U.S. government preparing to sue Google for possibly being an illegal monopoly.

This is going to get weird. So here’s what you need to know about this tussle, and why normal humans should care.

What the government wants to know: The central question is does Google cheat to get a leg up over competitors, and if so, does that hurt all of us. Simple but hard to answer.

Government lawyers considering bringing a case seem to be focusing on a part of Google we rarely think about. Almost every time you visit a website, there’s a rapid-fire computerized auction of companies bidding to show you an advertisement. Google has its hands in multiple parts of those auctions.

The government will want to know whether the company’s dominance of this auction system results in higher advertising prices than companies would pay otherwise. (A group critical of Google recently said that it likely did. Google says that there’s lots of competition in these ad systems.)

If an insurance company is forced to pay more for ads because Google tilts the system to its benefit, that translates into you paying more for insurance. That’s the kind of thing that might break the law.

ADVERTISEMENT

Figuring out what’s going on will require sifting through mathematical models and Google executives’ emails. It’s complicated and dull. John Grisham will never write about this case.

This will be messy because people have FEELINGS about Google. Notice that I raised questions without answering them. That’s right, no one has answers yet. Instead we have noisy drama.

Some American politicians say Google must be strong so China doesn’t take over the internet, and others argue all big companies are inherently bad for the world. Some people accuse Google of showing political bias when it presents online information in search results. Google says it’s a terrified weakling that could die any minute.

Most of this is bologna and distracts us from the only question that matters: Does Google rig the system to squash its rivals and hurt us?

ADVERTISEMENT

OK, but feelings matter: My colleague David McCabe told me that there are big anxieties wrapped up in the legal case against Google.

America’s tech superpowers are emblematic of the winner-take-most economic model that some people say holds back new ideas and worsens income inequality. Supporters of an antitrust case argue that if laws were followed (and strengthened) to make industries less dominated by superstar companies, Americans might have better health care, cheaper cellphone bills and more useful apps.

At the heart of legal questions about Google — and other tech companies — is a big question about whether America could be better.

LOL, nothing matters? A similar government investigation into whether Google abused its power over web search ended seven years ago, and not much changed. And in Europe, regulators found multiple times in recent years that Google broke its laws to advantage itself over competitors, but again, not much changed, really.

ADVERTISEMENT

Ignore anyone who confidently predicts what happens next with Google. Some people say a similar government lawsuit against Microsoft 20 years ago let competitors like Google flourish. More likely, Google flourished because Microsoft misunderstood where technology was going. That’s the thing about both tech and legal cases: They can be wildly unpredictable.

Get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday; please sign up here.

So, so many photos. Now what?

A reader in Chicago, Patty Keegan, wrote in to ask about the best way to organize all her photos, including scanned pictures and those stored on her phone, computer and Shutterfly.

“Is there a way to gather all of them, delete unwanted ones, and then start filing them in virtual folders or albums that I can access on my iPhone?” she asked. “This is a project that keeps haunting me, and I am all into keeping things as simple as possible!”

Phil Ryan from the Wirecutter, a product recommendation site owned by The Times, has this advice:

Our standard advice for photo storage is to use either Apple Photos or Google Photos. Since you’re an iPhone owner, we’d suggest going with Apple.

Both services have some level of automation that helps when making albums, and you’ll be able to access the photos on your iPhone once you’ve got them organized.

Make sure to fill in the metadata — information such as the date the photo was taken, or the location or people in the photo — so you can take advantage of automated sorting and view by date or other info.

To edit the metadata in Apple Photos on your computer, select a photo or multiple photos and click the “i” (for information) in the upper right of the window. You can then enter a description, keywords or location information.

You’ll also want to check how much iCloud storage you have because you may need to choose a higher capacity plan.

Before we go …

  • Facebook completely changed its mind: After saying for years that working from the office was essential, Facebook on Thursday said it would allow many of its nearly 50,000 employees to work remotely forever. The catch, as my colleague Kate Conger writes: Facebook plans to cut salaries of people moving from high-cost areas like the Bay Area to cheaper spots.The cynic in me says Facebook is doing this to save money and making it seem like it has a BIG IDEA about the future of work. Facebook says it won’t save money.
  • The government health app that breaks its own privacy rules: One of the first smartphone apps in the United States to help notify people of possible coronavirus exposure shares people’s personal data with an outside company, in violation of the app’s own rules, The Washington Post reports.People need to trust that coronavirus-tracking technology won’t be used for purposes other than public health, and the app for North and South Dakota breaches that trust.
  • Everyone is looking for Elon Musk. She answers: I love every story about digital mistaken identity. This one from NPR is about a 25-year-old woman who has a cellphone number that once belonged to Musk, the Tesla chief executive. She gets a lot of calls and texts meant for him, including from the I.R.S.

Hugs to this

I can’t tell if this puppy loves or hates listening to “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window.

We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you’d like us to explore. You can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

Get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday; please sign up here.

Need help? Review our newsletter help page or contact us for assistance.

You received this email because you signed up for On Tech with Shira Ovide from The New York Times.

To stop receiving these emails, unsubscribe or manage your email preferences.

Subscribe to The Times

|

Connect with us on:

facebooktwitterinstagram

Change Your Email|Privacy Policy|Contact Us

The New York Times Company. 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018

Try The New York Times at a discounted rate.

Gain perspective on the stories that impact your life.
 
The New York Times View in Browser
 
In times of uncertainty, keep hold of clarity. International readers subscribe at a discounted rate.
 
VIEW OFFER
 
 
 
 
Context and perspective are helpful when attempting to understand the events of today. Our reporters bring you the story in full, and follow up to ensure you receive the latest facts. Regain a clear-eyed view of events when you subscribe to The Times.
 
International readers subscribe at a discounted rate.
 
 
 
 
VIEW OFFER
 
 
 
Cancel anytime.
 
 
 
 
No commitment required. Cancel anytime.
 
Limited time offer. Your payment method will automatically be charged in advance every 4 weeks at the introductory rate for one year and at the standard rate thereafter. All subscriptions renew automatically. You can cancel anytime. These offers are not available for current subscribers. Mobile apps are not supported on all devices. Other restrictions and taxes may apply. Offers and pricing are subject to change without notice.
 
This email was sent to puseguliao.mail02@blogger.com
 
Account Login | Help Center
Attn.: Customer Service, P.O. Box 8041, Davenport, IA 52808-8041
 
Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Unsubscribe
 
©2020 The New York Times Company | 620 Eighth Ave., New York, NY 10018
 
 
                                                           

2020年5月21日 星期四

On Tech: Robots! (Don’t get too excited.)

Robots are cool. But we should be skeptical of emerging technology.

Robots! (Don’t get too excited.)

Barry Doupé

We want cool technology like jet packs and driverless cars, and we WANT IT EVERYWHERE RIGHT NOW.

My colleague Cade Metz will kill your dreams.

He and Erin Griffith wrote this week about one British city where sidewalk-roaming robots that can deliver groceries are in high demand during the pandemic. Yay for robot helpers, right?! Optimists imagine what else they can do once the technology progresses.

Cade has affection for a fictional killer supercomputer, which says something about his tech optimism. He explained to me the limitations of delivery robots, and why they’ll probably never be widely available.

SHIRA: In this one city, Milton Keynes, who is benefiting from the robot deliveries?

CADE: Before the pandemic, a resident of Milton Keynes, Liss Page, thought these robots were fascinating but mostly pointless. On her jogs, she’d wind up alongside a robot, and she would talk to it — almost tease it.

Then the pandemic happened, and she was advised not to leave her apartment because of pre-existing health conditions. Those robots are now vital to bring her groceries — when the stores are in stock.

That’s very helpful right now. So why, then, are you a robot-delivery skeptic?

These robots can’t even serve everyone in Milton Keynes, which is ideally suited to robot deliveries because it has bike and pedestrian paths alongside the roadways. Almost nowhere else is set up for these deliveries on a wide scale.

ADVERTISEMENT

You can see what these robots can do in small ways or in certain places, but you also see the limitations when you extrapolate that out. People vandalize these robots for kicks. The robots get stuck, and humans have to take over remotely. They can’t carry much. If you have a family, it’s not great to be limited to a couple of grocery bags.

So robot deliveries aren’t coming to my neighborhood soon?

Probably not. Prices will come down, and autonomous technology will improve, but there are limits to how many of these things you can put on a sidewalk.

And delivery robots only work long term if they’re cheaper than humans doing the same thing. That’s not going to happen if robots stay confined to a tiny number of places like Milton Keynes or college campuses.

ADVERTISEMENT

You wrote earlier this month about problems with driverless cars, and now you’re picking on delivery robots. Are you a killjoy?

Look, over the past 10 years there’s been a lot of progress, but you have to be skeptical of emerging technology. Otherwise you get an unrealistic view of what’s possible and miss where technologies go wrong.

OK, that’s fair. Now tell us, why are people infatuated with robots? We think they’re adorable or villainous.

They fascinate us and scare us. All the movies and television we’ve watched for the last 60 years about robots and artificial intelligence have been burned into our brains. It really affects the expectations we have of technology.

What’s your favorite artificial being in pop culture?

I’m partial to HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Hal is a wonderful character — and a flawed one. He shows where machines can go right, and where they can go wrong.

Get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday; please sign up here.

ADVERTISEMENT

WFH forever? Who really knows

There are office workers and their bosses who are itching to return to cubicle life fast. And others who are saying goodbye forever to toiling in an office.

And then there’s Evan Spiegel, Snapchat’s chief executive, who says — sensibly — who the heck knows?

Snapchat’s headquarters in the Los Angeles area closed in March, and people scattered to work remotely. The company is now telling employees they can work remotely at least through September, and it’s assessing when and how to reopen safely. The squishiness of the message doesn’t sit well with everyone.

“People want certainty, and there’s a huge amount of pressure as a leader to make definitive statements,” Spiegel said in a conversation Wednesday (by video chat, not Snapchat) with New York Times editors and reporters. “I think it’s important that we remain flexible in a situation that is changing rapidly.”

Snapchat, which has more than 3,000 employees, has been planning for a couple months on how to reopen offices. It’s keeping track of business safety requirements issued by local authorities, and Snapchat’s own. It has assessed which teams to invite back to offices first based on job requirements. Someone who needs access to high-end video editing equipment available only at the office, for example, would be higher on the list of returnees.

Spiegel and his wife, the model and skincare entrepreneur Miranda Kerr, have two young sons. Like many parents, he said he had mixed feelings about working remotely.

It’s been challenging, he said, for two working adults and their children to manage under the same roof 24/7. But, Spiegel said, “I get to spend time with my family, which has led to more fulfillment than I’ve ever had in my life.”

Before we go …

  • Help getting connected during the pandemic. Maybe: Internet providers like Charter and Comcast promised to help low-income people get or stay online during the pandemic. But taking them up on the offer hasn’t always been easy, my colleague David McCabe reported.
  • Everything you need to know about tracking disease, with humans: ProPublica has the best explanation I’ve seen for how disease detectives track down people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. As I’ve written here, this is a labor-intensive process for which smartphone location data may (or may not) help a little.
  • Banal and utterly bizarre: A glitch over smartphone photo formats is causing some high school students to fail advanced placement tests, The Verge reported. Some test takers submit photos of their virtual test sheets, but the testing website doesn’t support the default format on some iPhones and newer Android phones.

Hugs to this

Move over, BBC Dad. My newest telecast-from-home star is cat fight lady.

We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you’d like us to explore. You can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

Get this newsletter in your inbox every weekday; please sign up here.

Need help? Review our newsletter help page or contact us for assistance.

You received this email because you signed up for On Tech with Shira Ovide from The New York Times.

To stop receiving these emails, unsubscribe or manage your email preferences.

Subscribe to The Times

|

Connect with us on:

facebooktwitterinstagram

Change Your Email|Privacy Policy|Contact Us

The New York Times Company. 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018