Twenty-Five Years Later: Are We Better off with The World Wide Web?


In case you have been under a rock, this week was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first ever World Wide Web (WWW) page on August 23, 1991.

Celebrating the silver anniversary of the first WWW page is a milestone which brings reflection now in 2016.

Many things have happened since that fateful day in 1991. Computers have become cheaper (and smaller) thanks to the invention of smartphones and tablets. The days of hearing that annoying dial-up sound, confirming you have connected to the Internet, have gone with Wi-Fi and 4G mobile networks. Adios Yahoo! Chat. Hello Facebook, and other social media networks for interacting with others.

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Monitor via Pixybay Under Public Domain by the Creative Commons 

 

Meanwhile, the Internet of Things is in line to become what some dub it as “social media for machines.” As author Jeremy Rifkin calls it the convergence of communications, energy, and a logistics Internet. The WWW helped guide this.

Now for the one billion dollar question: Is the world better off with the WWW/Internet or not in 2016?

It’s not an easy answer. Both the Yes and no sides have excellent arguments which would make you think.

Many benefits of having the WWW has been promoting another global brand into another area of the world. Consider in the early 1990’s, most people in North America would not have heard of world-class soccer competitions, including the UEFA Champions League, or Copa Libertadores. The WWW has allowed international organizations like both UEFA, and CONEBOL to promote their brands at a global reach. Places like Canada could see top-notch club soccer more often. Now in 2016, the UEFA Champions League is frequently seen on multiple channels of TSN, or beIN Sports. Perhaps even, more important is this has spilled over into North America’s top-tier soccer league, Major League Soccer (MLS). MLS now is considered a top choice sport among millennials.

Another significant advantage of the WWW has been able to cut transaction costs. A 2012 Mashable article noted without the Internet, paying for stamps to send a letter, instead of emails would cost $6.3 US trillion. That’s a lot of money saved by businesses, and individuals that could have gone to the US Postal Service (Or Canada Post in the Great White North).

Lowering transaction costs from the WWW has allowed for more opportunities for collaboration, globally. Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams highlighted this in their 2010 book Macrowikinomics. They argued:

In this new age of networked intelligence, businesses and communities are bypassing crumbling institutions. We are altering the way our financial institutions and governments operate; how we educate our children; and how the healthcare, newspaper, and energy industries serve their customers.

A good example of mass collaboration is CleanTechnica.com, which is a blog focusing reporting about the new post-industrial renewable energy we are heading. This site provides analysis and news which mainstream media fails to pick up on clean technology.

Yet, the WWW has provided major societal headaches.

Privacy and security the one issue to me, which can drop an atomic bomb on any good the WWW has done for society.

With social media tools, it’s possible for someone to stalk someone on a daily basis. In 2012, The Guardian reported social networks and the advancement of smartphones was making easier for stalkers to target people.

Meanwhile, in 2016, cyber hackers have a never-ending list of destructive tools at their destruction ranging from viruses, malware, and ransomware. Who can forget the Heartbleed bug, which knocked down CRA, and extended the tax deadline in 2014 by five days? (I know because that was my first year of running my tax business and drove me bonkers). Or consider the “Dragonfly Incident” of 2013, in which hackers targeted a French website of a renewable energy company, implanted a virus, which infected customer computers.

Are we better off now than in 1991? Yes, and no. Yes, we have more information, yes we can collaborate more with people from other parts of the world. No, we are more at both an increased personal security and privacy risk. It’s not as simple as playing your Playstation 4 on your 50-inch Samsung smart tv against someone from China, or Pokemon Go on your smart phone. There are real issues which everyone needs to grasp. It’s gut check time for government, policy makers, and Silicon Valley.

The WWW/Internet will bring more positives, and just as many challenges in the future.

Perhaps, here are two videos from two people who represent the pros and cons of the WWW/Internet. Don Tapscott, and Andrew Keen.

What do you think? Has the WWW/Internet been a good or bad influence? Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or by email at adamjwpg@mymts.net.

 

 

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An Inconvenient Truth: Ten Years On


Ten years ago, Italy won the 2006 FIFA World Cup, sending Italians into a frenzy. Yet, perhaps just as significant was the release of An Inconvenient Truth.

This documentary featured former US Vice-President Al Gore discussing on a slide show, about the consequences climate change would have on our planet in the future. It was a visual tour de force for the eyes, as Gore hit the point home, slide, after slide, after slide, about what will occur if we do not make necessary changes in order to avoid future damage. An inconvenient Truth won the 2006 Best Documentary Feature Oscar. It also became one of top grossing documentaries of all time, taking in $49.1 million, globally.

So what has happened since An Inconvenient Truth has come out?

A lot of things have happened. I won’t go into every crook and cranny on what’s happened since, but I will discuss some key points.

Weather events are getting more extreme: Ok, as much as I love watching a good extreme wrestling bout, the same can’t be said about extreme weather. There is nothing funny, nor pretty about flash flooding, droughts, and intense heat waves.  In, fact it’s quite scary. Consider since 2006, six years have been the hottest globally on record, (2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, and 2015). There is a 99% chance 2016 will be even warmer (and it’s not even June yet). Climate analysts suggest these types of events will only increase in warming world, as we head into a “New Normal” of expecting the unexpected in weather. If that won’t get you, perhaps increased insurance rates in the pocket-book will from these situations.

Increased investments in renewables and cleantech investment: While doom and gloom abounds about climate change, one positive has occurred, which is more investments into renewable energy and clean technology. Renewable energy and clean technology has seen revival, thanks to reducing carbon emissions, but also thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which poured $31 billion US into new American clean energy projects. Since then, global renewable energy investment reached a record in 2015 with $329 billion US, with emerging market countries leading the way. Electric vehicles are also finding their way, as they are becoming more affordable, as Tesla Motors has taken already 373,000 pre orders for its affordable ($35,000 per car) model 3 vehicle, and is considered a “game changing” event within the automobile industry due to the amount of rapid sales for an electric vehicle.

Ten years on. An Inconvenient Truth, if anything got more people talking about climate change and began a serious conversation in mainstream society. It’s been used in universities, and schools about what needs to occur about taking climate action. Sure it has its detractors.  Yet at the end of the day, it’s a discussion that needed to be out in the open. Look, I love talking about money (I prepare income taxes, and took economics), but we can’t continue to beat up our planet Earth day in and day out in the sake of maximizing return. There is no economy with no planet. Today we have to technology to move forward, with wind, solar, biofuels, battery storage, and electric vehicles.  The Internet of Things will help to ramp up renewable energy through smart grids, as smart cities will help to ensure improved energy efficiencies in major urban centres.

We owe it to ourselves. If not to save our Earth, but in the very least to upgrade our outdated 20th century infrastructure into the 21st century, and save ourselves future costs from extreme weather events.

So watch An Inconvenient Truth again. Discuss what has changed since. Debate with your friends and neighbors. Be inspired by it. But in the very least come out of it with something new, and take action. Because there is No Planet B.

 

Earth Day: Futurism is the Driving Force for Environmentalism  


On this Earth Day, Futurism has to be the driving force for environmentalism. Yes, call me crazy, but without having futuristic thinking, environmentalism in its goals falls short.

After all, vision is what is required to set a plan forward. Having a vision ensures a plan. Having a plan in place can help get the tactics right required for success, and minimizing any failure. Getting the right tactics is important to ensuring success. This is what sports analysts talk about how teams are successful or an abysmal failure. Those who have the right plan and tactics are successful. Those who don’t, fail.

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Red Tesla Model 3 via WikiCommons By  Steve Jurvetson, Some Rights Reserved

Now put those same principles with climate change and environmental issues. While it’s important to focus on the problems which climate change will cause, including extreme weather events, and increased costs, the importance of environmentalists shifting, and gazing towards what the future can be, rather than what it may be, is where the train must go, while giving us a sense of hope, and excitement.

Futurism gives us an idea what to build. What sustainable energy we will use. What are cars can drive on. In fact, we are already starting to see those glimpses of futuristic ideas starting to take shape.

Consider, the increasing use of renewable energy capacity, and cleantech globally. US solar installations will reach records in 2016. Electric Vehicles are starting to gain traction within the automotive markets. Tesla has sold nearly 400,000 Model 3’s since starting to take orders in late March. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts 35% of all new cars sold by 2040 as electric. Smart grid market value is expected to reach $400 billion US globally by 2020, according to a 2013 GreenTech Media report, while microgrids and battery storage is beginning to take off.

Smart phone use increasing exponentially, and yes, the rise of the Internet were earlier signs futurists had the vision to see the potential of what society could look like

Sustainability expert Alex Steffen, in recent years has put more emphasis on futurism, in order to move sustainable development forward and provided this tidbit of wisdom, almost a month and a half ago on futurism:

Once futuristic concepts like smart cities, the Internet of Things (which are now becoming hot talking points) are making it easier to envision sustainable development within our times.

On this Earth Day, we need to think about the future we can create with the tools and skills we have now. Futurism gives environmentalists the vision need to realize what maybe impossible, possible in our uncertain times.

Adam Johnston is a Climate Reality leader and has written for MicroGridMedia.com, CleanTechnica.com, and SolarLove.org. 

Zapped Out: The Cost of Video Games


Recently I went to EB Games to see what was out and upcoming in the video game world. Batman: Arkham Knight, Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and Rainbow Six Siege will all have us gaming fanatics on the edge of our seat very soon.

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Image Credit: Adam Johnston

However, my mouth dropped. Not for the anticipation for these blockbusters. No, instead it was the prices which had me shaking my head. For example, it will take a small mortgage of $79.99 to buy Call of Duty Black Ops (which is due out in November, 2015) , $79.99 to get your kicks from FIFA 16 (will feature 12 national women’s teams and headed for a September, 2015 release), and $74.99 to get your hands on Rainbow Six Siege (coming out in October, 2015), all for Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

Many games still are $69.99 for these two systems. A few years ago new releases for when Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 were in its prime was around $59.99.

It comes down to three questions regarding video games pricing and costs related to consumers. What is pushing the costs of games up? Why is the price the way it is when you go to a video game store?  And are video games in general more expensive than in past years when factoring inflation and other factors?

First, let’s look at what’s pushing the costs up: Increased budgets. Video games today, are not like its 8-bit NES predecessors.  Technology today is far more effective and cheaper, helping push what gaming developers can do. Today’s video games resemble more like a big budget theatrical movie. It’s common for video games to have budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars today. This requires a lot more help to produce these games, including voice actors, and designers, The Economist noted:

As characters, items, levels and visual effects have become more intricate and detailed, developers have had little choice but to throw more and more artists at the problem. Another reason costs are rising is the increasing professionalism of the industry. These days, Hollywood actors are hired (and paid handsomely) to voice characters. The biggest developers market-test their products to destruction. Like political parties honing a slogan, they offer snippets of gameplay to focus groups. If anything is found to be too difficult, too obscure or simply not fun, it is sent back to be re-done. That kind of quality control costs serious money.

Expect budgets of your favorite video games to increase as the current next generations systems are starting to gain market traction said The Economist. 

Now question two, who sets the price of a video game?  It’s not the store where you buy it, but the distributor, according to a CBC article. For example, Activision will set the price of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, or EA Sports for FIFA 16 at $79.99 when it first comes out. Stores like Best Buy, EB Games do not have much of a say on pricing for when games first come out.

This is also created a debate on how much value gamers get in hours of play vs. the cost, which CBC argued about the short play time for The Order 1886 vs. its $74.99 price tag.  Expect this trend to continue as budgets rise and distributors need to maximize profits in order to costs.

Which leads me to question three. Are video games, in general, more expensive to buy now than in previous times?

The answer is muddled.

If you add inflation to this mix, according to IGN then no. For example, An NES game twenty-five years would cost you $50, would be $89.00 now. An NES system, which cost $199.99 in 1985, is around $434.69 in today’s cost.

Meanwhile, a Playstation 2 (PS2) game in 2000 at $60.00 a pop would set you back about the same now. A PS2 system in 2000 which was $299.99 is $407.44 now. Very little increase with inflation factored in.

In fact, Forbes technology columnist Erik Kain argued video game prices should cost more, thanks to massive budgets, and more realistic gameplay. He argues today’s gamers are getting a bargain, in compared to other times in history when inflation is added.

However, his argument is kind of flawed considering when you factor Moore’s Law, where exponential technologies have improved all aspects of technology, driving cost down. Does anyone recall laptops in 2000 being $2,000? Now you can get a laptop for around $300-$400.00.  You can argue this for video games which have brought technology costs down for this industry, and cancelling Kain’s ideas of increasing gaming prices.

Add constant bombardment of downloadable content (around $20.00 to $35.00), Internet costs ($65.00 a month for high-speed Internet with a local provider), yearly online fees ($49.99 for Playstation Plus) and headphones ($150.00 for high quality ones) to get the most interactive movie-like experience, and it’s not as cheap as you think.

Lastly, stagnant wages, plus a low Canadian dollar, stifles consumer purchasing power. Consumer may likely not want to spend on games, as they feel the pinch with increased prices. Hence, why it’s unclear as to why it’s cheaper to buy video games than in the past. Ironically, this may not deter millennials (one of the video game industries top demographics), as they are willing to spend more on entertainment, despite not having the wealth of past generations.

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Image Credit: “PS4-Console-wDS4” by Evan-Amos – Media:PS4-Console- via Wikimedia

Let me know what your thoughts are. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+

 

 

Wind Energy Slowly Powering Automotive Plants Globally


Wind Energy, on one hand, blows freely. It’s becoming cost competitive with fossil fuels across North America.

On the other hand, the automotive industry has been slow to change, until recently as electric vehicles, driverless cars, and car-sharing are changing the landscape.

Now what happens, when both collide?

Check out this April, 2015 The Weather Channel report, showing how the Russells Point, Ohio Honda plant is powered by wind energy.

Southern Minnesota company Juhl Energy provides three turbines, which powers 60MW or 10% of the plant’s electricity.

While wind energy providing electricity to automotive plants is a new game in North America, In Europe it’s more common to see this.

Ford plants in both Belgium and the United Kingdom have wind as an electricity source. BMW added four wind turbines to its Leipzig, Germany plant, in supplying 25% of its power over two years ago.

Meanwhile, expect the trend to grow in North America. General Motors announced this past February it’s adding 34MW of wind power to its Mexican plants in order to reach its renewable energy goals four years earlier.

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Image Credit: Wind Power Propels GM Past Renewable Energy Goal via General Motors

With US total installed wind capacity at 66GW, and 9.694GW in Canada, the question of who is the next US (or Canadian) automotive plant to feel the breeze? Perhaps a Ontario Canada plant? But even better, why not one in Michigan? This was the backbone of automobiles. Ford, GM, are you listening?

SolarCity Tops 6GWh, Doubled Electricity Generation Since April 2014


SolarCity keeps on rolling and breaks its own milestones at rapid rates.

According to a post on LinkedInthe top US solar panel installer on June 2nd reached 6GWh of solar electricity in a single day, doubling its generation rate in one day of 3GWh in April, 2014. SolarCity said on their LinkedIn page they “Can not wait to see what summer brings,” referring to reaching 7GWh soon.

It was only in late March they reached 5GWh, easily smashing 4GWh, two weeks prior.

I had predicted in the same CleanTechnica post 6GWh in solar electricity generation in a day was feasible by early summer for SolarCity, which they easily accomplished as noted by the below graph.

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Image: SolarCIty 6GWh via SolarCIty LinkedIn page

Even more astonishing is how fast this was achieved in five years to reach 6 GWh of solar electricity production. Consider, by 2013, only 1 GWh was produced in a day. Within two years it’s now six times that!.

Declining solar costs, driving climate change concerns will factor into SolarCity’s ferocious appetite to push clean electricity further.

All that solar power will come in handy as US energy demand could increase up to 95 gigawatts within the next 5-25 years, in order to meet cooling needs from increased heat waves.

With “The dog days of summer” on its way, and peak consumption period from the hot weather, I would not be surprised if SolarCity reaches 7GWh in a day by early July.

Until then, I am excited by the possibilities Lyndon Rive, SolarCity’s CEO & Co. have in store.

Three Things Environmentalists Should Jump For Joy On Earth Day


 

Tomorrow is Earth Day. We will gather to celebrate the Mother Earth in all her glory.

We will also hear a lot of doom and gloom about the planet we live on. Sure, there is a lot of gloomy stories to worry about. Carbon emissions last year went above 400 parts per million (ppm) and went to 402 ppm recently. We have seen record storms and droughts in recent times that should raise concern among climate policy makers.

Despite some of the end of the world mentality by many environmentalists, here are three things to get really excited about as you celebrate Earth Day:

1. Cost of Solar Falls Like A Ton of Bricks:

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Image Credit: China Solar Panels via WikiCommons

It was not long ago, the cost of solar power was really expensive. Solar costs in 1950 were $300 per watt and $27.00/watt in 1980. In 2013, solar plummeted to $0.74/watt. That is an astonishing figure. Solar is price competitive to coal in some places. What is occurring with solar energy, and other renewables occurred with the late 1990’s information technology boom, which created the framework for Web. 2.0. Governments, and utilities will have to kick out their old 20th century style energy policies out the door, thanks to the open sourced energy model solar offers.

2. SolarCity and Tesla Motors Are Rolling:

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Image Credit: Tesla Motors Model S via WikiCommons

Tesla Motors and SolarCity in the past few years have really taken off in the Nasdaq stock exchange and are hot talking points.

At the end of Monday, Tesla Motors stock was worth $204.38 USD a share, an increase of more than $100.00 a year ago. Meanwhile, SolarCity’s share price hit $57.13. While not as high as earlier this year, it’s almost five times more than the initial IPO offering of $11.79/share on its first day of trading in December, 2012.

In March, the Globe & Mail put SolarCity’s bright future into context:

To put this in perspective, two-thirds of all solar energy systems in the U.S. were installed in the last two-and-a-half years. I don’t think it’s just tree huggers who are installing these systems, either. These are financial decisions. And for people who don’t have $20,000 or more to invest up front in a solar energy system on their roof, solar leasing is a popular solution.

Within the sector, Solar City is a clear leader by market share in the U.S. It specializes in putting solar energy systems on homeowners’ roofs. Solar City, and other companies like them, pay for the entire installation and recoup their money by signing the customer to a long-term energy-purchase agreement. Everybody wins because Solar City generates a healthy profit over the life of the solar-power system, while the customer pays less for power compared to their feed from the traditional grid. Customers can still use grid power, but most of their electricity comes from their roof, and if the grid goes down, they are still generating their own power.

Take SolarCity’s monster share of the US solar market, along with Tesla’s ambitious plan on building a “gigafactory” for its electric cars, and you see how the long-term motor vehicle and energy market trends may shape out this century.

3. Spectator Sports Are Becoming More Sustainable:

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Image Credit: Spark Renault Formula E Car via WikiCommons

One of the biggest complaints about spectator sports (Auto Racing, NFL) is the big footprint it leaves. Major sports leagues are now taking up the sustainability charge.

Averaging about a 4 million carbon footprint annually, NASCAR is often on the “Hit List” of many environmentalists. Ironically, they have also brought in some green changes, including an E15 ethanol blend, and working with ACORE on energy efficiency initiatives.

Meanwhile, Formula E, the first ever electric vehicle racing circuit will kick off this September. Announced in 2012, its hoped the new racing venture will reduce carbon emissions, create jobs and advance the electric vehicle industry.

In the NFL, many teams have embraced renewable energy strategies to save costs and the environment. These include the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, and Washington Redskins.

Society Better Equipped to Fight Climate Change Now

As you sit back on Earth Day, sure be mad about a lot of things. But at the same time lets start being more positive on the changes that are taking place. Ask someone thirty to forty years ago, if wind, solar energy, or electric vehicles would become apart of mainstream society? You would be laughed right out of the building.

Sure nothing is perfect. However, but as you are seeing now with declining solar costs, cleantech stocks becoming hot talking points on Wall Street, and less carbon footprint from spectator sports show society is moving in the right direction. If you ask me, We are more equipped now to take on climate change, then we were even twenty five years ago. That my friends is progress.

Happy Earth Day.