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.

 

 

Thank You Tragically Hip, Thank You


This Saturday will be a historic night for Canadians, as one of Canada’s greatest rock bands in our generation will play for the last time.

The Tragically Hip will take center stage at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Windsor, Ontario, and in front of a national audience on CBC.

Last May, lead singer Gord Downie announced he had terminal brain cancer, which shocked Canadians. As a tribute, the Tragically Hip announced they would do a Canadian-only tour during this summer to support their newest album, Man Machine Poem.

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The Tragically Hip Performs at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver in 2006 by Radiobread via Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

 

For thirty-two years, The Hip have enthralled Canadian music fans for over a generation. I remember listening to some of their songs, back in high school at Miles Mac, to counteract for all the pop songs at the time. They offered something unique. I could not pinpoint it at the time (but later I would understand what it was they offered).  I had the opportunity to see them back at the 2000 War Child concert at the Forks here in Winnipeg (along with Chantal Kreviazuk). They performed some of their world-class hits including Ahead By a Century. They put on a sublime show that day. It was that day, I figured out how good they were, and perhaps one of Canada’s best-kept musical secrets. The Hip were rock enough to deliver a knockout punch, yet had lyrics to their songs that would make you think about life.

But perhaps the best thing outside of their music was the Hip represented Canada very well. Gord was a big fan of hockey. The Hip also rattled the chains of social justice, when needed. By writing about the injustice of David Milgaard in Wheat Kings, to advocating on environmental issues.

Take it all in this Saturday. Whether you are at home, watching on a big screen at a local event, or listening on your smartphone. You won’t see the Tragically Hip ever again. Then again in today’s age, you will never see a band like The Hip, period. With rap, pop, and even country dominating our music scene, good current rock in 2016 is virtually gone. Factor in globalization where anyone can tap into other genres of music from other parts of the world and it’s nearly impossible a band (Outside of Rush) like The Tragically Hip will ever grace Canadian music as they have.

A piece of music dies on August 20th. A part of Canada dies on August 20th. A piece of generational art dies August 20th.  Let’s celebrate what The Hip has done for Canada. Let’s not treat this as a funeral but as a celebration. A celebration of one of Canada’s best rock bands ever (besides Rush, and Matthew Good Band in the 1990’s). Soak it in. Laugh, cry. There will not be one dry eye from coast to coast Saturday, August 20th.

Thank you Tragically Hip, Thank You for the memories.

 

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. 

Corporations Leading the Way on Climate Change (Seriously)


Monday’s news from the United States regarding 13 major companies announcing they will invest $140 billion in renewable energy, to reduce carbon emissions, is proving big business is serious about climate change.

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Wind Energy By Jim Allen Via Flickr Some Rights Reserved

Some of the most well-known brands, including Apple, Microsoft, Google, WalMart, and Coca-Cola said in a statement from the White House they plan to add more than 1,600 MW of additional renewable energy. These 13 companies have promised their support for a climate deal ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Paris late fall.

Meanwhile, last week, Amazon added their voice in advancing the renewable energy agenda, when it advocated for renewable tax credits in US congress. Thank the world’s largest e-commerce store for purchasing a North Carolina wind farm, in championing both the Investment and Production Tax Credits.

Here are some driving factors why this is a trend that’s likely here to stay.

1. Consumers are voting with their dollars, not necessarily at the ballot box: Ok, I get this where politics is important and elections drive climate policy (including the upcoming Canadian Federal election this fall). However, consumers voting with their dollars has become a new way of doing politics outside the government realm. Ethical funds, consumer boycotts are some ways customers can voice their displeasure with how companies are doing business. Businesses, have a faster response time with consumers, rather than governments with their constituents on many problems. Case in point, Newsweek, recently highlighted Corporate America’s critical role in supporting same- sex marriage and other social issues:

Fortune 500 corporations are trying to appeal to (or at least avoid offending) the widest possible swath of Americans. “Inclusiveness” may not be good politics in this day of polarization and micro-targeting, but it seems to be good business. And that is making the business community the sort of “big tent” political force that neither major political party can claim to be.

While don’t expect the CEO of Suncor to be buddies with New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulclair any time soon, big business will have a bigger ear towards consumers going forward, or they will lose customers business.

2. The Carbon Investment Bubble is About to Burst:  Bill McKibben’s groundbreaking 2012 Rolling Stone article about how Earth could only burn 565 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere by 2050 before this planet can keep within the 2C limit, was the catalyst of divesting from fossil fuel investments. Now, fossil fuels becoming a more riskier investment. as Bank of England Governor Mark Carney noted these investments will become financially abandoned.

3. IT and Internet companies Are The Backbone for Renewable Energy: From Apple, who runs all their US operations on 100% renewables, to Google, who has bought 1.1 GW of clean energy, information technology and internet-based companies have been leaders in supporting renewables. Tom Friedman’s 2008 book Hot, Flat, and Crowded exemplified how information technology was going to be critical in moving green technology forward.

We are starting to see this marriage become a reality, with these companies investing heavily in The Internet of Things, and smart grid technology. Smart grid markets are estimated by 2020 to reach past $400 billion globally. Hence, there is real incentives for the likes of Google, Apple, Cisco, in reaping the rewards of strong climate change policy.

It’s not perfect. Sure, but corporations are becoming leaders on this issue. And it may very well be driving many Naomi Klein and Milton Friedman fans bonkers.

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+

 

 

Climate Change Today: Weather Underground Infographic


Today in the food for thought category, Weather Underground had put out a nice, clean, infographic explaining the causes and effects of climate change.

Considering 97% of scientists agree that carbon emission levels (which are currently over 403 parts per million) is pushing man-made climate change, the effects are nothing to ignore.

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Image Credit: Climate Change Today via Weather Underground

What this infographic does nicely is show what effects (extreme weather, higher temperatures, higher sea levels) will occur.

So pick what concerns about our changing climate and advocate for it.  For me, it’s the cost of inaction of doing nothing. Plus my second problem is how governments need to update old and outdated infrastructure, in order to meet the needs of a warming world, as Bloomberg discussed in April:

Severe weather is the leading cause of power disruptions, costing the U.S. economy from $18 billion to $33 billion a year, and climate change will only make it worse, a White House review on energy infrastructure concludes.

The report, released Tuesday by the Energy Department, recommends investments in the electric grid to protect it from the severe storms that may be occurring more frequently because of global warming, as well as from physical and cyber-attacks.

Vice President Joe Biden and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz unveiled the report at Peco Energy Co. in Philadelphia. Biden noted that more electricity is being generated from solar and wind, which are challenges to the grid. Renewable energy resources often are in rural areas where power is needed least, requiring lines to bring it to consumers.

 “How and where we’re producing energy is changing and our energy infrastructure has to keep up,” Biden said.
Infographics provide information to people who don’t have the time to read a 20-page report. It’s critical to nail the key points in a specific issues (like climate change) within one page, so people can advocate for their concerns better. This is one of the better infographics on climate change geared towards the general public.