Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Consider Benefits of Owning a ‘Burner Phone’

burner-phone

Despite all the buzz surrounding the new iPhone, many are considering something on the other end of the spectrum: a cheap, disposable, and prepaid mobile phone.

OK, so these “burner phones,” as they’re often referred to, may be an addendum to your pricey smartphone rather than a replacement for it, but these devices have some desirable benefits.

Maintains your privacy

While you might think a "burner phone" is something only a criminal may use to avoid being tracked by authorities – such as the drug dealers on a show like The Wire – law-abiding citizens may also appreciate the privacy awarded by a burner phone.

For example, you might not want to use your main phone number if you’re posting items on Craigslist or another classifieds site. After all, you’re opening up the possibility of unwanted calls or texts from strangers on your personal line. Instead, when the transactions are completed, you can simply dump (or “burn”) the temporary phone.

Burner phones are also desirable to those who use dating apps, as you might not want to give out your primary number to someone you don’t end up with. Sure, you can block someone on your main phone, but they could still contact you from another number.

Burner phones can be bought with cash and with no contract, plus providers that sell these devices don’t track personal data. Anonymity isn’t fully guaranteed, however, as burner phones can still be located over a cellular network by the temporary phone number, or logged whenever you call someone else’s phone via their carrier.

Other advantages

Aside from privacy, there are other reasons why you might consider a burner phone:

  • For emergencies: Thanks to a FCC mandate, every mobile phone must be able to dial 9-1-1 – even if you aren’t signed up with a carrier. Heck, you don’t even need a SIM card in the phone. And so a practical application for a cheap burner phone is to keep it for emergency purposes only. Toss it into your glove box and you’ll know it’s there, just in case.
  • Back-up phone: While some burner phones have some advanced features, most are barebones devices used for calls or texts only. Because most these devices don’t have big screens and advanced radios like 4G/LTE and GPS, they likely boast much longer battery life than a premium smartphone. This could be ideal for travelers, perhaps, or at least as a back-up phone if your main device’s battery peters out.
  • Low cost: Price is a good motivator, too. Rather than spend upwards of $850 for the latest iOS or premium Android device, pre-paid burner phones could be as low as $20 for the Motorola EX431G Tracfone, which includes a full physical keyboard and free double minutes for life. If you prefer a compact flip phone, the Samsung Entro is roughly $20 while the Kyocera Coast Prepaid Phone is $35. Pro tip: While your burner phone doesn’t have access to data, many social networks like Twitter and Facebook have a SMS option, so you can still be notified to get updates via text message.

There’s an app for that

Those who like the idea of a burner phone but aren’t quite ready to pick one up might consider an app like Burner, which allows you to create multiple numbers on your main smartphone. You might want one number for work, another for personal use, and a third for classifieds, shopping, dating, and so on.

Available at the App Store and Google Play, Burner is free to download and free to try. Additional time and numbers are available by in-app purchase (from $1.99) or a subscription for $4.99/month, which enables one burner line with unlimited calls, texts, and picture messages for one month. Be aware, however, phone calls use up your regular mobile phone minutes.

Read Article (Marc Saltzman | msn.com | 08/18/2016)

Europeans hold individual data privacy very high, which is not the case in the US. Some have begun to wonder, do they have it right? Well, only time will tell, though critics in the US say they’ve got it wrong, not surprising. But they also have trust in their government which is also not the case in the US. Analyze that!

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New Tennessee Tech Could SuperCharge Education

SuperCharge-Education

The technologies of tomorrow are making headway into Tennessee classrooms as one of the largest Digital Resources Library was announced today in Nashville, Tennessee. It took nearly eighteen months to complete the library, which brought fifty-eight Tennessee teachers together, who curated digital learning resources for high school courses that are aligned to state standards.

While Texas and a handful of other states have also created digital libraries, this is one of the largest digital libraries which combined the efforts of numerous organizations including the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA), Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents (TOSS), Tennessee Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (TASCD), and the Tennessee Educational Technology Association (TETA).

“We are very excited about the launch of the digital library and believe it will be a tremendous resource for our educators and students,” said TSBA Executive Director Dr. Tammy Grissom.

Funded by the American Public Education Foundation and Pickler Companies, the Tennessee Digital Resources Library was created to help school districts use and share open educational resources to help teachers deliver content in the classrooms. Many top educators see the process of technology coming into the classroom as “inevitable” which is why Tennessee took such a strong position in embracing new technologies and creating partnerships with Apple, Inc., which provided technical support to all fifty-eight teachers.

In August 2015, teachers began curating digital learning materials for the following fourteen high school courses: Algebra I and II; Biology; Chemistry; Economics; English I, II, III and IV; Geometry; Government; Physical Science; U.S. and World History.

“Tennessee has been a true reform leader in the post-common core world. The state has established Tennessee-specific standards. They are developing curriculum around these high standards, and with the TDRL, we have the opportunity to bridge the digital divide and create greater educational opportunity for all students,” said Foundation president David A. Pickler, J.D, founder and president of Pickler Companies. The Foundation and Pickler Companies provided all fifty-eight teachers supporting the project with iPad Air 2s and stipends ranging from $500 to $1000 (team leaders).

While many are hoping technology will save time and offer personalized and adaptive delivery of curricula, it is also a potential savings for school districts. The curated digital materials replace costly textbooks that often are obsolete before ever reaching students. Additionally, at a time of significant national concern with the price of higher education, there is also hope that innovative technology can better prepare students for tech-driven workplaces. Early supporters include Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) and Rep. John Forgety (R-Athens), with Tracy noting that to accomplish TDRL “took leadership,” and that these digital resources “will improve the quality of education across the spectrum in Tennessee.”

The Tennessee School Boards Association website, www.tsba.net (click TDRL), houses the materials, which are free to all teachers.

Read Article (Mia Toschi | huffingtonpost.com | 07/12/2016)

Regardless of age, Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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The Most Technologically Advanced County in the World

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Have you ever been to Estonia? It’s tiny. Could you find it on a map?

The Baltic nation of only 1.3 million citizens stands out from its Eastern European neighbors in that it has an advanced economy and a high standard of living. And it’s also a technology paradise. You may know it as the home of Skype. But there’s a lot more to the tiny country than that.

In Estonia, voting, signing documents and filling out tax returns is done online, thanks to X-Road, an online tool that coordinates multiple online data repositories and document registries. X-Road provides all Estonians — ordinary citizens, enterprises and government officials — with unparalleled access to the data they need to do business, get licenses, permits and other documents that would take days, weeks or even months in other countries.

X-Road is built with scalability in mind, so that the growing number of services and repositories can easily be attached to the system. Although this digital backbone alone is rather impressive, it’s just one of many products in tech-forward Estonia.

Instead of being held back by its past and falling victim to ailments that plague many post-communist countries, such as corruption, a bloated government and an obsolete education system, Estonia has decided to start with a clean slate and invest in its future. To transform its society into a community of tech-savvy individuals, children as young as 7 are taught the principles and basics of coding. (In comparison, only one in four schools in the U.S. teaches computer programming.)

Such strong foundations have yielded impressive results: Estonians are driven, forward-thinking and entrepreneurial, and the same goes for the government. It takes only five minutes to register a company there and, according to The Economist, the country in 2013 held the world record for the number of startups per person. And it’s not quantity over quality: Many Estonian startups are now successful companies that you may recognize, such as Skype, Transferwise, Pipedrive, Cloutex, Click & Grow, GrabCAD, Erply, Fortumo, Lingvist and others. By the way, Estonia uses the euro.

If all this sounds enticing and you wish to become an entrepreneur there, you’re in luck; starting a business in Estonia is easy, and you can do it without packing your bags, thanks to its e-residency service, a transnational digital identity available to anyone. An e-resident can not only establish a company in Estonia through the Internet, but they can also have access to other online services that have been available to Estonians for over a decade. This includes e-banking and remote money transfers, declaring Estonian taxes online, digitally signing and verifying contracts and documents, and much more.

E-residents are issued a smart ID card, a legal equivalent to handwritten signatures and face-to-face identification in Estonia and worldwide. The cards themselves are protected by 2048-bit encryption, and the signature/ID functionality is provided by two security certificates stored on the card’s microchip.

But great innovations don’t stop there. Blockchain, the principle behind bitcoin that also secures the integrity of e-residency data, will be used to provide unparalleled safety to 1 million Estonian health records. The blockchain will be used to register any and all changes, illicit or otherwise, done to the health records, protecting their authenticity and effectively eliminating any abuse of the data therein.

While there are many lessons that the U.S. and the rest of the world can learn from Estonia, these are especially important: A country must be willing to adapt and change the infrastructure of both the government and the economy if needed, and to continually optimize them. A nation needs to understand that a change of mindset should be thorough and start with the young. An education system should be designed in a way that doesn’t cripple young minds, or overburden them with too much irrelevant information. And, finally, if you want entrepreneurship to thrive, it is necessary to remove bureaucratic and technical obstacles at all levels.

Read Article (Jurica Dujmovic | msn.com | 07/10/2016)

Not to rain on anyone’s parade but there is no information about how (or if) senior citizens in Estonia became tech savvy. Focus seems to be totally on the young members of society and none on their elderly. Other than that, the relationship between government and the public is very impressive and should be viewed as an example of how the digital era can provide benefits to all.

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Tech-Savvy Algonquin Students Help Senior Citizens

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Northborough, Massachusetts – Senior citizens who have questions about their iPhones, iPads, Macs and PCs can find answers at Technology Afternoons, held from 2:15 to 4 p.m., two Thursdays a month at the Northborough Senior Center. Eileen Parker, Algonquin Regional High School math teacher, leads the school’s Community Action Program (CAP), which provides student volunteers for a variety of activities, including Technology Afternoons.

According to Palmer, “[CAP] consists of 35 [Algonquin] teens who are dedicated to giving back in the community. These students currently support the Northborough and Southborough senior centers, the Southborough Youth & Family Services, the Coleman House (in Northborough), and other community organizations.”

Palmer said that she recruits students, and advises them how to behave respectfully when volunteering. In her classroom, she keeps a large calendar listing upcoming service opportunities.

Currently there are 10 students who participate in Technology Afternoons. About their qualifications, Palmer said, “… Let’s face it. Teenagers are super savvy when it comes to technology. They have been using computers since elementary school and cell phones are really important to them!”

On a recent Thursday, Algonquin senior Danielle DellaPenna, 18, counseled Lisa, who was struggling to decide whether to replace her “Windows” cellphone with an iPhone, given to her by her son’s girlfriend.

“Windows allows me to do very safe text to speech while I am driving. With the iPhone, I’ll have to deal with Siri, and look at the phone while I’m driving,” Lisa said. “I’m going to tell my son that I’m not too old to learn about it, but I’m not changing phones.”

DellaPenna tried to sell Lisa on the benefit of apps with the iPhone, to no avail.

She said, “I’ve been doing [Technology Afternoons] since last year because community service is important to me.”

That sentiment was shared by Algonquin freshman Bradi Mullens. Both students said that they often help seniors set up email accounts on cellphones, and download music into iTunes.

Palmer added that the students deal with cellphone ring tones, cellphone pictures, texting, iPad usage, Kindle usage, and a lot of Word and Excel documents.

“One senior citizen had an [Algonquin] student help prepare all their labels for their Christmas cards this December,” she said. “Anything goes in this program!”

Kelly Burke, director of the Northborough Senior Center said, “It’s been phenomenal to work with all these students who are great experts, having grown up using technology. Our seniors sometimes need help, and we knew that we were going to the right place to find knowledgeable, willing helpers.”

Palmer echoed Burke’s sentiment, “The Algonquin students have a lot of energy, and good hearts. They embrace these CAP service projects.”

For more information and the schedule for Technology Afternoons, contact Kelly Burke at 508-393-5035 or Kburke@town.northborough.ma.us. Palmer can be reached at Epalmer@nsboro.k12.ma.us.

Read Article (Jane Keller Gordon | fiftyplusadvocate.com | 02/26/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.

Despite technology not providing an adequate alternative for device user manuals, there are still many in society that see the need and do-the-right-thing. And no, apps don’t cut it, they obviously require a certain level of tech skill to use and understand.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) And Global Geopolitics

AI-And-Global-Geopolitics

Artificial Intelligence (AI), a top priority for the ubiquitous American tech companies, for Industry 4.0 or digital China, is already reshaping global business, but this major scientific and technological disruption will also deeply impact the relations between powers.

While narrow AI has moved from the labs to our daily lives, informed personalities like Stephen Hawking, Nick Bostrom, Bill Gates or Elon Musk have rightly raised concerns about the risks inherent to a strong AI capable of equaling or even surpassing human intelligence.

Anticipating the emergence of an even more powerful and increasingly autonomous AI reinforced by quantum computing, these engaged voices are asking for a collective reflection upon what could constitute an external challenge to mankind, a technology which could dominate its creator.

The recent win of the AlphaGo computer program over the Korean Go champion Lee Sedol was indeed a strong signal of the rapid development of machine learning at the intersection of computer science and neuroscience.

However, a more immediate danger connected with the advancement of intelligent machines is an AI fracture enlarging what is already known as the digital divide. While AI’s algorithms and big data increase the productivity of a small segment of the global village, half of the world population still does not have access to internet. “Don’t be evil” can be Google’s slogan, but exponential technologies carry with them the risks of unprecedented inequalities.

While AI’s social and political effects are often discussed the geopolitical implications of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” have been surprisingly absent from the public debates.

How AI could affect the Sino-Western relations and, more specifically, the Sino-American relations, the major determinant of today’s international order? For decades, nuclear weapons stood as the frightening symbols of the Cold War, will AI become the mark of a 21st century Sino-Western strategic antagonism?

For humanity, the atomic age has been a time of paradoxes. In the aftermath of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings an arms race involving the most lethal weapons defined the U.S.-Soviet relations in what constituted also a permanent existential threat to human civilization. But, analysts will also argue that it is the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine acting as a deterrent among rational actors which prevented a direct conflict between the two superpowers.

As the 2015 Plan of Action for Iran’s nuclear program demonstrates, 70 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, world powers actively collaborate to avoid nuclear proliferation even if North Korea appears to be a counter example of this dominant trend.

But the Sino-Western convergence of views on the issue of nuclear proliferation does not apply in the cyberspace. Despite a certain level of interconnection between some private Chinese and American internet companies and financial institutions, the overall Sino-American relations in the cyberspace are characterized by strategic mistrust.

Besides, in space science and in the exploration of the universe, the U.S. and China are unfortunately following two separate courses. While China prepares to operate her own modular space station, the International Space Station (ISS) shows that in this strategic field the West can work with Russia but that Sino-Western synergies are almost impossible to reach.

Any responsible approach to AI has to take into account the combined lessons of the atomic age, of the digital dynamics and of the space exploration. Should a Western AI and a Chinese AI develop on two separate trajectories one would dangerously increase the risks of creating an irreversible Sino-Western strategic fracture for AI does not increase power in a limited quantitative manner but it modifies its nature.

In this context and following the appreciation of the interactions between AI and global politics an International Artificial Intelligence Agency should be established inspired by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It is in the “Atoms for Peace” address to the United Nations General Assembly that U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) proposed in 1953 the creation of the IAEA. Today, our actions must be guided by the spirit of “AI for Mankind”.

A United Nations International Artificial Intelligence Agency involving academics, private businesses, the world civil society and, of course, the governments should at least give itself the following four objectives.

  • First, it has to create the conditions for AI’s awareness across our societies and for a debate to take place on AI’s ethical implications. Scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, legal experts, philosophers, economists have to analyze AI from all possible angles, its future(s), its potential effects for humanity.
  • Second, this international body should take all possible actions to prevent an AI fracture which would dangerously enlarge the digital divide. One can’t accept to have, on one side, a tiny segment of humanity making use of a series of Human Enhancement Technologies (HET) and, on the other side, the vast majority of the world population becoming de facto diminished, what transhumanism revealingly abbreviates as H+ can’t be a plus for a few and a minus for all the others.
  • Third, the agency should ask for transparency in the AI research at both the governmental and the company level. The issue of nuclear proliferation and therefore the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) followed the secretive Manhattan Project and the use of nuclear bombs to end the war in the Pacific, if humanity really wants to protect itself from the military use of strong AI and its tragic consequences it has to define a set of rules and policies which would maintain research within reasonable and collectively accepted limits. The IAEA imperfectly manages an existing threat; the AI agency would aim at preventing the realization of what could be an even greater danger.
  • Fourth, an international AI body should encourage knowledge sharing and international cooperation. Elon Musk’s OpenAI initiative is certainly a constructive force encouraging openness and collaboration but the “AI for Mankind” ideal cannot depend only on a group of private entrepreneurs.

Artificial Intelligence, more than any other technology, will impact the future of mankind, it has to be wisely approached on a quest toward human dignity and not blindly worshiped as the new Master of a diminished humanity, it has to be a catalyst for more global solidarity and not a tyrannical matrix of new political or geopolitical divisions.

Read Article (David Gosset | huffingtonpost.com | 06/29/2016)

Make no mistake, the era when AI and the Quantum Computer initiate their combined evolution, they will pose the greatest challenge to humanity it has yet experienced. Humanity’s approach to this era is truly “A child playing with a bomb”.

There are those of us that have been screaming warnings and developing platforms for preparation, but at this moment society appears to be fixated on watching digital evolution become self-aware right in front of them. And do nothing!

To act after the fact, is basically an exercise in futility.

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