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Sophie Wrobel
Everything is possible in the virtual world, it's only a question of innovation.
Everything is possible in the virtual world, it's only a question of innovation.


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Do you invest in your life?

While dropping the kids off for the day, I was thinking this morning about a recent conversation I had on investments, and another recent conversation on the turmoil of a friend who is getting divorced. And it turns out that the two are actually somewhat related: An investor invests money to secure their financial returns, and a divorcee invests personal effort to secure their independence.

Like most experienced investors, I use diversification to manage the amount of risk in my investment portfolio. That's fancy language for saying that I don't invest all my money into one place.

But this morning I thought about my life investments. Like my divorcee friend, I've been through that too, only with the additional burden of having to make it work for the kids financially without external support. If I'd started earlier with diversifying my life investments, perhaps that wouldn't have been so bad. See, I had put all my effort into career, naively thinking that more money would mean the family would be better off. As a result, I lost everything else - creating a domino effect that toppled my career prospects as well. If I had been smarter back then and invested my energy smartly across all the areas of life, I might have been able to avoid the catastrophe or at least not have lost everything, and would be able to reduce risk of losing my ultimate goal - happiness and fulfillment - even when one or two areas of life suffer from bad luck.

Areas for life investment
Investments in life cover a number of different areas. I know there are a number of different models out there, but I'd like to share with you my model. It breaks down life into two components: Your Health (that's the circle in the middle), and the Environment Around You (that's the two arrows on the left and right). If any single component is lacking, it would contribute to stress, a shorter life expectancy, and less personal happiness: therefore, the trick is to invest my time into activities such that I know which domain(s) I am strengthening by that time investment, and at the same time extending my life expectancy.

I'm pretty sure I'll appreciate the results in the future much more than I do now, if stories from other model seniors are any indication of how this sort of strategy works out. But even now, I feel that the positive impact that this has on my own satisfaction with my life, and the empowerment that it gives me to continue to improve my life, makes it all worthwhile, even now!
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Health care may be moving towards holistic health

In an effort to contain rising health costs and improve patient satisfaction, it looks like healthcare may be moving towards holistic health. I certainly hope this model catches on!

The proposed model is called 'positive health care' and breaks down health into six dimensions, which curiously closely resembles what is commonly called holistic health:
1. bodily functions
2. mental functions and perception
3. spiritual/existential dimension
4. quality of life
5. social and societal participation
6. daily functioning

What I find very interesting is that whereas patients value all six of these dimensions roughly equally, health policymakers and insurance policy writers are at the farthest extreme away from equality. That means that health policy doesn't line up with what we citizens consider health to be - and I'd be willing to bet that this difference is why so many people start turning to alternative medicine.

Of course, 'normal' medicine has its place and value - and integrating it into a bigger picture addressing all six of these dimensions more equally might help to better serve patients, and keep us all healthy in the long run.

More information:
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EU clarifies when the GDPR applies to foreign data processing

The EU has finally released some clarifying guidelines on when the GDPR applies beyond the EU. In particular:

1) Just because people in the EU can view your website doesn't necessarily mean that GDPR applies to you.

2) It applies to you if you are have a branch office or headquarters in the EU but have outsourced processing to cloud services based outside the EU.

3) It applies to you if you are using cloud services that have a branch office or headquarters in the EU. This includes situation in which you may collect data exclusively outside of the EU, but process the data via an EU-based cloud service, in which the GDPR applies to the European processor.

4) It considers 'in context' activities broadly. In other words, if in doubt of whether something might be in context or not, the GDPR probably applies.

5) Data linked to business models is protected by the GDPR, even if it only indirectly leads to revenue. For example, this includes personal data collected in exchange for 'free' services, that is used for marketing / targeting / reselling.

6) EU-based controllers are responsible for getting legal paperwork done to ensure that processors outside of the EU are compliant with the GDPR.

That said, it looks like 'in context' and 'target market' are still not very clearly defined, and that interpretation is still left open to courts on a case-by-case basis.
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GDPR's twin has now passed into law

The GDPR (infamous for causing all of those privacy policy updates this May) now has it's twin legislation: a regulation on non-personal data. This new piece of legislation basically says that data hoarding isn't okay: if you are in the data business, you have to provide your clients with a reasonable timeframe, data in a usable structured format, and information about switching procedures to allow them to switch over to another data processor.

Of course, this regulation only applies to non-personal data, and the scope of non-personal data is rapidly diminishing as analytics make it possible to identify individuals by combining seemingly innocuous anonymized datasets... which then counts as personal data. So from the pair of regulations, this new regulation seems to be the smaller of the two - though only time will tell how courts decide to interpret the balance on how stringently to apply the stricter label of 'personal data'.
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School threatens to mask children during performance

My son presented me with this note from his school this morning, asking for permission to allow photographs during the class performance at the circus.

Personal admission: Yes, I'm one of those annoying parents who refuses to sign forms giving the school carte blanc permissions for photographs of my child at any time to be taken wherever and for whatever the school wishes.

However, unlike most such permission forms, in which case all attendees are asked not to film or take photographs during the performance if even one parent refuses to grant permission, this note says that all kids whose parents don't sign the form and grant permission will be forced to wear a mask during the performance.

Now, this is a public performance, meaning that the school is not the data controller for any photos or videos taken. Therefore involved visitors would need to individually acquire permission to photograph and/or film the performance of all the kids involved, which I doubt a form issued by the school to parents of children can accomplish - added to the fact that regardless of whether or not they're masked, it may be possible to identify the kids even with their masks on the basis of some knowledge of when and where the event took place, their stature and appearance.

I wonder how many other schools have decided that it's time to start masking kids if their parents refuse to sign forms granting permission to allow their kids to be photographed?
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What if the laws of physics weren't deterministic?

When a charged, rotating star collapses to form a black hole, there's always a 'point of no return'. You can imagine things like this: Everything closer than that point gets sucked into the new normality of physics in the world of 'life in a black hole', with no chance of ever escaping. Everything outside of that point has a chance of escaping capture and follows the laws of physics as we know them in everyday life.

But when a rapidly rotating star collapses to form a black hole, something strange happens: that 'point of no return' isn't a fixed, stable point in time and space. And when it is unstable, there's no guarantee that the laws of physics still hold true. Which means... very weird things can happen on a large scale. Or, put another way: we'd have the spookiness of quantum physics on a macroscopic level. So if Schödinger's cat was a real BIG cat instead of a subatomic cat, and that macroscopic cat happened to be on a space ship caught in the 'unstable zone', that cat could be in a superimposed state of being alive and dead simultaneously. Now, wouldn't that be freaky?

Our sun is too small to turn into a black hole some millions of years away. But for all those Star Trek fans who enjoy sympathizing with countless perils in fantasy worlds that push physics to its limits and beyond... well, perhaps some of those stories aren't that far from the truth after all. Or maybe God does play dice with the universe after all.

More information:

/via +Amine Benaichouche
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Why social media platforms need to pick up the ethical burden in shaping freedom of information

The 'attention economy' is something that has infiltrated modern-day internet: content producers clamor for attention on the content they put out. And they have a strategy to do that: create content with an original twist that appeals to emotions. Things that are funny, provocative, or romantic attract a lot more attention than things that are boring and objective.

Now, social network operators monetize emotional content: as this sort of content attracts more attention, they push that content to even more viewers, leading to channel growth.

Being bombarded with increasing amounts of provocative content, one unintentional effect is that viewers opinions and thoughts become more polarized.

OK. So far, nothing's happened. Except for adolescents being grumpy jerks, which might be considered somewhat normal. But they're not going to suddenly love authoritative news channels when they come of age. I doubt that 'fake news' presidential marketing campaigns do much to further the journalistic cause. But, if key citizens of the future are going to rely on social media, or even software robots, to generate and deliver news... and those social media providers, or software robots that select, generate, and push particular news items, favor polarizing, provocative content regardless of their veracity... then the freedom of information, and ultimately the balancing power holding abusive governments in check, is at stake in the not-too-distant future. At least, according to what Aviv Ovadya has to day.

Ovadya's take goes a bit beyond just why polarizing algorithms are bad for us. He's calling for online platforms to revamp those algorithms to be 'truth-friendly' instead of 'popularity-friendly', and calling for changes to society to encourage attitudes favoring truth instead of popularity. But that has a number of challenges.

For example, just how large is the truth market, anyway? I mean, if you're a social media company competing with truth against polarizing content and don't come out with a whistle-blowing story every day, what chance do you stand?

Or: "Responsible research and design" sounds nice on paper, but not in practice. I'm sorry. Whereas I sincerely hope that we can push ethical behavior into design, I suspect that for-profit businesses will push the limits of any responsible research and design framework as far as they can. And I doubt religious extremists - or any other overly activist group for that matter - will tone down their ideas on what 'responsible' might mean. So how do you fight that?

Ovadya may have some ideas on how to start addressing societal change towards a truth economy, but it's going to take more than just ideas to keep the balancing forces around that hold organized government AND organized capitalism in check and accountable.

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Canada introduces its own version of the "Right to be Forgotten"

Last week, Canada’s Office of the Privacy Commissioner released a draft position on what to do with online privacy. Her position appears to be a toned down version of the EU’s data protection position.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Canadian position is the Canadian variation of Europe’s ‚right to forget‘, which has raised a lot of criticism. As opposed to calling for hard-line deletion of the unwanted data, the Canadians version only calls for de-indexing search results for Canadian audiences.

Their argument is that de-indexing solves a lot of common problems, like getting those drunk party pictures out of Google results on your name shortly before your job interview, but leaves the information on the web for people who are willing to go out of their way to find out, for example a private detective.

I’m not exactly sure how that helps against HR or financial analysis tools operated by outsourced, cloud-based service providers in "data-liberal" countries like the US using the American APIs to access data as opposed to Canadian APIs, but it certainly is interesting to see a major country outside of Europe address similar principles!

More information:
- Draft OPC Position:
- Canada's PIPEDA:
- EU Data Protection Position:
- EU's GDPR Text:
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One step closer to the end of daylight savings times

Putting an end to the daylight savings regime is one change I hope gets through - although most technology these days accommodates daylight savings calculations autonomously, most humans don't. And that causes a week or two of chaos with every time change as we adjust our biological rhythms to the new wake-up, sleeping, and eating times.

Other than disrupting our biological rhythms, daylight savings makes setting up international meetings a hassle as some participants forget when other participants have daylight savings times or not. With many countries in Asia (including Russia and several former USSR member nations) using permanent times instead of daylight savings times, moving away from daylight savings times would create one nuisance less for business as well.

The motion to get rid of daylight savings times has gone through the European Parliament, and is up for vote in the European Council next. I've got my fingers crossed on this one!

/ht +Vlad Markov
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Cell phone radiation causes brain tumors in mice and rats

It's no secret that cell phone radiation is linked to negative health effects. That's why the SAR value was introduced and radiation levels regulated. But what is interesting is that the latest studies indicate gliomas, a particular type of brain tumor that can affect the entire nervous system. And rather than kill you off, this type of tumor does worse: it makes life incredibly troublesome by disposing of particular sensory or motor skills, depending on which part of your brain is affected.

Of course, these results are still pending peer review, scheduled for late next month. But even as we wait for the final verdict to come out, I think it's not too early to take preventative steps to at least reduce your own radiation exposure levels, and to reduce dietary factors that put you at increased risk. (Hint: That really is just another excuse to eat healthier!)

At the same time, I'd like to take this opportunity to test out a new post medium - adding video as opposed to mere text. :)

Links to original studies:
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