Articles

The (grand)father of innovation studies – Jan Fagerberg


Written by: Nora Dokken Harboe and Johannes Sommerset Bjartnes

Professor Jan Fagerberg genuinely believes in people’s ability to invent new and better ways to do things. Teknovatøren met the newly retired professor in his new (and much smaller) office to discuss innovation, climate change and what the TIK-centre means to him.

You have a background from Political Science, History and Economics. How did your interest in innovation evolve?
Back in the days when you were studying, innovation studies was not yet an established field and in many ways you were one of the pioneers within the field. When I started studying, I had never heard of innovation and certainly not innovation studies. I was supposed to study journalism, but I had been advised not to, and rather take some courses at “Blindern”. Therefore, I started studying Political Science and History, and later Economics, the field in which I ended up doing my master’s degree. Economics was an odd field at the time. During my studies, some of my fellow students were inspired by Marxism and alternative ways of looking at economy and the society. I followed a course on Marxism and found it very interesting. I met a more dynamic perspective on economy. The Marxists looked at economic development in the long run; as well as the connection between economic and social development. In many ways this was the beginning of my interest in innovation and economic development in the long run.

Fagerberg leans back and reflects upon his early work life in The Ministry and Environment (To day the Ministry of Climate and Environment) and The Ministry of Finance. His initial plan was to work with long-term planning in the Ministry of Finance. After working in the ministries for a while Fagerberg applied for a research grant. He named the project “Competitiveness and Business Structure”.

When I look back at it, it was actually about innovation. The project was about how the state can, through influencing the business structure towards new activities that are more efficient, increase economic growth. Now innovation in many ways has become a “buzzword”. Yes, isn’t it horrible? What then is innovation today? In many ways it has become a “buzzword”; It is something positive that everyone wants to be a part of. Every time you are at an airport and look at the advertisements for the big consultancy firms, the firms identify themselves with innovation. But in some ways this can be positive.

«I genuinly believe in people´s ability to innovate, technically as well as socially»

In what ways?
Before, innovation was associated with something very special, something that just happened in very advanced firms and required a lot of resources. Now innovation is brought home: everyone can take part in it and gain advantage from it. But many people use the term innovation imprecisely -many prides themselves with the term in order to gain economic benefits.

One of the reasons why we wanted to interview you is that you have become Professor Emeritus.
(Laughs) Yes, it’s a big honour. Now you don’t have any leashes and can do as you like. Do you have any new research projects? I want to continue writing. I am interested in how innovation policy can help lead the society in a direction that is more sustainable and help us solve environmental problems.

Is there hope?
Yes, I think so! There is a lot that must be done, but it is possible. The issue seems overwhelming, but I think it’s important to divide the issue into smaller parts. Climate change is by far the biggest challenge, and if we don’t manage to do something about that, we will not be able to solve the other problems.

“Proficient student with interdiciplinary backgrounds will continue learning all their life”

Are you a technology optimist? Can technology solve the problem?
Technology in itself will not solve anything. We have to solve the problems through technology and through the way in which we are living our lives. I think new technology is important, but new technology doesn’t mean anything if we don’t manage to change the way we live. But I genuinely believe in people’s ability to innovate, technologically as well as socially.

Art by Petter Bakken @iamhoy

Do you have a climate and environmental engagement?
It is difficult not to have that. You have to be quite stupid if you don’t have it. If we don’t have an environmental engagement, we will get a society that is not good for living.

You have a long career here at the TIK-Centre. How has it been?
The TIK-centre is an important community within this field. The reason why I was engaged in starting The Centre was because I wanted to make sure that research and teaching on innovation had a home in the Norwegian university system. Let’s hope that The Centre will have a long life.

We are at different ends of the “TIK-stream”, we are fresh students, you are Professor Emeritus: If you were a student today, what would have been your focus?
It will be interesting and important to look at the connection between technology and sustainable development: everything from solar energy to car sharing in cities are interesting topics. Something very positive that we have experienced at the TIK-Centre is that there are students from different fields.

What are your thoughts on TIK ́s interdisciplinarity?
I think the interdisciplinarity is a great strength. Proficient students with interdisciplinary backgrounds will continue learning all their life.

What the hell, Brazil?

“His campaign was shot from his home, shared as a Facebook Live transmission, as well as his first press conference – where big news agencies were not allowed to participate.”

Tatiana Sogabe

Bolsonaro’s victory in Brazil is just part of a new entangled reality that not everybody wants to know about.

Long before the final results of the presidential election in Brazil, much had already been said about the threat of a far-right populist becoming president of what was once a promising developing country. A deep identity and economical crisis tore Brazil into a polarization that elected Jair Bolsonaro, who took advantage of the ideal environment for his WhatsApp based campaign, which included “God above all things” sloganed on pictures of the candidate pointing imaginary guns. In the era of fast, uncontrolled content sharing through the internet, how long will society deal with this populist trend of using technology and social media to confuse and win over people?

Social media did it again
WhatsApp is a freeware messaging app that worked initially like an internet based SMS service, and nowadays its features have expanded, similar to other messaging apps. The service was created in 2009 by two former Yahoo! Employees, then acquired by Facebook in 2014 by US$ 19 billion. With more than 1 billion users in the world, WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging app in Brazil, with 120 million users, India and Russia, for example.

Brazilians are very social in real and virtual life, and participate in several WhatsApp groups simultaneously. There are groups for the family, extended family, work or old school colleagues, friends, all female or male group chats, parents of children in the same class or school, and any other possible association of people that share common interests. It has always been known that literally all sorts of content are shared in these groups – from cute good mornings and birthday wishes to pornography and bloody crime scenes, particularly in chats populated by people that have little familiarity with internet tools.

Bolsonaro did not spend much time participating in debates or campaigning with supporters, rather, his candidacy ran its own course by delivering simple, punching messages like ‘let’s clean up this mess’ and responding to critics against him with the argument that ‘it is simply not true’ or the author ‘does not know what he/she is talking about’. WhatsApp was a central channel for the dissemination of Bolsonaro’s campaign: user databases were used to pop up group chats and it was later proven that supporter owned companies paid for mass distribution of messages. In addition, an army of fake social media profiles, as known as bots, commented extensively in defense of Bolsonaro even in unrelated posts.

Women were key actors against the sexist comments spread by Bolsonaro. They used social media as an ally, gathering more than 3 million members in a single Facebook group to discuss protests, news, share their stories, frustrations and how they convinced others not to vote in Bolsonaro. The latter generated the “turning votes” movement, where ordinary people became activists and tried diverse strategies to approach the undecided voters and talk to them about Fernando Haddad’s proposals, despite the corruption charges that stains any association with his Workers Party.

What’s what? Firehosing and the simple man of the people
This year’s presidential election differed drastically from the one only four years ago. This difference can in large part be attributed to technological development and increased internet access for the population: most Brazilian mobile operators offer unlimited social media usage free of charge for prepaid and monthly plan subscribers.

The exponential growth of internet access and novelties has bypassed formal regulations and ethical standards for communications. The outcome of the Brazilian election was then a “war of memes” between the supporters of the most voted candidates, topped by discussions about the corruption charges of the Workers Party versus the empty, violent and conservative discourse of Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro’s statements before and after becoming president-elect have always been controversial, but a pattern that was observed since his campaign has been identified as firehosing. Firehosing is a propaganda approach that consists in oversharing content with partial truths that, like the metaphor of the name indicates, prevents the audience to recognize what is real or not due to the high volume of information coming from all around.

The recent concept appeared in 2016 in the article The Russian “Firehose of Falsehood” Propaganda Model, conducted by the International Security and Defense Policy Center at RAND Corporation, a US nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. It describes how Soviet techniques used in the Cold War have been adapted to the new technologies and other means of communication to influence political scenarios not only in Russia, but also during the campaign for Trump, the Brexit, and more recently, Duterte’s propaganda in the Philippines.

A severe consequence is that Bolsonaro’s voters believe less and less in the conventional media or anyone that does not share their views, no matter if they are specialists, intellectuals, or celebrities. When international papers or artists expressed that they were against Bolsonaro being president, his supporters allegedly said that foreigners are not aware of the country’s reality, since they don’t live there and don’t share Brazil’s everyday struggles.

Bolsonaro’s proximity to the masses is another well-used strategy to create a strong sense of identity and belonging. His campaign was shot from his home, shared as a Facebook Live transmission, as well as his first press conference – where big news agencies were not allowed to participate. The casual, homemade environment provides an unprecedented presidential simplicity that matches the hopes of those who voted for him against corruption above all things. However, as the newly announced ministers are taking office, many already find themselves responding to serious corruption charges. It is, perhaps, an early indication of the controversies and contradictions that will be found in the pillars holding the ‘new’ presidential era.

What’s next?
As time goes by, questions and dilemmas grow with the challenges of the new technologies and how the internet has been used to both educate and confuse. In Europe, the implementation of the GDPR is a start concerning the privacy of data, but due to the recent social media impact in the political happenings, there is an avalanche of factors that deserve urgent attention. Still, how to approach such a global and broad cause? How can governments, institutions, organizations and society work together to improve the ways we use and regulate the internet? Moreover, from a Brazilian perspective, when or where does it start to be illegal to take advantage of databases to influence the public? How to communicate under ethical terms instead of spreading cognitive dystopia? It’s complicated to be aware of the truth when the internet is a firehose itself.

Feminist activism on social media

Lars Kristian Millingsjord

Who are they? How do they use social media? And does it work?
Social media is a platform for more than pictures of food, children and selfies. It is also a platform for social activism. In some circles a social media activist is someone annoying who’s getting offended on behalf of everyone for every little thing. And sure, it can be annoying to get all the shit of the world disturbing your feed of fitspo and memes. And does it even have an impact? We’ll take a closer look at some of the campaigns regarding gender equality and other topics surrounding gender, which I have chosen to call feminist activism, although the definition of feminism is often up for debate. How do they use social media? What do they achieve And who’s being heard?

Hashtag activism
The term hashtag activism is often used about the acts of sharing, liking and the use of a hashtag to support a case, but here I mainly focus on the using of hashtags. There has been an increase in the hashtag activism over the last few years, or at least it has gotten more attention in the mainstream media. Movements like #Kony2012, #icebucketchallenge, BlackLivesMatter, #BringBackOurGirls, #PrayForParis, and of course #MeToo, are all examples of different hashtag activism movements or campaigns which can be said to successfully have gotten a lot of attention and support on a large scale.

An interesting point is also how important the hashtag itself is, this phenomenon that first was widely used in 2007 on Twitter by journalists covering forest fires in San Diego. Now the use of hashtags as part of social activism seems to be almost the norm, and feminist activists are not exceptions. Has this changed the way we do social media? Or the way we do activism? For instance, I wonder if the need for a hashtag to make the case go viral simplifies the case. Or if we chose to care about the cases which are easy to show our support trough hashtags and other social media actions. For the record I am by no means saying that #MeToo or any of the other examples of hashtag-activism used here are simple.

In the case of #MeToo, I remember there was a lot of debate on whether different cases of sexual harassment and rape could be placed under the same hashtag, since one could argue they were not comparable in their seriousness. Perhaps is this an argument rather for how you interpret hashtag activism, since it is to be summed up in just a short slogan. And maybe this makes complex cases harder to summarize to few words. Is this also the reason why it is common among feminist activists? Because the cases (although complex indeed) can more easily be put in a hashtag do to its systematic overreaching explanations.

Has this changed the way we do social media? Or the way we do activism? For instance, I wonder if the need for a hashtag to make the case go viral simplifies the case.”

Who’s being heard?
What seems to be in some of the cases is that you start with a story, then people who have experienced something similar reach out. If there are many enough who hear about it, sympathise with it and share the experience, you can build a voice. But there appears to be a certain factor revolving around how loud the participants’ voices are. Naturally getting celebrities involved is something everyone should do, but whether this is realistic depends both on the case and where it comes from. Also, as in so many other fields, it is harder for smaller groups to be heard. There is also an aspect of how wide it is, because it must be wide enough for many people to relate to the problem, but also cannot be too wide so that it becomes vague and too general for people to get engaged in it.

I started up talking about how some may find activists, and especially social media activists, and perhaps feminist activists even more so, annoying, because they take too much offence and they never think things are good enough. This was not just to paint an amusing picture of how activists are perceived, but rather to make a point. If we once again look at the #MeToo-movement, it caught on not only among activists, but among “normal people” too, so to say people who were not perceived as extreme activists or radical feminists, but the everyday woman (and man) in the street. Once this happens, I think the attention it gets increases drastically, especially within the mainstream media. Some lesser known feminist movements and activist I want to draw attention to some of the movements, campaigns and activist who have not gotten as much attention as #MeToo, without saying #MeToo has gotten too much. I could focus on some of the movements that came out of the #MeToo movements, such as #TimesUp or #MosqueMeToo, but I want to point out some who are less related to this campaign.

The first movement is the fight for women’s freedom in Iran, which is connected to several hashtags. To start the known activist, journalist and author Masih Alinejad has founded the campaign against forced hijab-use, with hashtags #WhiteWednesday and #MyStealthyFreedom. The campaign is fighting against mandatory dress codes. The #WhiteWednesday is used to post pictures and videos of women wearing white on Wednesdays as symbols of protest. Women in Iran who use civil disobedience as a means of fighting also use the hashtag #MyCameraIsMyWeapon, where filming with their phones and uploading to social medias is a way of protecting themselves against the morality police and showing the world what happens. I use this example because it shows how hashtag activism is not only a western phenomenon, and to highlight how it is a way to make a collective voice among groups who are not necessarily heard on their own. The fact that the movement also has spread and gotten supporters and participants in other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, in addition to Europe and USA, also shows some of the power of hashtag activism.

“Women in Iran who use civil disobedience as a means of fighting also use the hashtag #MyCameraIsMyWeapon, where filming with their phones and uploading to social medias is a way of protecting themselves against the morality police.”

The second is the campaign in USA with #WontBeErased, which aims to the case of a leaked memo where the Trump-administration had said to make the definition of a person’s legal sex based on biology and science to be objective and administrable. This has made trans people and their supporters to use the #wontbeerased slogan on Twitter to draw attention to the fact that their existence can’t just be erased in the context of law. The hashtags #TransRightsAreHumanRights and #TransIsBeautiful are also popular among the supporters of this movement. Here the hashtag activism is used to stop something from happening in the future, and not what is the practice today.

Lastly, I will also mention #elenao, translated to #nothim. Used by women in Brazil, it was part of a campaign against Jair Bolsonaro in the presidential election, which you can read more about in another article in this magazine. Although he won, the fact that so many people have outed that they did not want him has perhaps informed the world around about what it was about his populistic politics that were indeed problematic, also when it comes to gender. Based on this we can see that just within the topic of gender, there is a huge diversity within hashtag activism. In other words, we can’t say much about which type of cases is most common, but perhaps by looking more closely at both successes and failures we can get a clearer picture of which type of cases that this activism type is most fruitful for.

What’s the impact?
As already mentioned, the impact in general is often raising attention, awareness and support, but this can also lead to change in the outside world. The impact of #MeToo is a large topic and I will not attempt to cover it here, but I will say there is a quite wide consensus that there has been to at least some degree, regarding how one acts towards one another in the workplace, at least in some workplaces.

On the website of UN Women, the United Nations’ organization dedicated to gender equality and empowering women, one can find a list where six women were presented as social media activists making change outside of social media. The list posted June 2018 includes Tarana Burke, who started #MeToo, but long before it took off and as a safe space (on Myspace) for women who had experienced sexual assaults. Also, the famous actor Emma Watson is on the list for starting the campaign #HeForShe, which is aimed at men to stand up for and support women in their fight for equality. Another one on the list is Monica Ramirez, who is the person getting the #TimesUp movement going among the women of Hollywoods #MeToo, focusing on women in the workplace outside Hollywood, inspired by discrimination within farm work. The next is Dina Smailova, using social media for speaking up for those who as her had experienced sexual violence in Kazakhstan. The list then goes to Macedonia, where Ana Vasileva spoke up about rape culture and started the #MeToo-inspired campaign #ISpeakUpNow.

But the impact is hard to measure. The activists mentioned above in the article by UN Women are said to make change also outside of social media. Some have started organisations that help women in practice and others have raised money, awareness and perhaps changed someone’s minds. And perhaps is it important to remember that although social media is a great platform to spread awareness and gather support, the changes also often need to happen outside of the platform. Social media activism is in my opinion however a lot better than nothing, and the fact that it is an action that it available for so many different people, from different places and in different layers of society. That is why I want to finish with the last person on the UN Women-list, which is you. By this they mean to say that you can contribute by getting involved in activism, and you can start by using #TimeIsNow for media to tell women’s stories and for those in power to be held responsible, so that there is no more violence and discrimination and that it is time for gender equality.

Is greenwashing the future?

Art by Petter Bakken // @iamhoy

Natalie Johnsen

The public is well aware of its consumer power. It is also aware of the climate impact our everyday lives have on the globe. How does this affect companies trying to make a profit? Is every company’s step towards a green future actually genuine? Continuing in the green lane, it is interesting to look into Equinor’s name change and what it really is.

Greenwashing as an actual word
Greenwashing became a word in 1983 when writer Jay Westerwelt was on holiday on the Fiji islands. He started wondering about the hotel’s intentions when he saw a note that asked the guests to use their towels for more than one day, claiming it to be an effort to help save the coral reef. Rather, it was a way for the hotel to save money and expand their hotel. Westerwelt termed this greenwashing. Today greenwashing is defined as “the use of marketing to portray an organization’s products, activities or policies as environmentally friendly when they are not.” As consumers become more and more aware of their consumer power, from the business point of view, greenwashing becomes more important. Though, I would argue, actually becoming and eco-friendly company would profit both the business and the world even more.

How to spot the greenwashers?
Having a green business profile is important to attract customers. But how can customers spot the greenwashers? Portraying a step taken in ones business as a green measure, when it really is just about cost-efficiency as explained in the towel example above, is one example of greenwashing. Many companies actually invest in greener options in their production line, end product, the service they offer and so on. But to then put a lot of focus on this green part of the business, letting it overshadow the rest in media and advertisements, would be a way to hide the rest of the company’s business away from the scrutiny of the public eye. An example of this kind of greenwashing is H&M’s “Conscious Collection”, which focuses is on clothing made from sustainable fabrics, plastic from the ocean and scrap metal, pulling attention away from allegations of terrible working conditions for their workers in Asian factories.

Companies use visual effects to derail the viewers attention when creating advertisements and portraying their company on the website. They use buzzwords such as “sustainable”, “green” and “climate-efficient”. Last but not least, the use of numbers as a tool to create trust is often seen on companies’ web pages. The reason being that numbers are often perceived as facts.

They use buzzwords such as “sustainable”, “green” and “climate-efficient”

To know the difference between climate friendly companies and those that are really not can be important for our future. In 2014, the global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use were almost 10 billion tons. So who really makes an effort to change should matter to us users.

“Energizing” our lives
Equinor is an important company for us Norwegians, and they are part of what has brought us wealth no one could have ever imagined 100 years ago. Their position is therefore important, and one could even say that they set the agenda for tomorrow regarding everything related to energy. They are also one of those companies that are eager in the use of visual effects, numbers and buzzwords. Equinors innovative name change from Statoil, which had close links to oil, to Equinor, is a strategic move. “Equi”, associated with words like equal, equality and equilibrium, and “nor”, connected to the company’s Norwegian origin, will most likely have a different meaning to the public than what Statoil had grown to. Sustainability and global warming are topics people are becoming more aware of and therefore Statoil needed rebranding. If Equinor wanted to remain a company with the magnitude it had in the past it needed a greener profile. Now it is not only an oil company, but rather an energy company – at least it tries to be.

So does Equinor have more tricks up their sleeve? Their web page does not have many associations to oil, but instead the focus is on energy in a broader sense, and the use of a very few selected words. They use phrases like “We energize the lives of 170 million people. Every day.” However, they are still one of the world’s major net sellers of crude oil.

Captured 0,5 % of all their emissions
Equinor’s web page has separate pages for “Sustainability” and “Climate” where they focus on the transition to a lower emission economy. In 2017, the company could applaud itself for having captured and stored 22 million tonnes of CO2. This seems all well and good, but when comparing this number to the company’s total number of emissions through both sale and drilling since 1988, which is 4.7 billion tons of CO2, it does not seem that significant (according to the Carbon Disclosure Project from 2017). In other words, they have captured merely 0,5 % of all they have emitted through extraction and sales. Equinor is also responsible for 0,5 % of the world’s total emissions since 1988.

Reason for applause?
Yes, and no. We must remember that greenwashing
is when someone does something good (or not) and then put it at the front of their commercial campaigns like the whole company is really green, when really they are not. So what about Equinor? They have been an oil company for some decades, but are now transitioning, although taking small steps. One could argue that the reason they are now flagging “energy company” instead of “oil company” is merely for commercial effects and governmental subsidies’. But so what? Is it not the overall effect what matters? Yes, it is a slow development, but users can put more pressure on those in charge. The most important thing is that companies become greener, no matter how it is done.

So it greenwashing sustainable? No, not on its own. When Westerwelt came across the hotel’s note, the money saved from not washing the towels each day went into expanding the hotel and ruining the coral reef in the process, obviously not a positive measure for the environment. Knowing who is doing what and why can seem difficult, but we should try to support those that actually make a difference in their attempts to be green. It is difficult to place Equinor in the “greenwasher” or “actually trying” box, so maybe we should just wait and see.

In a time when people are refugees not only because of war and hunger, but also because of the climate, we all understand that drastic measures needs to be taken. We should applaud businesses that take a step towards a greener future, every step, no matter how small it is. But we, as the public, as consumers, should also call out those that hide their business behind a wall of green dreams. There is no room for greenwashers anymore.

Introducing the porn industry
The next time you pay online, consider sending some thankful thoughts to the pornography pioneers. If I were to acknowledge all the technological innovations pushed by porn, I could easily fill these pages. This is more an understatement than it is an exaggeration. Luckily, I will spare you of this. The erotic sphere has been the major pusher of obvious technological innovations like sexual avatars, live video chats, pop-up ads and interactive motion-controlled porn. However, the majority of innovations pushed by the pornographic sphere are for many of us less clear. There are so many innovations enabled by the demand for sexual content. Some of the examples are 3D video, Virtual Reality, tracking devices, library card cataloging system, cable TV, digital camera, digital rights management, Snapchat, 3G and faster internet.

It really isn’t that surprising, considering how big of an industry porn actually is. 12% of all Internet content is porn. The net worth (assets minus liabilities) of the industry is very close to $100 billion. This surplus is sufficient to feed five billion people a day. It is more money than than the combined excess of the three biggest sport leagues in the U.S.. The industry has a greater profit while making more than twenty times more movies than Hollywood a year. PornHub, one of the biggest actors of the industry, has a total of over 100 billion views; a number which is growing exponentially. Finally, porn sites get more daily visitors than Amazon, Twitter and Netflix combined.

Erotica: A History The beginning of porn, or more precise, erotica, can be traced back to the year of 1387. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote and published The Canterbury Tales, a well-respected literary work containing a collection of erotic stories. It contained more than 17,000 lines and tells erotic tales of 24 different pilgrim travelers. It may not have been the first erotic stories of human history; however, it was the first instance of erotic literature made available to a greater audience. Such literature would never be enabled without Gutenberg’s paradigm shifting innovation known as the printing press.

With a sufficient number of photos, you can make a personalized erotic movie of yourself interacting with your unknowing crush.

In this example and decades further on, technology was steering erotica in a certain direction. The available technology determined the availability of erotic media. The tides and the tables would not turn until more than 500 years later. In 1958 erotica started driving technological innovation. A glamour photographer with the name of Harrison Marks started using 8mm film, or Super 8 cameras, when filming women undressing and being topless in their homes. Several different filming devices were available on the market, however Super 8s were considered both cheap and extremely easy to utilize. As time progressed it became the standard, not only for “glamour home movies”, but also in the porn industry.

Electronic payment systems
In 1999 Internet users spent around $1.3 billion on online porn. This number amounted to 8% of all e-commerce this year, making porn the leading online industry. The porn industry is considered as the pioneer of electronic payment systems, and this is thanks to among others Richard J. Gordon and Christopher Mallick.

Richard J. Gordon is considered as one of the first people to enable transactions on the Web. In 1995 the credit card industry was well-established. However, online transactions using credit cards had some stigma to it. One reason was that there were no face-to-face dealings. Another factor was the fact that banks charged a higher rate for a great number of online businesses, because they were considered as “high-risk merchants”. Examples of high-risk merchants are gambling and pornography companies. However, one of Gordon’s companies, Electronic Card Systems, saw this stigma as an opportunity. He utilized an almost non-existing market for e-commercial transaction systems offering a new way to pay, and the porn industry had the strongest demand.

Christopher Mallick owned a company called ePassporte. According to himself, it was ”the first company to do real-time credit card verification”. Before this, credit cards would use several days to verify an online transaction, enabling scams and frauds. The business tried to work with other companies and industries, however porn was the only industry firmly focused on short-term revenue.

The combination of the porn industry’s focus on revenue and willingness to innovative thinking, made them the main drivers of online transactions. They really got the ball rolling, while also shaping the mechanics of payment systems. The concept of ecommerce, which is now a major part of the world economy, owes much of its early existence to porn.

From teledildonic to pregnancy belt
The term “teledildonic” was first coined in 1974 by the technological theorist Ted Nelson. The word describes sex toys that can connect over telecom networks. A product called RealTouch transformed this idea into reality. It is a masturbation device thought of as a digital brothel, enabling people to have sex over the Internet. The device uses a high-tech orifice with motors and heaters to redesign the sensations of real sex. While the teledildonic product flopped, it also had some important innovative features to it. A producer of diapers called Huggies utilized the same technological concept to create a pregnancy belt. It also used servo motors and heaters, but instead of being a pornographic device, it recreated the feeling of a baby kicking the mother’s womb. In this example porn created an initial market for a completely new technology and pushed it in the early stages. First when the technology matured it could turn to a more mainstream market.

What will the future hold?
Sex robots is the new trend. Human-like machines equipped with Artificial Intelligence (AI) made for love-making are already on the market. A sex-doll brothel in Italy has already been shut down. Some of these dolls even have emotional connection and they are believed to marry lonely people in the future. Another innovation in the porn industry is deepfakes. This is an instance of AI, or more precise deep learning, where users can personalize their porn experience. The AI can, by accessing several of your photos, learn different facial expressions and transfer the faces of the photos into existing pornographic movies. For example, with a sufficient number of photos, you can make a personalized erotic movie of yourself interacting with your unknowing crush. What can the repercussions of these innovations be? If sex robots succeed and become popular, how long will it be before we have a workforce of robots? They could help us clean the house, make food, walk the dog and even replace our jobs. When it comes to deepfakes, the technology could enable you to modify The Usual Suspects into an alternative movie about you and your criminal friends.

A short conclusion
The erotic sphere has developed from erotic tales in printing format into an easily accessible multi-billion-dollar industry moving boundaries and pushing technological advances. While being in power of driving technology in certain directions, creating initial markets for new technology, and combining existing technology to create new technologies, the porn industry can be said to have a distinctive willingness to innovate. It is a bold statement, but the technological sphere we know today would never be as diverse and fruitful without the industry of pornography. I cannot explicitly answer why technology loves to partner up with the erotic sphere, however I can quote a spokesman for one of the biggest porn companies in the world, xHamster: “For the sake of innovation, it’s a good thing people are so damn horny”.



M-pesa can´t buy me love

Nora Dokken Harboe

How did a country where 42 % of its population live below the poverty line become one of the most advanced countries in the world when it comes to mobile payments?

M-Pesa in brief
Today it seems like there is a way to pay with just about any service or device, either it is by using Vipps, Apple Pay, Venmo, Google Pay, WeChat Pay or other services. However, mobile payment is not as new as you may think. Actually, DnB and Vipps are playing catch up. M-Pesa was launched by Vodafone’s Safaricom mobile operator in 2007 and is a simple method of texting small payments between users. Today, M-Pesa has 30 million users in ten countries.

The service is not only used to splitting restaurant bills and buying waffles at flea markets, it is additionally used for a range of services in all layers of the economy, including international transfers, loans, and health provision. In 2016, M-Pesa processed around six billion transactions at a peak rate of 529 per second.

One of the main reasons for this marked expansion is that almost all Kenyans during the last years has been given access to 3G. In fact, more Kenyans have access to 3G, than to electricity in their everyday life today. In addition, imported cheap smartphones from China has made it as common – maybe even more common – to own a smartphone rather than owning a goat.

The Theory about Technology-Gap
Within the field of innovation studies several scientists, Cornwall (1977) and Verspagen (1991) among others, have argued that less developed countries might have an advantage when adapting and implementing technology that has already been developed in more technologically advanced societies. The reason for this advantage is that the developing countries are able to skip the costly process of Research & Development, making of prototypes, conduction of market analysis etc. Basically, they are able to jump directly into the phase of implementation. Despite that this development receipe might seem favourable, there are few empirical evidences supporting this given theory. However, M-pesa, and equivalents in other developing countries, can be considered as one of few exceptions.

The way in which the combination of banking technology and telecom technology have made it possible for the kenyan population to move directly from relying on cash to use mobile payment as the medium of exchange has given more people access to the market. Kenya has therefore skipped one step in the technological ladder of mediums of exchange, they have skipped the step of relying on bank transfers and ATM-Withdrawals, and moved directly from relying on cash to relying on mobile money.

The growth of M-Pesa has had tremendous social effects: because you do not need a bank account in order to use M-Pesa it has benefited those lacking access to formal banking, by including them in the financial marked. A study conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that the service has lifted 2% of the Kenyan population out of extreme poverty. Furthermore, the study estimates that M ́Pesa has helped about 185 000 women graduate from subsistence agriculture to small business, perhaps because having an M-Pesa account gives a woman her own money, rather than her husband’s or parents’, and a greater sense or agency. Other studies shows that M-Pesa has Hobbled crime by substituting cash for pin-secured virtual account.

Kenya’s M-Pesa proves that when people are empowered, they will use digital tech to innovate on their own behalf.” – Bill Gates

From Cowrie Shells to Bitcoin
For centuries, even before money was introduced – and now I talk about money as physical coins and banknotes – as the most common medium of exchange, people used precious objects such as pieces of bronze, cowrie shells and gold in order to exchange products and services. In our era, we are moving away from the usage of physical money and into an era dominated by mobile payment such as M-Pesa and Vipps, and digital currency such as Bitcoin.

Much can be said about the disadvantages and advantages of the onlineyfication of money and I do not intend to present this list here, but one major advantage with the introduction of M-Pesa in Kenya, Smart in the Philippines, Bkash in Bangladesh and EasyPaisa in Pakistan is that it has given people access to the market. Mainly, this is applicable for the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the ones that previously has been excluded from the given market. One of M-Pesa ́s slogans is «we target the one shilling» and that is exactly what makes it accessible for everyone – as long as you have a smartphone and access to 3G.

Goodbye, money?
Do we have to rewrite the Beatles and ABBA to «M-Pesa can ́t buy me love» and «Bitcoin, bitcoin, bitcoin, must be funny, in a rich man ́s world» so that the songs will make sense to our children? Probably not, but the way we think about money – or mediums of exchange – and how we use it is changing. Sorry, Snøhetta, I love the new Norwegian banknote design, but we have to admit that new technology changes the rules of the game – now there is a new game in town.

Education in the age of AI

Art by Samantha Riegl

Frans Joakim Titulaer

In 2014, Sherry Turkle’s book The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit had its thirtieth anniversary. With a certain affinity with Orwell’s novel, 1984, Turkle describes her work as the psychoanalysis of human-computer interaction. It can be fascinating for us millennials to think about how those big chunky pieces of plastic, glass, and metal that were computers back in the early 1980s could have such an impact on their perceptions of themselves. The computers were second selves, meaning they reflected ‘our’ sentience, cognition and decision-making in ways that made us question ourselves like we questioned our independence in relation to our mother when we were infants? The whole idea is creepy because it makes sense! Who are we without these devices? No one it seems.

Therefore keeping a record of your digital persona becomes a way of existing in the world. Let’s face it. We are not all that independent at the time we leave the safekeeping of our childhood home. And, in a world in which we are all cradled within an education system that supposedly does not prepare us for the real world, it is good to know that there are systems that will continue to mother us well into the future. The ideal is a system that knows what you do not know. Not simply an artificial sentient thing that knows a whole lot. No, a thing that knows what you don’t know in such a way that it will notify you about it. A future in which decision makers and workers alike are told what they need to do to learn to act like responsible adults.

This could be described as intelligence augmentation (IA). The idea of IA was born at about the same time as the idea of artificial intelligence (AI). Although it hasn’t yet become a common term the IA:AI nexus holds the promise of succeeding our simplified discussions around the future of AI, simply because generalized AI is still a long way off. The fact is that a chess-champion with an AI system will beat a lone AI system almost every time. This seriously alters the imaginary of the personal AI assistant associated with so many of the smart devices coming on to the marked these days. Not only because it could mother us, but because of how it promises us new independence.

Soon our learning biology will be specified within (something like) ‘learning record stores’, that will offer service-providers the opportunity to adapt their products to ‘someone like’ you. The service provider could be a public institution offering courses or MOOCs(?), but the interesting thing is that it will make you mobile. Mobile across institutions, but also across your lifespan. ‘Lifelong learning’ is therefore not just jargon, it is a technical requirement.

When one is to be hired, employers are going to want to know what you know beyond your current ideas of yourself. Being put on a task could mean that education will be part of the work, and your boss will not necessarily be the one to decide its form or content because it is the job itself. If a team of firemen move out, a system should alarm them if they are lacking competence or experience that might have proved necessary for such a task in the past. And if you failed algebra at the 8th grade, causing you to struggle with learning higher order maths, private educational institutions like BI are going to try to cater to that need.

“The ideal is a system that knows what you do not know.”

What most of us haven’t picked up is that the real challenges and opportunities lies within the Internet of Things (IoT). Not because most of us haven’t heard about talking fridges, but because the idea is a fairly useless sci-fi fantasy from the time our parents were born. It think that it is within this context that we have to understand the work that has gone into constructing Knowledge Object Repositories available to different forms of education technology for the past two decades.

To the digital citizen therefore education in the 4th industrial revolution – or in the web 4.0 if you like – will harbour the promise of access across invisible boundaries. A lot is at stake if we hope to make ‘knowledge’ in the age of AI open and free. Within a few years there will more devices connected to the internet than there are neurons in the human brain, and a large portion of these will come from Industrial IoT (IIoT), or what is becoming known as the Industrial Internet. It will surely not dampen the pressure on knowledge capitalization, and we have to think about what role education 4.0 institutions will have in the future, and what role research and education institutions should have in our Big Data societies today.

BLOCKCHAIN + LAW = LOVE?

Iselin Holmedal Gjeldstad

In 2019 the blockchain-technology will celebrate its first 10 years. And with this we have experienced a decade with great expectations, fears and confusions, as it may be the groundbreaker for a new technological revolution. It was first introduced by Satoshi Nakamoto as cryptocurrency “Bitcoin” in 2009. When launched some may have thought this was “just another tech mayfly”, but as we have learned through the last decade – Bitcoin and blockchain are here to stay. So, what is it all about? And how is it possible to conquer a reluctant tech world with algorithm and promises of a more secure and efficient trading system?

Recently there has been enormous interest in blockchain and blockchain crypto currency like bitcoin and private ICOs. To explain it the easiest way -Blockchain is data connected to multiple ledgers instead of on single ledger as today. The technology enables safe and efficient trade because it is impossible to break the chain due to the multiple ledgers. It is scalable and efficient because it is possible to connect to from anywhere if you have a pc and internet. All transactions are trackable. As history shows, some might be sceptic to new technologies that are difficult to understand and may reject it. This is often the case for innovation: at first it is easier to reject it than to adopt it. However, winning technology will always prevail.

All hype around the blockchain seems to be over and the market shows to be more trustworthy than a year ago. As an example, so far in 2018 21,5 billion USD have been distributed to private companies by ICOs (which is a blockchain secure financial instrument) in line with shares in a company, collected through ICO tokens based on blockchain technology in private companies. It comes clearer and clearer that blockchain technology is going to be accepted by the marked, as that a lot of serious businesses as well as public services will embrace the phenomenon.

Blockchain is also useful for tracing and tracking transactions by GPS or sensor technology reporting to the chain (IoT). The Danish firm Maersk has recently piloted an insurance system for their shipping industry which enables the insurer to monitor risks on daily basis and make immediate payments to Maersk in cases of any incident. The other examples are Australian and Swedish governments. The Australian government is planning an official granted crypto currency for customs purposes, and the swedish government has started working on introducing the national crypto into E-krona.

So no doubt – blockchain has significant benefits in transactions, from the members of the chain who can predetermine a certain output if a certain input is proved to the chain, often referred to as “smart contracts”. Let me set an example, for real estate transactions the buyer`s certificate may hence be issued simultaneously as the buyer pays the purchase price with a BankID. At the same time, the real estate archive will receive the notification of the transaction and will be able to notify it in the official registers.Moreover, insurance companies will have access to real needs as they will be able to provide low prices when your car is in the garage, while higher premiums when travelling on dark and icy roads.

It becomes more and more important for good lawyers to participate in the actual coding and protocols governing blockchain as the technology itself may be able to determine legal frameworks automatically, and because investing or participating in blockchains requires a certain amount of trust. Trust in algorithms, trust in revenue distribution that is granted, and trust in all the legal rights that the blockchain has granted them. Lawyers have already begun to draft and work with quality guidelines as they check all of White Papers, privacy rights and enforcement issues.

Perhaps the legal system will be running by blockchain in the future. Perhaps witnesses and parties, judges, media press, police and custody will be members of the same legal blockchain system. Not now, not tomorrow but after some years? For all blockchains, it will be a great amount of data running through. For the legal systems, this may be underpinned by machine learning with easier prediction of results, legal fees, liabilities and responsibility. In the end, blockchain technology will approach and even reflect the same ideals and values as the traditional way of handling law. Perhaps blockchain is nothing new under the sun – only a more efficient way to track, trace and accomplish transactions than we are used to. In any case, it may help to grant more justice, more democracy and more transparency for the best of all mankind.

The brain is going digital, and consciousness is too

Joaquin Zenteno Hopp

A whole mouse brain has been digitally reconstructed with an unprecedented level of biological detail. It is part of the Human Brain Project, one of the largest scientific initiatives ever funded by the European Union, and probably the most ambitions. Their simulation is based on an algorithm that enables to predict how neurons connect with each other. It is all based on a new research field named connectomics, the science of figuring out a brain’s complete wiring diagram. The objective is to reconstruct and simulate a biologically digital human brain made of 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses.

The project’s leaders are quite optimistic. They believe that they will soon be able to replicate cognitive, emotional and behavioral experiments. Simulate how animal’s sensory organs capture and encode information, and how their brain can generate a motoric response. Nonetheless, and even more exciting, they also believe that these advancements will soon lead to the digital reproduction of consciousness.

How conscious can it be? Is it not that consciousness is just an emergent property of brain activity? Maybe not, but if computers would be able to construct and simulate minds and not only brains, what kind of reality would we be envisioning? Popular media has already provided lots of crazy ideas: Slave brains, brain-body replantation, brain post-life continuation, multi-brain cloud creations, multi-human brain expansions, etc., but, what kind of issues are really worth to analyze without losing it into naive fantasy? Incredibly, several high-top scientists have begun to take some of these ideas seriously.

In early 2018, researchers from Yale University were able to preserve several pig brains for over 36 hours outside their bodies. They claim that the brains were not conscious, but they do acknowledge that their achievement is a step towards it. Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have begun a startup that aims to uploaded human brains into the cloud by 2024, and they do not deny the idea that one day they could become conscious. Wow, but what does that mean? Would such a conscience suffer something like a mental-sensory deprivation of eternal solitary confinement… without ears, mouth or eyes, something like living inside an black eerie spaced lacuna? Would it wonder where it is, what it is, or how it came to be? Would it be tormented by an unstoppable, undefinable and unimaginable existential despair, or would it just flow in a sort of, let us say, nirvana?

How conscious should we be? The most important question probably is about our society’s responsibility, both because of the great risks but also the immense potentials. If a person’s consciousness is reproduced, would that consciousness have legal rights? Who would own its knowledge, memories, or ideas? What if it is manipulated, unfairly treated or even abused? The Science Journal Nature, in its April 2018 edition, published an editorial arguing that experiments on human brain simulations need special protections. Written by 17 recognized neuroscientists and bioethicists, the letter suggests a variety of interesting ethical safety measures, but they do not necessarily provide a sense of easiness. Suggestions such as “the need to drug brains so they can stay in a comatose-like state when being manipulated” are not so appealing. Furthermore, how can we regulate or even understand issues that depend entirely on ad hoc practices? The most extreme is if virtual consciousness could experience pain. Is it not precisely pain considered as the first sign of the body’s consciousness? Yes, but these consciences would not have bodies, or could they? Is it not that a virtual reproduction of a conscious brain is per definition “virtually” exposed to any virtual risk?

“Science of new quality. Quality not only of new advancements, but mostly on defining moral standards”

The digitalization of consciousness shows how science and technology have come to a point of being so close to each other that they have become one. A conscious computer is not just a pure technological artefact, but also science itself. This implies that science might be entering into a whole new level. Science of new quality. Quality not only in the sense of advancements, but mostly on defining high quality moral standards. We know that standardization of scientific and technological practices is a risky process that evolves dependent to social-contextual forces. Our society’s responsibility relies on defining those moral guiding standards, despite that they can become the main reason for misleading future advancements. We need to know, for example, how are we to relate emotionally to digitally conscious things. How could we otherwise cope with falling in love with a digital being? Or could we never expect digital-reciprocal love? Anyhow, we need to take the best possible information and be conscious of the happenings of our time. It is our responsibility to build a society capable to thrive, or at least coexist, with these new strange conscious things.

Digital learning identity

Issue #16 Digital Citizen

Frans Joakim Titulaer

Let’s all give a warm round of applause to Feide (Felles Elektronisk IDEntitet)! The student ID has no doubt served us well as a federated identity management system among the many education institutions and services that we all (the educated and educating alike) use everyday. It is almost a national pride, seeing how it extends from elementary school to the very top of higher education. The Telenor or Tine of our time. It is surely a tedious work to keep track of all usernames and passwords among numerous tiny little corners of the internet, so a federation is no bad idea indeed.

Now give a warm welcome to Feide 2.0! The future is now. The 2.0 offers us a ‘single-sign on’ system (SSO) that allows the user [will make it largely unnecessary] to log on anywhere in the education services using the same ID (authentication key) after having first logged on in any one of them. This means that the ‘ecosystem’ of services is able to match those of the Google suite and well crafted Microsoft cloud-environments. It also makes it possible to extend the number of services as education institutions, faculties, centers or persons can choose among add-ons. The experience will be hopefully seamless.

Now let’s simplify and expand this view of our near future. Feide 2.0 includes a service called ‘Dataporten’ that enables the creation and the access to groups and keeps track of the interactions of each individual. In other words, the 2.0 integrates the many benefits of social media, the original Web 2.0. It even allows you to connect with services like Facebook, Twitter, etc. so that activities can be shared across these platforms. You might very well ask whether this truly is a benefit, but what we are witnessing is the government moving into a field that up until now has been reserved for the ‘new democracies of the Internet’.

However, there is risk. A lot of it. Therefore you could say that the government approaches these technologies quite differently. Not readily willing to take on the same social cost, seeing that it also pays (a part of) the bill. Yet, there is also a sense of a threat posed by the disruptive effects of Big Data capital. Governments could soon find themselves competing with private actors to offer legitimate forms of certification. Within education the name of the game is learning analytics. It promises adaptive learning systems and early warning catered to the needs of the individual learner.