Linkedin LIONs no longer Roar

It’s about 10 years since I first joined LinkedIn, the social network for business professionals. Over the years it’s grown in leaps and bounds to over 350 million users. Not surprisingly LinkedIn it is not blocked in mainland China, and has a solid integration with the mobile messing app, Wechat.

LinkedIn LessonsAs one of the websites I use on a daily basis, I’ve finally had enough of increasing spam. I have only 24 hours per day to do what we need to do and reading yet another Inbox filled with clutter is not high on my values. So because of “Information Overload” it’s imperative that I cull my social media usage often.

You won’t be missing anything earth shattering if you do the same.

Back in 2006 I read an ebook on the benefits of open networking in LinkedIn. It is based on the work of Mark Granovetter, a social scientist, and his Theory of Weak Social Ties. This theory made a big impression on me, and I decided to put it onto practice in my every day life. This lead to a rapid expansion of my online connections.

My own approach led to competition with my good friend Brian Carl Brown. For several years we competed to see who had the most LinkedIn connections in South Africa. In 2015 it turns out this has become a meaningless measure.

LinkedIn, the company, is listed on the stock market. Therefore its doing everything possible to increase users and usage as one important metric for a public tech company. It automatically pulls in Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and other online contact lists. It’s constantly suggesting “people you may know” and in most cases, you can connect without their email address.

This brings me to LinkedIn LIONS. A life time ago this was the best way to quickly expand your network reach. One of the attributes of LinkedIn is that you can only see people who are 3rd level connections. So you can never search the entire database of users and you can never by found by everyone on the website, not within 3 levels. Your reach grows exponentially as you grow your first level, direct connections.

Today I removed myself from the TopLinkedIn group. LinkedIn LIONS promise to accept all invitation – this is open networking. However, this is one of the biggest sources of unsolicited requests that just fill up my Inbox. For the last 3 years I have been unable to keep up with the number of connection requests from LinkedIn.

So as it continued to grow, the value of my LinkedIn network has negatively impacted my experience. The more people I am connected with, the more spam I received.

Recently I deleted several hundred people without photos, without profile headlines. Most of us have too many online connections and profiles. A clean slate is not always possible, so the next best thing is prune your profiles regularly.

If you’re no longer connected to me, it’s probably because we’ve never met, or never had a telephone conversation. In case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night.


Chappie is not Deus Ex Machina

Chappie movie 2015Since I can remember I loved science fiction aka sci-fi stories. Maybe growing up on comic book superheroes helped. Usually Sci-Fi are stories without limits or boundaries. And yet the “science” part implies some possibility that it may happen, could happen, in some near or distance future. In recent years we’ve seen the excessive use of CGI – Computer Generated Imagery taken to a whole new level of realism.

Chappie (2015) is a new film by South African director Neill Blomkamp. Once again like District 9 it’s set in Johannesburg. Once you’re able to recruit A-list Hollywood actors like Matt Damon and Hugh Jackman to your films, you must be on your way up in Tinseltown.

Recently I watched Ex Machina, another film about Artificial Intelligence (AI). It was a very intellectual film, dark, slow, character driven. It explores the question of how we know whether a machine is intelligent or not, whether it’s conscious or not. The entire movie’s premise is based on what Computer scientists call the Turning Test.

Chappie on the other hand seems to be an action-oriented film with little character development. It relies on the genre the director is known for featuring guns and explosions. The programmer, the maker of Chappie is Deon (Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire). He is a frustrated engineer working for a military corporation, which has successful sold the South African government on using robots to police the streets of Johannesburg.

As someone who lived in Joburg for more than 10 years the setting was very familiar. However, the easy with which Chappie seems to solve the problem of consciousness leaves little to the imagination or the deep thinkers among us. The IMDB thread comparing these two AI movies released in 2015 is funny reading. All of them seem to miss the obvious elephant in the room: AI is the technocrat’s wet dream.

Technocracy can loosely be defined as ruling society by technology. Brave New World author, Aldous Huxley, a convincing argument in favour of scientific dictatorship vs military dictatorship.  Simply put

Good arguments are made for the depth and superficial nature of both movies when looking beyond the immediate settings. I do agree that punk rock band, Die Antwoord – Ninja and Yo-landi, are very irritating during key parts of the film. I don’t enjoy their music nor the genre, so they don’t impress me much as Shania Twain once said.

Chappie may have it’s flaws and yet it tries hard to generate empathy for the robot who suddenly discovers it’s consciousness, let alone it’s mother, father and creator. The plot is not conducive to exploring metaphysical questions like Ex Machina does gracefully. Different strokes for different folks.