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Soundbyte 382: Paranoid

10 February 2019

Only recently I started watching Black Mirror episodes on Netflix. Somehow I just cannot find the time to keep up with all the cool TV series out there, and there are just too many of them too. As a result I have a huge backlog of series to watch, and keep on getting more recommendations from friends and co-workers. Sounds familiar? Anyway, Black Mirror is just too good not to watch, so highly recommended if you haven’t seen it. The nice thing about it is that it is a so-called anthology series, meaning there is a different story each episode, while still developing the same theme.

Black Mirror unveils how modern technologies can backfire and be used against their makers, with every episode set in a slightly different reality with different characters combating different types of technologies. The ‘near future’ that Black Mirror episodes depict, sometimes just seems around the corner, and in that light it really makes you think twice about certain technological ‘advancements’ of our time. Given that the original series aired in 2011, the true genius of its writer, Charlie Brooker, shows in each and every episode.

Technology paranoia is something of all times. A few years ago at DevCon we had an excellent keynote from Alix Rübsaam about how AI and Machine Learning will turn us all into batteries as depicted in the Matrix. Or maybe not? Every time a major technological advancement is introduced people think it leads us straight into damnation. Think radio, tv, Internet, social media, or Cloud here all you want. Others just see endless opportunities without thinking (hard enough) about potential side-effects. At Luminis we sometimes get caught in the middle of this as we’re trying to figure out how to apply disruptive technology to the business models of our customers. Having a bit of Black Mirror as a reference is not such a bad idea, me thinks.

In other news, I’m really happy to report that we’ve got the program for DevCon 2019 ready! Just glancing over the program alone, I’m confident that we have yet another memorable edition of DevCon ahead of us. Good luck to all my co-workers preparing for their talks! DevCon 2019 marks the fifth edition of our developer conference already. Originally coined as an idea to celebrate Luminis’ 12,5 years anniversary as a company, and to give back to the community, DevCon has grown into a full featured developer conference which, at least partly, sets the bar for other conferences in the Netherlands. After four successful years in CineMec, Ede, we have decided to switch to Pathé Utrecht for this year’s edition. With Pathé Utrecht being a more centrally located venue, and having bigger break-out rooms we think it just adds to the experience. As DevCon is a place for peers to exchange knowledge and experience, there is no place for recruitment or annoying booths screaming for your attention. Make sure not to miss this. Tickets are for sale, and you can buy yours here.

Ever since switching over internally to the Luminis leadership team my weeks have just raced by. No time to waste, forcing myself to keep breathing at times. Dividing my attention over customers, business development, partner management, outreach, and marketing & events has not been easy, but it’s been quite a journey so far. Last week this journey took me to Amsterdam on Tuesday. Battling through a horrendous traffic jam I barely made it on-time. I was invited by Oracle to address their world-wide sales force in an episode of ‘CurioCity’. This concept travels from country to country, showcases a little bit of the traditions of that particular city and country, and then dives TED-style into a concept or subject. This month was Amsterdam and the topic was Serverless. Oracle approached me to do the session and I had a live audience of a few dozen sales directors from all over EMEA gathered in Amsterdam. Furthermore we had people from all over the globe joining the live broadcast. Quite an audience. Since they where mostly non-tech people, I decided to have a demo as the central part of my talk. Using their mobile phones or laptops, attendees could snap a picture of themselves which would then be uploaded to a serverless function running the image through facial recognition software to figure out faces in the image. Next it would draw a funny hat on the image, Snapchat-style, using the face location as a reference. While the idea seemed simple enough, figuring out how to effectively scale and place the hat turned out a little bit twistier than expected, but I managed to pull it off just before midnight the day before the event. The demo turned out to be a true hit. Hundreds of Oracle sales folks attending from all over the world, snapped pictures of themselves, and the power of Serverless made them all look silly.

The best part, and here comes the paranoia again, was that the facial recognition was so good, that people just snapping a picture of themselves, but with other people around ending up in the picture unknowingly, got pictures with not only hats drawn on themselves, but every face found in the picture got a hat. Out of privacy considerations I won’t post pictures here, but I have a couple really impressive ones. Recognizing faces out of just a few pixels with lots of background noise.

And now to the music. A golden oldie this time. With all this technology paranoia I talked about, to me there is just one track that comes to mind: Paranoid by Black Sabbath. Officially released in 1970, but remastered a couple times. Simple, but very catchy melody, and a chunky guitar solo, that stays in your head for a while, so beware! Have a good one!

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