The Supercomputer in Your Pocket
We have mentioned here many times that the exponential rise in technology creates unprecedented opportunities for investors. Smaller and faster computers have led to emerging fields such as big data, the internet of things, cybersecurity, and the mobile payments revolution.
It all stems from Moore’s Law, which is based on observations made as early as 1965 by Gordon E. Moore, the co-founder of Intel. Moore suggested that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit would double approximately every two years, creating an exponential rise in computing potential.
However, for many this whole “exponential” thing is hard to wrap our heads around. Most of our daily observations are on a linear level, meaning that relationships hold true at a fixed rate. For example, if one wishes to bake a chocolate cake that is twice the size as a given recipe, the ingredients are to be doubled. If one is buying three cartons of milk from the grocery store, the cost will be three times higher.
Here’s an example of an exponential situation that just doesn’t feel intuitive. For the full version, which is worth reading, go to Peak Prosperity as they explain the compounding problem. Otherwise I will paraphrase:
Imagine that you are in Fenway Park, that the stadium is watertight, and you are handcuffed to the very highest bleacher seats. Meanwhile a drop of water is dropped on the pitcher’s mound, and the amount of water dropping will double every minute. How long do you have to escape from the handcuffs before drowning? Minutes, hours, days, years?
The answer turns out to be 49 minutes. Even more interesting is that most people wouldn’t be aware of how dire the situation until about 45 minutes, when the stadium is about 7% full of water and about to double yet again.
This example illustrates exponential growth. Applied to technology, it means that even though we have seen big advances over the last few decades with the emergence of personal computers, smartphones, and even smaller connected devices, the best is still yet to come.
Quantum computing and general artificial intelligence are approaching us faster than we may know.
Original graphic by: Fonebank
Mapped: The State of Facial Recognition Around the World
Mass surveillance is becoming the status quo. This map dives into the countries where facial recognition technology is in place, and how it’s used.
Mapping The State of Facial Recognition Around the World
View the high resolution version of this infographic by clicking here.
From public CCTV cameras to biometric identification systems in airports, facial recognition technology is now common in a growing number of places around the world.
In its most benign form, facial recognition technology is a convenient way to unlock your smartphone. At the state level though, facial recognition is a key component of mass surveillance, and it already touches half the global population on a regular basis.
Today’s visualizations from SurfShark classify 194 countries and regions based on the extent of surveillance.
|Facial Recognition Status||Total Countries|
|Approved, but not implemented||12|
|No evidence of use||68|
Click here to explore the full research methodology.
Let’s dive into the ways facial recognition technology is used across every region.
North America, Central America, and Caribbean
In the U.S., a 2016 study showed that already half of American adults were captured in some kind of facial recognition network. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security unveiled its “Biometric Exit” plan, which aims to use facial recognition technology on nearly all air travel passengers by 2023, to identify compliance with visa status.
Perhaps surprisingly, 59% of Americans are actually in favor of implementing facial recognition technology, considering it acceptable for use in law enforcement according to a Pew Research survey. Yet, some cities such as San Francisco have pushed to ban surveillance, citing a stand against its potential abuse by the government.
Facial recognition technology can potentially come in handy after a natural disaster. After Hurricane Dorian hit in late summer of 2019, the Bahamas launched a blockchain-based missing persons database “FindMeBahamas” to identify thousands of displaced people.
The majority of facial recognition technology in South America is aimed at cracking down on crime. In fact, it worked in Brazil to capture Interpol’s second-most wanted criminal.
Home to over 209 million, Brazil soon plans to create a biometric database of its citizens. However, some are nervous that this could also serve as a means to prevent dissent against the current political order.
Belgium and Luxembourg are two of only three governments in the world to officially oppose the use of facial recognition technology.
Further, 80% of Europeans are not keen on sharing facial data with authorities. Despite such negative sentiment, it’s still in use across 26 European countries to date.
The EU has been a haven for unlawful biometric experimentation and surveillance.
—European Digital Rights (EDRi)
In Russia, authorities have relied on facial recognition technology to check for breaches of quarantine rules by potential COVID-19 carriers. In Moscow alone, there are reportedly over 100,000 facial recognition enabled cameras in operation.
Middle East and Central Asia
Facial recognition technology is widespread in this region, notably for military purposes.
In Turkey, 30 domestically-developed kamikaze drones will use AI and facial recognition for border security. Similarly, Israel has a close eye on Palestinian citizens across 27 West Bank checkpoints.
In other parts of the region, police in the UAE have purchased discreet smart glasses that can be used to scan crowds, where positive matches show up on an embedded lens display. Over in Kazakhstan, facial recognition technology could replace public transportation passes entirely.
East Asia and Oceania
In the COVID-19 battle, contact tracing through biometric identification became a common tool to slow the infection rates in countries such as China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. In some instances, this included the use of facial recognition technology to monitor temperatures as well as spot those without a mask.
That said, questions remain about whether the pandemic panopticon will stop there.
China is often cited as a notorious use case of mass surveillance, and the country has the highest ratio of CCTV cameras to citizens in the world—one for every 12 people. By 2023, China will be the single biggest player in the global facial recognition market. And it’s not just implementing the technology at home–it’s exporting too.
While the African continent currently has the lowest concentration of facial recognition technology in use, this deficit may not last for long.
Several African countries, such as Kenya and Uganda, have received telecommunications and surveillance financing and infrastructure from Chinese companies—Huawei in particular. While the company claims this has enabled regional crime rates to plummet, some activists are wary of the partnership.
Whether you approach facial recognition technology from public and national security lens or from an individual liberty perspective, it’s clear that this kind of surveillance is here to stay.
Zoom is Now Worth More Than the World’s 7 Biggest Airlines
Zoom benefits from the COVID-19 virtual transition—but other industries aren’t as lucky. The app is now more valuable than the world’s seven largest airlines.
Zoom Is Now Worth More Than The 7 Biggest Airlines
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have transitioned to working—and socializing—from home. If these trends become the new normal, certain companies may be in for a big payoff.
Popular video conferencing company, Zoom Communications, is a prime example of an organization benefiting from this transition. Today’s graphic, inspired by Lennart Dobravsky at Lufthansa Innovation Hub, is a dramatic look at how much Zoom’s valuation has shot up during this unusual period in history.
The Zoom Boom, in Perspective
As of May 15, 2020, Zoom’s market capitalization has skyrocketed to $48.8 billion, despite posting revenues of only $623 million over the past year.
What separates Zoom from its competition, and what’s led to the app’s massive surge in mainstream business culture?
Industry analysts say that business users have been drawn to the app because of its easy-to-use interface and user experience, as well as the ability to support up to 100 participants at a time. The app has also blown up among educators for use in online learning, after CEO Eric Yuan took extra steps to ensure K-12 schools could use the platform for free.
Zoom meeting participants have skyrocketed in past months, going from 10 million in December 2019 to a whopping 300 million as of April 2020.
The Airline Decline
The airline industry has been on the opposite end of fortune, suffering an unprecedented plummet in demand as international restrictions have shuttered airports:
The world’s top airlines by revenue have fallen in total value by 62% since the end of January:
|Airline||Market Cap Jan 31, 2020||Market Cap May 15, 2020|
|International Airlines Group||$14.760B||$4.111B|
|Total Market Cap||$121.301B||$46.214B|
Source: YCharts. All market capitalizations listed as of May 15, 2020.
With countries scrambling to contain the spread of COVID-19, many airlines have cut travel capacity, laid off workers, and chopped executive pay to try and stay afloat.
If and when regular air travel will return remains a major question mark, and even patient investors such as Warren Buffett have pulled out from airline stocks.
|Airline||% Change in Total Returns (Jan 31-May 15, 2020)|
|International Airlines Group||-72.16%|
Source: YCharts, as of May 15, 2020.
The world has changed for the airlines. The future is much less clear to me about how the business will turn out.
What Does the Future Hold?
Zoom’s recent success is a product of its circumstances, but will it last? That’s a question on the mind of many investors and pundits ahead of the company’s Q1 results to be released in June.
It hasn’t been all smooth-sailing for the company—a spate of “Zoom Bombing” incidents, where uninvited people hijacked meetings, brought the app’s security measures under scrutiny. However, the company remained resilient, swiftly providing support to combat the problem.
Meanwhile, as many parts of the world begin taking measures to restart economic activity, airlines could see a cautious return to the skies—although any such recovery will surely be a “slow, long ascent”.
Correction: Changed the graphics to reflect 300 million daily active “meeting participants” as opposed to daily active users.
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