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Harpur Forum speaker witnesses invasive nature of technology

By : Katie Ellis

Peter Bloom
Time, distance and access to technology are no longer a competitive advantage in today’s market-place, Peter Bloom told the Harpur Forum on April 13. As managing director of General Atlantic, LLC, a worldwide private equity firm that focuses exclusively on global investing in information technology and tele-communications businesses, the Binghamton native sees firsthand how rapidly technology is changing the way we communicate.

“There are really disruptive changes to the way infor-mation is now distributed and consumed,” he said. “How I choose to communicate now becomes much different and changes the whole dynamic of communication, and the idea that people have to be together to get work done has absolutely collapsed.”

People should be concerned about being mined for information, Bloom said.

“The world is becoming an instrument as sensors are being deployed everywhere. They’re being used for security, health care, information, maintenance,” he said.

“Arbitron is now using portable people meters to monitor a person’s entire interaction with the outside world in terms of advertising.”

Noting that sensors can be digital or video, Bloom said that sensor ideas being developed by researchers including Binghamton University’s Harold Ackler, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, will continue to permeate our lives.

The ability to communicate instantaneously with anyone around the world has also changed our lives, Bloom said. For example, the world of blogs —shared on-line journals where people can post diary entries about their personal experiences and hobbies — is growing.

“There are 1.6 million active blogs in the United States,” he said. “Through them we can now create a scientific research document in two hours’ time. That’s what brought Dan Rather down. The power of these blogs is much more significant than people realize.”

With all of the ways people are tied together electronically, Bloom acknowledged the huge problem of filtering out unwanted information, such as spam. “The engineering term is ‘signal to noise,’ ” he said.

“Signal is the information you want, and noise is the information you don’t want — static, fuzz.”

Bloom advised caution in our high-tech environment as we deal with all of the noise and monitoring. “A computer on the Internet owned by an individual, but taken over by others without his or her knowledge, is called a zombie,” he said. “If you put an unprotected computer on the Internet this morning, it would take only 45 minutes for it to become a zombie. It’s a trivial exercise to take it over.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08