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Netflix' "The Great Hack" which launches on 24th July, is an impressive piece of political film-making for the digital era.
We watched Netflix' new documentary "The Great Hack" by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim at a preview screening last week and had the chance to see some of the protagonists and the directors discussing the film at a panel last week.
The first thing you have to know about "The Great Hack": it is not about hacking computers. It is about hacking society. It is a powerful appeal for stronger privacy rights and stronger control of the big digital near-monopolists. In conclusion: it is not an easy movie. After the screening, I heard somebody say it was "hard work" and "at times hysterical". Well, it is a serious, complicated and heavy subject that during the nearly two hours isn't always entertaining. It makes for a significant film nevertheless.
The Great Hack | Official Trailer | Netflix www.youtube.com
Amer and Noujaim, who were Oscar-nominated for their film "The Square" about the Egyptian revolution, are political filmmakers. They started getting interested in digital data after the Sony Hack in 2014. "This changes everything", Amer said to friends at that time. While the cybersecurity community might have had a different opinion from a technological perspective, it definitely changed how hacking and cybersecurity were perceived in the public. Suddenly it was a deeply political topic.
Actually, at that time Mike Lerner, one of the executive producers, contacted us at Kaspersky and I helped facilitate interviews with the cybersecurity community at the Security Analyst Summit in 2015. None of these interviews though made it in the final film, as things took a different turn.
The Great Hack tells the story of the Cambridge Analytica (CA) scandal from the perspective of four deeply involved characters. Carole Cadwalladr, a journalist for the Guardian, David Carroll, a university teacher who requested his data from Cambridge Analytica and never received it, Brittany Kaiser, a former business development director at Cambridge Analytica and Julian Wheatland, Cambridge Analytica's former CEO.
The level of access these four gave the filmmakers is impressive. They are deeply involved, in a way that is often disturbing: After being introduced to Kaiser, Amer flew to meet her in Thailand, where she was vacationing. Those vacation scenes, by the pool and in the pool are genius filmmaking and totally out of place at the same time. The interviews with Kaiser, in which she disclosed internal documents and became an essential voice in the public proceedings against the company, are discomforting. At no point in the movie, she shows the tiniest sign of remorse about the more than three years in which she helped influence elections around the world. Her whole behaviour appears completely inappropriate for the situation she is in.
The second former CA-insider, Julian Wheatland, is still convinced that they did the right thing. "Cambridge Analytica hasn't been found to have done anything regulatory or legally wrong – and I believe it didn't because we invested a huge amount of efforts and legal fees to make sure we didn't", he still claims today. A statement, with which the filmmakers and Carole Cadwalladr strongly disagreed. At the same time, he called for "the big tech platforms like Facebook and Google to be regulated like a monopoly". Cadwalladr added to that: "Creating fear and uncertainty is being done so effectively through these platforms, with no regulation, and no accountability, and no oversight, and they are creating the world we are living in."
The Cambridge Analytica scandal, with its impact on politics and the public discussion of data rights, deserves this in-depth investigation that Amer and Noujaim conducted in the past years. The film does, what a good feature documentary should do – it addresses an important societal issue.
"It is time to write a new social contract and I think that social contract is no longer between citizens and their governments", Amer said after a pre-screening last week. "It is between citizens, governments and tech platforms, so perhaps it is the writing of a new user agreement that we should be focused on".
On Netflix from July 24th.
Because they know what they're talking about.
The prevailing wisdom is that the fast pace of automation, digital change and AI (artificial intelligence) will soon leave most of us jobless. Talking with some of the most successful tech entrepreneurs around the world, not one agreed with this dark premonition. Rather, they pointed to a different kind of future we should prepare for.
Breaking our addiction to devices and social media<p><a href="https://simby.com/" target="_blank">Simby</a> is a fully personalized, wearable AI technology that aims to break our addictions to our devices and social media while still giving us all the benefits of being digitally connected. Co-founder and head of product Andrew Doherty believes technology should benefit our lives and do no harm, and that users should have full control of their data. This 'sassy best friend' is still under development but coming soon.<strong></strong></p>
The buzz around Beep<p>Organizations can be as buggy as bad software, with minor frustrations putting a damper on everyone's concentration and creativity. Doing something about these problems can feel like swimming upstream, especially when management doesn't understand how much energy small annoyances suck out of their staff.</p><p>Katz Kiely is part of the team behind <a href="https://wearebeep.com/" target="_blank">Beep</a>, a system that rewards and recognizes people for raising problems and finding solutions in their business. It puts leaders in touch with their employees' real challenges, flattening the hierarchy and reconnecting people with meaning in their work.</p>
Growing a business like a garden<p>Author and tech entrepreneur Aaron Dignan knows exactly how hierarchy and bureaucracy hold back progress in business. He gleaned this wisdom from in-depth study of organizations known for adapting to change and getting fast results, like Spotify, Burning Man and Basecamp.</p><p>He's not only published these findings for the benefit of other entrepreneurs in his popular 2019 book <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brave-New-Work-Reinvent-Organization/dp/024136180X/" target="_blank">Brave new work: Are you ready to reinvent your organization</a>? He's also founder of <a href="https://theready.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Ready</a>: An 'operating system' that helps businesses change their culture and see themselves <a href="https://medium.com/the-ready/the-operating-system-canvas-420b8b4df062" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">more as a garden than a machine</a>.</p>
Smartening up the factory<p><a href="https://cloudnc.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">CloudNC</a> is bringing safety and accuracy to factories with AI and autonomous manufacturing. Their clients manufacture parts for air travel, space exploration and defense, among other industries, where perfection is necessary every time.</p><p>Full automation in manufacturing also allows for on-demand production. This option is in high demand since COVID-19 has made the global market and labor supply hard to predict. Co-founder Theo Saville says <a href="https://cloudnc.com/an-interview-with-theo-saville-forbes-europe-2019-manufacturing-industry/" target="_blank">making manufacturing more environmentally sustainable is also top of CloudNC's agenda</a>.</p>
Blockchain on the farm<p>Agriculture is one of the fastest-changing industries on the planet, while soil depletion, habitat loss and methane emissions come to the fore in the public consciousness. Farmers often face little choice in how they operate because they're time-poor, isolated and face high set-up costs for change.</p><p><a href="http://www.agriledger.io/home/" target="_blank">AgriLedger</a> Founder and CEO Genevieve Leveille wants farmers to get the best price for their hard work, giving them more choice and making sure doing better for people, animals and the environment pays dividends. Using blockchain, AgriLedger brings users benefits like supply chain traceability, market information and access to finance.</p>
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