Here’s hoping WannaCry is the wakeup call we so desperately need about everything

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In the aftermath of the WannaCry carnage, a relatively unsophisticated virus attack that crippled old computers across the world, it seems right to reflect. It is probably not a nice thing to do, but it seems that we are beginning to wake up and realize that the hype has gone. And the grim news is that in its place, the landscape is a harsh and unforgiving one.

Social media has become anti-social media. The once innocent place where you could see what distant friends were eating and laugh at sneezing cats is now a hot bed of racist, extremist and generally unpleasant content. Facebook, for instance, the main platform for the bad content, is now for “old people”. And young people, contrary to what the advertising industry would like to believe do not like adverts, do not want to pay for anything and are fickle in their choices, which mainly depend on what their peers are doing.

If over 95% of your revenue came from advertising on such a platform, you would worry, wouldn’t you?

Personalized, relevant advertising, which has been in the pipeline for years, is still a long way off. Indeed, governments and very big brands have recently reacted to their adverts appearing alongside revolting content by removing them until Google and Facebook clean up their act, literally.

Facebook came under so much pressure that it had to make an announcement about its strategy to deal with anti-social content. It did not, as you might expect, make a bold statement that artificial intelligence will be deployed across its platform to seek out and destroy the bad stuff. No. It announced that it is employing 3,000 more people to add to the 4,500 already employed just to filter content. That cost will run into many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

AI itself, recently touted as the panacea for almost everything, is still in most instances just very fast look up. Very fast look up is good, but let us not kid ourselves about how clever AI really is. Yet AI-based bots are being implemented across many different arenas and almost every industry on earth is being disrupted by this trend, even ones that perhaps you don’t normally consider, such as the legal profession.

Security, of course, is in the spotlight at the moment, and major hacks keep on coming. WannaCry was just one and its perpetrators are probably still celebrating – with the state sponsored lemonade type drink – just how disruptive it was. Meanwhile, apparently, a forthcoming Disney movie has been stolen and BCE’s customer database has been hacked. And while we are busy watching the high profile attacks, other hackers are using our IP cameras and other home devices as attack vectors in DDoS incidents.

At this point, we are losing the cyber war, by a long, long way.

5G is a ray of light though, isn’t it? T-Mobile in the US will be launching it in 2019. Of course, this is interesting and upbeat, but 5G needs to be ubiquitous and while it rolls out, it will be patchy. And patchy 5G is not going to support any of those neat applications such as autonomous cars. That vision is not reality, just virtual reality.

Autonomous cars have a way to go, and some further than others. Uber, pin-up company of yesteryear, is now behind in the development of autonomous cars, to the point that Waymo, the Google version, is 5,000 times better than Uber’s attempt. And their progress with the ride sharing model is still under constant attack. Europe was recently advised by its top lawyer that it is actually a taxi service, which will cause it great difficulty in a number of ways.

Even the road to 5G seems filled with potholes. At this week’s TM Forum Live! event, progress on the virtualization front was debated during the first day, and the conclusion seemed to be that the efforts are piecemeal and the whole project is bogged down in a quagmire of “bewildering complexity”.

Yet, perhaps it is not all doom and gloom. All of the initiatives and efforts will probably get there in the end (except perhaps security) and telcos do seem to be growing up into digital beings, able to adapt and change and support their digital service partners.

Let us hope that little ray of light keeps glowing, otherwise we really will just WannaCry.

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Alex Leslie
About Alex Leslie 58 Articles
Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher at DisruptiveViews.

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