Gongol.com Archives: January 2016

Brian Gongol

January 15, 2016

Health No more "brain games" for you

The FTC has settled a case against the people who promoted the Lumosity "brain games" products, saying that the company used false advertising to convince consumers to pay up for products to enhance cognition, when those products weren't actually proven to have those effects. Three things are interesting about this case: First, the FTC statement on the settlement specifically notes that the company used not just mass media but specific Google AdWords to target consumers who were worried about things like dementia and Alzheimer's. The fact they used the notion of targeted advertising itself as part of their case should send some shivers down a lot of spines in Mountain View, California. That kind of government action could have a chilling effect on Google's core advertising product. Second, the FTC says it has suspended a $50 million judgment against the company "due to its financial condition after the company pays $2 million to the Commission". In other words, "We could bankrupt you, but we'll just take $2 million instead and leave you to bleed." Interesting. Third, there is a risk that an over-zealous application of the FTC's standard (that the company must "have competent and reliable scientific evidence before making future claims about any benefits") could have a serious chilling effect on future commercial development of these kinds of tools. In other words, just because one company overstated its case doesn't mean the concept itself is bogus -- but by putting the hammer down, the FTC might just be discouraging useful innovations that others might seek to commercialize. A not-insignificant number of scientists have indicated their general worries about this very effect. That doesn't mean the government shouldn't tamp down the hype artists -- but there are other consequences that need to be borne in mind, too.

Threats and Hazards Ukraine lost power due to a cyberattack

American systems are likely to be highly vulnerable to cyberattack, too. This should be cause for serious alarm. The investigative work is complicated, but what was targeted (and how) points pretty clearly in the direction of Russian attackers.

Aviation News SpaceX is going to try landing a reusable rocket at sea

Reusable launch technology has moved far and fast since commercial developers got involved

Business and Finance How much do meetings really cost?

Well-run businesses try to make good use of machine uptime, but what about people's uptime? Putting a lot of people in a room has a meaningful cost, so there had better be a return on that investment.

Computers and the Internet Boxing match to be broadcast in virtual-reality mode

Why? Probably just because they can. Other sports would probably be more fun to watch in VR mode.

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