Why I see Brexit as a good thing for Tech?

Since the Brexit, I heard countless arguments about British startups moving to Berlin. I tend to think most of these arguments as clickbaits for the tech media to feed on, now with TechCrunch Disrupt London, these arguments resurfaced. Here is my opinion about why Brexit doesn’t matter for tech or even contrary to popular sentiment, it could be a good thing:

  • It is not that simple. You can’t easily move a startup from a country to another because of something that didn’t happen. Up until now, the only direct result of Brexit is the devaluation of the pound which is not an enough motive for a startup to leave UK and come to Berlin. Not to mention the Euro itself is losing its value because of strong dollar and the other Euro zone problems.
  • Tech in principle is global. Being in UK doesn’t have a big difference from being in Berlin. Unless you are doing something very specific to the German or British market, you don’t have to be there.
  • Europe was fragmented, and will stay fragmented post Brexit. Each country has its own language, culture, and laws. Being in or out of EU doesn’t matter for the most part because the fragmentation is still there.
  • British entrepreneurs still have access to EU. They can still move any way they want and open offices anywhere.
  • The fact that UK speaks English gives it a huge advantage over Germany. Immigrant entrepreneurs can’t easily start a company in a country where they don’t speak the language, and have fears of falling victims to legalities they can’t even read.
  • The big players doubled down on UK. Amazon is expanding and hiring like crazy. Facebook is adding 500 new tech jobs in London office. Google is opening its biggest space in Europe and adding thousands of jobs in London.
  • Tech is the last industry affected by regulation, until UK finds out what Brexit means they will have a very long list of problems to solve before coming to what Brexit means for tech. Until then, everything stays the same.
  • In fact, Brexit could be great for the tech scene in UK. Being out of EU will allow the UK to move fast and away from stupid European laws that are preventing many startups from being started here. Less decoupling means more agility, and more competition between EU states and non-EU states, which makes things better for everyone.

Designing for creepiness

I had my Facebook deactivated for 6 months, during which I visited Saudi Arabia and worked with a guy for three days. The main communication during this trip was WhatsApp.

Few weeks ago I reactivated my Facebook, few days later I found him as one of the recommended friends. I don’t have Facebook app on my phone so they can’t have access to my address book, but I have WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook.

Today I had a friend asking me, how can she disable allowing Google to get access to her location. She said whenever she opens Google search she finds at the end of the page Google telling her where she is. When she opens Google maps it automatically opens on her neighborhood. She went so far to reinstalling windows but still couldn’t get rid of it.

I told her they are getting her location from her IP, and gave her a locate my IP link so she can get a better idea. And as for the Facebook case, I know how they got this guy, but not every Facebook user knows that WhatsApp is owned by Facebook and technically they can connect the missing pieces from Facebook to WhatsApp and the other way around.

With the explosion in data collection and ease of analyzing the data for smarter recommendations, users are losing control over what they are sharing not understanding how it can be used later. This leads to a bigger UX challenge where whenever a company is introducing a new feature specially in recommendation, it needs to reassure the user that their information is safe and there is nothing to worry about. Otherwise it is too creepy.

The Theseus Disclaimer: the only constant is change.

The paradox goes as follows, captain Theseus’s ship has a defect plank. The ship team changes the defect plank with a new one. After a while, another plank goes defect, another replacement. The changes keep coming until all the ship planks have been replaced by newer planks. Is it still the same ship?

Considering the ship planks are your thoughts and beliefs. Are you the same person since birth? Before you answer this question, go check your Facebook posts from two years ago. Do you still think you are the same person?

The internet is becoming a snapshot of your opinions at every single moment, giving you or others the chance to see what was your opinion about something, say 2 years ago and now.

As time move forward, there will always be someone who disagrees with you at the current moment, who can bring an opinion you had in the past and posted on social media ignoring the fact that people change.

I think if one wants to avoid this from happening, one shouldn’t post his opinion on any controversial matter. Or maybe, everyone should adopt the Theseus disclaimer:

The person who wrote this post is a human being, and might change their opinions or beliefs in the future. This doesn’t mean they are not liable for what they said now, but it means you have to understand and respect the fact of change.

Disclaimer: Theseus didn’t have a disclaimer. I made this up.

Figure 1

I was born with a rare disease that causes bones not to form properly making them very fragile and easily fractured. Growing up in Egypt with our medical system in pre-internet era made it harder to diagnose me correctly until I became 4 years old.

Fast forward 25 years, 20+ surgeries, and tens of fractures. I was watching a session by Andy Wiseman, the partner at USV ventures (I am an avid reader of Fred Wilson’s blog and a big fan). Andy was talking about one of their portfolio companies “Figure 1”. It is a medical photo sharing app for medical professionals where they can post pictures of patients or their reports (hiding the patient identity) and get immediate feedback from other doctors.

While I am not a medical professional, I wanted to see the app in action and searched for my case. I started reading the interactions and for example I learned that the types of my case are not sorted by severity but rather by when it was discovered.

Since my disease is rare, there is a bias in the medical community for not researching it, which is why in my opinion there isn’t much advancement with finding a cure.

Figure 1 would be great if the patient can be part of the doctor’s learning process. I don’t mind sharing my x-rays on the app. I already tried but it said uploading only allowed for medical professionals. I understand this is important to keep the platform as professional as possible and not slip into becoming a patient-doctor medical community.

However, I think allowing doctors to tag their patients upon their consent so that other doctors can reach out to the patient and ask questions. A disease doesn’t only affect the person body parts, but their whole life and the lives of their surrounding ones which is important learning for doctors.

I am always happy by what technology is making us capable of doing. I wished this app existed when I was getting fractured and no one knew what I had.