We Get Real AF

Ep 90: Tech Talk with Vanessa & Sue (Afghan-All Girls Robotics Team, New Clubhouse Security Measures for Afghan Profiles, Teaching Soft Skills to the Digital Native, Microsoft Power App Data Breach, and Wifi Enabled Clothing That Charges Devices)

August 31, 2021 Vanessa Alava & Sue Robinson Season 2 Episode 90
We Get Real AF
Ep 90: Tech Talk with Vanessa & Sue (Afghan-All Girls Robotics Team, New Clubhouse Security Measures for Afghan Profiles, Teaching Soft Skills to the Digital Native, Microsoft Power App Data Breach, and Wifi Enabled Clothing That Charges Devices)
Show Notes Transcript

Vanessa Alava & Sue Robinson round up some recent attention-grabbing headlines in the world of science and tech.

Referenced Articles:

https://www.theverge.com/2021/8/21/22635378/clubhouse-removes-personal-info-user-accounts-afghanistan-taliban-safety

Singapore Preschool teaches kids soft skill needed for the digital age

https://www.theverge.com/2021/8/24/22639106/microsoft-power-apps-default-permissions-settings-user-records-exposed-38-million-upgard

Smart Clothes that boost device signal strength and power and connect your devices via radio waves

We Get Real AF Podcast Credits:

Producers & Hosts: Vanessa Alava & Sue Robinson

Vanessa Alava

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Sue Robinson

LinkedIn Instagram Twitter 

Audio Producer/Editor: Sam Mclean  

Instagram  Website

Technical Director: Mitchell Machado

LinkedIn Reset Gaming

Audio Music Track Title: Beatles Unite

Artist: Rachel K. Collier

YouTube Channel Instagram Website

Intro Voice-Over Artist: Veronica Horta

LinkedIn

Cover Artwork Photo Credit: Alice Moore 

Unsplash 

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Vanessa Alava  

Welcome to Vanessa & Sue tech talk for the week of august 23. Talking about some really interesting things this week. One of them we're really, really, really excited to share with you. As of today, we have released an episode that is entitled American mom takes on the Taliban rescuing the Afghan all-girls robotics team, and what's next. That is literally Episode 88. And it is hot, hot, because it was just posted this morning. So we want to start with that topic. Allyson Reneau is the American heroine Mom, super woman who is helping Afghan girls and women escape the situation that's happening in Afghanistan. She is the mom of 11 children and nine of them being girls. So this really hits home for her. She has had a relationship with the Afghan girls robotics team. Since 2017, she helped them come over to Washington DC to compete in a STEM competition, because they had some trouble initially getting to, you know, come over. And that's when her relationship with these girls started. She has since then maintained, , in touch with them, touching base with them, giving them support, mom support from the US And as she heard of what was happening in Afghanistan and the US presence, fading. She had this sense this spidey sense that she needed to act and get in touch with them. And as the Taliban took over, she she just kind of went into action, and started reaching out to people and Sue. What I loved about her in her interview is that she is so humble, and vulnerable. And she said, You know, I'm not well connected. I just happened to want to help these girls. And I didn't let anything get in my way. And I just started calling and texting and moving. And that's how she's gotten this far. And as of the recording with her yesterday, 10 girls and two adults are in Qatar and safe and have been evacuated from Quatar or Afghanistan proper. So yeah. What are your thoughts? I loved speaking with her, and I loved her energy.

 

Sue Robinson  

I did, too. I love everything that she's doing. I'm so grateful that, you know, I spoke with her in the morning before our interview. And she had been up since 3:30 in the morning, and I think she started with Fox and Friends and she just kept going throughout the day. But yes, she is such a shining example of you know, we all get this spidey sense, or that gut instincts that that we want to do something, I'll have a good idea. And we'll think it's crazy. What difference can I make and that exaggerated and other things come up. And then we don't end up doing anything. And that was not Allyson. Allyson felt a commitment to these girls, even though her relationship with them is primarily through text message. And she just said, I'll take the tools that I have at my disposal, which is my phone, my grit, and my network. And I'll activate those three things. And sometimes that is really all it takes is like guerrilla social good warfare, you know, as you just get in there, and you do what you can. And and that really resonated with the contacts that she did have, including the pivotal contact, which was a woman she knew at the US Embassy in Qatar. 

 

Vanessa Alava  

I believe it was an old roommate that she Yeah, I think that was just mentioning to her what she was doing. She actually had booked a ticket herself to go to the Quatar. And she wound up not needing to go because her old roommate was in in the US Embassy there and was willing, and able to help. 

 

Sue Robinson  

we don't want to give the whole episode away because this is once we want you guys to listen to it. But again, you know, our podcast is all about what women can do. And using our voices and an Allyson Reneau is a tremendous example of that. And we all can can be doing more than we think. That's the, that's the takeaway for me. So definitely listen to Episode 88, and every other possible podcast.

 

Vanessa Alava  

I just also want to call out, you know, she did share some links with us if you go to the YouTube video, and in the show notes of the podcast, you'll have links to to check her out and some of the funding pages that she has. So all of the money 100% of the funds raised are going to this effort of bringing women and girls to safety, basically, whether that be here in the States, whether that be with different diplomats and countries that are surrounding Afghanistan, that are opening their borders to these to these people. Because, you know, it's very harrowing.

 

Sue Robinson  

She has a GoFundMe page and a Facebook page to raise funds for this initiative. And she's not stopping Allyson's take is that the entire robotics team will be eventually evacuated, hopefully, safely. That is that's her gut. Of course, we don't know this. But that's her hope and expectation. So she is now turning her attention to helping professional women in Afghanistan. That's sort of the next wave of women who are targets with the Taliban regime, because they are educated, they have voices, and they are leaders. And they are now hiding for their lives. And looking for ways to get out. So that is Allyson's next initiative that she's trying to figure out the logistics and partners and people that can help evacuate professional. And then she specifically mentioned lawyers and judges. But we'll definitely stay abreast of that and keep you guys updated as well, because I'm sure as things unfold, there'll be other opportunities for all of us to pitch in, in whatever way shape or form were able to. So to be continued.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Yes, yes.

 

Sue Robinson  

What are the tech topics Do we have are abundant? We'll see.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Yeah, I do. And since we're speaking of this, I just think I have one that resonates. Clubhouse actually has removed any personal information of user accounts in Afghanistan's as you know, out of an abundance of caution and a safety measure. And I believe there are some other social platforms that have done the same, but basically, they have reset 10s of 1000s. It says in this article, user BIOS and photos and made their accounts more difficult to be searchable. it won't affect their accounts. And if they personally, that person wants to reverse what they've done, they can do that. But they've done this again, just out of an abundance of caution, and to help people who have accounts through their platform. So I thought that was great. And obviously anything that anybody can do to help families over there. We talk about women and girls, but anyone, anyone, because not everyone is as fortunate as others that might have contacts and connections and networks that they can tap into. So anything that we can do as a humanity to help these people is a good thing.

 

Sue Robinson  

Mm hmm. Vanessa, have you been on clubhouse? Since the sun went down? I'm wondering if people are having conversations on Clubhouse about Afghanistan? I'm sure they are. But my question being, I'm wondering if people within the country are able to do that. And that's part of why Clubhouse is taking down the identifying leader.

 

Vanessa Alava  

I think that it's before the Taliban went in there. I'm assuming there were a lot more voices doing that I am sure that there are conversations surrounding what's happening now, as media outlets are reporting and we're seeing the Taliban has basically said, hey, we've changed, we have a new way of doing things. This is all a PR campaign, and they're very savvy with social media and trying to change the image that they have acquired over several years. Right. So this also, played into Clubhouse’s decision into, you know, helping these people and their identities. So basically, tot answer your question, I do not know if anybody from Afghanistan is still there in that platform speaking out. And if they are again, I don't know what, apart from the measure that that Clubhouse has done to make searching for particular people more difficult. I don't know about you know, anything else. Like if a person is speaking, their voice is still going to be their voice if it's recognized, if somebody calls them by name when there are a lot of different nuances that haven't been covered in this article, at least. 

 

Sue Robinson  

I just thought about that because I used to be very active on Clubhouse and I haven't been in several months and obviously this is a very timely topic and be interesting to hear what kinds of information is able to come out of Afghanistan via that platform and what's being said right now. So I had a couple of stories that I found this past week that I thought were really interesting that are related specifically to children. Vanessa is the mom of a beautiful baby and a beautiful kindergartner. Efficient

 

Vanessa Alava  

as of today was the first day of pre K. Pre Oh, yeah, I'm not crying, you're crying?

 

Sue Robinson  

Well, wonderful. And it's a slippery slope. And before you know it, no, I won't say it. I will be standing off to college. Please don't. Anyway, it's fun. It's in fact, I was out for a bike ride with my daughter Kayla yesterday who is about to start her first official adulting job. And we were talking about the first day of school, and how much fun that was over the years and figuring out who your friends are in your classes and all the things so you have a lot of fun things ahead of you some Yes. But going all the way back to preschoolers, I read this really interesting scientific report, which is a journal a scientific reports. A study shows that touchscreen time can be harmful to toddlers because it may diminish their attention span. And so I thought this was very relevant because obviously the children that we are raising now are digital natives and practically born with an iPhone in their hand or a tablet. But at home tablet use apparently has been on the rise even before the pandemic it was at between 28 and 63%. For kids ages three and four, that is over timespan starting in 2013 to today, and a small study and this was a very small study 40 children but it showed that touchscreen use is correlated to reduced ability to resist distraction. And this applies to kids 12 months to three and a half years old, they use an eye tracker to observe how quickly computer screen pop ups diverted the toddler's attention. And the kids who average more than 10 to 15 minutes per day, which isn't very much to me, had a tougher time resisting the distraction than those who spent little or no time on a smart device. further study is needed to determine if this means that kids have a greater difficulty concentrating or if they're just learning to multitask at a really early age. So mom of a toddler, what are your thoughts about that? 

 

Vanessa Alava  

It’s interesting, I'm trying to think of the behaviors that I've observed with with Andersen, which is our, again, our pre-k daughter. We try to limit screen time. But to your point 15 minutes a day. I know it's more than that just because during the pandemic, we were two working parents working from home with two babies in the house, and not much help it we had games we had educational TV shows, you know, it wasn't all day. But there were certain parts of the day where that was what was going to make her happy. And that was going to allow us to do what we needed to do for work. I will say that whenever she gets an alert, or there's something that pops up on the screen while she's on it. She's very quick to just move it out of the way. So there is that, However, I do feel that this all ties into the instant gratification. Like they know what they want, when they want how they want and they want it now. And sometimes we have Varukah Salt moments, you know where mommy I want to do, let's do this now. So I think that you know more so than the distraction piece of it. Because again, it's from what I've seen, she is very intelligent, she is four years old. So I think the age also plays a part in this but she is very good about just moving whatever it is out of the way and continuing to focus on what she's doing. The other piece of it though, the the No, no patience. Basically, we’re really working on patience right now. And that things can't happen exactly when you want them to happen.

 

Sue Robinson  

Except when they can happen exactly. It works except when it doesn’t. That's the exact problem is that sometimes you can't get things instantaneously. So why can't we do that all the time. Exactly. that crosses all ages. And it's funny because when my girls were small, I know there was a study that came out about Sesame Street and about children's television and how the flash rates on the television screen were questioned. For the same reason that the rapid rate of the of the flash flashing on the screen was believed by in the results of study showed that it did affect kids attention and in the intervening years, we have heard more about Attention Deficit disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders and things that have have come more on I would say, the child rearing radar over the past 20 years or so. So is there something there probably, however, we live in a digital world, the devices aren't going away, no need to rely on them. So it's then just becomes a question, I think of being really mindful of how much time your child is on a device and realizing how short that time span maybe needs to be. And doing the best we can we're all navigating through this because the technology again, is evolving very, very quickly, but it's becoming part of us. Agree, Agree.,

 

Vanessa Alava  

And you know, we talk about technology, but this phrase, everything in moderation. moderation is ages old. 

 

Vanessa Alava  

yes, you know, defining what moderation is, and, you know, a little bit at a time I think are okay, and that's with most things is when you have that excessive, use or what have you. 

 

Sue Robinson  

So, yeah, well, I'm glad that people are  thinking just study this too, right? Because at the end of the day, it's it's the research and the information that we get from this that will empower us as parents to know how much is too much and how to navigate the realities of technology with our kiddos.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Absolutely. Well, you had another article about kiddos and some education and soft skills, right?

 

Sue Robinson  

Yeah. So there is a preschool. It's a Singapore preschool, which is teaching kids and they say that they're teaching kids soft skills that are needed for the digital age. And it's kind of interesting, because it's it's a preschool called treehouse, as I believe how it's pronounced. It's not spelled like we would think of that in English. But the idea is, it's a preschool inspired by Silicon Valley. And it promises to teach kids how to survive the digital age. What does that mean? Well, the school's programs are themed by career paths like engineer, athlete, and chef. The programs teach children the skills needed for a given career path, like coding or cooking. And they're also say they're teaching grit, adaptability, and empathy, which are the soft skills that will be needed more than hard skills, they say, in the digital age. So I have two thoughts about this. One is, everything all becomes new again, for the longest time, we have plenty of good, soft skills, but we need to teach kids how to code and we need to teach all these hard skills. Well, now that we feel like we're getting a good handle on emphasizing stem and steam. And I believe that that's very important. Now we're going back to, but where are the soft skills, I gotta go back to the soft skills. So. So that's one thought. And my second thought is, I have to wonder a little bit if this isn't a bit of hyperbole because I feel like any good preschool teaches that they teaches patience teaches soft skills, right? Like, that's the whole point of preschool. I know when my kids were little they. And they went to Montessori preschools where they got to play in the cook room, or the shops, or they got, they got to do a lot of these same kinds of things that were like pretending to be a grown up. And in the process of that you learn a little bit about a bank, there's a little bank space, or sitting at a pretend computer and playing with it. And so is it really that novel? What do you think?

 

Vanessa Alava  

So, again, I'm going to say that age has a lot to do with it. I I agree with you, I think that in preschool, we're actually really good about teaching kids, you know, people's feelings and what we should do and when we shouldn't do and what's appropriate and good manners, and in those soft skills, right, what makes us you know, just relatable human beings to each other and just being kind. However, I think as kids get older, the emphasis on soft skills diminishes. And then they turn to like, okay, testing, and what do we have to fulfill to make sure that these kids test above this, and it all becomes this, like, you know, circle of what they have to do in order for their schools rating, to be above a certain, you know, number? And, I love our educators out there. I think that it's one of the hardest jobs that is under undervalued and underpaid. I don't think it's their fault. I think that they're just victims of the system. And that it’s broken in a sense, and I think that if we can incorporate some of those things that we can we do in preschool into, you know, an age appropriate setting for each grade with the soft skills and empathy building. That's where we really need to be leaning toward and screw the frickin tests already. Right? I do think is brilliant though. This idea of you know, digital citizens and teaching them in this way where it's almost an intersection of the digital age and, you know, practical life skills. And I think as, as we do, or as the school does this, you know, at least in my head, what we've talked about is like finding, something you're really excited about, and tying that into the tech world. And you have that that intersection, right you have that, that passion and, and the in the tech, and then the STEAM thing comes into play. So I love that piece of it.

 

Sue Robinson  

Just make sure that your preschooler while they're at preschool isn't on a tablet or a touchscreen device for more than 15 minutes a day. And that will affect their pay attention.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Again, going back to the age thing, what about us? Right, well, how much screen time do we have a day? I mean, it's it is what it is, right? Like, this is the reality of our worlds. And maybe we need to change our thinking of our technology as we build the hardware to address that issue. You know, like, what, what can they do in the back end to make it less triggering, I suppose, hmm.

 

Sue Robinson  

Well, one thing I've done is I turn off my notifications. I don't have notifications on my computer, because that is super distracting anytime you have something pop up. It's like pay attention to me. I've done that on my phone as well. Have you done that? 

 

Vanessa Alava  

I know I in any app I have. I usually say no. And then if I have to go back, if I want a notification for from a specific app that I use often I will go in there and I adjust the settings. But yeah, Clubhouse was the worst on that. When we first downloaded it, I know that it was like every five seconds. And that is not an exaggeration. You're getting a ping because there's so many conversations going on. And it was overwhelming. 

 

Sue Robinson  

yeah, it was overwhelming. I felt like you know, just because the conversations going on does not equate to it's something that I need to be a part of. But you feel that way when you have the notifications popping up on your phone like this must be something I'm supposed to pay attention to. Like that's that's not you know, maybe thought out that thoroughly. But anyway, for the preschool, if you're interested, it is called treehouse, TRT ha us it is in Singapore, and it will set you back $22,680 a year to send your darling little digital natives to this preschool. So I thought that was you know, interesting.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Well, kudos to treehouse, I like their, their format and their their plan, they're putting into action.

 

Sue Robinson  

You know, it looks, I mean, all preschools look really cute.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Yeah, they do. Yeah, they do. I can go into Mom, mom tangent about how cute like we went to open house yesterday, and how cute The room is, and how pleased I was that, like, everything they're doing to be COVID safe? And no, you know, because there are obviously those concerns right now as a mom, too. So anyway, yes, absolutely. All right. Well, Microsoft had a little situation that I suppose has come out this morning, as of this recording, some default settings on a specific tool called the power app, Microsoft power app platform, which allows businesses to create applications themselves. So you don't have to be a super coder to do it, or formal experience coding. So they can create their own applications. It was I was going to say breached, to a level, okay, and now this how they're explaining it. Something on the back end, is was set to not be as secure was it as it was supposed to. So it was misconfigured to expose data. And there were 38 million people that were exposed, basically. So we're talking about names, email addresses, social security numbers, COVID-19, vaccination appointments, etc, that were made available. Now, as of right now, nothing nefarious has come from it. But it was something that they had to kind of nip in the bud and change the default setting for this personal information to not be accessible. And, you know, there's arguments of, Okay, well, why wasn't that done to begin with? And then Microsoft is saying, well, the person building the app should have checked that before. Then there's the thought of, Okay, well, if you are supplying this platform to people that don't need to be experienced coders, how would they know to do that? Right, like, organically. So check your settings. Make sure if you use Microsoft power app platform that you, adjust a setting to be private to not allow the information or the data to go anywhere. It's not supposed to go to.

 

Sue Robinson  

yes cybersecurity is always gonna talk about, you know, we just had the T Mobile hack as well, right 48 million users in the past couple of weeks. And I read that since the pandemic, the number of cyber security attacks has increased by 300%. And that's according to the FBI. So, I mean, this is an ongoing we just have so many vulnerabilities because we do many places of intersection through the internet. So yeah,

 

Vanessa Alava  

yeah. Well, again, if if you check out the article, I have it pulled up on verge, the organizations they've listed that had been affected, arr Ford, American Airlines, JB Hunt, and some state agencies in Maryland, New York City and Indiana. So

 

Sue Robinson  

starts to feel almost like it’s not if you'll get hacked, but when and how.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Absolutely, yeah. It's like it's only a matter of time, right? And the severity? For for each person, I'm sure but yeah.

 

Sue Robinson  

All righty. Well, I have a cool one This is researchers who have invented clothes, that conducted Bluetooth and Wi Fi to connect all of your different gadgets. And the conductive material on the closed surface is made of stainless steel. And it's an a cone shaped strip formation. The clothing can be washed like any other normal clothing. And not only does it connect to your devices, like smart, smart watches, and your phone and other things, but it also will charge and it it uses I guess the way that the radio waves are directed or directed. there's not as much waste. I'm not going to describe this great technical detail. But I will point you to the article was actually on Insider, Business Insider today. And today's date is August 24. And so it directs the radio waves to the devices and outward not inward towards your body. But it does it in such a way that you're not diffusing too much of that energy and wasting it, which is why all of our batteries and all of our devices need to be recharged all the time and why they go down so quickly. Apparently, big takeaway is that their smart clothes, they can turn the wear into a pseudo human circuit board, effectively enhancing connectivity between your wearable devices. So pretty soon we're gonna be walking batteries guys have a lot of sponsors

 

Vanessa Alava  

I  have a lot of thoughts here. So one, this kind of reminds me of a conversation we had with Billie White House with WearableX. And you know some haptics technology she had with with fitness wear, right like that we had that conversation with her. So that reminds me that if you haven't checked that out that episode, Billie Whitehouse I don't have the episode number handy. She's a great, great resource there for wearable technology. Sue you and I've had these conversations to where I'm like, Okay, these wearable things, what is it putting into our bodies? I mean, my husband has, like, if he could have it on, like, all four limbs, he would like he has his two arms and he sleeps with these things on. I've gotten knocked in the head a few times. I complained you're not safe, that if he could have it on both ankes, he would. And I always say like, Are you not going to have like hands, you know, in the future because of all the stuff all of the waves going into your body? And although this is saying that yes. Okay, is going out not in, it's gonna be diffused. I we’re moms, you know, and I'm a mom of babies. I'm constantly holding them, you know, like, Is it gonna go to the people around me? Like, I don't want it to like, shoot. I mean, again, I don't want to sound ignorant, or you know, like, I mean, I'm thinking your baby. I'm thinking of this like, again as a movie because I think most things but I'm like, Okay, what, where is this stuff going? And I understand the reality of it. We talk about screen time, we talk about realities of like the baby, everyone has like a wearable technology attached to them in some way, shape, or form. You always have your phone, like just talk about your phone's not wearable, but you constantly have it in your bag this on your body or in your pocket or what have you. What is that going to do in the future? What's going to come out that we're going to be talking about uncovering in the future. So it's cool. It's interesting. It's definitely novel, right? But what is it doing to the people around us? If If you know if it's not going into our bodies, and we're not absorbing it’s gonna be absorbed somewhere.

 

Sue Robinson  

Well, to two thoughts about that. First of all, I want to share that the episode that Vanessa referenced with Billie Whitehouse Wearable X technology is actually episode 9 of the we get real af podcast. Thank you. So listen to that one. Yep. And then I'm going to read This to understate explains the technology a little bit Bluetooth and Wi Fi radio waves which almost all body sensors like the ones that Vanessa's husband wears in his wrist used to connect to start smartphones and other wearable electronics typically radiate outwards in all directions when emitted resulting that in the fact that most energy is lost to the surroundings. The result is a drastic reduction in the efficiency of the wearable device, as much of its battery life is consumed, just trying to establish connection with another gadget. So again, they're saying they're specially patterned Mehta textile, will confine signals between sensors closer to the body and setting instead of letting them spread away into surrounding space. And it's made from stainless steel fibers. And it's actually kind of cool looking. I mean, it looks almost like a decorative placard on a shirt or a jacket. But I don't think that they were thinking about carrying your baby when they devices. And that is a great question and a great point because, yeah, who knows. And I know, the other thing I was gonna mention is a long time ago, maybe a year and a half ago feels like a long time, I heard an interview with a guy who was studying all this. And as part of he's an entrepreneur and he was talking about how he carries his cell phone in a pocket on his like left thigh and the front of his left femur, kind of like a cargo pants type of pocket. And he went had a bone density scan done, and the bone density in his left femur, even though he's left side dominant in his body was like 11% thinner than the bone density in his right femur even out again, that's the dominant side of his body. So huh. So yeah, are these waves going out? Sure. They're right. It's just a question of to what effect to what effect and figuring out

 

Vanessa Alava  

and and where? What's absorbing it now or who/whom?

 

Sue Robinson  

I know. So anyway, but metamaterial textiles can boost and receive signals and make your internet a lot faster. Yeah. tradeoffs.

 

Vanessa Alava  

Exactly. Privacy for convenience. You know, like, convenience, Lord signal. Oh, my goodness. Well, that's all I got for today. Yeah, no, I think I believe it is a lot to think about anything. We're covering a lot of really interesting stories. until next time. Thank you for listening.