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Christopher Watkins

Christopher Watkins

Christopher Watkins is Senior Creative Writer at DataVisor. He brings 10+ years of writing, editing, and strategy experience to his role. He was previously Senior Writer and Chief Words Officer at Udacity. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

Technology transforms the world.

Before you dismiss that as empty Silicon Valley jargon, consider Charlie Christian. Jazz changed forever when he arrived with an electric pickup. In fact, more than just jazz changed. The world changed. His appearance in the Benny Goodman band was a huge step forward towards integration and equality, and while Christian’s talent was undeniable, it was the technology of the pickup that made it possible for the world to hear him and be moved.

Tools, Technologies, and Transformation

I have always been fascinated by the ways in which the tools we make transform the works we make. I’ve gone on record many times discussing how a manual typewriter, a Moleskine, and a laptop, impact how and what I write. I’ve done the same with regards to different musical instruments—sit down at a Rhodes electric piano, and you’ll write one kind of song. Plug in a Fender Telecaster electric guitar, and you’ll write an altogether different one.

We may not have fur, gills, or wings, and we may not be able to see in the dark or hear from miles away. We can’t run very fast, jump very high, or go very long without water and food. But we have pretty remarkable brains, and we use them to build tools and technologies that extend our capabilities in extraordinary ways, and in this way, we continue to power genuinely transformational change.

Empowerment

During my time at Udacity, I was fortunate to witness firsthand the transformative power of technology on a near-daily basis. The platform itself was an empowering technology, enabling people from all over the world to access world-class learning content. With the technologies they learned, those same people then went out and changed the world around them. Whether building a self-driving car to promote safety, mastering blockchain to protect identity, or building an app to empower a community, people weren’t just learning—they were making an impact.

Change in the Real World

These experiences further fueled my interest in exploring how we can apply transformative technologies to real-world challenges. When it came time to move to a new writing role, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to continue my work as a storyteller working on behalf of organizations and individuals applying powerful technologies in resonant ways. Of all the technologies I’ve been exposed to during my time in Silicon Valley, artificial intelligence—in its many shapes and forms—has proven to be one of the most fascinating.

Crime and Punishment

Before proceeding on this line of thinking, let me detour for a moment to talk about crime and the law. Most of us know that criminals have the advantage when it comes to innovation and action. When you don’t have to follow the rules, you can act faster, and make an impact sooner. Failure is often fatal, but success brings rewards obtainable through virtually no other means. For those on the right side of the law, it’s a different story. We follow rules and regulations to preserve safety and maintain order, but we pay a price in pace to do so. The criminals move faster than us.

Enter artificial intelligence. Specifically, unsupervised machine learning.

Faster than the Speed of Crime

For perhaps the first time in history, we have a technology that can move faster than the speed of crime.

Make no mistake about it, criminals are selling information about you. More often than you think, and in ways you couldn’t imagine. Did you know, for example, that the rewards program you signed up for at your local donut shop put money in a fraudsters pocket because they sold your login details to hackers engaging in credential stuffing practices? No, you probably didn’t know that. But it’s true. If you don’t believe me, google “Dunkin’ Donuts hack.”

I am not one who generally goes around thinking that the internet is “the real world.” I understand that when the electricity goes out, the internet goes off. But all the same, we conduct a great deal of our lives on the internet. We pay our hospital bills online. We register our children for school online. We borrow money online. We apply for jobs online. We purchase health insurance online.

The truth is, it’s no longer a question of the real world vs. online. The internet is part of the real world now. And as such, it should be safe, and free of crime.

Why Fraud Matters

There are so many reasons why we need to stop fraudulent activity online. When I say this, I’m not talking about Russian hackers meddling with elections. For most of us, that’s abstract, and we don’t really feel it affect us in our daily lives. I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about businesses losing billions of dollars to fraudsters, and passing those costs on to us, forcing us to pay more for services we can barely afford to begin with. I’m talking about incremental amounts of money being drained from our bank accounts so slowly that we don’t see it happening until it’s too late. I’m talking about local businesses going out of business because of slews of fake reviews posted by hackers working on behalf of chain stores that want the lots where those family businesses sit. Yes, that does happen.

Why I Joined DataVisor

At the end of the day, online crime is as consequential or as inconsequential as we allow it to be. If we conduct no activities online, online crime means nothing. But that’s not our world today. We do so much online. And online crime is devastating. It moves so fast, and most people presume it can’t be stopped.

DataVisor believes it can be stopped. DataVisor has created the technology to stop it. DataVisor is stopping it. I find that powerful. I find that fascinating. I find that moving. I find that to be an amazing, compelling, vital story. That’s why I joined DataVisor