Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Big Data

The capital of Oceania is Beijing

Wednesday, 21 November, 2018

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which was published in 1949, Great Britain has become a province of a super-state named Oceania. This Oceania is ruled by the “Party”, which employs “Thought Police” to persecute individualism and independent thinking. Now, let us fast-forward to 2018 and our current Oceania:

“The most innovative — and disturbing — of the repressive measures in Xinjiang is the government’s use of high-tech mass surveillance systems. Xinjiang authorities conduct compulsory mass collection of biometric data, such as voice samples and DNA, and use artificial intelligence and big data to identify, profile, and track everyone in Xinjiang. The authorities have envisioned these systems as a series of ‘filters,’ picking out people with certain behavior or characteristics that they believe indicate a threat to the Communist Party’s rule in Xinjiang. These systems have also enabled authorities to implement fine-grained control, subjecting people to differentiated restrictions depending on their perceived levels of ‘trustworthiness.’…

… Inside political education camps, detainees are forced to learn Mandarin Chinese, sing praises of the Chinese Communist Party, and memorize rules applicable primarily to Turkic Muslims. Those outside the camps are required to attend weekly, or even daily, Chinese flag-raising ceremonies, political indoctrination meetings, and at times Mandarin classes. Detainees are told they may not be allowed to leave the camps unless they have learned over 1,000 Chinese characters or are otherwise deemed to have become loyal Chinese subjects; Turkic Muslims living outside are subjected to movement restrictions ranging from house arrest, to being barred from leaving their locales, to being prevented from leaving the country. Inside, people are closely watched by guards and are barred from contacting their families and friends. Those living in their homes are watched by their neighbors, officials, and tech-enabled mass surveillance systems, and are not allowed to contact those in foreign countries.”

That’s an excerpt from “Eradicating Ideological Viruses: China’s Campaign of Repression Against Xinjiang’s Muslims“, published by Human Rights Watch. Without doubt, China is an Evil Empire and it’s intent on destroying Western stability and prosperity through the cruel repression and exploitation of its own people.

China


Amazon man orders 20,000 Mercedes vans

Thursday, 20 September, 2018

The EU’s top antitrust regulator, Margrethe Vestager, has launched an investigation into whether Amazon is unfairly monopolizing data to outsell its rivals. There’s a growing chorus of voices on both sides of the Atlantic now questioning whether the company’s ocean of data gives it an intrinsic advantage. The problem, of course, is that there’s data and data and it depends on what exactly the definition embraces. Amazon relies more and more on “behavioral data,” which reveals who precisely is interested in what product, and this is priceless information. Margrethe Vestager will have quite a job to pry that from the calculating hands of Jeff Bezos.

Meanwhile, the same Jeff Bezos has just has ordered 20,000 Mercedes Sprinter vans for Amazon’s US Delivery Service Partner program, which enables small businesses to lease
vans for deliveries through third-party fleet management companies. Amazon also offers them fuel, insurance, uniforms and access to its delivery technology. Fedex and UPS, which each have around 60,000 delivery vehicles, will be keeping a close eye on this one while hoping Margrethe Vestager can slow or stall Bezos’ hyperdrive.


WTF?

Monday, 3 July, 2017 0 Comments

That’s the question Tim O’Reilly asks in his new book, which will be on shelves in October. WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us comes at a time when we’re being told that 47 percent of human tasks, including many white collar jobs, could be eliminated by automation within the next 20 years. And we’ve all heard those stories about how self driving cars and trucks will put millions of middle-class men out of work. Tim O’Reilly does not shy away from these scenarios, which have the potential to wreck societies and economies, but he’s positive about the future. Sure, we could let the machines put us out of work, but that will only happen because of a failure of human imagination and a lack of will to make a better future. As a tech-optimist, who breathes the enthusiasm of Silicon Valley, Tim O’Reilly believes that what’s impossible today will become possible with the help of the technology we now fear.

The tech thing we’re most afraid of has a name. AI.

AI, Tim O’Reilly claims, has the potential to turbocharge the productivity of all industries. Already it’s being used to analyze millions of radiology scans at a level of resolution and precision impossible for humans. It’s also helping doctors to keep up with the tsunami of medical research in ways that can’t be managed by human practitioners.

Consider another of our coming challenges: cybersecurity. The purpose of the DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge was to encourage the development of AI to find and automatically patch software vulnerabilities that corporate IT teams cannot to keep up with. Given that an increasing number of cyberattacks are being automated, we will need machines to fight machines and that’s where Machine Learning can protect us.

Tim O’Reilly is a hugely successful entrepreneur, but he’s also a Valley idealist and he wants a future in which AI is not controlled by a few corporations but belongs to the Commons of mankind. For this to happens, he says we must embed ethics and security in the curriculum of every Computer Science course and every data training program. The rest of his ideas will be available in October when WTF? goes on sale.

WTF

Note: Just to show that life need not be taken too seriously, this site enables you to create your own O’Reilly book cover.


The Robolution federator

Tuesday, 2 August, 2016 0 Comments

The Fourth Industrial Revolution’s upgrading of English vocabulary is a regular theme here and the prospect of public presentations on the subject in October and November is concentrating the mind, to paraphrase Dr Johnson. We’ve had some gems recently and more are to come. Central to the revolutionary stuff going on right now is robotics.

Definition: “Robotics is the branch of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science that deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots, as well as the computer systems for their control, feedback and data processing.”

If you create an €80 million private equity fund dedicated to robotics, you’re going to need a name for the venture; one that combines the essence of the business with its revolutionary role in 21st-century industry, ideally. Robolution The result is… Robolution. Or, more precisely, Robolution Capital. But there’s something slightly unmelodious about the word “Robolution,” with its hints of ablution and absolution. Sure, it’s an attempt to capture an element of “revolution,” but the “robo” bit at the front doesn’t quite make a harmonius unit, does it? Perhaps it sounds better in French because Robolution Capital is based in Paris.

Along with robotics, Robolution Capital is focussing on artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), two very hot areas right now, and this is why it defines itself as a facilitator, an accelerator and “a federator at the heart of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, corporates, public organizations, universities and research centers.” What’s a federator? The usually indefatigable Wiktionary does not have an entry for the word and Techopedia offers “Federation” from the world of enterprise architecture that allows interoperability. The word, however, is a version of fédérateur, the French noun that means “unifier.” And with its philosophy and its focus on robotics, AI and the IoT, Robolution is true federator.

News: 360 Capital Partners, an early-stage VC business based in Milan and Paris has just done a deal with Orkos Capital, also based in Paris, to manage Robolution Capital.


Mappa Mundi

Wednesday, 11 May, 2016 0 Comments

Welcome to our third day of reading Parag Khanna’s new book, CONNECTOGRAPHY: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization. Maps featured in the first post here on Monday and they’re central to today’s post as well. In the introduction to his book, Khanna follows the Prologue with A Note About Maps in which he writes: “Mapping the complex dynamics among the three greatest forces shaping our planet — man, nature, and technology — will require a whole new kind of geographic literacy.” Technologies such as Maptitude, StatPlanet, Project Tango and GeoFusion are some of the new tools of the new cartographic trade when it comes to adding economic and cultural data to maps, and that’s just the start, says Khanna:

“With the rise of the global sensor network dubbed the ‘Internet of Everything’ (Internet of Things + Internet of People), our maps will perpetually update themselves, providing an animated view into our world, as it really is — even the five thousand commercial aircraft in the sky and the more than ten thousand ships crossing the seas at any given moment. These are the arteries and veins, capillaries and cells, of a planetary economy underpinned by an infrastructural network that can eventually become as efficient as the human body.”

Those aircraft and ships are bound for port in what Parag Khanna calls “mankind’s most profound infrastructure” of the 21st century: the city. By 2050, there will be at least 40 cities with a population of more than 10 million people — the megacities.


Watching Watson emote with redundant robots

Saturday, 27 February, 2016 0 Comments

Hollywood has become rather fond of depicting robots and artificial intelligence as threats to humanity and that’s not good for the image of the computing industry. Too much dystopia and people might begin to fear the machines. Time, then, for a spot of conviviality where people interact with the technology that will soon be bossing business, and that’s why IBM will present two ads starring its Watson cognitive computing system during the Academy Awards show.

In this clip we see Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher leading a support group for outmoded robots upset at being replaced by newer technology. She invites Watson to help them confront their anxieties and he tells them he’s a computing system that works with humans. But the “traditional” robots say they’re not interested in working with people and opt for a coffee break instead. Humour is not an easy thing to do at the best of times and it’s especially difficult for humans to make robots funny.

#OscarsSoRobotic: The bots in the Watson clip will be live-tweeting during the Oscars.


Word of the Year

Wednesday, 16 December, 2015 0 Comments

It’s time for the annual Rainy Day Awards and we’re launching this year’s series of seven with our Word of the Year. First, however, and to avoid confusion, a brief note on what the word is not. Although it resembles iota, which means “a very small amount”, and is related to the smallest letter in the Greek alphabet, it’s not iota. And while it looks a bit like jot, which is related to iota, and means to write down something briefly and quickly, it’s not jot, either.

The Rainy Day Word of the Year award goes to… IoT. The acronym means the Internet of Things, which is the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in objects, empowering them to send and receive data. This is going to be huge and the International Data Corporation predicts that the IoT will include more than 200 billion things globally connected by the end of 2020.

The key driver of the Internet of Things is the ease with which we can wirelessly connect mobile items to the Internet using WiFi, Bluetooth or proprietary wireless communications protocols. Farewell, then, forever to the days when Internet devices had to be wired to a fixed location.

But what does it mean for me, for you? Well, IoT devices coming our way include home automation like Google’s Nest, the Vessyl intelligent cup that monitors what you are drinking, the Beam tooth brush that reports on your dental hygiene history and the HAPIfork that records one’s eating habits. Added to all that, we have wearables: fitness trackers, smart watches, clever clothes and healthcare embeds such as pacemakers and glucose monitors. Automated cars will also have lots of IoT capabilities.

Beam toothbrush

Perhaps the most disruptive thing about the IoT is its ability to unbundle products and systems. Unbundling? Think of the MP3 audio format, which unbundled individual tracks from albums. That upended the music business. Airbnb has revolutionized the concept of renting homes and rooms and the iOT will enable all kinds of devices and services and products to be leased on demand.

The tsunami of data generated by the IoT will pose enormous privacy and moral questions that are only starting to be addressed. Who owns the health-related data streaming from your wrist? Should cars that monitor driving habits report road behaviour to employers and insurers?

While that’s being debated, the IoT will be creating job opportunities for people with the right (Big Data) skills. These include data analysis, network design and security management certification. The research companies have been predicting tech job growth in the order of millions for years now so a good IoT Christmas present for someone you love (?) might be Getting a Big Data Job For Dummies.

Tomorrow, here, the Rainy Day Drink of the Year award.