Subscribe via RSS Feed Connect on Google Plus Connect on Flickr

Computing

Coding is the new literacy

Monday, 26 June, 2017 0 Comments

So says Preethi Kasireddy, a software/systems engineer “with a passion for understanding things at a fundamental level and sharing it as clearly as possible.” She’s collaborating with freeCodeCamp on a YouTube series called “Ask Preethi” and people are invited to submit their coding questions, doubts, frustrations, and experiences. As she says in this Medium post: “Each week, I’ll answer a question I received. For my first video, I answered a question I get asked a lot: ‘How do you get a first developer job — specifically, a React developer job — if you don’t have experience?”

Note: React is an open-source JavaScript library for building user interfaces.


The Surface Laptop

Wednesday, 3 May, 2017 0 Comments

Microsoft is marketing its brand-new Surface Laptop as an “ideal balance of craftsmanship, performance, and versatility.” It comes with interesting specs [YouTube comment by Junior M6: “$1,000 and 4 GB’s of ram. LOLOL Delusional pricing.”] and the supporting video is notable for the emphasis that’s placed on the design of both the internals as well as the exterior. Why, it’s almost Apple-esque. [YouTube comment by Bruno Souza6: “Haha Apple comercial introducing Microsoft Surface!”]


Aladdin: They call it Collective Intelligence

Monday, 24 October, 2016 0 Comments

With $4.89 trillion in its care, BlackRock is by far the world’s largest asset manager. The platform that unites all the BlackRock information, people and technology needed to handle all that money in real time is called Aladdin. “BlackRock wouldn’t be BlackRock without it,” the company says. While must of us are distracted by things that don’t really matter, this Skynet candidate continues to increase its intelligence.


Stephen Wolfram speaks about the next language

Friday, 11 March, 2016 1 Comment

“From the point of view of the thousand years ago, some of the purposes that people have today, some of the things people do today would seem utterly bizarre, like a walking on the treadmill. Imagine 1000 years ago saying somebody’s going to spend an hour walking on a treadmill. What a crazy thing to do. Why would one ever do that?”

Stephen Wolfram, scientist, inventor, author and entrepreneur talks to Edge about artificial intelligence, language, code and the future of civilization.

Quote: “When it comes to describing more sophisticated things, the kinds of things that people build big programs to do, we don’t have a good way to describe those things with human natural language. But we can build languages that do describe that.”


Minsky and Mozart

Wednesday, 27 January, 2016 1 Comment

In a blog post tilted Farewell, Marvin Minsky (1927 – 2016), Stephen Wolfram, Founder & CEO of Wolfram Research, pays tribute to the American pioneer of artificial intelligence and co-founder of the AI Lab at MIT, who died on Sunday. Snippet:

“Marvin immediately launched into talking about how programming languages are the only ones that people are expected to learn to write before they can read. He said he’d been trying to convince Seymour Papert that the best way to teach programming was to start by showing people good code. He gave the example of teaching music by giving people Eine kleine Nachtmusik, and asking them to transpose it to a different rhythm and see what bugs occur. (Marvin was a long-time enthusiast of classical music.)”

RIP, Marvin Minsky, genius and trailblazer of advances in mathematics, computational linguistics, optics and robotics. Apropos Minsky’s genius and love of classical music, as the world knows, Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major) is a famous chamber ensemble composition by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and today happens to be his birthday. Happy 260th, dear Mozart!


Own the robots, rule the world

Wednesday, 9 December, 2015 0 Comments

According to Marx, it’s simple. Ownership of the Means of Production is in the wrong hands and this has led to the class differences that bedevil the planet. Individual ability, religious or cultural factors are irrelevant to the Marxists — all that’s needed is to wrest the machines from the capitalists, give them to the proletariat and the world will be as one. The disciples of Karl Marx have been preaching this “gospel” since the mid-19th century with spectacular calamity for the masses, most recently in Venezuela.

Is there a better way? And if so, who should own the modern Means of Production? The question is increasingly urgent in a world where Google is replacing librarians and professors are being eliminated by massive online courses. As computers and robots eat up the tasks being done by humans, workers need to do something or they’ll end up doing nothing. One solution would see governments taxing the Zuckerbergs and the Musks punitively and redistributing the “take” to the workers, but that’s the Venezuela way. Better: workers own shares in tech firms, have stock options in the AI start-ups and be paid in part from the profits generated by the robotics companies.

Who says? Richard B. Freeman, who holds the Herbert Ascherman Chair in Economics at Harvard University does. Recently, Germany’s Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH, better known as the Institute for the Study of Labor and abbreviated as IZA, asked Freeman for his thoughts on technology, work and capital. For the Bonn-based non-profit, Freeman wrote “Who owns the robots rules the world” and in it he argues that the best model is an American one in the form of the Employee Stock Ownership Plans introduced in 1974 and which have since energized a sector that now employs some 11 million workers.

“The EU has endorsed such schemes in its various Pepper Reports and encouraged these forms of organization, though with, at best, modest success,” notes Freeman, ruefully. The continent of Marx is not too fond of worker ownership, unless the state is the proprietor, that is. On the other side of the Atlantic, which remains Marx resistant, despite the best efforts of the elites, Freeman points out that “enough firms in the US have extended some form of ownership stake to their workers that on the order of half of American employees get some part of their pay through profit-sharing, options, or stock ownership.” This is the way forward because, “In the US, at least, people with widely different ideological and economic views find attractive the notion of spreading ownership. One can imagine governments giving preferential treatment in procurement to firms that meet some basic ’employee ownership’ financial standard.”

As we enter the age of Industry 4.0, a priority of every developed economy should be encouraging worker ownership of capital to provide income streams from the technologies changing the world of work. Otherwise, Richard B. Freeman warns: “If we don’t succeed in spreading the ownership of capital more widely, many of us will become serfs working on behalf of the owners. Who owns the robots rules the world! Let us own the robots.” Aye!

Robots at work


Printing, not plastics, young person

Tuesday, 8 December, 2015 0 Comments

This is a post about Industry 4.0, the next Industrial Revolution, in which everything from toasters to thermostats will be connected to the internet. But first, The Graduate, a 1967 film directed by Mike Nichols that tells the story of Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), an aimless young graduate, who is seduced by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and then falls in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross). With its air of rebellion and a soundtrack by Simon & Garfunkel, The Graduate captured the counter-culture of the Sixties and is now regarded as a classic. At one point, during a party, this exchange takes place between Benjamin and Mr. McGuire, a businessman, who embodies mainstream society:

Mr. McGuire: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.”
Benjamin: “Yes, sir.”
Mr. McGuire: “Are you listening?”
Benjamin: “Yes, I am.”
Mr. McGuire: “Plastics.”
Benjamin: “Exactly how do you mean?”
Mr. McGuire: “There’s a great future in plastics.”

Now, back to Industry 4.0. For Jaime Marijuán Castro, a consultant in the electronics industry, printing is the new plastics. More precisely, 3D printing. In a recent post for IBM’s Insights on Business blog, he placed a wager on 3D scanning and printing:

“This is my favorite and the one I am betting on. It is going to radically change the way products are built and marketed. Imagine 3D print vending machines at your nearby convenience store you can use to produce your own designs in a matter of minutes, or the ability to provide remote maintenance services and delivering a replacement part without shipping it. Some factories are already producing plastic parts with 3D printers but I still think this technology is slow and very limited. It will not reach economic viability before the next 10 years. Modularity, interoperability, virtualization and service orientation are brought in by the 3D tech and — like the autonomous vehicle — you don’t want to be the last exploring its potential.”

Is it a bet worth making? Right on cue, Fortune is reporting that a patent application submitted by Apple shows the company is thinking about 3D printing. Make of note of it. It might be the new plastics.


Saving live with better UI

Friday, 10 July, 2015 0 Comments

Better user interface design can save lives says Harold Thimbleby, a professor of computer science at Swansea University, who is well known for his works on user interface design in the field of human-computer interaction. As Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”


Dei ex machina

Thursday, 14 May, 2015 0 Comments

Speaking at the Zeitgeist 2015 conference in London on Tuesday, the famed physicist, cosmologist and author Stephen Hawking had this to say: “Computers will overtake humans with AI at some within the next 100 years. When that happens, we need to make sure the computers have goals aligned with ours.” In its report, Geek.com illustrated Hawking’s prediction with a terrifying Terminator image. As the world knows, Hawking signed an open letter alongside Elon Musk earlier this year warning that Artificial Intelligence (AI) development should not go on uncontrolled, and guess which image The Independent uses today to highlight a story about Musk and his AI concerns? That’s right, the Terminator.

The cliché rules when it comes to AI it seems. We should be grateful, then, that Alex Garland’s Ex Machina is more imaginative and less lazy about the subject. The
film takes an adult approach to AI (full frontal nudity included) and explores ethics, consciousness, sexuality and search engines in its quest for answers.

In the film, Google becomes Bluebook, a nod to Wittgenstein’s notes on language games. Bluebook was founded by a tech genius called Nathan (Oscar Isaac), who retreats from Silicon Valley to create Ava (Alicia Vikander), a consciously erotic humanoid robot. The fun begins when a young Bluebook programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) arrives after having won a company lottery and it’s his job to subject Ava to the Turing test. Thanks to the hot London visual effects company, Double Negative, Alex Garland’s humanoids are irresistible and it’s only a matter of time before love and hate and murder are in the air. But there’s humour, too. This is one of our favourite scenes.


The new energy vampires

Tuesday, 24 February, 2015 0 Comments

Most homes use a lot less energy to heat or cool indoor air than they did in the 1970s. “That’s the good news,” says Matt Power of Green Builder Media, “But the bad news is that during that time we’ve added electric gadget after gadget to our ‘normal’ household environment.” These are the new energy vampires that drain away power in standby mode and they’re abetted by the digital devices that are constantly running or charging. Around the corner is the Internet of Things that will draw down even more electricity to to churn out Big Data.

Today, it was announced that the technology giant IBM and the chip designer ARM are marketing a “starter kit” designed to speed up the invention of internet-connected things. They say that “it can take just five minutes to unbox the equipment and start sending readings to online apps.” Not a word about the energy needed to make all this happen, though.

Internet of Things


TAG Heuer + Xiaomi

Wednesday, 7 January, 2015 0 Comments

Silke Koltrowitz, reporting for Reuters: “TAG Heuer is pushing ahead with plans for a smartwatch to more directly compete with the likes of the Apple Watch and may make acquisitions to help drive the strategy, its head said on Tuesday.”

Matt Richman, an up-and-coming tech blogger, is not buying it: “TAG Heuer’s smartwatch won’t sell. There’s no market for it,” he wrote. His reasoning: “In order to have even a chance of being as feature-rich as Apple Watch, then, TAG’s smartwatch will have to pair with an Android phone. However, TAG wearers aren’t Android users. Rich people buy TAG watches, but rich people don’t buy Android phones.”

But what if rich people were to buy those “Apple of China” phones? In his predictions for 2015, Fred Wilson noted: “Xiaomi will spend some of the $1.1bn they just raised coming to the US. This will bring a strong player in the non-google android sector into the US market and legitimize a ‘third mobile OS’ in the western world. The good news for developers is developing for non-google android is not much different than developing for google android.”

TAG Heuer and Xiaomi? Matt Richman points out that Jony Ive, the Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, said, “Switzerland is fucked,” but China and Switzerland might not be so easy to dismiss.

Xiaomi