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Tag: Estonia

Kersti Kaljulaid and Sophia talk weaponized AI

Friday, 16 February, 2018 0 Comments

The organizers of this year’s Munich Security Conference decided they’d try something novel for the pre-event titled “The Force Awakens: Artificial Intelligence & Modern Conflict”, so they put Sophia centre stage and had her do the introductions. Hanson Robotics, Sophia’s creator, describe her as their “most advanced robot” and for many last night this was their first opportunity to see a chatty bot in action.

The verdict? Unimpressive. The quality of Sophia’s audio output was sub-standard, but much worse was her language. The Munich Security Conference is an annual gathering of a global elite that’s comfortable with the global lingua franca but those in charge of Sophia’s speech rhythms ignored that fact that speed does not always equal progress. Her pace of delivery was way too fast for even most native speakers present. Earlier this week in the Financial Times, Michael Skapinker posited that “Europe speaks its own post-Brexit English” and he claimed that this so-called “Eurish” is a mix of “romance and Germanic influences — and no tricky metaphors”, but Sophia, clearly, does not read the FT and neither do those in charge of her interaction with the real world. Skapinker’s “Eurish” is mostly imaginary but chatbot programmers would do well to slow the pace of delivery, simplify the vocabulary and go easy with the metaphors.

That aside, the real star of the show was Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia. Her English was perfectly attuned to the wavelength of the audience and her knowledge of both artificial intelligence and modern conflict was extraordinary. Then again, she would be familiar with both topics as Estonia is a leader in digital transformation and the 2007 Russian cyber-attack on Estonia was a sign of the dangerous new world we now share with the ruthless regimes in Moscow, Beijing and Teheran. Kersti Kaljulaid is on the front line and we are lucky that she understands the grave nature of the threats posed by AI in the hands of those who wish to destroy the civilization and the society she represents so eloquently and so knowledgeably.



Sunday, 18 June, 2017 0 Comments

The album title is a statement in itself: Before a New Harbour Can Be Built, Difficult Things Must Be Worked Out. The group is The Vespertine Quintet and the tracks came together during a West Cork winter punctuated by gigs in De Barra’s Bar in Clonakilty.

A central figure in the quintet’s work is Ólafur Arnalds, a multi-instrumentalist from Iceland, who mixes strings and piano with loops and beats from the ambient and electronic genres. Estonia’s Arvo Pärt is in the mix as is the Irish singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley and the Swedish alto Camilla Griehsel. The outcome is a ten-track assortment of neo-classical sounds, part Pärt, part Purcell, portions of Arnalds and echoes of Benjamin Britten.

How Blockchain Will Change Your Life

Thursday, 10 November, 2016 0 Comments

“Blockchain offers a way to track items or transactions using a shared digital ‘ledger.’ Blocks of new transactions are added at the end of the chain, and encryption ensures that it remains unbroken—tamper-proof and error-free. This is significantly more efficient than the current methods for logging and sharing such information.”

So writes Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, in today’s Wall Street Journal. She says IBM estimate that applying blockchain to global supply chains could generate more than $100 billion in annual efficiencies. “More than 80 leading finance and technology organizations, including IBM, have joined the Linux Foundation Hyperledger, a project aimed at creating an enterprise-grade blockchain framework. More than 600 additional firms have already applied to join the consortium,” she adds.


Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum has created a new working group on blockchain co-chaired by the former president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves. The goal is to explore how the blockhain “could impact industry, governments and society in the future, and design innovative governance models that ensure that their benefits are maximized and the associated risks kept under control.”

Blockchain resources:

Networking: The Blockchain Linkedin Tech Group
News: Blockchain Tech Report
Bitcoin: Coindesk

A lament for Paris

Saturday, 10 January, 2015 0 Comments

Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt begins with a lone tolling bell. Strings slowly emerge, as if from a fog, and begin to well up in waves of sorrow that seem to carry on forever. As we meditate on the victims of the evil ideology that brought death and suffering to Paris this week, let us take what comfort we can from this simple but powerful expression of grief.

Valeri Volodin sounds like Vladimir Putin

Tuesday, 18 March, 2014 0 Comments

“The Russian Federation invaded its sovereign neighbour on the first moonless night of spring. By dawn their tanks ground westward along the highways and backroads as if the countryside belonged to them, as if the quarter-century thaw from the Cold War had been a dream.” So begins the second chapter of Command Authority, the final novel by the late Tom Clancy, which was published in December last year. Those Russian tanks are rolling into the Baltic states. “This was not supposed to happen here. This was Estonia, after all, and Estonia was a NATO member state. The politicians in Tallin had promised their people that Russia would never attack them now that they had joined the alliance.”

The leader of this outrageous invasion is Valeri Volodin, a KGB veteran bent on reviving the former Soviet Empire, but as this is a work of fiction characters are a product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Anyway, after Estonia, Putin, sorry, Volodin turns his evil eye on the troubled Ukraine. “Any hopes the police might have had that the situation would defuse itself went away when tents started to be erected on both sides, and nationalists and Russian Ukrainians began clashes that turned more and more violent.”

Cut to an up-market Moscow restaurant where Stanislav Biryukov, director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, is having supper with a British businessman. “Russia will invade Ukraine, probably within the next few weeks,” says Biryukov, sipping his chacha, a Georgian brandy. “They will annex Crimea. From there, if they meet no resistance from the West, they will take more of the country, all the way to the Dnieper River. Once this is achieved, I believe Volodin will set his eyes on making beneficial alliances from a position of power, both in the other border countries and in the former nations of the Warsaw Pact. He believes he can return the entire region to the central control of the Kremlin. Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania. They will be the next dominos to fall.”

But this is just fiction, right? And our dear leaders don’t read fiction.