4 quick bitsPosted: September 8, 2013
I was reading a reddit thread this week that was complaining that people, generally, are totally unaware of the huge and existing advances being made in technology right now, today. The thread was in the futurology sub reddit, so it’s understandable that some frustration was being vented. The debate was not terribly sophisticated if i’m being honest and the solutions discussed, sensible as they were, simply came down to showing people the articles instead of breathlessly telling them what was happening. One of the existing technologies discussed was driverless cars, something we are all probably aware of through Google’s activities in championing the concept. One of the posters on the thread pointed out that Rio Tinto the global mining corporation was already using driverless trucks in its mining operations in Australia. He claimed that 30% of their trucks were driverless but didn’t link to a source. I couldn’t verify that exact number but did find the following article that does indeed back up the claim that driverless technology is not simply a west coast tech hipster near future but actually part of today’s industrial reality.
For some time now I have been of the opinion that the generational change in technology adoption would be followed by a generational change in an understanding of technology. So while it’s obvious that today’s teenagers are growing up in a world that is digital (no digital analogue divide for these guys, just one reality that they don’t question) and as such adopt technology without thought, this article is arguing that actually the increasing invisibility of the computing layer is creating a generation with no greater knowledge of the underlying functionality than today’s 40 – 60 year olds. This is worrying. Everything in today’s teenagers’ futures will be governed by code, right now, even, your average new car contains over 100 million lines of code. There is an important distinction to be raised here between using computers and understanding computers, between the graphic user interface and the command line interface. I know that most of you, will fall on the side of those that don’t understand computing in the way that the author does. That includes me, and I am more up to speed than most people my age, I couldn’t install and use a Linux distro for example (I even had to use google to make sure I used that phrase correctly), although it is on my list of things to learn. The concerns are huge because computers will affect everything in the future, not least the quality and effectiveness of our laws. Take, for example, Cameron’s ridiculous porn firewall. Nothing wrong with his stated intentions to protect children, but everything wrong with his solution simply because it will not protect children while simultaneously creating a host of negative externalities that are nothing to do with child access to the internet. Moreover by creating a false sense of safety a whole new raft of parents will be given an excuse to ignore their parental responsibilities. I was hoping that 20 years hence we would have a computing literate population and these problems would be a temporary issue. Apparently not. Doh.
This is awesome. Money and the scale of it presented in a fantastic, and huge graphic by Randall Munroe at xkcd. Be warned this could swallow an hour of your life before you’ve even realised. It must have taken an enormous amount of time to research, let alone draw. Full of mind blowing observations.
As our current coalition administration ponders a potential loss of world influence as a result of the parliamentary no vote on military action in Syria (and kudos to Cameron for not charging ahead anyway, not something Blair would likely have even considered) I’d suggest they should have a look at this interesting infographic produced by the MIT technology review. It’s a cursory analysis of 8 global technology innovation hubs and even though the data points aren’t terribly wide ranging they don’t paint a pretty picture for Britain. The key scare stat for me is that of all the hubs listed (silicon valley, Boston, Paris, Israel, Skolkovo, Beijing, Bangalore and London) we have the smallest available budget (whether that be private or governmental monies) by a long margin. There are only 2 hubs who don’t have funding potentials in the billions, London and Bangalore, and at 161 million to 300 million Bangalore has almost twice as much going on as London. Simply not good enough.