Nick is much taller than I expected. I knew he was tall, but he seemed to tower over the podium at St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street. During his speech he reflected on the ‘heady optimism’ and ‘sense of triumphant liberalism’ of the 1990s, he spoke about the rise of populism, pinpointing what he saw as the shared characteristics of Trump, Wilders, Le Pen et al as a claimed ‘umbilical relationship’ with the ‘real people’, an unwillingness to compromise and a propensity to channel blame and aggression towards a specific group (be it ethnic or religious) or city (London, Brussels, Washington).
However he admitted that there has been a paradigm shift away from the fixed political landscape of left versus right into something far more fickle, volatile and individualistic, noting this period in history will be viewed as a ‘moment of transition’. He highlighted the amount of in-work poverty, citing the anger felt by his Sheffield constituents towards bankers and politicians as being an understandable reason that led so many to vote for Brexit, and underlined the terrible irony of Brexit being a means to an ideological end for free market right wingers, with those most likely to suffer the consequences of reduced workers’ rights and a rolled back state being the workers who voted in their masses for Brexit in the first place.
Turning to the subject of social media, which he noted had originally been seen as a ‘great liberative force’, he observed that it has in fact had the opposite effect, exacerbating the balkanisation of ideological divisions, and providing a ready-made online army for populist politicians.
Nick ended on a more positive note, stating that the power to change matters begins locally in relatively mundane issues such as improved transport links, skills training and welfare, although citing the facts that Trump had in fact lost the popular vote and that ‘only’ 52% of votes were cast for Brexit as causes for optimism struck me as a little desperate.
I really enjoyed this speech. A bit of depression setting in from Brexit, perhaps, but he made me wish he was still in government, although I wondered whether he had perhaps been too empathetic for the job. He came across as one of the good guys – too good, perhaps – and looking at some members of the current administration it brought to mind the paradox of power; those who crave power probably shouldn’t have it.
I regularly use eight London mobile travel apps. I tap them all regularly – at least once a week. And my mobile usage stats concur. I use travel apps more than Facebook – shock! Which got me thinking, how did I survive crossing London prior to owning a smartphone? Well, I got lost … a lot!
But I’m quite an odd one. The average person uses two travel apps according to CWT Travel Management, with only 14% of people using more than five.
So what am I using:
Bus CountDown – I used to stand at a bus stop and wait. And wait. But I never walked away. If I invested time, I was getting on the bus! Walking would be giving up. Surrendering to TfL.
Citymapper – Because you can’t exactly get from point A to point B without it!
National Rail – Unfortunately, I live in Southern rail territory. Thank you strikes.
Google Maps – See, above. I get lost … a lot!
Then all the taxi apps. Well, because you have to compare prices – and sometimes they’re all booked up! Uber, Addison Lee, Greentomato, and Gett. I really love Gett. It’s my new favourite app. Hail a black cab from your mobile. They never get lost, and they don’t take you down a wrong street!
Not to mention when I go abroad, this adds to my app usage – XE Currency is invaluable. Google Translate – coffee in any language – and TripIt because who has time to print off all those confirmation emails?
Give my travel apps up for a day – maybe. A week – never!
And the reason for that is because AI is only about mastering one task. For example, how to win a game. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), on the other hand is about linking and applying knowledge to other tasks. For example, AGI would be the equivalent to how a mouse has learned to outwit a cat’s tongue.
The difference was explained really well in The Guardian last week:
Most AIs are based on programs called neural networks that learn how to perform tasks, such as playing chess or poker, through countless rounds of trial and error. But once a neural network is trained to play chess, it can only learn another game later by overwriting its chess-playing skills. It suffers from what AI researchers call “catastrophic forgetting”.
PathNet is a project being run by Google’s DeepMind to tackle AGI. According to DeepMind, PathNet is a neural network algorithm that uses agents embedded in the neural network whose task is to discover which parts of the network to re-use for new tasks.
James Kirkpatrick at DeepMind explains in the article that AGI is still a way’s off:
“We know that sequential learning is important, but we haven’t got to the next stage yet, which is to demonstrate the kind of learning that humans and animals can do. That is still a way off. But we know that one thing that was considered to be a big block is not insurmountable.”
So rest assure, lawyers and accountants, your job is safe for the time being!
This is my new go-to present for kid parties. It’s a t-shirt they can draw on using a UV light. Then after around ten minutes it disappears. No mess. No fuss. And you can throw it in the washing machine too.
Perhaps a bit gimmicky for adults. I’m not sure many would wear it. Maybe uni students? But it’s cheap at £15/£20 a shirt, so there could be a market there.
I didn’t get much out of the founder when I talked to him. Although he did seem super keen on the business. Really interested to know where he sees this product and/or business in ten years.
Anyway, here’s for a bit of Friday colour!
Oh wearable tech … All the hype! All my problems solved. Even the ones I didn’t know I had. Emails on my wrist. Count my calories. Take my blood pressure. Help me sleep. Wake me up sslloowwly. All the plastic. And all in landfills – eventually.
Admission – I don’t own any wearble tech. And I’ve never accepted the freebies either. Cheap plastic, I’ve always thought. Give me something real. Something that I want to wear. Whatever that may be, I don’t know.
Then last week at the Wearable Tech Show – I saw it – finally something I MAY just wear. My eyes sparkled. A ring. One that looked expensive. Felt expensive. One that made me think: “Yes! I could use that!”.
And you know what, I almost bought it – almost …
It was a ring. One by Kerv. It’s a contactless payment ring. It links to a prepaid Mastercard account. It can be used to buy coffee, a newspaper, or anything under £30.
Second admission – I wouldn’t have looked twice at this a year ago. But why my change of heart? Having a baby.
Have you ever tried pushing a pram on a bus, and then dropping an Oyster card? What about rummaging around a purse for a couple pounds to buy a much needed coffee? This is my life EVERDAY. So yes, this little ring could make my life easier.
So why didn’t I buy it? I decided the technology is too new. There are going to be kinks. They may even make it better – like link directly to my current account. Which wasn’t completely unfounded on my part. Hours after the ring launched, it shut for a system update. Not so handy then …