Archive for November 2012
The government today repeated what has been said before that we can expect quite a few more years of austerity. Some blame the banks, others the government (which begs the question, which one?!) – and some of us actually blame the public too – for borrowing on easy credit (it WAS easy!) – the latter not only leaving no foundations with which to build a life, but a deep hard to climb out of hole!
Well, no matter the accuracy of the above three issues, let’s take a more scientific approach. After all, the great thing about science is that except when travelling at near light speed, physics and mathmatics tends to be robust in their reliability.
Maths says that if our energy and food stuffs goes up in price, so does everything else. In fact, the latter is linked to the former.
What is of concern is the reason for the rise in our energy costs. Namely, the total and absolute failure of the oil companies to invest in sustainable energy on a scale equal to that of the Manhattan Project during WW2. That saw a nation develop the atomic bomb in less time than it took to bring the DVD to market.
The credit crunch excuse cannot be used forever. Most of the banks have repaid the government bailouts and consumers have been pretty good at paying off their debts too.
Sadly, greed and the oft repeated indifference of visionless compassionless clueless stock holder owned corporations to ever think outside the box and invest in OUR future, as well as theirs, is the main reason we are suffering the effects of austerity. Why? We don’t actually need to rely upon them, but are (currently) forced to. Here in the UK, our potential/former enemies now own our energy companies (did you know China owns one of our water providers?) and are doing to us what we did to them in the cold war, and screwing us for every penny they can. Not that Western owned companies are that much better, it is after all a big cartel.
Once you taste wealth, it is VERY difficult to let go. Really!
Technologically, the planet has everything it needs. Superfast supercomputers. Marvelous almost magical materials, such as graphene. Visionary well meaning intelligent entrepreneurs. Proven viable efficient solar cell production in Germany – the world leaders in such things. Seagull friendly wind turbines (for offshore energy generation that does not spoil our priceless landscape or turn birds angry). Huge hydroelectric dams (such as on the River Seven estuary). And new types of clean nuclear energy.
Instead, nothing has been done, so we are now fracking (and shoving the side effects under the carpet for cheap gas) and sending tankers into the melting Arctic whilst 40% of the increasingly dumb population are glued to celeb TV. Not to mention talk of building lots more (current generation) nuclear plants (whose waste disposal will haunt future generations) and of course biofuels that consume basic foodstuffs!
So whilst we wait for for the aforementioned environmentally unfriendly energy sources to kick in (8 years or so?), we’ll be paying for our failure to invest properly despite owning pocket gadgets as powerful as desktop computers of a decade ago.
Why does this happen?
As per my much delayed “WW4/2+2=5” post, sadly, too many large companies and nations are lead by people who simply lack the intelligence, suitability, character, ethic and passion to do anything about matters like this. Some are secure enough to escape the pollution, noisy flightpaths and price rises that effect the majority. Frankly, they just don’t give a f*ck! If you have attended a party, worked, been to school, college or Uni, and are now an adult, the enlightened of you will have observed that it is a simple fact of life that some people are what is known in the trade as douchebags. Sometimes, they end up running businesses and/or countries. The consequences vary from little more than a bit of bad behaviour (Italy) through to screwing the public (as this post is about) to all out despotic repression and worse. A common trait of such people is lack of confidence in self and therefore an assumption that ‘there is no other way’ and anyone or anything else better must be poo poo’d at all costs to keep the spotlight on self. (As an entrepreneur I experience this constantly from skilless losers with a chip on their shoulder.)
The only people who are going to bring this to an end are a mix of social entrepreneurs backed by the fed-up public (you!), through services like Kickstarter and other entities whose creators and members are so different in their character from the cold backwards types who run big pharma and big oil, that one could almost claim they are a completely different species. (“Visionaries are from Mars…”)
Fight back club: Simples! As ever, avoid using anything that is made from or consumes oil and bankrupt the whole industry into submission – whilst at the same time, reducing your carbon foot print. Open your wallet to those wonderful people and companies who are working on our sustainable clean future. For my part, I walk or bike to work and only use a car when it’s essential. Further, I am working on my own sustainable engineering projects through my employer. (I don’t moan in a blog post unless doing something about the matter I am moaning about.)
Yes, some of our energy will always need to be sourced from less sustainable and clean alternatives, but the lack of any serious effort or investment in getting at least 50% of our energy from elsewhere is unacceptable. If consumers can bypass ‘the grid’, then their energy bills will fall significantly and they will have more to spend, bringing an end to ‘austerity’, which in my book is simply a term for ‘we’re going to make you pay for our greed and lack of vision’.
Over the last few weeks I have had much time to evaluate in full on end user mode each of the voice driven features or apps available for iOS and Android, from sassy Siri to marvelous Maluuba.
(Bare in mind before you read further that decades ago I wrote a draft specification for a voice driven ‘Telecomputer’ powered by Smalltalk or a similar modular language and have been thinking about this subject since being a long haired lad at college.)
One of the interesting observations as one struggles with such technology is that it replicates the our human flaws, therefore, with specific use case exceptions, renders the technology not quite ready yet. In a noisy environment and if using a strong regional accent, voice AIs fail to comprehend – just as we do. Not to mention loss of connectivity, which can be a nightmare when driving and wanting to “Navigate to point X” hands free only to receive a “No data connection” error because the client device cannot talk to big the all knowing Mother server in California. Bummer, I’ll have to stop and use my fingers!
To be fair, the latter issue is not related to AI, more a matter for those building our wireless infrastructure – one painfully slow decade at a time.
Even after using a voice driven app without any apparent problems, for peace of mind, one still instinctively glances at the display or prods the app icon (calendar, email Outbox etc) to check the command has in fact been carried out correctly. So, for now, I still use the manual controls, for there is nothing more reliable than seeing the user interface respond there and then to tactile input.
It’s all about trust.
Fight back club: Rest easy, the guys at CSER are on the case.
I don’t link to a specific excellent movie franchise staring Arnie because that is obvious, but some of you may not have heard of Colossus: The Forbin Project – an intelligent movie that like Logan’s Run, provided a shocking wake up call at a young age that had a similar impact as the anti-smoking commercials of that time (shown at school). Such thought provoking productions don’t just effect how one behaves as an individual but (for my part anyway) how we design and engineer advanced technology products of the future…
…and hateful ‘occupants’ of this country were being given free housing on your taxes, this wonderful man is being persecuted – yet nothing is being done to repeal such injustice.
Do read the comments below the article, because they sum up how most of us who value an honorable freedom feel.
Fight back club: Bombard our PM and/or your MP with (printed!) letters.
iPad mini or Nexus 7? Or even a Kindle HD or fancy a bit of Nook(i) on the (bed) side? 😀
Cannot make your mind up or does your household suffer from multiple allegiance syndrome, with one half fanboying for Android and the other pining for iOS?
If so, then it would be interesting to know if you will be ensuring your home is or will be equipped with one device from each platform – IE an iPad and an Android tablet? Or you may even be testing new waters and buying a Surface? Oooh, THREE cars! What will the Jones’s think!??