A new kind of interface has surfaced over the past five years – artificial intelligence (AI) based ‘personal assistants’.
Apple Siri started the ball rolling, swiftly followed by Google Now, Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Alexa, and half a dozen others. But it now has a new apogee, a new sector defining moment, a revolution dressed up as evolution. The only thing more alarming than its instrusive, opaque, and society-altering capabilities is the way in which tech pundits have ladled out the accolades, pundits whose worldview appears as limited as a magpie’s regard for shiny things.
Google Now is now Google Assistant, and it comes integrated into Google’s first full-on (i.e. not just a reference design) mobile phone – the Pixel. Continue reading
Prime Minister Teresa May has presented the conclusion that many experts (yes, the very same derided by Brexiteer Michael Gove) worked out some time ago. There is no such thing as a 'soft' Brexit.
The very idea of a 'soft' Brexit may as well have been called 'have-your-cake-and-eat-it' Brexit, because very rarely if ever does one get such an opportunity, particularly when there are 27 others at the table.
Ain't gonna happen.
At the first day of the Conservative Party conference yesterday May put herself entirely the wrong side of history, embracing nationalism and isolationism at a time when the only way our species is going to get along together better – and it really needs to get along together better – is if we work at it together.
Instead she harrumphed and told everyone we were going to take our ball home.
She did so in the name of sovereignty even though our sovereignty is denuded in this connected world when its broader influence is diminished.
Perhaps most astonishingly, she had the arrogance to tell us Remainers that we're trying to subvert democracy by our constant attention to protecting the best interests of our economy and therefore our jobs, our schools and our healthcare system. She appears to have forgotten rather conveniently that the EU Referendum offered voters the opportunity to tell the government what they didn't want. A vote against membership of the EU was not a vote for anything quite simply because no-one had actually presented a picture of the alternative. That is only taking shape now.
I just tweeted the following diagram. We must ascertain what proportion of 'soft' Brexiters, perhaps reluctant Brexiters, would now prefer to Remain given the true, shocking, wrenching vista of Brexit.
By denying an answer to this question, May is subverting democracy.
Bitcoin is an experiment. That's granted. The fact that it's trusted and actually useful is nothing short of phenomenal. Last week for example, the trade volume amounted to US$229m.
Nevertheless, Bitcoin has some fundamental constraints that keep it from going mainstream: it has a ballpark limit of 7 transactions per second, and having confidence that a transaction has 'gone through' – non-recourse transactions – takes roughly 20 to 60 minutes depending on the level of confidence you're looking for. (The user experience sucks too, but that's not for this post.)
While 229 million dollars is no small chunk of change, Visa processes many thousands of transactions per second, peaking at tens of thousands, and will have processed around US$130 billion last week.
State channel – more exciting than it sounds
The crypto awesome sauce underpinning Bitcoin is known as the blockchain, perhaps the No.1 tech buzzword of recent times. It's at the heart of the currency's success – preventing users spending the same money twice – but is also the nub of its relatively slothful nature. It's with a fair degree of excitement then that I've been tracking the progress of Lightning, a protocol first mooted to my knowledge in 2013.
The jargon here is state channel – blockchain interactions that could occur on the blockchain but get conducted off-chain without impairing the trust parties have in the interaction. Lightning facilitates state channel to speed things up and attenuate the costs needed to prove transactions (and offers a little more spark in terms of brand appeal!) Continue reading
Why do firms exist? Strangely, no-one appears to have asked this question until a 27 year-old economist did so in 1937.
Ronald Coase published his answer in The Nature of the Firm, now considered a seminal text. He studied the circumstances that led entrepreneurs to hire people as employees instead of simply contracting jobs out to traders and came up with the answer we now simply refer to as transaction costs. People are hired when the various associated costs are lower than they would be otherwise.
Here's a similar sounding question, but one that is actually fundamentally different. What is the meaning / the purpose of business?
Coase needed to look no further than economics to explain why firms exist. Their existence is a binary thing. But any question seeking to address meaning and purpose encompasses philosophy, sociology, and politics.
Unavoidably, any answer is framed in terms of ... What's best? What's optimum? Why? How? And for whom?
The answer was in fact framed economically for a long time in terms known as shareholder value, and perhaps Coase's question and answer influenced this blinkered perspective. But we've found and are still finding that a different answer can lead to superior economics, and not just in terms of profitability but in terms of the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit.
Euler Partners' just published its sense Summer 2016 report, The meaning of business. Available here as PDF and also on Medium.com. If you're frustrated with today's typical responses to this question, and / or if you want to build sustainable business, you'll find the report provoking.
Image credit: By Leo Reynolds, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
The quickest glance at my posts and tweets will tell you two things: (1) we just voted on a multi-faceted complex issue with too little understanding further muddied by the lies pedalled by both sides, and (2) I believe everyone in the UK is better off by our remaining in the European Union.
There's a reason Margaret Thatcher concurred with Lord Attlee in describing referenda as "a device of dictators and demagogues" – the same reason the UK has representative parliamentary democracy and not direct democracy. (If only David Cameron had paid more attention in class.)
Former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg describes the resultant mess as a "debilitating cocktail of hubris, incompetence and dishonesty".
Yet putting the well-known shortcomings of direct democracy to one side for the moment, we must accept that just shy of 52% of voters went to the polling stations last month and put a cross against Leave. The majority has spoken, right?
Neither Leave nor Remain is perfect, of course, yet to my mind the Leave argument is akin to trashing your car because the ride is a bit bumpy, so I find myself asking ... which majority should we be thinking about? Continue reading
On June 23rd 2016, 51.9% of UK voters opted to leave the European Union. I’m writing here to say:
- We made a mistake
- We should have another think about it, and
- The Liberal Democrats might hold the key and not realise it.
UPDATE: Approximately eight hours after my post here, Liberal Democrats pledge to keep Britain in the EU after next election. This is great news. We now just need to persuade the party that they need to run at it on a single-issue basis. By doing so, pro-EU voters can cast a clear vote without other policies clouding the matter, and there can then be no ambiguity in interpreting the vote. This could make the difference between winning and not, and winning by a massive margin. As I write in conclusion to this post, I’m sure the electorate would then thank them in the follow-on election.
Winston Churchill, considered one of the Founding Fathers of the EU, noted that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. It’s wonderful to live in a democracy, and I find it exciting and exasperating, fascinating and frustrating, to be part of the European union of democracies.
A democracy cannot be perfect. The people can make mistakes — of course— and I believe we just made one. A really really big one. Whereas we might change our minds every five years with general elections, leaving the EU is the sort of thing that impacts for generations. Continue reading
An email sent to all my friends and family.
There's no doubting Aristotle was a rare genius. Encyclopædia Britannica calls him the first genuine scientist. And it's amazing that here I am in the 21st Century emailing you (and in fact just about everyone I know with an email address) about the insights of a man born exactly 2400 years ago.
(That's equivalent to someone doing the same for you or me in the 44th Century CE, and I think we can agree on the likelihood of that!)
I read this article on Aristotelian rhetoric / persuasive powers in 2012, and I was so enamoured that I wrote a short blog post on it at the time. In summary, Aristotle concluded that the three most powerful tools of persuasion are:
- Ethos – argument by character
- Logos – argument by logic
- Pathos – appealing to the emotions.