Monday, January 23, 2017

Robot revolution will take the boss's job

Happy New Year! The blog is back from its holiday. We're opening with a thoughtful article from The Guardian involving technology and economics. Larry Elliot, the Guardian's economics editor, puts forward the argument that the new AI revolution will not threaten low skilled jobs (many of those have already been lost to manufacturing robots). Hecites As Dhaval Joshi, economist at BCA Research, "it is not going to be the low-paid jobs in the service sector such as cleaning, gardening, carers, bar staff or cooks, whose jobs are most at risk. That’s because machines find it hard to replicate the movements of humans in everyday tasks. The hard problems that are easy for AI are those that require the application of complex algorithms and pattern recognition to large quantities of data – such as beating a grandmaster at chess”, says Joshi. “Or a job such as calculating a credit score or insurance premium, translating a report from English to Mandarin Chinese, or managing a stock portfolio.” 
He continues to observe that "the looming threat is obvious. The first army of machines wiped out well-paid jobs in manufacturing; the second army is about to wipe out well-paid jobs in the service sector. In many cases, the people who will be surplus to requirements will have spent many years in school and university building up their skills." This will result in "exceptionally high rewards for those at the top, a hollowing out of the middle class, and the expansion of low-paid insecure jobs at the bottom."

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Royal Airforce admits to shooting down Santa

Since 1955 the North American Aerospace Defence Command NORAD has been tracking Santa as he, his sled and reindeer, deliver presents to all the good children in the world on the night of Christmas Eve.

Britain however, is not a member of NORAD and does not track Santa. So back in 2012...

BBC Breaking News: RAF Says "Sorry, We Shot Down Santa" 06:15 25/12/12

A Senior RAF spokesperson has just made this announcement: Air Commodore Jack Ripper said, "It is with deep regret that I must inform the nation that at 02:15 hours we confirmed that the RAF had shot down Father Christmas as he crossed the Scottish border."
   he continued  "Two Tornado F3s of No. 111 Squadron were scrambled from RAF Leuchars in Fife Scotland to intercept the unidentified intruder but were too slow. Satellite data indicated the intruder had originated from somewhere in the  Arctic Polar Sea, actually from near the North Pole. It was concluded that it was likely an intercontinental ballistic missile launched from a nuclear submarine. The intruder was subsequently shot down by a surface to air missile. We can confirm there are no survivors, though Blitzen is unaccounted for."
   A Ministry of Defense spokesperson has confirmed the incident and added that, "The Army will ensure that every child in the UK receives a toy this Christmas. Though for logistical reasons children will have to visit regional distribution centres to collect their toy." So far the Prime Minister has been unavailable for comment.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Santa upgrades Rudolph

With the growing world population and therefore more good children to deliver presents to, in just the one night, Santa has made a hard choice. His reindeer: Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Olive were not getting any younger. So Santa has gone 21st century, put his beloved reindeer out to pasture, and replaced them with robots from Boston Dynamics. Happy holidays!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Apollo software engineer Margaret Hamilton receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

Amid all the publicity given to the more "famous" people recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom was Margaret Hamilton. She invented the term “software engineer” starting her career as a computer programmer at MIT in the 1960s. In August 1961, NASA issued a contract to MIT to design the Apollo spacecraft’s guidance and navigational system. Hamilton presided over the in-flight software group. You can read more about her work on NASA's website.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Real time avatar in Shakespeare's Tempest

The Royal Shakespeare Company is putting on a groundbreaking production of The Tempest in which the sprite Ariel, a central character in the play, is visualised by an avatar driven in real-time by an actor, Mark Quartley. Both the actor and the digital avatar are visible to the audience. As a big Shakespeare fan I'd love to see this performance and I can see how this fusion of technology and acting could be used in other Shakespeare plays; obviously Puck and the fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream and  Banquo's ghost in Macbeth. Ars Technica has an interesting review of the production and you get a behind the scenes look in the video below.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

McDonald’s To Open 25,000 Robot-Run Restaurants

It looks inevitable that more and more jobs will be lost to robots in the foreseeable future. With the advent of self-driving vehicles it's clear that many driving jobs are under threat. However, less obvious jobs, like working in fast-food restaurants, are now under threat. McDonald’s has recently announced that it plans to open 25,000 robot-run restaurants. Now it's clear that McDonalds has missed its 2016 target, but the threat is still there.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence

The potential danger or threat that AI may pose to society and even humanity itself has been in the news a lot lately. Now, "thanks to an unprecedented £10 million grant from the Leverhulme Trust, the University of Cambridge is to establish a new interdisciplinary research centre, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, to explore the opportunities and challenges of this potentially epoch-making technological development, both short and long term. The Centre brings together computer scientists, philosophers, social scientists and others to examine the technical, practical and philosophical questions artificial intelligence raises for humanity in the coming century.
Human-level intelligence is familiar in biological “hardware” – it happens inside our skulls. Technology and science are now converging on a possible future where similar intelligence can be created in computers. While it is hard to predict when this will happen, some researchers suggest that human-level AI will be created within this century. Freed of biological constraints, such machines might become much more intelligent than humans. What would this mean for us? Stuart Russell, a world-leading AI researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, and collaborator on the project, suggests that this would be “the biggest event in human history”. Professor Stephen Hawking agrees, saying that “when it eventually does occur, it’s likely to be either the best or worst thing ever to happen to humanity, so there’s huge value in getting it right.”