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    Seamless synchronicity

    Life, James Hein, Published on 11/09/2019

    » As I was walking to work thinking about this week's column, I did a quick self-inventory. I was listening to On Liberty by John Stuart Mill through my noise cancelling headphones. The audio was being sent by Bluetooth from my Samsung Galaxy S10 5G phone that I was also using to play a location-based game, Ingress. This was being fed my position by satellite and receiving information from the internet via my phone's data connection. Occasionally I would pull down the notification tab to see what was on for the day and who had tried to contact me via a number of social-media services.

  • TECH

    AI -- what is it good for?

    Life, James Hein, Published on 28/08/2019

    » Why do we care about machine learning and the kind of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems I mentioned last time? The amount of data being taken in by systems in modern times is outstripping the ability of humans to keep up. Enter machine learning systems to pre-process the information, highlight patterns and identify the bits and pieces that humans may find interesting. Key areas include fraud detection, whereby a set of rules is applied to data and flagged if those rules are detected. It also includes the age-old problem of the best delivery routes to bring manufactured goods to customers, with the additional benefit of using less fuel. A recent McKinsey report found that AI improved on "traditional analytics techniques" in 400 use cases across 19 industries and nine business functions. As far as the current situation, AI or machine learning is not an end state. Human intervention is still required to make sure the results make sense and also to ensure stuff isn't being missed in the process. There is also continuing training and refinement being regularly applied. It's a growing field and those organisations that are not at least aware of it could be left behind by their competitors. At least, until Skynet takes over.

  • TECH

    AI deserves our human paranoia

    Life, James Hein, Published on 14/08/2019

    » For most of my IT career I have seen promises of the "silver bullet" application. The modern iteration of this is the overused promise of Artificial Intelligence. Every man and his dog are jumping onto this marketing bandwagon and Microsoft has been no exception making it part of their database offerings.

  • TECH

    The madness of big data

    Life, James Hein, Published on 31/07/2019

    » 'Data is the new oil." That's what the marketing departments are telling us at least and in particular our senior management.

  • TECH

    Limiting discourse, leaking borders

    Life, James Hein, Published on 19/06/2019

    » It is difficult to ignore the latest moves by social media providers like YouTube to change their terms and conditions so as to block individuals and groups they don't like. The shift from an open platform, where all ideas are welcome, to one more concerned with the window of discourse is disappointing, and points to the huge pressure being applied by a small number of special interest groups, mostly via advertisers. The really sad part of this is that there are already indications that Minds, a supposed open alternative, is already censoring content, so for the moment at least I need to withdraw my recommendation for that platform.

  • TECH

    Diminishing returns

    Life, James Hein, Published on 05/06/2019

    » The first three months of 2019 saw Apple and Samsung collectively selling 17.5 million fewer smartphones globally compared to last year. As I've previously noted, we have market saturation and a lack of yearly upgrades for many users. I upgrade with roughly every third model, for example. The premium end of the market also continues to move out of the reach of many, meaning fewer people can upgrade as often. The innovation jump in successive models is also diminishing, so they lack the wow factor that drove earlier upgrades. These figures do not include the impact of the latest Samsung S10 range which shipped at the end of the quarter. The top three remain Samsung, Huawei and Apple. This may change with the recent US Huawei bans, or at least reduce any growth. Even after price cuts, Apple's sales fell 17.6% in the quarter leaving Samsung as the one least likely to lose their position in the next few months. Oppo and Viva rounded out the top five in sales with Xiaomi nibbling at their heels.

  • TECH

    The borders of security

    Life, James Hein, Published on 22/05/2019

    » It's becoming more common for agents at some borders to demand your device passwords so they can check what you have on them. Given the power of the modern smartphone, partially indicated by the cost of the top-end models, this makes sense, as they are basically mini notebook computers. If you really want to protect your data, keep it elsewhere.

  • TECH

    The internet grows darker

    Life, James Hein, Published on 08/05/2019

    » Social media has reached danger levels of influence and like anything powerful it can be used for positive or negative purposes. In countries like China you can say as many good things about the government on social media as you like but anything negative typically triggers a rapid response. The US and UK has its own sets of problems, with a tug-of-war between liberals and conservatives over the truth, with each side seeking to banish the other from social media. Self-defined open, inclusive and balanced social media platforms like Twitter are removing accounts on one side of politics in countries before elections, effectively meddling in elections.

  • TECH

    Universal sounds, universal sights, universal rights

    Life, James Hein, Published on 24/04/2019

    » Those reading my columns for long enough will know that I play the guitar. I'll never be Eric Clapton but I'm OK. Among the sources I use to improve my technique or break down a difficult lick are the helpful people that post guitar tutorials on YouTube. That could be about to change.

  • TECH

    Human override here to stay

    Life, James Hein, Published on 10/04/2019

    » Computers are useful tools and they will emotionlessly churn through thousands of operations in the blink of an eye to produce whatever results they were programmed to do. Most of the time the results are welcomed. When it comes to malware the results generate a different reaction, and then there are those spaces in the middle. The situation surrounding the Boeing 737 Max MCAS aircraft and the recent crash is an excellent example. The latest analysis would seem to indicate that the computer engineers made some choices that have had unintended consequences. In this case overriding the wishes of the pilots by assuming the plane was crashing, when it wasn't, and not allowing the human pilots to correct the computer's decisions.

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