Gnomes predict AI to cause 7 million job losses……….#technology

artificial-intelligenceIn the U.K today salaries have barely risen in real terms in the last decade & despite decreasing unemployment many find themselves in the precarious position of holding short term contracts with minimal security.

It is hardly surprising that the introduction of Artificial Intelligence & automated technology fills many with dread.

The subject was recently discussed in Davos at the annual WEF meeting & the World Economics Forum predict a total loss of 7.1 million jobs, offset by a gain of 2 million new positions. (in 15 leading countries)

Like all new technologies there will be gainers & losers, most of the job losses will be in customer service industries & healthcare whereas the 2 million jobs will be mainly highly paid engineering & scientific roles to deliver these new technologies.

Of course none of this is inevitable. ‘The Future’ is not a destination which already exists & to which we travel inexorably. We all create the future & it is largely a result of the political & ideological choices we make on the journey.

Happy 2017.

chris@amberhill.biz

www.amberhill-associates.com

 

10 things we can learn from the #chinacrisis

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHINA07

1) What goes up MUST come down – I know it’s obvious but some people really believed it was possible for an economy to grow at 7% per year indefinitely – just ask the punters on the Shanghai Index.

2) Gordon Brown didn’t abolish boom & bust – but then we all learned that 7 years ago. Capitalism, for all its pros & cons, is inherently cyclical.

3) Every Market is interconnected – more so now than ever before, any crisis in China will be replicated to one extent or another around the globe.

4) No Government controls the market – whether its the State Capitalist Chinese or the Western Democracies – intervention is limited in its affect.

5) Transparency is a concern – Is the Chinese economy still growing at 6%, 5% or much less – no one knows & there is a distinct lack of trust in the data supplied by the Chinese government.

6) It will impact us all :- The Chinese economy is the second biggest market in the world & although exports vastly exceed imports the purchasing power of the Chinese middle classes will be severely curbed.

7) Social upheaval will follow – The political tensions in China will erupt (to one degree or another); The Chinese Government will struggle to keep a lid on the educated middle classes who have got used to continuous growth & increased wealth.

8) Capitalism is in crisis – as boom follows bust & vice versa Capital flows to the point of highest growth – leaving chaos in its wake.

9) What comes next ? – no one knows – but maybe we should be looking to develop a sustainable society based on full-filling human needs rather than continuously expanding Gross Domestic product ?

10) The sun still rises in the East, sets in the West & the world keeps on turning.

chris@amberhill.biz

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Be wary of ‘Big Data’…….

Big-Data
We’re living in a world of ‘Big Data’.

I’m not sure how it crept up on us but it’s everywhere. From our School League Tables to our NHS Trust performance, from our Jobs & the demand for the umbiquitous score sheet to Police Crime Statistics which tell us that crime is pretty much falling everywhere.(!)

Big Data is everywhere & it rules. Try to get anything done without justifying it with the data to back it up & your in for a losing battle. Listen to conversations in Management meetings & count the number of times ‘data’ is mentioned.

And of course if its in the data then it must be true – right ?

Well, there is an interesting thing about data. It’s open to interpretation. And when someone’s bonus or even livelihood is dependent on it there is always a tendency (subconciously or otherwise) to manipulate that data to portray the favoured outcome.

The only way to provide some degree of protection is to totally separate the ones producing & measuring the data from those most likely to benefit if it goes one way or the other.

We’re going to get even more data, as the Internet of Things unfolds and more and more devices are created to measure, in particular, Biometric data –  so we can all measure our heartbeats, chollestrol levels, blood, pressure, heartbeat etc etc & display them on our wearable devices.

What we need to bear in mind is – what is all this data being used for ? Whom does it benefit ? and crucially, who owns it ?

chris@amberhill.biz

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Mad Scientists construct Human Brain….

3Dbrain‘Mad Scientists construct human brain’ – you can see the tabloid headlines now. Scientists based in Switzerland are working on the ‘Human Brain Project’ the purpose over the next 10 years is to develop & construct a working model of the human brain. The specialists involved, Computer Scientists, Psychologists, Neuroscientists, telecommunications experts & a host of others will collaborate in an effort to develop a fully functioning brain & to garner an understanding of how it works at a fundamental level.

 
The project is being funded by the E.U & what is intriguing is the funds come from the Future & Emerging Technologies budget.
 
In a previous post I discussed Ron Kurzweils ideas about the development of machine brains whos intelligence would surpass that of the human leading to an event he labels ‘the singularity’ beyond which human development will accelerate beyond our comprehension. The HBP would appear to bring the possibility of this happening ever closer. 
 
Consider the success of other European projects – to map the Human DNA sequence & the discovery of the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider, tasks which would have seemed impossible & incredible a few short years ago.
 
It is often difficult to appreciate the rapid pace of scientific & technological change unless one deliberately pauses & looks back to see how far we’ve come. 
 

Climate Change cries out for a technological solution

The International Protocol on Climate Change issued a comprehensive globereport this week which indicated that 95% of Scientists agreed that Global warming was as a direct result of human activity and that unless we take decisive and immediate action average surface temperatures will rise 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this Century resulting in catastrophic changes to our weather systems.

Only the most foolhardy or blinkered could ignore such a report but generating action is proving to be incredibly difficult.

It is no good for relatively wealthy westerners to criticize people in other parts of the world for wanting to grow their economies and as a result share in the increased wealth this brings. In the last Century we were doing exactly the same and, whatever the faults of free market Capitalism, there is no denying the wealth generating energies it unleashes.

What we need is a technological solution to Climate change which allows energy to continue to be consumed without the harmful effects of carbon dioxide generation from fossil fuels.

Vast parts of the globe are barren deserts which could be used for solar power generation. If we embarked on an International  Government backed enterprise to build a number of vast  solar arrays we could generate a massive amount of clean energy and at the same reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Of course this will not be easy and will bring massive engineering & scientific challenges (not to mention the political ones) but what could be more important than saving the planet on which we and our descendants live.

Allowing people to invest and profit from such an enterprise will guarantee success. This will allow continued economic growth without trashing the planet we all depend upon.

All it takes is some imaginative leadership from our Politicians, but maybe that’s asking too much ?

chris@projectsguru.co.uk

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The true origin of the Internet…………..#innovation

nixonIn July 1969 President Richard Nixon &  CIA director Richard Helms paid a secret visit to UCLA for a meeting with Head of Computational Studies Walther Fuchs.

It was after dark and Nixon & Helms were smuggled in a rear fire exit. Both were disguised and wore false beards and glasses in case they were spotted by some inquisitive student working late on her dissertation.

In the study of Fuchs  the 3 relaxed with Havana cigars and Hennessy Cognac. The study was lit by moonlight filtering through the thick drape curtains & a single green reading lamp on the worn teak desk.

The walls were lined with antique leather bound books and a few more modern tomes with titles like “packet mode switching” and “The fundamentals of Electricity”

Nixon exhaled slowly, blowing a couple of smoke rings before taking a large sip on his Cognac.

Helms eyes moved around the room constantly as if searching for something elusive.

Nixon – “Walter, we need your help & what you do must remain absolutely secret, you can’t even tell your Mother”

Fuchs – “Of course, anything for my Country Sir”

Helms – “we want you to develop a system which we can use to capture peoples communications”

Nixon – “….it should appear entirely voluntary, so that they divulge their innermost secrets at will”

Helms – “It will develop over time with more & more people becoming increasingly interconnected…..”

Nixon – “if you help us we will invest billions of dollars here at UCLA & develop a whole new industry to support it’s growth….”

Helms – “we will use it to fight International Crime & to defeat the Commies…”

Fuchs – ” there……there is something I’m working on it’s called ARPANET”

Helms – “sounds good but why don’t we call it the International Net……..or INTERNET..”

Nixon exhaled and blew smoke rings across the room.

Cameron’s Indian Takeaway………….#business

David Cameron has been visiting India again in an effort to drum up bilateral trade. Very laudable indeed. As we can see from Tata’s  investment in Jaguar Land Rover the company has come on leaps and bounds since the Indian Conglomerate took over the ailing British company in 2008 with billions of pounds investment.

There are also many areas where UK companies can help India, particularly in developing infrastructure which is one of the main bottlenecks to growth in the country & in improving telecommunications.

India is a vast country both geographically and economically. With a GDP of nearly 2 trillion GBP it is on target to become 4th largest in the world around 2020 at current growth rates.

Of course, India is not without it’s problems:-

  • Infant Mortality – 63/1000
  • 320,000 deaths from diarrhea per annum
  • Sanitation coverage 31 %
  • Only 15% of rural population has access to a toilet.
  • 29.8% below poverty line, most living on less than $2 per day.

India has come a long way in the last 20 years but it also has a very long way to go in eradicating poverty & disease within it’s own boundaries. Hopefully David Cameron can persuade his hosts to address these issues as well as selling them a few helicopters.

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Kingdom for a horse………………………………..#business

As the horse-burger scandal sweeps the country people are turning away from mass produced convenience foods & the supermarket giants who sell them in droves.

Like the banks before them the manufacturers & distributors of this garbage will learn they neglect their ethics at their peril.

Trust is a fundamental part of business. Most people only allow themselves to be “ripped off” once and it is in the interest of all parties in a business arrangement to ensure that all participants get a piece of the cake.

In our daily business transactions we need to maintain an open & honest communication with all parts of our supply chain to ensure future business success.

chris@projectsguru.co.uk

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Buy British because it’s British ? #business

There has been some debate in the Media recently about buying British products as a way of reducing the impact of the recession & preserving British jobs; so is this a good idea ?

We live in a Capitalist society (whether we like that or not) based on competition. The consumer has a free choice of which products to buy or not to buy & we tend to seek good value for money, regardless of origin. As a consequence we are pretty good at identifying products which deliver most “bang for the buck”.

In the 1970’s most of our Electronic products originated in Japan. Some people complained this wasn’t fair to British manufacturers but consumers continued to buy Japanese products because they were better quality and hence better value for money.

Now most of our electronic products are manufactured in China or Korea & people buy them because they are cheaper & better quality than their Japanese counterparts.

Jaguar Land Rover has been in the News recently because sales are up over 30% compared to last year, is this because these products are manufactured in Britain or because they are of exceptional quality and, though expensive, represent good value for money.

Over time products evolve and the companies which make them either grow – & their shareholders get richer or, if their products deteriorate the company shrinks, the shareholders lose money & eventually the company is bust.

So, in the long run, is the best way to preserve British jobs to buy inferior goods just because they are British or to buy the best value products whatever their origin & ensure quality increases & the fittest survive ?

chris@projectsguru.co.uk

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Our New Year hopes for 2013

2012 has been a pretty miserable year with freakish weather on both sides of the Atlantic, in the U.K  the highest rainfall since records began saw people washed out of house and home and businesses ruined. In the USA Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast and several lives were lost, homes ruined & businesses destroyed.

Scandal followed scandal in the world of banking, PPI miss-selling, Libor fixing, Rogue traders etc etc

As austerity measures bite, wages decline & the economy bumps along the bottom like a flat baloon.

OK, so that was 2012, what do we want from 2013:-

  • Less emphasis on GDP and more on sustainability. The current system based on mass consumption, Consumerism & unsustainable growth fed by mountains of debt is bust ! We need to replace it with a more responsible, ecologically sound system based on managing the worlds scarce resources more effectively and equitably.
  • We need to take environmental change seriously. Whether there is a direct link between recent extreme weather & man made global warming is up for debate but there is irrefutable Scientific evidence that carbon dioxide emissions are having a direct impact on average global temperature. The long term consequences could be cataclysmic.
  • More People Power – the disaffection with the banks has led to huge defection to “community” banks like the Co-operative bank. Long may this continue. We are the mass consumers and we can have a massive impact by promoting ethical business practice & behavior.
  • Reduce our thirst for Oil – despite most of the Western world being in  recession (or near) the price of Oil remains stubbornly around $100 a barrel. There are a number of factors at work here but there is little doubt we have reached “peak oil” where future supplies will gradually decline and the price rise. We need to break the cycle by urgently seeking alternative energy sources AND reducing consumption. The Automotive industry has made great strides in recent years but nowhere near enough. Much more Innovation is needed in this area.
  • A flatter playing field – whilst workers real wages & salaries have reduced year after year the income of Senior Management & Board members has continued to rise. The gap between rich & poor gets larger every year. This defies rational thought. It is up to us to change things by greater political action, workers representatives on company boards, greater shareholder influence on remuneration committees etc etc. There is NOTHING inevitable about allowing this obscene poverty gap to continue increasing.

So there are some of our wishes for 2013. Whether they come true is up to me and you. All the best.
chris@projectsguru.co.uk

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