Monday, April 17, 2017

Just because you can...

New technology often has unexpected uses. When the laser was invented nobody had any what possible use it could be and now they are ubiquitous, from light shows to DVD players and surveying. Similarly, the 3D printer is discovering new uses. Here's a daft one; printing a photo of your face onto the top of your coffee (thanks Bob).

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The jobs are gone and they aren't coming back

An interesting article published recently in The Guardian titled: The robot debate is over: the jobs are gone and they aren't coming back puts forward a clear argument that in the next 20 years many many jobs will be lost to automation. They're not just talking about manufacturing jobs and driving they also mean professional jobs like accountancy and the law. Society needs to address this issue with increasing urgency.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Let me entertain you...

Let me entertain you – that’s how to get a science message across. This is a claim made by an interesting article in The Conversation, and it's one that I agree with. I personally think it's much more important in a lecture to leave students interested and excited by a subject than to have just ensured they got the facts. If they think a subject is fun or interesting those with an interest will seek out the knowledge themselves. Read the whole article here and watch the entertaining science video below.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Free Software from NASA

NASA has just published its software catalogue and you can download the software tools its engineers, designers and project managers use for free! If you happen to be designing your own space launch system in your garage this will be very helpful as understandably many of the tools concern rocket design. But, there are many other categories of software available ranging from project management to environmental science. Check out the catalog here.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Why robots won't rule the world

Once again robots and AI are in the news. This time it's the famous philosopher Daniel Dennett, who frequently comments on AI. Below is a short video from the BBC Viewsnight series titled: "Why robots won't rule the world."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Should robots pay tax?

Should robots pay tax? It sounds like a daft idea, but increasingly many people are putting this idea forward. The basic idea is that if a robot replaces a person doing a job, for example a taxi driver, then just as the taxi driver would pay tax so should the robot. This tax revenue would go to pay for social services. A recent exponent of this idea is Bill Gates who explains his reasoning in a recent interview for Quartz.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Free public lectures

Here are some dates for your diary later this year. The University of Auckland's Department of Computer Science annual public Gibbons Lectures will take place every Thursday evening in May. This year's theme is: "Steps Towards the Singularity, Artificial Intelligence & Its Impact." Featuring four leading AI academics, each free lecture is preceded by drinks and canop├ęs. Information about the topic of each lecture, dates, times and venue can be found here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Disable Your Antivirus Software

It seems that the antivirus software you installed to keep your computer safe could actually be making your security worse. Robert O'Callahan has recently written a fascinating blog post explaining why. There's also a follow-up blog post that provides more detail and response to criticisms of his advice to uninstall your antivirus software.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New computing movie - Hidden Figures

My colleague, Bob Doran, has brought to my attention a new movie about computers called Hidden Figures. IMDB describes it as: "Based on a true story. A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program's first successful space missions." It will be at a cinema near you soon.


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."