Your thoughts: Christmas edition

Well, It’s been a while since I’ve done a “your letters” edition.

But I have been reading them, so I thought, given we’re near the end of the year, now would be a good time to publish some of your thoughts.

Thank you to everyone that has written in, I really like to hear your take on the topics I write about – whether you agree or disagree with me, it’s all good.

You can leave me your comments on any topic I cover by emailing harry@southbankresearch.com.

As usual I have changed full names into initials to preserve your anonymity and edited any typos.

Your thoughts on: Life as we know it

Yes, I agree.

Who says that we need to work anyway?

Man used to hunt his food and then go home for the rest of the day. My late uncle George was a London taxi driver; he lived in a council flat. On a Monday morning he would start his working week; and finish it not by the days worked but when he reached his income target to survive the week. Three airport runs by Monday evening would do him and he would take the rest of the week off.

My step son is a modern twenty something; he was educated to the same level and doing the same useless Economics degree like thousands of others. And like his peers; none have found employment in 3 years looking. Yet he only needs a UBI to survive; cover the rent and food and buy some white trainers once a month.

He’s absolutely at peace watching the sports channel and watching main stream rubbish. But that’s the trick Harry; keep the people dosed up with sitcoms and football, lie to them about everything else and pull the real news off of the internet.

Halcyon days ahead, Harry. Brain removed.

MW

 

Hi Harry, interesting article about AI and the future of the professions. I’ve seen this coming for a while now – surely when you think about it, it’s a lot easier to make a law algorithm that works, than it is to build say a complex robot programed to go around doing something.

But I’m afraid that one day AI could replace the arts too – at some point in the future a computer could suddenly spit out all the best songs that can ever be written, leaving musicians with absolutely no purpose.

Robot actors would be quite unnecessary – cgi generated “characters”

with their own unique algorithms would be created and copyrighted, then “hired out” and used for various rolls in film and tv.

JS

 

Hi Harry,

First, I always enjoy your articles – stimulating and informative.

I can remember, as a student doing driving jobs during the 1960s, making deliveries to large open-plan life insurance offices with around 50 rows of 20 or more desks. The employees, mainly women, would be doing paperwork of one sort or another – matching invoices with purchase orders, etc. During one vacation, I also worked at the National Coal Board for a few weeks in a massive office where the young male manager, clearly severely stressed, simply could not organise the system and give clear instructions. So, invoices from small firms supplying pit props for coal mines remained unpaid for as much as six months. Phone calls from desperate business owners, for whom the NCB was their sole customer unable to pay their staff at the end of the week were fobbed off by a retired bank manager who clearly relished his job, saying he was sure that payment would be made soon.

By the late ‘60s and early ‘70s these offices were changing and the paper-pushing staff had become punch card operators, preparing data for massive main-frame computers, but fewer in number than their paper-pushing predecessors. Technology has continued to bring about efficiencies in every job including those in the law and finance professions. While this is fine and to be welcomed, it does require a change of mindset on the part of governments. In the UK the government has virtually cut music out of the school curriculum and fails to recognise the importance of encouraging creativity. Being a musician myself, I shall refrain from commenting on the folly of this policy, except to say that this country is recognised worldwide for its great musicians, orchestras and bands and for its artists, writers, actors, choreographers, etc.

With AI, the number of jobs in the professions will reduce while further advances in technology such as self-drive cars will further reduce driving and manual jobs. One of the current social issues is the number of young adult for whom their education is uninspiring, focusing on preparing them for jobs that are either unattractive for hem or which are gradually disappearing. Governments need to recognise that there will be fewer opportunities for employment in future and must abandon the mindset which requires everyone to work in a traditional job. UBI will enable this and should enable people to meet all the basic necessities – a home, food, clothing, etc. – and to pursue creative activities whether or not these are financially rewarding. UBI will also help to address the extremes of poverty and homelessness that afflict the less able or less fortunate in our society. However, the government’s difficulties in rolling out Universal Credit should warn us that we may need some great AI to ensure that UBI is not an old-fashioned damp squib.

Regards,

CA

If you want to find out more about the future of AI, you’ll find plenty to go in in Nick O’Connor’s book, The Exponentialist. If you haven’t read it yet, you can claim your copy here.

Your thoughts on: This fascistic crap makes me want to puke

Hi Harry,

Thanks for your interesting article.

There is always a good sales pitch with any proposed people control.

Get rid of cash, and we won’t ever be mugged for our money.

Put fluoride into the water supply, and we can have the” benefits” without having to think about it.

Get chipped and we can have very convenient access to all sorts of things.

The way to attain total control is to control things. This is what we are becoming: things. Things that need stuff but don’t need privacy.

“If you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve got nothing to hide.”

With the speed of technological advancement, it is unthinkable, to me, that this kind of ID would not develop as far as it could go.

And how would this be achieved?

GRADUALLY.

HP

For a more in-depth exploration on where this technology could take us – both the good and the bad – why not have a read of my publisher Nick O’Connor’s book: The Exponentialist. This is one of the areas he did a lot of research on, and there’s a great deal of good information on it in the book.

Hello Harry,

Re. Microchipping, I hope there is massive, overwhelming pushback to this insidious development. It is a completely unacceptable intrusion by employers and it would be a similarly totally unacceptable intrusion by the State, which will no doubt want to avail itself of this handy method for tracking citizens.

It is a further step towards technological dehumanization, facilitated by the Siren call of convenience and a human tendency to laziness. Through increasing dependence on technology we are becoming increasingly physically incapable of the simplest tasks and losing autonomous function. Consciousness will gradually fade as we increasingly emulate the Wally cartoon character, prone in his spacecraft.

On a practical level the chips are illusory as security insurance, criminals only need to force a victim to the cashpoint, front door, security door, etc in order to gain access to funds, secured premises, etc.

For me, a dehumanised future is not worth living and I hope human chipping is made illegal, but the mindless embrace of tech makes me think it may not be.

Thanks,

ZJ

 

Hi Harry

Always enjoy the “challenges” you throw out to us.

With regards to chipping my hand with all my useful data, I think I’ll pass. Thieves won’t need to scan/steal my data. All they will need to do is use a small hatchet and chop my hand off! … I think I would rather they steal my keys or passcard.

KL

Your thoughts on: It might be good for the world, but it’s not good for us – Mark Zuckerberg

Harry

I would delete Facebook but for the fact my younger club colleagues all use it constantly. Despite my pleas to send me emails about times and events they invariably use text or Facebook. The club has Facebook kendo groups. I also use it to see what friends and relatives are doing but would ditch it except for the club thing.  Most of the other wrinkles I know are computerate but had rejected Facebook even before the revelations. I have no time for hackers but they could do us all a good service if the made it their business to hack these bosses’ personal accounts and then publish for all to see. It might bring it home to them but I doubt it.

FD

 

Hi Harry,

You write a great column – reading it is a highlight in my day (no, really!). I will use the term Big Data Vampires (BDVs) from now on.

I gave up my FB account a long time ago – not for security reasons but because it exposed a side of people I knew that I just didn’t want to see: the amount of dross they talked. I have survived quite well without it and I would recommend this policy to anyone. I also stopped listening to the ‘news’ and its ‘analysis’ for much the same reason. Life is beautiful here in Ignorance City.

The revelations about FB have been instructive and it seems to me that all large organisations, public and private, must inevitably get up to such unethical practices. To ‘serve their interests’. There’s a line in The Incredibles where Bob Parr complains to his slimy boss about the interests of their customers and how poorly the company serves them. His boss’s response: “What about the shareholders, Bob? Who serves their interests?”

FB was caught because of a smoking gun. I would guess that Google invented the self-destruct email a long time ago and made a lot of money licensing the technology to the other BDVs.

I hope that new ways of protecting data like ‘Solid’ from Tim Berners-Lee catch on. It’s only when they become mainstream that Big Data will become a historical footnote. I don’t know if even Sir Tim has the clout to get this going. Big Commerce has many ways of stifling innovations that it doesn’t approve of.

Keep up the good work!

Kind regards,

JP

 

After some hesitation I deleted Facebook three months ago. I was surprised to find that I didn’t miss it at all. Instead I felt liberated. Most of traffic was banal and I resented the “like”. With the passage of time I never think about Facebook. I am interested to observe that my grandsons now consider it a bit naff.

Regards

DS

 

Hi Harry,

Some time ago I read somewhere that if your IQ added to your age is more than 125 you should not be on Facebook. I did go on for a couple of months some years ago but quickly realised that it was not for me. It was not all that easy to escape. I am now 85 and my IQ used to be around 140 but sadly I think my IQ is getting closer to my age, sad really. Love reading your stuff.

Best wishes HK

 

Harry

Re your request for feedback on Farcebook – I deleted it in 2008 immediately after doing my own research on the business model.

I spent 10 years explaining it to people who didn’t get it or care. Now things are more out in the open, you got a little taste of it, you didn’t like it and yet you still use it… I despair!

What does the future hold?

It will become uncool, only for the fool who is happy to be a tool. Bebo2 …or maybe the USSA will just nationalize it and roll it into the NSA, since most of the users wouldn’t even notice!

You did ask.

AB

What does the future hold, Nick O’Connor explains what he thinks the next 50 years of technology holds, find out more here.

Your thoughts on: How long can bad tech survive?

The driverless car mixing with none-driverless car thing is a topic I have been thinking about too – I would love to think that it could be possible to build a separate road network dedicated for the use of driverless vehicles. Probably would never float here but somewhere else like the UAE might give it a go. Would cost a fortune, but just imagine the benefits it could bring. Roads for driverless vehicles could be designed very differently to our current system. And could integrate with the general road network as soon as the demand is not deemed sufficient to justify a dedicated separate road system.

RS

I’ve thought about this too. And I imagine if driverless electric cars and trucks really take off traditional railroads could eventually be converted into roads for driverless vehicles.

I’ve written before about the cost of maintaining a railway compared to a road:

The average mile of railway costs £1,021,783 to maintain per year. The average mile of road… £43,000.

That’s over 23 times as expensive. It’s a colossal amount. And if travellers aren’t paying extortionate fares to keep it maintained any more it simply cannot survive.

I actually believe that it will be inevitable at some point. It will cost customers and freight operators much, much less per journey. It will cost “the nation” much, much less with upkeep, and it will resolve all of our rail-related woes – strikes, ridiculous prices, bad service, delays, random cancellations, etc.

The only thing it, the railroads would have to be widened so they could fit cars and trucks on. I don’t know how that would go down with people who live near the lines.

It’s certainly an interesting idea, though.

Okay, that’s all for today.

Once again, thanks to everyone who wrote in.

I have something a bit different for you tomorrow…

And remember, if you ever want to leave a comment about a topic I’ve covered, you can email harry@southbankresearch.com.

Until then,

Harry Hamburg
Editor, Exponential Investor

Category: Technology

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