Scenarios for the Internet of Things

Now this is fun. I’m doing a talk at the GSMA Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week. It’s full of Big Tech firms and endless techno-optimists extolling the virtues of super-connectivity. It’s all tech-centric, tech-push and rather ignores the counter-forces of human psychology, government regulation and institutional inertia.

I’ve been asked to paint a picture of a few alternatives. You know, the Internet of Things to be Hacked and so on. I’m going to enjoy this!

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Davos Ideas Lab 2017

OK people, I like Rag & Bone Man (144 million views). But the Ideas Lab is really good too. I’ll admit 67 views (that’s 67, not 67 million!) isn’t much, but 37 x 5-minute videos about the world’s problems and how to solve them is really worthwhile. Some brain food to go along with your sandwich at lunchtime.

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Ideas Lab at The World Economic Forum

Some nice snack-sized videos here from Imperial College at the World Economic Forum.

The first one is about problem solving in data-rich environments (5 minutes)

The second is about software that writes software (5 minutes)

The third is about creating models of life-expectancy using HPC (5 minutes)

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Coming next week….

Still a few errors to remove. The mood modelling idea came from my book Digital Vs. Human

Mood recognition machines are especially interesting in this context. On a prosaic level, an ability to read an individual’s mood could be used to test products or personalise advertising. But you could also use such technology to judge the mood of a group, a corporation, or even an entire nation. On the positive side, governments might use real-time mood monitoring to increase general happiness. On the negative side, they could be tempted to identify dissatisfaction or opposition in real-time. What if, for instance, digital cameras with mood-recognition software were used to identify towns where opposition politicians were popular — and targeted them for elimination?

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New Map (and even a brainmail)

So the map for the High Performance Computing event is coming along (sneak peak left hand side of image above) and I’ve even managed to put a new brainmail together, which I will be send out later this week. At this rate I may even finish a What’s Next issue this year.

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The Future of High Performance Computing

Just FYI, anyone that’s interested in HPC, super-computing, advanced modelling & simulation, problems, prediction, cyber-security and any associated field might be interested in this. It’s on Thursday 23 February in London. Event link here.

Beginning of a new Current & Future uses of HPC map below….

Current & Future Applications of HPC

Modelling & Simulation
Preventing the invention of unnecessary
Prediction of technology breakthroughs
Modelling specific species against climate change
Dynamic longevity prediction
Predicting M&A activity/hostile takeovers
Lifelike recreation of dead actors in movies
Volcano modelling
Real time national mood modelling
Hyper-local personal weather forecasts
Complete human brain simulations
Prediction of social unrest using global social media feeds
Finding holes in existing research
Finding new knowledge in Big Data
Automation of scientific research
Radiation shield modelling
Molecular dynamics modelling
Space weather forecasting
Trawling scientific data to find genetically applicable treatments
Molecular dynamics forecasting
Automation of scientific research
Aesthetics prediction
Seismic mapping of planets
Hurricane forecasting
Modelling of tornado trajectory & speed
Galaxy simulations
Oil well forecasting
Movie special effects
Simulation of fluid dynamics
Virtual crash testing
Re-creation of the origin of the universe
Earthquake prediction
Population growth simulations
Climate change modelling
Aerodynamics design
Whole city simulations
Pollution forecasting
Radiation shield modelling
Molecular dynamics modelling
Modelling impacts of bio-diversity loss
Power grid simulation & testing
Modelling of organizational behaviour
Optimization of citywide traffic flows
Emergency room simulation
Major incident modelling & simulation
Space weather forecasting

Healthcare & Medicine
Dynamic real-time individual longevity forecasts
Mapping blood flow
Prediction of strokes, brain injury & vascular brain disease
Pandemic modelling
Unravelling protein folding
Curing Alzheimer’s disease
Virtual neural circuits
Bio-tech research for SMEs
Acceleration of drug discovery & testing
Decoding of genetic data
Whole body imaging at scale
Remote medical triage
Foreign aid & disaster relief allocation
Dynamic simulations of muscle & joint interactions
Bone implant modelling
Modelling of the nervous system
Longevity prediction at birth
Design of super efficient water filters

Pre-trade risk analysis
Bond pricing
Real-time hedging
Fraud detection
Self-writing financial reports
Automatic regulatory control & compliance
Pre and post-trade analysis
Dynamic allocation of government tax revenues
News prediction
Flash crash prediction
Optimisation of investment strategies
Automated hiring & firing of employees
Automated due diligence for M&A
Whole economy simulation

Software & data
Software that writes itself
Holographic data storage
Coding for ultra-low energy use
Data that generates its own models

Engineering, materials & manufacturing
Space station design
Space colony design
Design of new aeronautics materials
Zero gravity manufacturing & design
Predicting properties of undiscovered materials
Design of smart cities
Identification of redundant assets
Optimization of just in time manufacturing
Optimization of crowd-sourced delivery networks
Design of ‘impossible’ buildings & structures

Recording of every individual human conversation on earth
Modelling of factors likely to lead to a revolution
Deliberate cyber-facilitation of revolutions
Breaking 512-bit encryption ciphers
War forecasting algorhythms
Virtual nuclear weapon testing
Modelling behaviour of terrorist suspects
Crime prediction down to individual streets
Identification of terrorist suspects
Forecasting of geo-political upheavals
Hyper-realistic war gaming
Simulation of large scale cyber attacks
Missile trajectory simulation
Screening of data from multiple spectra & media in real time
Threat detection
Crisis management decision support

Note: This is just me going off on a bit of a jazz riff at the moment. All subject to change!

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The Search for Intelligence (here on earth)

Never mind artificial intelligence. It’s real human stupidity we should be worried about. Two classic examples of learned incompetence and lowest common denominator thinking.

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Digital Vs. Human (Art & War)

Some people seem to really be enjoying this chapter from my book Digital Vs. Human. Here’s a little taste….

I have a habit of writing notes on fragments of paper. Lines I’ve overheard, book and film reviews, statistical gems. I habitually tear pages out of magazines and newspapers, too. Sometimes I write things down on my phone, although I find that since these digital notes are fixed in one place they don’t go walkabout. My physical notes constantly make a run for the nearest exit. They get lost and randomly reappear next to other disconnected scraps of information, which results in cross-fertilisation. Notes, if you haven’t noticed, are inherently social.

One such piece of flotsam is an article that surfaced a year ago from the depths of The Atlantic magazine. On the first torn page, I’d highlighted a quote from the philosopher Bertrand Russell. The quote is long, but ends with the words ‘only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built’. How do you compete with a line like that? I might have missed it, too, in which case this book could have turned out very differently. What was it that Picasso said? ‘You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea.’ I agree. Precisely.

Picasso’s quote reminds me of another by the sculptor Henry Moore. He said, ‘The secret of life is to have a task, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is — it must be something you cannot possibly do!’ The point of this, for me at least, is the question of how you should live knowing that whatever you do will ultimately result in defeat. What is the point of anything if we ultimately die? How can you continue living when you know that you’ll never write anything to compare with these lines or create anything of enduring substance?

These questions, in the context of lifeless technologies that never truly experience love, hope, failure, disappointment, or regret is a wholly practical one. If, one day, smart machines do almost everything that humans can, including bonding emotionally with humans, then what is the point of us? Each generation has new inventions, a great number of which distance us from reality in some way. But the questions resulting from these inventions are always, ultimately, the same.

Who are we? Why are we here? Are we just stardust, a meaningless accident, or is there purpose here? You can get lost in space with this. The more we know, the less, it seems, we understand. Each new invention generates more ignorance and uncertainty, not less. But that’s fine. The trick is to humbly hold your nerve and let go, becalmed in your own cosmic solitude. The point is that there is no point.

The alternative is quiet desperation. Life may be meaningless. It is certainly baffling and absurd and can only really be understood by looking at it backwards. It’s also deeply wonderful. But knowing all this can be blissful and deeply therapeutic. Looking at a grain of sand or a silicon chip in this context produces a blissful and secure serenity. Interacting with old human-made objects and ancient landscapes similarly unburdens us. They all take us home, to our childhood, and to the birth of possibility. Only by glimpsing human continuity in this manner can we discover our true selves. The immense passing of time forges a connection that’s quite beautiful.

The realisation that we’re part of everything and nothing simultaneously can be hugely liberating. It reminds me of an old joke, retold in the science fiction film Bicentennial Man: ‘This Buddhist walks up to a hot-dog vendor and says, ‘Make me one with everything.”’ A similar point is made by Brian Cox, the physicist and television presenter with the twinkle of starlight in his eyes. The thought of our blue pinprick of a planet amid the enormity of dark space initially makes one feel that we are totally insignificant. But then, from the void, comes the dawning realisation that we are hugely special and unique. The eternity of space is affirmation that we all count in some way. It is the vastness of the nothingness beyond that gives technicolour intensity to the now. Carl Sagan once said that ‘By far the best way I know to engage the religious sensibility, the sense of awe, is to look up on a clear night.’ How Twitter and Facebook work in this context is beyond my earthly understanding. Then again, perhaps the success of both has to do with the validation that we exist and are alive right now. You are here, as it were.

If you like this I’ll post some more from this chapter…. 😉

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Brain Eno giving good quote

Sorry. It’s starting to become quote central. But I like this. A lot. Get over it. This man has a brain the size of a planet.

This is from SciFoo via Guy Weber via Roberto Trotta at Imperial.

I may actually blog something from my own small brain shortly….

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