Showing posts from 2012

All About Inflation

My daughter asked me recently why Governments can't just print more money to escape a recession. It's an astute question, because of course they do but call it 'quantitative easing' which brings the risk of inflation with it like a plague-infected flea on the back of a rat.

If you ask anyone in the street and many politicians, it's quite likely that they won't recall how we arrived at the mess we are now in, in the first place and it's all to do with Gold.

Until 1971, the quantity of dollars the US Government placed into circulation was linked to the amount of Gold held in the treasury at Fort Knox; remember James Bond and Mr Goldfinger? Most western governments worked the same way and this was called the 'Bretton Woods' standard and quite simply prevented governments, like our own, from printing currency when they wanted to.

However, in the irresistible race to make government larger, raise money for huge projects and to employ millions of hithert…

Disruptive or Not

Occasionally, I'm asked how I define a 'Disruptive Technology' and the answer isn't always as straight forward as one might think.

It's easy to say, that it's the introduction of a new technology that changes the way we do business or represents a sudden evolutionary leap forward in a social, technical or informational sense.

In the past, it was easy to point at the steam engine the electric light, the telegraph, television or the Internet and describe them as 'disruptive' without any shadow of a doubt. Today it's a little more complex for several reasons.

Take 'Twitter' for example. Is it disruptive? After all, if you look at its impact on the Arab Spring and the libel laws in the UK, it's certainly having a disruptive effect.

What about Apple's iPod, iPhone or iPad? All of these individually and in concert represent an evolutionary step forward in the computing and software industry, not least of all the iPad, which in the space o…

The Lesson of Ludd

Two hundred years ago, in 1812, there was a strike at the Rawfolds Mill in Yorkshire. Today, we know know it as the first defeat of the machine-breaking Luddite Movement, a contemporary reaction to the first wave of disruptive technology that marked the start of the Industrial Revolution and a period of history which may hold lessons for us today, in a period of great economic uncertainty, where productivity is increasingly automated and removed from human labour.

Simply taking a moribund Europe and a struggling United States economy, as examples, every statistic of the last decade warns of trouble ahead, as the rapidly climbing curve of automation and intelligent computing overtakes the millions of individual that make-up the traditional workforce.

Some fundamental jobs requiring manual labour and human skills remain irreplaceable in a service economy but huge swathes of knowledge-based careers are rapidly disappearing into cyberspace or to the digital sweat-shops of the Far East, l…

A Rough Tech's Guide to Istanbul

Several days in Istanbul last week woke me up to the fact that Apple's iPad is not only pervasive and disruptive technology but it's increasingly ubiquitous as well. Only a matter of two years into to its production cycle as a piece of commodity electronics, it shows us the shape of things to come.

Aside from watching other tourists wandering around with their iPads held up in front of them, using its camera to take photographs of Istanbul's magnificent historical sites, my own served two specific purposes.

The first of these was having several guidebook 'apps' and interactive sites, pre-loaded with city maps. Wave goodbye to maps and guide-books, which must be a financial blow to the small army of hawkers outside Hagia Sophia, trying to make a few Turkish Lira, selling both.

There was real comfort being able to explore the old quarter of Istanbul, without any chance of becoming lost. The GPS on my iPad and my iPhone not only gave me an exact position on the city …

With Each Passing Week

Following on from yesterday's e-crime congress, Mid-year Forum in London, I had a few thoughts, based on the presentations and my own ideas of the constantly evolving risks we face.

So let's accept that that the arrival of the 'Internet of Things' and 'Always-on' technologies is creating a constantly growing surface opportunity for the kinds of sophisticated criminals that once use to exist only in the imagination of the science-fiction author, William Gibson.

What concerns me after a decade of chairing and speaking at e-crime and info security conferences, is the shortage of new and even radical ideas and answers, as business and industry struggles to keep pace with the parabolic curve of exploitation, vulnerability and criminal opportunity.

In the middle of the biggest recession in sixty years, many businesses are even more focused on cutting their technology costs that building a resilient defense posture and the language of risk has changed very little…

Software and Chips

There’s a conversation running through the camera community at present, that certain manufacturers are disabling features in order to switch them on, one by one in subsequent product releases.

To me, it sounds as if the technology is now moving so quickly in this particular space, with product advances such as Lytro, that there’s seemingly little commercial point in releasing a new camera with all the super new, software-driven features in one go. Instead, as the product design teams work on new chips and new software, which can take a couple of years, it may make more sense to dribble out the features over a period of time to keep the sales going.

Otherwise, why would you buy the next expensive upgrade, if like me, what you have is perfectly good for now? The same conversation could conceivably extend to all kinds of software-driven commodity products where manufacturers depend on quarterly and annual sales targets. You only have to think of the iPhone being jailbroken and already …

From Bradford to Beijing

I wanted to return to the theme, briefly touched-upon in the last blog entry and that's what will happen when computers cease to merely assist us in making discoveries but discover things for themselves. Perhaps things that are too complex for most of us to understand, like abstruse mathematics?

A Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. Steven Strogatz,argues that we are living in a special window of time, stretching from the dawn of the scientific revolution, 350 years ago, to a point, a few decades into the future. Only people living in this window can say they truly understand the world in which they live. Why is this so? It's because as the volume of knowledge and 'Big Data' continues to expand at a near geometric rate, we are building a web, so tangled and so complex in terms of supporting information and infrastructure, it is rapidly running away from our limited human ability to make sense of it.

Samuel Arbesman, in ARC magazine, argues that th…

Big Data - Big Limits

It must be more than twenty years since I predicted that one day, we would be able to cram all the world's data into a single optical disk. I recall, that I was writing an article about Apple Computer, perhaps it was for Computer Weekly, with Apple very much a niche player at the time and Steve Jobs, as ever, well ahead of the curve, had expressed real excitement about the technology.

Of course, I was wrong in one very important respect. All the world's data or the sum of human knowledge, twenty years ago, is only a fraction of what it is today, at a time when IDC reports that three exabytes of new data are created each twenty-four hours. That's two to the sixtieth bytes or simply a billion gigabytes; I'm told about 50,000 years worth of DVD quality video. As volumes of data continue to grow at near exponential rates, the prevailing 'Big Data' debate surrounds the very real challenge of storing and making sense of it all, let alone the the privacy implication…

Past and Future

In the technology business, memories are short and thanks to the internet, attention spans are now even shorter.

I've been blogging for a decade now and was one of the first columnists to use 'Blogger' when it was a new idea, WAP was the next big thing for mobile platforms, MP3 music players were a hot item and Apple was still struggling to sell products like my Powerbook 3400 laptop computer which they gave me for free.

In my attic, there are boxes of old magazines I used to edit and which I haven't seen for years, stored like nostalgic time capsules, so that one day, I could tell my grandchildren, 'I told you so!'

There's Microsoft BackOffice Magazine, Lotus Notes Magazine and Java Vision alongside old copies of Computer Weekly and a full set of 'AquaCorps', the magazine for technical divers. Very few people remember these or indeed, what the pace and change in technologies was like before the arrival of the internet and the beginning of the mill…