Skip to main content

Return of the Native

I had been writing for years. Features, magazine articles, this weblog and even a book, once upon a time and then I quite suddenly lost my muse, my urge, my Mojo or whatever you might choose to call it.

So, outside of Tweeting’ prolifically, this is my first attempt to climb back in the saddle; going somewhat ‘retro’ and low tech with my very simply but somewhat ‘cool’ - in a Bohemian sort of way; OK, pretentious, Freewriter.

Freewriter
Quite what I’ll write about, I really don’t know yet but it’s very likely to involve technology or science or a bit of both, which is what I mostly do these days, when the world isn’t trying to drag me into being a full-time pilot.

Should you look back to the very beginning of this weblog; 2002 I think, you’ll notice how much the world has changed. There was no Social Media to speak of, no Facebook, Google was a big search engine among several and Microsoft desperately wanted the world to ‘Trust’ its Windows operating system. Bad people were starting to do nasty things in cyberspace but everyone hoped that before too long, the Internet and the industry would have sorted-out it’s very many information security problems. How wrong they were.

Meanwhile, I was also doing interesting things with Mr Blair’s government, working with the Cabinet Office to try and deliver something called UK Online, which oddly enough began with the Fishing License and in a slow evolutionary process, gave us what we take for granted today in terms of accessing our Government services online.

Bringing my thoughts sharply back to the present, what interests me today are artificial intelligence (AI), algorithms, Big Data, machine learning and all the convergent technologies that are rapidly catapulting us into a somewhat uncertain future, rather too quickly for governments and organisations and of course people.

Buzz Aldrin's Travel Expenses
There’s another subject I’m trying to deal with at the moment and that’s what was once described as ‘PDA Attention Deficit Disorder,’ habituation or addiction to our smartphones and social media platforms.

In my own case, I recognize I’m now a victim of ‘Intermittent reinforcement’ like a rat or a pigeon in a ‘Skinner-box (After behavioral psychologist .B.F. Skinner - we were taught all about him at university.)

Every time I look at my smartphone, which is Lord knows home many times an hour, I’m like some poor pigeon being given a pellet of food as a reward for pressing a lever and I become a victim of my own dopamine receptors.

This needs to stop or at least come back under a semblance of reasonable control; one reason I’m using a distraction-free ‘Freewriter” on my lap with a large slug of Scotch and not a PC. Of course I’ll upload this finished draft to my ‘Blog’ when I’m finished but until then the only distraction is the dog, gently snoring with its back paws pressed into my leg on the sofa.

I’ve also ordered a basic phone in attempt to go ‘Cold Turkey,” for a while at least , wondering if I can be more productive by not having my smartphone with me every minute of the day and night, or at least until I need it for work?

I’m fortunate indeed, because I’m of a generation that’s old enough to remember going away on holiday and being out of contact with anyone until landing back at Heathrow or Gatwick. The airlines ran pretty much on time then too as the world’s population was half it is today.

Anyway, I’m starting to believe we’ve lost something important in our lives and it’s a topic I want to think a little more about in the weeks to come.

So there you have it. Nothing profound or exciting but a first stab at putting some words on a page and with it, an attempt to rediscover the discipline of writing all over again.

Popular posts from this blog

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …

The Big Steal

I’m not here to predict the future;” quipped the novelist, Ray Bradbury. “I’m here to prevent it.” And the future looks much like one where giant corporations who hold the most data, the fastest servers, and the greatest processing power will drive all economic growth into the second half of the century.

We live in an unprecedented time. This in the sense that nobody knows what the world will look like in twenty years; one where making confident forecasts in the face of new technologies becomes a real challenge. Before this decade is over, business leaders will face regular and complex decisions about protecting their critical information and systems as more of the existing solutions they have relied upon are exposed as inadequate.

The few real certainties we have available surround the uninterrupted march of Moore’s Law - the notion that the number of transistors in the top-of-the-line processors doubles approximately every two years - and the unpredictability of human nature. Exper…