Skip to main content

Business as Usual

My Technology Footprint.
I’m giving a talk in London on Tuesday night. Am I worried? Of course not. I've already avoided one terrorist incident when the IRA blew-up my place of work, one Saturday in 1975. I recall it quite clearly. I was playing rugby that afternoon for Rosslyn Park again Esher and in those days before mobile phones and the internet, I only found out when I arrived home. Several of my friends, girls I had flirted with on a daily basis, weren’t so lucky.

There’s a more extreme version of Murphy’s law, sometimes called Sod’s law. This simply says that the worst possible outcome always happens. Our intuitive grasp of probability isn’t good. The rarer the event, the less we know about its odds and the chances of being caught-up in another terrorist incident, is about the same for you and me of drowning on holiday; possibly rather much less. Unfortunately, the media swiftly build-up a surrounding atmosphere of panic, which infects those who don’t stop and think about the risks and the very low odds that accompany them.

Moving the subject on to technology and I’m actually starting to enjoy having a ‘Dumb” phone. Calls from my Apple iPhone are automatically forward to my little black Punkt mobile and while I leave the iPhone on my desk, my iWatch still alerts me to any emails I might need to look at. Otherwise, it all feels rather liberating and I’m not constantly fidgeting for my next social media news fix.

I really do think that perhaps more of us need to take a step back and consider how long we spend gazing at our different devices and how, perhaps, we might be able to recover a little of our lives back?

As more intelligent, ‘talking’ devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, appear in our lives, I suspect we may regain a little of what we’ve lost, simply by being able to talk to them and ask questions, rather than reach for the rectangular glass and aluminium slab in our pockets or bags. The problem though, for an entire generation who were not alive before the arrival of the personal computer and the internet, is they don’t know what they’ve lost.

Popular posts from this blog

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 Nature of Nurture?

Recently, I found myself in a fascinating four-way Twitter exchange, with Professor Adam Rutherford and two other science-minded friends The subject, frequently regarded as a delicate one, genetics and whether there could exist an unknown but contributory genetic factor(s) or influences in determining what we broadly understand or misunderstand as human intelligence.

I won’t discuss this subject in any great detail here, being completely unqualified to do so, but I’ll point you at the document we were discussing, and Rutherford’s excellent new book, ‘A Brief History of Everyone.”

What had sparked my own interest was the story of my own grandfather, Edmond Greville; unless you are an expert on the history of French cinema, you are unlikely to have ever hear of him but he still enjoys an almost cult-like following for his work, half a century after his death.

I've been enjoying the series "Genius" on National Geographic about the life of Albert Einstein. The four of us ha…
The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…