Tinder And Grindr. What A Waste Of Time.

I cannot get over how much the dating landscape has seismically shifted.

When I was growing up, and you wanted to meet someone for a relationship, it was reasonably upfront. Give or take the odd, unexpected left turn. There was the at work option, or at a party, pub or bar. See. I’m so old fashioned and out of touch to be talking about this. Then along came Internet dating. I never had an issue with that. Never bothered me in the slightest. In fact I warmly embraced this development. It was such a perfectly, reasonable, rational not to mention respectful way to meet a potential partner. But now we have something completely different. I call them the devil’s children of Internet dating. Not that I am passing some kind of moral judgment here. I’m not. Far from it. I just have a lot of personal issues with Tinder and Grindr. And, it is not because they’re a couple of smartphone applications, used primarily by people to have casual sex. Actually, “casual” is way too nice a word. It’s because they live in a world where people and sex are disposable commodities. To be used and discarded, There’s no love, no deep connection, no personal investment of any kind to be found in Tinder and Grindr apart from the kind you get from self-gratification. But for some of us, maybe even many of us, these two apps have fundamentally changed the way we go about things relationship wise and not in a good way, in my view.

So I was quite interested and bemused to read a story with the headline: “ How Sex Is Killing The Live Music Scene Thanks To Tinder And Grindr.”

The story suggested that we forget breath-testing, lockouts, or downloading – Sex is killing live music, or at least the search for it is, on Tinder and Grindr.

That’s the provocative but serious claim, made by a music venue owner and live music booker, James Young, who says that more and more people prefer to “stare at their phones and swipe left or right ” rather than head out to a bar where they might meet somebody.  Sounds pretty sad to me.

“Grindr, the gay app, came out about two years before Tinder and has destroyed the gay hotspot [in Melbourne],” Young says. “That is a textbook, identifiable case. And here we are, two years later, with Tinder following in its footsteps”. He says young people are hanging about (probably at home) hunched over their phones instead of going out to bars and clubs.

It should be pointed out that music venues don’t simply exist for the sole purpose of enabling a romantic meeting between two people. Of course not says Young, but “bars are fragile businesses” and anything that affects even three or five percent of business on already thin margins can be hard to recover from. “And what we are talking about is 10 per cent loss of business and for some businesses, that’s their profit margin.”

Young, who owns and books music for three bars in Melbourne argues that “sex has always been a big part of rock ‘n’ roll but we’re not saying the sole purpose of venues is to pick up”. It is, however, a problem that carries a ripple effect because people used to meet – or hook up in the modern parlance – at venues where music was being played.

“If there are less people at the bars, that’s going to affect sales and there is also a parallel issue in the type of dates you go on,” Young says. “A Tinder date is a super casual date so ‘let’s meet at a cafe, let’s meet at the latest, chic pop-up restaurant’. He says first dates used to be at a rowdy live music event. Not anymore. But people don’t really talk to each other anymore. They hook up.

He says in Sydney you can add lockouts and earlier closing of bars to the Tinder-effect. Young also raises another fear, that “Netflix, Stan and binge TV series watching have become the new dating”, with the simplicity of an affordable entertaining option capped off by the fact that “you’re already on the couch”.

What a huge yawn. I prefer the personal meet and greet, the spark, the meeting of minds, the possibility of what might be and then discovering that it is, any day over any smartphone app. As far as I’m concerned Tinder can go up in flames and it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. I know. So old fashioned.

The Little Australian Court Case With Big Implications For Pirate Movie Downloaders. Beware They Are Coming To Get You

A not so quiet revolution is being played out in the Federal Court of Australia. It’s a legal case with Tsunami like implications that could pretty much engulf most of the world. No, I am not being melodramatic.

In fact this court decision, will result in some unwelcome questions being asked wherever there’s a computer, and a person sitting in front of it, downloading pirated movies. When you put the two together it amounts to a shedload of people. Now do you see where this is a going?

If you still don’t, let me explain.

The case was a commercial action involving the copyright owners of a movie called The Dallas Buyers Club. I can’t profess to know much about the film other than it features some big Hollywood names like Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner and Jared Leto. Clearly it was enough of a box office success for a lot of people to want to download the movie illegally. The copyright owners of The Dallas Buyers Club were understandably pissed that this was happening because it was costing them money. A lot of money. So they decided to do something about it. You could call it a testing of the waters.

In a nutshell, a Federal Court judge ordered several Australian internet service providers, including a very large one called iiNet, to hand over to a film studio, the identities of thousands of account holders whose internet connections were allegedly used to share an unauthorized copy of the Dallas Buyers Club movie. In a landmark judgment, Justice Nye Perram ruled in favour of Dallas Buyers Club LLC’s “preliminary discovery” application requesting that the ISPs disclose the identities of people it alleges shared the movie online.

Preliminary discovery. Such a quaint legal term but in this particular case it means dire consequences for pirate movie downloaders. In addition to iiNet, ISPs Dodo, Internode, Amnet Broadband, Adam Internet and Wideband Networks will also be required to hand over customer details. Even if these ISPs weren’t big companies, even if their list of subscribers was small, the devil is in the detail. It’s the implications of what this decision means that’s important. It is unclear whether iiNet will  appeal the decision before the Full Court of the Federal Court. They have 28 days to do so.

As for the implications, picture this. Thousands of anonymous people sitting in the privacy of their own home, in front of a computer screen all over Australia quietly using applications like Bit Torrent to download pirated versions of first release movies. Their safety net has always been their anonymity. I mean how could anyone trace them? Well guess what? Thanks to this court ruling now they can. Not only can, they will be traced. The ruling means about 4700 Australian internet account holders whose service was used to share Dallas Buyers Club on the internet from as early as May 2013 are soon likely to receive legal letters, from Australian lawyers representing Dallas Buyers Club LLC. These letters will threaten legal action, unless relatively large sums of money are paid for breach of copyright. Now I can hear you thinking. What is he on about? This case only affects 4700 people the man must be dreaming. How can this have worldwide implications? Well my answer to that is don’t think numbers. If you think numbers, you are missing the point. Think precedent. A ruling has now been made about one movie but what is to stop similar rulings being made for each and every pirated movie or video that has ever been downloaded? What is to stop similar courts in similar countries all over the world being asked to make a similar decision? And now that decision has been made in favour of the copyright holder, is it more probable than not that a similar court will make an almost identical ruling? These are very, very big questions.

And as for that letter of demand, the practice commonly referred to as ‘speculative invoicing.’ there are already examples in the United States where letters were sent to ISP account holders threatening legal action claiming they would be liable for damages of up to $US150,000 unless settlement fees of up to $US7000 were paid. No surprise most people paid the $7K. It’s a lot less than 150 grand.

Now the Australian Federal Court decision did come with some provisos. The judge also ordered that the privacy of individuals should be protected, meaning Dallas Buyers Club cannot disclose the identities of letter recipients to a third party.

Some overseas judges have placed caps on the amount of money that can be sought through this out of court process. But Justice Perram did not indicate whether he would do this as part of the letter approving process.

The case, which was heard over three days in February, centred on whether Dallas Buyers Club LLC should be given access to details of internet account holders whose connections it alleges were used to share its movie using peer-to-peer file sharing software. The details to be handed over include names, email and residential addresses of those whose connections were allegedly used to share the movie. So not only do they know who you are, they know where you live. During the case, Michael Wickstrom, vice president of royalties and music administration at Voltage Pictures, the parent company of Dallas Buyers Club LLC, objected to iiNet providing examples of the speculative invoicing letters sent in similar US cases. One of the reasons for his objection might be because those letters, in the minds of some, amount to extortion.

Wickstrom said the format of the letters to be sent to Australian ISP subscribers would be different and worded in such a way that they complied with local laws.

In a remarkable display of generosity, Wickstrom also said the company would not sue or attempt settlement with people suffering from autism people who were disabled, on welfare, or have mental illness.

It should be noted that anti piracy forces are employing sophisticated means to track down illegal downloaders. They employed a German-based pirate hunting company called Maverick Eye UG to identify ISP users who were sharing the movie online. Maverick Eye joined torrent “swarms” sharing Dallas Buyers Club and then tasked its software to log the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of those who distributed the movie without authorisation and in breach of copyright laws. The software identified a total of 4726 Australian IP addresses.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC then contacted iiNet and other ISPs, asking them to divulge customer details associated with those IP addresses without a court order — but as you might expect the ISPs refused. They know giving over that kind of information is also going to cost them customers. No-one will want to subscribe to an ISP that is going to hand over a customer’s private information.

Dallas Buyers Club LLC then decided to take Federal Court action, to compel the ISPs to disclose customer details through the preliminary discovery application process, which is often used by parties in a case where the identity of the person or company they want to take legal action against, is unknown but can be discoverable through a third-party.

iiNet sought to challenge the request on the grounds that it would lead to alleged infringers being sent letters of demand seeking significant sums of money for an infringement. “We are concerned that our customers will be unfairly targeted to settle any claims out of court using [this] practice,” iiNet said in a blog post. The ISP also argued that customers could be incorrectly and unfairly identified as alleged infringers if details of the account holder were revealed. In other words, the relevant IP address could have originated from a person in a shared household where someone other than the account holder had infringed copyright. iiNet also argued it wanted to fight the matter because Australian courts had never tested a case like this one. But none of these arguments impressed the court.

So, to all those Pirate downloaders out there in cyberspace. Here are some words of warning. They’re coming to get ya.

Beware What You Download, The Internet Police Are Coming To Get You On A Computer Near You

There is some serious stuff going on in the world of internet piracy. So much so that a consumer group has warned that everyday internet customers who download TV shows, movies and music for free could soon be hit with massive fines, legal threats and skyrocketing internet bills. Ok. We’re talking Australia but it would be naïve to think the same thing or worse is not being contemplated elsewhere.

Consumer advocate Choice has attacked what it described as a “truly scary” plan from Australia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that could result in average customers being sued by Hollywood studios. Australia’s biggest ISPs — including Telstra, Optus and iiNet — have joined forces to establish the Copyright Notice Scheme Industry Code, which is aimed at reducing the incidence of online piracy. At the request of the Australian Government, the companies have formulated a three strikes notice, to try and change the behaviours of customers and steer them towards lawful (read that as paid for) sources of content. But Choice says it is a “heavy handed scheme” that will “drive average Australians into the legal system”. “The scheme reads like the script of a Hollywood horror film,” Choice campaigns manager, Erin Turner said. “It would see average teenagers, mums and dads facing uncapped fines and legal threats. It’s truly scary.”

Under the draft code released last week, customers suspected of illegally downloading content will be hit with a series of escalating infringement notices from the ISPs. After the first breach, a customer is promptly emailed a standardized “Education” notice but if they continue to breach copyright laws, they are then sent a “Warning” notice followed by a “Final” notice.

The ISPs plan to detect illegal downloading through their customers’ internet protocol (IP) addresses, which every computer has. Official warning notifications are then sent to the account holder. The warning must be emailed within seven days of the infringement and include the title of the work, as well as the date and time when the downloading occurred. The final notice, which does not have to carry the ISP’s branding, warns the account holder they could be taken to court and recommends they “seek independent legal advice”. The “three strikes and you’re out” scheme could then kick off a “facilitated preliminary discovery process”, which obliges the ISP to reveal the customer’s identity to the rights holder. If a customer receives three notices within 12 months, the owners of the content — such as a Hollywood studio or a record company — can then apply to a court to access the customer’s name, address and contact details and launch legal action against them. “Any rights holder whose copyright work has been the subject of an Education, Warning or Final Notice will be provided with assistance to take direct copyright infringement action against an account holder,” the code says.

The code is still in draft form, but ISPs hope to implement it by September 1, 2015. Like I said this is serious stuff if you happen to be someone who regularly downloads copyright protected content.

A spokesman for the industry body behind the scheme, says it is primarily focused on public education, rather than punishment. “Ultimately we’re trying to strike a balance. We’re trying to ensure privacy and personal details are protected, that any allegation (of copyright infringement) will be independently reviewed, that customers don’t face sanctions,” the spokesman says. But Choice calls the scheme “heavy handed. ” The group says it fails to protect Australians consumers. “What we’re worried about is the final notice step that would funnel people into legal action,” Choice’s Erin Turner said. “There’s no limit on how much people can be fined and it opens up a whole bunch of risks. The scheme also forces internet service provides to act as an antipiracy police force on behalf of Hollywood rights holders, handing over personal contact details on the basis of unproven allegations.”

Turner said similar schemes overseas led to rights holders sending “speculative invoices” to account holders. “We’ve heard reports of customers being sent letters that say, ‘Pay this amount of money or we will take legal action’. Customers usually just paid the amount to “make the very scary process go away”, she said.

Choice points out that the “discovery process” clause in the code is concerning because it requires ISPs to participate and comply with any court actions, rather than protect their customers.

And there has been an ongoing court case that has, so far, said the discovery process was a legal right available to copyright holders. That case is one of the most important for the future of Australian piracy laws. It revolves around Dallas Buyers Club LLC, the copyright holders for the film Dallas Buyers Club, wanting ISP, iiNet, to provide information on its customers who Dallas Buyers Club believe pirated the film.

Late last year it was revealed that Dallas Buyers Club used a German software tool known as MaverickEye to detect torrent users who were illegally downloading the movie. The software allegedly revealed a number of Australians who had ‘seeded the film online’ or made it available to be downloaded from their computer using peer-to-peer programs. That software disclosed the IP addresses of 4800 Australian computers, with Dallas claiming in court that it could find a further 6000 if it ran the MaverickEye software again. Currently those IP addresses don’t disclose specific details about any particular person, which is why Dallas is in court trying to force iiNet to hand over this information. Both the courts and iiNet are worried that Dallas Buyers Club will use a technique known as speculative invoicing. This involves sending a legal threat to someone saying that unless they pay a sum of money they will take them to court. Often that sum of money is a few thousand dollars, when the actual loss to the rights holders would have been no more than a few hundred, or even as low as $5 according to iiNet’s lawyers. People are more likely to choose to settle, whether the sum is fair or not, because it will cost even more than that to argue the case court. There is no doubt piracy is becoming a big issue everywhere. But how this case resolves itself will, in all likelihood set a precedent for future cases and how piracy is dealt with in Australia.

Choice says the code ignores the real crux of the problem, the causes of illegal downloading in Australia. “We’ve looked into the reasons people pirate, and it’s due to cost and availability,” Erin Turner said. “There’s still massive delays when content is available in Australia. It’s a market failure. Consumers know this.” Turner acknowledges that infringing copyright is wrong, but Choice research shows that customers mostly turn to illegal means when they can’t find the content they want. “It doesn’t excuse it, but it does explain it,” she said.

The industry body leading the copyright crackdown admits that “more needs to be done” to address the problems of access and affordability of content in Australia. But they dispute Choice’s claim that average customers should be worried about the code. “I can understand that this may not be a popular move with some customers but we’ve genuinely tried to strike a reasonable balance,” the industry group spokesman said. “I don’t expect there to be universal acclaim, but it’s a scheme that’s fair, that’s not punitive and that balances competing interests.”

Choice is concerned that customers will be made to bear the cost of the scheme, which could drive up internet bills. “If ISPs end up paying the lion’s share of administration costs, these are likely to be passed on to their consumers,” Choice’s Erin Turner said. “We don’t think consumers should be footing the bill for an ineffective industry initiative.”

As if you didn’t have enough to worry about already, technology could turn the 21st century into a new dark age, lost to history, according to a leading internet pioneer. As computer operating systems and software get upgraded, documents and images stored using older technology are becoming increasingly inaccessible, says Dr Vinton Cerf, the Vice-President of Google. He say in the coming centuries, historians looking back on the present era could well be confronted with what he describes as a digital desert comparable with the dark ages. The Dark Ages was the post Roman period in Western Europe about which relatively little is known because of the scarcity of written records. Dr Cerf, who also has the title of chief internet evangelist at Google, says : “If we’re thinking 1000 years, 3000 years ahead in the future, we have to ask ourselves, how do we preserve all the bits that we will need in order to correctly interpret the digital objects we created? ” We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole without realising it. ” The 22nd century, and future centuries after that, will wonder about us but they’ll have great difficulty knowing anything much because so much of what we’ve left behind will be bits and pieces that are uninterpretable.”

Cerf urged people to print out everything, especially treasured photos and not rely on storing them as memory files. “In our zeal to get excited about digitising, we digitise photographs thinking it’s going to make them last longer, and we might turn out to be wrong,” he said. “I would say if there are photos you are really concerned about, (then) create a physical instance of them. Print them out.”

Cerf was speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the Silicon Valley capital, San Jose, California.

To illustrate his point, he referred to an “amazing book” by American Pulitzer Prize winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, called ‘Team Of Rivals: The Political Genius Of Abraham Lincoln.’ Goodwin’s material was obtained by scouring libraries for copies of written correspondence between Lincoln and the people he associated with. “Let us imagine that there’s a 22nd century Doris Kearns Goodwin, and she decides to write about the beginning of the 21st century, and seeks to reproduce the conversations of the time,” Cerf says. “She discovers there’s an awful lot of digital content that has either evaporated because nobody saved it, or it’s around but it’s not interpretable because it was created using software that’s 100 years old.”

The Google boss believes the problem has serious implications for the storage of legal documents, needed to be kept for long periods. One possible solution is what he calls “digital vellum”, a concept now being explored by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. This involves taking a digital “snapshot” of an item, when it is stored, as well as all of the processes needed to reproduce it at a later date, including the software and operating system. The snapshot could then be used to reproduce the information, on a computer, in perhaps centuries from now.

They should be calling this, back to the future.

How To Find True Love On Tinder? Give Me A Break

I can’t really say I get Tinder. But I’m probably too old. On second thoughts, take out the probably. But I can’t deny that it’s an extraordinary social phenomenon. For a start, there are the stats. On Tinder, nearly 1 billion swipes occur every day from Sydney to New York … London to Tokyo. The dating game has changed inexorably. In fact one Tinder aficionado has written a book about the experience called SWIPE- The Game has Changed. The writer is a man. So it’s written from the male perspective. But when he says the dating game has changed, judging by his experiences, he is not kidding. He writes: “ my dating experiences have been nice – meeting lovely women who are smart, engaging, and filled with positive energy. It’s been naughty – from orgies to Fifty Shades-type encounters, I dipped my toes into the deep end, in between, there’s been tragic dates, new friends, and a bit of heartbreak.”

The writer then goes on to give chapter and verse from his ‘ weird, wild, and wonderful year on Tinder.”

What did he learn? Are you sitting down?

He learned that the smartphone apps like Tinder and OK Cupid have changed the dating game, and he ventures the opinion that human sexuality might have changed forever. That is a very big call, but he says, the evidence stacks up. He says that smartphones are 2015’s obligatory appendage, implying that the app dating single’s bar is open 24/7, it’s free, and everyone possessing one is invited to the party.

He says he also learned the dating world moves like a New York minute. In 2015, we live in a want it now culture. We want food, movies, information, porn, tickets, scores … and all of it, this minute. Make that this second. The writer says we swipe, match, and want to know right now if you want to date, have sex, or fall in love. And we want to meet … right now. Of course the ‘we’ is anyone in the age group 18 to 39.

Apparently, Tinder has dating rules. You’ve got 10 days from swipe match to meeting in person, or it’s not going to happen. And as tradition goes, a “pretty good” first date will land a second … But what’s different is that now, we are back on our phones swiping away on the cab ride home looking for the next “great” date.

Now I know what he means by a New York minute.

He says he also learned that the ‘three date’ rule is out. For those, like me, a bit slow on the uptake, he means sex. He says a week with a few dates turned into a few more dates that turned into a “ rock star-type experience of 18 orgasms … in a week. It was hedonistic. It was weird. It was too much.”

Probably.

Nikki Goldstein is a Doctor in Human Sexuality. She says we need to question whether the qualities we are using to quickly judge those we swipe on, are the right ones that should be used to find meaningful relationships or even casual sex. How much can you tell from a quick glance at a profile and a short drink before having sex with someone?

Again, I wouldn’t think you have to ponder too long or too deeply to answer that question.

“The dating world is so fast-paced and crowded that sex is no longer something to wait for,” Goldstein says. “ We want to know straight away if there is sexual compatibility and some women might also feel if they don’t act quickly on the sexual front they might lose to someone who will.”

The writer of his book SWIPE- The Game has Changed was so enamoured with this Tinder experience that he wants to share what he’s learned so that others will replicate his success. He’s developed a theory, don’t they all. It’s called the MISBAC Strategy. He doesn’t ever tell us what it stands for but he says it originated to solve app dating in much the way that he solved the PacMan puzzle as a child. He says armed with this strategy, it’s so much easier for men and women to meet up in person – whether you’re seeking a friend, a date, something naughty, or a relationship.

The author jokingly says he thought he’d be teaching finance at this age, but instead he’s mentoring men and women on MISBAC so their dating and sex lives are more fulfilling. I think what he really means is that what he’s doing now is lot more financially lucrative than teaching finance. Let’s face it anyone who can tell you how to go about having a successful relationship is going to make money. But parts of what he says I personally find a little unnerving. For example, he writes; “ I learned that Fifty Shades is, in reality, quite pale. There’s a whole new world of sex out there, and it’s a lot racier than porno-for-polo-mums at the cinema. Teens have turned into twentysomethings and grown up with porn as a means of sex education. Their dating lives and bedroom style would make Mr Grey tinkle in his suit. Ropes, toys, orgies, squirting, fisting, and “tromboning”. I did it all … starting with a swipe.”

He says he learned it’s easy come, easy go in The Age of Swipe.

That is not necessarily a good thing. In fact I know it isn’t.

He talks about a Tinder relationship he had that reads more like throwing away a disposable item. “ We had been dating for close to two months. A swish event at Sydney Opera House was our next date … then the email came. I was dumped and swiped left. It’s easy come, easy go, and we were both back online, swiping within days. We are all people with real, almost tangible feelings, yet we are all swipeable and oh so disposable.” Yep. There is that word again. Disposable. I’d like to know what happened to the getting to know one another and the journey that goes with it? That takes time and according to the writer there is no time.

He says: “ I learned to worry for the Generation Millennial. They will swipe their virginity away, apologise with a rose emoticon, declare their first “I love you” via text, and walk straight past a cute woman on the street because they are too busy swiping five on their smartphone.”

I’m sorry but this sounds like crazy talk to me. According to the Sex Doctor, Nikki Goldstein, “Going online to find love, sex and dates has opened up more possibilities and people, however tech dating is making us lazier and our communication skills are dwindling – things we actually need in relationships when we do get into them.”

At last, sanity prevails.

But according to our writer on Tinder who clearly wants to sell a lot of books, the Age of Swipe is here to stay, and it’s getting bigger. The good? he says, It’s so easy to meet somebody new. The bad? It shouldn’t be this easy to meet somebody new. He says society is at the dawn of a new beginning – the landscape for dating, sex, and relationships will change forever at the swipe of a smartphone app.

But here’s where the author gets a bit full of his own self-importance. He says: “ I wrote SWIPE not because my dating ups and downs are interesting (they are), but more because you can’t ask Dad or Grandpa the new, app dating rules. With SWIPE I hope to be that mentor, so people’s personal lives are more fulfilling.”

Give me a break. It’s superficial not fulfilling. It’s the self-fulfilling prophecy of ‘me.’ How is this going to affect me? How can I make this all about me? What is that person going to do for me? And if they don’t do enough for me, I’ll go and find someone who will and all I have to do is swipe my phone.

Well guess what? Having a successful relationship is give and take. In other words, if you want to take you also have to give. And you are never going to learn that from a smartphone app or reading a book about a year on Tinder.

Who Would Want To Be a Whistleblower? If No-one Does, We’re In Big Trouble

There is a species currently threatened with extinction. Climate change is not to blame. Nor is Darwin’s theory of evolution, or some chance discovery made by Sir David Attenborough in the Galapagos. I’m talking about whistleblowers. These are people, who, at grave risk to themselves, reveal information that the public has a right to know about. But at this moment in time they have a bullseye on their back. They’ve been turned into targets of opportunity, as governments around the world, try to control all of the exit routes on the information superhighway. Before he became the US President, Barrack Obama, said he valued whistleblowers. He promised to protect them. But, sadly, what he said was not what he meant. They turned out to be weasel words. Promises, worthless and empty, as you might expect from politicians and the morally bankrupt. Instead, Obama declared war on whistleblowers. And a man called Jeffrey Sterling is one of the casualties. He is a former member of the CIA, who was involved in a top-secret operation to provide Iran with bogus plans to sabotage its nuclear program. His career story reads like a James Bond novel.

Sterling joined the CIA in May, 1993. Two years later, he became operations officer in the Iran task force of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia division. He held a top-secret security clearance and had access to sensitive information, including classified cables, CIA informants, and operations. After training in the Persian language in 1997, he was firstly sent to Bonn, Germany, and two years later to New York City to recruit Iranian nationals as agents for the CIA and also as part of a secret intelligence operation, codenamed Merlin, which literally gave intentionally flawed nuclear designs to Iran, in 2000.

Here’s how it worked. From early 1998 to May 2000, Sterling had assumed responsibility as case officer for a Russian with an engineering background in nuclear physics and production, which the CIA employed as a mule to pass flawed design plans to the Iranians. In April 2000, Sterling had a significant falling out with his employers. He filed a complaint with the CIA’s Equal Employment Office alleging racial discrimination. The CIA subsequently revoked Sterling’s authorization to receive or possess classified documents and placed him on administrative leave in March 2001. Sterling’s lawsuit, alleging he was the victim of racial discrimination, was dismissed by a Federal judge after the government successfully argued that pursuing the case would involve the disclosure of classified information. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal, ruling in 2005 that “there is no way for Sterling to prove employment discrimination without exposing at least some classified details of the covert employment that gives context to his claim.” Sterling was one of only a handful of African-American case officers employed by the CIA. He was ultimately fired from his job early in the Bush administration. The prosecution alleged that Sterling tried to blow the whistle on Operation Merlin by trying to give evidence to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2003 and when that didn’t work he decided to leak classified information to New York Times reporter and author James Risen for his 2006 book, “State of War.” Sterling then faced charges under the Espionage Act. The Justice Department portrayed Sterling as an “angry” and “vengeful” man who was “disgruntled” rather than righteously upset with corruption and cover-ups. Prosecutors alleged — and the jury agreed — that Sterling was trying to get his revenge on the CIA when he talked to Risen about a CIA operation that was meant to deter Iran’s nuclear program. The case drew special attention when federal prosecutors initially sought to subpoena Risen to testify against his will. Though they won in court, the Justice Department ultimately decided not to force the reporter to take the stand and give evidence at the trial. Risen had vowed to go to jail before he would reveal any sources. Federal Attorney-General Holder said that the verdict proved “it is possible to fully prosecute unauthorized disclosures that inflict harm upon our national security without interfering with journalists’ ability to do their jobs.” Since his department’s legal battles with Risen, Holder has tightened the guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists. The trial itself was a spectacle, with CIA officers testifying behind a retractable grey screen as they described suitcases full of cash, clandestine meetings and fictitious back stories. The case against Sterling was largely circumstantial — there were no recorded phone conversations or captured e-mail exchanges that show he passed leaked classified information to Risen — and that omission required prosecutors’ to delve deeply into Sterling’s work and the details of Risen’s book. According to the prosecutor, Sterling was the only potential source who had a relationship with Risen, knew of the information and had a motive to discuss his clandestine work. They argued that the book — which suggested that the secret operation might actually have helped further Iran’s nuclear research — was somewhat inaccurate and that it cast Sterling as a hero and the CIA as hapless fools. “Jeffrey Sterling’s spin is what appears in the book,” prosecutor Eric Olshan said. Sterling’s defense attorneys argued that several people, other than Sterling, could have served as Risen’s source, and they suggested Sterling was unlikely to have given the reporter any information. In any case, they argued some information in the book could not have come from Sterling, because it addressed matters that happened after he left the CIA or contained details that he would not have known or remembered. Sterling became only the fifth person in the history of the United States under the Espionage Act, to be charged with mishandling national defense information. In a hearing at the U.S. District Court in 2011, Sterling’s defense attorney, Edward MacMahon, entered a not guilty plea. But Sterling was convicted of espionage on January 26, 2015. His defense attorney Barry Pollack said after the hearing that Sterling’s lawyers plan to take the case to a higher court “This is a sad day for Mr. Sterling and his wife,” Pollack said. “We will pursue all legal avenues with the trial court and on appeal to challenge Mr. Sterling’s conviction.”

What is significant here is that the Sterling case is not the first of its kind against whistleblowers. Other people who have tried to speak out  include former National Security Agency manager Thomas A. Drake, and former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for disclosing a covert operative’s name to a reporter. Federal authorities are still considering whether to lay charges against several high-profile individuals in other investigations, including former CIA director David H. Petraeus, veteran State Department diplomat Robin Raphel and retired Marine Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright. Dan French, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York who now does corporate work for a prominent law firm, said irrespective of whether prosecutors won or lost the Sterling case, they would in future aggressively prosecute whistleblowers. “I just think they’re going to bring these cases continuously to demonstrate that type of conduct by a government employee or a government contractor is going to be prosecuted, because the risk is just too grave,” he said.

Very bad news for anyone who believes in upholding free speech, and keeping our Governments accountable.

The Fastest Electric Car In The World And When It Goes Into Insane Mode So Do Its Passengers

The other day I was reflecting on how technology is changing the way we live. The way we think and act. How we relate to one another and how we get from point A to B. Petrol driven cars are a thing of the past. One man who fundamentally knows this to be true is Elon Musk. For those who have never heard of him, he is the guy that brought us PayPal. An absolute necessity for any E bay user. Musk dabbles in a lot of what he considers great ideas. One of those great ideas is to spend a lot of money developing an electric car. As a concept it ticks plenty of boxes. Environmentally friendly, electric cars emit no greenhouse gases. Lets face it within the next 15 to  20 years the world is going to be driving a lot of electric cars. Putting aside environmental concerns, the planet is running out of fossil fuel.

Musk’s company is called Tesla. And Tesla Motors makes beautiful cars. The man behind some of those designs is the electric carmaker’s chief designer, Franz von Holzhausen, He and his team create the signature Tesla look. And the Germanic in him means he pays great attention to pedantic detail that includes taking a fresh look at something as innocuous as door handles and coming up with something fancy, like gullwing doors that will appear on the company’s next car, the Model X. Not a new concept, but the gullwinged Mercedes sports, first introduced in 1954, still has the ability to cause severe cases of car envy.

“What I really wanted to achieve was this moth-to-the-flame (result). You don’t really realize what you are looking at or why you are attracted to it, but you are,” Von Holzhausen said. “That engagement is what sparks curiosity.”

Von Holzhausen has the enviable job of creating the design benchmark for Tesla, which is trying to carve out a market for electric cars and convince the public that gasoline rides are destined to become obsolete in the same way that motorised cars put the horse and buggy out of business.  Von Holzhausen joined Tesla in mid-2008 after designing at Mazda, General Motors and Volkswagen. There are, of course, other automakers that come up with sexy curves and slick looks for their cars. But Tesla, so far, has stolen a march on its competitors in the good looks department.

I don’t want this to sound like I am doing some kind of sales pitch for Tesla. It’s just that I have a soft spot for David and Goliath like stories. Part of Tesla’s appeal, for me, is how this upstart, which has upstaged long-time carmakers already, may go on to become a major player in the auto world one day. And how this niche fledgling electric car company takes an unconventional approach to elements of a car that some might regard as unimportant and use them to win over a car buyer’s heart,  An example of that is the door handle for the Tesla Model S. It slides out and retreats with the control of a key fob. It’s something that carmakers usually don’t spend a lot of time or money on. But Tesla’s designers thought differently. “As you approach the car for the first time, your first contact is through the door handle,” von Holzhausen said. “It’s a memorable experience. It needs to elicit an emotion.”

Tesla’s all-wheel drive Model S P85D is the most supercharged model of any electric sports car to hit the market.

It retails for US$133,500, but this not your average automobile. For a start, its 691 horsepower, dual-motor is capable of running on autopilot by using cameras and ultrasonic sensors to read speed limits, monitor other cars on the road and park automatically.

However, the most impressive addition to the car is a feature called “insane mode”. The aptly titled feature lives up to its name with one push of a button accelerating  from 0 to 95km/h, that’s a click under 60mph, in just over three seconds.

In order to test Tesla’s latest mode, a drag racing website took unsuspecting victims (members of the public) for a spin in the S P85D to experience the car’s rapid acceleration for the first time. They recorded the spectacle on camera and if the screams, shocked facial features and profanities are anything to go by, it would appear Telsa are on to a real winner with this sports car if you can afford the asking price. But the reactions to ‘insane mode’ are priceless.

I’ve posted the video here, profanities included. Hopefully it will give you a laugh and a half.

 

What Mobile Phones Will Look Like In 20 Years From Now

When I started in journalism, thirty plus years ago, there were no computers, or the Internet. We used to write our stories initially with a pen and notebook and then on typewriters back in the office using carbon copy paper. It wasn’t quite the Stone Age, although there was a person called the stone sub whose job it was to make the last minute changes to hot metal used to print a newspaper. When I think about the past, I get a little misty eyed. It makes me nostalgic. There was a certain romance in the way newspapers used to be written, created and printed which I kind of miss. But you can’t stop progress. Then came computers, email and mobile phones. In the case of mobile phones, we’ve discovered we can’t live without them. They’ve undergone their own revolution. In the 30 years since the first mobile phone was offered for sale, we’ve seen it morph from a wallet busting brick, into a super slim computer that can do virtually anything we want from entertaining us to saying what we should be doing next. But what interests me is where to from here? What if we could see into the future? What is the next generation, and several generations after that, mobile phone going to look like? What are the innovations already being played with by engineers and scientists in Hi Tech laboratories around the world? Is the future of the device set to change at warp speed? So, somewhat ambitiously, I thought I would try and answer those questions. I did some digging and this is what I came up with by way of research and the best guesses on where mobile phone technology is heading. To make it easier, I’ve divided the technological predictions from the next two years, all the way through to the next 20.

Let’s begin with the next 1 to 2 years.

Mobiles were truly ugly when they were first introduced but at least they could withstand rough treatment. In recent years there’s been a tradeoff in mobile phone design, with resilience winning out in favour of artistic beauty. But the future will witness yet another transformation with the introduction of unbreakable mobile phones. Weatherproof handsets are already proving to be a surprise hit with consumers who want their mobile device to be made of tougher stuff. Manufacturers will be looking to use the latest materials, including scratch and shatterproof infused glass, as well as liquid metal for cases, to make them virtually indestructible and, able to bounce back to their original shape after being dented.

Modular mobile phones will hit the market where customers can buy a handset made from features they pick and choose to be included. There’s already a project under way that will allow consumers to decide what their custom handset can do and what it will look like so they can create a phone that perfectly fits their needs. For example, if there’s a phone that has a great camera, but you don’t need the other stuff, this modular approach would allow you to have the best of everything or cherry pick the bits that are important to you. Expect to see the pick ‘n’ mix smartphones shift the goalposts in the immediate future.

In 3 to 5 years, with smartphone screens getting bigger, and people spending more time on mobiles than any other device, expect to see super high resolution, cinema quality displays on handsets. This will be a quantum leap from the monochrome, one line displays of the 90s. We will be looking at full 4K screens, that’s four times the resolution of High Definition, right in the palm of your hand. This feast for the eyes is only just reaching our television living rooms today but mobile makers are already eyeing it up for pocket size gadgets. It’s unlikely that mobile sizes will continue to grow at this stage with around five inches or 12 centimetres fast becoming the optimum size. But within three years, stunning 4K screen will be the de rigueur. And If you think 4G browsing on your phone is pretty fast today, just wait a few years and you’ll be falbbergasted. The next generation wireless mobile network will be at warp speed by comparison, quick enough to download a high def movie in just 30 seconds. It will also make storage size obsolete as everything from your apps including entertainment could be accessed from the storage cloud within the blink of an eye. The infrastructure for this technology is being prepared for release in 2020.

The camera will also evolve in our smartphones to do far more than just your standard selfie. It will have 3D technology using wide angle lenses and sensors so you will be able to map your surroundings, that will mean you can actually walk around inside your photos. Mobile cameras will understand and process the space around you and then remodel it into a 3D image. For example, you could revisit old birthday party pictures, explore old holiday photos, or take a look around hotels, houses for sale or eBay items in great detail. The technology is currently being tested in mobile handsets.

In 6 to 10 years, the fabled foldable mobile phone, which has been talked about almost as long as the flying car will become a reality. This remarkable innovation will be brought about by breakthroughs in material technology — in particular a super thin, super strong and conductive wonder material called Graphene. There are already mobile phones on the market that have a slight bend in them and manufacturers are showing off these flexible devices at tech shows, but within ten years we could see mobiles that can change shape to suit our needs and roll up right into our pocket. There wouldn’t be a need for both a tablet and a mobile, or for you to decide what screen size to choose— imagine being able to unravel a screen that adapts to different sizes? You can make it bigger for browsing the internet or smaller if you just want to make a phone call. Mobile manufacturers are keen on this flexible, wrappable, mouldable, unbreakable mobile device and research labs like the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University in Canada have already begun producing a prototype. Batteries last about as long as a sneeze these days but in the Hi Tech future, our devices could run for 20 years on a single charge. A team at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have developed a titanium dioxide gel that stores lithium ions in its nanostructure which makes it the Holy Grail as far an everlasting battery is concerned. But that is not the only development in battery technology. There’s a team in South Korea looking to transform the heat that’s generated from our bodies into electricity to power mobile phones. There’s also the idea of piezoelectricity, which converts movement into energy so we could walk and charge our mobile phone at the same time. Believe it or not researchers in California have created a tattoo that generates electricity from human sweat. So if you will pardon the pun we won’t have to sweat the future of a mobile phone’s power supply.

In 10 to 15 years those holographic floating displays that used to be the stuff of science fiction movies, will burst out of our mobile devices. Researchers are working on a 3D screen that materialises into thin air which we can move and manipulate. It’s already being developed by a startup company called Ostendo Technologies. Their ‘Quantum Photonic Imager’ is a mini projector that can beam a high resolution image into the open. That technology could be fine tuned so that we’re fully interactive with the floating screen — we could watch sport being played in front of us, get inside maps and play games in a 3D space created for us. Wearable technology is even trying to remove the necessity of carrying a phone and in future years the physical handset could disappear altogether. Just as the smartphone managed to overwhelm the hardware of developments like Sat Nav, MP3 players, wallets, and to some degree watches and compact cameras,the new smart watches and smart glasses will be operated by spoken command and they will become the primary communication device. The screen would be projected in front of the glasses in a Heads Up Display or through a pill sized holographic projector that would unfurl in midair. It would spell the end of the selfie. What a shame.

Finally, in 20 to 30 years we’ll look back and be highly amused at how we once had to actually hold a mobile phone to operate it. Going way beyond wearables, is a smart contact lens that could offer a device free experience to display messages, web pages, directions and video literally right in front of your eye. A lens with basic computer circuitry is currently being tested, which includes sensors that will provide important medical alerts such as when a diabetic reaches dangerous glucose levels. With nanotechnology having the potential to build robots the size of blood cells, the prospect of developing computing components small enough to fit on a contact lens is a distinct possibility. As the memory of clunky, manual mobile handsets morph into a world of invisible communication devices, plugged straight into our bodies, we will also see highly sophisticated operating systems that we can talk to as if they were another human being. Artificial Intelligence with built in personal assistants which become intuitive, knowing what we like, where we’ve been and what we’re doing.

If our mobiles can already work out and tell us when to leave work in order to catch our usual train home while reminding us to say happy birthday to an office colleague  and warning us about the number of calories there are in a biscuit even before we’ve eaten it, how hard can it be to imagine what else it will be able to do? Forget about asking Siri if it’s going to rain, you can have a full blown conversation, if you want to, about the state of the weather all over the world.

A computer has already been designed to dominate the television game show Jeopardy,  providing complex human like answers to questions. Some, like me, might find all of this terrifying but techno geeks, I’m sure, can’t wait. As one wag suggested, Artificial Intelligence is coming so you better get your small talk ready or you will run out of things to say.

A Chinese Company Builds An Apartment Block And A Mansion Using A 3D Printer

There are some naysayers who think climate change doesn’t exist. It’s a greenhouse, or should I say, outhouse myth. Don’t get me wrong. I am not one of them. To me, the evidence is unequivocal. Sea levels are rising and the world is getting warmer. Time is also running out. Some scientists believe we are close to midnight in terms of doing anything meaningful to stop climate change from destroying our world.

But this is not meant to be a discussion on climate change as worthy as that might be. What I am really wittering on about here is the remarkable something that just happened in China, indirectly related to climate change. It may change the way we live. It will certainly change the way we build.

A Chinese company has just constructed an apartment block, and what is quaintly described as a McMansion, using (wait for it) a 3D printer. Go figure. In case you are wondering, is it the same kind of ink jet print used to print copy on pieces of A4 paper? Absolutely. Obviously, we are talking about a ginormous version. The printer is 105 feet or 30 metres long, 33 feet or 10 metres wide and 21 feet or 6 metres high. In fact it resembles a giant piping bag used to decorate cakes. But instead of using ink, the giant 3D printer lays down a cement like material partly made from construction waste, like concrete dust, fiberglass strands, sand and a hardening agent to build walls and ceilings tough enough to withstand an earthquake. The company called Winsun Decoration Design Engineering, constructed a six storey apartment and a mansion, of about 11 thousand square feet or 1,100 square metres, side-by-side in an industrial park in eastern China. And how long did it take for them to do it? This part you are not going to believe. The answer is less than a week, for both buildings. The five storey apartment took one day to print and five additional days to assemble. Not only is it quick, it is environmentally friendly.

The construction method is extraordinary. 3D printing works through a process of layering. The printer reads a file, the same as a deskjet reads an image, and then translates that into a physical object the way your printer spits out ink on to a page—one strip at a time. The “ink” in this 3D printer is recyclable construction material that shoots out of a nozzle and onto a platform. It will gradually build layers with curves until it reaches the top. You could call it a bottom-up process. What is so exciting about this technology is that it’s better suited to creating or prototyping new shapes rather than reproducing existing ones. The Chinese company Winsun constructed preforms for its two buildings that are simply bolted together in much the same way as you would do if you were building a giant Leggo set. The prefabs are then reinforced with steel and filled with insulation, which is the procedure followed in every other traditional construction project. Of course this method of building has produced some remarkable statistics. The company says it cut construction costs, when compared to a standard built project, by 60 percent with 70 percent lower production time and an 80 percent lower cost. The mansion, although huge in size, cost as little as US$161,000 to build. Speed is the key feature. The company says completing the various elements of the structures takes only 30 percent of the time needed to finish a similar structure using traditional construction methods. The company wants to use 3D printers to build bridges and skyscrapers.

This is definitely a new way of building and the possibilities are endless. In fact, last year, Winsun wanted to prove a point so it constructed ten houses in less than 24 hours, each of them about 2,100 square feet, costing US$5,000 to build. Can you imagine how this would benefit low-income housing projects, disaster relief in poor countries, or refugees fleeing war? Instead of living in tents or other crude or rudimentary forms of shelter, these houses could be either temporary or permanent accommodation. These developments have caused a lot of people all over the world to suddenly get very excited. It is not hard to see why. There are key benefits, too good to pass up, for using a 3D printer as a method of construction. Ironically, as a design becomes more complex, the cost of 3D printing drops substantially when compared to traditional methods. And the reason for that is because a 3D printer can literally reinvent the wheel. It can create any prototype you want. The only limit is your imagination. Or course that has architects, all over the world, positively licking their lips. It means that architects can dream up and build all sorts of fantastic structures that are currently either too difficult or too expensive to construct using traditional methods. These kinds of buildings would also be safer for the people living in them as well as the people constructing them. Structures built with curves are inherently stronger. Pillars with greater density towards their edges are sturdier and because fewer construction workers will be needed to build these buildings there will be fewer deaths and injuries. But nothing is perfect. It also means there will be less jobs in the construction industry.

3D printers can also be used for construction of a different kind. For years, scientists were able to “print” types of human tissue using a 3D printer, but in a significant leap forward by both American and Australian researchers, scientists can now make that human tissue survive on its own.

Until now, a major barrier to medical researchers moving from printing tiny sheets of tissue, to entire 3D organs, is that they hadn’t worked out how to develop the vital blood vessels that provide the cells with nutrients and oxygen, and allow them to excrete waste. This essential process is called “vascularisation” and is necessary if researchers are to prevent cells from dying before they can grow into large, transplantable organs. But in a major joint medical breakthrough, researchers from Sydney and Harvard universities have managed to use a 3D printer to bio-print capillaries, the tiny channels that allow vascularisation to take place so that cells can sustain themselves and survive. The process is ingenious. This high-tech “bio-printer,” allows researchers to fabricate tiny, interconnected fibres that serve as the mould for artificial blood vessels. They then cover the 3D printed structure, with a cell-rich protein-based material, which is solidified by shining light on it. Finally, they remove the bio-printed fibres, leaving behind a network of tiny capillaries coated with human endothelial cells, which form stable blood capillaries and all of this happens in less than a week. Biomedical engineer and a leader of the research team, the University of Sydney’s Dr Luiz Bertassoni, said printing organs may still be a couple of decades away, but this was a “great step” towards achieving that goal. “We have shown that we can print these capillaries, we have shown they are functional, that they mature to form capillaries and that we can tailor make them to the sizes and structures we need,” he said. “Tissue engineering to make simpler tissues has been a reality for a number of years and through what we have been able to achieve, we can start talking about larger, more complex tissues that are able to survive longer.”

While the majority of the research was carried out at Harvard University, Bertassoni said a laboratory had recently been established at the University of Sydney so the work could continue in Australia. After the findings were published in the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Bertassoni said he was contacted by patients, wanting to know if this technology means organs can now be printed? While that is still a number of years away, what the medical team had achieved was ‘game-changing.’

But it hasn’t stopped scientists from trying to make human organs using a 3D printer. Harvard researchers are trying to print functioning human kidneys, while a team at the University of Louisville in Kentucky is trying to create a 3-D-printed heart. “Thousands of people die each year due to a lack of organs for transplantation,” Bertassoni said. “Many more are subjected to the surgical removal of tissues and organs due to cancer, or they’re involved in accidents with large fractures and injuries. “While printing organs may be a couple of decades away, I also wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong about that because this type of engineering is moving so rapidly. I would so love to be wrong.”

I think we all hope that you are Doctor Bertassoni.

Is Artificial Intelligence A Threat To Mankind? Stephen Hawking Thinks It Is.

The brave new world is no longer some Aldous Huxley flight of fancy or even fantasy. It’s here. And it’s with us now. It’s called Artificial Intelligence and it’s spawning a flourishing new, and what its advocates hope, will be a massively, profitable industry. Those involved in its development say Ai is nothing more than a benign computer program that does human quality analysis. In other words, it is designed to replace the human element in many tiring, dangerous or time-consuming jobs. Companies like IBM, Google and Apple are spending huge sums of money developing Ai. They say it will be used to manufacture very specific programs designed to improve our society.

Nevertheless, there is widespread fear and distrust of Ai. Who can forget the talking red light called HAL 9000 in 2001 A Space Odyssey. HAL, short for Heuristically programed Algorithmic computer. HAL became a living, not quite breathing personification of evil. A computer, who could talk and was capable of independent, rational thought and ultimately a threat to the human race. So is that what Ai really is? Its supporters say Ai is not alive and never will be. And while it might be capable of performing tasks that a human being would do, it has no genuine creativity, emotions, ambitions or desires other than what is programed into it or what it detects from the environment. Unlike science fiction, or what’s made into movies, Ai has no desire to mate, reproduce or have a large family of little Ai’s running around causing havoc. But in a limited context, Ai can think like us and set tasks for itself. But just like any other computer program or technology, its creators decide its role in society. And we are told those creators have no intention of using it to enslave humanity. They point to the fact that Artificially intelligent computer programs, operate as specialists. There is a network of Ai sub programs each of them individually handling tasks like computer vision, language, machine learning and robotic movement. So Ai is not a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ or even an ‘it’ but a ‘they.’

Supporters of Ai do acknowledge and concede that, like all other computer programs, Artificial Intelligence is ultimately controlled by human beings. It can be designed as a war machine, creating weapons that carry a nuclear or biological payload capable of wiping out the human race. But, they say, that is nothing new. We’ve been able to do that in the past without the need of Ai. In any case it’s not the fault of science. We human beings are to blame. We shouldn’t fear Ai but we should fear the people who might want to misuse it.

I don’t know about you but I don’t find the words and thoughts of Ai supporters particularly comforting or reassuring. And, as it turns out I’m not alone. Two eminent thinkers, Stephen Hawking, a world renowned Astrophysicist and Elon Musk, the guy behind electric car manufacturer, Tesla Motors, PayPal and rocket manufacturer, Space X. Both of these prominent individuals believe Ai is a doomsday prophecy. And while they are not talking about robotic armies rising up to take over the world, they talk of a cataclysmic event called Singularity. Hawking and Musk say ‘singularity’ could only be decades away and what will happen is that the network of world computers and Ai will have a kind of explosion of machine intelligence. By then, most of the world’s food distribution, banking and other vital systems will all be conducted through that network. So the explosion will cause all of the systems to malfunction and that will bring the world to its knees. Now you might be ready to dismiss this as something fanciful. Just as a reminder, this is not a couple of crackpot scientists talking. These two guys are highly intelligent men who the world takes very seriously. In fact, in an interview with the BBC, Hawking went further. He said the development of full Artificial Intelligence would spell the end of the human race. He called for all research into Ai to be aborted immediately, which is kind of ironic coming from someone who relies on Artificial Intelligence to communicate.

Hawking suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). For decades he has been scrolling a cursor through the alphabet, laboriously building words so that he can communicate through twitching his cheek. He was asked to express his thoughts on a recent revamp of his computer-assisted speech system by the computer company, Intel, and machine-learning software company, Swiftkey. Hawking is working with Intel to integrate new features such as predictive text with his existing suite of sensors to help him “speak” through a voice synthesiser. The astrophysicist has embraced a wide range of technologies in his quest to communicate and research.

But it was the ability of the software to “learn” and “predict” his preference in words that completely spooked him. He says while such primitive forms of artificial intelligence have proven to be very useful, he fears the consequences of creating something smarter than a human being. It could take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, would be superseded because they couldn’t compete.

Elon Musk thinks exactly the same way and his language is even more colourful than Hawking. Musk says ‘summoning the demon’ of self-learning, which is what he calls artificial intelligence, would ‘potentially be more dangerous’ than nuclear weapons.

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence, Musk said. “If I were to guess what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that … with artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. (but it) didn’t work out.”

Ai definitely has a lot of people talking. It has caused the formation of ethics panels and UN investigations, university reviews and consumer protection reports. They are saying it is a potential threat but not a clear and present danger.

Supporters of Artificial Intelligence are adamant it will benefit mankind but thinking machines are already rapidly displacing humans in the workforce: Sleepless, never tiring, performing repetitive but complex tasks in an indefatigable manner. If you are in business and don’t think beyond the size of your wallet, you’d have to be asking yourself where is the downside?

Want To Get A Good Night’s Sleep? Then Turn Off The Computer, The iPhone And The iPad

Bedrooms used to be places of rest and recreation. In fact whatever you did in them, was going to do you some good. But that is no longer the case. More and more of us are falling victim to temptation of a different kind. We’re taking laptops, phones and other electronic devices to bed with us. And there can only be one outcome: a bad night’s sleep.

A survey of fifteen hundred people, conducted by an organization called The Sleep Health Foundation, found that almost half of them regularly looked at electronic devices in the bedroom. It means that people are not switching off figuratively and literally before going to bed particularly if they are using the device for work. The problem with these devices is they emit a blue light that, when held closely to your face, prevents your body clock from operating as it should because it stops the release of the hormone, melatonin, which signals oncoming sleep.

And falling asleep in front of the TV, even if its on the other side of the room, is just as bad because it prevents the body from self soothing so you can wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep.

Worldwide research suggests people are getting less sleep than they used to. One survey found that people were having, on average, an hour less sleep a night than they needed – about 7.3 hours when they should be getting 8.25.

There are serious health consequences to be had from not getting enough sleep. If people are poor sleepers, or they regularly have fragmented sleep, then they run a higher risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Having less than 7 hours sleep a night, has even been linked, in some studies, with a greater chance of being overweight or obese. But while the health effects of poor sleep are serious, sleep experts say they don’t want to worry people, especially if it scares them out of a good night’s sleep. Going to bed, worrying that you are not getting enough sleep is both ridiculous and completely the wrong thing to do.

Instead, sleep experts recommend making sure that we implement a one or two-hour buffer before going to bed to allow our bodies to wind down. According to The Sleep Health Foundation survey this is something only two-thirds of the respondents did. Which is not good.

Other tips included having a warm shower before going to bed, which allows the body to cool down more rapidly, and is yet another signal that it’s time to go to sleep.

And for the party animals who like to stay up late at night ( and I live with one) there’s bad news: playing games in front of the computer or binging on booze can actually change the way your body produces melatonin, which can catastrophically disrupt sleep patterns. Just staying in bed for longer in the morning is not the answer. According to the sleep experts, that sleep-in after a late night is actually counterproductive.  A body clock’s cycle does not quite line up with a 24-hour day. Instead, it, stretches closer to 25. This has the effect of giving us a natural incentive to want to stay up later, which is something a sleep-in only exacerbates.

On the weekends we should all try not to sleep in for more than one hour later than when we usually get up in the morning. Otherwise, by the time you get to Sunday night, your body clock might be suffering from the equivalent of jet lag. Your body is behaving as if it is physically on some other time zone, which just perpetuates the cycle of poor sleep patterns.

So, if you happen to be a family with two laptops, two smartphones, a PC, an iPad, an iPod and an assortment of old phones that your younger children use to play games on, then, according to the sleep experts, you need to establish strict rules such as a ban on using technology in their bedrooms at bedtime. 

Here are the four best tips for getting a good night’s sleep according to the experts:

1.Go to bed at a regular time, and allow wind-down time before you do.

2. Limit alcohol consumption and coffee after 2pm

3. Keep clocks out of view

4. Get up early and go out into the sun, ( a big ask in the northern hemisphere at this time of year, I know, because you don’t get much) which will help set your melatonin cycle.

Sweet dreams.