Planning to Cash Out

Planning to Cash Out

We really should plan to phase out cash in the next five years or so — it’s a vestigial remnant of a bygone era. Carrying various shards of metal and pieces of coloured paper around in our pockets that also contain powerful computers makes very little sense. But the current haphazard move to cashless at the whim of individual businesses is not in the public interest.

Do Not Pass Go; Collect Billions of Dollars

Do Not Pass Go; Collect Billions of Dollars

It’s strange to see people posing for photos outside a convenience store. But there’s a steady stream treating Amazon’s Go Store in Seattle like a tourist attraction. Indeed, Amazon refer to each visit you make to the store as a “trip”. But it’s not really about selfies in front of the store — this is a big move by Amazon to change the way we shop offline, which still accounts for the vast majority of shopping — a market worth trillions of dollars.

AI and the Infant Analogy

AI and the Infant Analogy

As I researched my latest book, The New Acceleration, a few things became very clear:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is progressing at incredible speed

  • Most people have little awareness of whether, how and where it’s being used to affect their daily lives already

  • Nobody is very sure what level of regulation is required

  • AI is going to change pretty much everything

An AI Avalanche

An AI Avalanche

The Google I/O Conference keynote was a relentless stream of announcements that are far greater than the sum of their parts. Each individual revelation was impressive in isolation but, taken together, they represent a massive statement of intent from the world’s leading AI company. Years of investment in AI are coming to fruition at an astonishing pace. I don’t recall a keynote with so many announcements. Some will doubtless fail; many will fall short of the slick demonstrations once they make it into the real world. But make no mistake, most will soon come to be a part of everyday life for hundreds of millions of people.

Failing to Learn

Failing to Learn

Last year, the top 15 US companies combined spent over $150 billion dollars on R&D. That’s an awful lot of money to maintain a competitive edge when the returns are so uncertain. Alphabet (Google’s parent company) spends some 15% of its net revenues on R&D, while non-tech consumer companies tend to spend less than 2%. The top 5 spenders were all tech companies.

Nobody Behind The Camera: What happens when computers can see

Nobody Behind The Camera: What happens when computers can see

We’re just at the start of a new revolution in photography — where we’re no longer always the ones taking the photos. With all the recent talk about robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacing humans, who would have thought that photographers would be among the activities in the firing line so soon? Yet three product launches in recent months point to a suddenly impending change where we’re no longer the ones composing the best images.

Just Add Stormtroopers

Just Add Stormtroopers

AR is here and it could be a real menace

It’s hard to think of any photograph that isn’t improved by the addition of a stormtrooper. Google’s latest update to the camera app on the Pixel phone allows you to add a stormtrooper (or other characters, but let’s face it, Stormtroopers are still the coolest even though it’s 40 years since Star Wars first hit the screens) to any photo or video. This is a very mainstream example of Augmented Reality technology in action. And while it’s huge fun, it begs enormous questions about the future of visual evidence.

AI: Email, Flower or Frog?

AI: Email, Flower or Frog?


While you can see more AI around, in eerily accurate Amazon and Netflix “you might also like this” recommendations; widespread coverage of DeepMind learning to play Go better than any human; and in self-driving cars that roam the streets of Silicon Valley, the next time I was personally aware of the progress of these technologies was when I took a photograph of a flower and Google Lens informed me it was a “Bird of Paradise”. Suddenly, technology was able to “understand” an image and determine its contents, which is exponentially harder than understanding text in an email.

AI, after many false dawns, is becoming very real. A concerted effort from academics and corporates, the availability of massive quantities of data inputs for machine learning and rapid advances in processing power have brought us to an inflection point. AI and its various subset technologies are now sufficiently advanced to take on high-level decision-making tasks previously the preserve of humans — and to do them faster and more accurately than we can.

Schrodinger’s Future — it will never be here, yet it already is…

Schrodinger’s Future — it will never be here, yet it already is…

There are glimpses of the future all around us. Well, glimpses of *a* future anyway. Much writing treats the future as if it’s some magical state that will suddenly appear, as if we will one day go to sleep in the present and wake up in a different future — either idyllic or dystopian, depending on your perspective. 

The Growing Pains of Apps

The Growing Pains of Apps

What do you have 30 of, use 10 of each day and had none of 10 years ago? The answer — Apps. These little (and increasingly not-so-little) pieces of software that turn your smartphone into a super-power are everywhere. As of September 2017, there are over 3.6 million of them in the Google Play Store for Android, with over 2 million in Apple’s App Store. Despite the fact that it’s an 80+ billion dollar industry that has created about 2 million jobs and it’s only just 10 years old, we don’t tend to think about it very much, with the focus staying on individual apps more than the phenomenon of apps.

The Laws of Big Technology

The Laws of Big Technology

For a long time, the only law talked about in technology circles was Moore’s Law. Gordon Moore’s assertion in 1965, that the number of transistors on a microchip would double every 2 years or so, has held true for longer than anybody expected. Although not as widely quoted as Moore’s Law, Amara’s Law is one of my favorite ways of looking at the impact of technology on our world. It observes that we “tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run”.

Who Owns the City of the Future?

Who Owns the City of the Future?

In a recent article, I referred to Google and Levi’s as an unlikely pairing, but the Oct 17 press conference in Toronto tops that — the Prime Minister of Canada and the Executive Chairman of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) side-by-side announcing a plan to create a new district in Toronto to serve as a test-bed for new urban technology. Is this an example of mega corporations now transcending borders to become ever more entrenched in our lives, with Governments powerless and even complicit? Or is it a progressive and welcome approach to tackling large scale issues affecting millions of lives?

It’s the Artificial Intelligence, stupid!

It’s the Artificial Intelligence, stupid!

Reviewers comparing the newly announced Google Pixel 2 phones to the iPhone 8/X and the Samsung Galaxy Note/S8 are completely missing the point. While consumers may compare the obvious features and both of the others will massively outsell Google’s effort, the bigger picture is far more important — the Pixel 2 is in fact the first AI-first phone. It’s a kind of smarter smartphone. Look closely and it’s a fascinating glimpse at what lies ahead for the shiny rectangles that have become so pervasive, yet have clearly hit a hardware development plateau compared to the obvious rapid annual advances of years gone by.