Posted by & filed under AI/Artificial Intelligence, Bots, Ethical issues.

“Inflatable duck baby pool with canopy.” “Hot selling colourful temporary full arm tattoo for men.” “Splendid reusable dog pee pad (minimum order: 500).”

Load up the homepage for e-commerce giant, Alibaba – a wholesale shopping site that’s more or less China’s answer to eBay – and you’ll find images and descriptions of anything you could wish to buy, from kitchen sinks to luxury yachts. Every item has a short headline, but most are little more than lists of keywords: hand-picked search terms to ensure this USB phone charger or that pair of flame-resistant overalls float to the top in a sea of thousands upon thousands of similar items.

“Generative bots are the new chatbot,” says Jun Wang at University College London. “Generating copy is just one of the applications that can be done.”

Source: BBC Future

Date: September 13th, 2018



1) ” the AI copywriter applies deep learning and natural-language processing tech to millions of item descriptions on Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao sites to generate new copy of its own”.  What actually is “deep learning” and “natural-language processing”?

2) Is it ethical to use a “Generative bot”?

Posted by & filed under App Economy, Privacy.

A study looked at hundreds of apps’ privacy policies — then compared them to the data actually collected.  Of the 757 apps analyzed, the researchers found nearly 60 per cent of apps collected more information than stated in their privacy policies.

Source: CBC News

Date: September 7th, 2018



1) Why does it matter that apps collect more data than stated in their privacy policies?

2) Since you never check your apps’ privacy policies, shouldn’t the app be able to collect whatever it wants, or should it have to tell you what it is collecting?

Posted by & filed under Automation, Chatbot.

Call centre worker with head in his hand

The biggest threat to jobs might not be physical robots, but intelligent software agents that can understand our questions and speak to us, integrating seamlessly with all the other programs we use at home and at work. And call centres are particularly at risk.

Last week we learned that British retail giant Marks & Spencer is moving 100 switchboard staff to other roles because chatbots are taking over their duties.

“All calls to 640 M&S stores and contact centres now handled via Twilio-powered technology,” boasted the California-based tech company operating the new system.

M&S is now using Twilio’s speech recognition software and Google’s Dialogflow artificial intelligence (AI) tool to transcribe customers’ verbal requests and understand their intent. Then the call is routed to the appropriate department or shop.

The system could handle about 12 million queries a year, Twilio says.

Source: BBC Technology of Business

Date: September 7th, 2018



1) How might you use a Twilio chatbot to build a brand new company?

2) What are some of the business issues and risks with building a company around just a chatbot?

Posted by & filed under Cyber Security, Quantum Computing.

Circuit board head graphic

Quantum computers have long been touted as incredibly powerful machines that will be able to solve hugely complex computational problems much faster than any computer we have available today. But no-one can agree on the best way to make them. Who will win the race?

Superfast quantum computers could speed up the discovery of new medicines, crack the most complex cryptographic security systems, design new materials, model climate change, and supercharge artificial intelligence, computer scientists say.

But there’s currently no consensus on the best way to make them or how to make them available to the mass market.

Source: BBC Technology News

Date: September 7th, 2018

Link (page includes several short videos on quantum computing):


1) The article notes that “Moore’s Law … is finally breaking down.”  What is Moore’s Law, and how is it important in information systems and technology?

2) What are some of the issues arising if quantum computers can “crack the most complex cryptographic security systems”?

Posted by & filed under crypto-currency, Virtual goods.

Investors are spending real money to buy land in a new city that only exists in virtual reality. Buyers can build whatever they want on their plots in Decentraland. Many hope to make a profit trading goods and services in the virtual world’s own crypto currency. But will Decentraland be an online utopia or a cyber slum?

Source: BBC

Date: September 5th, 2018

Link to video:


1) A good ten years ago, a very similar community called Second Life was created, with people conducting business inside it, including Best Buy, IBM and even political candidates.   Why should Decentraland be successful ,whereas Second Life (which is actually still around) was not so much?

2) Does it make sense to invest in virtual land?

Posted by & filed under Automation, Robotics.

spot mini updated

SpotMini, the robotic dog and social media sensation, is looking for a job.

Boston Dynamics, the company behind the cybernetic canine, excels at two things: designing cool robots, and making viral videos of them in action. SpotMini has racked up an impressive 30 million YouTube views in just a few years, and a photo of the robot strolling along side Jeff Bezosblew up on Twitter in March.

But Boston Dynamics CEO Marc Raibert thinks its time for his social media star to earn a real living. Goodbye, relaxing walks with tech titans. Hello, windowless warehouses. Raibert sees the 66-pound robot thriving in construction, delivery jobs, security, and, eventually, homecare, and says the company plans to begin producing 1,000 of them annually by the middle of next year.

Source: CNN Technology News

Date: August 28th, 2018

Link (includes video):


1) “It’s up to all of you to think of the application”.  So, what sorts of applications can you think of for this robot dog?

2) Do you agree with the assessment that the immense complexity here has made this robot dog, with its attendant price tag, beyond the reach of businesses and consumers?

Posted by & filed under Emerging Economies.

in the surrounding area, more than 400,000 others inhabit mud huts, one-room cinder block bungalows, or ramshackle brick structures at citrus plantations and informal farms along roads that wind through the bush. Nikki Stuart-Thompson serves these people with a nonprofit that provides health care to the poor.

But before she can help them, she needs to find them, which isn’t always easy. There are villages with thousands of residents but no street addresses and places with houses strung out every few hundred yards on dirt paths.

So last year, when Stuart-Thompson heard about a system that could help her workers navigate directly to any location in the region with a margin of error of only a few feet, she quickly embraced the idea. It didn’t matter that the addresses were nonsensical three-word phrases such as lakefront.boundless.vitals (that’s her office), orchestra.grapeseed.sergeants (a local clinic), or file.trod.explicable (the hospital).

Source: Bloomberg Technology

Date: August 28th, 2018



1) How might you use this sort of service for a business idea?

2) Why does it matter a lot that information systems are being used to solve issues for the poorest people on earth?

Posted by & filed under Self-driving vehicles.

Uber cars

Japanese carmaker Toyota is to invest $500m (£387m) in Uber and expand a partnership to jointly develop self-driving cars.

The firm said this would involve the “mass-production” of autonomous vehicles that would be deployed on Uber’s ride sharing network.

It is being viewed as a way for both firms to catch up with rivals in the competitive driverless car market.

The fleet will be based on Toyota’s Sienna Minivan model with pilot trials beginning in 2021.

Source: BBC Technology News

Date: August 28th, 2018



1) “This agreement and investment marks an important milestone in our transformation to a mobility company ” said the head of Toyota.  What does he mean by “mobility company”?

2) “Shares in Toyota spiked at reports of the deal. Not surprising. Many analysts think personal car ownership will drop dramatically when the self-driving, ride-sharing future is fully upon us.”  Do you agree with this analysis?

Posted by & filed under Data Analytics, Emerging Economies, IT Projects.

Cholera Map

Cholera cases in Yemen have been slashed by a new system that predicts where outbreaks will occur.

Last year, there were more than 50,000 new cases in just one week – this year, the numbers plummeted to about 2,500.

The system has enabled aid workers to focus efforts on prevention several weeks in advance of an outbreak – by monitoring rainfall.

Source: BBC Technology News

Date: August 28th, 2018

Link (includes video):


1) The solution to the problem here involved combining different sets of data in order to provide useful information.  Which different sets of data were used?

2) What other sorts of problems could be solved by combining different sets of data?