MSP40: QUESTIONS UNANSWERED

 Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched by Kulturpop.

Original Images: Pixabay. Glitched by Kulturpop.

MSP40: QUESTIONS UNANSWERED

Today we’re going to speed through a bunch of the questions that Matt gets asked most often. What do the Facebook and Twitter share price falls mean? Should I invest in crypto currency? Where’s my ray gun? It’s time to Mattsplain.

Because he’s got a one track mind – a recent show on GPS being a good example – we usually tackle one topic at a time on Mattsplained. That generally means there are more things we can’t cover than we can talk about. Today we’re going speed read our way through some of the topics Kulturpop’s Matt gets asked on a daily basis. 

 

It sounds a little less depressing than what we do most weeks. It’s time to Mattsplain.

 

Will today be less depressing than what we do most weeks?

·      No. Covering more topics means I can scare even more people than usual.

·      I’m hoping it’ll be like watching a Tony Robbins lecture backwards.

·      You’ll feel a lot more scared and insecure by the end.

·      I’m going to jump straight in and ask the first question myself, because I’ve been peppered with it this week.

·      Does the recent fire sale on Twitter and Facebook shock pose any great problems?

 

Does it?

·      For investors, yes. They’ve lost money. And while those stocks may not dip too much further – I’m not an analyst, you’ll get better advice from the Morning Run crew than from me on that – I don’t know if they’ll soar again in quite the same way.

·      It doesn’t seem to be the start of a tech sector rout. Apple’s quarterly announcement was very strong, indeed. Even if Huawei now makes more phones than Apple. 

·      But most of us aren’t Facebook or Twitter investors. That’s a really small number of people.

·      The majority of us, literally billions of us, as far as the markets are concerned, we’re just losers. I mean users.

 

What do you think it means for users?

·      If you look at it that way round: not very much.

·      Our day to day use of these services will continue exactly the same.

·      The real question is: what does it mean to the people governing those companies?

·      If I was them, I would be scared.

 

You think Mark Zuckerberg will miss the $17bn he personally lost?

·      No. Because I would imagine he’s never looked at those shares as money.

·      They’re control. They mean he gets to run the company the way he wants.

·      I’m guessing that’s worth more than a few billion dollars to him.

·      I think that’s one thing we miss. We fixate on the estimated worth of these guys.

·      But that doesn’t mean that they do. They already have loads of money. It’s just arbitrary numbers after a while.

·      Besides, when you’ve got a superyacht and you can wear a box fresh hoodie every day, what is there left to spend It on?

 

But you think that confidence issue will worry them?

·      Far more than those market optics.

·      In a way this is like one of those world breaking domino toppling things.

·      The tiles started topping last year, and they’ve gone up and down and in and out of obstacles in a way that would make an OK Go! Video go viral.

·      And we’ve finally reached that end point where declining user confidence and trust has finally tipped over into the financial markets.

 

Concerning the Twitter stock fall, quite a few analysts have claimed to be surprised, saying things like Twitter’s fundamentals are great, it’s turning a corner into profitability.

·      But that bullish sentiment overlooks the user mistrust we were talking about.

·      Twitter has announced plans to delete an incredible 70m fake accounts.

·      Were Twitter and Facebook naiive? Or did they not care? Or was there some horrible collision of the two somewhere in the middle?

·      What we do know is that a lot of the big social media companies are struggling to maintain growth and attract new sign ups.

·      At the same time, their role in spreading fake news is prompting some users to delete or retire their accounts.

 

And potential younger customers aren’t signing up either…

·      Of all the factors that’s probably the most worrying for them

·      It’s amazing to believe that services like twitter and Facebook could be seen as something for old people.

·      And that we know these new generations are much more social, 

·      it also appears that there are very resentful of the fact that their parents shared the kids childhoods publicly.

·      Now those kids are at an age where they can get their own social media profiles, and they’re increasingly opting for networks where they can button-down who does or doesn’t see their posts.

·      We’re seeing the increasing importance of Applications like Whatsapp which offer far more privacy.

·      For twitter especially, that rejection of visibility and universality by an entire generation could be incredibly damaging.

 

I know you’ve made a decision to stop using Twitter.

·      It’s a personal decision. I’m not going to use the show to soapbox it.

·      If you’re interested, I’ve put up an article on Medium.com that explains why I’ve chosen to leave the service and be a #Qwitter. 

·      That’s probably more than enough about social media. What else is in the untweeted bag?

 

Let’s stick with the news first. We touched on this last week. 3D printed guns. Now, there have been some arguments that the dangers are overblown and that the guns it’s possible to print are unreliable, dangerous and quite limited.

·      All of that is true.

·      Due to the limitations of the plastic composite that we generally 3-D print with, any gun that’s printed off can only really be used once.

·      It’s not very accurate. And it probably won’t be very reliable.

·      So, in a sense, it’s a terrible gun.

·      You don’t legislate by looking at the technology you have today.

·      Designing laws and the systems that support them takes a long time, and so you legislate by looking at the technology going to have tomorrow.

 

You’re worried that allowing these pistols today could lead to amateur missiles tomorrow?

·      I know it sounds stupid. It’s something we say on this show over and over; you think you have time then suddenly the future overtakes you.

·      Look at the data protection laws that the EU instituted this year.

·      We should’ve had those a decade ago. Maybe even longer. 

·      In a very short period of time, we are going to be able to do things in our homes that still require billion-dollar production facilities today.

 

It’s been a while since we talked about 3D printing.

·      Yeah. I can’t stop boring people with it.

·      But my obsession with it is the same.

·      It won’t happen overnight, at first we will see larger scale machinery in regional staging posts, then move downwards to depots in every town or large community before we eventually start seeing more capable equipment in households.

·      Soon, the only thing that will control what you can make at home Will be your access to raw materials.

·      So we should be able to control most biological weapons, 

·      But once we start being able to print off Metal handguns then there will be nothing to stop us making guns of pretty much any size and calibre.

·      And unless there is a concerted effort globally, anyone, anywhere Will be able to manufacture pretty much any gun or maybe even larger ordinance like heavy artillery systems.

 

Assuming they can get the gunpowder and explosives.

·      Sure. Even that might be easier than it sounds with printers that handled the synthesis of drugs and other powdered goods.

·      We aren’t going to be able to stop this technology.

·      Because there be so many users, we’re not going to be up to control it either.

·      It’s the Instagram of warfare.

·      The only thing we can do is come up with legal frameworks will address part of the problem and push the blueprints as far into the dark web as we can.

 

Another common question we all get here: will AI or robots replace my job?

·      There’s a pretty simple answer to that. Yes.

·      Every single one of us thinks that our role in our job is too important to outsourced to a machine.

·      Every single one of us is wrong.

·      Machines may not replace every lawyer, accountant, salesperson, DJ, scientist, architect, doctor, writer, designer, marketer, labourer, technician, craftsperson, baker, janitor, security guard, police officer, soldier, Airline pilot, taxi driver.

·      Ok, you get the point.

 

Machines will replace most of us?

·      Yes. I still do some of my day job work in the advertising industry and I was chatting to a friend earlier this week.

·      We were discussing this which is one of the reasons I’m bringing it up again.

·      Everyone thinks that because advertising is such a theoretically creative industry, it will be immune to this kind of encroaching technology.

·      But I don’t think so. I can certainly see AI replacing human graphic designers within a few years.

·      those machines can come up with hundreds or thousands of different variations in the same time that a human design team might be able to come up with half a dozen.

·      You may still need a creative director to choose which designs are shown to the clients.

·      What’s worrying about replacing all the Junior positions with machines is that you don’t have an obvious route for anyone to develop those leadership or decision-making skills. 

·      And that goes across the board. Architects, doctors etc etc.

 

How clever is AI in human terms?

·      You know, I keep trying to get AI experts to give me an equivalent in human years.

·      Or a IQ level. They all refuse.

·      I think this is one of the reasons that we find AI so confusing.

·      We have this need to compare AI to our own intelligence, because that’s our default marker.

·      The AI experts try and avoid doing it because machine intelligence is very different to our own: it’s not an equivalent to human intelligence.

 

That won’t help anyone either.

·      Will know the story about the AI that is the world Go playing champion.

·      It can compute thousands upon thousands of variations of moves.

·      Change the dimensions of the go board by even a line and that Machine will not be able to cope.

·      The analogy I keep using on the show is the 6 year old boy who knows absolutely everything about dinosaurs.

·      Can he make you a sandwich? No. Can he calculate the angle on triangle? If he’s remotely normal, no.

·      6 year old boys are utterly useless unless you want to know about dinosaurs. That is why cats are superior to all children.

·      And, as awful as that analogy is, that’s basically what AI is.

 

A couple of quick ones before the break. Should I buy cryptocurrency?

·      No. Money is a very weird thing to invest in.

·      If it’s fluctuating wildly then it’s very bad at being a medium of exchange, which is its actual job.

·      So the value it possesses is entirely arbitrary and is driven by belief in its value. Which, if you can’t use it to actually buy stuff with, makes it pointless as anything except a medium of investment. 

·      And so the circle goes until everyone wakes up and it crashes.

·      You may make some money in the short term if you’re lucky, but it is risky because, as a currency it has to stabilise or be corrected towards it actual value.

 

Can you explain the blockchain?

·      Again, No. At least not today. I keep promising, and I will do a show on blockchain before the end of August. 

 

When we come back. More of your random technology queries.

 

BREAK

 

Before the break we rattled through an impressively quick list – quick by Matt’s standards, anyway – of responses to questions we’re often asked.

 

Sticking with the AI we were exploring before the break. Will I be able to marry a robot in the future?

·      I’m assuming that’s a hypothetical question. There isn’t a specific robot, right?

·      Before the break I was saying how different human and machine intelligence is.

·      That’s not to say that machines won’t develop some form of sentience.

·      As with the 3-D guns I was talking about, these are issues we should be thinking about and legislating for today, because the reality is probably going to arrive a lot sooner than we think.

·      So we have to come up with a governing frameworks for machine intelligence.

 

Guaranteeing the equivalent of human rights?

·      Exactly. As regular listeners will know, I’ve spent quite a lot of this year talking about sex robots.

·      Not because it’s really an area that I’m particularly interested in, because it’s been on the news and people keep asking me to comment on the subject.

·      So in part this goes to answering your question about marrying a robot.

·      If you have a sex robot that has intelligence but is not self-aware, then that’s probably fine.

·      If you have a sex robot that is sentient but has no control over its own life, then what you’ve created is a slave.

·      If we decide, As a society, that we want machines to become sentient and self-determining, I don’t see any issue with you and a consenting AI getting hitched, whether the machine has a physical body or it resides in a cloud.

·      If the robot’s dumb and only has a programmed personality, then that’s kind of gross.

 

I guess we’re sticking with the man-machine questioning on this next one. Should I edit my DNA?

·      this is the same argument as the 3-D printing for guns.

·      The technology is cheap and easily available. 

·      You can hack your DNA in the comfort of your own home with a few hundred dollars’ worth of tools.

·      Should you do that? You really shouldn’t.

·      We’re not at the point where we really understand what the consequences are.

·      A lot of research is being done, but genetics is such an enormous field, it’s going to be a long time before we haven’t really good understanding of The implications and consequences.

 

I don’t think that’s going to stop the backroom hackers.

·      It won’t. Because this technology is already reality.

·      And we don’t have the social framework to deal with it.

·      It’s another example of a place where the rules that govern our behaviour have fallen behind the advances in technology.

·      Over the next couple of decades I think we’re going to see thousands of people doing themselves enormous harm trying to tinker with their DNA.

·      You can see the potential for abuse in professional sports, for example.

·      Or in the increasingly competitive world of education.

·      People hacking themselves to enhance their performance in various aspects of their life.

·      We talk about laboratory grown meat and how that freaks people out. Well, DNA hacking freaks me out in that way

 

One of your current obsessions is screenless technology. But what a lot of people want to know, is how do you browse the Web without a screen?

·      Ok, screenless tech is a bit of a misnomer.

·      It’s really an extension of the Internet of Things.

·      So, at the moment, if you have a lot of smart home devices you’re probably controlling most of them through an app on a smartphone or tablet.

·      What we are seeing with systems like Amazon Alexa, googles various voice control systems, Siri, and a bunch of others, is an attempt to take those devices off our screens and control them by voice.

·      We’ve transitioned from storing information on paper to digital screens. 

·      This is the next step.

·      Speaking is one of the most efficient Communication tools that we have.

 

We won’t see screens disappearing completely?

·      No. What we’ll be seeing is that information won’t be chained to digital screens.

·      You’ll still have to write those office reports on Microsoft Office or Google Docs, at least until the machines take your job and write the documents themselves.

·      A lot of information we don’t need to see. The time, the weather, and the headlines.

·      All of those can be delivered to us by a machine that speaks. 

·      A lot of our information searches can be vocalised and the results spoke back to us.

·      For listeners who don’t believe me: I’ll ask you a question: what do I look like.

·      Most of you won’t know or care.

·      Speaking is why we still have radio in a screen filled world,

·      Voices are important. 

·      Going screenless isn’t so much a forward step as a correction; we’re bringing the machines into line with the way that the human species has always communicated. By voice.

 

Won’t it be noisy?

·      That’s my next point. We may all end up wearing Bluetooth devices or having some kind of ear implant.

·      I don’t want to confuse things further by getting into the realm of Brain implants and your thoughts directly to your communication devices, so let’s Pretend I haven’t mentioned that.

·      Look around your office. How many people spend pretty much the entire day with headphones clamped onto their ears?

·      It’s not going to be a big shift. I think by large we’ve already made the behavioural adaptations that will enable voice controlled tech to become second nature.

 

Long-time listener Umapagan wants to know: where’s my ray gun?

·      At risk of being sued by our drivetime colleague, I will admit that he didn’t really ask that question.

·      But Jeff and I both know he wants one. 

·      One of the Guardian’s tech reporters, a guy called Dave Hall, has a really fun weekly column called They Promised Us where he tries to figure out how close we’re getting to all that must-have sci-fi technology from our childhood.

·      Hoverboards, teleporters, holograms. And of course, that 1960s alien invasion staple, the ray gun.

 

[Repeat a little manically] Where’s my ray gun?

·      Calm down. I’ve taped one to the underside of your desk.

·      Well, it looks likely that the ray gun, at least in terms of a laser weapon, may be a bit of a non-starter. 

·      Boring as it sounds, conventional munitions are simply more efficient in real world conditions.

·      Lasers are fairly easily distracted by smoke, fog, cloud and all the normal thing that warfare throws at weapons systems.

 

No one’s really into it?

·      Every big country’s military is still trying to do stuff with the technology, but because of the amount of power they require, it seems that laser weapons are more suited to stationary positions or the decks of ships where huge power converters can supply them power.

·      Certainly, we’re not likely to see a taser sized laser gun any time soon.

·      Laser weapons are also likely to take quite a bit of time to repower for a second shot. And may overheat and blow up before you can hit your target.

 

That’s a shame.

·      You might be worrying prematurely. In terms of destructiveness and high tech we’re kind of leap-frogging the laser and making scary progress on some truly shock and awe type weapons..

·      There are microwave weapons that work by heating the water in your skin.

·      Those are mostly for use in crowd control and disorientation, but tests are continuing to see if they cause any long term damage.

·      My favourite are the plasma weapons the US government is supposed to be working on.

·      They literally create lightning and fire it at you. 

·      Which, I guess is the closest any of us will get to being Thor with his Bifrost.

·      And of course, work continues into particle beam weapons, but they come with the rather nasty side effect of dousing you in lethal doses of radiation when you fire them.

 

Could I make any of these with a 3D printer?

·      Worryingly, once the technology is out there in the wild, I don’t see why you wouldn’t be able to make some of them at home.

·      Maybe not today, but within a few generations of the technology.

·      Especially the microwave weapon. Because you already have a machine using that technology in your kitchem

·      Really makes those one shot guns look primitive, right?

 

You’re all for these nightmarish, dystopian pronouncements. Does the future really look that bad?

·      No. I had another dystopian exchange with a friend over email last week.

·      A lot of the time, these futures look dystopian because we’re looking at individual elements.

·      It’s one of the reasons I stress the need to find frameworks and codes of conduct for using this technology.

·      The future nearly always look nightmarish from some perspective.

·      Imagine some poor peasant wandering out of the bucolic countryside and into the smoke and dirt and pollution of the industrial revolution.

·      Yet, we wouldn’t be where we are today without going through that. 

·      Which is why it’s important to know where we’re headed and make sure that ours is one of the many hands on the tiller.

 

One final question. The one I’m sure that we are both asked most often. What phone should I buy?

·      Sigh. It always comes back to that, doesn’t it.

·      You go into great detail and map out what society might look like in 50 years and the only thing people really want to know is should I buy the Huawei or the Samsung.

·      My answer doesn’t change. If you buy a phone from well-known manufacturers, the chances are you won’t get a bad one.

·      Blah blah processor, blah blah RAM. Who cares?

·      Look, go into the showroom and test all the phones you’re interested in.

·      The assistants won’t like it but hey, the economy’s not great, so if you spend an hour playing with it they really aren’t going to kick up a fuss because the chances are you’re the only person in the store.

·      Forget the specs. Find a phone you like and works for you. The differences are so subtle. A better camera from this manufacturer. A slight tweak to the screen resolution on this one.

·      Stock OS from this one. 

·      Find a phone and a price that makes you happy. 

·      I can’t tell you what that will be, so trust your own judgement.

 

Matt Armitage