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Silicon Roundup: Beyond Human Endeavour & Triumphing Against The Odds, Tech Is Starting To Eat Up The Column Inches

That thing that nobody thought would ever really happen. It’s happening

here’s a quick breakdown of last week’s news stories – Haggerston Times suspects Tech will begin to dominate the headlines as fantasy starts to become reality.

Last week was notable for some big news stories; Donald Trump steamrollering his way past 17 career politicians to claim the GOP Presedential Candidacy despite his political inexperience and outsider status.

Sadiq Khan’s easy victory over Tory Zac Goldsmith, whose campaign seemed to turn nasty,  veering completely off the rails, to become Labour’s first London Mayor since 2008, and the first ever Muslim mayor of a major European city.

Local elections which saw Labour lose ground in Scotland, slipping to third after the SNP and Scottish Conservatives, gain ground in Wales, and generally underperform expectations, although not by enough to threaten Jeremy Corbyn’s status as party leader.

And who can forget Leicester City’s triumph in British football’s Premier League? A team of players discarded by other clubs with a manager whose appointment was widely derided in footballing circles carrying all before them and lifting the trophy, causing hitherto unthinkable scenes of celebration by the club’s fans and well-wishers.

The common thread that stitches all these stories together is the tales of human endeavour and triumph against the odds that we, the public, never tire of hearing or reading about, and never will.

And yet, besides these three stories, stories of political unrest and upheaval in Turkey, a terrible fire in Canada, and further trouble in Syria, it’s the world of tech that has been grabbing the headlines this week.

And the stars of this particular show are far from human – although they may have human masters, it’s the robots who have been doing all the talking.

For all of the past week the Financial Times has been running a special section devoted to exploring human’s relationships with robots. Are we ready to live side by side with robotic companions? Can we? Can they?

It’s no wonder the world at large is cautious about embracing the rise of the robot. Because one man’s cheeky robotic companion could be another’s mechanical nightmare.

Take Pepper – possibly the world’s most famous robot, built in France, on behalf of Japanese company SoftBank, this is a robot designed and built to be a domestic companion, and will hit the shelves next year priced at €10,000 euros.

Before you reach for the credit card, there are some things you should know.  This robot, it is alleged, uses AI machine learning and data gathering techniques to judge when a human being’s tone of voice or actions reflect sadness, resignation, tiredness or happiness; and responds accordingly.

Finger on the pulse? The public increasingly want to read about tech

If this contraption thinks you are feeling down in the dumps, it may well try to entertain you.

The robot can tell jokes, remind you to brush your teeth or switch the lights off in a room you are not using, and make small talk. It will even sing to you. Ultimately, the FT’s Managing Editor concludes, this robot can be a nuisance, but it has potential. And it’s cute. Time to rethink page 3?

FinTech has been big news in London for some time thanks to the record levels of VentureCapital funding the capital attracts into this sector, so it’s no surprise firms like Azimo, who raised $15m this week from another Japanese firm, Rakuten, are hitting the headlines.

Fash-Tech is a coming force too, and FarFetch grabbed column inches too thanks to a $110m Series F round which values the company at $1.5bn – a “Unicorn” and a half, then.

And a once obscure, much maligned technology seen as nothing more than a “dark web” enabler for drug gangs and money laundering operations, Bitcoin, and its inseparable companion (and probably the real story as it is the piece of tech that makes all online currencies, including Bitcoin, work) the blockchain, have discovered a new-found prominence.

The public are beginning to understand the blockchain, and the response to it could completely transform the world’s monetary system. Fantasy is beginning to become reality.

In fact, one Australian man has tried to claim that he is the real Satoshi Nakamoto, the man (or woman) responsible for creating Bitcoin, whose identity is one of Tech’s great mysteries.

 Craig Wright, who is said to have worked intensively on finetuning and disseminating the currency made the claim this week, only to back down on being asked to provide proof which, it is said, should not prove too onerous. All he would have to do is produce one of the currency’s very first privacy keys.

But he backed down, posting a message on his website saying he didn’t have the courage.

So has the world been turned upside down? The tech press is increasingly becoming the mainstream press, pro-robot, and instead of stories of human endeavour, we must become accostomed to tales of human cowardice?

Meanwhile, soon we will not be sure whether we are talking to a human or a machine when we are online.

So remember you heard it here first – but only just. Robots and AI are big news and very soon, they will be amongst us.

Don’t like it? Try Virtual reality. Or Augmented. Just be grateful you still have a choice.


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