All posts by Abshir Hersi

Artificial Intelligence: Friend or Foe?

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have been the technology buzz words of 2018. For some they have been welcomed but for others there are concerns over the prospect of robots taking over our jobs.

Despite the hype and interest around AI’s commercial potential, it’s fair to say that the technology is still at its infancy and arguably excels best at specific tasks and under certain conditions. In other words, AI is currently only as good as we allow it to be, but equally, great results can be achieved with the help of AI to augment the work humans already do. Much of the talk around the uses of AI has been centred on the technology occupying the more time consuming and trivial tasks, freeing people to deal with more creative and complex work.

But what value can be placed on the (potential) impact of AI? Well a recent report from McKinsey Global Institute forecasts that it has the potential to deliver additional global economic activity of around $13tn by 2030. This is 16% higher cumulative GDP compared with today, amounting to 1.2% annual GDP growth per year. The report also predicts that by 2030, around 70% of companies might have adopted at least one type of AI technology.

Here are just a few examples of industries that AI could impact for the better:

Healthcare – In the field of Radiology, AI can complement the work that practitioners do by diagnosing the simpler yet repetitive cases, leaving the more experienced radiologists to focus on more complex issues, patient diagnosis and supervising diagnostic plans.

Customer service – AI can help customer service teams provide greater assistance to customers through AI-powered virtual help desks. These virtual assistants can be programed to confidently and efficiently interact with customers answering the easier preliminary questions before escalating the various different issues to humans to deal with more complex problems.

Manufacturing – AI could benefit the manufacturing industry just as much as automation and advanced IT. The technology can help support manufacturers and significantly improve processes in a number of ways including stronger product design and quality, decreased unplanned downtime, improved work efficiency and a safer environment for employees.

The key theme here is ‘support’. Humans are competitive creatures and if the threat of AI replacing jobs will bring out a competitive mind for innovation, then surely this can only be a good thing? Not only can AI help support us, but it can also push us to find solutions to harder problems or come up with better solutions for existing problems.

AI is in effect just like any other technology that’s here to serve a single purpose – to help us do much better than we already are doing. And if it helps fuel such a significant boost to our economy, surely that’s no bad thing.

That’s definitely maybe fake news

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Until a few years ago many weren’t familiar with the phrase ‘fake news’. News was either, well news, or it wasn’t and nothing more was ever said about it. However, today fake news has become a ubiquitous and tawdry phrase that’s turned from originally being something used to describe an inaccurate and often untruthful story, to something that people use to discredit anything they don’t favour or agree with.

Fake news is actually defined as propaganda containing deliberate misinformation, harmful or not, that is covered across various different forms of media including print, online and social media. This type of news has the ability to mimic trusted websites, reputable news outlets and organisations to deceive people and influence their views. As with most problems, there’s always a solution or two and for fake news it’s all about education. Educating the public on how to not only spot fake news, but also identifying the various different forms it comes in, can go a long way to tackling this issue that the media landscape is currently gripped by. Here are three of the most common types of fake news that everyone should be aware of.

Misleading headlines

Arguably one of the most common types of fake news, these stories are not always false, but they do convey dishonesty through hyperbolic and sensationalist headlines to attract a high number of readers. For example last year, a well-known tabloid newspaper inaccurately published a story with a headline stating that a lorry had mounted a curb and crashed into pedestrians on London’s Oxford Street. What had actually occurred was an altercation between two members of the public at Oxford Circus tube station. These types of stories can spread quickly on social media, causing unnecessary concern.

Clickbait

Similar to misleading headlines, this type of fake news is designed to garner higher readership figures and increase ad revenue, but that’s where the similarities end. Clickbait stories are almost always intentionally fabricated and carry little to no factual evidence. An example being: ‘The one secret that banks don’t want you to know that could make you an instant billionaire over night!’. Articles of this sort are becoming more and more commonplace, driving web traffic and click-throughs, but at the expense of the truth.

Propaganda

News stories often carry agendas and fake news is no different, except that in this case it is content deliberately constructed to influence and mislead the audience by promoting a biased/slanted view on a topic that feeds into and pushes a particular agenda. For example, during the 2016 US presidential election, it was reported that thirteen Russian nationals accused of using propaganda to influence the public vote were charged with illegally trying to disrupt the American political process by creating hundreds of fictitious active social media accounts to discredit Hillary Clinton and the Democrat Party.

Unfortunately, fake news is not something that will disappear anytime in the near future so we all need to ensure we’re able to recognise it, filter it out and also warn others to do the same.

Celebrating 20 years of technology – the ubiquitous USB flash drive

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Many of those who are old enough to remember the floppy disk will recall how revolutionary it was back in its day. But of course things change, and with a memory capacity of approximately 1.44 MB, the floppy disk eventually became obsolete in the fast moving and ever changing world of technology. Unlike its predecessor however, the USB 1.1 flash drive has become an omnipresent staple of office life around the world over the last 20 years.

Released in the summer of 1998, the USB flash drive was a revolutionary replacement for CDs and floppy disks. Small, portable, practical and with a large data storing capacity, the USB drive has many winning qualities.

Before the inception of the USB drive, one would have to carefully transfer a small file on to a floppy disk or a blank CD, find a safe and secure medium to carry and transport the device in, which usually was a carry case, and then finally transfer the data onto another computer – hoping it would work!

The USB drive is able to complete this at a much faster and efficient rate; and transportation is as simple as a handbag or a trouser pocket. Over the years, the memory storage capacity of the USB has gradually increased and now it’s able to carry data of up to 1TB in size, sometimes even more.

As with all technological innovations though, scrutiny will of course be placed on security. Due to its size and weight it is not that difficult to lose possession of, which could (and has in well publicised examples over the years) result in the loss of sensitive data. However, although not every USB drive contains built-in security protection, there are ample amounts of USB 1.1 drives that possess secure and encrypted security features.

Its importance may often be overlooked or simply underrated, but the USB is one of those devices that really has made a huge impact in terms of the way we share and transfer data. Here’s to another 20 years!