Saturday, April 25, 2015

From the Mouse to the Smartphone and Beyond

It's that time of the year again, as the nights draw in the free public Gibbons Lectures in Auckland take place. The first lecture is this Thursday the 30th at 6:00pm for a 6:30pm start. Every year the lecture series has a theme and this year it's human computer interaction. The first lecture is by Professor Mark Apperley and titled From the Mouse to the Smartphone and Beyond: tracing the development of human-computer interaction. Click the lecture link for full venue details and if you can't attend the lecture will be streamed live and after the event.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TV interview on Artificial Intelligence

I was interviewed last night on Media Take for Maori Television. The interview was about the recent predictions by people like Steve Wozniak and Stephen Hawking that artificial intelligence might develop to the point where humans become redundant and robots rule the world. The show will be broadcast (in New Zealand) again on Sunday at 2:00pm but it can be viewed online at

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Should "killer robots" be banned?

Lethal autonomous weapons systems, or "killer robots" as the public prefer to call them, are almost a reality. In fact in certain cases, such as Israel's Iron Dome rocket defence system, they already exist. Should the ability of a robot to identify a target and execute an attack without human intervention be outlawed? Many people believe it should, arguing that a robot can never act morally, whilst others argue that in certain circumstances robots may be less dangerous than frightened, stressed and fatigued soldiers. A week long meeting at the UN in Geneva is currently considering the issue. The UK government has already declared that it opposes an international ban on developing "killer robots" as described in this article in the Guardian. An international coalition of NGO's called the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is lobbying to have a ban established before the technology is upon us. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Alan Turing's manuscript sells for $1,025,000

The auction house Bonhams in New York have just sold a handwritten scientific document written by Alan Turing, in which he worked on the foundations of mathematical notation and computer science, for $1,025,000. Before the auction Bonhams described the document as "Made up of 56 pages contained in a simple notebook bought from a stationers in Cambridge, UK, it is almost certainly the only extensive autograph manuscript by Turing in existence, and has never been seen in public. From internal evidence, it dates from 1942 when he was working at Bletchley Park to break the German Enigma Code, and provides remarkable insight into the thought process of a genius."

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

My computer was stolen!

Last week at 3am thieves broke into my house and stole my MacBook Pro and my wife's MacBook Air. After we called the police we immediately logged into iCloud's "Find My iPhone" service and locked and erased both Mac's. Both of the machines were password protected from the lock screen and their hard drives were encrypted with FireVault. Consequently we were reasonably confident that the combination of lock screen password, encryption and iCloud erasure would keep our data secure.
   When my wife got her replacement MacBook Air (within two days from her employer, I'm still waiting on mine) I installed SugarSync (our preferred cloud storage and back-up service) and voila! Within an hour her documents folder and desktop were populated with all her original files. No work was lost. In the last week we've noticed no unusual activity an any of our accounts and we're confident our data and identities are secure. What could have been a disaster, thanks to taking reasonable precautions and ensuring our machines were backed up in the cloud, has merely been a minor inconvenience.