Waking Life

Following my review of Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK, I’ve just finished watching a film called Waking Life, directed by Richard Linklater.

This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved this film for its originality if nothing else. For me, Waking Life is one of those art forms that reminds you that you can like something and not really know why.

There isn’t really a story to anchor to here, the protagonist is seemingly trapped in a maze of dreams, and experiences a series of conversations discussing the meaning of life, some of which are intriguing and insightful, whilst others come across like they’re purposefully nonsense.

The film is shot like a documentary but has been converted in post to appear caricatured on a cartoon landscape.

Anyway it’s one of the more interesting films I’ve watched in recent months, so check it out if you haven’t seen it already. Likewise, let me know if there are any thought provoking films you’d recommend.

 

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Book Review: Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono

Published: October 23, 2012

“Very interesting and informative. Full of stats and specifics that allow you to form an opinion based on the evidence.”

fourandahalfstars

What Is ‘Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK’ About?

You are about to become obsolete. You think you are special, unique, and that whatever it is that you are doing is impossible to replace. You are wrong. As we speak, millions of algorithms created by computer scientists are frantically running on servers all over the world, with one sole purpose: do whatever humans can do, but better.

That is the argument for a phenomenon called technological unemployment, one that is pervading modern society. But is that really the case? Or is it just a futuristic fantasy? What will become of us in the coming years, and what can we do to prevent a catastrophic collapse of society?

Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK: how to survive the economic collapse and be happy explores the impact of technological advances on our lives, what it means to be happy, and provides suggestions on how to avoid a systemic collapse.

Why Did I Read ‘Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK’?

My interest in this book started about six months ago after I attended a tech conference in Amsterdam. The main guest speaker, Federico Pistono, gave an insightful presentation explaining what we could expect to see in the job market over the coming years due to the effects of ‘automation’.

More or less, this was the presentation:

Having now read the book, whilst making lots of notes along the way, I’ll now attempt to summarise the most intriguing elements of Federico Pistono’s work.

What I Like About ‘Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK’?

Firstly, to find out the average percentage on whether your job will be replaced – click on this link: http://www.bit.ly/npr-job-machine

The book is divided into three parts:

1) Exploring the topic of technological unemployment and its impact on work and society (The stats are predominately focused on the US economy, with assurances that the same argument applies to most of the industrialised world)

2) In the second part he delves into the nature of work itself and the relationship between work and happiness.

3) The last part is a bold attempt to provide some practical suggestions on how to deal with the issues presented in the first two parts.

We begin by looking at the definition of exponential growth and see how this associates itself with Moore’s Law (that computer power doubles every 2 years), along with a look at applying the definition of intelligence to Google.

Federico explores the trends in automation and its perceived impact on retail and other industries. As well as the importance of ‘human contact’ when purchasing and shopping.

“The trend is clear. Companies in the manufacturing sector are automating and the typical statement that “people will find something else to do” is simply a cop-out that does not look at the reality of the situation…”

He explains the long terms pros and cons to the introduction of 3D printers and automated construction – the impending model for house construction that will remove professions. As well as the environmental benefits of automation: reduced wastage, employee accidents, and so on.

There is an interesting section on the rise of assistance technology such as Siri and Google. Google have made no secret of their intention to move away from being considered a Search engine and to focus on becoming a fully established assistant capable of supporting everyday needs and tasks, recognising languages and accents.

“Just as cavemen could not imagine the complex cities and societies we live in today, neither can we anticipate in any accurate detail what is soon to come.”

Social factors and trust issues are given their due credit. Social acceptance whether it be fear, uncertainty, doubt, ignorance, or special interests may block the next generation automation for a while, but not forever.

“Even though we have the technology and the capability to provide the world’s 7 billion people with free and unrestricted Internet access, only one third of the world is connected to the global mind.”

We look at occupation lists and the percentage of workforce allocation, which shows that only one real large scale profession has been invented in the last 50 years.

“The reality is that the new jobs created by technology employ a very small fraction of people, and even those jobs tend to disappear soon after they are created.”

Fredrick talks of his frustration in addressing this issue with economists. Keen to enter into detailed discussions on why this might not be an issue. At the time of writing he had still achieved little beyond being dismissed off hand.

“I have read several books, watched hundreds of debates and interviews on this subject, and I have not so far heard a single argument to support the idea that we can make this work, or how.” – Federico’s passion for this topic is apparent throughout.

He then turns his attention to the work ethic and work identity, looking at the mentality of the everyday worker.

He talks of how the current economy rewards the wrong skill sets with manipulation, selfishness and aggression topping the characteristics of the successful.

Half way in, we get the first mention of the ‘Happy Planet Index’, or the ‘Satisfaction with Life Index’ as recommended replacements to GDP.

There is a big review on ‘happiness’ and in particular our interpretation of happiness. As he puts it:

‘The marketing tools used by corporations in order to sell more products rely on our inability to adequately predict what makes us happy.’

‘Numerous studies have established that unemployed people are in worse mental and physical health than employed people.’

And yet there seems to be a balance that must be struck to find the optimal work / happiness level. The higher percentages of happy populations are in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and The Netherlands – all known to commonly work shorter working weeks. Where as Greece, Poland, Hungary, Russia and Turkey – known for working longer weeks – rate lower on the ‘happy’ scale.

The conclusion of which seems to indicate that work is an enabler for purpose and drive, but not a flat out requirement to achieving happiness.

I love this quote:

“The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living”

Solutions

We then reach the final third of the book, full of suggestions on how to live a self-learning, happy, stress free ‘simple’ life.

“Live simpler lives, escape from the rat race of obsessive materialism and reduce the stress, overtime, and psychological expense that typically go along with it.”

“It is possible to find an improved balance between leisure and work, focusing life goals on personal fulfilment and relationship building instead f the all-consuming pursuit of economic success.”

He mentions a couple of useful learning tools:

Apple iTunesU (which delivers university lectures from the major universities around the world, for free).

Khan Academy (a free online service containing courses for almost anything: https://www.khanacademy.org)

And goes into other areas such as:

  • Grow your own food
  • Eat well
  • Reduce your carbon foot print

    He also discusses Open Source projects referencing services such as Kickstarter to fund new ideas and research concepts, in particular drawing attention this TED talk on open source ecology:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S63Cy64p2lQ

    The key point is that he advocates self-employment, spending only when you have to and reducing your working week for a less stressful life.

    A significant portion of this section is self-help on how to ‘live smart’:

  • Writing down the good things that happen to you
  • Exercise
  • Random acts of kindness
  • Setting small achievable targets
  • And so on…

    Working its way finally into the realms of financial advice, challenging your spending habits, the need for insurance and the ‘pay now consume later’ culture.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK’?

    It’s a bit of a giveaway that I first became interested in this book six months ago and I’ve only just finished it. This is an educational self-help book that at times is easy to digest and other times collects dust.

    Good Or Bad?

    Was it any good? Yes, very interesting and informative. Full of stats and specifics that allow you to form an opinion based on the evidence.

    Would I recommend it? Yes, definitely.

    Would I read it again? In parts, maybe. There are numerous sections which you could revisit throughout.

    Here are some other reviews:

    Star Wars – Lords Of The Sith by Paul S. Kemp
    The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
    Looking For Alaska by John Green
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

     

    Have you read A Game For The Young?
    Share your comments #agamefortheyoung

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  • Chapter Eight – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

    Everything Has Meaning

    The new day had started with a focus that disconnected Conor from the caffeine headache bidding for his attention. He woke wide-eyed and alert long before his alarm clock needed to help.

    He had spent most of the morning marvelling at his achievement, or at least he believed it was his to claim. Despite the excitement of the code’s sudden decryption, the mystery and circumstance surrounding it had brought an anxiety that gave everything he looked forward to an uncertain sting.

    It had been late afternoon the day before when, in a sulk, Conor had succumbed to the idea that perhaps the code was unbreakable. Or at least that was to say that it couldn’t be broken in the time he had to work with. His decryption engine continued to run, offering cross comparisons and cipher analysis, but a reality had begun to dawn that if he could break it, he would have done it by now.

    As the day drew into evening his seated composure sank from an upbeat lean forward to a lazy slouch. He watched as the sun set from his window, an accepting smile across his face.

    With a sigh Conor changed into his running gear, intent on burning off the stress that had built up over the past three days and as he left Tennyson and stepped into the cold, a sense of relief lifted the weight from his shoulders. Failure was at least a conclusion, it was over.

    The night carried the usual chill in the air as the road lighting lit up a course down Walton Street near the Radcliffe Observatory. The route he set out looped round and round, cooling his head and relaxing him of any thoughts, the tarmac footpaths smooth under his feet.

    Nearly two hours had passed before his exhausted frame stumbled through the car park heading for home, steam rising from his forehead as his body heat met the cold. Yearning for his bed and the rest it would offer, he burst through the door to his room and took a cool bottle of water from the portable fridge under his desk.

    Taking long, indulgent gulps, Conor felt his breathing begin to slow and the burning in his chest subside. He slumped on to his bed, exhaling loudly as his body fell into the mattress. His eyes closed for several seconds before they opened again, slowly letting his thoughts stray back to the code. Sitting up, he leant over to his desk and stroked his hand over the mouse pad, watching with little expectation as the screensaver dissolved.

    He squinted in confusion; the progress bar was gone. The view he had grown accustomed to had changed, replaced instead with a message. Conor dropped the bottle he was drinking from. Cipher Decode Success.
    Even as he read it, Conor couldn’t believe what he was seeing. It was the Enigma cipher. Of course! The Enigma. He remembered reading about the Enigma when he was studying the ergonomics of World War Two during his History A-Level. It was invented by the German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of the First World War and although initially used commercially, it was made famous by the Nazi German Military in World War Two for communicating encrypted orders and controlling engagements.

    Encrypting and decrypting a message on the Enigma machine required four key settings.

    First was the wheel order, three rotors which dictated the sequence (125). Second was the initial position of the rotors (137). Then came the Plugboard settings, these permitted variable wiring that could reconfigure connected letters to effectively swap before and after the main rotor scrambling unit (PB: A-B); and finally the ring settings, the position of the alphabet rings relative to the rotor wiring (TXT). Conor looked at the code:

    125.137.PB:A-B.TXT

    CICRX PRBDG BPCBZ

    20/11/15, 10.30AM

    It was obvious, staring him in the face the whole time. The code was even broken up into sets of five letter groups as used by the German Military.

    Still unsure as to how the engine had managed to break it, he noticed that the code had been converted from ‘CICRX PRBDG BPCBZ’ to now read ‘RADCL IFFEC AMERA’.

    Considering the Enigma machine had no space bar, he immediately removed the spaces to reveal the message.

    The main research library to the University of Oxford was the Bodleian, or ‘the Bod’ as many called it. It was one of the oldest libraries in Europe and, in Britain, second in size only to the British Library in London. Radcliffe Camera was a beautiful reading room that stood as part of the Old Library in Radcliffe Square.

    Feeling the pure rush of accomplishment, Conor stared at the decrypted message, sighing in relief at its simplicity:

    RADCLIFFE CAMERA

    20/11/15, 10.30AM

    It was 9.45AM and Conor was sat fully dressed at the end of his bed, staring at his reflection in the wall mirror.

    The Bodleian Library was a twenty minute walk from where he was staying, but, deciding to leave early, he gave himself plenty of time.

    He had considered talking to Samuel before leaving but was almost certain he would only try and talk him out of going, or worse insist that he came along. This was something Conor would do alone.

    With his body still aching from the evening run, he stepped out of his room a few minutes before 10.00AM. Clicking his door shut, Conor noticed Samuel’s door slightly ajar from across the hallway and gently pushed it open.

    Instantly the smell of morning odour that followed a night of cigarettes and drinking filled his nose. Samuel was fully dressed, asleep, face down on his bed, his heavy breathing and occasional snort filling the silence in the room. Conor smiled sympathetically at his friend before quietly pulling the door shut.

    He gave a yawn and covered his mouth as he walked downstairs. Being awake for most of the night had worn him down despite the adrenaline. He’d buy a sugary drink on the way to get sharp.

    Heading for the main door he deviated off course to check his mailbox; it was empty but he was glad to know it.

    Going down the steps, the fresh morning air helped bring some colour to his cheeks. At this time of day the early lectures were already under way and the roads had now settled from the bustling bumper to bumper of morning rush hour.

    Conor decided to walk, leaving his car to gather rust for another day. With an upbeat pace he took the most direct route he could. Sticking to the pathways, his feet skimmed along the pavement as he looked up to the endearing dome growing in the distance.
    Radcliffe Camera was one of Oxford’s most famous landmarks, her presence ever prominent along the Oxford skyline. He was looking forward to seeing it up close.

    Coming off Broad Street, Conor walked past the main entrance of the Bodleian Library just after 10.20AM. He made his way along the side road of Catte Street, with the vast stone brickwork of the Library to his right, and the grand entrance to Hertford College to his left.

    He followed the road ahead through the steel gate towards Radcliffe Square until he passed the old library to his right. Conor’s pace stuttered as Radcliffe Camera suddenly came into view. The sheer scale and beauty of the building took him by surprise.

    Designed by James Gibbs, one of Britain’s most influential architects and built between 1737 and 1749, Radcliffe Camera (or Radcliffe Room) was one of the first examples of a circular library in England.

    The architecture for the time was seen as inspired. From the outside it appeared built in three levels; the base made of brick materials sourced from local stone, the central compartment complimented with Corinthian columns which paired up between near fifteen foot windows and an upper level that finished with a beautifully designed lead dome. The interior was broken into two stories known as Lower and Upper Camera. Lower Camera was a grand reading room whilst Upper Camera acted as an archive to a wealth of literature.

    Although it was not originally part of the library, Radcliffe Camera was introduced in 1860 to house Oxford’s medical and scientific collections, but these were later transferred to the Radcliffe Science Library in 1861. In recent years Radcliffe Camera kept a collection of books on Anthropology, English, Film, History and Theology.

    Conor walked up the stone steps and through the main entrance archway, taking in a wonderful smell of stone, oak and old parchment. He had already gone through the formal declaration process to be granted access to the Bodleian during his first month at the University. This was traditionally oral, but in recent years was now done by signing a declaration letter.
    Instantly Conor understood why Radcliffe Camera was considered such an architectural triumph; he appreciated the textured interior and how the lighting from the surrounding windows gave the bookcases and tables a glow. The first floor could be seen from the ground floor study area, a huge encircling ledge that opened up to give way to a breathtaking inner dome. The stone work above the encircling archways offered subtle details that attributed to impeccable craftsmanship.

    Conor walked out onto the ground floor known as Lower Camera. He scanned the room from left to right. There were surprisingly few people studying here considering the room’s size, perhaps thirty-five, forty at most, spread out across both floors. Some sat reading on the ground floor whilst others typed on their laptops, seemingly using the tranquil environment as the perfect study area. He checked his watch – it was 10.24AM.

    Conor tried to keep moving, suddenly aware of how peculiar a situation this was. What was he supposed to do? Did he need to go somewhere? Were they expecting him? There was nothing obvious or out of place. He didn’t recognise anyone. Conor thought back to the message. Perhaps the Enigma settings doubled up to be the location of a book? A chapter, a page? There had to be something.

    He sat at one of the available workstations in the centre of Lower Camera, taking a deep breath and trying not to lose heart.

    Looking at the time on the monitor, he could see that it was now 10.27AM. Should I just wait? Conor clicked to open the library intranet and paused for a moment to think.

    Raise the flag. Reaching inside his jacket pocket, he pulled out the white card containing the code and placed it on the desk in front of him.

    As the time bore down on 10.29AM Conor grew agitated, frequently turning in his chair, glancing from reading room to Upper Camera. He tried to focus, to envisage what was expected of him.

    The time on the monitor updated relentlessly, the seconds passing quickly until it finally refreshed to read 10.30AM.

    Good morning, Conor, a message read, suddenly appearing on the screen in front of him. The sender was anonymous.

    He couldn’t hide the relief from his face. Instinctively Conor glanced around Lower Camera trying to figure out where it had come from. There were fixed terminal stations everywhere he looked.

    Who is this? he wrote, glancing anxiously from left to right.

    A friend. The response came back quickly.

    Did you send me the code?

    Yes, the user replied. Conor imagined the sender staring at him from afar, watching his every move.

    What is this?

    A project of discovery, Conor. An opportunity worth anything you could fear losing.

    He frowned. An opportunity to do what?

    Can you keep a secret?

    Yes

    A game for the young, the user replied. Do you want to be part of something that will change the world?

    The grandeur of the message made him nervous. Is this a joke? he wrote, peering up to Upper Camera and catching the suspicious glance of an elderly man disappearing behind a pillar.

    Why did you break the code? the user responded.

    With a squint Conor leaned back into his chair, looking down at the small white card in front of him.

    Codes are made to be broken, he wrote.

    There was no response. Lightly tapping at the table as the seconds passed, he glanced at the time. It had been over a minute.

    Conor shook his head. This wasn’t an invitation; breaking the code had meant nothing, there was no reward. This was an interview.

    He thought for a moment before typing a new response.

    Because everything has meaning.

    How interesting, the user responded.

    Sensing that he needed to choose his questions carefully, Conor thought hard before asking; Will you tell me your name?

    You can call me Rysbrack.

    As the response came back, he caught a glance from the corner of his eye. A curious stranger he didn’t recognise; a man on a laptop wearing a dark blue hoodie, his head low and hunched. Their glances met for seconds before quickly breaking contact.

    Where are you? Conor asked.

    That’s for you to tell me, the user responded. You only get one chance, Conor. Make it count.

    He scratched his forehead and exhaled, his eyes now darting around the room, scanning from terminal to terminal. An awkward stare caught by a young woman, a glance to Upper Camera in hope. Conor felt his nerves taking over, clouding his thoughts. Whatever clues had been offered, he’d missed them. He tried to factor in the layout of the room, picture where he would stand if the roles were reversed. This would be a guess, a shot to nothing.

    You are… he typed, freezing to ponder for a final moment, looking up at his chosen target. By the second column, next to the fire exit. He hit return and held his breath.

    Almost instantly the session terminated, his PC restoring to display the library intranet.

    Conor leaned forward, the look on his face turning desperate. He closed his eyes. Fail, Conor. Poor show.

    * * *

    Appearing gormless and expectant, Conor waited for another five minutes, staring blankly at the monitor screen. His disappointment clearly visible, he glanced around the room in frustration.

    Eventually he lowered his head, logged off and left, giving Radcliffe Camera one final look before heading for the exit.

    Ellie gave it ten minutes before making the call. Leaning up against a bookcase secluded in the corner, she held the mobile phone to her ear.

    ‘We’ve got another bite,’ she said.

    ‘Who is it?’

    ‘Conor Martin. Twenty-one. Freshman at St John’s. Studying Computer Science.’

    ‘Interesting. How did it go?’

    She sighed. ‘Not as we wanted it to. We’ll need to alter our plans if he’s to progress to the next stage.’

    ‘No good?’

    ‘I wouldn’t say that,’ she whispered.

    ‘Is he right for this?’

    ‘Difficult to say,’ she said. ‘There’s something about him.’

    ‘This is your call. Should we proceed?’

    Ellie paused before speaking softly. ‘I think so.’

    ‘You need to be sure.’

    ‘I am sure… Yes, we proceed.’



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    Book Review: Star Wars – Lords Of The Sith by Paul S. Kemp

    Published: April 28, 2015

    “Seventy percent the perfect Star Wars novel.”

    fourstars

    What Is ‘Lords Of The Sith’ About?

    When the Emperor and his notorious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

    In the Star Wars timeline, ‘Lords Of The Sith’ takes place between ‘Revenge of the Sith’ & ‘A New Hope’.

    Why Did I Read ‘Lords Of The Sith’?

    If I was honest, I read this purely as an appetiser before the release of Rogue One. A Star Wars novel wasn’t on the list but the opportunity came up and I couldn’t resist.

    What I Liked About ‘Lords Of The Sith’

    I think this was the first time where I could start a story and immediately be able to visualise everything clearly. The surroundings, the characters, I was instantly on board. But that’s to be expected, and is as much a test for the author as it is for the reader.

    For a Star Wars novel, this is really dark in parts. Betrayal, revenge, anger, the graphic detail of beatings and characters being choked to death are all present. But it’s not as clear cut as good versus evil, the rebels are given back story and depth in a way that’s lacking for many of them in the films, and we see how they can be reckless and overly aggressive at times.

    The first two thirds of this novel are fantastic. This is seventy percent the perfect Star Wars novel.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Lords Of The Sith’

    It’s difficult to conjure up any real sense of danger for Vadar or the Emperor, especially considering where the characters are in the timeline of the overall story.

    The book is called ‘Lords of the Sith’, which is a great title, but this isn’t a story devoted to the dark side. You spend as much time with the rebels. ‘Lords of the Sith’ is just a title.

    There’s quite a few lines of dialog with Vadar where he seems out of character. He doesn’t sound like the Vadar you know from the films.
    I also found the final third of this novel really disappointing.

    Good Or Bad?

    Was it any good? Considering we’re now in an era where more Star Wars films are to be expected, novels of this nature suddenly have a new relevance to them within the Star Wars universe. That being said I don’t think this is a film waiting to happen. This isn’t a bad novel, I was just disappointed by the ending. At a point when the novel should have come together, it sort of fell flat for me.
    Would I recommend it? I don’t know if this is one of the better Star Wars novels. I’d like to think there were better ones out there.
    Would I read it again? No.

    Here are some other reviews:

    Looking For Alaska by John Green
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

    What’s on the list?
    Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
    Lie in Wait by GJ Minett


    Have you read A Game For The Young?
    Share your comments #agamefortheyoung

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    Chapter Seven – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

    A Friend In Need

    Samuel Milton strolled across the shingled courtyard outside Tennyson House, kicking the odd pebble as he walked. The temperature was starting to drop during the evenings and he could see his breath appear in front of him as if he were smoking.

    In his right hand he held a new top-of-the-range smart phone. It had arrived by special delivery that morning with a message that had brought both frustration and a confused sense of obligation to his afternoon.

    ‘Thank you for the lovely gift, mother, very subtle,’ he said, the mobile pressed to his ear.

    He never thought his absence would cause her to behave so desperately. Starved of attention, she was suddenly taking great interest in his life.

    Samuel had fallen in and out of her affections enough times to know when he was being used. He remembered the story his grandmother had once told him about how, as a baby, he knew the face of his au pair long before he recognised his own mother.

    He could picture their lofty estate on the hills in Winchester, even more deserted than usual. He never did understand their infatuation with owning a property that was fit to house a small village.

    She was alone and it had now dawned on her that the endless spa sessions and ladies’ lunches had left a gaping hole where their relationship should have existed. Clear as day she was back-peddling in an attempt to remain part of his life.

    A smile grew across Samuel’s face as he sensed the call coming to an end.

    ‘OK mother, if you need to get hold of me I’ll be on this number. OK, bye mother, yes, yes, I love you too. Speak to you soon.’

    He hung up and exhaled a deep breath. Having just come home following another tiresome day of lectures and study, appeasing his mother with the pretence of affection was the last thing he needed.

    Finance Mathematics required the application of formulated methods to decipher relationships and patterns within strings of numerical data. During his time at the University he would learn differential and integral calculus, advanced equation theory and matrix algebra.

    He remembered choosing the course while he was back at home, watching curiously as it fed his family’s insatiable appetite for wealth and finance. In truth he didn’t know what he’d do with the qualification if he got it. Samuel was set to enjoy his years at University as if they were his last taste of true freedom. His student visa provided the immunity he needed to shirk the reality of adulthood.

    He held the phone in his hand and stared at it for a brief moment. Samuel smiled, imagining his mother in a phone store asking the shop assistant for the most expensive handset available, most likely making a point to state that money was no object.

    He refused to think on it. With aggression boiling in his veins, he snapped and threw the phone into the sky. Its ultra-thin case sliced through the air as it landed with a splash into the canal. He watched as it hit the water, stroking his hands clean as the ripple faded.

    ‘If you need to get hold of me I’ll be on this number.’ She wouldn’t ruin this for him, no matter how hard she tried.

    As he sprang up the stone steps and walked into the warmth of Tennyson his nostrils filled with the rustic smell of oak furniture and polish. To his right stood a wall of pigeon-slot mailboxes for the tenants; to his left, an empty visitor’s area where two leather sofas and a glass coffee table sat disused in the corner.

    The walls of the ground floor were decorated with framed black and white pictures, each taken from the oldest rooms in Tennyson House, moments of time from the nineteenth and early twentieth century. He briskly walked through the reception area and headed for the stairs, the wooden floor giving a soft echo with every step.

    When Samuel got to his room he dumped his leather Ashwood satchel on the floor, threw his jacket on a tub chair in the corner and checked the time. Within forty minutes, he was dressed in an Armani shirt, putting the finishing touches to his hair and smelling of Gucci aftershave.

    Samuel took one last look in the mirror before placing his comb on the glass shelf below it, nodding his head to the sound of a music channel playing at an excessive level from his television.

    He checked the time. The night was all planned out in his head. After catching up with two of his new American friends on the first floor, they would set off for the Red Lion. A destination chosen with purpose. They had all watched in amusement as Samuel repeatedly tried and failed with the blonde behind the bar, but tenacity counts.

    There was just one last task before his evening could begin.

    Samuel hit the power button on his remote control as he headed for the door. Leaving his room, he walked across the hall and knocked with repetitive rhythm on Conor’s apartment.

    For the past three nights Conor’s absence had been both acknowledged and intriguing, but a fourth night was becoming unsociable and Samuel wasn’t having it. He’d drag him out kicking and screaming if he had to.

    He pressed his ear to the door and waited impatiently, tapping his finger against the frame, giving it a few seconds before unleashing another string of heavy thuds.

    Founded on honesty and fuelled by alcohol, his friendship with Conor over the past couple of months had taken him by surprise.

    Thinking of home, the few friends he could speak of were the sons of politicians and bureaucrats, none of which he could consider true. Over time it had led him to harbour a distrusting nature, a state of mind that his ex-girlfriend referred to as ‘impossible to accept’.

    It had made his friendship with Conor especially important to him and the sudden change in his behaviour that much more confusing.

    Still there was no answer. With his patience worn he reached for the door handle, rattling it loudly in the hope he wasn’t about to walk in on something that could ruin their friendship entirely. Turning the handle, Samuel applied some pressure until the door clicked and gave way. Gently he pushed it open.

    The room was in murky darkness. He could make out the silhouette of a wardrobe with its doors left open, a selection of clothes scattered over the bed. He sniffed the air, taking in the smell of strong coffee and cheap deodorant.

    Flicking the light switch he noted the only thing that mattered. Conor was gone.

    ‘Lock your door next time old boy,’ Samuel mumbled playfully to himself. ‘You never know who may be about.’

    Enjoying an opportune moment to pry, Samuel stepped into Conor’s room, swiftly closing the door behind him.

    Opening the drawers to a cabinet, Samuel stumbled across a family picture of a young Conor sitting with his parents at a restaurant table. He stared at it closely, unable to stop himself from feeling jealous. Seeing the affection in their eyes, the smiles on their faces, the goofy, happy body language. How the other half live. Gently he returned the picture to where he had found it.

    Whilst turning his head to the en suite, something caught his attention; a glint from the corner of his eye. A small piece of white card.
    Son of a bitch! Samuel walked over to Conor’s desk to pick up the code resting out in the open. Why didn’t you tell me? He held it up to the light, turning the card over to check it front and back before discarding it with a flick towards the desk.

    Once fascinated by the mystery, Samuel was, like so many others, disillusioned. There were four pupils in his class alone working on codes, tempted by the lucrative cash rewards being offered to them. Wasting weeks, months of their lives on an unbreakable cipher.

    Samuel lifted the lid to Conor’s laptop and pressed down on the space bar. He glared intently at the screen as the screensaver disabled.
    First appearing puzzled, he soon signed.

    ‘Oh Conor,’ he whispered. ‘You should know better than to play against a child at a kid’s game.’

     

    Have you read A Game For The Young?
    Share your comments #agamefortheyoung

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    Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

    Published: 1988

    fourstars

    “One of those books that you could return to many times over.”

    What Is ‘The Alchemist’ About?

    Combining magic, mysticism, wisdom and wonder into an inspiring tale of self-discovery, The Alchemist has become a modern classic, selling millions of copies around the world and transforming the lives of countless readers across generations.

    Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognising opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.

    Why Did I Read ‘The Alchemist’?

    This is a story that has been known to carry a large number of life lessons. It’s very quotable, considered a masterpiece, but is also a quick read. So it served a few purposes to read it.

    I also recall Will Smith mentioning it in a motivational video, which subliminally logged it somewhere on my ‘to do’ list.

    What I Liked About ‘The Alchemist’

    The Alchemist begins in Spain and follows Santiago’s journey as a shepherd. He’s endearing from the start, Santiago carries a torch for a girl in a nearby town and is using a book for a pillow. Humble beginnings always strike a chord.

    His dreams are interpreted by a gypsy and he’s given the first omen that a great treasure awaits him near the Pyramids of Egypt.

    Santiago then has a disorientating conversation with a man who turns out to be the king of Salem. He knows more about Santiago than can explained and the story gives you it’s first reference to the ‘Personal Legend’ – the desire that you craved as a child but was forgotten and weighed down as you got older by the pressures of adulthood.

    The book has barely got started and is already heavy on the metaphors and the use of story telling to deliver its messages. But from early on there is something unmistakably interesting and engaging about this story.

    Quotes from ‘The Alchemist’:

    • “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
    • “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
    • “One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.”
    • “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”
    • “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
    • “The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
    • “The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them.”
    • “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
    • “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”
    • “No matter what he does, every person on earth plays a central role in the history of the world. And normally he doesn’t know it.”
    • “Don’t give in to your fears. If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”
    • “People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”
    • “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”

    Early into the boys journey he is robbed and loses all his money, challenging his commitment to his ‘Personal Legend’. I assumed this would be an adventure story that moves at pace from location to location, but things take a different turn when the boy is employed at a jewellers for a year, whilst he rebuilds his fortune to fund his travels. Again, there are more tales and metaphors along the way.

    As I read it, I started to think of ‘The Alchemist’ as one of those books that I could return to many times over. It has so many metaphorical tales, powerful quotes and words of encouragement. I can see how so many have taken this story to their hearts.

    The book ends with a touching twist, a feel good factor which allows the story to come full circle and conclude his journey. Lovely ending.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘The Alchemist’

    There is a somewhat dream like sequence where Santiago, having learnt to listen to his heart, begins talking with the desert, the wind, the sun and ‘the hand’ – referring to the six days creation.
    The message seems to be that he has learnt the language of the world by living in the present, but for me it was an odd period of the story that went a bridge too far.

    This is an old school story, set amongst sand and camels, flocks of sheep and Egyptian pyramids. It’s not for everyone, and certainly requires the right mindset going in.

    Good Or Bad

    Was this book any good? Of course, I read this story sort of knowing it was going to be, but that created an expectation that I was happy the book lived up to.
    Would I recommend it? Yes, it’s a quick read but more than worth the amount of time it takes to digest.
    Would I read it again? Yes.

     

    Here are some other reviews:

    Looking For Alaska by John Green
    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

    What’s on the list?
    Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
    Lie in Wait by GJ Minett

     

    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

    Published: 3rd March 2005

    “A simple story told in a very interesting way.”

    threestarsandahalfstars

    What Is ‘Looking For Alaska’ About?

    Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words – and tired of his safe, boring and rather lonely life at home. He leaves for boarding school filled with cautious optimism, to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

    Why Did I Read ‘Looking For Alaska’?

    The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns are both great John Green novels that I’m glad I’ve read. That in itself was all the justification I needed.

    What I Liked About ‘Looking For Alaska’

    Straightaway it’s apparent that it’s a John Green novel. You’ve got young characters, witty dialogue, a coming of age story told in the first person, references to history and memorable quotes made by interesting & influential people.

    Green splits the chapters via an ominous countdown (e.g ‘110 days before’), it’s quite clever as it gives a sense for the passage of time, but also indicates that something is coming.

    I loved the fascination that Miles had with remembering the last words of senior figures throughout history. A great way of offering something interesting as well as being quite funny at times.

    Green was able to do a significant amount of social commentary within the telling of this story. There’s a whole section on woman’s rights, a bit on pornography, parts where characters discuss religion, and this is all whilst sandwiched amongst drinking games and drunken pranks.

    Another thing I enjoyed was the use of layers. Miles often addresses the layers between him and other female characters to define how close he is to that person. His pants, his jeans, her dress, etc. This gets deeper in meaning the further you go into the story.

    ‘Looking For Alaska’ deals with tragedy well. Almost as if it’s being bolstered by personal experience. It’s essentially a simple story told in a very interesting way.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘Looking For Alaska’

    It’s all a bit cliche to begin with. The protagonist (Miles) is a bit of a geek and falls in love with a girl called Alaska almost instantly. In fact for the first 20% of the story I really didn’t know where it was going (and not in a good way).

    The previous John Green books that I’ve read have all been about ‘something’ and that ‘something’ has been quite apparent early into the story, played out within the dynamic of friendships and the banter between young adults wise beyond their years. But with this book, there didn’t appear to be any theme for great lengths of the story.

    Though it takes a while to get there ‘Looking For Alaska’ addresses loss (in this case the loss of a friend). The acceptance of death and how the characters deal with it personally and outwardly. But for me it took too long to get there. For many readers I suspect what would measure this novel is whether they believed the second half made up for the first.

    Good Or Bad

    Was this book any good? Yes. This isn’t a bad story at all, it’s just overshadowed by Green’s subsequent novels.
    Would I recommend it? Of all the John Green novels, this one I liked the least. If you had to pick up one John Green book, this wouldn’t be it for me. But it’s worth a read.
    Would I read it again? No.

     

    Here are some other reviews:

    The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King

    What’s on the list?
    Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
    Lie in Wait by GJ Minett

     

    Any suggestions?

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, please follow my blog.

    dp_signed

    David P. Philip


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    Chapter Six – Excerpt From ‘A Game For The Young’

    The Beginning Of Something Pure

    Over a month had now passed and for Conor the day-to-day life of an Oxford student was starting to take shape. The first core module of his degree was well underway and his week-by-week schedule was all but memorised.

    Outside of his lectures and seminars, Samuel and Conor had already achieved several nights out that were worthy of being reminisced. The coming years held great promise, giving Conor every reason to believe that he would look back on his days at University with fond memories.

    It was 10.00AM and the Computer Science class were proving noisy and boisterous as they settled in for their morning seminar. Students had been trickling in to the classroom for the past fifteen minutes, a curious mix of lonely characters with inward personalities. There were nearly thirty in total, their heads always low, eyes ever focused on their smart phones or tablets. But gathered among their own they would open up, vocal and opinionated, conversation ranging from the latest films that had hit the cinema, to up and coming video games and the pending releases of long-awaited gadgets.

    Professor George A. Miller sat on his desk at the front of the room. His short height and podgy stomach fed to the IT teacher stereotype. His feet dangled as he repeatedly threw his favourite baseball lightly in the air to catch it. Generally this was how most of his sessions began; the class wasn’t known to start until the professor’s feet had touched the floor.

    Conor was still an absent member of the classroom long after Professor Miller’s soles had hit the ground. He stood at the front of the room, addressing his students.

    ‘Memory, in the form of computational data storage, has an interesting if not cryptic parallel with the way memories are stored in our brains. Random access memory, or RAM, allows your CPU to load pieces of information out of sequence from the way they have been stored on the disk, optimising the processing of data for efficiency, no different from you reciting your childhood without having to track back through puberty…’

    Conor was louder than intended as he came through the main entrance, the door slamming shut behind him to amplify his lateness. He drew the eyes of his fellow students and prompted a few mumbles. He gestured an apology to Professor Miller as he made his way to an available seat, giving friendly nods to the people he knew or those that would offer eye contact. Miller paid no attention to Conor’s arrival, apart from a raised eyebrow and a brief look of disappointment.

    Conor slumped into his chair and unpacked his things. It was a frustrating constant that he recently found himself running late wherever he went.

    ‘The first examples of random access memory date back to 1947,’ the professor continued. ‘Back then it was called the Williams tube. This worked by storing data with electrically charged points on the face of a cathode ray tube…’

    Conor was barely comfortable when he overheard two students in front of him whispering.

    ‘I heard some guy at Merton broke it,’ one student said.

    ‘What? The code? Who?’

    ‘I can’t remember his name. Something Johnson or Jameson.’

    ‘Bullshit.’

    ‘No, seriously.’

    ‘What did his code mean?’

    ‘He wouldn’t say.’

    ‘You gullible muppet.’

    ‘Honestly, he was like sworn to secrecy or something.’

    Conor moved to the edge of his seat and leaned in closer.

    ‘Perhaps Conor would be so kind as to take us through it?’ the professor announced, the sound of his voice pulling Conor’s focus back to the seminar. The class slowly turned to look at him, peering with anticipation. The professor allowed for several seconds of uncomfortable silence before he spoke.

    ‘Would you like to voice an opinion?’

    ‘An opinion?’ Conor asked, his heart thumping in his chest. ‘Of course, my opinion… Yes.’ He fidgeted in his seat.

    ‘On the advancement of Computer-Aided Verification,’ Professor Miller guided.

    ‘Yes, well… Who doesn’t have an opinion?’ Conor smiled.

    ‘Indeed,’ Professor Miller said, holding an expectant gaze with his arms folded.

    Smiling awkwardly, Conor felt the burning stares of his classmates. He tried to speak but his mouth had turned dry. He had nothing, not even a witty retort to steal some points.

    ‘Another time, perhaps?’ Miller offered, satisfied that Conor had sunk low enough into his chair. ‘Or, even better, could I have a minute of your precious time after this session, please?’ he then asked.

    Conor gave an affirming nod, encouraging his class to return their focus to the front. The moment passed with an embarrassment that would linger.

    The hands of the main clock inched forward without urgency, it was painful. Seminars under Professor Miller had a tendency to defy the laws of time, to turn minutes into hours and the attendees from buzzing enthusiasts into lifeless drones.

    Conor stayed with the session as long as he could, a concerted effort considering his usual attention span. It was well into the second hour when his eye line had drifted mischievously to his smart phone – social media was soon playing its part in distracting him.

    The professor wrapped things up with a collection of playful threats on the agenda of next week’s seminar. He gave some suggested research and a reminder on the pending dissertation creeping up on them. Before long the class was on its feet.

    Conor kept rooted to his chair, acknowledging the students as they bundled their way to the exit, shrugging off the occasional smirk and whisper. He listened to the rumbling sound of his classmates from behind the main doors until the room had softened into silence.

    Lining up the excuses in his head, he rose from his chair and made his way to the front of the classroom. Professor Miller was packing away his things when he glanced up to observe Conor’s walk of shame.

    ‘Mr Martin,’ Miller said, ‘There’s something I need to ask you…’

    He packed away his notes and closed his bag, turning to him with a curious expression on his face.

    ‘Are you my Woody?’

    ‘Sir?’ Conor approached, looking puzzled.

    ‘It’s a question I sometimes ask myself.’ Professor Miller finished shutting down his laptop and projector before walking round his desk to lean up against it.

    ‘In 1953 a student named Allan Stewart Konigsberg enrolled in the City College of New York under the University’s illustrious film program… From the outset he appeared a promising student. Young, perhaps. Presumptuous, maybe. Like so many his age, yet to appreciate the way of the world.’ He offered a nod to Conor.

    ‘It only lasted a short while before it became apparent that there was a problem. Whether it was the course or the work or the tutors, I don’t know. But what was clear was that something didn’t quite sit right with him. He was unsettled, the University didn’t seem to match his perspective on things.’ The professor held a long gaze at Conor.

    ‘Eventually, after a succession of poor grades, he was kicked out… Not that this was to be the measure of him. He went on to write, to direct, to inspire. By then he was known by his stage name, Woody Allen.’ The professor let his words sink in for a few seconds.

    ‘So, considering that the greatest teaching failure of all is to not recognise potential, when I have a student consistently going out of their way to try and fail in my class I always ask myself the same question: is this student my Woody?’

    Conor stared at the floor.

    ‘Well? Are you?’ the professor pushed.

    ‘I don’t know,’ he answered softly, raising his head.

    ‘Of course not,’ the professor agreed. ‘Neither of us do. This is something we need to figure out together, you and I. But we need to do it quickly, Conor, and this starts with you arriving to my seminars on time and prepared. Understand?’

    ‘Yes, sir,’ Conor nodded.

    ‘Alright. Then I’ll see you next week. Now off you go,’ the professor gestured to the exit.

    * * *

    Thirty minutes later and Conor was opening the door to his bedroom at Tennyson House.

    He threw his bag and jacket on the floor before collapsing on to his bed. His head heavy in thought, he stared at himself in the mirror across the room.

    The professor’s words had carried weight this time, a warning he couldn’t ignore. How did he let it get to this? He needed to pull himself back, to bring himself closer to the rails. The risks he was taking were getting him in trouble. Just one more night, he told himself. Putting on the travel kettle, he set things up for a strong cup of coffee.

    Landing on his desk chair, he ran his finger over the keyboard to his laptop, disabling the screensaver and dissolving the rotating images from the screen.

    The progress bar of a decryption engine appeared in front of him.

    It started as a myth, a whisper around campus. Conor first heard the rumours over a pint with Samuel and then again during a Digital Systems workshop a week later. Some were saying that it began in Cambridge, but no one truly knew. It was never first hand, always a friend of a friend or the roommate of a stranger.

    There was no explanation given, nor did there appear to be any pattern or connection, but students at the University were being chosen, singled out. Those who were selected spoke little of it, only to say that they had been sent a mysterious message, an encrypted invitation that they found in their mailbox or slipped under their door.

    The message would contain a code that was unique to each student; a series of numbers and letters which would appear at random, encrypted by an elusive cipher.

    Quickly, gossip had speculated on its purpose, the prize of breaking the code ranging from University acknowledgement to the absurd, but from there the stories would differ. Some would attempt to break it and fail whilst others instantly discarded the code refusing to participate in whatever this was.

    Even now he couldn’t believe it. It had been four days since Conor had found a mysterious code in his mailbox, sandwiched between a pile of takeaway menus and college leaflets.

    Everyone was talking about it, but not once did he imagine being chosen. To him this represented one thing alone: a test. An opportunity to stand out among the elite. To rise above the cream of Oxford.

    For every minute since that day his thoughts had rarely strayed from the task. Everything had changed. He rubbed his eyes and felt the stubble that was growing on his face. Was this a joke? If it was he had played the role of the fool convincingly.

    Conor had spent the past three nights staying up until the early hours trying every decryption technique he could think of, endlessly searching for help from the internet. Nothing had worked. There was little to go on except to analyse the code against every encryption method known and the options seemed infinite.

    He held up the card to the light, reading the code with pained frustration:

    125.137.PB:A-B.TXT

    CICRX PRBDG BPCBZ

    20/11/15, 10.30AM

    The deadline had brought with it stress that was proving difficult to mask. Conor’s vague lecture contributions had already got him noticed, for all the wrong reasons, but the late nights had now pushed him beyond his usual ‘just in time’ arrivals and into inexcusable lateness.

    It was only a few minutes past 12:30PM and already Conor’s eyes were showing the bloodshot story of insomnia. When he looked in the mirror all he could see was his weathered face peering back at him, desperate for rest. His occasional yawns grew closer together. As the kettle boiled he reached for the caffeine.

    The only truth he could console himself with was that this was his last night. Either he broke it tonight or he didn’t; either way tomorrow was the deadline and he craved the end one way or the other. Conor tried to focus, shaking off the morning and settled in for what was to be another long session in front of his computer.

     

    Have you read A Game For The Young?
    Share your comments #agamefortheyoung

    ORDER ON PAPERBACK | EBOOK
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    David P. Philip


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    The Impact Of Technological Advances On The Job Market

    About a month ago I attended a conference in Amsterdam and was blown away by a presentation from Federico Pistono. Federico is a social entrepreneur, public speaker, founder and CEO of konoz, a global community dedicated to giving equal access to high-quality, free educational videos. The talk went pretty much like this:

    I’m currently reading “Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK” which is proving to be fantastic, but I’ve also come across a brilliant quote from Dr. Robert Goldman MD (Goldman is World Chairman of the International Medical Commission, Founder & Chairman of International Sports Hall of Fame and an Antiaging & Sports Medicine Pioneer). He’s given an interesting, summarised overview on this fascinating subject:

    “In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 10 years – and most people don’t see it coming. Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later you would never take pictures on paper film again? Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore’s law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a long time, before it became way superior and got mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs. Welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution. Welcome to the Exponential Age.

    Software will disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.
    Uber is just a software tool, they don’t own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world. Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don’t own any properties.

    Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected. In the US, young lawyers already don’t get jobs. Because of IBM Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for more or less basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, only specialists will remain. Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, 4 time more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. By 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

    Autonomous Cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars will appear for the public. Around 2020, the complete industry will start to be disrupted. You don’t want to own a car anymore. You will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it, you only pay for the driven distance and can be productive while driving. Our kids will never get a driver’s license and will never own a car. It will change the cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars for that. We can transform former parking space into parks. 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide. We now have one accident every 100,000 km, with autonomous driving that will drop to one accident in 10 million km. That will save a million lives each year.

    Most car companies may become bankrupt. Traditional car companies try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels. I spoke to a lot of engineers from Volkswagen and Audi; they are completely terrified of Tesla.

    Insurance Companies will have massive trouble because without accidents, the insurance will become 100x cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.

    Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move further away to live in a more beautiful neighborhood.

    Electric cars won’t become mainstream until 2020. Cities will be less noisy because all cars will run on electric. Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean: Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can only now see the impact. Last year, more solar energy was installed worldwide than fossil. The price for solar will drop so much that all coal companies will be out of business by 2025.

    With cheap electricity comes cheap and abundant water. Desalination now only needs 2kWh per cubic meter. We don’t have scarce water in most places, we only have scarce drinking water. Imagine what will be possible if anyone can have as much clean water as he wants, for nearly no cost.

    Health: There will be companies that will build a medical device (called the “Tricorder” from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breathe into it. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be cheap, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medicine, nearly for free.

    3D printing: The price of the cheapest 3D printer came down from $18,000 to $400 within 10 years. In the same time, it became 100 times faster. All major shoe companies started 3D printing shoes. Spare airplane parts are already 3D printed in remote airports. The space station now has a printer that eliminates the need for the large number of spare parts they used to have in the past.

    At the end of this year, new smart phones will have 3D scanning possibilities. You can then 3D scan your feet and print your perfect shoe at home. In China, they already 3D printed a complete 6-storey office building. By 2027, 10% of everything that’s being produced will be 3D printed.

    Business Opportunities: If you think of a niche you want to go in, ask yourself: “in the future, do you think we will have that?” and if the answer is yes, how can you make that happen sooner? If it doesn’t work with your phone, forget the idea. And any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed in to failure in the 21st century.

    Work: 70-80% of jobs will disappear in the next 20 years. There will be a lot of new jobs, but it is not clear if there will be enough new jobs in such a small time.

    Agriculture: There will be a $100 agricultural robot in the future. Farmers in 3rd world countries can then become managers of their field instead of working all days on their fields. Agroponics will need much less water. The first Petri dish produced veal is now available and will be cheaper than cow-produced veal in 2018. Right now, 30% of all agricultural surfaces is used for cows. Imagine if we don’t need that space anymore. There are several startups that will bring insect protein to the market shortly. It contains more protein than meat. It will be labeled as “alternative protein source” (because most people still reject the idea of eating insects).

    There is an app called “moodies” which can already tell in which mood you are. Until 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where it’s being displayed when they are telling the truth and when not.

    Bitcoin will become mainstream this year and might even become the default reserve currency.

    Longevity: Right now, the average life span increases by 3 months per year. Four years ago, the life span used to be 79 years, now it’s 80 years. The increase itself is increasing and by 2036, there will be more than one year increase per year. So we all might live for a long long time, probably way more than 100.

    Education: The cheapest smart phones are already at $10 in Africa and Asia. Until 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smart phone. That means, everyone has the same access to world class education.

    Robert M. Goldman MD, PhD, DO, FAASP
    http://www.DrBobGoldman.com
    World Chairman-International Medical Commission
    Co-Founder & Chairman of the Board-A4M
    Founder & Chairman-International Sports Hall of Fame
    Co-Founder & Chairman-World Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine
    President Emeritus-National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
    Chairman-U.S. Sports Academy’s Board of Visitors”

     

    I’ll write up a review on “Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK” when I’ve finished it.

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    David P. Philip


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    Book Review: The Hidden Legacy by GJ Minett

    Published: 5th November 2015

    “A thought provoking, subtle mystery.”

    fourandahalfstars

    What Is ‘The Hidden Legacy’ About?

    1966. A horrifying crime at a secondary school, with devastating consequences for all involved.
    2008. A life-changing gift, if only the recipient can work out why . . .
    Recently divorced and with two young children, Ellen Sutherland is up to her elbows in professional and personal stress. When she’s invited to travel all the way to Cheltenham to hear the content of an old woman’s will, she’s far from convinced the journey will be worthwhile.
    But when she arrives, the news is astounding. Eudora Nash has left Ellen a beautiful cottage worth an amount of money that could turn her life around. There’s just one problem – Ellen has never even heard of Eudora Nash.
    Her curiosity piqued, Ellen and her friend Kate travel to the West Country in search of answers. But they are not the only ones interested in the cottage, and Ellen little imagines how much she has to learn about her past . . .

    Why Did I Read ‘The Hidden Legacy’?

    For the first time, and hopefully not the last, I was able to read a novel written by someone local, published and successful. Considering this is GJ Minett’s debut novel, a lot can be said for the following this story achieved in the Kindle bookstore, peaking in sales to gain that all important ‘Best Seller’ accreditation.
    This is not only inspiring to me, but an encouraging story to any ‘would be’ writers thinking of giving it a go.

    What I Liked About ‘The Hidden Legacy’

    Firstly, I read this story on my iPhone using the Kindle app. Has anyone else tried that? It’s not nearly as bad an experience as you might think.

    The opening to this story is fantastic. Very well written. Like all good mysteries it gives you just enough to go on and yet nothing really in terms of motivation. So you start hooked before you’ve really got going.
    I liked the layout of this novel, it felt quite unique. There wasn’t lots of chapters, but instead pockets of time concerning different characters broken up by four main parts. It allowed the novel to flow.
    There were some lovely parts in this story, textured descriptions and a tone of realism throughout. In certain sections you could tell the author had laboured over each sentence. Ellen’s first visit to Primrose Cottage in particular was a stand out moment where Minett seized an opportunity for some interesting and creative writing.
    The story has a maturity to it. An old soul. I wouldn’t say that it’s incredibly intense nor a slow burner, instead I came to think of it a bit like a scented candle that was relaxing and easy going to read, but with enough intrigue to keep me interested.
    I can’t say I’ve read a book like this before, which is praise in itself. And though it’s a bit of cliché, I’ll admit I didn’t see the ending coming.

    What I Didn’t Like About ‘The Hidden Legacy’

    This isn’t the kind of story I would normally read, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but I do tend to prefer stories where the stakes are a little higher.
    The main plot is reliant on you accepting that an incident from a playground in 1966 is still remembered throughout the country forty years later, and that it would cause some form of media hysteria if the identity of the killer (now rehabilitated) was made public. This is a little challenging to accept if you spend to much time thinking about it, especially with the story grounded in so much realism.

    Good Or Bad

    Was this book any good? Yes. Really glad I read it.
    Would I recommend it? I would, with the caveat that this isn’t a ‘thrill ride’. It sits comfortably in the ‘Crime, Thriller & Mystery’ genre and it knows what it is: A thought provoking, subtle mystery.
    Would I read it again? Maybe. This is one of those novels you could return to after a few years, but you might not get as much second time round knowing where it’s going.

    I was happy to read that GJ Minett has another book due out this Autumn – I’ll be adding this to the list: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lie-Wait-GJ-Minett-ebook/dp/B01F91HUPC/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1467402269&sr=1-2

     

    Here are some other reviews:

    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    Paper Towns by John Green
    Parable Of The Sower by Octavia E. Butler
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
    Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
    On Writing (A Memoir Of The Craft) by Stephen King
    The Big Short by Michael Lewis

    What’s on the list?
    Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That’s OK by Federico Pistono
    Looking For Alaska by John Green
    The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
    Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
    If I Stay by Gayle Forman
    The Perks Of Being A Wallfower by Stephen Chbosky
    Lie in Wait by GJ Minett

     

    Any suggestions?

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    David P. Philip


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