September 11, 2019  4:00 PM

That don’t impress Ma much

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Over to Hangzhou now, where the richest man in China has thrown himself the mother of all retirement bashes by performing in front of an audience of 60,000 employees.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma donned a studded leather jacket and shades as he “sang” You raise me up with incoming company CEO Daniel Zhang, evoking treasured memories of those X Factor final performances where they roll out the rejects from the audition stages. But after 20 years at the helm, the former English teacher can be let off for his indulgences. You didn’t boo Bob Geldof at Live Aid, did you?

Whose head wouldn’t be in the clouds if they had Ma’s life? Everything must seem so boring unless you’re having a sing-song with your mates. In a recent talk with Elon Musk, he responded to the idea of humanity being a biological bootloader for digital superintelligence by requesting they “talk about something fun”.

What about the prospect of becoming a multi-planet species, then? Musk gave it a try: “This is the first time in the history of Earth that it’s been possible to extend life beyond. Let us secure the future of consciousness as quickly as possible.” Nah, not interested. Ma just changed the subject to the Himalayas: “When the elevator’s ready, I will go and have a look.”

Go and get the guitar.

September 5, 2019  11:24 AM

The wrong trainers

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Now, don’t get us wrong: we’re as jittery about living in a future of wearable technology as the next milquetoast loser. Some nights we can’t even sleep due to the nagging noughties fear that our mobile’s slowly doing a mini-Chernobyl on our head whenever we make more than a five-minute call. But what about a pair of smart trainers that can unlace themselves?

Dealing with shoelaces has always been a gymnastic ball-ache for us, to the point that the first time we heard that rumour about Marilyn Manson getting some ribs removed, we assumed that would obviously be the reason why.

But Nike’s Adapt Huaraches are here to save us from the eccentric surgical path of rib removal. A simple command to Siri is said to release these new sneakers from your feet in an instant, and we can’t foretell any specific doomsday that might come from that.

Technology is famously only a problem when it falls into the wrong hands. Nobody’s ever mentioned feet. There’s the Wallace and Gromit film that fires off some pretty stark warnings about legs, but they were manipulated by a fictional evil penguin, which we don’t have many equivalents of in the real world…

Keep Dominic Cummings away from them, actually. Just in case he programs them to smash up a Polish deli or something.

August 28, 2019  9:43 AM

Don’t upset the Apple Card

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Apple has reiterated its searing contempt for the hoi polloi that uses its products by releasing a physical credit card you’re not supposed to put in your wallet.

The titanium card is, in Apple’s swashbuckling words, for “if you find a place that doesn’t take Apple Pay yet” – a scenario made to sound like something that in itself should induce projectile vomiting.

We now have the backwards prospect of making adjustments to our lives to accommodate Apple’s whimsical releases, which must be the realisation of a dream scenario for Tim Cook and the gang.

AirPods cost £159 and all we ever hear about is people losing them. That would be because they have to just hang untethered out of our lumpy ears. But that doesn’t seem to put anyone off.

Do AirPods offer clues as to how we’re meant to carry this Apple Card? What else can Apple get us to do? Will it soon be considered reasonable to balance things on our heads? What if Apple suggests its cards can get scratched on contact with hair? Or smudged on contact with skin? Is the endgame us shaving and skinning ourselves to fit around Apple’s increasingly precious objects? Are we just annoyed that the MacBook Pro we write this on is badgering us for software updates? Mind your business.

August 15, 2019  12:12 PM

God is a fridge

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A teenage girl has turned to her family’s smart fridge in a desperate quest to reach Twitter followers, after her mum confiscated her electronic devices one by one.

The 15-year-old, known to her online friends as Dorothy, was initially stopped from tweeting from her Ariana Grande fan account when she had her phone taken away. So she took to her Nintendo DS to update her followers instead.

When the mum identified that loophole, tweeting that she’d “seen that Dorothy has been using Twitter on her Nintendo”, she shut that down, too. Dorothy then resumed makeshift communications from her Wii U, until – you’ve guessed it – this by now mythical, Pac-Manesque parent grabbed the final device and left her daughter with nothing.

The walls were closing in on our protagonist. The phone was nowhere to be found, the DS had been snuffed out, and we can only pray the mum didn’t go full Kirstie Allsopp on the Wii U. If Dorothy couldn’t tweet, her hard-earned follower count was sure to dwindle. The feed sat dormant. It had lost its author to a brutal programme of censorship. But then came hope:

“I do not know if this is going to tweet I am talking to my fridge what the heck my mom confiscated all of my electronics again.”

August 7, 2019  11:54 AM

8chan history

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As we watched a former porn site merchant’s video statement, him sat there in front of a Benjamin Franklin backdrop to the sound of a military bugle call, defending 8chan’s white supremacist propaganda from his pig farm in the Philippines, we couldn’t help but marvel at another darling of Donald’s Trump’s America.

Jim Watkins is the owner of nefarious message board 8chan, a website originally created for people who found 4chan a bit too tame. He’s feeling sorry for himself because his Wild West hotbed of hate speech (rebranded as free speech, butter wouldn’t melt) was driven offline due to its role in promoting mass shootings.

Watkins, unshackled by things like dignity and shame, defiantly claims 8chan is “one of the last independent companies that offers a place you may write down your thoughts, free from having to worry about whether they are offensive to one group or another”. And now it’s gone, you say? Good!

Who started letting this idea through that human adults should not have to worry about how their online behaviour affects others? Why is this absolute nut, asking where users can go now to spout their racist and homophobic bile, being so tenderly echoed by the BBC? Isn’t it more pertinent to ask why they can’t grow up and stop being such poisonous little freaks?

August 2, 2019  12:09 PM

Welcome to Limmy’s Twitch

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Amazon-owned live video streaming platform Twitch has lost one of its biggest stars to Microsoft-owned rival site Mixer, but rather than lament the departure of Ninja, one clandestine member of the Twitch community has taken it as cause for celebration.

Scottish comedian Limmy responded to Ninja’s announcement with unabashed jubilance, convinced a space has opened up for him to now become the platform’s top streamer. One fan remarked: “Clear indication that Ninja fears Limmy and has chosen to bow out rather than face the challenge presented by Twitch’s oldest and worst gamer.”

So what do you get when you subscribe to Limmy’s channel? If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’re gifted one free subscription to a Twitch streamer of your choice every month, but why would you pick him? Well, when he’s not testing the site’s terms of service with his offensive conduct, he can often be found telling improv stories. AI enthusiasts might be particularly interested in his tale of a voice assistant that goes rogue.

He also broadcasts compelling Truck Simulator games for hours on end, takes radio presenters to task for stealing his material and performs karaoke duets with other members of the community.

What soon becomes clear when you watch his content is that Limmy desperately needs this, so please subscribe today.

July 26, 2019  9:18 AM

Apologising with Nick Clegg

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Nick Clegg – Sir Nick to you – continues to flourish as Facebook’s hired appeaser, most recently resurfacing from his Atherton mansion with a sound bite about how his employer was “rocked to its very foundations” over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

This culture of politicians cocking up their jobs before getting even more lucrative ones has been kind to Facebook. Bringing in the former deputy prime minister might have once looked odd, but we’ve become used to news like chancellors metamorphosing into newspaper editors and Chris Grayling not living in a bin. It’s allowed Mark Zuckerberg to sign up Clegg and his special talent.

You see, for Nick Clegg, sorry seems to be the easiest word in the world. While many would hide from an entire nation’s contempt, he’s carved out a niche in professionally letting people down. It requires a unique energy, but he’s got it. It’s like someone took the moment Rupert Murdoch said “this is the most humble day of my life” and made it into a person. And that’s just what Zuck needed.

Let’s take a closer look at him in action. Referring to Facebook’s £4bn fine from the US Federal Trade Commission, Clegg said: “I totally accept that you could double, quadruple the fine and I expect people would still say it’s not enough.” Be honest. You feel a bit sorry for Facebook now, don’t you. The guy’s a maestro.

July 11, 2019  9:54 AM

Let us troll

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This month saw the Church of England release its own Digital charter, intended to improve the online community’s “common sense, kindness and sound judgement”.

Now, you can sit there and have a go at the pomposity of thinking a list of arbitrary rules is going to make notorious online trolls turn their lives around, but just know you’ll be doing so in contravention of the charter.

It might have taken over a decade of widespread social media chaos for the Church of England to produce these guidelines, but, in its defence, is that really such a long time when you consider the 200,000-odd years we had to wait before God put some ideas forward?

Credit where it’s due – you can’t argue with the sentiment of calling for a bit more kindness on the internet. But let’s not get too carried away. Liz Morgan, the Church of England’s digital champion (congratulations), wrote a piece in The Metro saying the guidelines are about “how we can all be better humans online”.

Honestly, we’re trying to remain respectful here, but it really can’t be right that we’re taking lessons on humanity from an organisation still struggling with the concept of equal marriage.

July 3, 2019  3:47 PM

Buffer load stance

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Neneh Cherry’s Glastonbury performance gained some unexpected attention from the tech world at this year’s festival, after the laptop playing the evergreen singer’s backing visuals crashed and rebooted mid-set.

The main point of interest came from the fact the laptop was running Windows XP, an operating system right on the cusp of retro status, but not quite there yet. It’s like football shirts. If it had been Windows 98, for example, everyone there would have probably celebrated the throwback aesthetic as a knowing nod to the past. But XP? It just looks like you don’t look after yourself.

It gives us an early taste of the future of entertainment. The last generation’s insatiable thirst for being reminded about the days before we had any computers at all will pass the baton to a generation that in a few years will sell out Peter Kay’s Windows Vista-inspired comeback tour. “Who remembers opening Windows Sidebar and finding gadgets?” he’ll ask a hysterical audience in front of a Sony Vaio projecting its own disk defragmentation.

“That Neneh Cherry’s been at it again at Glastonbury,” he’ll go on. “She brought t’CD-ROM with her, you remember t’CD-ROM? She tried to give her laptop a last-minute upgrade this time, but needed to get on stage with Windows 7 seconds away…”

June 26, 2019  2:01 PM

Toronto adapters

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Toronto residents are grappling with a quandary posed by the plans of Google sister company Sidewalk Labs to build a smart city on its eastern waterfront.

It’s always fun to learn about Google’s various madcap capers, typically carried out under cheerful, ungainly named subsidiaries supposedly living it up independently from its legal guardian. When a corporate restructuring saw Google give itself a Sesame Street-evoking parent company called Alphabet in 2015, it was like watching a six-year-old billionaire orphan enlisting a clown to build them a benevolent new mum out of balloons.

Google, after all, wasn’t nominally responsible for its boisterous brother Boston Dynamics, provider of those butt-clenching robots. It was Alphabet that cut it loose from the family for damaging its reputation in, to be fair, the most apocalyptic fashion imaginable.

But it’s tempting to only see the positives of a futuristic city, with streets that “blur the line between indoors and outdoors”, some nice shops and highly reliable Wi-Fi. It’s also reasonable, however, to relate to locals who worry they’re being treated like lab rats. This city would be the first of its kind, and if the wrong person hacks into it, the whole place could be programmed into something from a Saw film based in a Westfield.

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