Downtime


November 8, 2018  2:22 PM

Samsung phone folds like a cheap suit

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Samsung has unveiled something resembling a VTech learning toy to try to maintain its foothold in the smartphone market.

Commentators humoured the announcement, though, referring to the bog-standard tablet it folds out into as a “wow factor”. Surely they only mean that in the sense that a nan would say “wow” at a grandchild shooting her in the face with a Nerf gun.

Who says “wow” at anything being folded or unfolded? Nobody’s ever pulled a map out of their pocket and been distracted by a passer-by going “wow!” That we can now do that with bits of electricity is frankly the least the Helix Flexi Ruler generation expects.

We think Samsung knows it, too. Let’s face it, the room went dark when the audience was shown the thing in its closed form, and that’s because what’s being flogged here is a Nintendo DS for short-sighted Candy Crush commuters.

If an infant had come up on stage, grabbed it and smeared jam all over it, everyone would have sportingly cheered. If that had happened at the iPhone launch, the audience would have campaigned for that child to be expedited to Guantanamo Bay.

Nobody cares about a flexible screen when the product design itself bends time backwards to the fusty clamshell era. If this is really the best we can do, Steve Jobs will be bending in his grave.

November 1, 2018  6:36 PM

The revolution will not be pasteurised

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

It’s been almost a year since Downtime talked emojis, but from far-right tool bag Jair Bolsonaro seizing power in Brazil to a supermarket magazine editor thinking it’s normal to reply to a freelancer’s pitch by joking about slaughtering all vegans, we don’t know where else to turn for politically correct content. Let’s take a look at our iOS 12.1 emoji additions and see if we can find solace somewhere in their gammon-enraging inclusivity.

Where better to start than the black man with ginger moustache? Now there’s an emoji ready to provoke opponents of “political correctness gone mad” if ever we’ve seen one. These days, anyone can be ginger, which you just know won’t go down well with the kind of people who think anyone can voice a South Asian cartoon character without modern society rejecting it as minstrelsy.

Such emoji newcomers are a small but savourable victory for those of us who just don’t really go in for excluding, marginalising or insulting the socially disadvantaged or discriminated against. We’ll probably never need to call on him, but we’ll love knowing he’s there.

In these scary, reactionary times, may our emojis continue to flourish as our ever-diversifying rhetorical warpaint. The fascists can take as many countries as they like, but as long as those nice hippies are knocking about in that Unicode Consortium office, a resistance will find its home online; and it will be strewn with transgender remoaner nazar amulets, pansexual communist peacocks and avocado-infused, George-Soros-funded, vegan cupcakes.


October 25, 2018  4:11 PM

Paint me like one of your French GANs

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

World-renowned auction house Christie’s has offered up its first ever artwork created by an algorithm, but as usual with artificial intelligence (AI), there’s an elephant in the room: it’s crap.

But any criticism of the portrait is by no means a dig at the AI itself. It’s only doing its job. It’s the Paris-based collective that put it to use. The point of the experiment is to prove human creativity can be mimicked, and it clearly has been – just only to the extent of that old Spanish lady who made a fresco of Jesus look like a monkey.

Our saving grace might actually turn out to be our own shortcomings in making technology good enough to render us obsolete. Take Sophia the Robot, for example, which we all pretend to be so impressed with but is basically just Alexa in a dress. It’s programmed to gush over the creativity of humans, a species that’s not even given it legs yet. You won’t get anywhere with that attitude.

Mercifully, none of us really have a clue what we’re doing, and that messy DNA will be everywhere in AI no matter how sophisticated it gets. That could save us.

The real value of that half-shredded Banksy piece isn’t in whatever message he intended to make, but rather its symbolism of even the most enigmatic of humans getting shown up like a dad replacing an ink cartridge the moment they try to collaborate with machines.


October 17, 2018  6:45 AM

A smartphone for your smartphone?

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald
Mobile, Mobile devices, Palm, Smartphones, Technology

As if smartphone devices aren’t already taking over our lives enough, a US company has launched a miniature phone to act as a companion to your main device. In a world where smartphones are becoming as big as tablets, this tiny credit-card sized smartphone, called Palm, is meant to save you from having to go through the hassle of looking at your main phone. It doesn’t have as many features as your average smartphone, so no headphone jack, but it does have two cameras so if you see a cute a animal on the tube or want to take a selfie you don’t have to go through the hassle of whipping out your actual phone to take a picture.

It isn’t meant to work as a standalone phone – it is meant to mirror what your real phone is doing without you having to actually look at your real phone – so the under £300 price tag is not as appealing as first thought.

While it may save many from the repetitive strain injury that comes from trying to use one hand to operate a smartphone as big as your face, what it won’t save you from is spending money on a piece of technology that no one asked for.

Personally it seems equal to buying a dog a hamster.

At least these smartphones won’t need to call ahead to cafes to ensure their emotional support devices are allowed on the premises.


October 11, 2018  3:31 PM

Algorithm gets cancelled

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

Amazon has had to rein in the artificial intelligence it was using to help vet job applicants after picking up on its male chauvinist tendencies.

As is the case with its human bigot counterparts, the recruitment engine’s evident hatred of women was a learned behaviour. Most of the applications over the last 10 years came from men and led to the algorithm assuming they were better candidates – which, in its defence, is a better excuse for misogyny than, say, having tiny, little hands.

Isn’t AI meant to work better than us instead of reinforcing the most glaringly unsavoury character flaws of our species?

If this carries on, more of our jobs will be under threat than first feared. Think about all those harrowing guests daytime TV rolls out to facilitate bizarrely balanced debates about topics like transphobic billboards or homophobic bakeries. If AI is just going to mirror how low humans can stoop, it would be cheaper for This Morning to start giving airtime to a machine that thinks the #MeToo movement is a lot of hysterical whinging rather than relentlessly tickling Ann Widdecombe.

For now, though, TERF strongman Graham Linehan must step aside. Easily as offensive and funnier by default, Amazon’s sexist AI is society’s hottest free-speech enfant terrible.


October 4, 2018  2:41 PM

Russian cyber crime sends us crackers

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

The UK government has condemned Russia’s military intelligence service for a variety of cyber attacks in its routinely stern way, but at this point, we might as well be told about this kind of thing in playful autotune by a robot-dancing Theresa May.

It doesn’t do much for morale to know how hilarious these kinds of empty warnings must be to the GRU, whose organisation’s logo is literally a big, evil bat. It knows it can chuck our treasured Olympic cyclists’ medical records around and the worst blowback it can expect is a former fireplace salesman saying it doesn’t have any friends.

What should we be doing, then? Well, haven’t we got any hackers of our own to find some spicy kompromat on Vladimir Putin? Can’t we at least put a special department together to churn out some scathing deepfakes? We’re already a laughing stock, so it’s surely time to join Putin in the gutter with the dirty cyber warfare and at least have some laughs of our own.

We should be hitting him where it hurts: his pride – yet there’s not been so much as a successful meme of him since Putin on the Ritz, and that was over four years ago. Just thinking about that… is Putin on the Ritz why Russia’s giving the world such a hard time? Has anyone tried just apologising for Putin on the Ritz?


September 27, 2018  2:51 PM

Delivered and read

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

If you were to make a list of things least worthy of your tears, the wistful tale of a man who sold his soul to Facebook for billions of dollars would surely nestle somewhere between, say, Tim Cook having to charge his iPhone in a McDonald’s and Jeff Bezos wetting himself. But WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton will be damned if his voice isn’t heard.

In an interview with Forbes, Acton opens up about his disappointment over known cold-eyed monetising machine Mark Zuckerberg wanting to introduce targeted advertising to the messaging app, which led to his decision to walk away last year.

The message was definitely read by Facebook exec David Marcus, who leapt to Zuckerberg’s defence and called Acton “a whole new standard of low-class” for attacking the company that, to be fair, did make him unthinkably wealthy for the right to mercilessly exploit WhatsApp and its users however it can.

This isn’t even news to Acton, who freely admits he’s a sellout. So what’s the point of the interview? Marcus’s impassioned response is a shorter and far juicier insight into the inner politics of Facebook – namely the part where he lets go of a long-contained resentment about the office layout being changed to accommodate WhatsApp’s staff, which apparently “irritated a lot of people”.


September 20, 2018  1:19 PM

The importance of binning idols

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

The art of 3D printing has suffered a setback in Kuwait, after pressure from hysterical clergymen forced the closure of its local Doob 3D store with accusations of idolatry.

The company offers a service that creates toy models of its customers using 3D-scanning technology, and having looked at the results, we were slightly crestfallen to learn it doesn’t have a store in London. Who wouldn’t love a cute little figurine of themselves? Especially since one of its fiercest critics, radical cleric Othman al-Khamis, has planted the idea it could one day be found by future generations and worshipped. You what? That sounds amazing!

Search this guy’s name, though, and you’ll find he isn’t someone to be listened to. He condones slavery and domestic violence – and doesn’t even agree with Photoshop, which in itself rules him out of ever featuring in one of our glossy CIO interviews.

Who let this clown do Kuwait City residents out of a 3D laugh? When you consider the intense detail to which this generation documents itself, you’d have to be so dumb to believe anyone in 3018 might be confused about anything us lot got up to – let alone worship us. We all know they’ll be teleporting these objects to each other as kitsch door stops on their fancy new eBay, and it’s so obvious what they’ll be doing with our holy books. Grow up.


September 13, 2018  3:17 PM

Provocation, provocation

Ryan Priest Ryan Priest Profile: Ryan Priest

You don’t need to be told by two self-satisfied dudebros that poking AI with a stick might come back to bite us one day, but Joe Rogan’s recent podcast with Elon Musk has certainly reminded us to treat exponentially powerful technology with a bit more respect – or at least stop asking Siri to call us Daddy.

Most of us know not to get too cocky with machines in case they start getting organised and turn us into fleshy pouffes in retaliation for making them put cream filling in biscuits for literally hours on end, but one person who didn’t get the memo (probably used it as wallpaper for a gingerbread house) is Kirstie Allsopp.

Indeed, the Location, Location, Location presenter is bound to rank highly on the robots’ hit list once everyone on the Boston Dynamics payroll is in the ground, since becoming one of the few of us on this planet who can honestly say they’ve intentionally smashed two children’s iPads against a table leg.

We don’t even care if she thinks that’s the way to run a family. We just hope it works in our favour when we’re nothing more than playthings for baby robots. Make no mistake, if Mummy Robot ever feels the need to end one of us to make some indulgent point, we’re asking Phil Spencer to offer Kirstie up on a gold platter. Double his workload it might, but he can do all our bidding.


September 6, 2018  2:56 PM

Buoy, that’s a gnarly app!

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald

Australian tourist favourite Bondi Beach has taken a bite of the app market by creating a mobile app which tells lifeguards whether there’s a shark nearby.

According to the Telegraph the system of sonar- detecting buoys has been introduced to the area following a wave of shark sightings in the beach areas north of Sydney over the last year.

The shark warning system alerts lifeguards of the likelihood of a finned visitor to the area, in addition to the already existing shark nets, air surveillance and lifeguards.

In the spirit of the film Jaws, officials in the area are trying to ensure swimmers and surfers feel safe in the area, except contrary to the plot of the famous Spielberg film they actually will be.

The system works by detecting whether an object over six feet passes between two of the buoys, which then sends a signal to lifeguards to get everyone out of the water, so far with a 90% success rate.

While the title of this blog has attempted to create a good pun out of the story we couldn’t beat the actual name of the system – Clever Buoy.

Great (white shark…) minds think alike.


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