Several news items this week from the world of IT/AI (so what’s new??).
1. the amount of time people spend talking on their mobile phones has fallen for the first time (to 157 minutes a week – down from 159) …. but only because people are texting more, rather than speaking. On average, people check their smartphone every twelve minutes.
2. boffins have trained a neural network (using 2,600 sonnets taken from a free online database) and put the system to work writing (they mean “plagiarising” – Ed) poems of its own (using the rhyming scheme popularised by the late William Shakespeare). A sample begins “he softly left from dark, of shining plain/and to the morn, to set her on the way”. Hmmph – methinks the Bard hasn’t got too much to worry about yet awhile.
3. and more boffins have carried out a knowledge test on Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. Alexa definitely earned the dunce’s cap, answering fewer than two thirds of the 800 test questions correctly (falling well behind her two rivals). At least, however, Alexa has yet to heckle a Cabinet Minister – unlike Siri, which recently interrupted Mr Gavin Williamson (the Secretary of State for Defence) when he was speaking in the House of Commons. He was giving a statement on Syria, and his phone interrupted brightly “I’ve found something on the Web about Syrian democratic forces ….”
It is true of course that technology gets more and more clever with every week that passes. What it can’t do, however, is replicate wise advice (especially business advice) based on human experience. Assuming you’re wise enough to be a member of a TAB Board, you have access every month to objective and practical advice from seven other business owners with no axe to grind, and who have over 150 years’ experience between them …. and if you’re not (yet) a TAB member and this sounds attractive, you know where to come!
Moving on to other meejah items this week –
• in other techie news, this week’s Heart-Warming Tale Award goes to members of a transport fan page on Facebook (whatever that might be – Ed) who were so concerned to hear that the cable-car symbol had been the least-used emoji on Twitter for 77 days that they posted blocks of dozens of cable cars in individual tweets, eventually hoisting the “poor neglected little dude” into penultimate place. The new back marker is the “input symbol for Latin capital letters” (a square with ABCD in it). All one can say is “gosh”
• this week saw the final episode of Love Island (some kind of TV “reality” show, apparently) – it also featured the latest (and inevitably disastrous) attempt by a political party to get down wiv da yoof. Step forward the Conservative and Unionist Party, which promised to give away Love Island water bottles “with a political twist” – a sample bore the inspiring message “don’t let Corbyn mug you off”. Wiser counsels have now prevailed, and reference on the party’s website to the bottles has mysteriously disappeared
• in an outrage which in more robust times might well have led to (at least) the sending of a gunboat, the most expensive pair of wellingtons (a snip at £420 – the first to retail at more than £400) has been put on offer by …. a French retailer
• Mr Robert Nisbet (the regional director of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies) would be wise to travel incognito in Northern England, after declaring that Blighty’s railways are the “envy of Europe”, and that other EU nations could “only dream” of our levels of punctuality (yeah – we can only dream of them too – Northern Ed)
• mothers (and others) who belong to the “itchy citchy coo” school of talking to small babies have been vindicated by researchers from the Uni of Edinburgh, who have proved that the use of diminutives and reduplications (such as “mummy” and “choo choo”) help infants to identify words better than their proper equivalent. Any volunteers to tell Mr Nisbet where to stick his choo choos?
• other boffins (from the Uni of Würzburg) have discovered that it’s easier to lie if you’re speaking a foreign language (lying in your mother tongue is hard work – while in a foreign language even telling the truth is hard work)
• the gin craze continues, and this week’s gin tale features Mr Heston Blumenthal, whose Citrus Sherbet Lazy Gin (£24.99 in Waitrose) was beaten in blind taste tests by Aldi’s Oliver Cromwell Gin (a tenner), as well as by entries from Morrisons and Lidl
• if you’re addicted to chillies, beware – the hot weather means that this year’s crop will be 20% hotter to the taste than normal
• and more observant readers (which is of course all of you hem hem) will have realised that this week’s film title does not refer to the Business Bit (anyone who says at this point “so what’s new?” will be thrown out – Ed) …. but to a survey by boffins from the Uni of Nottingham, who are asking the public to score a rabbit’s looks from 0 to 10, and to say which features they find irresistible (hence the smooth (?) link via Bright Eyes – I can hear Art Garfunkel now …. – Nostalgic Ed)
This week’s Columbo Corner is devoted to the heroic band of letter correspondents to the Times (and especially the ones in the bottom right hand corner) (that’s the letters in the bottom right hand corner. Not the correspondents. Please try to keep up). This week featured a bumper crop, including –
• a suggestion by Mr John Hunter that Rugby Union would be opened up by removing the flankers (it’s already been done, Mr H – it’s called Rugby League)
• various letters about the growing trend for audiences at classical music concerts to applaud between movements, prompting Mr Steve Cowperthwaite to point out that at jazz concerts the audience is constantly reminded who is “on sax” or “on drums”, and looking forward to the day when a conductor shouts “on violin” after a cadenza
• a (probably unwise) comment from Mr Charles Garth on a report that Freemasons are going to allow women members under their “gender reassignment policy”, albeit only those who joined as men – Mr G points out that “they already wear aprons at meetings – pass the feather duster, Brother”
• an excellent suggestion from Mr William Bojczuk to the effect that since the Tour de France has been won by a Brit in six of the last seven years, the yellow jersey should be replaced by a yellow cardigan (the “cardie jaune” definitely has a certain ring)
• Mr Andrew Kennedy (a director at Loorolls.com) capitalising on a slam dunk PR opportunity by clarifying why the US Embassy is selling off 1,200 loo rolls (supplied by Mr K’s firm) on the cheap – it’s because the new building has different dispensers
• (whilst on this theme, the Church of Scientology has been told to pay nearly £400,000 for a new sewerage system, after admitting that its sewage discharge was ten times the permitted limit (thus confirming the Ed’s long-held view that Scientology is full of sh— well, you get the idea))
• a series of letters suggesting variants (in death notices) to “peacefully” and “suddenly” to describe the death of the late lamented, culminating in Mr Gerald Witt pointing out that a stand-up comedian has already suggested that the only way to combine these two is to be run over by a lorry loaded with chamomile
• and finally, two splendid letters about philosophers trying to recall the secret of the universe (as disclosed to them in dreams) by keeping a notepad by the bed to record the dreams as they happen. Ms Judith Kasriel recalled that William James thought he’d cracked the secret, only to find out the following morning that he’d written “Hogamous, higamous,/ Man is polygamous,/ Higamous, hogamous,/Woman monogamous”, while Mr Michael Ezra informed us that an opium-smoking friend of George Orwell had written “the banana is big, but its skin is even bigger”. Wise words indeed
Have a great weekend – and keep a sharp eye out for lorries carrying chamomile ….
Cheers for now
For a light-hearted look at some of what TAB does, have a look at this animation
I presently run three Boards –
Dark Blue (for people who run large businesses) – one spare seat
Light Blue (for people who run large businesses) — two spare seats
White Board (for people who run fast-growing businesses) — two spare seats
“Plagiarize …. only be sure always to call it please “research”” (Tom Lehrer, Lobachevsky)
“Richard Nixon …. can lie out of both sides of his mouth at the same time” (Harry S Truman)
“The only time I ever enjoyed ironing was the day I accidentally got gin in the steam iron” (Phyllis Diller)
By Tom Morton – TAB Harrogate