The Language Barrier Is About to Fall

30. January 2016

Date: 30-01-2016
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Within 10 years, earpieces will whisper nearly simultaneous translations—and help knit the world closer together

Is it possible that someday we will be able to converse in dozens of foreign languages, eliminating the very concept of a language barrier?

It used to be the case when I traveled abroad that I would take a little pocket dictionary that provided translations for commonly used phrases and words. If I wanted to construct a sentence, I would thumb through the dictionary for five minutes to develop a clunky expression with unconjugated verbs and my best approximation of the correct noun. Today I take out my phone and type the phrase into Google Translate, which returns a translation as fast as my Internet connection can provide it, in any of 90 languages.

Machine translation is leaps and bounds faster and more effective than my old dictionary method, but it still falls short in accuracy, functionality and delivery. That won’t be the case for long. A decade from now, I would predict, everyone reading this article will be able to converse in dozens of foreign languages, eliminating the very concept of a language barrier.

Today’s translation tools were developed by computing more than a billion translations a day for over 200 million people. With the exponential growth in data, that number of translations will soon be made in an afternoon, then in an hour. The machines will grow exponentially more accurate and be able to parse the smallest detail. Whenever the machine translations get it wrong, users can flag the error—and that data, too, will be incorporated into future attempts.It is just a matter of more data, more computing power and better software. These will come with the passage of time and will fill in the communication gaps in areas including pronunciation and interpreting a spoken response. Read the rest of this entry »

Will Machines Eliminate Us?

29. January 2016

Date: 29-01-2016
Source: Technology Review

People who worry that we’re on course to invent dangerously intelligent machines are misunderstanding the state of computer science.

Yoshua Bengio leads one of the world’s preëminent research groups developing a powerful AI technique known as deep learning. The startling capabilities that deep learning has given computers in recent years, from human-level voice recognition and image classification to basic conversational skills, have prompted warnings about the progress AI is making toward matching, or perhaps surpassing, human intelligence.

Prominent figures such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have even cautioned that artificial intelligence could pose an existential threat to humanity. Musk and others are investing millions of dollars in researching the potential dangers of AI, as well as possible solutions. But the direst statements sound overblown to many of the people who are actually developing the technology. Bengio, a professor of computer science at the University of Montreal, put things in perspective in an interview with MIT Technology Review’s senior editor for AI and robotics, Will Knight. Read the rest of this entry »

The fashion for making employees collaborate has gone too far

25. January 2016

Date: 21-01-2016
Source: The Economist: Schumpeter
Subject: The collaboration curse

IN MODERN business, collaboration is next to godliness. Firms shove their staff into open-plan offices to encourage serendipitous encounters. Managers oblige their underlings to add new collaborative tools such as Slack and Chatter to existing ones such as e-mail and telephones. Management thinkers urge workers to be good corporate citizens and help each other out all the time.

The fashion for collaboration makes some sense. The point of organisations is that people can achieve things collectively that they cannot achieve individually. Talking to your colleagues can spark valuable insights. Mixing with people from different departments can be useful. But this hardly justifies forcing people to share large noisy spaces or bombarding them with electronic messages. Oddly, the cult of collaboration has reached its apogee in the very arena where the value of uninterrupted concentration is at its height: knowledge work. Open-plan offices have become near-ubiquitous in knowledge-intensive companies. Facebook has built what is said to be the world’s biggest such open space, of 430,000 square feet (40,000 square metres), for its workers. Read the rest of this entry »

Secrets of the world’s best businesspeople

22. January 2016

Date: 22-01-2016
Source: The Economist
Subject: The Gujarati way: Going global

AS BRITISH imperialists were trudging through African jungles to secure their newly conquered empire, some of the empire’s subjects were also roaming far and wide, under the cover of the Union flag. One was Allidina Visram, from Kutch, in what is now Gujarat state in India. He arrived penniless in Zanzibar (now part of Tanzania) on the east African coast in 1863, aged 12. He opened his first small shop 14 years later, and soon afterwards spotted his great opportunity. He opened a store at every large railway station along the 580 miles of railway track being laid down through Kenya to Uganda in the early 1900s, providing supplies to thousands of railway workers. He then opened more stores at Jinja on Lake Victoria.

Flush with success, Visram was later joined by another Gujarati, Vithaldas Haridas. He arrived in 1893 and was, if anything, even more adventurous than his mentor; he stomped 24 miles through the jungle to the small town of Iganga, where he started his own shop. More followed. These were the beginnings of some of the larger fortunes to be made in colonial Africa. Read the rest of this entry »

Tech’s ‘Frightful 5’ Will Dominate Digital Life for Foreseeable Future

21. January 2016

Date: 21-01-2016
Source: The New York Times

There’s a little parlor game that people in Silicon Valley like to play. Let’s call it, Who’s Losing?

There are currently four undisputed rulers of the consumer technology industry: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, now a unit of a parent company called Alphabet. And there’s one more, Microsoft, whose influence once looked on the wane, but which is now rebounding.

So which of these five is losing? A year ago, it was Google that looked to be in a tough spot as its ad business appeared more vulnerable to Facebook’s rise. Now, Google is looking up, and it’s Apple, hit by rising worries about a slowdown in iPhone sales, that may be headed for some pain. Over the next couple of weeks, as these companies issue earnings that show how they finished 2015, the state of play may shift once more.

But don’t expect it to shift much. Asking “who’s losing?” misses a larger truth about how thoroughly Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft now lord over all that happens in tech. Read the rest of this entry »

Le Petit Chef

18. January 2016

Le Petit ChefThought that you would get a kick out of this one if you haven’t seen it already.

“Le Petit Chef”

This is too cool!

The French restaurant Le Petit Chef (Little Chef), came up with an original way to entertain guests while waiting for their order by using a projector on the ceiling, and the animation on the table.

There is a small chef who appears on your plate, and watch what he does.

Catching the Digital Wave

15. January 2016

Photo of Dominic Barton

Dominic Barton

Dominic Barton is the global managing director of McKinsey & Company.

JAN 15, 2016, Project Syndicate

NEW YORK – Technological change has always posed a challenge for companies. But, as we saw once again in 2015, it has never occurred as rapidly, or on as large a scale, as today. As innovation sweeps across virtually every sector, from heavy industry to services, it is transforming the competitive landscape, with the most advanced companies – rather than the largest or most established players – coming out on top.

For incumbents, the threat of displacement is very real. The average tenure of a company on the S&P 500 has fallen from 90 years in 1935 to less than 18 years today. Disruptive new players like Uber, which has upended the taxi industry, are tough competitors, often staking out market share by shifting more surplus to consumers. This is part of a broader trend of intensifying competition that, according to recent research from the McKinsey Global Institute, could reduce the global after-tax profit pool from almost 10% of global GDP today to its 1980 level of about 7.9% within a decade. Read the rest of this entry »