Recently there has been some robust progress in AI (Artificial Intelligence), with some scientists even successfully uploading the mind of a roundworm into a Lego robot. Although this seems to be a rather small step, it is significant since the software was in place without any prior programming and the robot started to behave like a worm, including in its response to food. “I think big leaps have been made in the last few years,” said Geoffrey Hinton, a distinguished researcher at Google and a professor at the University of Toronto. “A.I. is undergoing a growth spurt. We’re beginning to solve problems that a few years ago we couldn’t solve, like recognising images.” Continue reading
Yesterday the tenth anniversary of 9/11 was commemorated in New York. Yet the commemorations started more than one week in advance with newspapers, TVs and magazine building up the momentum. There is little need to summarize the incredible amount of special dossiers, reports, commentaries and documentaries which have been written during these days for a tragedy that happened ten years ago. The commemoration of 9/11 is becoming increasingly interactive with questions like: “do you remember 9/11?” or “share your 9/11” and similar collective archiving of personal memories, often shared every year for the past decade. Continue reading
Many questions remain unanswered in the violent riots which have shaken England recently. As could be expected, some have blamed the “failed” experience of multiculturalism. In reality these riots are very different from previous ones that have thrown neighborhoods into chaos (see the 2001 English riots, the Leeds 2001 Harehills riot, the 2005 Birmingham race riots, or even the most recent 2010 UK student protests). While the context in which the above riots developed are clear (community frustration, neighborhood-specific inter community tensions, and traditional student protests gone wrong), the recent riots are unusual in many aspects, such as the heterogeneity of those involved, the dynamic of how they started, a lack of apparent common strategy and a lack of shared reasons for rioting. Continue reading
Imagine that your country suffered an average of 71 suicide attacks per-year. Imagine that these suicide actions killed an average of 1,140 civilians per year, all among the most poor and in need. If you cannot imagine such an Armageddon then you can have it for real: it is called Pakistan. Today, as many other days, a suicide bomber (this time a woman, but children have also been employed previously) killed more than 40 people at a food distribution centre. It is the most poor who have paid the highest price – often simply because they are easy targets: queuing for food, shopping at the market or praying to a saint for hope that ended up drowned in their own blood. It is becoming easier to die in Pakistan, particularly in the North-West frontier, than to live. About three people die daily, yet there are no candlelight vigils, no minutes of silence and no ceremonies. The dead are mere numbers in your morning newspaper, seemingly unworthy of the fanfare that often accompanies European deaths.
Israel’s military has bombed whatever stands, lives and moves in Gaza, including the UN facilities and aid. No other state in the world has behaved, without facing dire diplomatic consequences, in such a way. The Israeli state which, although located in the Middle East, claims a ‘western’ civilizational link and heritage has surely fallen short of it. The Israeli government has failed totally in its actions: Hamas is still able to rocket blast South (and possibly North) Israel, the Israeli military actions have killed 130 ‘militants’ sacrificing about 630 civilians, it has prevented the rescue of the injured, causing the Red Cross to condemn the actions, and has attacked UN convoys (a “deja vu” since the Israeli army has a certain preference for “mistakenly” bombing the UN). Among the disturbing facts of the Israeli Kadima government is that 257 children have been killed and 1,080 wounded. Continue reading
Palestinians in Gaza are again living another nightmare. The world, however, appears less interested than usual. Dead Palestinians are common products on the international political markets at least last since 1967. As many may have observed, I have rarely commented or written about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I am not a political scientist and I think that too much has been said and too little done. This post is intended to be just a reflection provoked by the sight of innocent people suffering and trapped in an endless conflict. Continue reading
Few British newspapers, and even less European, have reported the Orwellian plans of Brown’s increasingly illegitimate (and barely democratic) government The main idea is to collect the largest database in the world though logging all the communications (from old phone to the Internet) of Her Majesty’s Subjects. A massive government database holding details of every phone call, e-mail and time spent on the internet by the public will be held in the most ‘secure’ place: the British Home Office. Of course, the reason behind this massively expensive, and entirely futile, database is to save us from terrorism….or isn’t it?The only way to know if the New Labour government is really fighting terrorism or transforming itself into a party of Orwellian magnitude is to check its record before the word terrorism possessed the ascetic face of the evergreen (nearly immortal, and surely elusive) Osama. Continue reading