Robots vs Jobs

50 years ago a life where robots worked for humans was the thing of science fiction films. Yet we are now in an era of self driving cars and smart homes. People can now speak to each other using a small electronic device. They read from tablet computers. A coffee machine can make them a barista-quality coffee without the need to leave home. Whilst these technological advancements are hugely convenient, they will come at a cost: a reduced number jobs. Right now, technology is producing and increased number of jobs as humans scramble to produce the tiny components to control the electronic brains, motors and nerves that will eventually create robots. But as the production and design process becomes more automated, the need for human interaction will reduce by an astonishing level.

The concept of job losses on a large scale hit me first when I stayed at a hotel in 2015 near the Kent coastline. My wife decided to accompany me on a theatre show I was performing at (I’m a singer in a Commitments and Blues Brothers show). Having already booked our room we arrived and I presented my debit card to the one person on the reception desk. She checked the number, gave us our room key and off we went to our room. On arrival to the room we noticed that one of the pillows was missing, so rang down to reception and the same person answered. 20 minutes later she bought up the missing pillow. We very quickly realised that the hotel with over 100 rooms was being run by 1 manager, 1 chef, 1 member of barstaff (who doubled as a waitress) and 2 cleaners. I questioned the manager. “Oh yes” she declared in a slightly stressed and tired manner. “We don’t have many people here anymore. The computer does most of it. Except the cleaning; the computer can’t clean…yet”.

 

Robots have already started replacing certain jobs at pace

There was a perfect example of how technology has already begun to reduce the number of jobs in the hotel. They had got rid of the receptionist and porter; the manager now did their job as well as her own. 100 rooms serviced by a handful of people. If there expected a busy people the computer would flash up and they would draft in an extra person. In the future those cleaners will likely be robotic and the keys and spare pillows dished out by a vending machine. The Service Industry stands to be the most affected by robots as the technological era advances. Already, shops are full of automated tills. You scan your shopping, you pay by cash or card and the machine gives you your change and receipt. Suddenly; six till jobs have been replaced by machines.

Take a look at China – the World’s fastest growing economy – to see how they are dealing with robotics. Forget any vision you may have of rooms of hundreds of Chinese employees putting together toys on a production line; that’s old hat. Chinese companies purchased 66,000 robots in 2016 which were able to do the jobs of one million workers. More astonishing is that some of those robots cost less that the salary of one manager.

“But people will still want human interaction!” I hear you cry. Actually, I doubt it. There is already a new generation who live their lives with their face in a virtual world. They consume music and video on a 5 inch screen. They fake their social lives within social media accounts. The communicate with emojis and gifs. Many of this generation have no interest in speaking to other people. Then, with companies such a Amazon planning same-day drone deliveries, there will be no need to even leave their house. Their food and other shopping will arrive at their door and allow them even more time to spend dedicated to their phone screen.

 

Self aware robots aren’t far away

During the New Year holiday of 2014 I heard a technology ‘expert’ talking on the radio about how it would be at least 50 years before a computer could pass the Turing test, and that it would “require a Quantum computer”. 6 months later a Russian developed computer – Eugene – passed the test.

 

Increases in a ‘living wage’ may rapidly decrease towards the end of the 21st Century due to automation

In January 2018, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) released a report in which is predicted that the living wage may decrease as employers begin to favour automated systems over humans, forcing the living wage down by the end of the 21st Century.

“The fact there seemed to be a negligible employment impact of a minimum [wage] at £6.70 per hour – the 2015 rate – does not mean the same will be true of the rate of over £8.50 per hour that is set to apply in 2020,” a research economist at the IFS has said.

Percentage of employees aged 25+ in the most automatable jobs (top 10% of routine task intensity). Credit: https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/10287

 

Many driving jobs will be replaced by self-driving vehicles 2030

We are already seeing taxis and heavy goods vehicles being automated. In November 2017 Alphabet – Google’s parent company – began allowing their automated car ‘Waymo’ to drive the streets of California with no driver in the safety position. A few months before the British government announced that it would allow companies to begin testing self-driving trucks. If you drive for a living it may be time to reevaluate your future career prospects.

What’s more, it’s predicted that 800,000 millions jobs will be lost to robots in the next 20 years.

Army, Navy and air force jobs will be replaced by machines

In 1984 the James Cameron film ‘Terminator’ was released. For those who haven’t see it (you really should) a cyborg is sent back from 2029 to assassinate the mother of a boy who will eventually go on to lead an uprising against the machine which have taken over the planet. Now whilst this idea sounds fanciful (and time travel is unlikely to ever happen), automated robotic warfare is just around the corner. Arms producers and military organisations are already using drones and it won’t be long before automated tanks are on the battle scene. And these robots won’t be slow – they’ll be extremely fast, accurate and highly efficient.

 

Advanced algorithms could lead to the end of the Justice system as we know it

Algorithms. Everywhere, Algorithms. Whilst algorithms and just a basic process of answering a question and moving on to the next based on the answer, they are becoming extremely advanced. Google’s power has become so large because of expertly defined algorithm behind it. Now imagine a computer that can act as judge and jury; it’s very possible. An algorithm could quite easily process the crime, look at the evidence, consider any mitigating circumstances and give out the relevant punishment.

In fact, it could be argued that this method would be fairer with accurate punishments being given out across the board. Humans are emotionally and morally flawed – algorithms are not.

“Humans are emotionally and morally flawed – algorithms are not.”

 

Over 4 million UK jobs could go in just 10 years

According to a survey by the Royal Society of Arts, over 4 million jobs could go in technology over the next 10 years. Take a look at the latest scheme by multinational company McDonald’s which has gradually started to roll out computerised ordering in its restaurants. No longer do you ask a human for your food but instead you select and pay for it on a large computer screen and collected it from an self-order point when it’s ready. Another prime example of unskilled labour being replacement by computers and the people who program them.

 

How will people earn money?

In a time when robots and computers do all the work for us it’s quite possible that many people won’t work. The Bank of America recently predicted that automated systems will be doing nearly half of all manufacturing jobs within a generation – saving an astonishing $9tn in labour costs. Take a look at your High Street. What was once full of bank branches and building societies has now been replaced with cafes and bars. The days of the traditional bank teller are over as more computers and online payment systems replace their jobs. Governments will have to look at a method of giving people a fixed amount of money each month. Those who are more skilled or who can find extra work will be the wealthiest.
Whatever the future holds, it’s clear that robots and computer programs are going to replace traditional human jobs and it might happen much sooner than you think.

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Amazon Kindle Kids Edition now just £69 with 2 year QUIBBLE FREE guarantee

Black Friday deals are already here and now you can get the Amazon Kindle Kids 7″ Edition now just £69 with 2 year QUIBBLE FREE guarantee, or the larger 8″ screen for just £89.

The Kindle for Kids comes feature packed, but most of all, has an industry leading 2 year quibble free guarantee. If you little one breaks it, smashes it, throws it down the stairs or chucks it in the bath in the first 2 years, Amazon will replace it free of charge.

This surely makes this the best value tablet computer for kids on the market right now.

The offer ends 27th November, so be quick and grabs yours today.

Buy the 7″ – here

Buy the 8″ – here

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Control Switches and Devices in your home using Amazon Echo

You can now control switches and devices in your home using Amazon Echo and it’s cheaper than ever.

I was recently bought the Amazon Echo 2 for a gift and within 5 minutes I was able to turn on lights, switch off slow cookers and all manner of things and it’s easier and cheaper than you might think.

 

Gather your equipment to Control Switches and Devices in your home using Amazon Echo

First of all, this article assumes you already have a wifi network in your home. If you haven’t, this isn’t going to work.

You’re going to need some Smart Wifi Plugs. There are a lot of options around and the price ranges from £10 to £15 each. They all do pretty much the same thing so make sure you’ve got some that are compatible with Amazon Echo/Alexa.

Next, you’re going to need an Amazon Echo. These are available for £89 from Amazon.

 

Program your switches to your home wifi

Next, you’ll need to program your switched to your home wifi. Each device will have a slightly different methods for this and it will usually involve downloading an app to your phone or tablet.

Once you’ve done this and you’re able to operate your switch from your phone you need to give it a unique name, something like “lounge lamp” or “bedroom lamp”.

 

Tell your Echo to discover new devices

You now need to tell Echo to discover the new devices on your network so that she can control them. To do this, say “Alexa, discover new devices”. It takes around 20 seconds for this to complete. Once Echo can see the new devices just say “Alexa, switch on [your device name]” and you’re away!

You can also set up groups which allows you to control more than one device at the same time. Just put them in a group and give them a name.

 

Considerations

Be careful what you plug into each smart switch as most have a maximum power output, usually around 2000 watts. Don’t plug anything into the switch which is more than the rated power output as you risk causing a fire. You should also be careful not to plug any sensitve devices

 

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Vodafone Secure Net – what is it and do you need to pay for it?

Vodafone Secure Net is marketed by the telecoms company as “a simple way to protect all of your devices on our mobile network” and sneaked onto my bill when I recently renewed my contract.  Vodafone claim that it protects their customers from viruses, malware and phishing sites as well as offering some other options including parental controls.

Annoying thing is, they never asked me if I wanted it – they just added it to my bill. It only costs £1, but that’s not really the point, is it? With a claimed 19.5 million customers in the UK, that’s a potential £19.5million a month for a bit of software which you could argue should have been supplied for free to protect their customers. Easy money which fosters mistrust from customers as it’s kept very quiet at contract renewal/purchased.

 

How to disabled Vodafone Secure Net

  • Open the built-in web browser on your phone while connected to the Vodafone mobile network (you should disable Wi-Fi temporarily)
  • Tap the Secure Net shield icon which should be displayed at the top of your browser to open the Vodafone Secure Net portal
  • Choose the ‘Profile’ icon in the top right of the portal page to edit your account settings
  • Choose ‘Deactivate Secure Net’ from the menu and tap the deactivate button to confirm

Alternatively, you can call 191 from your mobile and speak to a Vodafone representative.

 

Free alternatives to Vodafone Secure Net

The alternatives to Vodafone Secure Net depend on your device, so here are a couple to get you started:

Android devices: Avast Mobile Security

iPhone: (do you really need it?)

 

Looking for more reliable Vodafone signal?

If you’re looking for more reliable Vodafone signal at your home of office, check out my blog on how to get a free Vodafone Suresignal.

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The PowerHit Disposable Charger is criminal

In a world where many of us are trying to do our best to save vital resources, the PowerHit Disposable Charger appears in Tesco superstores around the UK and it should be illegal in my opinion.

This small device is sold for around £3 and claims to provide Android or iPhone device “up to 2 hours” of additional charge. But it’s a totally wasteful and unethical product.

 

What’s inside the PowerHit Disposable Charger?

As many people do, I’ve turned to Youtube for some answers. Thankfully, a chap from Scotland called ‘Big Clive’ has the answers. For those of you who don’t already follow Clive, he takes apart many different electronic devices and analysis/test them for quality (if you’re the type of person who likes to take things apart you really need to subscribe to his channel).

Inside the PowerHit Disposable Charger is a 4.2v lithium cell battery which the manufacturer claims can provide 600mAh of charge. As Clive points out, this cell may be reused hundreds of times if the device it’s fitted with the capacity to be recharged. As well as the battery there is a basic circuit board encased in some cheap plastic packaging.

Once used, both the cell, circuitry and the packaging become landfill. Such as waste. And yes, I know it’s not supposed to go in the bin, but some people are that dumb.

 

Where’s the regulation?

At a time when solar energy is becoming so much cheaper to buy, the fact that these types of single-use devices even exists is shameful, not to mention the fact that this has probably travelled halfway around the World from China on a boat to get to the UK in the first place.

It should be illegal for this type of device to be sold in the UK and supermarket’s like Tesco should be taking the ethical steps not to stock them.

 

Why is the Powerhit Disposable Charger even a thing?

You can buy a rechargeable powerbank at Poundland for (yep you’ve guess it) – £1. Not only is it almost two and a half times more useful in terms of charge, it’s also reusable.

I can imagine the sort of person who would benefit from this would be someone who was stuck somewhere with a flat phone and in desperate need of phone charge. Almost an emergency.

I suspect the real customers of these will be festival goers…you know, the kind of person who claims to be a liberal who wants to support the planet, but then who happily leaves their cheap tent in a muddy field at the end of the weekend to some poor mug to pick up and throw in the bin.

Anyway, here is Clive’s video.

 

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NHS could be in breach of Data Protection Act over Ransomware attack

NHS ransomware

The recent ransomware attack on the NHS may leave the organisation open to prosecution under data protection laws.

Rumours are circulating that NHS Trusts across the UK are still using the outdated and unsupported Windows XP operating system, for which the creators – Microsoft – ended support in April 2014. Windows XP no longer receives updates from Microsoft including the crucial MS17-02 update which the company said “resolves vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows” the “most severe of the vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if an attacker runs a specially crafted application”.

In effect, the NHS have left some computers open to attack by using outdated, old and insecure software.

 

Possible breach of the Data Protection Act

Under the laws of the Data Protection Act (DPA), Data Holders (in this case NHS bosses) are obliged to ensure that any personal data held in relation to patients is kept safe and secure to prevent it falling into the wrong hands.

If a computer system is vulnerable enough to allow hackers to encrypt data within it, then it may also be possible for hackers to obtain personal data about individual members of the public from that system. If personal information was to fall into the wrong hands it would be considered a breach of the DPA an leave the organisation open to prosecution. Historically, large fines have been issued by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) such as those issued against 11 large charities in April 2017.

 

ICO warned users of XP about data protection laws in 2014

The ICO warned companies against using Windows XP in 2014 in a press release. Simon Rice of the ICO said organisation should migrate away from old systems as quickly as possible as “failure to do so will leave your organisation’s network increasingly vulnerable over time and increases the risk of a serious data breach that your actions could have prevented”.

It seems that some NHS bosses failed to understand the seriousness of the threat.

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How the NHS Ransomware attack occurred and how to prevent it

NHS ransomware

On 12th May 2017 the NHS was hit by a ransomware attack which bought many hospitals, GP surgeries and Accident & Emergency departments to their knees. The cyber attack locked thousands of NHS staff members out of computer systems and encrypted data so that records, emails and other documents could not be accessed. By the end of the day, one IT software company said that it had observed over 75,000 infections in 99 countries.

The attack had been predicted by computer experts for years and older technology used in the NHS system left it vulnerable to attack. The hackers initially used spy tool stolen from the United States called ‘Eternal Blue’ to deploy the ransomware.

 

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a computer program which is inadvertently installed onto a computer running the Windows Operating System, usually by a user unknowingly opening an attachment in an email containing the ransomware, downloading it from an email link or by installing software from an untrusted source.

Once allowed onto the computer, the ransomware (in the case of the NHS called WannaCry, WanaCrypt0r 2.0, WannaCry and WCry, encrypts all of the users files and prevents access to the computer. It then attempts to move across a computer network and can infect other computers and file servers on the network as it goes.

 

Why did the NHS ransomware attack occur?

The cyber attack on the NHS was caused mainly by the use of out-of-date Microsoft Windows operating systems on computers across the country. Although the fight against the hackers who write ransomeware programs is often retrospective, Microsoft did release a security patch to prevent vulnerabilities within their operating system some months ago. However, the patch is unlikely to have been installed on all computers and left those machines open to attack.

This wasn’t a targeted attack; but it was entirely avoidable.

How is ransomware removed?

There are three methods of removing ransomware:

  1. Pay the scammers who installed the software – usually around $300 USD or £230 per infected computer to un-encrypted your files – a bad idea as will be discussed
  2. Remove the ransomeware manually – can be very difficult but is possible
  3. Format the computer’s hard disk entirely and re-install the Operating System from fresh – meaning any files which haven’t been backed-up will be lost

Paying the criminals who write the ransomware is a bad idea for a number of reasons.

Firstly, you have no idea who you are paying and what the funds will be used for. Sure, it might be going to a spotty 20 year old student but you might also be funding illegal activity.

Secondly, paying to have the malicious program removed this time will make you a target for the future; once the hackers know they can get you once they’ll try and get you again. There is also no guarantee that the criminals will remove the encryption once you pay.

Thirdly, there are people out their who can help you remove the ransomeware and you may even be able to do it yourself with a little research, time and effort.

 

How does an organisation the size of the NHS cope with a ransomeware attack?

The priority for the NHS will obviously be to get computers clear of the infection and files restored as quickly as possible. Presumably the NHS will already have a contingency plan in place for such an attack. If not, someone’s head needs to roll, because an attack of this type has been predicted for many years.

Going forward, every NHS trust will need to look closely at how it implements policies for preventing further attacks, including improving staff training and awareness, ensuring the operating systems are updated as soon as new patches become available and also by considering moving away from Windows operating systems in the future to a more secure system.

How to prevent ransomeware attacks

Ransomware attacks are avoidable and it’s actually very simple to avoid them. By following good computing practice you can protect yourself from becoming the victim of ransomeware:

  • Always ensure that you install the very latest in Windows Updates from Microsoft. Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 should do this automatically but you can turn updates on manually – Microsoft released an update to prevent ransomware attacks in March 2017 but some users failed to install it
  • Do not use legacy versions of Windows such as XP which are no longer supported, especially of that computer is on a network on has access to the Internet
  • Use antivirus software – there are plenty of free applications available that offer a good level of protect – see do I need to pay for antivirus for more information
  • If you’re techie, consider using a different operating system such as Apple’s OSX or an open-source Linux system such as Ubuntu which are much more resilient to cyber attacks
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Amazon value of the month – April 2017

This month, Amazon have had their usual crazy offers. Here are some of the best purchases I’ve made:

Lenovo Ideapad 15.6 – loads of great features in this laptop, with Windows 10 and a decent sized 500GB hard drive for just £249, delivered free with Amazon Prime membership.

 

 

The Moonli Multi tool – everything you need for your every day carry and in a sturdy, strong design. Not bad for less than a tenner.

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Hoaey shower head review – the cheapest way to transform your shower

Hoaey shower head review

When I first read about the Hoaey shower head I was very skeptical about the claims made by the manufacturer. However, once I read the reviews, I figured that hundreds of positive comments couldn’t be wrong.

Our old Triton enrich really wasn’t up to producing decent pressure anymore

My electric shower was a few years old but like many cold-feed showers was pretty useless. I had thought about fitting a power shower but this would involve lots of new pipework in the bathroom as well as the installation of an electric pump. I could probably manage this myself, but to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered.

So when I saw the Hoaey (and bearing in mind Amazon’s really easy returns policy), I thought I’d give it a go. At the price is seemed a no-brainer not to.

 

What the manufacturers say

The manufacturer claims that the Hoaey shower head can do lots of things. It claims ionic beads which can remove the chlorine from water and all sorts of other things about better skin.

 

The Hoaey shower head appears to improve water foaming

I can’t be completely certain about this, but I feel that the Hoaey shower head improved the foaming action of my shampoo. I live in a hard water area where it’s known that certain products struggle to foam, but I feel that there has been an improvement.

Pressure feels much better

Changing the shower head hasn’t altered the pressure that the shower pumps out, but it has improved how the shower feels. And that’s what it’s all about, right? The holes on the Hoaey are much finer than the conventional shower head and that contributes to the perceived pressure feeling much more improved.

Hoaey shower head

Does the Hoaey shower head work on electric showers?

Yes, it does. I found fitting the Hoaey shower head to my Triton Enrich really improved the perceived pressure and gave a much better spread of water. You can also use it on a mixer shower if you have one.

 

Easy to fit

It’s really easy to fit the Hoaey shower head – it just twists on to the existing pipe with a standard thread and all washers are provided.

 

Summary

If you’re looking for a low-cost and effected method of imrpoving your shower experience, or looking at a way to update your tired old shower, you need to buy a Hoaey shower head. They really are worth the money.

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Gig Bag – Suggestions and reviews for Performers & Techs

As a musician, singer and occasional sound engineer, I find I have to carry lots of equipment with me to gigs. I had various bags (one for a microphone and various leads, one for my Macbook Pro) and another with various bits and pieces in it. What I wanted was a Gig Bag – just one bag that I could keep all my staple gig items in from one show to the next regardless of whether that day I’d be singer or sound teching for a show. You know, things like some spare leads, a couple of mics, a few tools, a lead tester…that kind of stuff. Something I can just grab and go without the need of packing each gig but based around music unlike my Everyday Carry.

It got me looking around for options. As you’ll already be aware bags come in different shapes and sizes from small handbags to large suitcases. Prices also vary significantly. So what are the best options for a gig bag? These suggestions link to Amazon for ease of use:

24″ foolsGold® Holdall – from £12.99 – my recommendation

This gig bag is actually the cheapest of the bunch and the one I settled on. It’s a reasonable size but not so big it will take up too much space in the van or car. I was attracted to the many pockets on the outside of the bag which are great for organising leads or smaller items in. It’s a robust bag that I can also sling a few clothes in and my Macbook. Simple and strong. Recommended. >>See more here<<

20″ Clearwater compartment bag – from £19.99

This is the gig bag for the person who really want to compartmentalise their gear.  With 8 adjustable compartments, the bag provides the travelling musician with lots of scope to organise items into sections. >>See more here<<

 

Max IP67 Hard Waterproof case – from £30

Smaller than the others, but packing a punch in terms of the durability, is the Max IP67. It’s hard and waterproof. Ideal for travelling on a plane or somewhere that your gear might be thrown around. It also boasts a pressure relief valve. >>See more here<<

FlyGear 32 Inch Large Folding Wheeled Holdall – from £11.99

Looking for something with wheels? Then check out the FlyGear 32 Inch Folding Wheeled Holdall. Sadly this bag doesn’t have many external pockets but it does have the added advantage of being easily folded away when not in use – ideal for someone with limited storage space. It’s also the largest of the bags reviewed here. >>See more here<<

Got your own suggestions for a Gig Bag? Disagree with something I’ve said? Then please leave your comment below and I’ll be sure to reply.

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