Catch up on this week’s round-up of the latest hosting and tech news. Here’s what we’ve uncovered since our last edition.
While it sounds like science fiction, Australian researchers at Cortical Labs have developed a lab-grown brain that can sense and respond to its environment, and which has learnt to play basic video games. Aside from its potential use in medicine, for e.g., helping with brain damage or dementia, the research also has implications for the development of future computers, as organic human brain tissue learns quicker and is more adaptable than AI.
Made up of 800,000 human brain cells, once the brain was connected to the Pong video game using electrodes, it quickly understood where the ball was in relation to the paddle and had learnt how to play the game within 5 minutes. Produced from stem cells, the lab-grown brain is not conscious; however, its capabilities mean it may have a future role to play in the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning processes.
AI robot speaks to the Lords
British politics had a first this month when the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee invited an artificially intelligent robot to give evidence in an inquiry into the future of the UK’s creative industries. In particular, the committee wanted to understand the place of AI-created art in modern society.
The robot in question was Ai-Da, which according to its creator, is an ‘ultra-realistic robot artist’ that uses a range of different algorithms to create paintings and drawings, write and speak. Unfortunately, the Q&A session didn’t go quite as well as planned. The robot needed a reboot halfway through, and despite questions being given in advance so that Ai-Da’s responses could be of better quality, its answers included errors that indicated it was reciting a pre-written script that included typos.
No more paper trails
In an effort to make trading and exporting quicker, greener, easier and cheaper, the UK government’s Electronic Trade Documents Bill will give digital trade documents the same legal status as paper ones. Removing the current requirement for physical documentation could save businesses £100 million a year and speed up processing times from several days to just a few seconds. With almost 30 billion paper documents used in trade every day around the world, the bill will also reduce the amount of paper being used and its carbon footprint.
The Bill has the backing of the Logistics UK trade body, which sees it as a way to counteract the spiralling amount of paperwork needed since the UK left the EU. It also puts an end to some of the legal requirements for paper trails that result from laws passed during the industrial revolution that are still in place. Documents which are now expected to become digital include warehouse receipts, ship delivery orders, bills of exchange and marine insurance policies.
UK lacking fibre
Despite the government’s plans to deliver nationwide gigabit broadband by 2030, according to Omida, the country is ranked only 53rd for global fibre development, with inconsistent coverage and poor speeds being the primary reasons. One of the main issues is that in the UK, fibre connections tend to end at the green terminal cabinets we see on the streets, rather than coming directly into people’s homes or businesses. So, while 96% of the UK can access high-speed connections, only 33% of properties have full-fibre broadband. Singapore, on the other hand, which is ranked first and regards broadband as strategic infrastructure, has 100% fibre-to-premises connection.
Aside from Singapore, the other top-ranked fibre-providing countries were South Korea, China, United Arab Emirates, Japan and Qatar. The US was ranked 23rd. According to Omida, high-speed optical fibre provides an optimised, sustainable and future-proof service that increases business productivity and increases GDP. It is also vital for developing digital services and applications for the future.
According to Statista, there are 6.6 billion smartphone subscriptions across the world – that’s out of a global population that’s expected to reach 8 billion next month. What’s mind boggling is that in 2022 alone, over 5 billion smartphones will be thrown away.
While it is perhaps understandable that people will want to upgrade as new phones get better and old ones get damaged, the sheer scale of electronic waste is having a serious impact on the environment. Phones contain precious metals and rare earth minerals whose extraction from the earth often causes significant environmental damage, pollution and CO2 emissions.
By recycling these 5 billion phones, those metals and minerals can be reused, reducing the need for the industrial-scale mining that is causing such problems. Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg: these materials are used in all kinds of modern appliances, from tablets and PCs to toasters and vacuum cleaners. According to WEEE, globally, 74 million tonnes of electronic waste is thrown away each year. In the UK, the figure is 2 million tonnes, making us the world’s second-largest e-waste producer.
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