For organisations, Brexit means deal with it

Britain is a world-leader in genomics. When I heard George Freeman MP, the chair of the prime minister’s policy board, tell a conference that despite having voted Remain he thought Brexit could lead to a better regulatory framework for genomics, it sounded like a story. Computer Weekly published the resulting article last week. Continue reading

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It’s Facebook wot wins votes

The Facebook fake news fuss is a distraction compared with the company’s bigger impact on politics: its ability to micro-target advertising based on its detailed knowledge of its users. As I wrote earlier this month for The Register, Facebook has helped the Conservatives to win the 2015 general election, pro-Brexit campaigners to win the referendum and Donald Trump the US presidency.

Facebook uses the Tory victory in its marketing to other political campaigners. As far as I can see it isn’t yet boasting about its role in Brexit, which included Leave.EU using Facebook to target racists until it got caught out by the Remain campaign. Continue reading

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This England: a gaunt view from Ghent

This sceptred isle, this other Eden, this England and all that. I like to imagine this speech from Richard II spoken in a Flemish accent, given it is delivered by John of Gaunt – or as we now call it, Ghent.

Ghent is a great place to spend a few days, something like a combination of Oxford and Newcastle with an ancient, well-preserved city centre, a major port and lots of students. But going round its excellent museums you get a sense of departed glory. STAM, the city history museum, uses graphics to show how Ghent’s population was comparable to Paris and Brussels in the 16th century. But Ghent is now a city of just quarter of a million people. Continue reading

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Making emotional predictions

“Forecasts are always wrong,” said Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, this week (having said similar things in the past). This is a brave line to take when your organisation produces the economic forecasts used by the government, but it is also true.

In anything that involves human behaviour, the best a forecaster can do is assess the situation in the recent past and at present, note the rates of change, then take a view on whether things will continue to change at those rates or if there are good reasons otherwise. It makes sense to say how confident you are in the prediction or provide a range of possibilities. Continue reading

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Where autonomous vehicles are already motoring

The media focus on autonomous vehicles has been on whether they can take over from human drivers on public roads. It’s the thing that would touch most people and catches the imagination, but as I discovered writing about the subject for Computer Weekly, it’s going to take a lot of work.

However, autonomous vehicles are already being successfully used off-road, in places such as mines, distribution centres and fields. Volvo Group has put a driverless truck down a Swedish mine and put its chief technology officer in front of the truck, fortunately without messy results. Continue reading

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