Green Energy – Make them pay

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There are stories kicking around about the end of the world. Environment is turning on us, and the change in the weather, has already made a change to our lives. The heat has burned down a lot of the crop and many of hotspots of our agriculture have turned into deserts after lack of rainfall and rise CO2 in the air.

The worst yet to come when the artic ice finally melts and all the pollution, that it held for years, is released into the atmosphere.

The worse part of this story is that there are solutions. Both solar and wind provide a sustainable electric supply if used properly. Trouble is that it doesn’t provide a quick cash return. It costs a lot to build and is a very complicated business.

Imagine a solar project in a sunny village. Some of the buildings are split into several apartments, others are individual houses. Yelli on the third floor decided to install solar power in her flat, but Charles on the second is a bit broke at the moment. He’s happy to look into this option in one years time. Meanwhile, James, who lives in his own house, decides to do it himself. Having looked in several options, he found out that the cost of installing the panel, is as high as renovating the whole house. His husband has been nagging at him for years and if he doesn’t do it now, it will probably cost him his relationship or his right leg.

Yelli then decided to write to the local government to see if they can install the power across the village, and after years of lettres and phone calls she finally got an answer, saying that, unfortunately, it’s too expensive to bare the cost.

It is, in fact, expensive to bare the cost. An installation for one single house can vary between £2,000 and £18,000, so it takes decades to get that investment back.

While hard to get local authorities and politicians involved, it is possible to point the finger in one direction: the corporations that are making significant money out of this planet. Whether you make coffee or electronics, you will see a direct impact on your businesses with even a slight change in the environment.

This is why convincing companies such as Google or Microsoft has not been as challenging as getting funds from local authorities and if we continue in that direction, we might just be in a position where the pandora’s box we opened can be shut again.

Crowdsource your Mayor

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De-centralisation will make titles in history books. If you don’t know what it means, bear with me for just a minute. What if I told you that you change your mayor every week? well, this is no longer some airy fairy fantasies

This idea didn’t come about trendy pop-up stall, or a desk sharing-space in central London, but from a small village in the rural China.

Known for the Miao tribe, the first people to settle in modern China, this region missed out of the prosperity made in the booming cities. While trying tighten the gap between rich and poor in, what’s known as world’s fastest-growing economy, the Danzhai village started a co-operation with some of the biggest companies on the planet; Dalian Wanda Group.

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The real estate giant invested millions in this region to make it more attractive to visitors. Setting up several initiatives, including a college to develop Miao technology, the main challenge was to find a leader, that would bring the best ideas into this small village of Guizhou.

Instead of focusing on a long-term initiative, where the same party would execute complicated projects involving political layers and NGOs, the mayor will be flown in to the area to make their idea real… in just a week. The idea is to get the locals get chance to use ideas in their own village and see what really works.

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This is certainly a very brave experiment which, if works, might change the way we think about politics forever. I certainly hope that this region will get the best of the world’s ideas, although I’m slightly worried about turning  it into reality. Either way, it has definitely made a statement that, no matter where you are in the world, your idea is valid and will be heard.

The next Dali will be from the Desert

DSC04890-minOne of the biggest challenges for Europe is to build up the existing infrastructure. With a  communication based on a Roman roads, built 400 BC, and a sewer system constructed on top of ancient networks, Europe has to modernise what’s already there. Unlike modern cities of Asia, where everything was build with the latest technology, European towns have to use the tech to amplify their towns.

This has proven to be a quite challenging task for many regions. Lacking opportunities and inspiration, small towns now stand empty. Young people leave for big cities to find work and discover their talents, while whole villages turn into crumbling retirement homes.

Breaking that circle is difficult as making opportunities in a declining climate tends to be. This is why, when I heard about a ‘cultural farm’ in Favara, a small town in southern Sicily, me and my team packed our bags and went.

We spent almost three hours driving through the Sicilian mountains, intermitted by patches of brown soil with no life whatsoever. The few train stations we pasted would be better placed in history books than a transportation aid, which they might well have been, as the actual trains were nowhere to be seen.

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So, arriving to the centre of Favara, where old buildings have been turned into installations and little squares display art from around the world, felt like falling onto my knees and drink water from an oasis. Buzzing with young people and modern art makes the authentic Sicilian table, chairs and washing lines, a part of a picture.

People who lived in the area, suddenly found themselves in a bizzarre post-modern cube. In the middle of all this, typical Italian machos, walk out to the terrace with a beer and a cigarette, looking out for the new, cool moments to share with their urban-living kids.

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Making this happen is not about using the tech and new ways of thinking. The Internet has allowed us to share information but, much like an unexpected but brilliant guest, we feel unsure about ways to make them feel at home. With tech arriving in our cities, homes and offices, we often forget that it’s there to solve problems and treat it with less respect than it deserves.

Why I chose to live in rural Sicily

DSC04002This summer, I put my baby on my back and set off to Sicily. The two of us travelled with a small rucksack of clothes along with a few baby bottles my little man continuously kept on throwing on the floor. Two dummies and three hours later, we were driving along the Sicilian coast, heading to some most remote parts of Europe.

My friends kept on asking me when I was coming back to London. Sicilian local news came to interview me to find out what on earth I was thinking. People came up to us in the streets, telling their stories, trying to find out more about our frame of mind.

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No one could really understand why a journalist with a career in tech, would move from a place heaving with innovation and technology, to a part of the world that does not even have a taxi or food delivery app.

For me, the answer is simple: if we are trying to provide universal solutions, we need to understand the universal problem that lies in the heart of people’s daily lives around the world. Most of the world’s population is concentrated around urban areas, yet the rural parts play a very important role. Developing these, would allow us to maintain the living standards across the board, giving people access to products and services available in the cities, but most importantly, allow us to really join the dots and use technology to solve real problems.

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I lived in the city my whole life. Food grows in the supermarket in my world, so while presenting a blockchain solution for organic food, I feel that there are parts missing – gaps of knowledge that, if filled, would allow us to improve the quality of the products and create a tech that really connects people once and for all.

Tech should have stopped the Parliament from Hanging

The idea of “creating stability” ended up in another annoying centrifuge with tories right in the middle. Conservatives are, by their very nature, slow to adopt, but failing to keep up to date with the tech progress, made them look like the lamest party in the world.

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Theresa May calls general election

It’s hard to know what made her think that the results would be different. Could it, perhaps, be share arrogance or, maybe, just oblivious ignorance? One thing is certain: her predictions weren’t based on Big Data.

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Traditional data capture through a census

Any census is done through gathering of information about the future vote. Traditionally, census are done through a questionnaire, posted to selected households who are expected to send it back. The answers are evaluated and put into a speadsheet to predict the results of next election. This manual process could take weeks and can’t and misses millions of households, especially those who can’t be bothered to fill out the form. More importantly, it can never compete with a candidate that uses Big Data.

It may feel like a buzzword, but it is the buzzword won the U.S. election 2016. It was the most expensive campaign in history with $5 billion spent in total, of which a huge percentage went on online analytics and targeted ads. The company that drove the process, Cambridge Analytics, famously stated that they can predict an individual’s political preferences through analysing their social media feeds and gather enough information from as little as three social media posts. As a result, they can see who’s voting what, down to a street level.

Our politicians have problems, big problems. They struggle to understand what the future holds and why people behave the way they do. It may be a sign of a Babylon’s collapse, or simply “interesting times” ahead, but it is certain that the people in power are blind the world before them.

5 Funniest AI Hacks

Now when even Apple launched smart-home speaker, I feel that every single tech company has its own AI. But with all the perks on offer, it seems like the most popular one, is to make fun of it. Alexa, for example, has been manipulated left, right and centre and transformed into everything from skulls to taking fish heads. Here are some of the ideas for your Tuesday morning.

1 Billy Bass – The Talking Fish

A combination of Alexa and Raspberry PI (in short tech talk) lead to the birth of Billy Bass. It turns its head and talks… and guess what? you can’t complain about its fish memory.

2 Speaking skull – the creepy Alexa

First came the fish, then came the skull. There’s a tech evolution going on. Inspired by the Big Mouth Billy Bass , Mike McGurrin managed to make his Alexa speak out of a talking skull. Now, his old halloween costume is telling him the weather and some jokes.

3 Ubtech Alpha Robot – The Dancing Alexa

These guys have transformed Alexa into a real creature. A self-proclaimed family member, it speaks, moves, dances and even teaches you stuff. While not certain whether this is the AI we expected, it is great fun for sure.

4 The Christmas Tree – Festive Alexa

This weird creature is also based on Alexa. It may be seasonal, but you might want to prolong your Christmas just to have this little guy around for a little longer. All you need is Alexa, Raspberry Pi and, of course, a Christmas Tree.

5 Neon animations – The real Face of Alexa

In case you didn’t know how Alexa really looks like, here it is. Unlike other hacks, this one is designed from scratch both when it comes to the electronics and the face itself. The setup is much different and does not include any API’s or hacks of the Alexa itself. It simply makes the signal into a smiley face 🙂

 

China Stories – My convertible through a sandstorm

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I’m in Beijing… I just came from the country

The Chinese have showed us that you can do a lot with time. In less than a decade, they done up whole their districts and built entire cities. If you travel through the rural areas in this most ancient country on our planet, you’ll see skyscrapers rising from bare mud. These places are empty, waiting for the people in the traditional villages with a backdrop of a unmissable misty factory, busy filling air with thick smoke, to fill those brand new tower blocks.

This incredible growth has brought fortunes to many. Suddenly, the Joe next door could dump his old donkey for a brand new convertible. The glamour certainly tuned many heads. Joe, cruising down the roads where he, only a few years ago, ploughed the soil with his bare hands, passing by the coal factory where he used to work, definitely made a statement.

There was only two problems: the road and the factory. It is no secret that China is the most polluted place on out planet. The air in Beijing is so bad that the government has to shut down all nearby factories before a major event, with the best example during the 2008 Olympics when everything stopped for a whole month. In case you feel that walking down this armagedonian site with a mask on your face is not bad enough, the sandstorm will certainly convince you otherwise. It’s thick… really thick.

So imagine Joe arriving to the capital to show off his new convertible and suddenly get hit by the bare soot, mixed with dust and topped up with sand. While the car turns into an unidentifiable colour, Joe looks like he’s just driven that convertible straight out of a coal mine, thinking: “I’m in Beijing and I just came from outside”