Inventing the Future

Yesterday evening I was a guest panelist at an event in the Bristol Technology Festival. It was called Invented Futures, and it was all about how we use technology to, you guessed it, invent the future. Obviously I was there a the science fiction expert, but the rest of the crew covered a wide range of technological innovation.

Julia Scott-Stevenson from UWE is an expert in Virtual Reality. She’s involed in the i_Docs project (immersive documentaries), and she has also written a manifesto on how immersive experiences can be used for good.

Coral Manton from Bath Spa University works with computer games (and therefore has one of the best jobs in the world). She is also one of the people behind a fascinating project called Women Reclaiming AI, which seeks to create a digital assistant made by women (as opposed to an artificial woman made by men).

Pete Bennett from the University of Bristol has a variety of creative projects including Digitally Enhanced Lego, and making games for the gorillas at Bristol Zoo.

Also I shouldn’t forget our moderator, Maria Leonard, who is the brains behind, which helps people manage their departure in the digital world. (Did you know that you can leave your Farcebook account to a friend to manage after you die? I didn’t.)

I saw my job as talking about as many great books as possible, and it was slightly disturbing to realise that many of the people in the room only consumed science fiction through TV and movies. Consequently they were completely unaware of the changes that have happened in the field over the past decade. I asked the audience to guess how many of the fiction writing awards it this year’s Hugos had gone to women. It took quite a while for someone to twig that the correct answer was, “all of them”, and this despite the fact that the audience was majority female.

I mentioned as many books as I could. Even so, I couldn’t get in every one I wanted. So here is a reading list.

Books by Bristol writers that address issues with the current digital world:

  • Everything About You by Heather Child
  • After Atlas by Emma Newman
  • Infinite Detail by Tim Maughan

Books about AIs and artificial beings:

  • Autonomous by Analee Newitz
  • The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • vN and iD by Madeline Ashby
  • Silently and Very Fast by Catherynne M Valente
  • The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod
  • Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross

Other books about digital worlds:

  • Singularity Sky by Charles Stross
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  • Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder
  • Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Ann Goonan

Julia recommended the anthology, Women Invent the Future.

If anyone has any additional suggestions please add them in comments. But let’s it keep it to fairly recent books, OK? There’s no need to suggest Asimov’s robot novels, or Do Androids Dream Electric Sheep.

This Week in Bristol

I have a fairly busy week coming up. I have a radio show on Wednesday, which all of you can enjoy. That will include an interview with Kate MacDonald of Handheld Press and will look forward to Trans Pride South West. However, there are also two evening events that may be of interest to those of you who are local.

On Thursday night from 6:30pm I will be at the Framework Co-working centre at 35 King Street taking part in the 2019 Bristol Tech Festival. I will be on a panel called Invented Futures which will look emerging technology and the stories we tell about it. You can find more details about the event, and reserve a free ticket, here. I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow panelists, especially Coral Manton because I want to learn more about the Women Reclaiming AI project.

And on Friday night from 7:30pm at Foyles in Cabot Cirus there will be a science fiction event featuring three of our finest local authors: Peter F Hamilton, Emma Newman and Gareth L Powell. That’s £3 a ticket and you can get one here. I might have to skip that one, depending on how much I manage to get done on Friday durign the day and how tired I am by the end of it, but it should be great..

Bath Does Diversity in Tech

I spent most of today in Bath attending part of the Bath Digital Festival. Primarily I was there to attend a session on Diversity in Tech. It was run by the folks behind the Tech Talent Charter, an industry initiative making its first foray outside of London.

I have to say up front that the event went pretty much as you might expect for such an event in Bath. There we no obviously disabled people there (though of course that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any). There were more white men than women of color. And there were only two openly queer people, of whom I was one. Many of the panelists spoke eloquently about the need for diversity to mean more than white people of two different genders, but none of them seemed to have any idea how to go about achieving this.

One might also argue that a Festival whose website has a question about gender with options of Male, Female, Transgender & Intersex is so desperately clueless that it has no place running a diversity panel at all.

This, however, would ignore that fact that IT is now pretty much in crisis. The number of women in the industry has now fallen to 17% (and that’s without considering what jobs they get channeled into). If it falls any lower even the men will start to notice an absence of women. And, as the the event host Debbie Foster succinctly put it at the beginning, the pipeline is broken everywhere along its length.

There are, in my view, two significant issues that will be very hard to overcome. The first is that young girls, no matter how keen they might be on IT, have their eyes open. GamerGate happened. They know what they would be walking in to. One audience member who works with school kids says that girls as young as 13 and 14 were regularly asking her if IT was a safe career, or should they just give up now.

The other issue is that lad culture is now so heavily ingrained in the industry that women who do stick it out as far as getting jobs often don’t stay. One panelist talked about a company at which women recruits only stayed a few weeks, until such time as they put a woman in charge of the development department and forced a culture change. Most companies don’t see the need to do that, and yet they complain constantly about how difficult it is to find good staff, which is what happens when you have need of very talented employees and restrict your hiring to young white men.

And that’s before you get into issues like problems with recruitment practices, problems with work-life balance, domination of senior management by old white men and so on.

Challenging this sort of thing is hard. Yesterday evening I was a guest speaker at a careers workshop for LGBT+ students at Bristol University. One of the questions we got asked was, “if your sexuality or gender becomes a problem at work, who do you turn to, your manager or HR?” There were five us on the panel (two gay men, two lesbians and me, and yes they did try to find someone openly bi). We all said, “neither”. Because once an issue becomes a matter for company disciplinary practices you are going to lose (unless someone has been really stupid, and even then you can’t stay in the job).

So there is an enormous amount of work to be done, and there were some really interesting speakers, including my friend Zara Nanu who has recently set up a company (with Sian Webb) to develop technological solutions to closing the gender pay gap. We had two hours. We could have done with two days.

The sad thing is that there is plenty of evidence that a diverse workforce is a more efficient and competent workforce. There are also areas, such as AI algorithm development, where a lack of diversity can result in software that has massive biases when dealing with customers. That makes this sort of work massively important for the whole of society.

I have no neat solutions, because there is so much to be done. Obviously The Diversity Trust is happy to help if anyone wants us. I suspect that the sort of problems we can help with will get pushed way down the priority list.

Hello Vancouver

I decided not to go back to the conference today because frankly life is too short to waste it on people who want to invalidate other trans people’s lives and experiences. Instead Kevin and I took an early ferry and made use of the extra time to have a look around Vancouver.

I have to say that, on the basis of the few hours we had, Vancouver is not the world’s greatest tourist city. However, it does have absolutely amazing public transport. In fact it seems like the whole of British Columbia does. We spent an awful lot of today on buses, ferries and trains. Everything ran to time, and all of the connections worked flawlessly.

Vancouver is also interesting in that a large part of its light rail system runs on a linear induction motor system. I remember seeing Eric Laithwaite demonstrating the technology when I was a kid, and everyone expected it to be the next big thing. In fact its most notable achievement was being used as the launch mechanism for Fireball XL5, but it is used for light rail. Vancouver’s system is the biggest outside Asia, but there’s a lot of such systems in Asia.

Please note that the Vancouver system is not maglev, it is an ordinary train, running on rails, that uses a linear induction motor for propulsion. It seems to do a really good job because the track has gradients that no traditional light rail system could handle.

We didn’t do much today except ride trains and boats, and fail to find a decent source of high quality maple syrup. However, we did find a Peruvian restaurant for dinner which was a good thing to have done. Tomorrow morning we go our separate ways: Kevin back to the Bay Area and me to Toronto.

Cory Wants to Be Free

I spent much of today in Bristol where Cory Doctorow was promoting his new non-fiction book, Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free. He was there at the behest of the Festival of Ideas and the local branch of the Open Rights Group. I tweeted quite a few quotes from his talk so I’m going to be lazy and reproduce those tweets here.

Cory’s main question in all this is to determine how creative people such as himself can make a living in the digital world. He admitted upfront that being a creative person is not a great money-making proposition. Nevertheless, there are ways in which the world can be arranged which allow creative people to make a living, and there are ways that prevent them from doing so.

His central thesis is that the big media and technology companies are leaching all of the value out of the work of creative people, thanks to a combination of:

  • Technological curbs on consumer behavior (e.g. DRM, which locks you into the supplier you rented, rather than purchased, content from);
  • Market regulation designed to raise barriers to entry against potential competitors;
  • Legal bullying of consumers (e.g. punishing an entire household if one member of it downloads pirated content).

This is all fairly basic economics. The big media and technology companies have found ways to establish market dominance, and are now proceeding to “extract rents”, as economists say, on the back of that dominance. Often they will use “regulatory capture”, that is using their contacts in government to have laws passed that favor them and disadvantage their competitors and customers. As we have seen with the TTIP fiasco, governments on both sides of the Atlantic are firmly in the pockets of big business. The scary thing is that it is hard to see what anyone can do about it. With TTIP ordinary people, and even most politicians, have been prevented from having any say in what goes on.

It is worth noting that all of this makes very little difference to actual piracy. Illegal copying goes on regardless. What it does is put a stop to legal challenges to the dominant companies, sometimes by simply making competing with them illegal.

Kudos to Cory for adopting a policy of taking alternate questions from men, and from women/non-binary people. He says that if he doesn’t do this then his questioners tend to be almost exclusively male.

Naturally I ended up providing one of those questions, but I was pleased to see a young woman in the audience ask something too. She turned out to be one of the people from Hydra Books, our local anarchist bookstore (hi Anna!). Cory and I popped in for a coffee on our way back to Temple Meads, and I was pleased to find that they had several trans-related books in stock.

All-in-all, it was a splendid day. Thanks to Cory for being such an engaging and enthusiastic speaker, and for being so approachable.

New Toy

I got to be even older this week, and my mother very kindly sent me some money. For once I have not just put it into the “books & clothes” fund, I’ve gone out and bought something relatively pricey: a Blu-ray player.

Well, relatively pricey compared to a new book anyway. And PC World did have it almost half price, which helped a lot.

Being able to play Blu-ray discs is only part of the deal. The model I bought has what they call “DVD Upscaling”, which means you get better quality on our DVDs that you would from a normal DVD player. In addition the box can act as a DLNA server. What’s that mean? Well it means it is now hooked up to my home network. It can see all of my PCs, and it can see the network drives. That means it has access to my entire music collection. Right now it is happily blasting out David Bowie. This may just be my imagination, but the sound seems much better than it did when I was using an old PC as a music server (same speakers, but run through the Blu-ray box and TV rather than a PC).

Right now I need an HDMI switch box to make it easier to swap between the Blu-ray player and satellite TV, and eventually I’d like to run them both through a proper amp and hook up 5.1 speakers, but for now this is good.

And in a couple of months time I shall buy Cloud Atlas on Blu-Ray. In the meantime, I have DVDs I can use to try it out. After all, I haven’t watched Cowboy Bebop in ages.

I suspect that I’m still light years behind many of you when it comes to audio-visual technology, but I’m quite pleased with myself. All I have to do now is avoid becoming a couch potato.

Science Fiction and Innovation

Jon Turney’s working paper on the impact of science fiction on technology is now available from the sponsors, NESTA. There is also a complimentary paper from some folks at Sussex University available here.

Jon blogs about the paper here. Despite his kind comments, I should note that the words in the paper are almost entirely his and I can take no credit for all of the smart stuff therein. I am, however, very proud to have helped his thinking along the way, and to have made it possible for a bunch of my smart friends to provide their own input.

There has been some reaction to the paper online. It was mentioned in The Guardian, and science writer Holly Cave has a thoughtful response.

If only a few more people were prepared to pay decent money for projects that are even half as much fun.

Busy Week

Sorry about the lack of bloggage recently. Yesterday and much of today are being taken up with an urgent piece of work for the day job. It makes me money, and nothing else I do does, so I have to give it priority.

Tonight I’m off to Bristol for Curtains for Feminism?, an event put on by the all-woman Hecate Theatre Company which asks, “What should theatre for women really be about?” It sounds fun anyway, but in addition I’ll be interviewing the company’s Artistic Director, Hannah-Marie Chidwick, live on Ujima Radio.

Also on tomorrow’s show I’ll be talking about designer babies with debut SF writer, Stephanie Saulter. Her novel, Gemsigns, is launching at Eastercon, but if you happen to be in Bristol we’ll be leaving some signed copies in Foyles and Blackwells tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday is also an exciting day as it will see the publication of the study on the impact of science fiction on technology by Jon Turney that I helped with. Jon talks about it here.

And after that it is Easter, so all of the UK will shut down for four days and I’ll have a chance to get on with some book production.

Early Russian SF

The origins of science fiction are a matter of much debate. Frankenstein (1818) is often cited as the first SF novel, while Jules Verne is lauded as the “father of science fiction”. Shelley, Verne and Wells all pre-date the launch of Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories. But the more we find out about other cultures, the more complex the story gets. Earlier this year I blogged about Enrique Gaspar’s The Time Ship, which pre-dates Wells’ The Time Machine. Now Wesleyan University Press has surprised me again with We Modern People, a history of early Russian science fiction.

Anindita Barerjee’s book traces the history of Russian SF in the decades from the 1890s through to 1920s, a tumultuous period in Russian history, and one driven by a desire amongst many Russians to modernize their country. Banerjee argues that science fiction was key this movement.

If you haven’t heard of anyone else from this period, you should know about Yevegeny Zamyatin, whose 1921 novel, We, was a major inspiration for George Orwell’s 1984. There were, however, many others. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky began publishing SF in the 1890s and was also a pioneer of rocket science. Oh, that that much quoted comment of William Gibson’s about the future being unevenly distributed: Trotsky once said something very similar.

The book looks to be a fascinating read, both because of what it can tell us about the history of SF, and what it says about how SF influences actual technological development. Many thanks to Wesleyan for sending it to me. I suspect that Jon Turney will be wanting to get a look at it.

New Toy – Nexus 7

With the large number of Android devices available on the market these days, and with my very busy August having put some money in the bank, I figured that it was about time that Wizard’s Tower Press invested in an Android tablet. So I am now the proud owner of one of the Nexus 7 machines produced for Google by Asus. This is a very preliminary report.

I’m very impressed with the Nexus as a device. It is heavier than the Kindle, and I don’t expect the battery life will be anything like as good. However, it is much lighter than the iPad, has most of the same functionality, and is much less of a walled garden. I think that there is a good chance it will replace the iPad in my life for most uses, and replace the Kindle for reading on anything less than a long haul flight (and not even that if the plane has USB charging points at the seats, which modern ones do).

The one problem I had is with the main charger. It comes as a base unit plus an optional cover plate that they swap out depending on the regional plug standard. You do need to make sure that you push the two parts together firmly until they click into place, otherwise it won’t work.

I’m now looking at eReaders. The Kindle app, FBReader and the free version of Moon+ all seem to get the job done. However, Aldiko appears to be spectacularly useless. The free version appears to ignore even the most basic CSS commands, even with the “advanced formatting” option turned on. It may be that only the paid version will handle CSS properly. If so, there are other readers that don’t force you to pay to get that functionality. There are lots of Android eReaders, so I have a lot more research to do.

Africa: an End and a Beginning

This weekend sees the final days of the Science Fiction in Africa exhibition at The Arnolfini in Bristol. To mark this there have been more events, and this afternoon I attended a talk by two of the founders of the AlterFutures speculative design group. Cher Potter and Daisy Ginsberg are both of South Africa descent, though they currently live in London. Why design, you might ask? Isn’t that what slackers study in art school, like the character in Donald Fagan’s song, “The New Frontier”? Well perhaps, but design is also about making things for people to use, and it is about art, which can be inspirational. Speculative design, therefore, is not just about how we might live in the future, but can also be about creating ideas of futures to which people might aspire.

These days, of course, it is popular to pour scorn on the idea of countries being aspirational, but when the American Dream was first invented it wasn’t about waiting tables in LA until someone notices your face, it was about packing up everything you owned and heading out to start a new life in the new world. Besides, Southern Hemisphere countries have a pretty stark choice: if they don’t aspire to a high tech future of their own, they will surely be part of someone else’s high tech future, and not in a good way. Either that or they will go “back to nature” and become a theme park for Westerners to coo over. Cher and Daisy, therefore, are interested in what sort of future South Africans might aspire to, and what sort of technology they will need to get there.

There are, of course, many professional futurists making plans for Africa (cue XTC). Most of them, however, are either government bureaucrats or employees of multinational corporations. They are the sort of people who want to convince Africans to be less nervous of things like GM food than people in Europe; not because they want to feed the poor, but because they want to recoup the millions they have spent developing these products. When such people envisage a high tech future for Africa it tends to involve vast factory farms growing a single crop and operated by a small number of highly skilled technicians. It doesn’t involve ordinary Africans in rural villages having more prosperous smallholdings and a higher standard of living.

Being old and cynical, I tend to take a fairly dim view of people with plans to save the world. However, from talking to Cher and Daisy afterwards it was clear they they have a very good grasp of the difficulties. High tech solutions can’t just be invented in isolation, they have to be implemented, and have to be capable of working in the culture and conditions where they are to be used. This stuff isn’t easy. But there is a target in sight. In 2014 Cape Town will be the World Design Capital. Cher and Daisy have a dream of presenting something there that will inspire South Africans to dream of a future that is not only better, but is achievable and doesn’t involve selling themselves to multi-national corporations. I wish them the best of luck. And I’ll be emailing Lauren Beukes very shortly.

The event should also have featured Cristina de Middel whose Afronauts series of photographs would have been a wonderful addition to the exhibition. Sadly her flight from Zambia was so badly delayed that she had to cancel. I was really looking forward to hearing more about the Zambian space program (yes, really) on which her project is based.

We made up for that slightly with the presence of a couple a French designers, and a Senegalese friend of theirs, who joined us for a drink afterwards. The main thing I learned from this is that wrestling has become a huge cultural phenomenon in Senegal. Here’s a BBC article about the phenomenon from a couple of years ago.

There are a couple of actual African science fiction films being shown this evening: Africa Paradis (Senegal) and Les Saignantes (Cameroon). Unfortunately the showings didn’t start until 8:00pm and I’d have trouble getting home afterwards, so I have bailed on that. My apologies to Mark Bould.

Science Fiction and Technology – A Partnership?

My science writer friend, Jon Turney, has a very cool project underway. NESTA, an investment think tank, has commissioned him to examine the relationship between science fiction and technology. Basically they want to know whether science fiction has an influence on technological innovation, and if so how this works. My guess is that this project has its origins in Neil Gaiman’s comments about Chinese science fiction conventions at the British Library last year, and Damien Walter’s subsequent article here. I think Damien may have done a Guardian piece on the subject.

Anyway, Jon has asked me to help out. Some of you will have already heard from me, and I’m grateful to Farah and Edward for letting me browse their library while I was in London the other week. If this is of interest, please take a look at Jon’s blog and see what he is looking for. We do have some fairly specific requirements, and we do need evidence, not opinions.

If you have experience of working in an environment where science fiction has had an influence technological development then we’d love to hear from you. (And I know some of you work for people like Google, Linden Labs and NASA.)

I’m also looking for reading recommendations. Things like Francis Spufford’s The Backroom Boys, which examine the history of technology, come to mind. And of course we want specific examples of science fiction ideas that have influenced technology. We are making a particular case study of robots, and there are obvious examples such as satellites and space elevators. I’d like to find some other examples. And I’m looking for academic studies of robot stories.

If you are an SF writer you’ll probably be getting email from me in the coming months. I promise that answering it won’t be too onerous, unless you want to do more.

Please note that while this is a UK-based project we are not limiting ourselves to looking at the UK. Indeed, the question as to whether there are cultural differences that affect the way that SF and technology work together is one we may address.

Industrial Injury

Somehow I have managed to give myself an RSI-like injury in my right shoulder. It is swollen up and a bit painful, and of course the swelling means it doesn’t move properly. The doctor recommended ibuprofen, which I am taking with due regard to all the warnings in the instructions.

The interesting question from my point of view is how I managed to do this to myself. I suspect that heavy suitcases and stretching to open windows is part of the cause, and a heavy shoulder bag may also be partly to blame, but I have a sneaking suspicion that one of the culprits is the iPad, which is quite heavy and which I use a lot. Darn.

Anyway, we’ll see how the treatment goes, but I may be online a little less until it gets sorted. Also I think I’ll go back to reading paper books for a while.

Bristol Under the Blitz

My pal Eugene Byrne has provided the script for a local history project in Bristol. You can now get an iPhone app that will take you on a guided tour of Bristol, pointing out areas where the city was changed as a result of the heavy bombing it experienced during the Second World War (Bristol was both a major port and a centre for aircraft production). The idea is to produce something like the guided tour recordings you get in museums, except that it is something you can do yourself out in the city streets. Ideally, of course, you should be in Bristol, but I’m wondering how it would work if you used Google Streetview instead. Eugene has more details on his blog.

More On Podcasts

The podcast field is expanding rapidly, I suspect in no small part due to the success of StarShipSofa in the Hugos. The latest site to get in on the action is SF Signal. They have their debut episode up here. There are a couple of things of particular interest to me in it. Firstly one of the people in the first half of the podcast is my friend Karen Burnham, who will be reviewing short fiction for Salon Futura. And secondly the other half of the podcast is an interview with the very wonderful Lou Anders of Pyr. Amongst other things, Lou talks about which conventions he thinks are most important to attend, and about the forthcoming books from Pyr.

Talking of podcasts, I asked the other day on Twitter for recommendations for a microphone (the one I have on my headset produces lousy results when a Skype call is recorded). I got a lot of helpful responses (and one arrogant male who firmly informed me that there was no point in asking about microphones unless I had something worth podcasting, presumably because as an airhead female that would never have occurred to me). Pretty much everyone recommended Blue, but opinion was divided as to whether I should get the Snowflake, Snowball or Yeti. I’ll be using it mostly at home with very little ambient noise, but if the Snowflake can do a decent job, and work on the road, and is cheapest, it may be the best bet. Thoughts?

Also, if anyone out there has any suggestions as to where I can find good intro/outro music without having to pay a fortune for the rights…

Danger, Thinking Too Fast

I was reading this piece from The Guardian — the latest in a long series about how the Internet is making us stupid because technology is Evil — when I suddenly realized what we need to do. The government should pass a law mandating that all smart phone Apps should include an animation of a man with a red flag who walks us through everything we do with them to make sure that we can’t think too quickly and thereby damage our delicate brains.

Another Great Podcast

The Jonathan Strahan and Gary K. Wolfe podcast series continues to entertain me. This week’s episode talks a lot about Nnedi Okorafor’s first adult novel, Who Fears Death, which I had already been planning to buy. The section that I found most interesting, however, was right at the end where the boys talk about ebooks.

The big row about ebook pricing appears to have mostly died down, but with the advent of the iPad the issue that is now being raised is how badly many ebooks are presented. Jonathan and Gary address that issue. The problem, as I understand it, is that way too many people are just throwing an existing PDF file at some automatic conversion software and pushing out the result without any further work. This is not good. It makes the ebooks cheap to produce, but it also makes them hard to read, and look shoddy. There will, in time, I am sure, be companies that put a lot of care and attention into ebooks. Some of them might be so good that people would be prepared to pay a lot of money for them.

Sloppy Journalism Report

Here’s me going all Ben Goldacre on you. Today’s Guardian has a report (under the byline of Charles Arthur who is apparently their Technology Editor) that yells “Security leak leaves US Apple iPad owners at risk”. What does it leave them at risk of? Being sent spam. Because all that has actually happened is that AT&T’s servers have been hacked and the email addresses of iPad 3G owners harvested. Nevertheless, Arthur does his best to convince his readers that it is the iPad itself that was targeted:

The news that the 3G version could have been liable to hacking could depress sales of the more profitable version.

The editor in me is coming out in hives over “liable to hacking”, but that’s a minor problem compared to what Arthur is erroneously suggesting here. For a comparison with a responsible and knowledgeable report, here’s Mashable, whose piece also correctly describes the issue as a “security breach” rather than a “security leak”, which suggests an insider job.

Of course there are potential knock-on issues here, as the web addresses that have been harvested could have been used as user names in all sorts of places, but a hacker wanting to make use of this would still need to crack passwords.

I Have No Phone And I Must Tweet

Well that was a bit scary.

I had been having a fairly slow day at the Bristol Comic Expo. All had been going pretty much according to plan up until around 4:00pm when I came back to the Mercure to relieve Andy Bigwood at the BristolCon table. I tweeted from the hotel lobby (having seen Darth Vader posing for photos with a hen party group on my way in), but when I got upstairs to the table the phone was dead. My initial suspicion was power, so I got out the charger, and the external battery pack. Neither worked. The phone would not respond. As you can imagine, I was not happy.

Fortunately the story has a happy ending. Once I was back home I was able to consult Apple’s online troubleshooting guide and get the phone working again. I now how to do an emergency reboot for the little device. I won’t forget that in a hurry. And I have a working iPhone again.

This did, however, bring home to be just how dependent I have become on that little device. Without the iPhone I could not tweet, I could not check email, I could not browse the Internet, I could not check train times, I could not make phone calls, I could not check my diary. I was starting to think seriously about needed to have a backup iPhone just in case the one I was using died. Of course that would be rather expensive, but maybe there is a business opportunity for someone here.

Not Dead, Maybe Robotic

I’ve been quiet today because I have been busy with the Day Jobbe and with other blogs. I’m sure you don’t really need me to blog every day, but I still feel guilty. What I need is a robot avatar to blog on my behalf while I can’t be here.

Think I’m daft? Well take a look at this. A Silicon Valley company called Anybots is marketing a line of “telepresence robots” than can attend meetings on your behalf when you can’t get there. How is that different from videoconferencing? Well the QB, as it is called, can move around, so that you can point its high-quality video camera anywhere in the meeting and see who is paying attention and who is asleep. Also it is armed with a laser pointer, just in case you think someone’s PowerPoint presentation needs exterminating. I’ll bet Davros used that line on early investors as well.