Friday roundup: A week in tech | News

The Innovation and Technology Network Strip

The Innovation and Technology Network

News

Friday roundup: A week in tech

Hey, you know that story that’s been tediously rumbling on for years and years, about that new technology that’s going to revolutionise our lives, but which never comes to anything and is entirely ridiculous? No, not Amazon delivery drones! The apparently unrealisable self-driving car dream…

But wait! According to the Department for Transport, the quixotic wonders will be allowed on the UK’s roads by the end of the year, perhaps in time for the Christmas rush.

But wait! Don’t get even slightly excited, computer-controlled vehicle fans, because the government is only giving its blessing to automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS), which the insurance industry, for one, isn’t having any of, calling the moniker ‘self-driving’ “misleading” in this context. I know! Comes to something when insurers call someone else out for being ‘misleading’.

ALKS merely sets a car’s position in a single lane and will be limited to 37mph – so ideas of sleeping on the backseat while our cars carriage us across the country remain the stuff of a madman’s dreams.

The government says that ALKS can be legally defined as self-driving providing it gets “GB type approval and that there is no evidence to challenge the vehicles’ ability to self-drive”.

But wait! With ALKS, the government has confirmed that you won’t need to keep an eye on the road or keep your hands on the wheel – merely stay alert (whatever that means) and be ready to take control within ten seconds of everything becoming too much for the computer. So, micro-naps in the front seat sound good to go.

Please check back this time next year for an update on what’s-about-to-happen-but-probably-won’t.

***

A man sort of took over Google in Argentina this week.

Noticing that the search engine giant’s services were down, concerned citizen Nicolas Kurona sleuthed off to the Argentinian domain name registry to see if he could figure out what had gone wrong.

He was surprised to discover that google.com.ar was available for purchase – so he bloomin’ well bought it, for £2.09.

Mr Kurona tweeted that “The domain expired, I was able to buy it legally,” and later told the BBC that “When the purchase process was completed and my data appeared, I knew that something was going to happen...I was really anxious. I could not believe what had just happened.”

Where’s this going? Nowhere, it turns out. Shortly after buying the URL, it was transferred back to hungry Google. Apparently, it shouldn’t have been for sale in the first place as the license doesn’t expire until July. And Mr Kurona didn’t even get his £2.09 back.

Bit of a nonstory, really, isn’t it? Gutted that I actually typed it out. You’re welcome.

***

UK sporting organisations, teams and individuals will this afternoon start a four-day boycott of social media, in an attempt to tackle online abuse, racism, discrimination and general evil.

Starting at 3pm today, the mass shun is being led by the footballing world, including the Premier League, English Football League and Women’s Super League clubs.

With rugby, cricket and other outfits also joining in, it’s hoped the temporary exodus will somehow motivate social media firms to finally take meaningful action to deal with the sewers of hate that flow through their dreadful networks.

Well, we’ll see, won’t we?

Also joining in is UEFA. Having risen instantly and indefatigably last week against the threat of the breakaway European Super League, the widely-admired organisation is now throwing its full might into the battle against racism in the beautiful game – by staying off Twitter for a weekend. No one faces down bigotry like UEFA. No one.

Sanjay Bhandari, chairman Kick it Out, said: "This boycott signifies our collective anger. Social media is now sadly a regular vessel for toxic abuse.

"By removing ourselves from the platforms, we are making a symbolic gesture to those with power. We need you to act. We need you to create change.

"We need social media companies to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls rather than for the football family."

An unequivocal message. How have the firms that facilitate this ocean of inhuman horror responded?

In a joint statement, Facebook and Twitter said: “We have let the world down. In the pursuit of profit and ever-expansion, we have wilfully ignored the destructive global storm our own networks have brewed.

“If we’d spent even a tenth of the time combatting hatred that we spend on endlessly looking for tax loopholes, we’d have sorted this long ago. We apologise. Henceforth, our entire focus will be on fighting this diabolical menace, no matter what the cost.”

Sorry. They didn’t say any of that.

Without referring directly to the boycott, Twitter preened: “Racism is a deep societal and complex issue and everyone has a role to play. We are committed to doing our part and continue to work closely with valued partners in football, government and police, along with the working group convened by Kick It Out to identify ways to tackle this issue collectively – both online and away from social media.”

See: it’s everyone’s duty. And why would you take that much time out of your working day when it’s a ‘collective’ issue?

Twitter owner Jack Dorsey is worth $14.2bn. Enjoy the boycott!