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Michael Dell: Why we must learn to work with AI

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A key message of a major technology conference this week was that we should worry less about artificial intelligence taking our jobs and more about learning to work with it, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

“It’s not people or machines. It’s people AND machines.” With that simple message, Dell Technologies CEO Michael Dell hoped to put to rest the threat of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) replacing humans.

Speaking at the opening of the Dell Technologies World conference in Las Vegas on Monday, the Dell founder was adamant that technology was a force for innovative and positive progress for the entire world.

Later, he told a media briefing that Dell Technologies deeply believed in the power of information technology as a driver of transformation of business and society, and that AI was a key to this transformation.

“I’m seeing an explosion of use cases for AI. It includes neural networks, machine learning and deep learning, but the idea is that you’re taking all this data and using learning and inference to draw better conclusions from the data.”

The message that ran through the conference, which drew 14 000 delegates to experience first-hand the benefits of the historic $67-billion 2016 merger between Dell Inc and EMC, was that AI was the engine of growth, and data was the fuel for this engine. He also described it as a “variable technology”, which meant that its impact would vary greatly depending on how it was used.

“There will always be variable technology, and the difference is between those who figure it out and those who don’t. If you’re not using your data with AI, you’re probably doing it wrong. 

“To be competitive in the future, you have to use AI and data and do it at record speed and at scale. It all starts with a company’s data, and the data helps make a product or service better. This allows a company to attract more customers, which creates more data, and the cycle repeats itself.”

Despite prophecies of AI doom from the likes of Elon Musk, Dell was not too concerned about government stepping in.

“Regulation is interesting. It happens because people are afraid of something, or because something really bad happens. Is that possible with AI? Absolutely. It’s our job to prevent that. We have to figure out how to use it in a responsible way. We’ve had mostly very good stuff. There will always be bad people; we have to figure out how to stop them.

“Will governments play a role in that? Probably. Sometimes regulation is important and works well, sometimes it backfires spectacularly. I do know if you try to hold something back that’s fundamentally powerful and good, that’s not going to work.”

Dell believes that the advent of 5G, the new connectivity standard that will eventually replace 3G and 4G, will once again change everything related to information and communications technology. However, the standard was only finalised at the end of last year, and it will still take a few years before most mobile network operators will be able to roll out 5G networks.

“It will help move that data exponentially faster. If AI is your rocket ship, data is the fuel for your rocket. If you know how to use it, data will become your most valuable asset.

“The thing that is amazing is that so many new things are coming, it’s hard to know which to be more excited about. 5G is like we’re sitting in the mid-90s and someone has cooked up this thing called the World Wide Web and we’re wondering what’s going to happen as a result. In the same way, 5G is a massive accelerant of all the things that are happening in technology. 

“It’s not just about us communicating, it’s about connecting everything together. These are all enabling technologies.”

During the Dell Technologies World event, a constant refrain was for businesses to prepare not for the next few years, but for the next decade. With the theme “Realizing 2030”, the focus was on how emerging technology will reshape our lives in the next 15 years. 

Last year the company collaborated with the Institute for the Future to explore the emerging technologies shaping the future of the human experience over the next decade. 

The ultimate conclusion? Humans and machines will be working in close partnership by 2030.

Both individuals and organisations are grappling with the digital and workforce transformations under way today,” the report found. “As these transformations are informed and influenced by emerging technologies over the next decade, people will develop new and deeper relationships and new dependencies on machines, at home and in the workplace. 

“If we start to approach the next decade as one in which partnerships between humans and machines transcend our limitations and build on our strengths, we can begin to create a more favourable future for everyone.”

In the report, Liam Quinn, Dell Chief Technology Officer, likened the emerging technologies of today to the roll-out of electricity 100 years ago, saying that we no longer fixate on the “mechanics” or the “wonders” of electricity, yet it underpins almost everything we do in our lives. 

Similarly, in the 2030s, today’s emerging technologies will underpin our daily lives: “Imagine the creativity and outlook that’s possible from the vantage point these tools will provide: In 2030, it will be less about the wonderment of the tool itself and more about what that tool can do.”

By 2030, the report concluded, “we will no longer revere the technologies that are emerging today. They will have long disappeared into the background conditions of everyday life. If we engage in the hard work of empowering human-machine partnerships to succeed, their impact on society will enrich us all.”

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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