Extractivism and the Anatomy of AI

November 6, 2018 at 10:20 pm (computers, interesting, science) (, , , )

I found this fascinating website – the Anatomy of an AI System – which takes an Amazon Echo and attempts to map out the behind the scenes costs in terms of manual labour, material resources, and data required to power the ecosystem.

It is particularly telling how much it focuses on the raw material impact of our modern lifestyles, which when all said and done is not unique to the Echo, but a symptom of our continued fascination with electronic gadgetry in its totality.  It has a word, that was new to me, for the way much of the impact is continually hidden from end consumers by large companies – extractivism – and attempts to bring to the fore the continued extractivism going on in support of the huge technology base being created (and in some cases just as quickly obsoleted) by large technology companies.

It uses as one example, The Salar, which is a high plateau in Bolivia that apparently contains the majority of the world’s source for Lithium, becoming increasingly important of course in our desire for mobile power (both smartphones and electric vehicles).

Another interesting example is the metaphor of “the cloud”:

Vincent Mosco has shown how the ethereal metaphor of ‘the cloud’ for offsite data management and processing is in complete contradiction with the physical realities of the extraction of minerals from the Earth’s crust and dispossession of human populations that sustain its existence.

We think of putting our data in “the cloud”, of using services in “the cloud” and all the mechanics are abstracted away, out of sight, out of mind. It is rarely that the physical realities of “the cloud” surface, expect in exceptional circumstances, usually where something goes wrong.

I would be interested in reading an update to Andrew Blum’s Tubes, updating it to make “the cloud” real in the same way he did for the also ethereal Internet itself.

Another interesting observation to come out of the study is the importance of the multiple roles of the end user:

When a human engages with an Echo, or another voice-enabled AI device, they are acting as much more than just an end-product consumer. It is difficult to place the human user of an AI system into a single category: rather, they deserve to be considered as a hybrid case. Just as the Greek chimera was a mythological animal that was part lion, goat, snake and monster, the Echo user is simultaneously a consumer, a resource, a worker, and a product.

(emphasis in the original paper).

This also comes out in the scale of income distributions – with Jeff Bezos at the top (apparently earning $275 million a day) – through US developers and workers, through overseas developers and workers – right down to “unpaid user labour” at the bottom generating the data that feeds the system and continually improves it.

The study rightly points out the fractal nature of attempting to display any of this in a linear manner on a single diagram.  Of course, each supply chain is supported by components each with their own supply chain.  Its supply chains all the way down until you reach the raw elements.

In summary I am minded simultaneously of Carl Sagan:

“We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”

But seeing this complication laid bare, somewhat in defence of humanity, also of Douglas Adams (from “Mostly Harmless”):

“The available worlds looked pretty grim. They had little to offer him because he had little to offer them. He had been extremely chastened to realize that although he originally came from a world which had cars and computers and ballet and Armagnac, he didn’t, by himself, know how any of it worked. He couldn’t do it. Left to his own devices he couldn’t build a toaster. He could just about make a sandwich and that was it.”


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John Stump 1944-2006

May 28, 2018 at 8:03 pm (interesting, music) (, )

Whilst scanning  back through old posts, I found Adagio Cantabile with a rock tempo feel … describing a parody piece of music, designed to be unplayable, by John Stump.  However on following the links, it turns out that the Wikipedia page describing the work was deleted, with the deletion log effectively concluding:

Delete There is absolutely nothing to suggest this classical music spoof is notable enough for inclusion in an international encyclopedia.

Knowing what I know of music, human nature, parody and general good fun (and also some of what is included in said international encyclopedia), I couldn’t disagree more!  There are countless classrooms around the world with this piece of music on a poster on the wall and many a music student will know of it.  For that reason alone it should be included and a little of its history ought to be recorded.

Thankfully, where Wikipedia fails, a nephew of John Stump comes to the rescue.  You can read about the mischievous composer here on Greg’s Lost in the Clouds blog:

He had worked in the field of “music engraving” for most of his life, beginning in 1967, and I remember looking with fascination at his “music typewriter” in his office in my grandmother’s garage, so it didn’t surprise me that Uncle John would have created something like this fake musical piece.

Turns out he wrote two other satirical pieces, all three of which are preserved on the web site of  Bryan Higgins.  Here you can find:

Along with two other works in a similar vein by others:

(the rest of Bryan’s collection is worth a browse too – a bit of an eclectic collection)

Greg and Bryan, thank you for going where Wikipedia appears not to have the collective imagine to tread.  The Internet is a better place for it.


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Repeating Number IP Addresses

April 30, 2018 at 10:40 am (interesting, internet) (, )

Google started a bit of a trend when it released its own DNS service on IP address

The thing about a DNS service, is that when you want someone to be able to use it, they need to know how to configure it.  But you can’t use a nice memorable name, as the whole point of a DNS service is to translate names into IP addresses.  So you have to configure your DNS service using the IP address alone, hence Google finding a way to secure ownership of the address for use with DNS, landing them a nice, easy to remember address.

Now, more recently, the Quad9 DNS service has been launched, promising more privacy and performance, on, you guessed it,  And in the last month or so Cloudflare and APNIC have teamed up to bring you the DNS service, again promising privacy and performance.

So this got me wondering – who might be next?  Well if you’re after memorable IP addresses, then repeated numbers is definitely the way to go, so after a quick bit of typing into an IP address lookup tool, how about some of these?

  • – Orange Telecom
  • – Amazon
  • – Level 3 Communications
  • – E-Plus Mobilfunk GmbH & Co KG
  • – USAISC – looks like US Army
  • – Dept of Defense

And of course we know about 1, 8 and 9.  I’m not interested really in 10, but going for other repeats:

  • – US DoD again
  • – And this one too …
  • – And this one …
  • – US Amateur Radio Digital Communications
  • – USAISC again
  • – Time Warner Cable Internet LLC
  • – Dadeh Gostar Asr Novin P.J.S. Co. (with an address in Iran)
  • – Telenor Business Solutions AS (Norway)
  • – AT&T
  • – KDDI (Japan)
  • – China Telecom

So the US military certainly has ownership of the largest number of repeated number addresses.  But there are also a fair number of telcos and large Internet companies in there too (will we eventually see an Amazon DNS service on I wonder?).

Of course if you were running a universal query answering service, then the best address would have to be, which appears to be owned by South Korea Telecom.

But I dread to think what running a single service on any of these specific public addresses would do to the global routing table.

Of course you need to beware of hidden meaning in all this … although taken to extremes it reminds me of the interesting number paradox.

I quite like this idea:

When you see the number 111 stop and look around yourself. Take a note of where you are, what you are doing and who you are with! 111 is a wakeup call from the Universe, telling you to pay attention to what is happening around you.

That’s not a bad premise for a DNS service – as a reminder to pay attention to the real world.



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The Age of Synthetic Humans

June 15, 2015 at 8:54 pm (interesting) (, , , , , , , , )

I don’t watch much scheduled TV these days (although made an exception for the new clangers today, but that’s another story), but I was very interested in the new Channel 4 drama ‘Humans’ that started yesterday.  I first saw references to it popping up via Twitter, following the creation of @PersonaSynths on Twitter advertising their new generation “synthetic humans”.  The marketing was very good – they even had an ebay shop and a ‘store front’ on Regents Street London – and apparently it had a number of people fooled for a while, thinking it was real and that you really could buy one!

So having quite liked the trailer, I tuned in (apparently with 4 million others) to watch it last night, and I have to say it was really good.  I lost count of the number of social and ethical issues around the future of technology that the show raised in just that first episode.

Here are some rambling descriptions of some of the issues I spotted that were interesting to explore in the programme.  Warning – spoilers ahead!

In the very opening scenes, one of the “synths” (the robots) standing in a room full of synths slowly turns to look up at the moon.  The Implication being that there is something more emotionally special about that one – that maybe a robot can appreciate the view of something beautiful, such as a clear, bright, full moon.  We see her later staring at the moon from a garden too.  As the plot unfolds, we are slowly discovering there are synths designed for emotions, but don’t quite know the ramifications of them yet, other than the fact that they appear to be in hiding among the “regular” synths.

When the family is struggling to cope with the mother being away working at the weekend, they (well, the husband and father), decide to buy a Synth, and immediately you are struck with the uncertainty of it being the right thing to do, by the looks on their faces … but the salesman wins out, with special finance deals and so on, just as it someone is buying a car.  It is that easy.

On the way to the showroom, there are a number of times that you see a synth in the street doing things that people do today – handing out leaflets, giving directions and help people navigate public transport.  What are the people who used to do those things doing now – do they have a life of luxury?  Are they working elsewhere?  We also see a number of synths working in a plantation picking food, doing repetitive, mechanical tasks, where they can work overtime and not need paying.

As things develop, we feel the sense of guilt that builds up with the mother, as Anita (their new household synth) steps in more and more with the youngest – reading stories (“but I like Anita reading to me – she doesn’t rush the stories”), or just how quickly the child adapts to having the synth around … (reminds me of the Paro therapeutic robot).

If that wasn’t enough, we have the old man attached to his young boy synth, so much so that he keeps hiding him and maintaining him himself, long after his health carers have tried to force him to upgrade.  We don’t know why yet – is there a hint of being a son or grandson that never was?  Is it companionship since his wife is gone?  Is it something more sinister – perhaps an accomplice?  I guess we will find out in time.  Either way it is obvious that we are seeing emotional attachment built up here that was not anticipated when he was “issued” with his carer synth originally.  We also get a sense of the trust he has in his synth, as we find out that it “knows too much” – something that could perhaps also be said of our technology today!

An interesting side plot point – the NHS has invested in 500,000 synths to support care work in general – although I think they need to upgrade the bedside manner of Vera if they are to catch on … but maybe that is a result of those heavily subsidised, bulk government, special offer personas from the company!  Is this the “NHS synth” designed to a budget perhaps?

And then of course we have the teenage daughter’s relationship with the synth – it is a slave, to be controlled, to be abused, to be shot with an air rifle should she wish it.  Why this hatred?  We get a clue later – she sees no worth in continuing her education, the jobs are being performed by synths – why do people need education?  Why to people need to work anymore at all?  What is the point of sitting her exams at school?  The resentment follows, alongside laziness – why bother even getting up to fetch something, when the synth can be told to do it for you?

We get glimpses of other dynamics too – the woman recovering from an accident (or is she disabled?) who has a hunky male synth giving her physiotherapy, and then carrying her to her bath, as her husband walks in.  Will she grow closer to her synthetic carer we wonder, as her real-life partner fails to live up to the ideals of the synth?

We still don’t know the meaning of the pocketed ‘adult add-on pack’ that the male of the family found with their newly acquired synth.  Once again there are implied ethics here – how far does the “command” extend.  We see one working in the sex industry for example, but then find out it is actually one of the emotional ones in hiding “Did you turn off your pain sensors as I told you to?”  “No, I was designed to feel pain” …

There are so many fascinating questions raised by this piece, that even if it has peaked out exploring social dynamics of technology and people, even if the plot doesn’t follow through on the promise so far, it has been very interesting to watch.  I don’t think it will go down hill – the acting of the synths is superb.  Just enough ‘uncanny valley’ behaviour to allow you to suspend belief and imagine the technology could exist today.  The questions keep piling up and the plot is developing.  It is a nice ‘just around the corner’ extrapolation, almost a parallel world where all other technology is the same (I wonder how they are powered).

And all the way through, @PersonaSynths maintains the “hey look, we’ve lent our products to a TV crew and they are using them in this great new drama” pretence which is continuing the innovative marketing style of the show.  I particularly liked some of the tweets that went out whilst the show was airing:

I’ll leave the last word to them then:

In short, I look forward to the next episode.  Fingers crossed it lives up to its initial promise.

(Aside, I now want to read up on the Swedish drama it is apparently based on.  Actually, maybe I won’t as it has already been extensively documented – maybe I’ll just wait for the UK one to unfold).


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Simple English Encyclopedia

October 24, 2014 at 9:25 pm (interesting, internet) (, , , , , )

I like to think I’ve been around a bit on the Internet, remembering my first exposure to web pages via IBM Web Explorer on OS/2 (don’t ask), following gopher information links, logging in to sites via command line FTP and I still remember my amazement when I first saw an ad on TV that included a URL, wondering how many people watching would actually know what to do with it.

So I find it fascinating when I find something that has been around for ages that I never knew existed.  In this case, the Simple English “Translation” of wikipedia.  Apparently this was created in 2003 and now boasts more than 100,000 pages.  What brought me to this site was reading about the Euler Identity in the latest book to hit my bookshelves – Dataclysm (Euler – “He was a slacker” according to the footnote from Christian Rudder :)).

Searching for Euler Identity yeilded the Wikipedia entry as the first hit and the Simple English Version as the second hit.  When I realised that you could use the “select language” option at the bottom of wikipedia pages to choose “Simple English”, I thought that was a really inspired use of the idea of language.  I know techies often go to town with language and computers – just consider the Google “big data” approach to translation, Luis von Ahn‘s crowd-sourced approach using desire to learn language to translate the web with Duolingo and the fact that Unicode itself has been used to include non-Earth languages among its character set!

So when I thought about the idea of using “select language” to choose not just translations, but also approaches to conveying the information in the first place, I thought it was a really good idea, and looked a bit deeper on what else was available.  It turns out there are actually a number of English language wikipedia sites:

And it turns out that there are also sites for:

Whilst they apparently didn’t want to split into British and American verisons, there is also apparently a schools wikipedia.

Naturally the first thing to do when one discovers the Simple English Wikipedia is to search for the most complicated subjects you can think of.  Consequently, I present links to the Simple English guide to:

But to be honest, actually the most mirth an merriment is probably reading about modern video game franchises in Old English



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Google Earth Preserving a Small Piece of Film History

August 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm (books, interesting, places) (, , , , )

We’ve recently visiting the Warner Bros Studio Tour, which for now is geared up to show the Making of Harry Potter.  If you are a Potter fan and haven’t been, then I recommend it.  Being a film set, don’t expect to walk into shops in Diagon Alley or roam the corridors of Hogwarts, but do expect to see what lies behind the magic and be prepared for some amazing film scenery, models and props.

But what I thought was quite interesting was the fact that they had two houses from Privet Drive in the outside part, and we read about how they had build a small close of 10 houses for filming.  But what is even more interesting is if you look up Leavesden Studios on Google maps and turn on the satellite view, right now the picture is as it was before the Harry Potter Tour was built – you can still see the older studios, the remnents of the runway (it used to be an airfield) and three rather curious structures in the grounds.

If you look really closely, you can spot the Privet Drive set (near the top and the main buildings) – complete with houses with only half their roofs built – Hagrid’s Hut (centre left) and what looks very much like the one life-sized part of the Hogwart’s bridge introduced in the Prisoner of Azkaban (towards the bottom, centre).

I don’t know what the refresh cycle of Google maps is, so don’t know how much longer it will show this historical arial view, but it is still quite interesting to see the sets they used for the films visible.





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Can computers write poetry?

March 27, 2013 at 9:43 pm (art, computers, interesting, internet) (, , , )

Working and being fascinated by computers and the Internet, I regularly come across interesting applications where someone has taken technology and done something quite unexpected with it.

But every now and again I happen upon something even more unexpected – a side effect of technology in action that is both quite unanticipated and extraordinary.  The website Google Poetics is one such site.

If you use Google, I’m sure you’ve seen how it anticipates what you wish to search for.  It is at times an interesting barometer for what the world is thinking about a topic.  I remember a very topical time when typing ‘how to quit’ had ‘how to quit facebook’ right at the top.  Probably after some Facebook update that was annoying people at the time.  Today it has how to quit … smoking; smoking weed; your job; drinking.  I don’t think this is personalised to me!

Now Google works very hard to anticipate everyone’s needs all as part of their mission to ‘return one search result – the one you want’.

But I doubt that even the engineers at Google anticipated that sometimes it will return a set of results that strikes a chord with people and actually means something quite profound.  That is what Google Poetics is collecting – examples of poetry made from the accidental (or at least, algorithmic) collisions from millions of people searching using Google.

Here are some of my favourites so far.

Would you like me to

  • Would you like me to be the cat
  • Would you like me to seduce you
  • Would you like me to
  • Would you like me to rephrase the question

We are not p

  • We are not permanent we’re temporary
  • We are not pilgrims
  • We are not pirates we are fishermen
  • We are not promised tomorrow

As I turn

  • As I turn the pages
  • As I turn away
  • As I turn up the collar on my favourite winter coat
  • As I turn my back on you

Sometimes I p

  • Sometimes I pretend to be normal
  • Sometimes I pretend
  • Sometimes I pretend I’m a carrot
  • Sometimes I put my hands in the air

The examples above bought to you courtesy of @GooglePoetics.  I could lose quite some time reading some of these.  And all as a consequence of the Google algorithms (far to) honestly regurgitating the behaviours of millions with some quite profound results.

And another interesting property of these poems, is that they are changing and not always the same for all readers. Try it yourself – type the titles into Google and see what you get back for you.  It will depend on your location, your search history, what everyone else has searched for recently and hundreds of other ‘small signals’ that combine within the walls of Google HQ to give you what it thinks you want.  Imagine attempting to design a system from scratch that could do this.  Talk about an emergent property!

Try it – its not quite as easy as I looks, and it can sometimes be dominated by song lyrics.  But every now and again you might find a gem.  If you do, make sure Google Poetics get to know about it.

Here is one of mine.

She is missing

  • She is missing
  • She is missing you
  • She’s a freak never missin a beat
  • She is missing me

Can computers write poetry?  I think this is proof that they can, albeit as an unintended consequence of something quite different.



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What if you could count all pictures that a computer display could show

January 12, 2013 at 12:55 am (computers, interesting) (, , , )

I’ve been reading “what if” on the xkcd blog recently. Its a very entertaining discussion of postulating about mathematics and physics solutions to hypothetical problems.  And it made me think of something I’ve wondered about on and off, well, ever since I got involved in digital computing and that relates to the fact that a computer display is a large sequence of numbers and is basically finite.  Yet it appears to be able to display anything you can imagine (and an awful lot that you probably can’t).

Each specific display is basically a very, very, very large number – including the screen I can see right now, i.e. some background windows on the Internet, WordPress ‘edit’ window open, characters appearing and so on.  In fact every time a new character appears some digits in this very large number change.  What do I mean by this?  Well every display has a resolution.  Early PCs had small resolutions, just enough for text.  Then came things like VGA graphics providing a resolution of 480 by 640 pixels (picture elements) in the display.  That means a total of 307,200 individually referenceable items.

Now if that is a black and white display, then each of those pixels can have just one of two values – 0 (off) or 1 (on).  Like you drawing 480 dots in a line, then drawing 640 of these lines and each picture is made by colouring in black or leaving white each dot as required.  Low resolution colour graphics might have 4 bits per pixel, allowing for 16 colours to be represented – each pixel is now described not just by 0 or 1, but by a number between 0 and 15, representing a colour.  That means you’d need 307,200 times 4 bits storage to record the display on a screen, or approximately 1Mb (if I’ve got my maths correct).

Higher resolutions (such as the kind you might get on a non-smart, cheap PAYG phone these days) will need a larger number for each pixel until we get up to 24 bit colour, keeping VGA resolution, when you can have a red, green and blue value, each of between 0 and 255 for each of our 640 by 480 pixels.  Combined you get a lot of colours but at the cost of needing much more storage – in this case 640 x 480 x 24 bits, or something approaching 7Mb per “screen”.  I won’t go into more detail – as you might expect, there is a wikpedia article about the whole topic, so I refer interested readers there.

But getting back to the original point, taking the black and white 640 x 480 screen, that can be represented by a binary number containing 307,200 digits (2^307,200) or 2 times 2, 307,200 times.  So that means you take a number and double it 307,200 times.  That is the number of combinations of numbers that you’d need to count every combination that a 640×320 black and white display could possibly show.  And that really would include everything that could possibly be shown on that display.  So in the translation from an analogue photograph (for example) to a digital, 640×480 black and white image, the digitisation process takes something that has an infinite resolution down to one of a finite number of options – albeit still quite a large number of options.

Just adding in the 16 colours, we’d need a number that is 2 to the power of 1,228,800 – a binary number with over a million digits.  So, when you factor in for today’s typical resolutions, my current screen is 1024 x 1280 with “32 bit colour”.  That means a single screenshot from my computer is a number with 1024 x 1280 x 32 bits – or 2 to the power of 41,943,040.

So, how long would it take to cycle through the finite number of pictures that my computer monitor could potentially display?  Well my maths is too rusty to transfer a 40 million digit binary number over into decimal to divide by seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, centuries, millenia and so on.  But by way of some context, the Universe is something like 14bn years old (or there abouts).  That is 14,000,000,000 * 365 * 24 * 60 * 60 seconds or 43 followed by 16 zeros or so (in decimal).  In binary that would be a number of around 60 to 70 digits I think.  So we’d need to double the age of the universe over 40 million times if we were showing one screen a second, to cycle through the whole lot.

Such is the interesting power of contrasting infinite analogue resolution with finite digital resolution.  It is very large, it can display practically anything we can imagine, but actually it is still a finite number.  Just an unimaginarily large number.  But of course what is more interesting still, is that infinity is still a lot larger than that.



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Some Quirky Videos

December 24, 2012 at 12:16 am (art, interesting, internet, music, odds) (, , , , , , , , , )

I’ve recently got into Twitter, after having an account sitting unused for around 5 years and in that time some rather interesting, but slightly quirky videos have wandered past my twitter feed.

The Christmas Almost Number 1

First of all, a great candidate for a Christmas #1, but unfortunately they didn’t make it. They should have done.  Funny, slightly tongue in cheek, a little humble, and musically very accomplished, is “Christmas Gets Worse Every Year” by ‘The Other Guys’ – 12 students from St Andrew’s University, in Scotland.  See it for yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YvZn1hgIvo

Thanks to the QI Elves (@qikipedia) for that one.

A Pale Blue Animation

This is a nice animation to accompany Carl Sagan’s monologue ‘A Pale Blue Dot’, itself inspired by the most distant photograph taken of Earth – a photograph from Voyager 1 from a distance of almost 4 billion miles away .  A thought provoking, perspective giving monologue with a slick animation to nicely drive home the meaning. See it here: http://vimeo.com/51960515

Thanks to Robin Ince (@robinince) posting in Brian Cox’s Twitter feed (@ProfBrianCox).

A Father-Daughter Yearly Pilgrimage

This is a nice story – every year Steve Addis takes his daughter to the same street corner in New York and takes a photo of him holding her.  Something that started when she was a year old.  This is a TED talk he shares his 15 most treasured photos from doing this, and the experience of getting a random stranger to take their picture – and how no-one has ever declined.  See it here: www.ted.com/talks/steven_addis_a_father_daughter_bond_one_photo_at_a_time.htm

I can’t remember where I first saw that one retweeted, but now I subscribe to TED Talks (@tedtalks) to make sure I don’t miss any more.

Don’t Assume Anything

This is another one that I saw courtesy of a retween from someone and then followed up.  It took me to the site of Richard Wiseman, that contains a number of very well done videos that challenge your views of the world – this is a particularly nice optical illusion.  See it here: http://richardwiseman.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/do-you-make-assumptions/

Now I follow Richard Wiseman (@RichardWiseman) too.

The Boy and His Robot

This is a lovely tale about a boy and is robot companion.  It combines the imaginary with the real, an idea of a fantasy future with the here-and-now and love, hate and dependency.  You might be tempted to click back after a couple of minutes to whatever you were doing before, but don’t – I thoroughly recommend watching the full 12 minutes.  Its sensitively surprising.  See it here: http://io9.com/5970839/a-lovely-short-film-about-a-boy-and-the-robot-he-cant-get-rid-of

Thanks to IO9 (@io9) for that one.

So a very interesting first few weeks on twitter – long may it continue.



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December 10, 2012 at 8:55 pm (interesting, odds, science) (, , , , , )

There is a lot of talk of “big data” – but I quite like the idea that big data means “more data than you have the computing power to process”.  And that isn’t new.  I particularly like this talk by John Graham-Cumming about big data – describing a big data problem they encountered … in the 1950’s.  The blurb for the conference describes it thus:

It’s 1951 and you’ve got the world’s first business computer and you’ve just been handed a Big Data problem. Go! With 2K of memory it was  powerful enough to run the then massive Lyons business.  But it wasn’t long, in 1955, before Big Data came calling in the form of a request from British Rail to calculate the shortest distance between every one of their 5,000 railway stations.

So why mention it at all?  Well there is an interesting discussion going on at the moment that we might soon be running out of metric units to describe big data.  Andrew McAfee’s blog describes the problem:

Yotta- , signifying 10^24, is the only metrix prefix left on the list. Only 20+ years ago, we didn’t anticipate needing anything beyond yotta. It seems safe to say that before the current decade is out we’ll need to convene a 20th conference to come up with some more prefixes for extraordinarily large quantities not to describe intergalactic distances or the amount of energy released by nuclear reactions, but to capture the amount of digital data in the world.

Yotta?  See wikipedia for the full list:

  • kilo = 1,000
  • mega = 1,000,000
  • giga = 1,000,000,000
  • tera = 1,000,000,000,000
  • peta = 1,000,000,000,000,000
  • exa = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
  • zetta = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
  • yotta = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

Yes, that is 1 followed by 24 zeros.  But even that might not be enough.

So what is being considered?  Well some have suggested hella for 1 followed by 27 zeros, but I think that is missing a great opportunity.  I think it should be helluva.  Then we can have distances that are a helluvameter, really heavy things that are a helluvagram and if you are into really big data then obviously you need storage that has a helluvabyte in it.

But, seeing as Google already recognises hella, we might have missed that chance.  But then Google also already knows about googols too.



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