Monday, July 24, 2023

Green Man could stay on for longer at pedestrian crossings in England

I'm pleased to see that the length of time given for someone to cross a road at pedestrian crossings in the UK is to be increased. I walk pretty fast most of the time but even I have difficulty completing crossing the road in time in certain places. When my Mum was alive and aging, she had no chance of crossing the road in the time allotted and we had to hope that drivers would be kind and let us pass. That did mean she restricted where she went on her own and the routes she took in order to reduce the number of main roads she needed to cross.

However, there seems to me to be a flaw in the equation. Research shows that the more densely populated a place is, the quicker they tend to walk. Therefore the average walking speed in Worcester will be different from the walking speed in London. Not only that, but some places will have a higher proportion of people in their vicinity who are less mobile due to age or illness. I hope, therefore, that there will be local nuance in the decisions made.

It may seem like very trivial news to some, but it has the potential to make our streets more accessible to those who walk the most.

Friday, July 21, 2023

AI and the Frontier Paradox

This thought leadership piece by Konstantine Buhler at Sequoia is well worth a read. I remember a conversation over a decade ago about AI with futurist, David Wood and he told me at the time that the dot on Google Maps showing us where we were was a type of AI. We don't call it that any longer - it just works on our phone and the technology is invisible - as many of the best technology tools are. I can certainly see how it will become quite commonplace to use tools like Bard or ChatGPT and not think anything of it. It will just be part of our routine use of phones, laptops and smart speakers.

I'm now beginning to see the rise of many of these tools as, perhaps, more like the switch from DOS to Windows - a much more intuitive interface with which to do what you need to do to get your tasks done. Or the switch from using laptops to phones which gave access to the internet and digital capabilities to many millions more people across the world. 

And yet, what is coming feels like it's so much more than that and more far-reaching in terms of giving anyone the ability to engage with digital tools using talking or text chat. That feels revolutionary to me rather than evolutionary. Or is it way over-hyped and it will all calm down again in a few months? After all, this AI thing has been in the human imagination for more than a century with the first place about 'robots' being written in 1921. And it has been in development for more than 70 years. We are now living in the future that scientists were imagining back in the 1950s and 1960s.