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Another thing I don’t need

March 27, 2013 1 comment

A “genetic algorithm” that “thinks like I do” and that “helps” me find the news I need on my mobile phone, faster than ever.  All devised by a 17 year-old Harry Potter-like whiz kid entrepreneur who made a cool video with Stephen Fry and has now sold his company to Yahoo for $30 million.

This is Summly.  And, no thank you.

This is just more rampant “solutionism” – the mind-set of arbitrarily declaring something a problem, then selling you an “innovative” solution for it.  And if the solution provides you with monopoly power over a much-needed basic service, well, that’s the price of progress I suppose.  Clearly Summly aims to be the conduit that feeds you news and by doing so, will no doubt employ your personal settings for tuning these algorithms into other, I’m sure purely innocent, needs.  All this magic was in part evolved by SRI International, some legitimately clever people with a hand in creating “the Internet”, ultrasound diagnostics, robotic surgery but also – alas – Siri, that service which has enabled an entire industry devoted to stupid things it says.

For my part, here’s the news I need to have reach me on my mobile phone:

  1. Daughter’s school ending early today.
  2. Regional tsunami approaching.
  3. Timing of immanent life-ending asteroid strikes.
  4. Nuclear launch codes mistakenly left in Silicon Valley Red Robin being found by Dick Cheney.
    I’m pretty much covered on #’s 1- 3.  If someone writes an app for 4, maybe I’ll actually buy that – but meanwhile I will pass on Summly.

Stephen Fry, as to your role in all this I can only say (with the added bonus of being confident no one in existence has ever written this combination of words before):

I know you must pay the mortgage, but next time choose a means that would not so obviously raise the gorge of a hippopotamus to levels not seen since Noah decided the dinosaurs could very well swim for it.

Where is this Stephen Fry now that we need him?

Hold the news-reader’s nose squarely, Stephen.

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