A weekly round up of news and views from the tech, creative and business world.
How slow can you go?
The Netflix ISP rankings for May were released this week as part of its transparency campaign, based on 48 million Netflix members worldwide watching 1 billion hours of TV – that’s a lot of square-eyes. The index names Cablevision, Cox and Charter as the speediest streamers. Comcast, FiOS and Verizon speeds have dropped, and despite recent deals between the providers and Netflix, some are even worse than before.
Verizon’s download speed has been very publicly called to question by Netflix. Customer’s have reported receiving error messages that state, “The Verizon network is crowded right now. Adjusting video for smoother playback.” This did not best please Verizon, prompting them to issue cease and desist demands. Netflix is playing ball… for now… but they do not rule out using the messages in future.
With each press release and open letter, Netflix are claiming their alliance first and foremost to the customer (you would too if yours were responsible for 34% of all peak-time net usage). Netflix argue that ISPs are wrongly “double dipping” – getting both their customers and the services to pay the tolls, the impact of which raises costs, stifles innovation and harms customers. This emphasis on transparency is in clear contrast to recent developments, notably the current FCC debate and Comcast / Time Warner Cable merger, which both point worryingly to the end of a free and open internet, which could look like this.
Netflix speeds may be coming under extra pressure this week due to the launch of the new season of Orange is the New Black, which received over 98,000 mostly positive mentions on social media before the show had even been released.
Uber has been valued at $18 billion, making it the rich kid of the internet startup club, despite earning only $200 in revenue last year. The company also announced that it would be adding the iconic black taxi of London to its roster of private hire car services, on the same day as 10,000 black cab drivers across London are expected to strike at a cost of £125 million to the economy, in protest of Uber’s unregulated success. The Licensed Taxi Driver Association argues that Uber’s app acts like a taxi meter, which are not allowed in private hire cars. For the right to use a meter to charge unsuspecting drunks and suspicious students, black cab drivers face stringent regulations of fitness and licensing, and unlike Uber drivers, are required to pass the Knowledge of London test. In order to match its astounding valuation with revenue, Uber will need to replicate its meteoric success across the globe, in spite of the increasing resistance to the service from regulators and concerns over its potential to monopolise private hire transport. Uber is involved in court proceedings in almost every city it operates in, facing resistance from London, Chicago, Toronto, Seattle, Berlin, and Paris, where competing taxi drivers have physically attacked its cars.
Other apps built on the ‘sharing economy’ are experiencing similar resistance as they attempt to disrupt established industries. Home-sharing platform Airbnb recently announced plans to expand its offering from accommodation to home-cooked meals, a move called by the head of food safety in San Francisco as “completely illegal” without proper permits. The runaway success of Airbnb and Uber proves there’s a big desire for more personal, flexible ways of staying in weird mirror-homes and treehouses; it also reveals a need for regulatory bodies to catch up with popular demand in a way that is least damaging to established businesses.
Eugene not genuine
For the first time in history a computer has passed the Turing Test. Named for Alfred Turing, the test is used to measure the degree of “free-thinking intelligence” that a computer can have. In order to pass, a computer essentially has to fool one in three humans into thinking that the computer is a human as well. This week the computer won out, in the guise of the 13 year old son of Ukrainian Gynecologist Eugene Goostman. Lock the doors.
This news travelled around the world and was deemed a landmark moment, prompting worries about cybercrime, and the end of humanity altogether. But artificial intelligence experts, like Professor Stevan Harnad from the University of Quebec in Montreal, think we should chill out, deeming the result “complete nonsense.”
Part of the argument is that Eugene didn’t fool one in three humans into thinking he was an adult human, but rather a 13 year old boy. This acts as a fairly large crutch, as errors in grammar or communication that would normally be attributed to the computer’s lack of intelligence were instead perceived as errors that a 13 year old would make on their own. On top of that, Eugene doesn’t actually learn; he simply has been coded to anticipate enough of the possible questions that hopefully he’ll get them right most of the time. Turing’s test was designed to detect intelligence and learning comparable to our own brains. Eugene is not exactly an example of near-human intelligence, but rather an actor— a chatbot that knows how to utilize its own weaknesses to better play what is expected of a character.
So if it’s not bringing humanity to the ground, what does this ‘breakthrough’ promise for us? The New Yorker suggests it could be good for the gaming industry, intelligent coding in regards to reactive conversation could help make the future of adventure gaming a lot more personalised and engaging; quests with a sense of humour to match.
You May Have Missed
Surprising Apple news as iOS 8 scores a win for privacy as changes are made against location tracking – the new feature disguises where you are until you connect to a network
Beautiful fluid animation and stunning lighting in this music video from Nils Frahm
Google continues its spending spree, buying a Skybox Imaging satellite company for $500 million
Take a multi-screen journey into The Internet Machine
Wearable tech could replace your SIM card, letting you carry your contact details on your biceps
Great interactive advert for Tate Britain changes according to the time of day and environment on London road
This lovely video shows the new app from Uniqlo which lets you customise your T-shirt, with just a touch and shake of your phone
A late night tram journey is the setting for lots of mini-stories in this video for Kaja Gunnufsen. It’s great cinematography shot at 6.25fps. We agree with the Vimeo Staff member – “fast motion is the new slow motion.”
One pen. All the colours!
Understanding the Boston subway with data visualisation
Guess what the Type Foundries Archive is, go on
Eurogamer’s coverage of this year’s E3 gaming conference
Use your ex as inspiration for your next date, thanks to Match.com
And a reverse LOL as the tables are turned – gamers are more educated and more social than the people who make fun of them