Microsoft founder and general do-gooder Bill Gates has expressed concerns about artificial intelligence (AI), warning that dystopian futures portrayed in series like Battlestar Galactica and Terminator could become a reality.
Gates issued the warning during a Reddit question and answer session, arguing that artificially intelligent systems could become a threat to humanity if left unchecked.
"I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don't understand why some people are not concerned," Gates said in response to a question about the threat posed by AI.
"First, the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that, though, the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern."
Gates is one of many tech moguls to warn of the danger posed by AI. Professor Stephen Hawking expressed concerns about self-learning machines earlier this year, and Tesla founder Elon Musk argued that AI poses the biggest risk to humanity if it is not properly monitored and controlled.
Luckily for the tech-savvy members of society, Gates said that humans are likely to serve some purpose for our robot overlords in the immediate future.
"It is safe for now. It is also a lot of fun and helps shape your thinking on all issues to be more logical. There is a prospect for change in this area for the next generation, but that is true for most fields and understanding how to program will always be useful," he said.
Gates' comments follow the widespread release of Microsoft's Cortana digital voice assistant. Cortana debuted on Windows Phone 8 and allows web searches and the opening of apps using voice commands.
Cortana's answers are based on data stored in the user's Microsoft account and the public internet, and the service will be integrated into Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system.
Gates closed his doomsday report by promising that Cortana will not betray us and is simply a useful service designed to help, not rule over, humans.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
There has been little in the way of direct action from major companies to address the gender imbalance in the technology industry, despite calls from the government throughout 2014 and numerous diversity reports revealing that major firms have a serious workforce imbalance.
More women are entering the industry via corporations or their own digital start-ups, resulting in positive reactions from women already established in the field, but IT and the surrounding sectors remain male dominated and few women fill high-level positions.
However, Intel has now thrown its hat into the ring with a pledge to increase diversity across its entire workforce by 2020 by hiring and retaining more engineers and computer scientists who are women or from under-represented minorities.
Rather than backing a programme or supporting an external organisation, Intel has put its money where its mouth is and will invest $300m to increase the company's diversity, hoping that its example will encourage other tech players to do the same.
Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich revealed the Diversity in Technology initiative at CES 2015 in Las Vegas.
CES is an event known for courting tech enthusiasts with consumer products, and may not seem the likely place to launch a diversity strategy. But with the industry's eyes glued to Las Vegas for several days, it presented a powerful platform for Intel to get its message across.
And the message is that action is needed, not just from Intel but from the technology industry as a whole if diversity is to be achieved and not merely encouraged.
In a surprising move, Krzanich said that the pay of Intel's leaders will be linked to the performance of the initiative in their areas in a bid to galvanise change from within.
Krzanich's CES keynote is a refreshing change from the situation last year, which saw Microsoft's Satya Nadella offering negative advice for women in tech, and appears to present an answer to the gender imbalance as the technology industry enters a new year.
If 2014 was a year in which women and diversity in technology was discussed, Intel may have made 2015 the year in which action is taken.
LOS ANGELES: Tech leaders love to make digs at their rivals over perceived sluggishness, particularly in areas where they consider themselves to be ahead of the curve.
The cloud has been a hotbed of such activity for many years. One of the leading proponents of this unique form of cloud computing trash talk is Aaron Levie, CEO of Box. V3 has heard Levie mock rivals on many occasions for failing to embrace the cloud, something which no doubt helped his own company to grow.
However, as Levie noted at the Cisco Collaboration Summit 2014 attended by V3, most major IT vendors are now fully committed to the cloud. One upshot of this is that the chance to chide rivals in a jovial fashion has diminished.
"I don’t even know who. Maybe IBM. I don’t know who’s not in the cloud now. All the people I make fun of has reduced over time," he said.
Indeed. Even IBM, which Levie unfairly name checks, has been making notable strides to get into the cloud, spending big on its SoftLayer acquisition and moving numerous services onto the platform to meet customer demand for this delivery model.
However, while the move to the cloud being undertaken by most IT giants has deprived Levie of his punchline punch bags, other areas of the industry still give him plenty of material.
When asked what he’s hearing from customers at present, Levie used the question as a chance to trot out one of his standards: "What we hear from customers is, what if Lync and SharePoint just worked?"
Given that Microsoft is rebranding Lync as Skype for Business, Levie might need to rewrite that zinger, or get some new material.
25 Apr 2014
V3 is seeking a reporter to work on its fast-paced, industry leading website. V3 is a UK site covering business technology news, analysis, video and reviews for IT professionals, so a passion for IT and the tech scene are crucial for this role.
The role is full-time and based in our central London office, where you will get plenty of opportunity to gain experience and hone your skills across all areas of digital journalism.
The role will see you writing news, features and blogs, attending events in London, the UK and across the world, and interviewing senior executives at world-leading companies ranging from the likes of Google and Microsoft to hot startups. You’ll also be encouraged to break stories, take unique angles on industry topics and source off-diary stories.
An ability to write clean, accurate, crisp copy under pressure is a must, as well as a can-do attitude, a willingness to adapt and alter working practices at a moment’s notice, and understanding the job may require working, and socialising, after office hours.
There will be the opportunity to film and edit video, so video production skills, while not a pre-requisite for the role, will be a bonus. You will also help manage the V3 brand on numerous social media sites, so we’re looking for someone with an affinity for Twitter, Google+ and the next big thing in social.
This is a great opportunity for someone looking to take on their first full-time role in journalism or making their next step on the career ladder onto an online, well-established tech brand, with plenty of scope for growth, development, training and fun too. Ideally you will already have some practical experience of working as a technology journalist, either through your current role, work experience or freelance.
Deadline: 23 May 2014
To apply, please email a covering letter and CV to news editor Dan Worth.
It’s official: Microsoft’s new CEO is former cloud chief Satya Nadella. The news had been expected since last week and was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon. The appointment marks a new era at Microsoft as it prepares for life under the third CEO in its history.
But who is Nadella? It’s fair to say he’s not the most well-known name in the business, even if he clearly was a high flyer at the company.
But Microsoft has done its best to bring his personality to the fore in their announcement, and included some nice touchy-feely details in the release that could prove useful for sounding like you know who he is in any board meetings or pub chats.
1. He’s a poetry lover, of both American and Indian writers, claiming it’s like code. “You’re trying to take something that can be described in many, many sentences and pages of prose, but you can convert it into a couple lines of poetry and you still get the essence, so it’s that compression,” he said.
2. He loves test cricket, which is almost certainly a first among big US tech CEOs. “[It] is the longest form of any sport in the world,” he said. “I love it. There’s so many subplots in it, it’s like reading a Russian novel.”
3. He was born in Hyderabad, India, is 46 and has three children. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Mangalore University and a master's degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin.
4. His first job in the industry was at Sun Microsystems before he joined Microsoft in 1992. While working at Sun he was also studying for a master's degree in business when the role at Microsoft became available. He wanted to continue studying, though, so would fly from Seattle to Chicago for the weekend to complete his studies, underlining his determination.
5. Nadella already knows many of Microsoft's key product areas well, and before taking the CEO role he led the Cloud OS platform team. Cloud OS is used to power all of Microsoft’s internet cloud services such as Office 365, Bing, SkyDrive – now renamed OneDrive – Xbox Live, Skype and Dynamics.
For more from the man himself, Microsoft has put together a little video chat. It's probably not the toughest grilling he'll face as the new CEO but it gives some nice insight into his style – it's fair to say it is very different to Steve Ballmer's.
Can anyone make a decent operating system? That’s the question tech lovers around the world appear to be asking as the biggest vendors appear unable to just make a decent platform that's easy to use and nice to look at.
Microsoft – the daddy of the operating system world – has been flailing for a while now to try and entice people to Windows 8. But so far it is failing. While Windows 8.1 is improving some areas, it is unlikely to prove a panacea for all its ills.
In fact, Microsoft could be said to have peaked as far back as 2001 when its beloved XP platform hit the market. Even now, 12 years later, there are those who see no reason to upgrade, even if support is set to end in six months.
Meanwhile Apple, the darling of the tech world, is facing unprecedented levels of criticism for numerous issues that users of its new iOS 7 operating system have found with the platform.
These range from functionality to design and many V3 readers have implored others not to move to the new platform if they haven't done so already. Such criticism of Apple, especially on a design and functionality level, would have been unthinkable a year or so ago.
So what is going on? In some ways it appears firms are trying to be too clever, to be too innovative. At the end of a day an operating system should be the base layer for everything else. It should be easy to use, simple to understand and allow you to run other applications over the top.
With too much focus now given to all-singing systems that can do everything and out-innovate rivals it almost seems as if the firms are forgetting to do any user feedback to find out if stuff just works.
One good example was raised by a V3 reader who noticed this bizarre iOS 7 issue. The phone automatically dims its display brightness when you open the new control panel menu. This means, though, if you’re trying to adjust screen brightness, you can’t accurately gauge the brightness of the screen. It’s almost comic in its failure to work at the most basic level.
Similarly, while one can understand Microsoft may have thought the bold and radical change of Windows 8 may have made them seem, well, bold and radical, someone really should have stepped in and said it was too much.
People never like change, even when it's good for them, so for Microsoft to develop Windows 8 was always going to prove an incredibly disruptive situation. And while the tech world loves the term disrupt for conjuring up the feeling they're changing the world, for most people disruption is a negative that can be done without.
The firm was probably so blinded by the need to innovate and impress that it overlooked the basic notion of KISS: Keep it simple, stupid. A motto that works well in a surprisingly large number of instances. Let's hope Apple has taken it on board for its Mac OS X Mavericks update, due to be unveiled next week.
By V3's Dan Worth, who loves a good operating system
Microsoft's user data requests transparency report contained a brief line about the customers using the firm's enterprise services.
It stated that 19 requests had arrived in the first six months of 2013, all of which came from US agencies relating solely to customers within the US. Microsoft also added that so far it had received no requests regarding enterprise customers in connection with national security orders, which are more serious requests that can't be reported in detail.
It said that the 19 requests related to 48 accounts, which resulted in customer content (emails, documents, chat messages) being disclosed on four occasions, with one other request responded to with non-content data, which includes usernames and IP addresses. Of those five requests, four of the customers were notified while one other was not. Thirteen other requests were rejected or had no relevant data, with one further case still pending.
Microsoft defines enterprise customers as organisations subscribing multiple users to services such as Office 365, Azure, Exchange Online and CRM Online.
Microsoft highlighted that this is particularly pertinent as, while it obviously affects such a tiny minority of users, it still means that enterprise customers using cloud services have no choice as to whether they choose to release their data or not. If it's stored on Microsoft's servers, it's Microsoft's responsibility to disclose data whether they like it or not.
The crumb of comfort for Microsoft's enterprise customers is that Redmond clearly has a crack legal team that will reject any request it sees as legally unjustified. With that being said, there's still a lot of faith the public has to put into a group of unknown legal experts.
It will be interesting to see how Microsoft's data compares with other enterprise cloud service providers if they choose to release their own data, which they are of course not obliged to do.
Written by V3's Michael Passingham, who has nothing to hide
Tech acquisitions are always dicey for any company, with the question of exactly how the two firm's will combine all but impossible to know.
In the past there have been some success stories, for example when Chinese tech company Lenovo bought IBM's Thinkpad business-focused brand. In this instance the rather than simply killing off the competition, Lenovo ran with the business, creating a slew of awesome new devices that reignited enterprise interest in the brand.
However, others have been less successful, like Google purchase of Motorola. Google originally shocked the tech world in 2011 when it announced plans to pay $12.5bn to buy Motorola Mobility. The move was a shock as Motorola was one of the few firms not to have partnered with Google to create an own-brand Nexus device.
The oddness of the deal split opinion, with some arguing the purchase was a purely defensive move on the part of Google, designed to protect it from further patent infringement claims from competitors like Apple. Others took a more positive attitude, hoping it would lead to a fresh wave of innovative handsets from Motorola, which had struggled since its heyday with the original feature phone Razr.
Sadly the first group turned out to be right, with Google showing little outward interest in the company, leaving Motorola to release good, but not great smartphones - with the notable exception of the Intel-powered Razr i which is still one of the best examples of what the chip-maker can offer the smartphone world. As proof of this Motorola continues to be one of the few big name tech companies not to have made a Nexus smartphone or tablet, with Google choosing Asus and LG for its latest run of own-brand devices.
The sad example set by Google and Motorola leaves me nervous that history will repeat itself with Microsoft and Nokia. During the speeches by soon-to-be-gone Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer and current Nokia head Stephen Elop neither really paid much attention to Nokia's top end technologies, like Pureview. Instead the emphasis was entirely on app development and using Nokia's Asha range as a stepping stone to get people onto Windows Phone.
While this emphasis makes perfect sense, after all every analyst under the sun has listed emerging markets as the next cash cow for mobile phone makers, it could be bad news for tech heads. In recent years Nokia's carved out a serious name for itself by creating top-end premier Lumia Windows Phones capable of competing with Samsung and Apple in terms of innovation.
This trend peaked earlier this year when Nokia unveiled its Lumia 1020 (pictured above). Featuring an amazing 41MP rear camera sensor, a host of custom Nokia apps and featuring the Finnish phone maker's iconic Lumia design, the phone truly showcased the best Windows Phone could offer.
While Microsoft and Nokia have promised the deal will "boost innovation" in the Windows Phone ecosystem, I'm not convinced it will be in the high-end space. Instead, I think it'll be solely aimed at creating affordable handsets designed to appeal to buyers on a budget or emerging markets. These fears are compounded by the departure of key players that have helped shape Nokia's top end offering, like designer Marko Ahtisaari.
Still, it is early days and key details about the deal remain unknown so my fears could well be misplaced and, as a business strategy, a focus on emerging markets would make perfect sense. Because of this, even if I am right, at worst the new strategy will simply leave myself and other early Windows Phone adopters sad not to see another top end Nokia Lumia.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson