AI – Friend or enemy?

The risks from AI should be treated as seriously as the climate crisis, according to one of the technology’s leading figures.

He was speaking ahead of a UK-hosted summit on the safety of AI due to be held on 1 and 2 November at Bletchley Park, the base for the code breakers in World War 2.

He was advocating the creation of a body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Among the risks cited were “aiding the creation of bioweapons and the existential threat posed by super-intelligent systems.”

His call has been echoed by others including Eric Schmidt, the former Google chief executive, and Mustafa Suleyman, the co-founder of DeepMind.

While there is no denying the immense opportunities in the use of AI.

There is no denying that AI has its uses, particularly for routine tasks, freeing up human resources for more creative activity.

But it is a powerful tool and thus susceptible to abuse without proper regulation and oversight.

What do you think?


Where your documents are stored in the cloud is more important than you might think

We perhaps all take for granted our use of the hardware and software, data centres and communications networks that power modern business.

But differences in the laws in Europe and the USA are becoming an increasing cause for concern across the EU.

It is all about who controls the data.

Europe is heavily dependent on US firms for cloud services.

There are laws in the EU (GDPR) and UK to protect the privacy of data. But in the USA, the intelligence and law-enforcement services broad powers to access data.

At the moment Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google have a 65% share of the world cloud market between them.

But there are moves afoot to create what is being called Europe’s first “sovereign hyperscale cloud” thanks to €15m in seed funding and plans to build eight data centres in Europe in the next five years.

This will be managed by a Stockholm based company called Evroc.

There are 377 organisations participating in the Gaia-X project, which aims to join up cloud service providers in a federated system, so data can move between them while data owners remain in control.

Watch this space….


Copyright and AI

It had to happen eventually.

Writers, artists and others are realising that they need to protect themselves as it has become clearer that AI uses multiple sources to find the information people are using for research.

The information collected by AI is not attributed so it is impossible to know where it has come from.

According to a BBC investigation: “The new wave of generative AI systems are trained on vast amounts of data – text, images, video, and audio files, all scraped from the internet. Content can be created within seconds of a simple text prompt.”

There has been a growing number of lawsuits about the issue, including one by Getty Images earlier this year.

There clearly needs to be more regulation of the issue and artists and writers in particular are campaigning for copyright laws to be updated to reflect the new environment created by AI.

According to the BBC:

“The EU appears to be taking the lead, with the EU AI Act proposing that AI tools will have to disclose any copyrighted material used to train their systems.

In the UK, a global summit on AI safety will take place this autumn.”


Cyber criminals are increasingly using pictures for phishing

Cyber criminals are luring victims to click on images rather than downloading malicious files or clicking on suspicious links.

When you click on it, you don’t go to the real website, instead it is a fake site that is designed to steal your personal information.

Watch out for unexpected emails, particularly for bad spelling and grammar. Also watch out for emails from someone you don’t know and so-called offers that are too good to be true.

Faked branding that isn’t somehow quite right is another giveaway.

To protect your business from these types of scams make sure your staff are up to date on security protection and the latest scams.

Keep your IT and protection measures up to date.

Use strong passwords and limit them only to those who really need to know them.

Regularly back up data.


What is a circular economy?

If you are concerned about the environment and the effects of your business on the planet there is an interesting experiment being carried out in Amsterdam.

It is called the Circular Economy and its aim is to break the link between economic activity and using up the earth’s resources.

Currently being tried out in the clothing industry, where fast fashion has made it one of the most wasteful sectors, it involves reusing, repairing, and sharing materials and products.

Other industries that could become circular are food and organic waste streams, consumer goods, and the built environment.

In seven years’ time Amsterdam plans to have halved its use of new raw materials. By 2050, the ambition is to be fully circular – relying only on used and recycled materials.

It is an ambitious target but definitely one to watch.


Looking for a new laptop?

We came across this review in the Guardian for what looks to be a relatively affordable new laptop.

The Framework Laptop 13 is fixable and upgradeable and installed with Windows 11.

According to the review “the new parts are compatible with older machines. The laptop is thin, light and made of recycled aluminium. It looks and feels premium.”

Its screen has a matt, rather than a gloss, finish, reducing glare and reflections.

“The fixable and upgradeable premium Framework Laptop 13 has been improved all round for 2023 and is packed with small changes that are backwards compatible with older models.”

It has modular ports allowing the user to swap between any combination of USB-4/Thunderbolt 4, USB-A, HDMI, DisplayPort, ethernet, microSD and expandable storage drives.

It also runs cooler and has a higher-capacity battery that stores 11% more energy in the same physical size.

The Framework Laptop 13 is available as a pre-built, ready-to-use machine or in a DIY edition.

According to the reviewer it is “an excellent, adaptable and upgradable marvel suitable for more than just PC enthusiasts.”


January saw a huge collection of security updates

Security patches were issued for patches for iOS, Chrome, Windows, Apple, Firefox and more.

Here’s a short summary but you can find out more on this in Wired here

Apple has released iOS 16.3 along with a new feature that allows you to use security keys as an extra layer of protection for your Apple ID.

Google Chrome has fixed 17 vulnerabilities in the browser and Google Android has posted a number of patches for Android devices in its Android Security Bulletin. It also has fixes for Pixel and Samsung Galaxy devices.

Microsoft has also issued 98 security patches and Software firm Mozilla has released important updates for its Firefox browser, the most serious of which have been the subject of a warning by the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

There are many more fixes and updates included in the article and for the sake of your business security it is worth doing  thorough review of whatever systems you use.


It is not bosses but in-demand staff who dictate employment conditions

Raj Choudhury, an economist from Harvard Business School, is quoted in a Wired article as arguing that the most sought-after job candidates who end up shaping what our jobs look like.

His most recent deduction is that staff now demand much greater flexibility than ever before.

That means employers will need to be open to the options of hybrid working, remote working and variants and will no longer be able to insist on staff being present in the office at all times if they want to retain them.

While working from home became the norm during the Covid pandemic, staff have noticed the benefits and the desire to continue in this way has therefore not gone away.

The article suggests that “established firms will be presented with the decision of whether to hang on to expensive real estate and slow-to-evolve managers, or to just dash to chase the new trend”.

For more on this:


Very Happy Christmas

..and if you are a small business or sole trader who hasn’t yet tried our support services, why not get in touch in the New Year.

Our tailored support packages will ensure all your IT needs are met and your equipment runs smoothly.

We always provide practical advice that utilises both existing technology and newer developments, so you can make informed decisions and all in plain English.

With a range of investment options from telephone and remote support included in a monthly package giving you a ‘virtual’ IT department, to Pay-as-you-go support for a one off problem or issue, you can be confident in having the right commercial option to give you peace of mind.

Hope to hear from you in the New Year.


Why is sustainability important to your business?

Obviously sustainability is important to the future of the planet but why is it equally important for businesses to demonstrate?

Sustainability in business refers to more than just the environment.  According to the Harvard business school it covers “: the effect a business has on the environment, and the effect a business has on society, with the goal of sustainable practice being to have a positive impact on at least one of those areas “.

The reason it is important for a business to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability is in essence about its ability to recruit.

There has been a good deal of publicity recently about the shortage of suitable candidates.

One of the most important criteria potential candidates are citing when they are looking at businesses and jobs, according to Adobe, is whether and how far the business prioritised sustainability.

Adobe has found that “almost a third of people said they would only work for an employer that prioritised sustainability” while 43% said it would positively impact on productivity.

Clearly if a business is to attract the best candidates, it needs to not simply promote itself as sustainable, it needs to demonstrate how it does this.