Sunday, October 28, 2012

Google Now

Image representing Google Search as depicted i...
Image via CrunchBase
Google is never far behind.

Google's Answer to Siri Thinks Ahead
Google has ambitions to go well beyond what Siri has shown so far. ..... Google Now doesn't have a pretend personality like Apple's sassy assistant, instead just appearing as a familiar search box. But just like Siri, it can take voice commands ..... combines the constant stream of data a smartphone collects on its owner with clues about the person's life that Google can sift from Web searches and e-mails to guess what he or she would ask it for next. ..... Virtual index cards appear offering information it thinks you need to know at a particular time. ..... the intimacy of people's relationships with their smartphones makes Android one of the best places to take that to an extreme—by pulling together everything Google knows about the world, and you. ...... it uses every system that Google has built in the last 10 years. It touches almost every back-end system at Google .... increase in a person's tranquility ..... having the search engine come to you, rather than vice versa, can be uncanny. Thanks to Google Now, as I stroll around San Francisco, live bus times are offered to me whenever I pull my phone from my pocket at a bus stop ..... Google Now will show the status of a flight if an airline confirmation e-mail in my inbox shows I'll be taking it or if I did a Google Web search for a flight number from my work computer—providing I've logged into my Google account. ..... estimates of emotional state can be useful
Enhanced by Zemanta

China Churning

China is at a stage where it can no longer expect dramatic growth without some serious political reform.

China's ruling families: Torrent of scandal
Mr Xi needs to venture deep into political reform, including setting a timetable for the direct election of government leaders as Deng Xiaoping once suggested should be possible.
China’s new leadership: Vaunting the best, fearing the worst
The China he is preparing to rule is becoming cynical and anxious as growth slows and social and political stresses mount. ..... a quadrupling of China’s economy since he took over in 2002, he has reason to crow. In the same period China has grown from the world’s fifth-largest exporter to its biggest. ...... During the past ten years fees and taxes imposed on farmers, once a big cause of rural unrest, have been scrapped; government-subsidised health insurance has been rolled out in the countryside, so that 97% of farmers (up from 20% a decade ago) now have rudimentary cover; and a pension scheme, albeit with tiny benefits, has been rapidly extended to all rural residents. Tuition fees at government schools were abolished in 2007 in the countryside for children aged between six and 15, and in cities the following year (though complaints abound about other charges levied by schools). ....... huge government investment in affordable housing. A building spree launched in 2010 aims to produce 36m such units by 2015 at what China’s state-controlled media say could be a cost of more than $800 billion. ...... 95% of all Chinese now have at least some degree of health cover, up from less than 15% in 2000 ...... Its influence is now evident in places where it was hardly felt a decade ago, from African countries that supply it with minerals, to European ones that see China’s spending power and its mountain of foreign currency as bulwarks against their own economic ruin. It is even planning to land a man on the moon. ....... the rapid development of social media: services similar to Twitter and Facebook (both of which are blocked in China) that have achieved extraordinary penetration into the lives of Chinese of all social strata, especially the new middle class ...... The government tries strenuously to censor dissenting opinion online, but the digital media offer too many loopholes. ........ In September photographs circulated by microbloggers of a local bureaucrat smiling at the scene of a fatal traffic accident, and wearing expensive watches, led to his dismissal. ........ Many of the most widely circulated comments on microblogs share a common tone: one of profound mistrust of the party and its officials. Classified digests of online opinion are distributed among Chinese leaders. They pay close attention. ....... Even in the official media, articles occasionally appear describing the next ten years as unusually tough ones for China, economically and politically. ....... growing numbers of people losing hope and linking up with like-minded folk through the internet. It said these problems could, if mishandled, cause “a chain reaction that results in social turmoil or violent revolution”. ...... The next ten years, argued Mr Yuan, offered the “last chance” for economic reforms that could prevent China from sliding into a “middle-income trap” of fast growth followed by prolonged stagnation. ....... Leftists worry that the party will implode, like its counterparts in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, because it has embraced capitalism too wholeheartedly and forgotten its professed mission to serve the people. Rightists worry that China’s economic reforms have not gone nearly far enough and that political liberalisation is needed to prevent an explosion of public resentment. ...... Hu Xingdou of the Beijing Institute of Technology says it has become common among intellectuals to wonder whether 70 years is about the maximum a single party can remain in power, based on the records set by the Soviet Communist Party and Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party. China’s party will have done 70 years in 2019. ........ most agree that the heady double-digit days of much of the past ten years are over. ... His late father, some note, had liberal leanings. The Dalai Lama once gave a watch to the elder Mr Xi, who wore it long after the Tibetan leader had fled into exile. This has fuelled speculation that Xi Jinping might be conciliatory to Tibetans. Wishful thinking abounds
Xi Jinping: The man who must change China
Across the world, China is seen as second in status and influence only to America. ..... China is “unstable at the grass roots, dejected at the middle strata and out of control at the top”. ...... Complaints that would once have remained local are now debated nationwide. ...... Last week Qiushi , the party’s main theoretical journal, called on the government to “press ahead with restructuring of the political system”. ....... Mr Xi could start by giving a little more power to China’s people. Rural land, now collectively owned, should be privatised and given to the peasants; the judicial system should offer people an answer to their grievances; the household-registration, or hukou, system should be phased out to allow families of rural migrants access to properly funded health care and education in cities. At the same time, he should start to loosen the party’s grip. China’s cosseted state-owned banks should be exposed to the rigours of competition; financial markets should respond to economic signals, not official controls; a free press would be a vital ally in the battle against corruption. ...... in the 1980s no less a man than Deng spoke of China having a directly elected central leadership after 2050 ...... political reform would make the party answerable to the courts and, as the purest expression of this, free political prisoners. It would scrap party-membership requirements for official positions and abolish party committees in ministries. It would curb the power of the propaganda department to impose censorship and scrap the central military commission, which commits the People’s Liberation Army to defend the party, not just the country. ....... Independent candidates should be encouraged to stand for people’s congresses, the local parliaments that operate at all levels of government, and they should have the freedom to let voters know what they think. A timetable should also be set for directly electing government leaders, starting with townships in the countryside and districts in the cities, perhaps allowing five years for those experiments to settle in, before taking direct elections up to the county level in rural areas, then prefectures and later provinces, leading all the way to competitive elections for national leaders
Enhanced by Zemanta

African Hopes

Satellite image of Africa, showing the ecologi...
Satellite image of Africa, showing the ecological break that defines the sub-Saharan area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The coining BRIC - Brazil, Russia, India, China - did not have A for Africa in it. But Africa is on the march now. That is swell. This is not the Africa of unfair history, or false stereotypes. But Africa still has a lot of political homework to do. There is much cleaning up that remains.

Africa rising
Over the past decade six of the world's ten fastest-growing countries were African. In eight of the past ten years, Africa has grown faster than East Asia, including Japan. Even allowing for the knock-on effect of the northern hemisphere's slowdown, the IMF expects Africa to grow by 6% this year and nearly 6% in 2012, about the same as Asia...... With fertility rates crashing in Asia and Latin America, half of the increase in population over the next 40 years will be in Africa. But the growth also has a lot to do with the manufacturing and service economies that African countries are beginning to develop. ........... Most Africans live on less than two dollars a day. ... Some countries praised for their breakneck economic growth, such as Angola and Equatorial Guinea, are oil-sodden kleptocracies. Some that have begun to get economic development right, such as Rwanda and Ethiopia, have become politically noxious. Congo, now undergoing a shoddy election, still looks barely governable and hideously corrupt. Zimbabwe is a scar on the conscience of the rest of southern Africa. South Africa, which used to be a model for the continent, is tainted with corruption; and within the ruling African National Congress there is talk of nationalising land and mines ..... around 60m Africans have an income of $3,000 a year, and 100m will in 2015. The rate of foreign investment has soared around tenfold in the past decade. ...... China's arrival has improved Africa's infrastructure and boosted its manufacturing sector. Other non-Western countries, from Brazil and Turkey to Malaysia and India, are following its lead. Africa could break into the global market for light manufacturing and services such as call centres. ...... It has more than 600m mobile-phone users—more than America or Europe. ..... Around a tenth of Africa's land mass is covered by mobile-internet services—a higher proportion than in India. ..... productivity is growing by nearly 3% a year, compared with 2.3% in America. ..... Africa still needs deep reform.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leap Motion

Source: Leap Motion