Weekend news roundup

4 Jan 2011

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

The next 20 years

From the web to wildlife, the economy to nanotechnology, politics to sport, The Observer’s team of experts prophesised how the world will change – for good or bad – in the next quarter of a century.

Not only do they predict that a miracle vaccine could rid the world of AIDS, but by 2030, we are likely to have developed no-frills brain-machine interfaces, allowing the paralysed to dance in their thought-controlled exoskeleton suits, Russia will become a global food superpower and how games and virtual worlds are going to become more closely connected to reality.

Engineers have the answer

If you’re looking for a possible solution to the unemployment crisis, consult an engineer, says the Sunday Tribune.

When discussing strategies for tackling the jobs crisis, policymakers often focus exclusively on the headline figures. With the latest CSO figures showing 293,000 unemployed people out of a workforce of only 2.1 million, that is understandable. However, it would help to look beyond the numbers. Not enough has been made of the fact that several thousand of the unemployed are highly experienced, qualified people such as architects, solicitors and accountants. Perhaps one of the key considerations for policymakers should be how we think strategically about effective deployment of this human capital?

Let’s consider engineers, several thousand of whom have lost their jobs over the past three years. Between 2000 and 2009 an average of 8,697 CAO applicants accepted third-level engineering courses so they constitute a large number of our labour force. The CAO points required to study engineering range from 420 to 550; it is clear that these are some of the more academically gifted people in Ireland.

Engineers become experts at problem-solving, which is undoubtedly the reason why so many of the world’s top CEOs come from an engineering background – 22pc, according to research by Spencer Stuart. So what’s the strategy?

What won’t happen in 2011

The London Independent carried an interesting story on the tech predictions that won’t be fulfilled in 2011. If you listen to the hype you probably have heard that 2011 is set to be the year when location-based advertising will take over our phones, consumers will rush to buy electric cars (which may or may not be capable of driving themselves), and shoppers will swap their wallets for Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled smartphones.

Trend forecaster ABI Research has set about debunking these much-hyped technology trends for 2011, painting a much more realistic view of technology in the year to come. Released on December 17, ABI Research’s report on “What’s NOT Going to Happen in 2011” pinpoints many of the technology developments that are unlikely to take place in 2011.

2011 has been tipped to be both the year of mobile marketing and Location-based Advertising (LBA) by trend watchers around the globe but ABI says this technology is not “a one-year wonder.”
It “will still represent a small portion of the bigger pie when compared to online and traditional advertising for quite some time. The volume of spending will only be a fraction of the total, even in five years.”

Rising fury over shoot-to-kill Cold War game

The Independent also reported on a computer game that casts players as guards who can shoot and kill people trying to flee across the former heavily fortified border between East and West Germany and the Berlin Wall has attracted a huge following and caused the internet server offering online versions to partially collapse.

The controversial game – called 1378km after the length of the former border between the two countries – went online just before Christmas and led to a death threat to be sent to its inventor as well as provoking furious complaints from victims of the former Communist regime .

Germany’s mass circulation Bild newspaper described it as “revolting”, yet within an hour of its internet launch, the game’s online server crashed because it was unable to cope with sheer volume of people trying to download a free version. Jens Stober, 24, its Karslruhe University student inventor, maintains that his creation is an educational tool designed for young people with little or no memory of the Berlin Wall . “I deliberately included a shoot-to-kill element,” he said insisting that border guards were the “foundation of the game”. He reminded his detractors: “In this game, if you shoot you lose.”

The game is set in 1976 when both the Berlin Wall and the heavily fortified inner German border were manned by Kalashnikov-toting border guards with orders to shoot would be escapers to the West on sight.

Spending at the speed of light

The New York Times revealed that a substantial  part of all stock trading in the United States takes place in a warehouse in a nondescript business park just off the New Jersey Turnpike.

Few humans are present in this vast technological sanctum, known as New York Four. Instead, the building, nearly the size of three football fields, is filled with long avenues of computer servers illuminated by energy-efficient blue phosphorescent light.

Countless metal cages contain racks of computers that perform all kinds of trades for Wall Street banks, hedge funds, brokerage firms and other institutions. And within just one of these cages — a tight space measuring 40 feet by 45 feet and festooned with blue and white wires — is an array of servers that together form the mechanized heart of one of the top four stock exchanges in the United States.

The exchange is called Direct Edge, hardly a household name. But as the lights pulse on its servers, you can almost see the holdings in your 401(k) zip by.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years