Category Archives: technology

Finding the energy

Why is the world’s wealth distributed as it is?

At the end of the last post, looking at Gapminder, we took note that the rich countries of the world could be divided up into roughly four groups. There are the states of western Europe; a few former English colonies, most notably the US; the oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf; and finally the highly-industrialised countries of east Asia.

How did it come to be that way? Well, how long has it been that way? Continue reading


What’s in a Turing test?

The Turing test is one of those snippets of technological folklore that, every so often, triggers a flurry of media excitement. Wild claims are made, dubious headlines are run up the flagpole, much fun is had by all.

Partly, no doubt, because it’s beautifully simple to explain. The idea was articulated by British cryptographer Alan Turing, back in 1950. Turing posed the simple question: could a machine think? Being a no-nonsense chap with a distaste for definitional wrangling, he illustrated his question with an objective test. Take one human judge. Have the judge communicate with two subjects. One is a regular-issue human being, the other is a machine. The trick is, the judge doesn’t know which is which. The subjects are in a physically separate location to the judge, and can only communicate via text message. The judge’s job is to detect the human, by posing any questions they see fit. Continue reading