Comparing a huge multinational tech company with a small UK firm producing digital maps is like comparing apples and pears, says Zygote – unless you happen to be a corporate lawyer
The UK is lagging behind the rest of world, says Zygote, especially when it comes to government IT systems, drone technology and hardcore porn at railway stations
An apple is different from a pear. Linguistically, apple-pie order means things are fine, but ‘it’s all gone pear-shaped’ means the opposite. According to medics, to be apple-shaped refers to a rounded abdominal configuration, whereas to be pear-shaped indicates a narrower waist and broader hips. They are different.
Well, they’re different unless you’re a trademark lawyer representing Apple Corporation against Pear Technology. Pear is a UK company producing digital maps for healthy outdoor types such as farmers, foresters and grave diggers, whereas Apple isn’t. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the latter’s lawyers. The corporate Pear logo consists of a whole pear with no bite out of it, topped by a stalk not a leaf, and with the company name below, whereas the corporate Apple logo doesn’t consist of any of these elements. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the lawyers, either.
Even when Pear Technology changed its logo from a pear to a series of stylised blobs and rectangles, Apple’s legal mob was still not satisfied. In a ruling by a judge that can only be described as bananas, Apple has won a breach of copyright case in which its lawyers asserted that the Pear logo is an infringement of the Apple logo because it’s ‘a rounded silhouette of a fruit’. For once, Zygote is speechless.
Beverley Swaim-Staley represents the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation of Washington DC, and she reckoned it would be a great idea to install a load of touchy-feely guides all over the station concourse. She thought it would be even better to make the screens as big as possible and place them at eye level.
Much to her surprise, rail passengers got a bit hot and bothered during the evening rush hour when her screens bombarded them with extremely touchy-feely images courtesy of the PornHub network. Ms Swaim-Staley claimed the system had been hacked, but Zygote wonders if the current trend of blaming hackers for everything is just a convenient way of masking traditional cock-ups.
Corey Price is vice-president of PornHub, which currently has 75 million members, and reckons that “the perpetrator of this incident was an avid fan perusing our content, who unfortunately mishandled the technology at Union Station. We do hope it provided some relief in the midst of a hellacious commute home.”
Zygote has no comment to make on which of these versions of what happened is true, but welcomes the use of the word ‘hellacious’, which has been rarely used since first appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1929. The word ‘porn’, by contrast, first appeared in 1535.
The Indian government has issued definitive IT directives that will affect all of the nation’s 1.3 billion citizens from now until the year 2025. Three million more IT jobs will be created in India, on top of the four million that exist already. Biometric authentication is now mandatory, with facial recognition, iris scans or fingerprint sensors all acceptable.
All computer systems involving public employees are to be open source and free of charge, and able to share data between all government departments. If a government department wishes to use a paid-for proprietary platform, they need to prove an opensource platform can’t do the same job, and they also need to fight for any additional funding.
In contrast, Zygote is fed up writing about the swathe of UK government departments still using out-of-date and insecure proprietary platforms such as Windows XP, and even more fed up with the massive amounts of taxpayers’ money needed to patch and mend them when they inevitably fail.
Researchers at New York University have developed artificial intelligence software ‘to fight against the algorithmic enforcement of norms’. Translated into plain English, that means they want to produce automated text systems to combat the sort of cultural and gender bias produced by software trained on boring sources such as Wikipedia, where the text is sanitised and uncontroversial.
This is why the PhD students decided to go to a less boring source of text, and scan in the collected works of Dr Chuck Tingle, who has a cult following in what can best be described as niche literary circles. Initial results have been spectacularly successful, and there’s not a trace of cultural or gender norms. The computer output consists of reams of explicit sexual activity involving the rectal penetration of unicorns and dinosaurs during the Brexit process from an evangelical perspective.
It’s taken almost a year for the Federal Aviation Authority to clear the first test flight of a prototype Amazon delivery drone, but the approval is already out of date. It’s out of date because Amazon has built a new generation of bigger drones, capable of a 10-mile radius and a payload of 25kg.
But compare that with what’s happening in China, where the Jingdong network satisfies 235 million regular customers using delivery drones over a 300-mile radius. The maximum payload of these drones? One ton.
Meanwhile, here in the UK our technical prowess must be giving the Chinese sleepless nights. A successful delivery has been made from the Prime Air fulfilment centre in Cambridge to a customer a mile away. The payload? A bag of popcorn.