A good break

Technology reminds us that sometimes rules are made to be broken.

The recent appearance of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg before the European Parliament reminds us of the company’s founding motto: “Move fast and break things”. It has since become something of a mantra for tech entrepreneurs who believe disruption is key to innovation. Normally, innovation within an industry is incremental; and that industry evolves accordingly. Disruption, on the other hand, unsettles that industry by replacing a defining characteristic with something completely new and more efficient. So, it is both creative and destructive. In a way, disruption is evolution through revolution. The ride-hailing apps Uber, Lyft and Didi

“Not my job”

Sometimes working together is not the right option.

It’s probably fair to say most people don’t like being put on the spot. It demands a prompt awareness of a situation with limited intelligence at hand, being able to synthesise that quickly whilst analysing all the available options, and then displaying confident decision-making. Whereas foxes think like that all the time, because they have to, non-foxes are more comfortable with certainty. It’s why most people put on the spot will simply wing it, hoping no-one will catch them out. But what if winging it could have disastrous consequences for their career? They’d need another option, one that

Noisy wheel

If politics is bare-knuckle boxing, South Africa has a heavyweight champion.

In the game of politics, those fighting for an advantage see anonymity as an enemy - it suggests inactivity or indifference to the needs of the populace. This is especially the case for any leader - they need to be seen to be considered in command. In South Africa, few politicians know this better than Julius Malema, disruptive leader of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters. It’s fair to say that outside the president, no other politician is a more prominent player in the news. There are reasons for that. Firstly, he is interesting. While

Plug it in, baby!

A corner has been turned in both the transportation and energy games.

Glance back over the history of science fiction and you will find a recurring dream many writers had for the future: flying cars. While vessels packed with people speeding overhead is still an illusion - and that’s probably a good thing - another dream for the daily commute is very real: electric vehicles. And they’ve just turned an important corner, thanks to a large degree by the Chinese dislike for face masks. Pollution is a major problem in Chinese cities, and without the trifles of democratic bureaucracy, the government’s answer has been both swift

AI, Robot?

Robots won’t take over the world while their brains still sit in a box.

At Google’s annual developer conference earlier this month, crowds gasped in awe at an audio recording of someone booking a hair appointment. Now, nerds may make good foxes but they’re hardly slaves to fashion; so why the OMG! with a phone call? The caller was a computer. The demonstration was the unveiling of Google’s latest development in digital assistants - Duplex. An extension to the Google Assistant smartphone app, Duplex provides the app with the ability to call, say, a restaurant, salon, or vehicle repair centre,

Oh, Jerusalem

When a move is more than a move.

Embassies are funny things. Firstly, technically-speaking, they’re not buildings, they’re people. An ‘embassy’ is a permanent official diplomatic delegation, not the building in which they operate. Secondly, the size and seniority of an embassy reflect the importance it places on a foreign country. Thirdly, where an embassy is based speaks volumes. That’s why they’re invariably based in a foreign country’s capital. Tel Aviv is Israel’s capital, although Jerusalem is the spiritual home to the Jewish nation. However, the eastern part of Jerusalem is also home to sites sacred to Christians and Muslims. Read More

Say, “Jeez!”

A smiling politician is a sign something ill is probably afoot.

Alright, we’ll come clean: the image above isn’t real. It’s the iconic work of activist artists Peter Kennard and Cat Phillipps, best known for creating photo-art in response to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But it points to a key move popular with politicians, celebrities, and, it must be said, activists: the photo op (short for photo opportunity), usually carefully crafted to send a specific message. In political days gone by, messages were simple, as were the photo ops. Message: that a politician identified with voters (photo op: eating simple food in a cafe),

The angry hornet

The Middle East is a hornets’ nest, and Trump just hit it with a big stick.

There are few parts of the world more worked-up than the Middle East; it bristles with centuries-old cultural and religious quarrels that have scarred the region with endless wars. It will not find peace in the near future. But there are ways to calm things down, such as negotiating with the major players. The diplomatic logic is this: treat a player as an outcast and it will act as such. Iran is such a player. For three years, and until last week, the international community had been enjoying a

An inconvenient wipe

Environmental awareness pitches concern against convenience.

The truth about being environmentally aware is that it is inconvenient; how much so depends on those expressing concern. Tying yourself to a tree to stop deforestation is highly inconvenient, firing off a tweet in support of those hugging the trees less so. But there’s always a trade-off. Smartphones are packed with rare earth metals. These don’t grow on trees. They’re buried deep underground, and the ore is often laced with radioactive materials. That’s pretty nasty stuff. Separating the metal from the ore requires huge amounts of carcinogenic toxins including sulphates, ammonia and hydrochloric acid. It’s estimated that processing one

Sucking up the sun

Quietly getting on with the job is a great way to play the energy game.

Although you probably don’t know Ouarzazate, you may recognise parts of it. The Moroccan city is a popular film location that’s hosted crews from film and TV blockbusters such as Gladiator and Game of Thrones. There may not be any real fire-breathing dragons over Ouarzazate, but the blazing sun does turn up the heat a notch or two. And that’s a good thing. Morocco is a shining example of an African country focused on renewable energy, especially solar. This month the country will commission two