Fox Bytes 15 – The uh-oh issue

The deadly game

There’s been a nasty spike in measles in Europe. This shouldn’t be the case; there’s a safe and highly effective measles vaccine. So why is this happening? The overall effectiveness of any vaccine relies on ‘herd immunisation’. If sufficient numbers of a community are immunised, it prevents a disease taking hold in that community. Then it can’t strike those unable to be immunised, such as small children or those too ill to receive vaccines. This is why vaccination is known as a ‘positive-sum’ game - a conscious collaboration where the net outcome for everyone is positive: a

Fox Bytes 14 – the not-what-it-seems issue

When grassroots don’t run deep

The ‘will of the people’ carries power in politics, and grassroots activism is its ‘voice'. But what if the ‘grass’ in question is artificial? Then the ‘voice’ is known as ‘astroturfing’, and you have to be smart to spot it. Astroturfing is the action by persons or organisations to create the impression that a certain product, policy or individual enjoys widespread grassroots support, invariably where no such support actually exists. It can be limited to a single fake online identity with a name suggesting they represent, say, ‘concerned citizens’, and speak on behalf of ‘many’ people (

Fox Bytes 13 – the wild idea issue

Sometimes Mother does know best

Exciting leaps in technology can be possible by imitating evolution in the wild. It’s called biomimicry. Let’s take potential developments in cellphone technology as an example. And insects. Researchers in the US have developed a renewable and biodegradable ‘biobattery’ that mimics the way some insects store glycogen as energy. It could provide 10 times as much energy as a standard cellphone battery. Water is a cellphone’s greatest enemy. Butterflies have specially-textured wings that repel water. So, engineers in Ohio State University have used nanotechnology to recreate the surface of a butterfly wing. The result

Fox Bytes 12 – the dangerously hot issue

The Game: The Arctic is in flames

This year’s northern hemisphere summer has broken records, and the outcome has been deadly. The most visible effect of the scorching heat and unnaturally dry conditions has been the wildfires. Normally this time of the year, TV news carries ongoing coverage of wildfires in California. This year has been slightly different. Coverage has included reports of numerous wildfires in Sweden, Finland and Norway. Whilst fires do occur in these countries, this year it was the sheer number and scale of the fires that made them newsworthy. At

Fox Bytes 11 – the weapons issue

The Game: Strait shooters

If oil is the lifeblood of the Middle East, the Strait of Hormuz is a tourniquet. It is a 3km stretch of water between Iran and the UAE through which most of the Middle East’s sea-transported oil travels every day.  This past week, Iran’s rather tetchy Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) made the Strait their ‘hood, launching a major naval exercise there. IRGC naval exercises in the Strait are nothing new, but they are normally held much later in the year, following a clear announcement beforehand.  As an unwritten rule of the game, other countries bring their navies to

The end of us: A Generation Z scenario

Could humanity end with Generation Z?

One of the first things that we teach pupils on our Growing Foxes programme at schools is that to look forward into the future, you must first look back into the past. You must trace your destiny line from the beginning to the present in order to provide a context for judgements about the future. An old Irish saying agrees with this approach: if you want to find out how to get from A to B, you must first discover where A is. So our opening question to pupils on the course is to consider the three greatest drivers for change that they

Fox Bytes 10 – th€ mon€¥ talk$ i$$u€

The Game: Gas frenemies

Within the portfolio of fossil fuels, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is the least contentious form, so there’s a soaring demand for it.  That’s good for Egypt and its former foe, Israel. Earlier this year, Egypt agreed to buy gas from Israel. It made sense because Egypt has liquefaction facilities, Israel does not.  It was also contentious, given their decades of bitter rivalry; not to mention, Egypt has its own reserves of gas. But it was a smart move.  Egypt wants to become a Mediterranean “gas hub”. For that to happen it not only needs to produce, consume, and export gas,

Fox Bytes 9 – the blood and guts issue

The Game: Start up, knocked down

Investment in digital technology is a dangerous game; it is littered with the corpses of startups that stumbled into the ‘kill zone’. For venture capitalists (VCs) who provide the seed funding for high-risk startup tech companies, taking risks is in their blood. The rewards when a startup strikes big are worth it; think Uber and Airbnb. But even seasoned VCs are wary of anything that may be a threat or an opportunity for tech’s dominant players. Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google, collectively called FAANGs, have both the muscle and mindset to crush or absorb any startup with an

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