📅 May 27 - June 02 | Getting back on track

It has been quiet around here for a while as I was travelling for a few days in Europe. Then, as soon as I got home, I contracted a nasty cold. It knocked me out for a good 10 days or so, and I’m only just getting back to normal. Not fun.

One of the things I enjoy as an independent consultant is that I get to work on some new and interesting projects. Sometimes, those projects are a little outside of my core competencies, but that’s what makes them fun. I’ve recently finished a market research/opportunity study for a small client in the textile industry. The business is struggling a little and hasn’t embarked on any modernisation since it was founded a couple of generations ago. It has been ticking along successfully up until now. Times are changing and it is evident that businesses that don’t modernise are going to find the going more and more difficult.

Last Thursday evening I was invited to participate in a round table discussion during the annual general meeting. The subject was, of course, artificial intelligence. With three of us, a lawyer, a data scientist, and me, a generalist, the discussion was interesting and, I think, useful to the members of the association concerned. It was a private meeting, so I’m not at liberty to detail anything other than to say that it is clear that small businesses are having a hard time understanding what AI may or may not bring them.

I tried to clarify a little of that, but the time allowed was short, and we weren’t able to get deep into the weeds. Perhaps another session is on the cards.


I like cross-Atlantic travel as it gives me time to read books. The out journey is difficult, as it is usually overnight, so I can’t disturb too many people in the cabin with a light (I sleep poorly, if at all, on the plane). I tend to listen to a lot of music or podcasts during this time. I should perhaps try audiobooks, but I can’t get on with them in normal circumstances, so I doubt I’d like them on the plane. The return journey, however, is during the day and more conducive to lecture. I finished one book I had just started and then proceeded to finish a second book during the nine-hour flight.

I finished Machine Readable Me by Zara Rahman. A very interesting short book on the impact of our data-obsessed society and where it can lead to serious issues, particularly with those least privileged in society.

The other book was about ADHD. I’ve been diagnosed recently, despite my knowing for the last thirty years or so. This book was a whim purchase and contained some interesting information and articulated reasonably well the difficulties of this condition, despite the overly North American tone, which is a little too much for me. It’s worth a read if you have, or you know, someone who has ADHD.

I’ve been discussing for a number of months the rather egregious deployment of video surveillance for the Olympics in Paris this year, particularly the use of AI to biometrically identify people. Well, it goes further than that, and I’m not comfortable with that. This article (in German—use the translate page feature of your browser) explains what’s happening, and it is not pretty.1

Meredith Whittaker, CEO of Signal, recently gave a speech at an award acceptance event. Regardless of your position on the use of cryptography, the speech is worth your time.2

Lastly, this article exposes the limitations of current generation genAI systems. It delves (🤭) into the use of words and how the (over) use of some is a telltale sign of genAI.3

That feels better, to have sat down and written some thoughts.

Have a great week.

  1. https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/paris-olympia-2024-ki-sicherheit-100.html ↩︎

  2. https://www.helmut-schmidt.de/aktuelles/detail/die-rede-der-zukunftspreistraegerin ↩︎

  3. https://levelup.gitconnected.com/detect-ai-text-by-just-looking-at-it-24604008027c ↩︎

Matthew Cowen @matthewcowen