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Sometimes Lateral Thinking Can Solve Tricky Technology Problems, Or Not

Everybody likes to be proved right and on the ball. MBF Blogs are no exception. A little pat on the back at the same time as updating some stuff.

A number of issues flagged up on MBF Blogs have hit recent news bulletins and are worth summarising now,

Illegal Drub Websites

In  Extreme Shopping Is Not the Eccentric Fun It Sounds, (21 August 2012) we said that ‘extreme shopping’ was the term for the illicit trade in drugs on the web. We reported how easily available dangerous drugs are being offered for sale in a brazen and unpleasant manner.

Early October, it was reported that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have closed almost 400 domain names with another 120 about to be closed in Britain.

As a result of international investigations, they had seized £6.5m of unlicensed and counterfeit drugs, arrested eighty around the world including two in Britain. It is a laudable success and the reassuring beginning of a fightback against fraudsters.

Now helping target spam emails flogging drugs, the new enforcers are proving that it is possible to beat the internet criminals and pirates. Long may they go on.

Oddballs, Eccentrics and the Different

Director of the government’s listening centre at Cheltenham, GCHQ, Iain Lobban, has stated that the security services should recruit ‘more eccentrics and people who are socially awkward’.

He suggested managers combatting cyber-terrorism should take a leap of faith and ‘make space for the unique and different contribution that each person makes’. It is good advice and if it brings in more talented, fast-thinking people to strengthen the UK’s ability to win in cyber-warfare, brilliant.

His comments, chiming with our piece Good at Codes? Want a Job? Try GCHQ! (5 December 2011) came during a speech to mark the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing in October 2012.

Turing, the wartime code breaker, logician and mathematician is widely regarded as the father of artificial intelligence, was convicted of gross indecency (he was homosexual) in 1952, volunteered for chemical castration (female hormone injections) but committed suicide by potassium cyanide two years later.

It was his idea to create a machine to turn thought processes into numbers. That was a key turning point in computers evolving. His unique thought was to build something that would read a series of ones and zeros from a tape, in order to reveal the steps necessary to solve a problem or task. His deciphering encrypted German communications was the first step towards a digital computer. After the war he posed the possibility of artificial intelligence.

We wrote how he was to feature on  stamp in the series 10 Britons of Distinction in Belated Stamp of Approval, 24 January 2012.

For a speech in his honour to call for more oddballs and unusuals to work on the frontiers of computer technology, is entirely appropriate and if you think you qualify, for goodness sake step forward and help us all out.

iPlods Are New Secret Weapon

Still with GCHQ, and by way of updating a story we ran in September 2011 it now emerges that the intelligence agency are planning to appoint several hundred computer experts to work part time at the Cheltenham listening facility. The news is not yet official, but is receiving wide circulation in the security media.

This is the latest sally in the campaign against growing cyber crime and will allow them to tap into the best private sector skills, without expecting experts to give up other work for invariably higher salaries.

More and more people in business and on their own accounts, are becoming alarmed at cyber crime advances, and the sheer difficulty and costs of trying to keep at least one step ahead of the villains. Policing the internet is another aspect to the work that now has to go on.

If a part time army of cyber warriors, or iPlods as they are being styled, helps the cause, then they’re worth a try.

Shed a Tear for the Banker

Finally, in April 2012, we carried a blog about the forthcoming demise of the middleman and middlewoman  as technology enabled people to make own films, publish own books, arrange own loans and in fact, gradually kill off anybody who acts as an agent between manufacturer and customer.

The process has the clumsy name, ‘disintermediation’, doing away with the intermediary. In October, several news sources noted that people are increasingly looking after their own money as they trust bankers so little.

80% of people questioned said they doubted the integrity and honesty of financial institutions. More people are now arranging business loans through peer-funding/crowdfunding and crowd-sourcing sites on the web. More people entering into annuities, pensions, insurance, mortgages, business deals, buying/selling do it automatically on the web, themselves.

Large companies are finding it easier to raise funding themselves directly on the money markets, rather than rely on the banks. Investors are also preferring to be in direct contact with companies by web and other contemporary ways. Why bother with an extra layer of handling to increase costs?

As more people go for DIY, the question can only be: how long can the bankers, agents and middle people survive?

Remember, we asked that question here first on MBF Blogs.

Image: Pete Stewart