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This Week in Tech

Farming Robots and Horrid Hackers

Don't you just wish that someone would tell the AI developers and robotocists to stop messing with playing poker and farming: what is really needed is a robot that can mark / grade exam papers!

Poker Face

Needless to say, that may not happen in our lifetime but in the past week DeepStack has been revealed as the first robot / AI that can beat professional poker players. Why is this significant? Well, AI's that can beat people in games like Chess and Go and Checkers, etc. are all working in a situation where they know what the human players know (i.e. they can 'see' the position of all the pieces on the board). In poker, the human players get cards that the computer never gets to see. There is also the not so small matter of bluffing. So, to win at poker an AI has to deal with incomplete information and interpret a player's behaviour to decide if they are bluffing or not. The AI has to analyse the game, factor in the probabilities of the unknown data (which cards are in the pack, which cards does the opponent hold) and recall / analyse the opponent's behaviour to decide whether they are bluffing or not. This is some feat of computing. Original article in MyBroadband.co.za and full academic paper here.

Farming Robot


We (the over 7 Billion people on earth) are able to access food thanks to the astonishing developments in farming technology. BUT, the human population is growing at an alarming pace and farming will have to work to keep up with it. When it comes to feeding the animals that feed us, we need to find a way to efficiently generate the fodder that creates the meat that most people crave as part of their diet.

Most farmers end up resorting to dried foods (because they can be stored for longer) - what else can you do if you have thousands of cattle and not enough grass? BUT eating fresh green is far healthier for the animals and produces better quality meat. Growing sprouts is a solution, but it has not been put into practise because it is very labour intensive and therefore very expensive.

Enter the Fodderworks Automated Fodder System - a robot that grows cattle food indoors in trays, under lights using hydroponic technologies. The food produced is seed sprouts - typically barley, grown and harvested by a robot and capable of producing tons of fodder per day. According to the company the robot can produce a ton of fodder a day (the first batch takes six days but then the principles of the production line kick in and you get a ton a day) at the low cost of around 12 US cents perk Kg! The original article is here on Motherboard and for more in depth information on the company check out the Fodderworks site.

This is a great example of social implications of ICT in the agricultural sector - the good = feeding cattle and producing food. The bad = fewer jobs.

Horrid Hackers

Having real life examples of hacking and malware to talk about with your learners is the main reason why we keep on including hacking news in this blog. Here are some short tidbits from news revealed during the course of this week:

  • France announced that it blocked over 24 000 cyber attacks against its military last year (BBC).
  • FNB (yes, the South African bank) tells of its battle with hackers threatening DDoS attacks unless ransoms were paid (CSO Online).
  • Justice? Israeli firm Cellibrite (which provides tools for hacking mobile devices) itself got hacked with 900 Gb of data stolen (The Hacker News).
  • An indian call centre swindled 15 000 Americans - The New York Times has the story.

Hard drive costs in SA

MyBroadband did a little research on hard drive costs in SA. Good to keep yourself and your learners up-to-date.

Fake News Corner

In case you have a problem explaining the problems with and consequences of Fake News, The Daily Maverick has an article worth reading on the matter.

That's it for this week. Happy teaching!

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