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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!

Rio scales up Cybercrime for Olympics

If your learners need proof that Cybercrime is an industry - and an increasing threat to the general public - CSOOnline.com has an article on how malicious URLs (fake web sites for phishing, hacking, etc) have grown by 83% in preparation for the Olympics that start today. The New York Post has a more detailed article on the topic. A general prediction is that attempts to breach the cyber security of the event itself will be four times greater than the 165 million attacks recorded during the 2012 Olympics in London. Tripwire.com has some common sense tips to avoid being scammed / hacked whilst visiting the Olympics.

This might be a great opportunity for a task on Cybercrime for your class - a lot of information is available and you can easily break them up into groups and get them to do things such as:

  • Create an informative glossary of cyber crime terms for Olympic spectators
  • Create a few plausible phishing sites and a guide on how to identify them
  • Write an expose on how prevalent Cybercrime is in Brazil and how poorly it is policed
  • Write a short story entering on an Olympic spectator's experience with cybercrime
  • Create posters that could be put up to warn users of the dangers of free wifi
  • Make a short informative video / animation warning people about what to look out for on the streets of Rio

Phones, Security, Fingerprints and 3D Printers

Earlier this year we saw the whole drama about the FBI trying to force Apple to unlock a phone used by a terrorist. Now police in Michigan needed to unlock the phone of a murder victim to search for clues to the identity of the murderer. They managed to make a 3D scan of the victim's fingerprints and then create a 3D print of the fingerprints good enough to unlock his Samsung Galaxy S6 phone. Read about it here at qz.com.

Australia is changing its longitude and latitude

We all know the earth moves. That's why there are earthquakes. Well, tectonic shifts mean that Australia moves around 7 cm per year. Overall Australia has moved around 1.5m since 1994. That's a problem - for GPS and self driving vehicles. An error of 1.5m is large when you are trying to keep a car on the road.Officially changing the longitude and latitude fixes this problem. It is also a problem for some even more commonly used self-driving tech: farm equipment! Check out this article at CNet for some insight into tech and farming. There's a great video showcasing some of the tech built into John Deere farm equipment that should awe your learners too!

An illustration of Global Warming in action

If you have been paying attention to the news you will know that the world has just completed a streak of 14 months of record average temperatures - a streak that shows no sign of stopping in the near future. This article from the Washington Post contains some animated graphs worth looking at (and showing to your learners).

That's all for this week. Happy teaching!

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