Tag: royal society

Mobile internet to surpass desktop web use in four years

Within four years the number of people using mobile internet will be higher than those accessing the web through desktops.

The prediction comes from former advisor to Barack Obama, Professor Manuel Castells.

According to The Guardian, Professor Castells told attendees at a web science conference this week that the number of mobile web users would surpass the number of people accessing the internet on desktop computers by 2014.

Speaking at the Web Science: A New Frontier event at the Royal Society in London, he added that the internet was a “key technology of freedom” for those able to access it.

Castells, an adviser to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and, according to his biog on the Royal Society, a former member of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Information Technology and Global Development, predicted the world would achieve “quasi-universal coverage of internet access as my generation fades away”. 

He added that “the deepest social transformation of the internet came in the last decade with social networks”. He described social networks as “living spaces” and forecast that we had only seen the “tip of the iceberg” when it came to the number of social network users around the globe. 

He told the conference: “Increasing sociability, increasing happiness, an increasing feeling of being autonomous – all this relates to use of internet. The most important thing in this is that it’s not anonymous – this is real people doing real things, sharing things. They’re not just friends, they’re contacts also. They’re doing things together, they’re not just chatting.

“Social networks are living spaces. People share with limited emotional effort. This is a constantly networked world that evolves with human experience, and individuals choose the terms of their co-evolution. Entrepreneurs build these sites, not corporations. The important thing is that even if people go into these sites, they can’t do whatever they want. People will create another and take all their friends with them. The entry barriers are so low, the capital [outlay is] almost nothing, and [the barriers to entry are] so diffused.”

Castells said it was unlikely that Obama could have been elected if it hadn’t been for the internet. The campaign used sites like Facebook – where Obama had more than two million supporters – and YouTube to try to connect with voters.

Tim Hodkinson, head of mobility marketing in BT Global Services, agreed with Castells’ prediction, saying: “Castells is spot on, mobility is an unstoppable trend and we see this in the business and public sector worlds too.”

In a statement, Hodkinson told TechEye: “Just as social networking and mobility are transforming society and politics, they’re also transforming the way we work. 

“We use mobility and social networking extensively inside BT and we’re also helping our customers mobilise their people, workplaces and processes.

`’BT has developed a comprehensive set of mobility solutions to address the specific needs of corporate and public sector organisations in the UK and abroad. We call our approach ‘Work Anywhere’ and it embraces mobile voice and data (often bundled with traditional telecoms services), expense management to help them control the spiralling bills they’re getting from all of their mobile users using smartphones and tablets at work, flexible working, mobile security and mobile business applications.”

He said mobile internet helped companies increase productivity, offer a better work-life balance and have happier customers.






British boffins warn science spending cuts mean "game over"

Some of Britain’s most influential boffins have warned the government that 20 percent cuts to science funding would mean “game over”.

The Royal Society has laid its cards on the table in its submission to the Treasury over the potential funding cuts to the sector, the New Scientist reports.

In the submission it outlined three scenarios: Constant cash with a reduction in real terms, which “could be accommodated”, a 10 percent “slash and burn” option which would have “serious consequences” and the 20 percent cuts option – translating as “game over”. The Royal Society’s president Martin Rees said this third option would cause irreversible destruction and be “very tragic”.

Speaking today, Rees warned that, as other countries invested in research, the UK risked becoming a less attractive option to mobile talent and young people.

Just to ram the point home at today’s talk, held at the Royal Institution and part of an event organised by the Campaign for Science and Engineering and the Science Media Centre, Rees shared the stage with five prominent university vice chancellors who also warned of the serious ramifications of the proposed cuts.

These included respected figures such as Simon Gaskell of Queen Mary, University of London, who said the move threatened to harm the UK’s pool of natural talent. Meanwhile, Andy Haines of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine pointed out that health research would suffer, especially as other countries such as the US and China were actually investing more in research and development.

Academics also told the New Scientist that they were worried that the government didn’t seem to be able to grasp the long-term nature of scientific research – and that the idea of cutting funding was out of step with other major economies.

The comments followed a warning yesterday from the head honcho on the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee that the UK faced a “brain drain” if proposed funding cuts were to go ahead. In a letter to the science minister David Willetts, Lord Krebs said scientists were likely to head overseas for more attractive positions and pay.

All we can do now is wait until the Government’s 2010 Spending Review – due next month – to find out how deep the cuts will be. But all government departments have been told to prepare for cuts of at least 25 percent in their budgets.

Sadly, this belt tightening threatens one of the things Britain currently does well. We can punch above our weight when it comes to science and research and this translates as positive news for the economy. 

Start slashing the funding and we risk no longer being able to attract or keep the best brains in the business.

Why ditch investment in something we’re actually good at.

Science spending should be increased, say top science people

Science! Isn’t it great? It, like, totally tells us how everything works and stuff. Wow. And the really great thing about Science? It’s something everyone can agree is freaking cool and groovy and that, like, everybody else should totally give all their money towards it…

But now science is being hailed as more than, “Hey you guys, come look at these cool cells / chips / gases / explosions…” – science can save the UK economy too. But only if we give it more money than the other countries in the science ‘premier league.’

A report called The Scientific Century: Securing Our Future Prosperity from the Royal Society published today warns that the UK’s current advantage in science could be wiped out if other countries overtake it in their science spends. The upshot is that spending on scientific research will save us all from a rubbish economic situation.

The report has particular clout because its advisory group is drawn from the science A-list. So this is sort of like if all the people at the Oscars wrote a report together and it told everyone to give them more money.

Science-y power players like Nobel laureates Paul Nurse and Martin Evans, Wendy Hall, Richard Friend of various top global universities and David Roblin from Pfizer were all involved.

“The UK has been in the top two of the scientific premier league for the last 350 years. It would seem obvious that politicians would recognise the need to invest in this competitive advantage rather than cutting funds,” said Martin Taylor of Manchester University, chair of the report’s advisory group.

This morning on BBC Radio Four the former science minister Lord Sainsbury and former Conservative cabinet minister, Lord Waldegrave, fell over themselves to agree that scientific spending should be a top order for the government, or for the next one after the election.

Sainsbury warned us all that the “British brain gain could turn into a brain drain.” If science isn’t on the agenda for the UK’s economic growth strategy “it is rather meaningless,” he said.

“Investment in science cannot be turned on and off on a political whim – we must have a long-term investment,” added Waldegrave. “If we cut science now, just as the benefits of nearly twenty years of consistent policy are really beginning to bear fruit, we will seriously damage our economic prospects.”

The Campaign for Science and Engineering suggests that the science spend could become another issue for the election, with all three major parties likely to pledge more money to research.

Last year it was announced that a $21-billion boost would be given for science in the US. There have also been recent claims from American scientists that they will steal the UK’s finest minds if UK investment slips, as reported in New Scientist magazine.

France has also pledged €35 billion to its own ‘knowledge industry,’ Germany is increasing its federal budget for education and research by €12 billion by 2013 and the Chinese have increased investments in science by 20 percent year-on-year in the last decade.

Patents granted to UK universities have increased by 136 percent between 2000 and 2008, while university spin-outs employed 14,000 people in 2007/08 and had a turnover of £1.1 billion. Britain’s public spending on science has doubled in real terms over the past 10 years to more than £6 billion.

Aliens will have our worst traits claims Boffin

A top boffin has warned that aliens visiting earth will have all the same personality flaws that humans suffer.

Simon Conway Morris, professor of evolutionary paleobiology at Cambridge University,  told the Royal Society that ET is less likely to want to phone home than call his broker to work out a way to shaft the earth for its resources.

He said extra-terrestrials are likely to possess human foibles such as greed, violence and a tendency to exploit others’ resources, and are likely to show up to try and buy Manhattan with a chest of iPhones.

He said that Governments should prepare for the worst if aliens visit Earth because beings from outer space are likely to be just like humans.

While aliens could come in peace they are quite as likely to be searching for somewhere to live, and to help themselves to water, minerals and fuel, Conway Morris will tell a conference at the Royal Society, in London today.

He said that extra-terrestrials won’t be splodges of goo … they could be disturbingly like us, and that might not be a good thing – we don’t have a great record.

We guess he is talking about the record Let’s Talk About Love by Céline Dion which breaks the Shadow Proclamation as a weapon war.

Conway Morris said that alien life is most likely to occur on a planet similar to our own, with organisms made from the same biochemicals. The process of evolution will even shape alien life in a similar way.