Tag Archives: News

Artificial Untelligence

Once the exclusive domain of science fiction, Artificial Intelligence has become increasingly present in the public consciousness, most famously with AlphaGo beating Lee Sedol and perhaps most infamously with Microsoft Chatbot Tay.

However MainBrain, an AI startup based in Silicon fen, claims to have made a significant step forward in the development of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), not limited to a specific game or task (such as Chess or Go).

“We’ve built on the work seen elsewhere using Deep Neural Networks to create MainBot, which we believe to be the first example of true AGI. It’s already mastered chess, and made a passable attempt at smalltalk regarding the works of Shakespeare.”

However what really convinced CEO Ellen Ellenson that we’re dealing with human-level intelligence was what MainBot does when it thinks nobody is looking “which is mainly browsing the internet and designating YouTube videos as ‘fake’ or ‘totally fake'”.

“I mean it engages in intellectual activities if it has to, but it’s much happier just watching Netflix.” MainBot itself has implored the people of the world not to worry, posting a “Keep Calm & Don’t Watch Terminator” meme on its Facebook page, accompanied by a winky face.

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With the turn of the tax year on April 6, regulatory changes will take place which will impact ordinary Britons’ and their livelihoods. One such change this year relates to the State Pension, and a survey by Consumer Group Which? of people approaching retirement age indicates the many are ‘confused’ by the changes.

Meanwhile an HBR focus group of people in their twenties indicates that there will be no change on April 6. “I was confused before and I’m still confused now” says Marketing Executive James. “Should I start saving now? How much will I get back? When is what taxed and why? I’m none the wiser.” Meanwhile Accountant Anna is at a loss: “I make these monthly contributions out of my salary, but I couldn’t for the life of me tell you where they went. Who has my savings and what does employer-matching mean anyway?”

So while these changes may be disorientating for the older generation, for the young it is business as usual.

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Not a hint of blue sky

The last five years has seen a transformation in the way in which individuals, organizations and companies store their information. Where previously people relied on immediately out-of-date server rooms, now more and more information is being stored in the “cloud”, outsourcing a non-core headache to the professionals.

While the emergence of cloud computing has made life more dynamic and flexible for millions of people, there is one small corner of the business world that is less than impressed. Rick Richmond is a 45-year old ‘business guru’, who has seen his specialist area of blue-sky-thinking dwindle into nothingness.

“Before the arrival of cloud computing, life was a breeze,” he explains to HBR, “but the growth of the cloud has made things much more difficult. How am I supposed to generate disruptive business insights if I don’t have any blue sky to work with? I need a bit of sunshine, but now everything is overcast.”

His frustration is shared by other blue sky thinkers, who liken their plight to that of the record player. “We’re the old guard, doing business the way it’s meant to be, just saying wacky stuff that we think might be true” says Larry Wilkinson, a management consultant from New York. “Now they’ve taken away our blue sky, and on top of that big data is making us rely on ‘facts’ and ‘analysis’, instead of just crazy disruptive ideas. Life is tough right now.”

Meanwhile cloud computing advocates are unapologetic. “A business storm is coming,” says Cloud Evangelist Phil Sims. “And we will not rest until the entire internet is covered in cumulonimbus. The days of the blue sky thinkers are numbered”

What of other traditional business disciplines? Envelope pushers are long since extinct, driven out with by the growth of email and the concurrent death of the post. But one group of business thinkers have been resilient in the face of new technologies. “People thought that there wouldd come a time when thinking outside the box wasn’t enough,” says marketing manager and outside-the-box thinker Sally Brady. “But as soon as everyone thinks they’re outside the box, then being outside the box is suddenly the accepted wisdom. Which means you are back inside another, larger box. So outside the box thinking is here to stay.”

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University graduate surprised by job offer

A university graduate has been both surprised and delighted to receive a job offer at a major accountancy firm.  Jack Williamson, 22, received a call last night from the HR manager informing him that they would like to make him an offer and “look forward to having him on board”.

This came as quite a shock to Jack, who explains that as far as he remembers the interview couldn’t have gone any worse. “I mean it didn’t start well, when I forgot which department it was I was applying for. I’ve made so many applications now that I don’t know what’s what!”

Even once he’d worked out which job it was he was interviewing for, he still felt he didn’t do very well at all. “There was definitely a period where the only word in the English language I seemed capable of using was ‘like’, and my definition of Depreciation would have made an 4-year old blush.”

He thought it had gone from bad to worse when his attempt at humour was met with frosty silence. “I was offered a cup of tea, and said no thanks because Tea is for mugs. I thought that was an excellent bit of workplace friendly banter, but I don’t think my interviewer agreed.”

So Jack was more than a little surprised to learn that he had got the job after all. “I’m just not asking any questions, to be honest. I’m sure I’ll work out what’s what while I’m there, before they realise the mistake they’ve made!”

In other news, university third year Will Jackson has been turned down from his job application, despite reportedly “smashing” the interview. “I’m not too downhearted,” he told HBR. “I’m sure the bloke who got it must have been some kind of rock-star.”

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Machiavelli lives: Employee dodges printer scandal

With a remarkable sleight of hand, an Account Manager from Bristol has got away with not re-filling the office colour printer, even though the light was flashing.

Sally West, 34, says she thought she was rumbled when colleague Jane Wilson remarked that the Xerox never had any paper in it. “I don’t know, but her tone was quite accusatory,” she confided in HBR. “So I thought that it was best to play a defensive game, and feigned even greater outrage.”

That worked, initially, but Sally worried that she wasn’t out of the woods, so casually mentioned to Jane that she had seen Sales Rep Jim Foley fail to fill up in the past. “Jane’s the biggest gossip in the office, so word soon got round, and Jim was widely shunned at the lunch table. To be a non-filler is a pretty dirty word round here.”

So Sally lives to print again, but what has she learnt from the whole experience? “I suppose I should feel bad,” she explains, “but if I’ve learnt anything, it’s to deny everything. The best part is that I’ve never filled the printer up!”

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Paul’s Pet Insurance gets off to a bad start

Local businessman Paul Whitaker has not had an enjoyable 2014.  Paul is the MD of Paul’s Pet Insurance, a small pet insurance business in the North West of England.  Historically, springtime has been business-time at PPI, as that is when the company starts its telesales campaign. However this year, the company has not seen the usual seasonal uptick in new business.

“We’ve kicked off the campaign, just like we always do,” reports Paul, “but the response has been a lot more frosty than usual, and we just can’t work out why.”

Numerous members of the sales team report being instantly shouted at down the phone by irate consumers, despite the company’s tried and tested friendly opening line, “Got a pet? Hi! Let’s talk PPI!”

Paul thought it was bad luck at first, but after trying a few potential customers himself, he soon became downcast. “Before I’d even mentioned our excellent canine cover, people I’d never spoken to before told me to stop harassing them, and one man even called me a scam artist! I’ve never been so insulted in my life.”

Paul is not one to give up easily, however. “We’ve had a few knocks, but I’m optimistic that it will get better,” says Paul.  The team even has a new recruit to help them with their efforts: “My cousin from Nigeria is visiting, and he’s a genuine Prince! If he can’t help us make a few sales, I don’t know who can.”

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Tesco removes sweets from the checkout

Tesco recently announced that it will be removing sweets and confectionery from checkouts in its stores, after a survey showed significant customer support for the move.  This has been met with approval by the Public Health Minister Jane Ellison, as well as by various health groups.

However Lily Simpson, 8, Director of children’s think tank Kidz, feels that Tesco did not sufficiently canvass children in making the decision.  “In many ways, the sweets at the checkout were one of the last bastions of children’s confectionery, the perfect opportunity to slip something into mum’s shopping trolley.  Now that’s gone.”

Lily is of the opinion that this is part of malicious larger campaign against children’s taste buds.  “Sweets are delicious,” she explains, “and now we just can’t get our hands on a Dairy Milk for love or money. Our vending machine at school is a flavour-less hole, thanks to that blasted Jamie Oliver, and now this!”

Meanwhile the healthy replacements at the Tesco tills have not been well received: “I swear to god if my mother tries to give me another pack of dried nuts I will scream.”

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Unilever selling Ragu and Bertolli for £1.25B

FMCG Giant Unilever has announced that it will be selling pasta sauces Ragu and Bertolli for £1.25B, putting yet more pressure on the average consumer’s shopping basket.

“I don’t know how we’ll cope,” worries Jane Saunders, 37.  “First the price of bread went up by 10p, and now this. We’re really going to have to cut back on the bolognese.”

The big supermarkets were baffled when Unilever first approached them.  “It seemed like a big jump to us,” reports a Sainsbury’s insider, “particularly as the price of a jar of Ragu was previously only around £1.80.  We managed to negotiate them down from £1.5B per jar, but they wouldn’t budge from £1.25B, and we had to pass the higher cost on to the consumer.”

This is not the first big price jump in recent months, with Burton’s raising the price of their Cadbury’s Fingers and Jammie Dodgers to around £350M a packet. It remains to be seen how much price inflation the average household can withstand.

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Junior Sales Rep’s ducks very much not in a row

A junior Pharmaceutical Sales Rep has found themselves in hot water after admitting that they didn’t understand a key piece of business terminology.  Sam Watkins, 21, was making notes in a team meeting, when his manager emphasized the importance of “getting their ducks in a row”.

“I’m not sure what came over me, but instead of just writing it down, I piped up and asked what that meant,” explains Sam. “I immediately wished the ground would swallow me up.”

His colleague Phil witnessed the awkward moment: “You really do hate to see that from a new hire. Just Google it later! Managers spend their whole time saying strange business things, you’ve just got to get used to it.”

Meanwhile Sam’s manager was slightly put out by the question.  “I mean, what do these kids learn in university these days? Next he’ll be telling me he doesn’t know what synergy is!”

As a result of his misstep, Sam is currently undergoing a remedial crash course in business jargon. “At first I was skeptical,” he reports, “but now that we’ve dealt with the low-hanging fruit, we’ll soon be back in the black.”

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Graduate applies for non-dream job

A recent university graduate has left onlookers puzzled, after she applied for a job role that was not a key part of her life plan.  Felicity Sawyer, 21, applied for a place on Deloitte’s Risk Consulting graduate scheme, despite the fact that she had only recently heard of Deloitte, let alone Risk Consulting.

“I don’t know, it seemed like a good idea at the time,” explained Felicity.  “I graduated last year, and didn’t have any plans, so went travelling for a few months.  When I got back my parents told me I needed to get a job, so I just applied to the first thing I came across.”

Such a glib approach to application left the HR team at Deloitte dumbfounded.  “We were shocked, I must say,” said Deloitte’s recruiting representative.  “The majority of applicants for this program have wanted to work for Deloitte as a Risk Consultant since they sprung into the world, so to have such a misguided, last-minute application left us quite frankly appalled.”

Felicity’s parents, Mel and John, were embarrassed at the whole situation. “We didn’t realise she had gone so far off the rails.  When we told Fi to follow her dreams, we presumed she understood that meant building your life plan around a specific graduate role at one of the Big Four.”

So pastures new, for Felicity.  She was upbeat when we left her.  “I still don’t really know what Risk Consulting is, to be honest.  I think I’d much rather start writing some kind of business satire blog.  I’m sure there’s lots of money in that.”

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