Musk’s mission to Mars B-movie – Financial Times

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The Talking Pictures channel here featured Devil Girl from Mars this morning, a 1954 British sci-fi B-movie that includes the unlikeliest looking robot clanking through the Scottish highlands.

I got the same how-could-this-ever-be-real? feeling looking at Elon Musk’s mission-to-Mars space rocket unveiled at the weekend. Starship (tweeted by Musk below) really does look like something out of a 50s B-movie

I suppose it’s those fins, the wide girth, and the stainless-steel riveted look, but Mr Musk insists this prototype is a real 164-feet-tall 200-ton rocket that within one or two months can make a 12-miles-high unmanned test flight before returning to earth in one piece. In the fullness of Musk time, it will carry colonists to Mars.

Like many investors and people waiting for his cars, I wish sometimes he would focus on getting things done in the present. Nasa’s chief Jim Bridenstine obviously feels the same way. In a barbed tweet on Friday, he commented on how the Commercial Crew space shuttle replacement that Musk’s SpaceX is working on “is years behind schedule. Nasa expects to see the same level of enthusiasm focused on the investments of the American taxpayer. It’s time to deliver”. 

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Huawei’s Futurewei is stuck in the present
For nearly 20 years, Futurewei has been a beachhead for Huawei in the US, eventually growing to a staff of 850 engineers working on innovative telecoms and cellular network research, writes Camilla Hodgson. But since the political climate turned hostile for Huawei, the wholly owned subsidiary has fired a large slice of its staff and seen its partners sever contact. Under the terms of the entity list ban, Futurewei is prohibited from transferring technologies it developed to its own parent company.

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2. How AI may or may not be coming for your job 
There are widely differing opinions on whether artificial intelligence will cut a swathe through the white-collar workforce or just take a hatchet to menial, automatable, clerical tasks and become a welcome complement to our working lives. In today’s Big Read, Robert Wright takes a look at examples of how things are working out in local government, insurance and other areas where AI and machine learning are beginning to make their presence felt.

3. Privacy concerns hamper Facebook data move 
The social network’s first effort to open up its platform for academics to study its impact on elections has been thrown into doubt, after the social media group failed to hand over its data, citing privacy concerns. Elsewhere, a Kroll survey has found that 84 per cent of companies feel threatened by the risk of false rumours being fuelled by social media.

4. Valuation reset after IPO blunders
A series of IPO crashes, as investors turned their backs on some of Silicon Valley’s most prized companies, has prompted forecasts of a broader reset in valuations after the long tech boom. The FT View is that the discipline of the public market has worked as intended: “Greater scrutiny saw through the hype that had allowed WeWork and Peloton to brand themselves as technology pioneers with a valuation to match.”

5. SimCity becomes SinoCity
Tencent is topping the local charts with Homeland Dream, a SimCity-like game peppered with Communist party-faithful phrases, as patriotic fervour sweeps up even gamers ahead of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. The game lets players build their own cities while collecting images of slogans like “make army strong and prosperous”, “made in China” and “one country, two systems”, the principle underpinning Hong Kong’s constitution.

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Tech week ahead

A quiet week for the tech diary, with the third quarter ending today and the earnings season not due to start till mid-October. Microsoft will hold an event in New York on Wednesday to unveil its latest Surface computers. There have been leaks concerning a 15-inch Surface Laptop 3. In San Francisco, the TechCrunch Disrupt conference takes place from Wednesday to Friday.

Tech tools – HP Spectre x360 13

HP’s 13in-screen update of its convertible laptop has an option of a 4K OLED display and boasts up to 22-hour battery life. It has a bigger screen-to-body ratio and the latest Intel processors. It’s available in October from $1,099. The Verge says it seems like an improvement in almost every way


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