Once upon a time we all lived in houses without toilets and running water. The power came from burning wood or peat or charcoal or coal.

Sensible minds created sewer systems from tax as well as water pumped to our houses. This was Government doing what was necessary and what the private sector initially could not. This model of to your door water and from your door sewage ensured health and hydration for the masses.

When gas and electricity came along the same model of to your home distribution was used. As a consequence massive utility companies now exist across the world (some Government owned and some not) supplying electricity and gas.

This was initially a sensible change – fires in homes for cooking and heating were a major risk to each dwelling and their neighbours in terms of burning down, but also the constant inhalation of smoke cannot have been good for people.

Piped gas for heat, burned in boilers to heat water with heated water pumped around the house is a genius idea. Similarly, electricity generated centrally and wired to our homes was a great idea when electricity first came along and for a long while after.

But, now we have been developing micro generation technologies for some time – solar panels on roofs for example; is there a better way of powering our homes?

Could we move away from centralised power creation (leading to coal burning and nuclear reactors) and head towards a de-centralised system where my home – everybody’s home – generates all the electricity it requires?

I have been pondering this for a while.

There has been a trend over time for home appliances to use less power – washing machines, fridges, etc. So the trend in consumption is downwards. Homes are being built which are much more insulated, so heating needs are also reducing. The development of batteries to store on site generated electricity is also developing (solar generates during the day, but power is required through the night as well).

So, if the technology is not there already, it probably soon will be. Which will lead to the return of the pre industrial revolution model of powering our homes – although it will be much safer than it was back then.

Enfield Council is to use Artificial Intelligence as part of its customer service, planned to go live in Autumn 2016.
The story is relatively straightforward in terms of innovation and positive customer experience.
But read down to the end and note the quote from the council’s opposition.
UK local authorities are facing huge financial pressure at present, so is there anything in the concerns in this article about reducing the staff numbers?
Is the opposition quote reactionary or prophetic?
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

In a recent post I mentioned the concept of basic income. The idea being due to robot labour there will be less work for humans in the future.
Today Switzerland is having a referendum with this idea on the ballot paper.
The article also cites this idea being tested in two other European countries.

In the UK today is the Queen’s speech, which is the day each year the Government sets out its programme of work for the coming year – what laws it plans to pass.

There has been some mutterings about there not being much in it due to other political things going on at present.

But when historians look back the piece of legislation (assuming it does become law) which will change our society from today are the plans to allow driverless cars onto our roads (sixth item down in their list of points) and the legislative framework for insurance companies to provide policies for vehicles on our roads without humans.

(the bill also outlines the framework for commercial UK space ports as well as extending use of drones – lots in there which will change our society)

This blog first mentioned the concept of driverless cars about six years ago. So on the one hand I am pleased to see this is finally becoming a reality. But on the other, we really need to be considering what this means for us all. In Australia the trucking industry appears to be worried. What needs to also be considered beyond the truck drivers themselves is the insurance industry (fewer accidents, less claims), the healthcare industry (so we have less accidents and less sick people, hurrah, except if you are a physio who makes your living fixing broken people) the mechanics (less accidents, less repair work) as well as all the road side cafes and motels no longer feeding hungry  drivers or providing beds for when they are tired.

This is not the first area robots are changing our work place – I blogged previously about supermarkets and how jobs were being effected post the big global crash of the last decade. What we are still seeing now, eight years on from this crash is high levels of youth unemployment across Europe and in the UK anecdotal evidence of middle-aged workers laid off from whatever they were doing and now competing with young people for entry-level roles and getting them due to the years of experience they bring.

As well as putting legislation in place to allow the technological changes robots bring us, our Government’s should be looking at how to manage the social change which will accompany them. An option I have heard a lot about is the Basic Income idea. This would avoid a great deal of the social issues around a changing economy – there is already hysteria around robots taking jobs.

I am not necessarily advocating the Basic Income at this point, but it certainly is one of the options policy makers should be looking at when they plan how to tackle this likely social change.

It is also possible we could all find alternate jobs which spring up around the rise of the robots. I have heard it argued stable boys thought the coming of the automobile would leave them jobless forever, yet around the automobile industry whole new classes of careers opened up in the factories building them, the garages repairing them, on the oil rigs fueling them and the law firms insuring them. So perhaps all the humans will be working in jobs which haven’t even been invented yet.


50 years ago today JFK was assassinated.

Who did it and why has been a question on many people’s lips for much of the last half century.

They say in crime novels and TV shows the person who did it is usually the one with the most to gain.

What did Lee Harvey Oswald have to gain from JFK being dead? Not much that is apparent, mostly his prize seems to have been being shot a couple of days later.

Did someone else have more to gain?

To be honest, I don’t believe I will ever know what really happened that day in Dallas 50 years ago.

Like many people, I still care that someone murdered JFK. He was a young President with an agenda for positive change in the USA. Some of that seems to have been carried thru by LBJ, but we’ll never know what two terms of JFK would have done for the US or for the world. That is probably the real tragedy.

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