FS Fives: Friday, June 10

Welcome to the latest FS Fives – FutureScot’s lunchtime round-up of Scottish digital news.

First up, news of a throughly deserved award for the Libertie Project in Inverness. The social enterprise, which runs a digital café for homeless people, has won the coveted ‘Digital Dynamo’ at the Scottish Charity Awards. Libertie works with vulnerable people in partnership with local criminal and community justice providers. Women-led, it combines digital skills with innovative arts and crafts activities to help ex-offenders build employability skills and reduce offending. The café provides online basics and skills to improve employability as well as being a place where individuals can access other support services.

California-based big data services company Cloudwick Technologies has chosen Glasgow as the location for its European headquarters, creating 58 jobs in the city, as the company looks to expand overseas. Director of operations Hardeep Singh said support from Scottish development International and Scottish Enterprise “will help us build and enrich the wider ecosystem and create a much stronger success story from Scotland.”

They call it the trolley problem. A trolley is barreling towards five people tied to the railway tracks ahead. You can switch the trolly to another track – where only one person is tied down. What do you do? Or, more to the point, what does a self-driving car do? We flagged up this moral dilemma in the launch issue of FutureScot in The Times Scotland (‘Cars that decide whether you live or die’, p2). Now Wired has taken a look: “I believe that the trajectory that we’re on is for the technology to implicitly make the decisions. And I’m not sure that’s the best thing,” Oren Etzioni, a computer scientist at the University of Washington and the CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, tells the magazine. “We don’t want technology to play God.” But as Wired points out, nobody wants software engineers writing the car’s algorithm to play God either. Google, which is furthest along with self-driving cars, has declined to share its thinking.

Still with Google and autonomous transport, prepare to be thrown by Bloomberg.com’s wacky presentation of the story but it has a report on co-founder Larry Page’s funding of start-ups developing flying cars. Situated next to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, Zee.Aero is “just one part of Page’s plan to usher in an age of personalised air travel, free from gridlocked streets and the cramped indignities of modern flight. Like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Page is using his personal fortune to build the future of his childhood dreams.” Flying cars, of course, “are ridiculous”, says Bloomberg. Lone-wolf inventors have tried to build them for decades, with little to show for their efforts besides disappointed investors and depleted bank accounts. Those failures have done little to lessen the yearning: In the nerd hierarchy of needs, the flying car is up there with downloadable brains and a working holodeck. But better materials, autonomous navigation systems, and other technical advances have convinced a growing body of smart, wealthy, and apparently serious people that within the next few years we’ll have a self-flying car that takes off and lands vertically – or at least a small, electric, mostly autonomous commuter plane.

And finally…sit back and enjoy watching Sonic the Hedgehog running around Glasgow ahead of Play EXPO, a two-day celebration of video game culture through the ages that takes place at Braehead this weekend.