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J. Hind (London, UK)

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Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow
by Yuval Noah Harari
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but goes badly off the rails, 4 July 2017
Not really a history and certainly not brief! This book is more of a philosophical argument about how scientific and technical developments over the next decades are likely to impact on the development of "religion". In scare quotes because Harari insists of a very broad definition of "religion" to mean the "inter-subjective" - non-factual systems of values and meaning that are shared by groups of people. So he conceptualises "humanism" as a religion grounded in human feelings rather than the supernatural, and "liberalism" as a branch of humanism that prioritises individual autonomy and freedom. Just as science undermined traditional religions based on ideas about gods, he claims that recent discoveries will undermine liberalism by showing that free-will and even individuality are illusions.

This is where the argument goes right off the rails! Firstly in my understanding this is a wild over-interpretation of early results in neuroscience (although to be fair it is a common one). But whether or not we are really individuals and really have free-will it certainly feels like we do, so why should a belief system rooted in feelings be threatened? Harare would like to suggest that scientific results will do for free-will what they have done for gods. I do not buy this: belief in gods is optional, it is basically an intellectual belief that we are persuaded to by others (often by techniques little short of brain-washing before our minds are even properly formed) whereas the feeling of having free-will and being an individual seems to be a hard-wired part of our perceptual makeup similar to the illusion of the visual field. Not, in other words, something that goes away if you stop crediting it intellectually.

The word "zombie" haunts this book though I do not recall that it ever appears. The idea of intelligence becoming uncoupled from consciousness. Could a zombie machine formulate its own goals and ambitions? Harare claims that humanity's unique edge over animals is the "inter-subjective" but then seems to claim that machines will surpass us without this advantage. Harare seems to discount the possibility that consciousness is algorithmic and therefore that a machine could be conscious, indeed that it may have to be in order to even formulate the idea of supplanting humanity. If we allow the possibility then maybe humanism could just be stretched a little to include the feelings of conscious machines?

I thought Harare was headed in this direction because the early part of the book includes some rather lengthy digressions into animal rights philosophy which end up being beside the main point of the book. But if we allow the possibility of machine consciousness, then an "inclusive humanism" might evolve that embraces all conscious entities including some non-human animals?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2017 11:10 PM BST


Joby GripTight XL GorillaPod Stand Magnetic Mount and Tripod for Larger Smartphones
Joby GripTight XL GorillaPod Stand Magnetic Mount and Tripod for Larger Smartphones
Offered by Sound Camera Action
Price: £16.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Poor quality phone clip, 20 Oct. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The tripod itself is good quality and very versatile, but unfortunately the smartphone clip is low quality and very poorly designed. I was never confident that my phone was held securely and it is hard to find a position that does not depress any side buttons.


USB Type-C, Anker Premium 5-Port 60W USB Wall Charger PowerPort+ 5 USB-C with Power Delivery for Apple MacBook, Nexus 5X / 6P and PowerIQ for iPhone, iPad, Samsung & More
USB Type-C, Anker Premium 5-Port 60W USB Wall Charger PowerPort+ 5 USB-C with Power Delivery for Apple MacBook, Nexus 5X / 6P and PowerIQ for iPhone, iPad, Samsung & More
Offered by AnkerDirect
Price: £31.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A great product in a confusing marketplace, 20 Oct. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Works very nicely with all my gadgets and enabled me to put a plethora of different "wall warts" away in a drawer. Judging by the total absence of any discernible heating, it is pretty efficient from no load to full load conditions, and there are no pointless indicator LEDs wasting energy. Only negative is that I would have preferred two C connectors. There is another version from the same manufacturer that offers this but it does not support the latest PD fast charging standard. The USB industry really does need a better way of communicating device compatibility across the appalling mess that the "standards" have got into on power over USB - I am very technical, but this purchase was largely intuition since I could not find a proper specification of the charging standard used for "any" of my devices! It is all very well warning us that this charger does not support Qualcomm QC2, but what use is that if you cannot find out whether your device needs this?


AUKEY iPhone Lens 198° Fisheye Lens + 0.63X 110° Wide Angle Lens + 15X Macro Lens Clip-on Smartphone Lens for iPhone 7 / 6 / 6s , Samsung , HUAWEI and other Smartphones
AUKEY iPhone Lens 198° Fisheye Lens + 0.63X 110° Wide Angle Lens + 15X Macro Lens Clip-on Smartphone Lens for iPhone 7 / 6 / 6s , Samsung , HUAWEI and other Smartphones
Offered by yueying
Price: £11.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great value, 20 Oct. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great product at a great price - came with a generous bundle of extras including a hard case, a soft bag, a cleaning cloth and a metal lanyard link. The lenses themselves are very good quality. The smartphone clip works well with my Nexus 5X, but probably unavoidably, does slightly obscure the screen slightly.


Russell Hobbs Large Kitchen Hands Free Motion Sensor Dustbin Automatic Bin Lid (40 Litre Square White)
Russell Hobbs Large Kitchen Hands Free Motion Sensor Dustbin Automatic Bin Lid (40 Litre Square White)
Offered by PINK AND BLUE GIFTS

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Gadget aspect works well, but has a basic design flaw as a bin., 16 May 2016
I bought two of these in different colours for recycle and non-recycle waste. It would be a great product except for one basic and very stupid design flaw. This has nothing to do with the "gadget" aspect which works well but is a basic flaw of simple bin design.When you try to remove a full liner bag it catches on a sharp ridge between the plastic top ring and the metal wall of the bin. There is actually a removable ring at the top which supports the bag neetly, but this rests inside a second ring which is attached to the metal and is slightly narrower than it. Once a bag is full, it is very difficult to ease the bag out through the ring without tearing the bag, particularly the thin recycling bags our council supplies. I was able to improve things a litle with duct tape, but that should not be necessary on a new premium product. I really wish product designers would take more care with this kind of thing: the inside of a bun should be completely smooth and ideally slightly flared towards the top.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 6, 2017 11:22 AM GMT


ARCTIC S111 Black - 2.0 PC and Notebook Speaker - Active - 2x2 Watts RMS
ARCTIC S111 Black - 2.0 PC and Notebook Speaker - Active - 2x2 Watts RMS
Price: £14.56

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, 24 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Looks good and sounds good. Only negatives are that there is no earphone jack and the "off" position labeled on the volume control does not actually switch off. I confirmed this with a USB power tester - it draws between 4 and 8mA depending on volume, but is never switched off. There are no distracting power LEDs though, which is a positive in my book - I'm fed up having to cover ludicrously bright indicator LEDs with tape.


TS960 LED/LCD TV Trolley Floor Stand w/ Mounting Brackets for 19-32 inch LCD/LED Monitors/TV, Up to Vesa 200 x 200mm, Tilt up/down 16°, Freely Pan 360°, Adjustable Height to 122 cm, Microphones and Drink Cups Holders included
TS960 LED/LCD TV Trolley Floor Stand w/ Mounting Brackets for 19-32 inch LCD/LED Monitors/TV, Up to Vesa 200 x 200mm, Tilt up/down 16°, Freely Pan 360°, Adjustable Height to 122 cm, Microphones and Drink Cups Holders included
Offered by eHome
Price: £59.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great product, poorly sold., 19 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It really irritates me that sellers cannot provide complete information and high-quality photos in internet shops in general. After viewing hundreds of listings for similar products I selected this one with considerable doubts about what I was going to get. Would the VESA head fit my Dell monitor? Will I be able to fit speakers to those odd side arms? It turned out to be ideal for my requirements and much better than I'd expected.

The X shaped head shown in the photo is 10cm center to center on the outermost holes, so it will fit a recessed 10x10cm VESA mount as on my Dell monitor. It is also supplied with a pair of extension brackets (shown in the drawing) which would fit mounting centers exactly 10cm in one axis and between 15cm and 20cm in the other, though in this case any recess would need to be at least 12x22cm. The bracket could be fitted either with the long axis vertical or horizontal.

The stand was obviously designed for a very specific purpose (a karaoke setup with stereo microphones), but with a bit of creative bodging the side-arms can be modified to carry small active speakers. The asymmetrical cup-holder is weird - I would have preferred a less specific flat shelf. Another negative note is that the monitor head can be rotated (pretty useless given the side-arms) and tilted, but these operations are not tool-free. A large allen key is needed and is provided, but obviously this is not as good as the tool-free clamps provided on the height and side-arm adjustments. An unexpected positive is the cable management built in to the vertical post. I thought this would be too small to thread a a standard IEC mains lead with a UK plug, but it is well thought out - if you pull the upper tube right out it is possible to thread the IEC connector up from the bottom (of course the ridiculously over-sized UK mains plug is much too large).

All in all an excellent product, but they would sell more and get fewer returns if they provided complete information and high-quality photographs in the listing.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 5, 2017 12:04 AM BST


Lenovo Yoga 2 FHD Tablet (Intel Atom Z3745 1.86 GHz, 2 GB LP DDR3 RAM, 32 GB EMMC Memory, 8 MP(Rear) and 1.6 MP HD(Front) Camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Anypen, Windows 8.1 with Bing) - 8 Inch, Ebony
Lenovo Yoga 2 FHD Tablet (Intel Atom Z3745 1.86 GHz, 2 GB LP DDR3 RAM, 32 GB EMMC Memory, 8 MP(Rear) and 1.6 MP HD(Front) Camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Anypen, Windows 8.1 with Bing) - 8 Inch, Ebony

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but could be better., 12 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great build quality and a truly classic design. The ability to use any metal object as a stylus is a pretty essential feature with Windows 10, but you do need to find the right object - conductive, but not too sharp. I eventually found a pen that works well retracted and keep that with the machine.
It gets marked down for a slightly glitch power system - it is fussy what USB charger you use and the power button sometimes requires some teasing to switch the machine on. Also the USB socket is insubstantial and feels like it is going to get broken before long. An why, oh why, do tablet and smartphone manufacturers fit just one? They are tiny and there is plenty of room for two which would allow keeping the device on mains power whilst still using a USB peripheral (if the peripheral is power-hungry, this is just when you most need mains power!).


TECHGEAR® [Active Strike Pro)] Slim Bluetooth Wireless UK QWERTY Keyboard with Mouse Touchpad for Asus ZenPad 10 (+ Free Keyboard Carry case)
TECHGEAR® [Active Strike Pro)] Slim Bluetooth Wireless UK QWERTY Keyboard with Mouse Touchpad for Asus ZenPad 10 (+ Free Keyboard Carry case)
Offered by TECHGEAR Solutions
Price: £19.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best buy ever!, 12 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When I review this superb value item honestly you'll think I've been paid - I have not really, except in the saving I made over a similar Apple or Microsoft product costing over £100! It works perfectly with my Lenovo Yoga 2 Windows 10 tablet and the free case supplied with it stretches to accommodate both tablet and keyboard - perfect. At this price, I was very surprised to find such high build quality, and it even comes with a properly designed instruction leaflet in something very close to the Queen's English, which is rare these days! There is however one mistake: leaflet says press Fn and Win to turn the touch-pad on/off, actually it should be Fn and Alt.


Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore
Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.68

3.0 out of 5 stars DO YOUR RESEARCH SLOAN!, 7 Nov. 2014
I discovered my problem with e-books while reading this. In the paperback days, if a book had sprung the technically illiterate resolution of this mystery in the last chapter I'd have taken it out on the book - physically! Let's be clear, I'm not advocating destroying books, but sometimes knocking them about a bit is justified!

My problem is not Kat Potente's (great name that), I an quite sympathetic to the emotionally literate anti-climax, it is simply that the solution does not work technically. I'll not do a spoiler, but if Sloan had bothered to run this past (a) someone who knew something about cryptography, and (b) someone who understood digital typography, they'd have put him right. He seems to have insider knowledge of Google, so it should not have been so hard to get decent technical advice.

But despite this, it is an entertaining and rewarding read and a contains some great characters with witty names and some sexy ideas. I like the tongue-in-cheek "everything wrapped up and tied with a neat little bow" postscript.


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