A new Life of Tech


Twitter founder feels ‘complicated’ about Donald Trump’s tweeting

Jack Dorsey conceded that Donald Trump excelled in his use of Twitter.
Jack Dorsey conceded that Donald Trump excelled in his use of Twitter. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

For the first time, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has described his “complicated” feelings about the US president-elect Donald Trump’s use of the social media service.

Speaking at the Code Commerce conference in California, Dorsey demurred when asked if he felt responsible for Trump’s election. “America is responsible for Donald Trump being president,” he said, before conceding that, more than any other candidate, Trump excelled in his use of Twitter.

“He’s known how to use it for quite some time. I think it’s an important time for the company and service. And having the president-elect on our service, using it as a direct line of communication, allows everyone to see what’s on his mind in the moment. I think that’s interesting. I think it’s fascinating. I haven’t seen that before.

“We’re definitely entering a new world where everything is on the surface and we can all see it in real time and we can have conversations about it. Where does that go? I’m not really sure. But it’s definitely been fascinating to learn from.”

Asked how he felt about Trump’s use of the service, Dorsey said: “Complicated”.

“I feel very proud of the role of the service and what it stands for and everything that we’ve done, and that continues to accelerate every single day. Especially as it’s had such a spotlight on it through his usage and through the election.”

More than any other social network, Twitter has taken a stand against the surge of far-right activity that followed Donald Trump’s victory. A few days after the election, the company announced a host of new safety features, including a crackdown on hate speech and a renewed focus on training its moderators to better react to threats of violence and hateful conduct.

“The amount of abuse, bullying, and harassment seen across the internet has risen sharply over the past few years,” Twitter said at the time. “In the worst cases, this type of conduct threatens human dignity, which we should all stand together to protect.”

That same day, Twitter banned a host of notable “alt-right” users, members of the far-right subculture who push a meme-filled variant of traditional white supremacist views. Banned accounts included that of Richard B Spencer, a white nationalist Trump supporter who hosted a conference last month where supporters gave Nazi salutes.

While Twitter has received praise from some for taking action, the move has also raised difficult questions for the company: what would it do if the president-elect tweeted views that his supporters have been banned from the network for expressing?


Amazon v Donald Trump? Jeff Bezos may soon face his biggest challenge yet

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos laughing
No laughing matter. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has seemingly made an enemy of the new US president. Photograph: Victoria Bonn-Meuser/EPA

Amazon will almost certainly enjoy its biggest ever day on Black Friday next week.

The discount shopping event will help the American online retailer to continue its run of 22 years of unbroken and dramatic sales growth since it was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos. It is now valued at more than $375bn (£304bn), making it one of the biggest companies in the world.

However, despite the predicted spending spree on Black Friday, the rise of Amazon and Bezos now face arguably their biggest challenge yet – Donald Trump.

Throughout the US presidential election campaign, Trump made disparaging comments about Amazon and Bezos, prompting a war of words that looks altogether more serious in the wake of the billionaire tycoon’s victory over Hillary Clinton.

The battle started last December with a series of seemingly unprompted tweets from Trump. “The Washington Post, which loses a fortune, is owned by Jeff Bezos for purposes of keeping taxes down at his no-profit company, Amazon,” Trump wrote. “If Amazon ever had to pay fair taxes, its stock would crash and it would crumble like a paper bag. The Washington Post scam is saving it!”

The Washington Post is owned through Bezos’s personal investment firm, rather than Amazon, and Trump did not provide any explanation for his allegation. Amazon’s tax policy is controversial and is already well-known around the world, including in Europe, where it agreed favourable tax arrangements with Luxembourg. Its profit margins are also notoriously thin. In 2015, Amazon recorded sales of $107bn but net profits of just $596m, a margin of barely 0.5%.

Washington Post front page
Jezz Bezos indirectly owns the Washington Post, a common target for Donald Trump. Photograph: Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP

Bezos responded to Trump’s tweets in a light-hearted manner, threatening to send him to space with his Blue Origin rocket business. “Finally trashed by Donald Trump,” he said. “Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket #sendDonaldtospace.”

However, the battle took a more sinister turn for Amazon when Trump addressed a campaign rally in Texas two months later. “Believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems, they are going to have such problems,” Trump said of Amazon and Bezos.


Internet of things set to change the face of dementia care

Patient Gerald Hicks trying out some of the technology involved in Surrey and Borders NHS Trust’s trial.
Patient Gerald Hicks trying out some of the technology involved in Surrey and Borders NHS Trust’s trial. Photograph: Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Smart bottles that dispense the correct dose of medication at the correct time, digital assistants, and chairs that know how long you’ve sat in them are among the devices set to change the face of care for those living with dementia.

Dementia is now the leading cause of death in England and Wales, and is thought to affect more than 850,000 people in the UK. But a new wave of connected devices, dubbed “the internet of things”, could offer new ways to help people live independently for longer.

“We have got an elderly population, and children in their 40s and 50s are looking after their elderly parents – and they may not have the capabilities to coordinate that care effectively,” said Idris Jahn, head of health and data at IoTUK, a programme within the government-backed Digital Catapult.

While phone calls and text messages help to keep people in touch, says Jahn, problems can still arise, from missed appointments to difficulties in taking medication correctly. But he adds, connected sensors and devices that collect and process data in real time could help solve the problem.

“For [people living with dementia] the sensors would be more in the environment itself, so embedded into the plug sockets, into the lights – so it is effectively invisible. You carry on living your life but in the background things will monitor you and provide feedback to people who need to know,” he said. “That might be your carer, it might be your family, it might be your clinician.” The approach, he added, has the potential to change the way care is given. “It is having that cohesive mechanism to put everyone into the loop, which I think hasn’t existed in the past and it is something that people need.”

Among the projects IoTUK is involved with is a £5.2m venture, funded by NHS England and run by the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Trust.

One of two NHS test sites embracing the internet of things, the trust has created two living labs at the University of Surrey to explore a variety of connected devices aimed at helping those living with dementia. Eventually such systems could be offered by the NHS to those diagnosed with the condition.


“The vision is to provide and early intervention and prevention approach – we don’t have a cure for dementia, so it is really about being able to keep people as well as possible,” said Helen Rostill, director of innovation and development at the Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Trust.

Within the next two weeks, says Rostill, the devices will be trialled in the homes of six to 10 volunteers, allowing the team to iron out any issues ahead of a six month randomised control trial, involving 700 pairs of people with dementia and their carers, that will begin in January. “I think this really is personalised medicine,” said Rostill. “This really is about understanding individuals’ patterns of behaviour and deviations from those patterns.”

Amongst the technological developments are scales that monitor an individual’s hydration levels, smart wallets that track how many pills have been removed from a blister pack, bottles that dispense the correct dose of medication at the correct time and can send reminders to smartphones, avatars to guide people through care routines and even sensors that can be attached to chairs to monitor how long someone has been sitting. The data collected will then be processed using machine-learning algorithms, and the resulting information shared with the monitoring team and carers, allowing phone calls, visits or other arrangements to be made.

While individual sensors are currently on the market, says Rostill, creating a system based on a suite of connected devices could prove a boon. “What we are doing here is combining the data from different types of devices which I think will provide a unique window of insight into these very complex conditions that are multi-dimensional,” she said.