Griffin on Tech: Tech innovation and tragedy in the US

Peter Griffin, Editor. 27 May 2022, 1:41 pm

It has been an immensely enjoyable week travelling abroad for the first time in over two years and reconnecting with the world beyond our borders.

I’ve spent most of the week visiting IBM’s research labs at Yorktown Heights and Poughkeepsie, catching up on the latest developments in quantum computing, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and mainframes (yes, there’s plenty of life left in the mainframe market!)

Just the act of sitting in a dark dive bar in the delightful Tarrytown an hour or so north of Manhattan, nursing a beer, felt luxurious after years of covid-imposed exile. I watched on from my hotel room as Jacinda Ardern, who was also in New York this week, appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

The Prime Minister did us proud, discussing the horrific massacre of school children that took place in Texas this week, with the wisdom and compassion of someone who has more experience than most of this kind of tragedy.

“When we saw something like that happen, everyone said never again, and so it was incumbent on us as politicians to respond to that,” she said of the Christchurch mosque shootings.

“Now, we have legitimate needs for guns in our country, for things like pest control and to protect our biodiversity – but you don’t need a military-style semi-automatic to do that.”

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Peter Griffin exploring the world of quantum computing

American cable news channels have been full of debate this week about what needs to be done to stop the senseless killings that all too frequently remind America of its problematic relationship with guns.

It seems so obvious to many – a version of what we did in the wake of the Christchurch attacks to limit the purchase of semi-automatic weapons. But even the introduction of more rigorous background checks for gun owners faces stiff resistance from the gun lobby and the politicians who are either in their pocket, or who deeply believe that any gun law reform represents an assault on the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms.

As I wandered the hallowed halls of IBM Research, which counts six Nobel laureates among its alumni, I found it hard to reconcile the progressive, innovative nature of the United States on one hand, with the stubborn refusal to unite to bring around change for the greater good, on the other. 

Still, what made America great is its diversity – of people, of cultures and of thought. That country has again filled me with inspiration and ideas, though hopefully not Covid – fingered crossed for my requisite RATS test prior to departure on Sunday.

The PM moved on from New York with her trade delegation to hit the West Coast and meetings with Twitter, Microsoft, AWS and others. With the latter two companies investing billions between them in New Zealand in hyperscale data centres, the trade relationship between the US and NZ seems to be stronger than ever – particularly when it comes to tech. The incredible innovation in cloud and AI I saw firsthand this week suggests there’s still plenty we can learn from America to scale up our digital economy.

But, as the PM showed this week, there are also a few things it can learn from little old New Zealand.

Source: ITP New Zealand Tech Blog

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