2017 Year In Review

As this year draws to a close, we take a look back at the events that shaped 2017. The themes shaping this year are once again political upheaval and unrest, terror attacks and severe climate conditions.

Here are some highlights from each month:

January

  • 20thDonald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America and Mike Pence as the 48th Vice President .
  • 21stMore than 2 million people protest worldwide in the ‘Women’s March’against Donald Trump, with 500,000 marching in Washington D.C.

February

  • 1stBritish MPs vote in favour of the European Union Bill, allowing the government to begin Brexit
  • 20thFamine is declared in Unity State, South Sudan, affecting 4.9 million

March

  • 22ndTerrorist attack on London’s Westminster Bridge and Houses of Parliament kills 4 including a police officer and injures 40
  • 30thEx-South Korean president Park Geun-hye arrested in corruption investigation

April

  • 7thNation wide ‘ZumaMustFall’ protests
  • 29th: 3 tornadoes hit south east of Dallas, Texas, killing 5

May

  • 7thEmmanuel Macron wins France’s presidential election
  • 22ndSouth Africa’s Western Cape province declares a drought disaster – worst for 113 years

June

  • South African media began reporting on more than 100,000 documents and emails leaked from inside the business empire of the Gupta family.
  • 14thFire in Grenwell Tower block in London, England kills 79 and injures 37

July

  • 5th101 people reported shot, 15 killed in Chicago, Illinois over 4th July weekend
  • 30th: Hackers reveal they have stolen data from HBO, including episodes and scripts of Games of Thrones

August

  • 8thSouth African President Jacob Zuma survives a no-confidence vote in parliament 198-177
  • 30th: Hurricane Irma forms near Cape Verde Islands, will go on to become category 5 hurricane and kill at least 102

September

  • 5thTogo’s government shuts down the internet for a week to quell government opposition
  • 20thHurricane Maria makes landfall on Puerto Rico as a category 4 hurricane, knocking out all power and killing 25

October

  • 1stStephen Paddock shoots dead 58 people, injuring 489, at a concert in Las Vegas in the deadliest mass shooting in American history
  • 4thEnglish PM Theresa May suffers nightmare speech at Conservative National Conference as her voice fails, prankster interrupts and set collapses

November

December
The ANC’s 54th National Conference will be held between 16 and 20 December 2017, where the new ANC president will be elected.

While this is a depressing read and one might feel like grabbing the Prozac, an article headed  “Forecast | Third industrial revolution to cause a deflation outbreak: Future of the economy P2” states:
Unlike what our 24-hour news channels would like us to believe, we live in the safest, wealthiest, and most peaceful time in human history. Our collective ingenuity has enabled mankind to end widespread starvation, disease, and poverty. Even better, thanks to a wide range of innovations currently in the pipeline, our standard of living is set to become even cheaper and considerably more bountiful.  …. Instead, there are a collection of overlapping trends, chief among them being that humanity is struggling through the growing pains of adjusting to the third industrial revolution.

Overall, humanity may just be struggling through the growing pains of making a new and better world in general. Unfortunately, it’s set to get worse before it gets better so maybe some Prozac isn’t a bad idea.

On a brighter note, it’s almost Holiday Season!
F&I would like to wish each of you Happy Holidays and safe travelling over the feastive season.

The Dumb Supper

Modern day Halloween has developed from Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which was the ancient Celtics New Year, held on 1 November. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest. The Celtics occupied Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France about 2000 years ago and believed that the day before New Year, October 31, is when the worlds between the living and the dead blurred and thus spirits were able to enter the world of the living. The presence of these spirits also made it easier for the Druids or Celtic priests, to make predictions of the future, and they commemorated this event by building huge sacred bonfires where people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. The Celts wore costumes of animal heads and skins during the celebrations.

This was also the day when the dead could return to their families. Extra places were set at the table and dinner is served to those who chose to return.  The dinner is held as close to midnight as possible in absolute silence, hence the name “dumb supper”. This tradition is still practiced by Pagans today.

The Christian ‘All Souls’ day is also celebration to honour the dead and is celebrated on 2 November. With the spread of Christianity through the Celtic lands, many of the Celtic traditions were merged with Christian celebrations and the celebration of the dead became what we today refer to as Halloween.

Halloween symbols:

The word Witch is derived from the word “Wicca” meaning “Wise One” and refers to the medicine woman / herbal healers, of that time.
The witches Broom: A surprising story relating to hallucinogens:“Why did you awaken me, badness to you, at such an inauspicious moment? Why I was surrounded by all the delights in the world.”
The witches Cat: Familiar spirits (sometimes referred to simply as “familiars” or “animal guides”) were believed to be supernatural entities that would assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic.
The jack-o’- lanterns have their origins in what is known as Will-o-th-wisp. It is believed that the custom of making jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween began in Ireland. Sometimes they were used by Halloween guises to frighten people and sometimes they were set on windowsills to keep harmful spirits out of one’s home. It has also been suggested that the jack-o’-lanterns originally represented Christian souls in purgatory.
Some interesting reading:

There is a museum in Boscastle, Cornwall, England that houses the largest collection of witchcraft regalia in the world.

King James I released his best-selling book “Demonology” in which he explored demonic magic and witchcraft. James was so obsessed with the “black arts” that in 1604, he managed to persuade Parliament to pass the Witchcraft Statute according to which witchcraft was punishable by death.

If you are looking for a haunting experience in Johannesburg, try the mystery ghost bus tour or the mystery ghost dinners.

And for a laugh, here of some really funny pictures of frightened guests at the Nightmare Fear Factory in Niagara Falls, Canada.

 

“Clearly New Zealand is not for sale.”

 

“Clearly New Zealand is not for sale.”

In 2006 a man from Australia tried to sell New Zealand on eBay after he had visited the country and “did not think very much of it”.  His advertisement described the country as “having very ordinary weather” and “the dodgiest American Cup win ever”.  He started the bid at A$0.01 (one Australian cent) and the price rose to A$3,000 (R30,800), before eBay closed the auction.  “Clearly New Zealand is not for sale” said Daniel Feiler, eBay Australia.

Remember the financial crises in Iceland 2008 – 2011? In 2008 a seller put the country up for sale on eBay advertising “Located in the mid-Atlantic ridge in the North Atlantic Ocean, Iceland will provide the winning bidder with: a habitable environment, Icelandic horses and admittedly a somewhat sketchy financial situation.” Singer Björk was not included in the sale.  The auction started at 99 pence and reached 10 million pounds (R167,851,000). One article indicated that it was the president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who put the country up for auction stating “At least if we get a few thousand dollars for our whole island we will be happy”, however there are no other articles to verify this.  Of course Iceland was also not for sale and has since declared financial stability.

After a divorce, 44 year old Ian Usher put his “entire life” up for sale, which included his house, car and all material possessions, his friends and his job. His employer, Jenny Jones, who runs a rug store in Perth, agreed to take whoever buys the “life” on a two-week trial, with a view to a permanent job. His friends also agreed to make themselves available to the winning bidder. “The sunny weather will be thrown in for free, with temperatures in Perth currently averaging more than 30C.”
His life was sold for $384,000 (over R5 million). His story became an international sensation and he has since written a book and bought an island amongst other things.

 

Click here to read other weird things sold on eBay

Bread and Roses

 

Bread and Roses

…As we come marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler — ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!
James Oppenheim poem from 1911

Women’s Day – what is it all about?

A very brief history:

Early International Woman’s Day in the US and Europe
On 19 March 1911 International Women’s Day was marked for the first  time with over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland attending rallies to end gender discrimination and secure women’s rights to work, vote, be trained and hold public office.

The first UN International Women’s Day
The United Nations (UN) began celebrating International Women’s Day on 8 March 1975 and in December 1977 adopted a resolution proclaiming a “United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace to be observed on any day of the year by Member States, in accordance with their historical and national traditions.”

National Women’s Day
We adopted the 9th of August in commemoration of the Woman’s March against the ‘pass laws’ held on this day in 1956.  More than 20,000 South African woman of all races marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the amendments to the Urban Area’s act of 1950, which restricted the movement of non-whites and designated specific areas to live, work and travel. They were required to carry and produce their “pass” at all times and this amendment would have extended these restrictions to black woman.

Taken from a Petition presented to the Prime Minister JG Strijdom on 9 August 1956.

“…We are women from every part of South Africa.
We are women of every race, we come from the cities and the towns, from the reserves and the villages.
We come as women united in our purpose to save the African women from the degradation of passes…
In the name of women of South Africa, we say to you, each one of us, African, European, Indian, Coloured, that we are opposed to the pass system. We voters and voteless, call upon your Government not to issue passes to African women.
We shall not rest until ALL pass laws and all forms of permits restricting our freedom have been abolished.
We shall not rest until we have won for our children their fundamental rights of freedom, justice, and security.”

The march was organised by the Federation of South African Women (FSAW) led by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams De Bruyn (all 4 woman pictured below)

The women left 14,000 petitions at the office doors of Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom. They stood silently for 30 minutes and then started singing a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo “Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock”, its latest incarnation “you strike a woman, you strike a rock”.
Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom was not at the Union Buildings to receive the petition and the pass laws were only repealed 30 years later in 1986.
Since 1994, August has been declared as Woman’s Month and 9 August is celebrated as a public holiday.

And a bit more history:

  • The National Party granted white woman over 21 the right to vote and stand for election in 1930. Leila Reitz was elected as the first female MP, representing Parktown for the South African Party in 1933.
  • 26 – 29 April 1994 was the first elections where all races and genders were allowed to vote in South Africa.
  • Here is an interesting timeline of when woman were allowed to vote in each country (South Africa appears twice).
  • IWD is now celebrated in more than a 100 countries and is an official holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.
  • International Men’s Day (yes, there is one!) is celebrated on 19 November.

When AI is bad at its job

When AI is bad at its job

In March this year we looked at the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how many jobs could be replaced by robots.
In most cases, the technology is impressive even though it is unnerving; however, there are times when AI just doesn’t get it quite right or goes crazy.

Remember K5, the security bot mentioned in the previous article? Besides being purposefully knocked over by drunks or drowning in shallow fountains, one is causing a stir for knocking over a 16 month old boy in a shopping mall and just driving off.
In March 2016, Microsoft introduced Tay, a chat bot developed to conduct research on conversational understanding. Tay was designed to “engage and entertain people through casual and playful conversation” on Twitter. This was an experiment in self learning; “the more you chat to her, the smarter she gets”. Things began pleasantly enough but soon it all went horribly wrong when, in less than a day, Tay started spewing racist slurs amongst other offenses, including “Hitler got it right”.  Microsoft did not fully anticipate what the mostly teenage Twitter community would teach Tay and completely underestimated the trolls and so, after 96,000 tweets, Tay’s Twitter account was suspended and Tay was removed for “adjustments”.
Now while most of Tay’s woes were caused by the humans it was interacting with and learning from, InspiroBot is producing quirky to insane, and sometimes rather sinister inspirational quotes all on its own.
This AI is amusingly bad at its job. Here are some of the quotes it has generated:

Click on the link below and get your own daily inspiration from InspiroBot.

I’m InspiroBot.

I am an artificial intelligence dedicated to generating unlimited amounts of unique inspirational quotes for endless enrichment of pointless human existence.

Cyber Curiosity

The official birthday of the Internet is considered to be 1 January 1983 (making the internet 34 years old). While  Vint Cerf is often dubbed “the father of the internet”, it’s invention has been due to a process of protocols, developments and collaborations between scientists, governments and corporations dating back to the late 1950’s when Russia launched Sputnik, causing the USA to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency in 1958.

The Internet is a massive network of networks, a networking infrastructure which should not be confused with the World Wide Web.
Tim Berners-Lee, a UK scientist working at CERN invented ‘the web’ which makes the internet accessible through the use of browsers (Explorer or Chrome) to access Web Pages (documents) that are linked to each other via hyperlinks and can contain graphics, sounds, text and video.
Tim Berners-Lee conceived and developed the technology to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world.

The first webpage went live on 6 August 1991. It outlined how to create Web pages and explained more about hypertext. The very first domain name registered on line was for a computer manufacturer, Symbolics.com on 15 March 1985; today there over 320 million domain names in existence.

According to internet world stats, the world average penetration rates for the internet is 49.6% with 88.1% of the North American population being connected and while Africa is the lowest at 27.7%, the use of smart phones is increasing the population’s access and use of the internet.

Many industries and billionaires have been spawned from this technology, with the top of the log being Bill Gates who is worth $87.7 billion. Tim Berners-Lee would theoretically become a trillionaire but chose instead to give the innovation of Hyper Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and the World Wide Web to society with no strings attached. He has an estimated net worth of $50 million and was knighted for his invention in 2003 (he is even mentioned in Dan Brown’s book ‘Angels and Demons’).

This technology has transformed every area of our lives and catapulted us into the age of technology where everything and everyone is globally connected. This connection will become more prevalent as the ‘Internet of Things’(IoT) develops.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to a globally connected society which was highlighted in the recent ‘randsomeware’ cyberattack which has been described as “unprecedented” in its reach, with more than 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries.
“Hospitals, major companies and government offices were among those that were badly affected. Cybersecurity experts have said the majority of the attacks targeted Russia, Ukraine and Taiwan. But U.K. hospitals, Chinese universities and global firms like Fedex (FDX) also reported they had come under assault”.

While this is scary, it reflects the growing need for a ‘new type’ of risk management and insurance with untapped potential for these markets. A definite opportunity for those with the guts to take it on.

A bit of Trivia:
What is a cybernaut? A slang term used to describe a person who uses the Internet to explore and communicate. Cybernaut — travels in cyberspace. The word cybernaut is a play on the words “cyber” and “astronaut”.

Looking at Lloyd’s – An introduction

Lloyd’s is not an insurance company but a marketplace of “syndicates” and “names” governed by a corporate body.
The humble beginnings of Lloyd’s started in Edward Lloyd’s coffee house in Tower Street (opened 1686). This was a popular venue for sailors, merchants and ship owners and became the recognised place to go for marine information. It also became the ideal place for obtaining marine insurance.

Lloyd’s insured their first motor vehicle in 1904 but as no guidelines existed, the marine underwriters referred to it as “a ship navigating on land”.
The first aviation insurance policy was written by Lloyd’s in 1911, and 54 years later, in 1965 Lloyd’s was the first to insure the Instelsat 1 satellite, also known as Early Bird. In 1984 they contributed £4.5m towards the cost of the successful recovery of 2 rouge satellites, insured for £133m that were launched into the wrong orbit. They paid a further £3.9m for the development of a tool which would allow the satellites to be grabbed by the shuttle’s recovery arm. The recovery was executed by 5 astronauts in a shuttle called Discovery.
With space travel on the horizon, Lloyd’s has already insured commercial launchers such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic private spaceship as well as Elon Musk’s Space X.

While they have been known to insure some unusual stuff, like a grain of rice with a portrait of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh engraved on it for $20,000, Lloyd’s have been at the forefront of some of the most catastrophic claims; Hurricane Katrina in 2005 of which Lloyd’s share was about $2.3 billion, the tsunami in Japan of 2011, where Lloyd’s paid out 6.6 billion yen within 48 hours and the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks which was Lloyd’s largest ever single loss.

Lloyd’s has an extremely long and colourful history. There are very few organisations that can boast visits by the Royal family and a Twentieth Century Fox movie made about them.

A London Connection

While the origins of the insurance concept of transferring risk can be traced as far back as the 3rd  millennia BC where Chinese traders distributed their wares in vessels while travelling treacherous river rapids to spread the loss in case of any single vessel capsizing, it is speculated that insurance, as we know it today is attributed to the Great Fire of London in 1666.

The fire started in a bakery in Pudding Lane and spread very quickly as most of London was constructed of wood and thatch in the medieval 1600’s. The fire was fuelled by strong winds in a dry September, consuming 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and most of the buildings of the City authorities. It is estimated that it destroyed the homes of 70,000 of the City’s 80,000 inhabitants. The reported death toll is small (estimated at 8) although this has been challenged on the basis that the undocumented poor and immigrants were not included in these numbers and the fire burnt so hot that bodies could have been reduced to ash.
Estimates put the destroyed property value at £10,000,000 (approximately R170,000,000) which equates to about £1.5 billion or about R25,000,000,000 in today’s rand value). Much of London had to be rebuilt but while King Charles II called for collections at churches, most people were still recuperating from civil war and the Great Plague of the year before. The amount raised throughout the country was over £16,400 (R280,000) only covering 0.13% of the damage. And to make matters worse, in the 1600’s the tenants were responsible for repairs to their homes and not the landlords. The tenants still had to pay rent while their houses were being rebuilt.
This got people thinking about fire safety measures and how to pay for repairs and thus in 1680 the first insurance company, the Fire Office, was setup by Nicholas Barbon. Other insurance companies were soon set up and by 1690 one in ten houses in London were insured. By 1720, RSA Insurance Group had underwritten 17,000 policies totalling £10 million – enough to cover the estimated cost of property that the Great Fire had destroyed.

And for another piece of history, albeit slightly more recent, on 1st April this year Factory & Industrial Risk Managers turned 18 years old and the company also has very definite fire related origins. A Fireman from the Durban Fire Department moved his family to Johannesburg and spent some time with the Benoni Municipal Fire Services. He then went into Insurance doing Risk Management and on 1 April 1999 started a surveying and risk management company now known as F&I. So, we can say Happy Birthday F&I and whilst SA’s economy may have been downgraded we remain steadfast and proud that, as a Lloyd’s coverholder, we retain an A grade rating.
We will be taking a closer look at Lloyd’s in a future article.

References:
http://www.randmark40.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=33
http://www.randhttps://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/how-great-fire-london-created-insurancemark40.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=33
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Fire_of_London

Enter the Robot

While the newly elected and entertaining, albeit jaw dropping, “Orange” Commander-In-Chief  is trying to curb the outsourcing of American jobs, scientist’s state that the real threat to jobs globally is not ‘alien’ – legal or illegal, but AI (Artificial Intelligence).
The time for machines to take over most of humanity’s work is rapidly approaching. The world is woefully unprepared to deal with the implications that automation will have over the coming decades. Universal basic income is just beginning to be discussed, and automation has the potential to displace much of the world’s workforce. Many decisions have to be made, and quickly, if we hope to keep pace with innovation.

According to this Forbes Article, 2017 is poised to be the year of AI with a Forrester Research Report predicting a more than 300% increase in investment in AI this year compared to 2016. The IDC (International Data Corporation) is estimating this market will grow from $8 billion last year  to more than $47 billion in 2020.

Here are some examples of what is being developed in this field and what already exists:

Security guard:
This Knightscope’s K5 robot constantly monitors its surrounding for suspicious behaviour and can detect potentially criminal audio events such as glass breaking or people screaming.

Soldiers:
Weaponised drones have taken the place of hundreds of soldiers in combat situations; the US Army has used the technology extensively in the ongoing “War on Terror”. The movie “Eye in the Sky” shows how this technology is used in war type situations. The movie, starring Helen Mirren, was shot in South Africa.
And as another side note on South Africa, a local company called Desert Wolf has invented and sold (to an undisclosed country), the Skunk drone, which fires pepper spray bullets at protesters. We South Africans simply had to make this a first, didn’t we? 

Surgeon:
Surgical robots are already being used in the operating theater. A company called Da Vinci launched its range of operating robots in 2000, where they have since performed 2 million procedures.

Takeout drivers:
The online delivery service, Just Eat, use these self driving robots, engineered by Anglo-Estonian company Starship Technologies, that are fitted with a GPS to navigate the terrain for their deliveries.

Tour guide:
A human like android called Kodomoroid is used at Japans National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation as an exhibition guide. This robot lets visitors know about new stories that are relevant to the exhibits.

Chef:
Moley Robotics has invented a 100% automated, intelligent robot chef. The cooking automaton can learn recipes and techniques, whip up gourmet meals and even cleans up after itself. Who wouldn’t want one of these?

Retail Sales Associate:
Pepper is a robot used in department stores in Japan to sell Nestlé’s Dolce Gusto coffee pods and machines and can even answer customer queries.

Click here to watch them in action.

And in the world of Insurance, Lemonades (Lemonade Insurance Agency, LLC) AI known as Jim, broke a world record by paying a claim within 3 seconds of the claim being submitted. That’s right, the claim was reviewed, cross referenced against the policy, fraud checked, approved, bank transfer requested, and the client notified, all within 3 seconds. https://blog.lemonade.com/2017/01/01/lemonade-sets-new-world-record/#more-321

Now, while we at F&I enthusiastically pat ourselves on the back for our excellent claims service, even our claims team agrees that 3 seconds is beyond their current capacity. Forgive them for they are  only human after all.

THE IMPLICATIONS OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Not so long ago, “Social media” did not exist. Now, Facebook alone has more than 1.5 billion users, world-wide. Stuff that is put on social media has the potential to back fire on a person. A BBC programme identified some of the biggest dangers:

TROLLING – The writing of malicious comments to upset other people. Racial abuse would also fit into this category.

A student was once jailed in the UK   for making a racist remark about a well-known footballer. Although the student later apologised, he admitted having paid a huge price after becoming a national hate figure.

GOING VIRAL –   This may be a desired objective for a social media posting but some people have discovered that they can get attention for the wrong reasons.

A lady in the US posted a picture of herself posing next to and mocking a sign calling for respect and silence at a cemetery where 400 US soldiers are buried. She said it was intended as a joke. Others found it offensive. She received angry messages, phone calls and death threats. She was fired from her job.

GOING TOO FAR –  On line dares, for example, can have tragic consequences.

A mock suicide challenge went wrong. A young man in the UK died.

NOT THINKING AHEAD – As the BBC put it , “Every time you write something on social media it has the potential of being round for ever. Even if you delete it someone else may have down-loaded, recorded or even screen-grabbed it. You never know when it might catch up to you”.

Then, there are those “devious” companies that set out to catch “devious” customers. In the USA Personal Disability insurers are seen to be searching social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., to gather information about their insureds’ lifestyles and their eligibility to claim for ongoing disability benefits. A person’s doctor may have provided an opinion or prognosis about a person’s inability to resume work but that information can be compromised by a relatively simple Facebook search where pictures and comments can reveal people actively engaged in pursuits or pastimes that may even entail physically demanding routines. Such revelations have, in many instances, enabled the insurers to deny continuation of benefits to their policy holders.

And it’s not only the “devious” insurance companies that are utilising social media in their business practices. Many companies trawl the pages of Google search results for many reasons as, for another example, when looking at potential employees they are often able to dig up misdemeanours –  past and present.

In business it is also said, “You might only be one tweet or comment away from being fired”.