**#techFT is getting a facelift, and some new features over the coming weeks. Your opinion on content and format matters, so please send any thoughts to techFT@ft.com **
Thursday's #techFT agenda
# Microsoft joins the trillion-dollar club
# Amazon and Intel report earnings after the bell
# The promise of texting straight from your brain
Technology and science fiction can feed upon and inspire each other, as the new Stanley Kubrick exhibition at London's Design Museum makes clear.
Twenty years after his death, the show reveals how meticulously he researched his films, how much he loved gadgets and how prescient he was about technological and social change.
“If you look at 2001 again [a collaboration with Arthur C Clarke] you will see the world you look at and recognise today," special adviser on the exhibition Alan Yentob told us at today's press preview, pointing to Hal's artificial intelligence, and early versions of iPads and FaceTime in the 1968 movie.
I was also fascinated with some of Kubrick's favourite gadgets on display such as the BORIS chess computer and the 1960s concepts and products (below) he studied that helped inspire 2001.
"Social science-fiction" author Stephen Oram's short-story collection Biohacked and Begging, published this month, also benefits from a close-up study of technology, aided by working directly with scientists. He deals in "near-future" sci-fi that hints at the next developments in AI, bots, drones, genetic engineering, facial recognition and other hot subjects, and provokes debate in readings at public events. "I particularly want to reach a non-sci-fi audience, and I think for them spaceships and aliens can be hard to get into, particularly at a live event where you have to use what people are already conscious of," he says.
He has learnt about scientific processes, visiting robotics labs and sitting in on team meetings of neuroscientists, even collaborating with one of them - Danbee Kim - on two stories in the collection. She finds the experience equally beneficial.
"We have to be creative ourselves to work out what is going on in the mind, so it's common sense that science and storytelling should go together," she says. "But you can get boxed in if you're just talking to other neuroscientists. Working with Stephen made me think more about the science I was doing and its possible repercussions."
Both Kubrick's exhibition and Oram's collection should set the rest of us thinking about that as well.
The Internet of (Five) Things
#New York - Microsoft joins trillion-dollar club
Microsoft has joined the four comma club, as investors cheered the company’s latest quarterly results and pushed its valuation above $1tn for the first time, making it the biggest company in the world by market capitalisation. Apple and Amazon had previously hit the $1tn mark, but are shy of it at the moment. Microsoft was helped by booming cloud sales as quarterly revenues rose 14 per cent, to $30.6bn and earnings beat expectations for $1 a share, rising 20 per cent to come in at $1.14.
#San Francisco - Facebook feeling fine
Facebook set aside $3bn in its quarterly results to cover a potential fine by the US Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations, in what would be the largest civil penalty imposed by the regulator. The fine could be as high as $5bn, it said. Despite the Cambridge Analytica scandal (discussed in Gillian Tett's column), Lex says revenues keep rolling in and advertisers continue to be awestruck by the company’s rising user count, now close to 2.4bn on a monthly basis. Facebook shares rose 7 per cent in morning trade.
#Glasgow - Handing Huawei "a loaded gun"
Allowing the Chinese telecoms equipment maker to supply parts of the UK's 5G network would be like giving it a loaded gun, according to Rob Joyce, senior cyber security adviser to the US National Security Agency. The leaking of news of the government's decision has infuriated civil servants and led to calls for an inquiry by Conservative MPs. Here's our guide to the main security risks of using Huawei for 5G. The company itself again denied allegations that it had received military funding, saying: “Most of what the US government says, as we all know, is not true.”
#Special Report - AI and Robotics
In this special report: the US lead in AI is under threat as China steps up investment; why slow progress in the automation of social care alarms an ageing Japan; and do robots need morality lessons from Mary Poppins? Plus: a British start-up that is democratising industrial robots.
#MIT Technology Review - Turning brain signals into speech
Scientists have tapped brain signals being sent to the lips and turned them into synthesised speech. It's a step towards a system that may be able to help severely paralysed people speak—and gadgets that could let anyone send a text straight from the brain.
Sifted - the European tech start-up week
The German challenger bank N26 is expanding so fast it onboards people in big batches twice a month. The bank, Sifted discovered this week, sets up a towering pile of laptops in one corner of the office, and new hires scramble to grab theirs. Now the fintech company, which has more than 1,000 employees, has the tough task of trying to conquer the crowded UK market. Can it succeed?
Elsewhere in European start-ups, Sifted has a Japanese brunch with Ian Hogarth, one of the world's biggest angel investors in AI, who says that Brexit is an opportunity and machine learning is "eating the world". Sifted also looks at the start-ups disrupting Europe's €400bn farming market — with tech that includes fitbits for horses, facial recognition for cows and robot chickens. Finally, Sifted travels to Lithuania to find out how it became such a big European fintech hub.
Your Say - does social media need a "kill-switch"?
In response to yesterday's #techFT on the justification for a social media "kill-switch" after the Sri Lankan bombings, Simon Noble writes:
"While the basic sentiment for a social media kill switch makes sense, it also raises the inevitable questions of who decides and potential for abuse. To take one example. In the [Madrid] Atocha [train] bombing, social media contradicted Aznar's claim that the bombing was not Islamist, went viral and was probably responsible for PP losing to PSOE in the general election that week. Would a kill switch have given Aznar the opportunity to prevent that from happening? And how much more likely in countries with less robust democracies?
"A kill switch would have to be very limited and very tightly controlled. Editing social media raises all sorts of First Amendment rights issues that European commentators and governments tend to gloss over.Worth noting also that in the NZ case,social media acted quickly but the images had already been widely disseminated. Given relative technology, I question whether social media has weaponised news any more than newsprint 100 years ago before radio and TV. After all the American-Spanish war was triggered by manipulative US newspaper reporting of what we now know, and was suspected at the time by informed observers, was an accidental explosion of the Maine."
Tech tools - The +Record Player
It's a lot pricier than the few quid my 60s Dansette record player cost, but even at £1,028, Jonathan Margolis reckons this is a great buy:
"I think the reason it sounds so good – or “shockingly good” as one famous audiophile said when he heard it at the New York Audio Show in November – is that our ears are just not used to such quality sound coming from harsh old recordings; the six amplifiers in The+Record Player provide a generous soundscape, even when playing mono records. Once you start playing your old LPs on it, you can’t stop. I absolutely love this product that was designed in Milan by a Swede, and engineered in Boston, with a Czech turntable and a Danish cartridge. I think you just might too."