fbb has watched the Christmas Lectures on TV from way back in the days of steam-driven 504 lines on the BBC. Here is a bit of a silent clip of equipment being set up for examining soap film and ultimately bubbles.

Ah, those were he days when real demonstrations were shown LIVE! Remember Mr Coates? Seem here whimsically deminstrating a Wimshurst Machiner.

Below: Mr Coates (always the star) demonstrating and Dr Lawrence Bragg about to Lecture.
This year’s lectures were on Ai which, if you write it “AI” (both capital letters), means artificial insemination!

And here is lecturer Professor Mike Woodridge shaking hands with a hand – as you do.

Arriving through the letterbox at fbb mansions today should be the Prof’s book in the Pelican series.

fbb is hoping it will be more informative than the lectures which were disappointingly “thin” with weak demonstrations.  It is hard to think of suitable visual demo material when the whole caboodle is wrapped up in hgh speed computer chips and involves assembling and responding to many truck loads of data – also in impenetrable bits and bytes.

A while back fbb expressed alam about recent timetable changes in Sheffield.
The result of this new policy was to take, e.g. a fixed 15 minute interval timetable for the 1a from Chapeltown to Herdings …

… and replace it with this!

The new timetable still offers four buses an hour but at varied and very “non-fixed” intervals. So, for the poor passenger, there is no chance of remembering the times of their bus and, effectively, the service becomes officially unreliable as a result.

At the time, fbb used the word “crackpot”; but it appears that this sort of thing is more crackpotter than fbb has, in his worst dreams, imagined.
First have spend oodles of pounds on new software to create these potty timetables.
This was First’s headline for a press release a few weeks back,

It may be worth pausing to try t understand what exactly is meant by Ai.

Computers are not intelligent. In fact, computers are ineffably stupid. All they can do is add 0s and 1s. They cannot even subtract, divide or multiply. But it is what their humanity designed programs can do when the chips have done their simple sums that can be impressive – but only  because their simple calculations can be done hundreds of times every second.
But that is NOT “intelligence“; it is just lots of simple sums done very quickly and using the results to make things happen.
Here, for example, and revealed only to the fbb blog, is the next Managing Director of First Bus.

So we feed her/him/it with every bit of information we can find and tell her/him/it to run a large bus company. The robot MD would still not be “intelligent”. To be  “intelligent” we would have to allow the robot above to make value judgements, to get things wrong and to learn from its mistakes.

That would be beginning to show the first signs of intelligence. Maybe we have to design her/him/it to “have hunches”; to ride on buses and watch how human beings interact with the system. Then the computer will need rewards for success and punishment for failure.
And a very good pension!(?).
As we move closer to real intelligence, the fear is that the machine will protect itself; will not allow humans to unplug it and will “exterminate” any human who gets in its way. 
That might make running buses with Ai quite tricky.
Maybe the writers of Dr Who were more visionary than we think? As a reminder, herewith the first ever instance of Ai on black and white television.
Roger French’s blog (yesterday) revealed a similar nonsense with another traditionally frequent service, route 4 in York. 
Whilst investigating, fbb noticed that in both York and Sheffield, First are not running any buses on a Monday!

So here is a chunk of the 4 timetable, once operating every 15 minutes clock face, but is now not quite every 20 minutes.

Artificial intelligence?

If, as Mr F avers, these hyper-potty turntables were created using Ai, you would be forced to challenge the use of the “i“.  Creating timetables that are obviously more difficult for the customers to use is about as “intelligent” as inventing a chocolate teapot.
fbb needs to look more closely at First’s full press release to try to understand on what the company has spent its bags of money.
First appears to have been sold a pup, a pig in a poke; indeed a chocolat teapot of a piece of software.
More tomorrow.
And, Talking Of Intelligent!

Like many mobile phone owners, fbb is plagued by adverts for Stagecoach Megabus. He is unlikely to take a ride, mainly because there are no Megabus services nearer than Exeter.

Many aeons ago, fbb had a jolly ride from Portsmouth to Brighton (route 700), from Brighton to London (Megabus) aand from London back to Portsmouth (National Express). That was the first and the last Megabus journey he took.
So the new year challenge is to find a Megabus timetable, because, as you know …
It’s All On Line!
The web site is oozing with friendliness …

… but before you book it is best o know when and where you might be booking for. So that implies a map and a timetable. 

There is a list of good things on the site.

But where is the timetable? Will this page help?

Yay! A “Birmingham Timetable”.
Only it isn’t!

It is a humungously huge departure list of Megabus services from Birmingham in departure time order – but no arrival time details or stop detail.

How about this list …

… which offers you clickable routes; maybe a clickable route with the added bonus of a timetable?

An the timetable?

Erm, no!

Traveline for the M38?

What a surprise!

fbb fed the above data into his personal artificial intelligence facility and the following replies came back after a brief period of artificial thought …
Go by National Express
Go by train
Go by car
Stay at home

It’s good to have the benefits of the latest technology to speed your onward journey – or maybe not.

But fbb’s Ai seems as lacking in intelligence as First’s. SEE BELOW.

 Next Artificial Insemination blog : Saturday 6th Jan 
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