I was born in Algiers to a Belgian mother and an Algerian father. I came to Belgium in 1991, when the civil war started in Algeria and, probably like the majority of you, thought I would go back home after my studies… Yet here I am, a few years later, in a city that I love and now call home.
Wait, what? Did she just write “love Brussels”? Yes, I sure did and here is why (in no particular order):
- The vibrant food scene 🥗
- The chocolate 🍫 (can you tell I am a foodie by now?)
- The cultural scene – did you know Brussels has more cultural events per capita than New York?
- At least one park per commune 🌳
- Belgian surrealism and sense of humor
- Meeting people from all over the world: 183 nationalities, to be precise
- The many enriching professional opportunities
- And no, the weather is not that bad…
Another brilliant aspect of Brussels is its buzzing tech landscape. This is where EU policymakers deliberate on the countless digital files and various companies – from start-ups and SMEs to tech giants. As a newly appointed CEO of SEC Newgate EU, I am proud that we can contribute to those conversations in ways big and small… Which brings me to this issue of TechAways! Drafting the editorial of TechAways* has been on my bucket list since it was launched in 2017, so I am very happy to be at the helm for yet another excellent issue.
This time, you will read about the most commonly used and hackable passwords (no “james2020”, the most adorable cavalier King Charles spaniel dog 🐾 in my life, is not my unique password), see how scientists hacked insect pheromones to use less pesticides, rejoice at the prospect of a better shopping experience (it’s almost that time of the year) thanks to improved Google searches and never look at your open space or home office the same way after discovering that the robotic temporary office has already been invented (sorry!) and much more…
Enjoy reading this week’s contributions, and while we are at it, big thanks to the editorial team for doing such a great job at making this newsletter both an interesting and fun read!
All the best,
*To think I had to make it as CEO to be invited! 😳
But before we succumb to AI-related blues, check out this week’s contributions below!
Liquid modernity in full waddle 🧱 [Gizmodo]
Hot desk, open-plan, low partition… Trendy office layouts have been poisoning the corporate way of life for some time now. Through it all, the words ‘I wish I was in a cubicle right now’ have never been uttered – and yet, a team of Japanese robotics researchers decided to answer a call no one made by creating a temporary cubicle office. Innocuously named WaddleWalls, it’s self-explanatory: the robotic walls are programmed to waddle together, effectively creating a workplace cocoon. Equipped with sensors, they can work as separate units or in a group mode, with height being one of the few customisable qualities. One thing’s for sure – the office might be temporary, but the cubicle dreams will haunt you forever.
More food, less pesticides? Let’s hack the insects’ sex signals 🐛 [WIRED]
Researchers have found a new way to use less pesticides in agricultural crops: targeting the sex drive of insects. First, some biology: female insects attract male partners in complete darkness over long distances using… sex pheromones. After which, they end up laying hundreds of eggs at once, which then hatch into voracious caterpillars and feast on harvests from soybeans to peppers. The farmers fight back using pesticides. The solution? Swedish researchers found a way to produce artificial pheromones affordably and sustainably, which once used, cover the sex scent and make it harder for insect couples to find each other and mate. As the insect population falls, fewer pests cause crop damage. The beauty of this method is that it doesn’t release harmful substances into the environment, nor does it kill insects; it simply influences their behaviour. Clearly, pheromones are an astounding chemical power—and one that can be exploited!
A man’s trashy password is another man’s treasure 💰 [Cybernews]
Results are out for the weakest passwords of 2022 and the list is (as expected) very predictable. Cybernews has analysed the data of 56 million breached and leaked passwords in the last year: “123456” continues to hold the top spot, with 111,417 people thinking ‘’no one will ever guess”. Famous people and swear words are also a common choice. ‘’King’’ and ‘’ass’’ lead the ranking of most used for each category – whether both words have been combined into one password, we’d rather not know. The results show the password you came up with at age 14 and have been recycling ever since makes your personal information vulnerable to hackers, so please change it. Disclaimer: the above news has not been sponsored by the IT team of your company.
The murky underworld of the search bar, and the people digging it up ⛏️ [Wired]
Have you seen the movie Hercules? Do you remember when the hero decapitates a monster, only for three more heads to pop up, and so on, until there are thousands? Today, online content moderators suffer the same predicament as Hercules when it comes to the colossal task of removing spam. Amid innovation and evolution, Google must grapple with never-ending, ever-increasing volumes of spam. In 2021, Google Ads removed over 3.4 billion ads and suspended over 5.6 billion advertisers. However, Google’s tendency to put the onus of detection on users rather than experts is criticised by digital activists. Clearly, not even the humble search bar can escape controversy, and niche tech campaigns have the capacity to shape our online experience immeasurably.
#SpaceVeg 🥕 [TechCrunch]
With trips to the moon becoming more common, ISS is providing astronauts with new snacks for their journey, including yoghurt and (hopefully) delicious space tomatoes. Veg-05, the experiment in the space station on growing edible plants in microgravity, includes a combination of LED lights with a pinch of fresh vitamins and minerals. Crew members will enjoy gardening tomatoes while also trying to create a shelf-stable pre-yoghurt mix that, when hydrated, results in the bacteria naturally producing the target nutrient. This experiment will help astronauts to have more fresh food during their missions. Next step: a new veg restaurant on the moon for Earth’s 8 billion inhabitants.
In case you haven’t had enough:
International Time Keepers Scrap the Leap Second [Gizmodo]
Stagnant Scientific Productivity Holding Back Growth [Wall Street Journal]
The EU’s push for its own satellite internet is a boon for startups and security [The Next Web]
About this week’s editor, Feriel Saouli: A foodie, an interpreter by training and a passionate association executive at heart, I am Feriel, the newly appointed CEO of SEC Newgate EU. I first joined the company in 2011, back when it was still called Cambre Associates. This is also when I launched our association management practice. All in all, I have managed over 10 organisations ranging from trade associations to large professional societies in a variety of sectors like environment, energy and healthcare.