Google tax deal ‘not a glorious moment’, says minister

Business secretary Sajid Javid says he shared Britons’ sense of injustice as criticism grows of agreement with tech firm

A senior government minister has admitted the tax settlement between Google and the UK government “was not a glorious moment”.

The admission by the business secretary, Sajid Javid, came as a senior executive from Google claimed he could not say how much UK profit has been generated by the technology firm in the past decade, or how many meetings had been held between the company’s executives and ministers.

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Google’s low tax rate stretches our patience, and Osborne’s crowing stretches credulity

The Google affair reveals gaping holes in our tax system – from the smoke and mirrors of royalty payments, to the charade of the tech giant’s Irish question

First, the case for the defence. It is not true that Google pays UK corporation tax at a rate of only 3%. That is not possible. Corporation tax, currently 20%, is the same for all companies.

Nor is it true that Google paid no tax at all before the settlement earlier this month with HM Revenue & Customs. Google UK’s accounts show a £20m tax payment in 2013, for example. The bill for back taxes of £130m, covering the past 10 years, arises from an audit by HMRC that was started in 2009. And, finally, the company’s statement that it “complies with the law” is 100% accurate. It now has a stamp of approval from HMRC to demonstrate as much.

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Can Google’s AlphaGo really feel it in its algorithms? | John Naughton

When the game-playing system AlphaGo defeated a master of the Chinese game go five games to nil, its creators could not explain why. Is this a sign of intuitive AI?

Last week, researchers at the artificial intelligence company DeepMind, which is now owned by Google, announced an extraordinary breakthrough: in October last, a DeepMind computing system called AlphaGo had defeated the reigning European champion player of the ancient Chinese game go by five games to nil. The victory was announced last week in a paper published in the scientific journal Nature.

So what? Computers have been getting better and better at board games for yonks. Way back in the dark ages of 1997, for example, IBM’s Deep Blue machine beat the then world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, at chess. So surely go, which is played not with six different pieces but black and white tokens – would be a pushover? Not so: the number of possible positions in go outnumber the number of atoms in the universe and far exceed the number of possibilities in chess.

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Meet Viv: the AI that wants to read your mind and run your life

The team behind Siri have a new idea: a voice-controlled personal assistant – linked to all your devices – that will take care of your every need

So I’ve arrived late at the office of Viv, an artificial intelligence company based in San Jose, California. I missed my train from San Francisco after dawdling leaving my apartment and then finding the taxi service app on my phone wouldn’t work. Dag Kittlaus, who I’ve kept waiting, looks on the bright side. “Your trials of getting here are a perfect illustration of how Viv will be helpful,” he says. “Wouldn’t it be nice to say ‘I need to get to San Jose, give me my options’ and Viv would know how close you are to the train station, when the next train is coming, where the nearest cars, how much it was going to cost…”

Kittlaus is the co-founder and CEO of Viv, a three-year-old AI startup backed by $30m, including funds from Iconiq Capital, which helps manage the fortunes of Mark Zuckerberg and other wealthy tech executives. In a blocky office building in San Jose’s downtown, the company is working on what Kittlaus describes as a “global brain” – a new form of voice-controlled virtual personal assistant. With the odd flashes of personality, Viv will be able to perform thousands of tasks, and it won’t just be stuck in a phone but integrated into everything from fridges to cars. “Tell Viv what you want and it will orchestrate this massive network of services that will take care of it,” he says.

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Orro Pyro Disc 105 Racing Sport: bike review | Martin Love

A new brand from a familiar website, the Orro is a lightweight racer destined to become a classic

Chris Froome and Philippe Gilbert aren’t sure about them, but Tom Boonen is in favour… When it comes to disc brakes the riders may still be undecided, but as of this summer they will be used in major road events across Europe. Technical and racing fears aside, one thing is clear: the stopping power of discs in the wet is a massive step forward.

A good example are those featured on this new model from Orro. The bike is the brainchild of the UK’s largest cycle distributor, i-ride.co.uk, which last year decided to create its own brand from its HQ in Sussex. A whole range of bikes are on offer, including this Pyro Disc. It’s lightweight, pleasingly stable, has impressive handling and comes with a generous level of kit for cash. But you can’t put a price on decent brakes on slippery roads (i-ride.co.uk).

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