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Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

A New AI Hub In Canada Is Welcoming the Scientists Trump Is Pushing Away

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Jordan Pearson reports at Motherboard:

Thanks to President Donald Trump’s abhorrent stances on immigration and science, a new AI research hub in Canada stands to gain the brainpower that the US is now repelling.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that artificial intelligence as we know it was largely developed in Canada. For years, a core group of computer scientists like Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio worked in relative obscurity at Canadian universities, until US-based giants like Facebook and Google took notice and hired them.

Now, Canada is committing $150 million to fund an AI research hub that will bring that ingenuity back home. The Toronto-based Vector Institute will serve as a research and commercialization hub for artificial intelligence tech, and has already convinced Hinton to move back to the city. But tech is global, unconstrained by nationality, and so Vector will also look for talent in the places targeted by US travel restrictions.

“I’ve spoken to a few people while gauging interest in who we want to hire, asking why they’re interested, and one of the things they’ve mentioned is the political climate in the US,” said Richard Zemel, a computer scientist at the University of Toronto and Vector’s director of research, in an interview. “That’s to our benefit right now. It could change, but the long-term thing is they’ll have the flexibility to both work on research and with companies.”

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Hinton also suggested that Trump’s intolerance will help Vector attract top global talent. Two members of his team are Iranian. . .

Continue reading.

So Trump is driving away talent that could help the U.S. develop AI, which is the next big thing, so far as I can see. And by pulling out of the TPP, it does create a business-relationships vacuum that China will happily fill. And killing off all the clean energy initiatives in effect withdraws the US from the Paris agreement and from the nations that are fighting climate change (and China is a player here as well). Trump is single-handedly removing the US from its former position as a global leader.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2017 at 11:52 am

Why Does Apple Object to News About Drone Strikes?

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This is very weird, and it seems highly inappropriate for Apple to be blocking certain types of news, particularly news that is routinely reported by the press. Kevin Drum writes at Mother Jones:

Over at the Intercept, Josh Begley has a story that’s disturbing—but not in the usualIntercept way:

Five years ago, I made a simple iPhone app. It would send you a push notification every time a U.S. drone strike was reported in the news. Apple rejected the app three times, calling it “excessively objectionable or crude content.”

….In 2014, after five rejections, Apple accepted the app….But the following September, Apple decided to delete the app entirely. They claimed that the content, once again, was “excessively objectionable or crude.”…Well, Apple’s position has evolved. Today, after 12 attempts, the Metadata app is back in the App Store.

….Update: 2:32pm. Apple has removed Metadata from the App Store.

There is, needless to say, nothing objectionable or crude about this app. It merely aggregates news on a particular subject. Drone strikes themselves may be objectionable and crude—opinions differ, obviously—but reporting on them isn’t.

This matters. Upwards of half of all Americans get some or most of their news from their mobile devices, and for all practical purposes there are only two options in the mobile device world: iOS and Android. If you can’t get an app accepted on either platform, then no one will ever see your app. Apple and Google are the sole gateways to what we can and can’t see. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2017 at 10:55 am

Crowdfunding campaign seeks to purchase search history of lawmakers who killed internet privacy

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The GOP House and Senate both voted to remove privacy protection so that ISPs can track your browsing history (and, presumably, your on-line purchases) and sell that information on the open market. So this initiative, to purchase the browsing history of those voting in favor, is very interesting.

Tom Cahill reports in Resistance Report:

Republicans in Congress just voted to allow Americans’ browser history to be bought and sold. A genius crowdfunding campaign wants to use that against them.

The website searchinternethistory.com is attempting to raise $1 million in order to put in bids to purchase the internet history of leading Republicans and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) members. The first histories the site aims to buy are those of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

“If it takes a million dollars to get real change, I am sure a million people are willing to donate $1 to help ensure their private data stays private,” wrote Adam McElhaney, who launched a GoFundMe campaign for the endeavor.

McElhaney clarified on the GoFundMe campaign’s site that while he understands the privacy risks of using social media, the privacy rules Congress just eliminated goes far beyond what he feels is acceptable.

“I understand that what I put on the Internet is out there and not private. Those are the risks you assume. I’m not ashamed of what I put out on the Internet,” he wrote. “However, I don’t think that what I lookup on the Internet, what sites I visit, my browsing habits, should be bought and sold to whoever. Without my consent.”

McElhaney, who describes himself as “a privacy activist & net neutrality Advocate,” argues that since both houses of Congress have passed bills allowing anyone’s browser history to be sold and purchased by major telecom giants like Verizon, that the American people should be able to buy the browser records for their elected officials. If successful, the site aims to publish a searchable database of browser history for every member of Congress who voted to gut former President Barack Obama’s regulations prohibiting corporations from viewing Americans’ browser histories.

“Everything from their medical, pornographic, to their financial and infidelity. Anything they have looked at, searched for, or visited on the Internet will now be available for everyone to comb through,” the site promises, next to a survey of which public official’s browser history should be published first. “Since we didn’t get an opportunity to vote on whether our private and personal browsing history should be bought and sold, I wanted to show our legislators what a democracy is like. So, I’m giving you the opportunity to vote on whose history gets bought first.”

“Help me raise money to buy the histories of those who took away your right to privacy,” McElhaney adds. . .

Continue reading.

They are also looking for contributions of legal talent. I contributed money.

See also: I Spent A Week Trying To Make The Broadband Lobby Answer A Simple Question About Selling Your Data, by Sam Biddle, which appears in The Intercept:

House Republicans last night voted to overturn an FCC rule that bars your internet provider from telling advertisers which websites you visit and what you search for in exchange for money; the Senate voted along the same lines last week. The decisions were immediately praised by lobbying groups like the NCTA, which represents broadband companies like Verizon and Comcast — and which for some reason framed the gutting of federal privacy regulations as good for privacy, a choice that the organization seemingly cannot explain, no matter how many times you ask.

The NCTA’s statement after last week’s vote read as follows:

“We appreciate today’s Senate action to repeal unwarranted FCC rules that deny consumers consistent privacy protection online and violate competitive neutrality. … Our industry remains committed to offering services that protect the privacy and security of the personal information of our customers. We support this step towards reversing the FCC’s misguided approach and look forward to restoring a consistent approach to online privacy protection that consumers want and deserve.”

Emphasis added. It should be immediately puzzling to anyone reading that statement how the broadband industry “remains committed” to personal privacy while also encouraging (and celebrating) a regulatory change that would allow your ISP to make a buck by telling a third party which websites you visit so that they can try to sell you things. Privacy is generally understood as a state defined by offering less disclosure about oneself, not more. Seeking clarity, I asked the NCTA to explain how it squares this commitment with its apparent antithesis. What’s ensued has been a week-long semantic maze navigated by myself and Joy Sims, a (very patient) spokesperson for the NCTA, reproduced below: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2017 at 10:05 am

Posted in Congress, GOP, Law, Technology

The House just voted to wipe out the FCC’s landmark Internet privacy protections

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The Senate has already voted to remove your privacy protections, and now the House follows suit. Goodbye, privacy. It was great while it lasted.

Brian Fung reports in the Washington Post:

House Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday, by a margin of 215-205, to repeal a set of landmark privacy protections for Web users, issuing a sweeping rebuke of Internet policies enacted under the Obama administration. It also marks a sharp, partisan pivot toward letting Internet providers collect and sell their customers’ Web browsing history, location information, health data and other personal details.

The measure, which was approved by a 50-48 margin in the Senate last week, now heads to the White House, where President Trump is expected to sign it.

Congress’s joint resolution empowers Internet providers to enter the $83 billionmarket for online advertising now dominated by Google and Facebook. It is likely to lend momentum to a broader GOP rollback of Obama-era technology policies, and calls into question the fate of other tech regulations such as net neutrality, which was approved in 2015 over strident Republican objections and bans Internet providers from discriminating against websites. And it is a sign that companies such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon will be treated more permissively at a time when conservatives control all three branches of government.

Supporters of Tuesday’s repeal vote argued the privacy regulations, written by the Federal Communications Commission, stifle innovation by forcing Internet providers to abide by unreasonably strict guidelines.

“[Consumer privacy] will be enhanced by removing the uncertainty and confusion these rules will create,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the FCC.

Internet providers can collect enormous amounts of personal information because they can see all of the online activities of users as they browse different sites on the Web, critics of the legislation said. And unlike search engines or streaming video sites, which consumers can easily abandon if they do not agree with their privacy practices, it is far more difficult to choose a different Internet provider. Many Americans have a choice of only one or two broadband companies in their area, according to federal statistics.

Privacy advocates called the House vote “a tremendous setback for America.”

“Today’s vote means that Americans will never be safe online from having their most personal details stealthily scrutinized and sold to the highest bidder,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Donald Trump, by giving away our data to the country’s leading phone and cable giants, is further undermining American democracy.” . . .

Continue reading.

It’s odd that the GOP favors this. It certainly doesn’t seem conservative to me. But then neither does trashing the environment.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2017 at 3:19 pm

Evidence That Robots Are Winning the Race for American Jobs

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This is grim, though Trump’s Treasury Secretary can’t see any signs of a problem. Claire Cain Miller reports in the NY Times:

Who is winning the race for jobs between robots and humans? Last year, two leading economists described a future in which humans come out ahead. But now they’ve declared a different winner: the robots.

The industry most affected by automation is manufacturing. For every robot per thousand workers, up to six workers lost their jobs and wages fell by as much as three-fourths of a percent, according to a new paper by the economists, Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University. It appears to be the first study to quantify large, direct, negative effects of robots.

The paper is all the more significant because the researchers, whose work is highly regarded in their field, had been more sanguine about the effect of technology on jobs. In a paper last year, they said it was likely that increased automation would create new, better jobs, so employment and wages would eventually return to their previous levels. Just as cranes replaced dockworkers but created related jobs for engineers and financiers, the theory goes, new technology has created new jobs for software developers and data analysts.

But that paper was a conceptual exercise. The new one uses real-world data — and suggests a more pessimistic future. The researchers said they were surprised to see very little employment increase in other occupations to offset the job losses in manufacturing. That increase could still happen, they said, but for now there are large numbers of people out of work, with no clear path forward — especially blue-collar men without college degrees.

Continue reading the main story

“The conclusion is that even if overall employment and wages recover, there will be losers in the process, and it’s going to take a very long time for these communities to recover,” Mr. Acemoglu said.

“If you’ve worked in Detroit for 10 years, you don’t have the skills to go into health care,” he said. “The market economy is not going to create the jobs by itself for these workers who are bearing the brunt of the change.”

The paper’s evidence of job displacement from technology contrasts with a comment from the Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who said at an Axios event last week that artificial intelligence’s displacement of human jobs was “not even on our radar screen,” and “50 to 100 more years” away. (Not all robots use artificial intelligence, but a panel of experts — polled by the M.I.T. Initiative on the Digital Economy in reaction to Mr. Mnuchin’s comments — expressed the same broad concern of major job displacement.)

The paper also helps explain a mystery that has been puzzling economists: why, if machines are replacing human workers, productivity hasn’t been increasing. In manufacturing, productivity has been increasing more than elsewhere — and now we see evidence of it in the employment data, too.

The study analyzed the effect of industrial robots in local labor markets in the United States. Robots are to blame for up to 670,000 lost manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2007, it concluded, and that number will rise because industrial robots are expected to quadruple.

The paper adds to the evidence that automation, more than other factors like trade and offshoring that President Trump campaigned on, has been the bigger long-term threat to blue-collar jobs. The researchers said the findings — “large and robust negative effects of robots on employment and wages” — remained strong even after controlling for imports, offshoring, software that displaces jobs, worker demographics and the type of industry. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 March 2017 at 3:12 pm

Download free ebook with 75 science-fiction stories by up-and-comers

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I just did it. Amazing. Register at website (just name and email), they email you a link, click it, and you are presented with a list of various ebook formats (so I chose “Kindle”), then I specified which type of Kindle I had, then they gave me the URL to enter in the Kindle’s Experimental Browser. I did, saw book with instruction to touch cover to download. I touched the cover and now have the book, instantly.

Now, when I was a boy…..

Here’s all the info on Open Culture.

It is pretty amazing. Here’s the site of the company that has the ebook downloading service.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 1:15 pm

Lawsuit Seeks Transparency as Searches of Cellphones and Laptops Skyrocket at Borders

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I think borders generally are starting to close as countries batten down the hatches, as it were, in anticipation of the disruptions that climate change will bring. Certainly the U.S. military has been studying the national-security aspects of climate change. (OTOH, I know a young man who has a good job and a college degree, who totally denies the reality of climate change, seeing it as a political movement and conspiracy of scientists, with absolutely nothing to back it up. His attitude is not all that uncommon, I think.)

Murtaza Hussain reports in The Intercept:

A LAWSUIT FILED today by the Knight First Amendment Institute, a public interest legal organization based at Columbia University, seeks to shed light on invasive searches of laptops and cellphones by Customs and Border Protection officers at U.S. border crossings.

Documents filed in the case note that these searches have risen precipitously over the past two years, from a total of 5,000 searches in 2015 to 25,000 in 2016, and rising to 5,000 in the month of February 2017 alone. Among other questions, the lawsuit seeks to compel the federal government to provide more information about these searches, including how many of those searched have been U.S. citizens, the number of searches by port of entry, and the number of searches by the country of origin of the travelers.

Civil rights groups have long claimed that warrantless searches of cellphones and laptops by government agents constitute a serious invasion of privacy, due to the wealth of personal data often held on such devices. It is common for private conversations, photographs, and location information to be held on cellphones and laptops, making a search of these items significantly more intrusive than searching a simple piece of luggage.

A number of recent cases in the media have revealed instances of U.S. citizens and others being compelled by CBP agents to unlock their devices for search. In some instances, people have claimed to have been physically coerced into complying, including one American citizen who said that CBP agents grabbed him by the neck in order to take his cellphone out of his possession.

The legality of warrantless device searches at the border remains a contested issue, with the government asserting, over the objections of civil liberties groups, that Fourth Amendment protections do not apply at ports of entry. Some particularly controversial cases of searches at the border have involved journalists whose electronic data contains sensitive information about the identity of sources. Last year, a Canadian journalist was detained for six hours before being denied entry to the United States after refusing to unlock devices containing sensitive information. It has also been alleged that border agents are disproportionately targeting Muslim Americans and people with ties to Muslim-majority countries for both interrogation and device searches.

This February, Sen. Ron Wyden sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security head John Kelly stating that . . .

Continue reading.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 1:06 pm

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