By msmash from Slashdot's technology-renaissance department
Google co-founder Sergey Brin has warned that the current boom in artificial intelligence has created a "technology renaissance" that contains many potential threats. In the company's annual Founders' Letter, the Alphabet president struck a note of caution. "The new spring in artificial intelligence is the most significant development in computing in my lifetime," writes Brin. "Every month, there are stunning new applications and transformative new techniques." But, he adds, "such powerful tools also bring with them new questions and responsibilities." From a report: When Google was founded in 1998, Brin writes, the machine learning technique known as artificial neural networks, invented in the 1940s and loosely inspired by studies of the brain, was "a forgotten footnote in computer science." Today the method is the engine of the recent surge in excitement and investment around artificial intelligence. The letter unspools a partial list of where Alphabet uses neural networks, for tasks such as enabling self-driving cars to recognize objects, translating languages, adding captions to YouTube videos, diagnosing eye disease, and even creating better neural networks. Brin nods to the gains in computing power that have made this possible. He says the custom AI chip running inside some Google servers is more than a million times more powerful than the Pentium II chips in Google's first servers. In a flash of math humor, he says that Google's quantum computing chips might one day offer jumps in speed over existing computers that can be only be described with the number that gave Google its name, a googol, or a 1 followed by 100 zeroes. As you might expect, Brin expects Alphabet and others to find more uses for AI. But he also acknowledges that the technology brings possible downsides. "Such powerful tools also bring with them new questions and responsibilities," he writes. AI tools might change the nature and number of jobs, or be used to manipulate people, Brin says -- a line that may prompt readers to think of concerns around political manipulation on Facebook. Safety worries range from "fears of sci-fi style sentience to the more near-term questions such as validating the performance of self-driving cars," Brin writes.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's umm-sure department
Jacob Saulwick, reporting for The Sydney Morning Herald: The movement of pedestrians and vehicles in inner-city Liverpool will be captured by upgraded CCTV cameras and smartphones. The project, part-funded by the federal government's $50 million "Smart Cities" program, aims to help the local council map potential tweaks to streets and planning rules, in an area undergoing rapid development. "It gives us the opportunity to be more experimental in our CBD to get better outcomes for the people using it," the chief executive of Liverpool City Council, Kiersten Fishburn, said. The street grid of downtown Liverpool was laid out in 1827 by Robert Hoddle, who would go on to survey and plot Melbourne's distinctive grid. And Liverpool is changing fast, with a proposed local environment plan to allow denser and residential development around the inner city, as well as the opening of University of Wollongong and Western Sydney University campuses.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's up,-up,-and-away department
After several delays on Sunday morning, a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasted off from the west Texas desert just after noon Central Daylight Time, sending a crew capsule carrying a dummy named "Mannequin Skywalker" on a brief trip to space. For the eighth time, Jeff Bezos' commercial space company successfully tested the system it hopes to use to send paying passengers on suborbital flights in the coming months. From a report: The rocket reached a maximum altitude of 350,000 feet during the test flight, which took roughly 10 minutes from liftoff to the rocket and capsule touchdowns. This test marks the first test flight of the New Shepard system in 2018. The launch of the capsule and rocket was the eighth overall test flight of New Shepard, and the second time this rocket and capsule have flown to suborbital space together. The capsule also carried "Mannequin Skywalker," the test dummy outfitted with sensors used by Blue Origin to give flight engineers a sense of what a person might experience during a flight to space aboard the New Shepard. Eventually, Bezos hopes that New Shepard will take paying customers up about 100 kilometers into the air, where they will experience weightlessness and be able to see the Earth against the blackness of space before the capsule falls back to the ground under parachutes. But Bezos' ambition stretches far beyond sending tourists to suborbital space. Blue Origin also has plans to build larger rockets that will be able to send big payloads and crews of people to orbit and beyond.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's third-time's-the-charm department
T-Mobile and Sprint said on Sunday that they have agreed to combine in a $26.5 billion merger, creating a wireless giant to compete against industry leaders AT&T and Verizon. From a report: Deutsche Telekom AG, the Bonn, Germany-based company that controls T-Mobile, and SoftBank Group, the Tokyo-based owner of Sprint, agreed to a combination that values each Sprint share at 0.10256 of a T-Mobile share, the companies said in a statement Sunday. That ratio values Sprint at $6.62 a share based on T-Mobile's Friday closing price of $64.52. The new company will use the T-Mobile name, with T-Mobile's John Legere as chief executive officer and Mike Sievert at chief operating officer. The German company's chairman, Tim Hoettges, will serve in that role at the combined company, and the board will include SoftBank Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son. The companies said they expect synergies of about $43 billion, with more than $6.5 billion on a run-rate basis.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's breaking-news department
Several readers have shared a report: North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, told President Moon Jae-in of South Korea when they met that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States would agree to formally end the Korean War and promise that it would not invade his country, a South Korean government spokesman said Sunday. In a faith-building gesture ahead of a summit meeting with President Trump, Mr. Kim also said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States to watch the shutdown next month of his country's only known underground nuclear test site. The comments by Mr. Kim were made on Friday when the leaders of the two Koreas met at Panmunjom, a village on their shared border, the spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, said on Sunday, providing additional details of the meeting. "I know the Americans are inherently disposed against us, but when they talk with us, they will see that I am not the kind of person who would shoot nuclear weapons to the south, over the Pacific or at the United States," Mr. Kim told Mr. Moon, according to Mr. Yoon's account of the meeting. It was another dramatically conciliatory statement by Mr. Kim, whose country threatened to do exactly those things during the height of nuclear tensions last year.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's take-note department
For the first time in two decades, a huge number of books, films, and other works will escape U.S. copyright law. From a report: The Great American Novel enters the public domain on January 1, 2019 -- quite literally. Not the concept, but the book by William Carlos Williams. It will be joined by hundreds of thousands of other books, musical scores, and films first published in the United States during 1923. It's the first time since 1998 for a mass shift to the public domain of material protected under copyright. It's also the beginning of a new annual tradition: For several decades from 2019 onward, each New Year's Day will unleash a full year's worth of works published 95 years earlier. This coming January, Charlie Chaplin's film The Pilgrim and Cecil B. DeMille's The 10 Commandments will slip the shackles of ownership, allowing any individual or company to release them freely, mash them up with other work, or sell them with no restriction. This will be true also for some compositions by Bela Bartok, Aldous Huxley's Antic Hay, Winston Churchill's The World Crisis, Carl Sandburg's Rootabaga Pigeons, E.E. Cummings's Tulips and Chimneys, Noel Coward's London Calling! musical, Edith Wharton's A Son at the Front, many stories by P.G. Wodehouse, and hosts upon hosts of forgotten works, according to research by the Duke University School of Law's Center for the Study of the Public Domain. Throughout the 20th century, changes in copyright law led to longer periods of protection for works that had been created decades earlier, which altered a pattern of relatively brief copyright protection that dates back to the founding of the nation. This came from two separate impetuses. First, the United States had long stood alone in defining copyright as a fixed period of time instead of using an author's life plus a certain number of years following it, which most of the world had agreed to in 1886. Second, the ever-increasing value of intellectual property could be exploited with a longer term. But extending American copyright law and bringing it into international harmony meant applying "patches" retroactively to work already created and published. And that led, in turn, to lengthy delays in copyright expiring on works that now date back almost a century.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
Eric Lundgren, who has spent his life working on e-waste recycling programs, was arrested and charged with "counterfeiting" Microsoft restore discs earlier this week, part of a controversial, years-long legal fight that ended when an appeals court declined to overturn a lower court's decision. Lundgren argued that what he was offering is only recovery CDs loaded with data anyone can download for free. In an interview with The Verge, he said, "Look, these are restore CDs, there's no licenses, you can download them for free online, they're given to you for free with your computer. The only way that you can use them is [if] you have a license, and Microsoft has to validate it.?" Lundgren was going to sell them to repair shops for a quarter each so they could hand them out to people who needed them. Shortly after the Lundgren's was arrested, Microsoft published a blog post which stridently disagrees with Lundgren's characterization of the case. From a report: "We are sharing this information now and responding publicly because we believe both Microsoft's role in the case and the facts themselves are being misrepresented," the company wrote. But it carefully avoids the deliberate misconception about software that it promulgated in court. That misconception, which vastly overstated Lundgren's crime and led to the sentence he received, is simply to conflate software with a license to operate that software. [...] Hardly anyone even makes these discs any more, certainly not Microsoft, and they're pretty much worthless without a licensed copy of the OS in the first place. But Microsoft convinced the judges that a piece of software with no license or product key -- meaning it won't work properly, if at all -- is worth the same as one with a license. [...] Anyway, the company isn't happy with the look it has of sending a guy to prison for stealing something with no value to anyone but someone with a bum computer and no backup. It summarizes what it thinks are the most important points as follows, with my commentary following the bullets. Microsoft did not bring this case: U.S. Customs referred the case to federal prosecutors after intercepting shipments of counterfeit software imported from China by Mr. Lundgren. This is perfectly true, however Microsoft has continually misrepresented the nature and value of the discs, falsely claiming that they led to lost sales. That's not possible, of course, since Microsoft gives the contents of these discs away for free. It sells licenses to operate Windows, something you'd have to have already if you wanted to use the discs in the first place. Lundgren went to great lengths to mislead people: His own emails submitted as evidence in the case show the lengths to which Mr. Lundgren went in an attempt to make his counterfeit software look like genuine software. They also show him directing his co-defendant to find less discerning customers who would be more easily deceived if people objected to the counterfeits. Printing an accurate copy of a label for a disc isn't exactly "great lengths." Early on the company in China printed "Made in USA" on the disc and "Made in Canada" on the sleeve, and had a yellow background when it should have been green -- that's the kind of thing he was fixing.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's genuine-concerns department
Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources granted permission to Taiwanese tech manufacturer Foxconn, best known for assembling Apple's iPhones, to siphon off seven million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan, despite protests from conservation groups. From a report: The massive diversion of water from the lake will be used to produce LCD screens at the company's planned $10 billion, 20 million square foot manufacturing plant set to be built in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin. Nearly 2.7 million gallons of the water -- about 39 percent of the daily intake from the factory -- will be lost in the process, primarily from evaporation. The remaining water will be treated and returned to the lake basin. Wisconsin's DNR noted in a statement that the requested withdrawal will "only amount to a 0.07 percent increase in the total surface water withdrawals from Lake Michigan." For environmentalists in the region, the issue is not so much the diversion for the Foxconn factory itself but rather the precedent it will set for how the lake water can be used. "If we allow this to happen, it's going to happen all over the basin, with other states and then it's going to be the thirsty states and nations to come," Jennifer Giegerich, the government affairs director for the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, warned during a public hearing about the diversion, according to the Wisconsin Gazette.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's seeking-a-silver-bullet department
"A team led by scientists from the University of Hong Kong has developed a new antibody drug that will not only protect people from contracting HIV but also serve as a long-acting treatment for the virus, unlike current medication that must be taken daily." Slashdot reader hackingbear shared this article from the South China Morning Post:
There will need to be a further battery of tests before the drug, named "BiIA-SG", can be part of the global battle against the virus, which causes Aids. The research team has so far only tested the drug on mice but is now looking to experiment on larger animals such as monkeys, before conducting clinical trials on humans. Still, Professor Chen Zhiwei, the team leader and director of HKU's Aids Institute, stressed the scientific discovery had yielded "one of the most potent and effective antibody drugs". This is because the study showed that mice given the drug before being infected with HIV were protected from the virus for about a week.
In addition, the experiments, which also involved experts from mainland medical and research institutions, found that when mice were infected with HIV before being treated, 42 per cent had an "undetectable level" of the virus for at least four weeks after one injection of antibodies... The tests found that the drug was effective against 124 strains of HIV, including those that are commonly found in infected people from Hong Kong and mainland China.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Illudium-Q-36-Space-Modulator department
john of sparta quotes Defense One: The Defense Department's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program, or JNLWD, is pushing ahead with a new direct energy weapon that uses high-powered microwaves to stop cars in their tracks without damaging the vehicle, its driver, or anyone else.
The jammer works by targeting the car's engine control unit causing it to reboot over and over, stalling the engine. Like an invisible hand, the microwaves hold the car in place. "Anything that has electronics on it, these high-powered microwaves will affect," David Law, who leads JNLWD's technology division, said in March. "As long as the [radio] is on, it holds the vehicle stopped."
It weighs 400 pounds -- it's the size of a large copy machine -- and uses 300 kilowatts of power that's generated by a gasoline-powered turbine. "To deploy it, the driver would pull out in front of the attacker and turn it on."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's calling-your-methods department
Long-time Slashdot reader Martin S. pointed us to this an excerpt from the new book Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley by Portland-based investigator reporter Corey Pein.
The author shares what he realized at a job recruitment fair seeking Java Legends, Python Badasses, Hadoop Heroes, "and other gratingly childish classifications describing various programming specialities."
I wasn't the only one bluffing my way through the tech scene. Everyone was doing it, even the much-sought-after engineering talent. I was struck by how many developers were, like myself, not really programmers, but rather this, that and the other. A great number of tech ninjas were not exactly black belts when it came to the actual onerous work of computer programming. So many of the complex, discrete tasks involved in the creation of a website or an app had been automated that it was no longer necessary to possess knowledge of software mechanics. The coder's work was rarely a craft. The apps ran on an assembly line, built with "open-source", off-the-shelf components. The most important computer commands for the ninja to master were copy and paste...
< article continued at Slashdot's calling-your-methods department
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's rocking-the-world department
The New York Times reports on rocks in the country of Oman that react naturally with carbon dioxide, turning it into stone.
Scientists say that if this natural process, called carbon mineralization, could be harnessed, accelerated and applied inexpensively on a huge scale -- admittedly some very big "ifs" -- it could help fight climate change. Rocks could remove some of the billions of tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide that humans have pumped into the air since the beginning of the Industrial Age. And by turning that CO2 into stone, the rocks in Oman -- or in a number of other places around the world that have similar geological formations -- would ensure that the gas stayed out of the atmosphere forever...
Capturing and storing carbon dioxide, is drawing increased interest. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that deploying such technology is essential to efforts to rein in global warming... At a geothermal power plant in Iceland, after several years of experimentation, an energy company is injecting modest amounts of carbon dioxide into volcanic rock, where it becomes mineralized. Dutch researchers have suggested spreading a kind of crushed rock along coastlines to capture CO2. And scientists in Canada and South Africa are studying ways to use mine wastes, called tailings, to do the same thing.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reports an alternate perspective from 86-year-old social scientist Mayer Hillman: "We're doomed." He's predicting the end of most life on the planet, citing the lack of any way to reverse the process that's already melting the polar ice caps.
"Optimism about the future is wishful thinking, says Hillman. He believes that accepting that our civilization is doomed could make humanity rather like an individual who recognizes he is terminally ill. Such people rarely go on a disastrous binge; instead, they do all they can to prolong their lives."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's cutting-the-cords department
An anonymous reader quotes Investor's Business Daily:
Shares in Charter Communications plunged after the cable TV firm reported first quarter earnings and lost more video subscribers than expected, also sparking a sell-off in Comcast and Altice USA... Charter said it lost 122,000 video subscribers, nearly triple analyst predictions for a fall of 43,000. Comcast on Wednesday said it lost 96,000 video subscribers, exceeding estimates for a drop of 75,000.... With Friday's sell-off, Comcast stock is down 20% in 2018, with Charter falling more than 24%...
Cable TV firms aren't the only losers. AT&T this week said it lost 187,000 pay-TV customers, including satellite TV subscribers and its U-verse landline business. AT&T's DirecTV Now internet streaming service added 312,000 customers. But AT&T garners much lower profit margins from video streaming.
Cable companies are now raising prices on broadband services to compensate, according to the article.
MarketWatch notes that Charter also lost 100,000 customers in the same three-month period in 2017, calling the ongoing trend "a fundamental shift in consumer behavior."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's staying-in-your-lane department
A 39-year-old motorist pointed his Tesla S60 down a highway at 40 mph -- while sitting in its passenger seat, leaning back with his hands behind his head. Another motorist spotted the empty driver's seat and filmed the car. Now (nearly a year later) the Tesla's owner "has been banned from driving for 18 months," the Guardian reports.
The driver, from Nottingham, pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving after admitting he switched seats when he turned on the car's autopilot mode, leaving the car's brakes and steering wheel unmanned. The driver admitted that the stunt in May last year had been silly, but insisted that he was simply "the unlucky one who got caught" trying out the "amazing" feature on the car.
As well as the 18-month driving ban he was ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work. He was also put on a 10-day rehabilitation programme and will have to pay £1,800 in costs.
A police officer called the behavior "reckless," adding that autopilot controls like the ones on Teslas "are in no way a substitute for a competent motorist in the driving seat who can react appropriately to the road ahead."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's general-protection-faults department
In a Q&A with Harvard students, Bill Gates said his foundation's work on K-12 education in the U.S. has had little impact, at least compared to its success in reducing infant mortality in developing countries. The challenge with education, he said, is that it is "essentially a social construct" that depends on creating the right culture of accountability and interactions -- and funding, of course. Gates said if he had a magic wand for the U.S., he would fix education, and for the rest of the world, nutrition.
He also said if he were a college student now, he would study artificial intelligence -- and that he was jealous that someone in the room could solve the problem of creating an AI that can read a book and pass an AP exam.
Gates predicted this generation of graduates will "solve" cancer, as well as the pesky problem of infectious diseases.
And even though his foundation's 20-year effort has failed to improve educaion -- "we'll keep going."Read Replies (0)