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More Than 50 Nations Launch 'Paris Call' To Fix Hate Speech and Cyberattacks; China and Russia Not Among Signatories, Trump Administration Reluctant To Sign
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 02:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department:
French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday launched a push to regulate the internet.
France and U.S. technology giants, including Microsoft, are pushing for governments and companies worldwide to sign up for a new initiative aimed at establishing regulations for the internet, to fight such online threats as cyber attacks, hate speech and online censorship. A report adds: With the launch of a declaration entitled the 'Paris call for trust and security in cyberspace,' French President Emmanuel Macron is hoping to revive efforts to regulate cyberspace after the last round of United Nations negotiations failed in 2017.

In the document, which is supported by many European countries but, crucially, not China or Russia, the signatories urge governments to beef up protections against cyber meddling in elections and prevent the theft of trade secrets. The Paris call was initially pushed for by tech companies but was redrafted by French officials to include work done by U.N. experts in recent years. [...] In another sign of the Trump administration's reluctance to join international initiatives it sees as a bid to encroach on U.S. sovereignty, French officials said Washington might not become a signatory, though talks are continuing.

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YouTube CEO Says EU's Proposed Copyright Regulation Financially Impossible
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 01:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's their-views department:
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki has again hit out at proposed new European Union copyright rules which she claims is impossible for a platform like YouTube to comply with, and if done so, could harm the creative industries. Wojcicki said the European Parliament's vote in favor of an overhaul to copyright law two months ago is "unrealistic" because owners often disagree on who owns the rights to online material. In a blog post, she wrote: Take the global music hit "Despacito." This video contains multiple copyrights, ranging from sound recording to publishing rights. Although YouTube has agreements with multiple entities to license and pay for the video, some of the rights holders remain unknown. That uncertainty means we might have to block videos like this to avoid liability under article 13. Multiply that risk with the scale of YouTube, where more than 400 hours of video are uploaded every minute, and the potential liabilities could be so large that no company could take on such a financial risk.

The consequences of article 13 go beyond financial losses. EU residents are at risk of being cut off from videos that, in just the last month, they viewed more than 90bn times. Those videos come from around the world, including more than 35m EU channels, and they include language classes and science tutorials as well as music videos. We welcome the chance to work with policymakers and the industry to develop a solution within article 13 that protects rights holders while also allowing the creative economy to thrive. This could include more comprehensive licensing agreements, collaboration with rights holders to identify who owns what, and smart rights management technology, similar to Content ID.

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Study Opens Route To Ultra-Low-Power Microchips
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 01:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
Freshly Exhumed writes: A new approach to controlling magnetism in a microchip could open the doors to memory, computing, and sensing devices that consume drastically less power than existing versions. The approach could also overcome some of the inherent physical limitations that have been slowing progress in this area until now.

Researchers at MIT and at Brookhaven National Laboratory have demonstrated that they can control the magnetic properties of a thin-film material simply by applying a small voltage. Changes in magnetic orientation made in this way remain in their new state without the need for any ongoing power, unlike today's standard memory chips, the team has found. The new finding is being reported today in the journal Nature Materials, in a paper by Geoffrey Beach, a professor of materials science and engineering and co-director of the MIT Materials Research Laboratory; graduate student Aik Jun Tan; and eight others at MIT and Brookhaven.

As silicon microchips draw closer to fundamental physical limits that could cap their ability to continue increasing their capabilities while decreasing their power consumption, researchers have been exploring a variety of new technologies that might get around these limits. One of the promising alternatives is an approach called spintronics, which makes use of a property of electrons called spin, instead of their electrical charge. Because spintronic devices can retain their magnetic properties without the need for constant power, which silicon memory chips require, they need far less power to operate. They also generate far less heat -- another major limiting factor for today's devices.

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Stan Lee, Marvel Comics' Real-Life Superhero, Dies at 95
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 11:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's RIP department:
Stan Lee, who wrote and published a comic book legacy that spans from the Depression Era to the present day, who created Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk and Thor, has died. He was 95. Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber in New York City in 1922, the son of Romanian Jewish immigrants, and at the age of 17, he began work as an assistant at Timely Comics, the company that would become Marvel Comics. Filling inkwells and fetching lunch, Lee's career began just in time for Superman's 1930s debut in Action Comics #1, kicking off the history of superhero comics. From a report: Lee, who began in the business in 1939 and created or co-created Black Panther, Spider-Man, X-Men, The Mighty Thor, Iron Man, The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, Ant-Man and other characters, died early Monday morning in Los Angeles, a source told The Hollywood Reporter. (Joan Celia Lee, Stan's daughter, confirmed the news to TMZ.) Lee's final few years were tumultuous.

[...] On his own and through his work with frequent artist-writer collaborators Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others, Lee catapulted Marvel from a tiny venture into the world's No. 1 publisher of comic books and later a multimedia giant. In 2009, the Walt Disney Co. bought Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion, and most of the top-grossing superhero films of all time -- led by The Avengers' $1.52 billion worldwide take in 2012 -- featured Marvel characters. An exchange from one of Stan Lee's last interviews, which appeared last month: Interviewer: Do you feel like your legacy is secure? Stan Lee: Absolutely. Interviewer: What's on your wish list? Stan Lee: That I leave everyone happy when I leave. Interviewer: You won't leave anyone happy. Stan Lee: Well, I don't mean happy that I left. Happy that I took the right path. Interviewer: You always do, pop. It was just the people around you. It was never you. You were always the good guy, and there were just creeps around you, and it was this town. Never you.

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Firefox Debuts Price Wise, an Experimental Price-Tracking Feature To Help Users Score Top Shopping Deals
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 11:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's interesting-updates department:
The Firefox Test Pilot team on Monday rolled out two new experimental features, one of which is aimed to make this year's holiday shopping a bit easier on your wallet. It's called Price Wise, and it's an online shopping comparison tool that lets you add items from across several retailers to a Price Watcher list. From a report: When a price drops, a notification is automatically sent to your browser, and you can click regardless of what web page you are currently on. For now, Price Wise tracks just five retailers -- Amazon, Best Buy, eBay, Walmart, and the Home Depot -- but the company said it's planning on expanding to cover more outlets in the future.

Elsewhere, Mozilla is also rolling out a new feature called Email Tabs as part of its early adopter program. While Mozilla already offers a service for bookmarking content to read later via Pocket, Email Tabs enables users to choose multiple tabs and send links to one or more of them to their Gmail address. There are a number of options here. Users can choose to send links with screenshots, just links, or links with full articles. Price Wise is only available to users in the U.S. for now.

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US Overtakes China in Top Supercomputer List
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 10:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's for-what-it-is-worth department:
China has been pushed into third place on a list of the world's most powerful supercomputers. From a report: The latest list by Top 500, published twice a year, puts two US machines -- Summit and Sierra -- in the top two places. The US has five entries in the top 10, with other entries from Switzerland, Germany and Japan. However, overall China has 227 machines in the top 500, while the US has 109. Summit can process 200,000 trillion calculations per second. Both Summit and Sierra were built by the tech giant IBM. China's Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer, which this time last year was the world's most powerful machine, is now ranked at number three, while the country also has the fourth spot in the list.

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Researchers Say Social Media Can Cause Depression
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 10:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Spending too much time on "social media" sites like Facebook is making people more than just miserable. It may also be making them depressed. From a report: A new study conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania has shown -- for the first time -- a causal link between time spent on social media and depression and loneliness, the researchers said. It concluded that those who drastically cut back their use of sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat often saw a marked improvement in their mood and in how they felt about their lives.

"It was striking," says Melissa Hunt, psychology professor at University of Pennsylvania, who led the study. "What we found over the course of three weeks was that rates of depression and loneliness went down significantly for people who limited their (social media) use." Many of those who began the study with moderate clinical depression finished just a few weeks later with very mild symptoms, she says.

The study, "No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression," was conducted by Melissa Hunt, Rachel Marx, Courtney Lipson and Jordyn Young, is being published by the peer-reviewed Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. For the study, Hunt and her team studied 143 undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania over a number of weeks. They tested their mood and sense of well-being using seven different established scales.

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Voice Tech Like Alexa and Siri Hasn't Found Its True Calling Yet
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 09:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's reality-check department:
An anonymous reader shares a report: As the holiday shopping season approaches, voice-powered smart speakers are again expected to be big sellers, adding to the approximately one-quarter to one-third of the U.S. population that already owns a smart speaker and uses a voice assistant at least once a month. Voice interfaces have been adopted faster than nearly any other technology in history.

While some of this will likely come to pass, the hype might be disguising where we really are with voice technology: Earlier than we think. About a third of smart speaker owners end up using them less after the first month, according to an NPR and Edison Research report earlier this year. Just a little more than half said they wouldn't want to go back to life without a smart speaker. While people are certainly enthusiastic about the new technology, it's not exactly life-changing yet. Today, voice assistants and smart speakers have proven to be popular ways to turn on the radio or dim the lights or get weather information. But to be revolutionary, they will need to find a greater calling -- a new, breakout application.

Smart speakers, like training wheels, are getting people more used to talking to their devices. However, the future of voice probably won't be on speakers at all. The major speaker makers have all added screens to their assistants. Samsung, smartly, is putting its voice assistant Bixby on its TVs, which have the potential to become the smart assistant hub of choice. The key element is the voice assistant, regardless of what device it resides in. Smart assistants will creep into every aspect of our lives and will be available at home and away.

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Better 'Nowcasting' Can Reveal What Weather is About To Hit Within 500 Meters
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 09:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's Tech-for-the-Betterment-of-People department:
Weather forecasting is impressively accurate given how changeable and chaotic Earth's climate can be. It's not unusual to get 10-day forecasts with a reasonable level of accuracy. But there is still much to be done. One challenge for meteorologists is to improve their "nowcasting," the ability to forecast weather in the next six hours or so at a spatial resolution of a square kilometer or less.

From a report: In areas where the weather can change rapidly, that is difficult. And there is much at stake. Agricultural activity is increasingly dependent on nowcasting, and the safety of many sporting events depends on it too. Then there is the risk that sudden rainfall could lead to flash flooding, a growing problem in many areas because of climate change and urbanization. That has implications for infrastructure, such as sewage management, and for safety, since this kind of flooding can kill. So meteorologists would dearly love to have a better way to make their nowcasts. Enter Blandine Bianchi from EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, and a few colleagues, who have developed a method for combining meteorological data from several sources to produce nowcasts with improved accuracy.

Their work has the potential to change the utility of this kind of forecasting for everyone from farmers and gardeners to emergency services and sewage engineers. Current forecasting is limited by the data and the scale on which it is gathered and processed. For example, satellite data has a spatial resolution of 50 to 100 km and allows the tracking and forecasting of large cloud cells over a time scale of six to nine hours. By contrast, radar data is updated every five minutes, with a spatial resolution of about a kilometer, and leads to predictions on the time scale of one to three hours. Another source of data is the microwave links used by telecommunications companies, which are degraded by rainfall.

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Rocket Lab's Modest Launch Is Giant Leap For Small Rocket Business
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 07:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's you-hear-that-mr-anderson department:
Reader Iwastheone shares a report: A small rocket from a little-known company lifted off Sunday from the east coast of New Zealand, carrying a clutch of tiny satellites. That modest event -- the first commercial launch by a U.S.-New Zealand company known as Rocket Lab -- could mark the beginning of a new era in the space business, where countless small rockets pop off from spaceports around the world. This miniaturization of rockets and spacecraft places outer space within reach of a broader swath of the economy.

The rocket, called the Electron, is a mere sliver compared to the giant rockets that Elon Musk, of SpaceX, and Jeffrey P. Bezos, of Blue Origin, envisage using to send people into the solar system. It is just 56 feet tall and can carry only 500 pounds into space. But Rocket Lab is aiming for markets closer to home. "We're FedEx," said Peter Beck, the New Zealand-born founder and chief executive of Rocket Lab. "We're a little man that delivers a parcel to your door." Behind Rocket Lab, a host of start-up companies are also jockeying to provide transportation to space for a growing number of small satellites. The payloads include constellations of telecommunications satellites that would provide the world with ubiquitous internet access.

The payload of this mission, which Rocket Lab whimsically named "It's Business Time," offered a glimpse of this future: two ship-tracking satellites for Spire Global; a small climate- and environment-monitoring satellite for GeoOptics; a small probe built by high school students in Irvine, Calif., and a demonstration version of a drag sail that would pull defunct satellites out of orbit.

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'Why PC Builders Should Stock Up on Components Now'
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 07:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's things-to-think-about department:
Michael Kan, writing for PCMag: NZXT is a popular PC desktop case vendor, but the California-based company recently had to raise its prices. The reason? The new US tariffs on Chinese imports includes PC cases. In September, the Trump administration imposed the 10 percent duty, which also cover motherboards, graphics cards, and CPU coolers from the country. As a result, NZXT had to introduce a 10 percent price increase on PC cases to deal with the added costs, VP Jim Carlton told PCMag in an interview.

And building a PC could get even more expensive in 2019; US tariffs on Chinese-made goods will rise from 10 percent to 25 percent in January. "If I needed to build a system in the next six months, I'd definitely build it before the end of the year," Carlton told us. For PC builders, the tariffs risk adding a few hundred dollars to the total cost of components for a custom desktop. "If it's a $2,000 purchase on 25 percent tariffs, it's going to be a $2,500 purchase," Carlton said. "So we are very concerned with the direction of where this is going. I don't have a 10 percent [profit] margin I can just throw away and absorb the tariffs," he added. "And certainly no one has a margin for 25 percent."

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Netflix Says It Will Test Lower-Price Subscription Plans
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 06:30 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's up-next department:
Netflix says it plans to begin testing lower-priced subscription in some markets in a bid to see if it will help the company boost the number of subscribers, CEO Reed Hastings told Bloomberg. The company has not identified the markets where it will be testing the lower-priced subscription, and has not clarified how soon it intends to conduct these tests. The company will likely consider Asian markets where it is having a tough time gaining the market share against local services that are much aggressively priced.

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The Problem Behind a Viral Video of a Persistent Baby Bear
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 03:50 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department:
Ed Yong, writing for The Atlantic: For many people, a two-and-a-half-minute video of a baby brown bear trying to scale a snow-covered mountain was a life-affirming testament to the power of persistence. As it begins, the cub is standing with its mother on the side of a perilously steep ridge. The mother begins walking across, and despite slipping a few times on the loose snow, she soon reaches the top. Her cub, following tentatively after her, isn't so fortunate. It loses its footing and slides several feet. It pulls itself together and reattempts the ascent, before slipping again.

Finally, the cub nears the top. But as the footage zooms in to focus on the moment of reunion, the mother inexplicably swipes at the youngster with her paw, sending it hurtling downward again. It slides a long way, scrabbling for purchase and finding some just before it hits a patch of bare rock. Once again, it starts to climb, and after what seems like a nail-biting eternity for anyone watching, it reaches its mother. The two walk away.

The video was uploaded to the ViralHog YouTube channel on Friday, and after being shared on Twitter, it rapidly went viral. At the time of this writing, it has been watched 17 million times. The cub's exploits were equal parts gif, nature documentary, and motivational poster. It had all the elements of an incredible story: the most adorable of protagonists, rising and falling action (literally), and a happy ending. It was a tale of tenacity in the face of adversity, triumph against the odds. But when biologists started watching the video, they saw a very different story.

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Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Says Follower Count is Meaningless
Posted by News Fetcher on November 12 '18 at 01:10 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
In a fireside chat in New Delhi, India, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Monday the "follower count" metric on the social platform is meaningless. Talking in front of a live audience, the Twitter co-founder said it was probably unwise to include and emphasize on the follower count on his social network, a move he said the company did not realize while implementing it back in the day. "Back then, we were not really thinking about all the dynamics that could ensue afterwards," he said.

"One of the things we did was we had people follow each other -- so you can be a follower of someone," Dorsey said, explaining the thinking that went into carving some of the core features of Twitter. The company listed the number of people you had, and "made the font size a little bit bigger than everything else on the page. We did not really think much about it and moved on to the next problem to solve. What that has done is we put all the emphasis, not intending to, on that number of how many people follow me. So if that number is big and bold, what do people want to do with it? They want to make it go up."

"So when you open Twitter and you see that number is five. It is actually incentivizing you to increase that number. That may have been right 12 years ago, but I don't think it is right today. I don't think that's the number you should be focused on. I think what is more important is the number of meaningful conversations you're having on the platform. How many times do you receive a reply?"

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Attacks on the Media Are a Threat To Democracy, Justin Trudeau Says
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '18 at 11:50 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's everyone-else-gets-it department:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a press freedom event in Paris Sunday that one of the bulwarks protecting democratic governments from being undermined is also an institution under stress -- a free-thinking, robust media. From a report: "If a democracy is to function you need an educated populace, and you need to have an informed populace, ready to make judicious decisions about who to grant power to and when to take it away," Trudeau said. "When citizens cannot have rigorous analysis of the exercise of the power that is in their name and they have granted, the rest of the foundation of our democracies start to erode at the same time as cynicism arises." The press freedom advocacy organization Reporters Without Borders has developed a six-page international declaration on information and democracy to establish basic principles for the "common good of mankind." The organization hosted a small event on the sidelines of the Paris Peace Forum late Sunday afternoon where five presidents and prime ministers, including Trudeau, offered endorsements for this declaration. The Paris Peace Forum, intended to be an annual gathering of political, business and civil society leaders to explore peaceful solutions to the world's problems, was hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron to coincide with this weekend's events marking the centenary of the armistice agreement that ended the First World War.

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Tencent Has Access To China's National Citizen Database
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '18 at 10:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-China department:
The Chinese government doesn't want children playing games for several hours every day. It said as much in a public notice from August. Now, Tencent is going along with that recommendation. The world's biggest gaming company started pushing out its new "real name identity system" (RNIS) across China on November 1, according to market intelligence firm Niko Partners. From a report: This program aims to mitigate concerns about addiction and myopia in children. It limits people 12 and younger to an hour of gaming per day. And it forces every player to register themselves in the game with their real name and government ID. Of course, this program isn't new. Tencent introduced a version of its RNIS in May 2017. That also required players to register their age, but it was easy to fool. In September, however, the publisher revised and strengthened the program. And the government also stepped in to help. Regulators are providing Tencent with access to a massive list of every person who lives in China.

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Switzerland Remains 'Extremely Attractive' For Pirate Sites, MPAA Says
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '18 at 06:30 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's law-of-the-land department:
While the European Union has worked hard to strengthen its copyright laws in recent years, one country in the heart of the continent chooses its own path. Switzerland is not part of the EU, which means that its policies deviate quite a bit from its neighbors. According to Hollywood, that's not helping creators. From a report: Responding to recent submission to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the MPAA has identified several foreign "trade barriers" around the world. In Hollywood's case, many of these are related to piracy. One of the countries that's highlighted, in rather harsh terms, is Switzerland. According to the MPAA, the country's copyright law is "wholly inadequate" which, among other things, makes it "extremely attractive" to host illegal sites. "Switzerland's copyright law is wholly inadequate, lacking crucial mechanisms needed for enforcement in the digital era," MPAA writes. [...] The European country has plans to update its laws, but the proposed changes are not significant improvements, Hollywood's trade group notes.

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What Your Phone is Telling Wall Street
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '18 at 02:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department:
Your phone knows where you shop, where you work and where you sleep. Hedge funds are very interested in such data, so they are buying it. From a report: When Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said the car maker would work around the clock to boost production of its Model 3 sedan, the number crunchers at Thasos Group decided to watch. They circled Tesla's 370 acres in Fremont, Calif., on an online map, creating a digital corral to isolate smartphone location signals that emanated from within it. Thasos, which leases databases of trillions of geographic coordinates collected by smartphone apps, set its computers to find the pings created at Tesla's factory, then shared the data with its hedge-fund clients [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], showing the overnight shift swelled 30% from June to October.

Last month, many on Wall Street were surprised when Tesla disclosed a rare quarterly profit, the result of Model 3 production that had nearly doubled in three months. Shares shot up 9.1% the next day. Thasos is at the vanguard of companies trying to help traders get ahead of stock moves like that using so-called alternative data. Such suppliers might examine mine slag heaps from outer space, analyze credit-card spending data or sort through construction permits. Thasos's specialty is spewing out of your smartphone.

Thasos gets data from about 1,000 apps, many of which need to know a phone's location to be effective, like those providing weather forecasts, driving directions or the whereabouts of the nearest ATM. Smartphone users, wittingly or not, share their location when they use such apps. Before Thasos gets the data, suppliers scrub it of personally identifiable information, Mr. Skibiski said. It is just time-stamped strings of longitude and latitude. But with more than 100 million phones providing such coordinates, Thasos says it can paint detailed pictures of the ebb and flow of people, and thus their money.

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When No One Retires
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '18 at 01:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's food-for-thought department:
More and more Americans want to work longer -- or have to, given that many aren't saving adequately for retirement. From a report: Before our eyes, the world is undergoing a massive demographic transformation. In many countries, the population is getting old. Very old. Globally, the number of people age 60 and over is projected to double to more than 2 billion by 2050 and those 60 and over will outnumber children under the age of 5. In the United States, about 10,000 people turn 65 each day, and one in five Americans will be 65 or older by 2030. By 2035, Americans of retirement age will eclipse the number of people aged 18 and under for the first time in U.S. history.

[...] Soon, the workforce will include people from as many as five generations ranging in age from teenagers to 80-somethings. Are companies prepared? The short answer is "no." Aging will affect every aspect of business operations -- whether it's talent recruitment, the structure of compensation and benefits, the development of products and services, how innovation is unlocked, how offices and factories are designed, and even how work is structured -- but for some reason, the message just hasn't gotten through. In general, corporate leaders have yet to invest the time and resources necessary to fully grasp the unprecedented ways that aging will change the rules of the game.

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How Nature Defies Math in Keeping Ecosystems Stable
Posted by News Fetcher on November 11 '18 at 01:10 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's unravelling-mysteries department:
Paradoxically, the abundance of tight interactions among living species usually leads to disasters in ecological models. New analyses hint at how nature seemingly defies the math. Veronique Greenwood, writing for Quantamagazine: Behind the beautiful facade of a rainforest, a savanna or a placid lake is a world teeming with contests and partnerships. Species are competing for space, consuming one another for resources, taking advantage of one another's talents, and brokering trades of nutrients. But there's something funny about this picture. When ecologists try to model ecosystems using math, they tend to find that the more interactions there are among species, the more unstable the system. For a simple ecosystem model to be stable, all the interactions among its species must be in perfect harmony. Maintaining that balancing act gets much harder, however, as the number of coupled species and the strengths of their interactions rise: Any disturbance or imbalance for one couple ripples outward and sows chaos throughout the network.

Bring in mutualisms, relationships in which species contribute directly to each other's survival, and things can really fly off the handle. Pairs of organisms that live off each other sometimes do so well in the mathematical simulations -- thriving exponentially in extreme cases, in what Robert May, the theoretical ecology pioneer, once called "an orgy of mutual benefaction" -- that everything else can go extinct. It seems unlikely that real ecosystems are quite this flimsy. In a new paper in Nature Communications, a pair of theoretical ecologists at the University of Illinois explored more precisely how the give-and-take in mutualism affects ecosystem stability and how, under the right conditions, it might contribute to it. Their result joins previous work in suggesting how real-world communities manage to be more resilient than the models imply.

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