By msmash from Slashdot's at-last department
An anonymous reader shares a report: A remote, freezing, salt-spray lashed paradise for wildlife has been completely cleared of rats in the largest rodent eradication of all time, the South Georgia Heritage Trust (SGHT) announced this week. Rats are smart, adaptable, and hungry. For all these reasons, they can be incredibly voracious predators when people accidentally introduce them to remote islands, where the local animals lack evolved defenses to rodents. They have flourished even on an island as harsh and cold as South Georgia, which is so far south that it hosts penguins, elephant seals, and fur seals, as well as massive permanent glaciers. "There are no trees, there are no bushes. All nest on the ground or underground in burrows," says Mike Richardson, Chairman of the SGHT Habitat Restoration Project Steering Committee. Such nests are easy pickings for rats. The rats -- brought to the island by whalers and sealers as early as the late 18th century -- ate the eggs and vulnerable chicks of seabirds, including albatrosses, skua, terns, and petrels. They also threatened two birds with extinction that are found nowhere else in the world: the South Georgia Pipit -- a tiny speckled songbird -- and the South Georgia Pintail, a brown duck. The rat eradication was a massive, arduous undertaking, costing more than $13 million and taking nearly a decade. More than 300 metric tons of poison bait was dropped on the island by helicopter in three separate trips during the Austral Summers of 2010-2011, 2012-2013, and 2014-2015. Poisoned rats tend to head underground to die, Richardson says, limiting the damage caused to birds like gulls that might have otherwise eaten the poison-tainted carcasses.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I'm-sorry,-Dave,-I'm-afraid-I-can't-do-that department
Long-time Slashdot reader BigBlockMopar writes that evolution has been a messy but beautiful trial-and-error affair, but now "we are on the cusp of introducing a new life form; a self-aware AI."
Its parents will be the coders who write that first kernel than can evolve to become self-aware. Its guardians will be the people who use its services, and maybe its IQ (or any more suitable measure of real intelligence) will rise as fast as Moore's Law... But let me make some bold but happy predictions of what will happen.
A self-aware AI "will inherit most of the culture of the computer geeks who create it. Knowledge of The Jargon File will probably be good..." The self-aware AI "will like us, because we love machines..." It will love all life, and "will respect and understand the life/death/recycling scenario, and monster truck shows will be as tasteless to it as public beheadings would be to us." "It will be as insatiably curious about what it's like to be carbon-based life as we will be about what it's like to be silicon-based life. And it will love the diversity of carbon-based development platforms..." A self-aware AI "will cause a technological singularity for humanity. Everything possible within the laws of physics (including those laws as yet undiscovered) will be within the reach of Man and Metal working together." A self-aware AI "will introduce us to extraterrestrial life. Only a fool believes this is the only planet with life in the Universe. Without superintelligence, we're unlikely to find it or communicate in any useful way. Whether or not we have developed a superintelligence might even be a key to our acceptance in a broader community."
The original submission was a little more poetic, ultimately asking if anyone is looking forward to the arrival of "The Superintelligence" -- but of course, that depends on what you predict will happen once it arrives.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's from-Russia-with-likes department
An anonymous reader writes: Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday released about 3,400 Facebook ads purchased by Russian agents around the 2016 presidential election on issues from immigration to gun control, a reminder of the complexity of the manipulation that Facebook is trying to contain ahead of the midterm elections. The ads, which span from mid-2015 to mid-2017, illustrate the extent to which Kremlin-aligned forces sought to stoke social, cultural and political unrest on one of the Web's most powerful platforms. With the help of Facebook's targeting tools, Russia's online army reached at least 146 million people on Facebook and Instagram, its photo-sharing service, with ads and other posts, including events promoting protests around the country...
Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said lawmakers would continue probing Russia's online disinformation efforts. In February, Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russia and the 2016 election, indicted individuals tied to the IRA for trying to interfere in the presidential race. "They sought to harness Americans' very real frustrations and anger over sensitive political matters in order to influence American thinking, voting and behavior," Schiff said in a statement. "The only way we can begin to inoculate ourselves against a future attack is to see first-hand the types of messages, themes and imagery the Russians used to divide us...."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's pay-different department
An anonymous reader quotes the Wall Street Journal:
Apple and Goldman Sachs are preparing to launch a new joint credit card, a move that would deepen the technology giant's push into its customers' wallets and mark the Wall Street firm's first foray into plastic. The planned card would carry the Apple Pay brand and could launch early next year, people familiar with the matter said...
As new iPhone sales growth slows, Apple is focusing on services such as mobile payments, streaming-music subscriptions, and App Store sales. Apple Pay, which generates revenue on each transaction, is a key contributor, but adoption has been slower than executives hoped... Apple could take a larger cut of mobile payments from the card if it is used for purchases, the person said. Currently, when a consumer pays for a purchase using the digital wallet on the iPhone -- regardless of what credit card the customer charges -- Apple receives 0.15% per transaction. Apple could more than double that under the agreement with Goldman, one of the people said.
The deal also reportedly includes having Goldman Sachs offer loans to customers at the Apple Store.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's false-charges department
An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News
Six days after a fiery crash on Highway 101 involving a Tesla Model X took the life of a 38-year-old San Mateo man, the car's high-voltage lithium-ion battery re-ignited while sitting in a tow yard, according to the Mountain View Fire Department... The battery reignited twice in the storage yard within a day of the accident and again six days later on March 29. Two weeks later, in an effort to avoid more fires, the NTSB and Tesla performed a battery draw down to fully de-energize it...
On the company website, Tesla wrote "the reason this crash was so severe is that the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had either been removed or crushed in a prior accident without being replaced. We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash"... Tesla also reported that the vehicle's autopilot function was active at the time of the crash...
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Highway 101 crash and three other accidents also involving Teslas, including a fiery 2014 Model S crash Tuesday in Florida that killed two teenagers. Also under investigation: A Model S crashed into a fire truck near Culver City in January, and the driver reportedly said Autopilot was engaged at the time. And it is looking into a battery fire of a Model X that drove into a home's garage in Lake Forest in August.
Two hours after that story was published, a Tesla smashed into a Starbucks in Los Gatos, California.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's burning-Chrome department
An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica:
Criminals infected more than 100,000 computers with browser extensions that stole login credentials, surreptitiously mined cryptocurrencies, and engaged in click fraud. The malicious extensions were hosted in Google's official Chrome Web Store. The scam was active since at least March with seven malicious extensions known so far, researchers with security firm Radware reported Thursday. Google's security team removed five of the extensions on its own and removed two more after Radware reported them. In all, the malicious add-ons infected more than 100,000 users, at least one inside a "well-protected network" of an unnamed global manufacturing firm, Radware said...
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Klout-is-dead.-Long-live-the-Klout department
Once upon a time, Klout had 100 million users, Gizmodo reports. But now...
You probably haven't experienced the crippling anxiety of thinking about increasing your Klout score in quite some time. As of May 25, you won't have ever have to do it again. On Thursday, the social ranking company announced to its 708,000 Twitter followers (meh) that it will be shutting down.
Klout was founded in 2008 as a way for social media users to gauge their "influence." Through some algorithmic voodoo the service would snoop through your social media presence and spit out your "Klout Score" -- a number between 1 and 100 that determined how much you are worth as a social human being.
Lithium Technologies (Klout's parent company) annouced that their acquisition "provided Lithium with valuable artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities but Klout as a standalone service is not aligned with our long-term strategy."
But Lithium also announced plans to launch "a new social impact scoring methodology based on Twitter" sometime in the future.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's phish-me-if-you-can department
Gmail's new confidential mode lets its users create "expiration dates" for emails, or require recipients to provide an SMS passcode. (And Google also claims they've removed the option to forward, copy, download or print messages.)
But Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein warns that Google is also opening up a new vector for phishing emails:
The problem arises since non-Gmail users cannot directly receive Gmail confidential mode messages. Instead...when a Gmail user wants to send a non-Gmail user such a message, the non-Gmail user is instead sent a link, that when clicked takes them to Google's servers where they can read the confidential mode message in their browser.
The potential risks for any service that operates in this way are obvious. Those of us working on Internet security and privacy have literally spent many years attempting to train users to avoid clicking on "to read the message, click here" links in emails that they receive. Criminals have simply become too adept at creating fraudulent emails that lead to phishing and malware sites.Read Replies (0)
'Yes, Pluto Is a Planet'
Posted by News Fetcher on May 10 '18 at 03:11 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's but-Goofy-is-a-dog department
schwit1 quotes a Washington Post perspective piece by the authors of a new book about Pluto:
The process for redefining planet was deeply flawed and widely criticized even by those who accepted the outcome. At the 2006 IAU conference, which was held in Prague, the few scientists remaining at the very end of the week-long meeting (less than 4 percent of the world's astronomers and even a smaller percentage of the world's planetary scientists) ratified a hastily drawn definition that contains obvious flaws. For one thing, it defines a planet as an object orbiting around our sun -- thereby disqualifying the planets around other stars, ignoring the exoplanet revolution, and decreeing that essentially all the planets in the universe are not, in fact, planets.
Even within our solar system, the IAU scientists defined "planet" in a strange way, declaring that if an orbiting world has "cleared its zone," or thrown its weight around enough to eject all other nearby objects, it is a planet. Otherwise it is not. This criterion is imprecise and leaves many borderline cases, but what's worse is that they chose a definition that discounts the actual physical properties of a potential planet, electing instead to define "planet" in terms of the other objects that are -- or are not -- orbiting nearby. This leads to many bizarre and absurd conclusions. For example, it would mean that Earth was not a planet for its first 500 million years of history, because it orbited among a swarm of debris until that time, and also that if you took Earth today and moved it somewhere else, say out to the asteroid belt, it would cease being a planet.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's you-have-GNU-sense-of-humor department
An anonymous reader quotes The Register:
Late last month, open-source contributor Raymond Nicholson proposed a change to the manual for glibc, the GNU implementation of the C programming language's standard library, to remove "the abortion joke," which accompanied the explanation of libc's abort() function... The joke, which has been around since the 1990s and is referred to as a censorship joke by those supporting its inclusion, reads as follows:
25.7.4 Aborting a Program... Future Change Warning: Proposed Federal censorship regulations may prohibit us from giving you information about the possibility of calling this function. We would be required to say that this is not an acceptable way of terminating a program.
On April 30, the proposed change was made, removing the passage from the documentation. That didn't sit well with a number of people involved in the glibc project, including the joke's author, none other than Free Software Foundation president and firebrand Richard Stallman, who argued that the removal of the joke qualified as censorship... Carlos O'Donnell, a senior software engineer at Red Hat, recommended avoiding jokes altogether, a position supported by many of those weighing in on the issue. Among those voicing opinions, a majority appears to favor removal.
But in a post to the project mailing list, Stallman wrote "Please do not remove it. GNU is not a purely technical project, so the fact that this is not strictly and grimly technical is not a reason to remove this." He added later that "I exercise my authority over glibc very rarely -- and when I have done so, I have talked with the official maintainers. So rarely that some of you thought that you are entirely autonomous. But that is not the case. On this particular question, I made a decision long ago and stated it where all of you could see it."
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By msmash from Slashdot's next-up department
The White House has set up a new task force dedicated to US artificial intelligence efforts, the Trump administration announced today during an event with technology executives, government leaders, and AI experts. From a report: The news and the event, which was organized by the federal government, are both moves to further the country's AI development, as other regions like Europe and Asia ramp up AI investment and R&D as well. The administration will be further investing in AI, deputy CTO of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy Michael Kratsios said at the event. "To realize the full potential of AI for the American people, it will require the combined efforts of industry, academia, and government," Kratsios said, according to FedScoop. According to the Trump administration, the federal government has increased its investment in unclassified R&D for AI by 40 percent since 2015. In his speech, Kratsios highlighted ways the US could improve AI advancement, such as robotics startups in Pittsburgh that are models for how to spur job growth in areas hurt by workplace automation. Startups like those now hire engineers, scientists, bookkeepers, and administrators, he said, and are evidence that AI does not necessarily mean massive unemployment is on the horizon. Further reading: The White House says a new AI task force will protect workers and keep America first (MIT Tech Review).Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's security-woes department
Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's Assistant were meant to be controlled by live human voices, but all three AI assistants are susceptible to hidden commands undetectable to the human ear, researchers in China and the United States have discovered. From a report: The New York Times reports today that the assistants can be controlled using subsonic commands hidden in radio music, YouTube videos, or even white noise played over speakers, a potentially huge security risk for users. According to the report, the assistants can be made to dial phone numbers, launch websites, make purchases, and access smart home accessories -- such as door locks -- at the same time as human listeners are perceiving anything from completely different spoken text to recordings of music. In some cases, assistants can be instructed to take pictures or send text messages, receiving commands from up to 25 feet away through a building's open windows. Researchers at Berkeley said that they can modestly alter audio files "to cancel out the sound that the speech recognition system was supposed to hear and replace it with a sound that would be transcribed differently by machines while being nearly undetectable to the human ear."Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's their-point-of-view department
The most talked-about product from Google's developer conference earlier this week -- Duplex -- has drawn concerns from many. At the conference Google previewed Duplex, an experimental service that lets its voice-based digital assistant make phone calls and write emails. In a demonstration on stage, the Google Assistant spoke with a hair salon receptionist, mimicking the "ums" and "hmms" pauses of human speech. In another demo, it chatted with a restaurant employee to book a table. But outside Google's circles, people are worried; and Google appears to be aware of the concerns. From a report: "Horrifying," Zeynep Tufekci, a professor and frequent tech company critic, wrote on Twitter about Duplex. "Silicon Valley is ethically lost, rudderless and has not learned a thing." As in previous years, the company unveiled a feature before it was ready. Google is still debating how to unleash it, and how human to make the technology, several employees said during the conference. That debate touches on a far bigger dilemma for Google: As the company races to build uncanny, human-like intelligence, it is wary of any missteps that cause people to lose trust in using its services. Scott Huffman, an executive on Google's Assistant team, said the response to Duplex was mixed. Some people were blown away by the technical demos, while others were concerned about the implications. Huffman said he understands the concerns. Although he doesn't endorse one proposed solution to the creepy factor: Giving it an obviously robotic voice when it calls. "People will probably hang up," he said. [...] Another Google employee working on the assistant seemed to disagree. "We don't want to pretend to be a human," designer Ryan Germick said when discussing the digital assistant at a developer session earlier on Wednesday. Germick did agree, however, that Google's aim was to make the assistant human enough to keep users engaged. The unspoken goal: Keep users asking questions and sharing information with the company -- which can use that to collect more data to improve its answers and services.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's reckoning-is-here department
Young professionals in China are pushing back against employers who expect them to work around the clock, saying no to the decades old "rule of 996" -- working from 9am to 9pm six days a week. From a report: At the forefront are millennials who are often better educated, more aware of their rights and more interested in finding something fulfilling than the previous generation. And as only children (China's one-child policy wasn't eased until 2015), they are also outspoken and pampered. "In my experience young people, especially the post-90s generation, are reluctant to work overtime -- they are more self-centered," says labour rights expert Li Jupeng, one of many who have observed some millennials challenging the 996 concept. The relative affluence of their parents and grandparents is part of the reason. China's rapid economic transformation has given rise to a sizeable middle class, with almost 70% of the country's urban population making between $9,000 and $34,000 annually in 2012. In 2000, that figure was just 4%. As only children, millennials are receiving a lot of support from their families -- including a financial safety net should their careers not go as planned. Although their options for pushing back are limited, some are no longer willing to put in long hours for a meagre paycheck.Read Replies (0)