By msmash from Slashdot's stranger-things department
"It wasn't the first time my key card failed, I assumed it was time to replace it." So began a sequence of events that saw Ibrahim Diallo fired from his job, not by his manager but by a machine. From a report: He has detailed his story in a blogpost which he hopes will serve as a warning to firms about relying too much on automation. "Automation can be an asset to a company, but there needs to be a way for humans to take over if the machine makes a mistake," he writes. The story of Mr Diallo's sacking by machine began when his entry pass to the Los Angeles skyscraper where his office was based failed to work, forcing him to rely on the security guard to allow him entry. "As soon as I got to my floor, I went to see my manager to let her know. She promised to order me a new one right away." And that was just the beginning. Mr Diallo soon realized that he was logged out of his work system and "inactive" status was appearing next to his name, his colleagues told him. He was then informed by his recruiter, who was just as puzzled, that his contract has been terminated. Next day, says Mr Diallo, he was locked out of every system, except his Linux machine. Things continued to go south, as two people approached Mr Diallo to escort him out of the building. The story continues: It took Mr Diallo's bosses three weeks to find out why he had been sacked. His firm was going through changes, both in terms of the systems it used and the people it employed. His original manager had been recently laid off and sent to work from home for the rest of his time at the firm and in that period he had not renewed Mr Diallo's contract in the new system. After that, machines took over -- flagging him as an ex-employee. "All the necessary orders are sent automatically and each order completion triggers another order. For example, when the order for disabling my key card is sent, there is no way of it to be re-enabled. "Once it is disabled, an email is sent to security about recently dismissed employees. Scanning the key card is a red flag. The order to disable my Windows account is also sent. There is also one for my Jira account. And on and on."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's cause-and-effect department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When studying populations of a flounder-like North Sea fish called plaice in the early 1900's, a man named Heincke noticed that older, larger fish are found deeper in the water than younger, smaller fish. The same phenomenon was subsequently found for other North Atlantic species like cod, haddock, pollock, and some species of flatfish; it was thus dubbed Heincke's Law and treated as an established fact. Biologists assumed it was ontogenic in nature, meaning that it must be connected to how the fish age and mature.
All the species in which older, bigger fish are found in deeper water have something else in common: we eat them. Could it be, some Canadian scientists wondered, that all the big fish are found in deeper water because we fished them out of shallower water? Apparently (and somewhat astonishingly) this possibility had never been evaluated. And the scientists found that not only could this be the case -- it in fact was. "[T]he researchers added a simulation in which the depth and mass of fish were tied to the rate of mortality by fishing," the report adds. "When set to mimic the actual fishing rate over the two decades spanning the dataset, the model outcomes were consistent with both the new and old fish data. When fishing mortality rates were increased in the model, larger fish moved progressively deeper. And when fishing rates were set to zero in the model, there was no age-related deepening seen at all." The study has been published in the PNAS journal.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's ready-aim-fire department
On Wednesday, Instagram launched a new long-form video portal called IGTV, "marking one of the biggest shifts in the app's history," reports NBC News. The new app will rival YouTube, allowing people to post videos up to one hour in length and start their own channels. One of the key differences between IGTV and YouTube will be the user interface: IGTV will be in the vertical format. From the report: IGTV will be a part of Instagram's explore tab and will also be a standalone app, where people can watch vertical videos from "many hundreds of creators" who Instagram worked with to help populate the platform ahead of the launch. Some accounts have privileges letting them post videos lasting as long as an hour, co-founder Kevin Systrom said.
"Right now, we are focused on building engagement, and right now, there are no ads in IGTV from day one," Systrom said, adding that he sees an opportunity for creators to monetize their followings in the future, similar to how they already can on YouTube. Systrom said IGTV is run by a small team, but noted that the company would be staffing up its moderation team to ensure content on the new platform adheres to Instagram's rules.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's flick-of-the-wrist department
Researchers at MIT have built a system that allows robots to be corrected through thought and hand gestures. "The system monitors brain activity, determining if a person has noticed an error in the machine's work," reports Popular Mechanics. "If an error is detected, the system reverts over to human control. From that point, all it takes is a flick of the wrist to get the robot back on the right course." From the report: "This work combining EEG and EMG feedback enables natural human-robot interactions for a broader set of applications than we've been able to do before using only EEG feedback. By including muscle feedback, we can use gestures to command the robot spatially, with much more nuance and specificity," says CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, who supervised the work, in a press statement. EEG refers to electroencephalography, a type of biofeedback which uses real-time displays of brain activity to each self-regulation to the brain. EMG feedback refers to electromyography, which is the recording of the electrical activity of muscle tissue.
Earlier brain recognition systems required people to think in highly specific ways to achieve EEG or EMG recognition. What Rus' team realized is that when the human brain recognizes an error, it automatically releases a very specific signal all on its own. These signals are called error-related potentials (ErrPs). When the robotic system notices an ErrP signal in the human brain, it turns the robot over to human control.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's shortened-links department
Some U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have asked Google on Wednesday to reconsider its work with Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei, citing security concerns. Reuters reports: In a letter to Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, the lawmakers said Google recently decided not to renew "Project Maven," an artificial intelligence research partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense. "While we regret that Google did not want to continue a long and fruitful tradition of collaboration between the military and technology companies, we are even more disappointed that Google apparently is more willing to support the Chinese Communist Party than the U.S. military," they wrote. The letter was signed by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio, Republican Representatives Michael Conaway and Liz Cheney, and Democratic Representative Dutch Ruppersberger.
"Like many U.S. companies, we have agreements with dozens of OEMs (manufacturers) around the world, including Huawei. We do not provide special access to Google user data as part of these agreement, and our agreements include privacy and security protections for use data," she said in an emailed statement.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's surprise-to-no-one department
An anonymous reader shares a study that finds contemporary meditation and yoga practices can actually inflate your ego. Quartz reports: In the paper, published online by University of Southampton and due to be published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers note that Buddhism's teachings that a meditation practice helps overcome the ego conflicts with U.S. psychologist William James's argument that practicing any skill breeds a sense of self-enhancement (the psychological term for inflated self-regard.) There was already a fair bit of evidence supporting William James's theory, broadly speaking, but a team of researchers from University Mannheim in Germany decided to test it specifically in the context of yoga and meditation.
They recruited yoga 93 students and, over a period of 15 weeks, regularly evaluated their sense of self-enhancement. They used several measures to do this. First, they assessed participants' level of self-enhancement by asking how they compared to the average yoga student in their class. (Comparisons to the average is the standard way of measuring self-enhancement.) Second, they had participants complete an inventory that assesses narcissistic tendencies, which asked participants to rate how deeply phrases like "I will be well-known for the good deeds I will have done" applied to them. And finally, they administered a self-esteem scale asking participants whether they agreed with statements like, "At the moment, I have high self-esteem." When students were evaluated in the hour after their yoga class, they showed significantly higher self-enhancement, according to all three measures, than when they hadn't done yoga in the previous 24 hours.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's crossed-out department
A Democratic assemblyman with financial ties to AT&T has gutted a new law that would serve as a gold standard for true net neutrality protection across the country. The bill SB 822 is expected to be voted on by the California State Assembly Communications and Conveyance committee on Wednesday, where it would go to the state assembly for a full vote, at which point it would become law if it passes. "But late Tuesday evening, Miguel Santiago, a California assemblyman and chair of the Communications and Conveyance committee, edited the bill to allow for gaping loopholes that benefit the telecommunications industry and make the net neutrality legislation toothless," reports Mashable. From the report: If Santiago doesn't remove his amendments, he would be the first California Democrat to side with the Trump administration to actively destroy net neutrality, according to Fight for the Future (an internet freedoms advocacy organization). Specifically, the amendments undermine net neutrality in a few ways. First, they would allow ISPs to charge any website a fee for people to be able to access it. Next, they would give some content (such as content owned by the provider) preferential treatment on cellular data. That means that some content would eat up cellular data, while others would be free or less impactful to access. There's a high likelihood that privileged content would be created by the network's parent company, since so many telecoms companies like Comcast and, recently, AT&T, now both own the actual content, and the way it's distributed. This loophole makes it likely that people wary about using up the data that they pay for would opt for the content privileged by their telecoms provider, which undermines consumer choice. And finally, Santiago's edits allow for throttling, which means intentionally slowing down content, but with a twist: Instead of slowing down the connection to consumer devices, the data is slowed at the website or service side, affecting everyone trying to access it.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-improved department
Facebook announced today in a blog post that group administrators can start charging $4.99 to $29.99 a month for exclusive membership in certain groups. "Parenting, cooking, and home cleaning groups will be the first ones to get the new feature as part of an early test," reports The Verge. From the report: As it stands now, free groups will remain intact, but they will soon have the option to launch premium sub-groups. For instance, lifestyle blogger Sarah Mueller's Declutter My Home group is starting an Organize My Home group that costs $14.99 a month to join. And the Grown and Flown Parents group is making a College Admissions group that charges $29.99 for access to college counselors. Facebook says the new feature is so that group admins, who put a lot of time and dedication to growing their communities, can also earn money at the same time. The company also says admins could take the money they earn to create higher-quality content for the group as well, whether that be more posts, videos, or offline meet-ups and events. Facebook reportedly won't be getting a cut of the subscription fees.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-forward department
Bloomberg New Energy Finance released a new report this week that estimates how electricity generation will change out to 2050. ArsTechnica: The clean energy analysis firm estimates that in a mere 33 years, the world will generate almost 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy, and coal will make up just 11 percent of the total electricity mix. Add in hydroelectric power and nuclear energy, and greenhouse-gas-free electricity sources climb to 71 percent of the world's total electricity generation. The report doesn't offer a terribly bright future for nuclear, however, and after a period of contraction, the nuclear industry's contribution to electricity generation is expected to level off. Instead, falling photovoltaic (PV), wind, and battery costs will cause the dramatic shift in investment, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) notes. "PV and wind are already cheaper than building new large-scale coal or gas plants," the 2018 report says. In addition, BNEF expects that more than $500 billion will be invested in batteries by 2050, with two-thirds of that investment going to installations on the grid and one-third of that investment happening at a residential level.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's what-happens-next? department
An anonymous reader shares a report: For a long time, China has been a dumping ground for the world's problematic plastics. In the 1990s, Chinese markets saw that discarded plastic could be profitably recreated into exportable bits and bobs -- and it was less expensive for international cities to send their waste to China than to deal with it themselves. China got cheap plastic and the exporting countries go rid of their trash. But in November 2017, China said enough. The country closed its doors to contaminated plastic, leaving the exports to be absorbed by neighboring countries like Vietnam, South Korea, and Thailand. And without the infrastructure to absorb all the waste that China is rejecting, the plastics are piling up. Between now and 2030, 111 million metric tons of trash -- straws, bags, water bottles -- will have nowhere to go, according to a paper published in Science Advances on Wednesday. That's as if every human on Earth contributed a quarter of their body mass in mostly single-use plastic polymers to a massive, abandoned pile of garbage.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's how-about-that department
The Oxford English Dictionary is asking the public to help it mine the regional differences of English around the world to expand its record of the language, with early submissions ranging from New Zealand's "munted" to Hawaii's "hammajang." From a report: Last year, a collaboration between the OED, the BBC and the Forward Arts Foundation to find and define local English words resulted in more than 100 new regional words and phrases being added to the dictionary, from Yorkshire's "ee bah gum" to the north east's "cuddy wifter," a left-handed person. Now, the OED is widening its search to English speakers around the world, with associate editor Eleanor Maier calling the early response "phenomenal," as editors begin to draft a range of suggestions for inclusion in the dictionary. These range from Hawaii's "hammajang," meaning "in a disorderly or shambolic state," to the Scottish word for a swimming costume, "dookers" or "duckers," and New Zealand's "munted," meaning "broken or wrecked." The OED is also looking to include the word "chopsy," a Welsh term for an overly talkative person; "frog-drowner," which Americans might use to describe a torrential downpour of rain; "brick", which means "very cold" to residents of New Jersey and New York City; and "round the Wrekin", meaning "in a lengthy or roundabout manner" in the Midlands. The dictionary has already found that, depending on location, a picture hanging askew might be described as "agley," "catawampous," "antigodlin" or "ahoo" by an English speaker, while a loved one could be called a "doy," "pet," "dou-dou," "bubele," "alanna" or "babber."Read Replies (0)