By msmash from Slashdot's in-hindsight department
Ford CEO Jim Hackett scaled back hopes about the company's plans for self-driving cars this week, admitting that the first vehicles will have limits. From a report: "We overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles," said Hackett, who once headed the company's autonomous vehicle division, at a Detroit Economic Club event on Tuesday. While Ford still plans on launching its self-driving car fleet in 2021, Hackett added that "its applications will be narrow, what we call geo-fenced, because the problem is so complex." Hackett's announcement comes nearly six months after its CEO of autonomous vehicles, Sherif Markaby, detailed plans for the company's self-driving car service in a Medium post. The company has invested over $4 billion in the technology's development through 2023, including over $1 billion in Argo AI, an artificial intelligence company that is creating a virtual driver system. Ford is currently testing its self-driving vehicles in Miami, Washington, D.C. and Detroit.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's curb-your-enthusiasm department
The PC market is still in decline, according to research firms Gartner and IDC. That's nothing new for the duo to agree on, but coincidentally they also (for the first time?) estimated the exact same number of PC shipments: 58.5 million in Q1 2019. From a report: Gartner and IDC also both found PC shipments were down globally year-over-year. So far, 2019 looks like more of the same. After six years of quarterly PC shipment declines, 2018 brought a positive Q2, a flat Q3 ... and then a negative Q4. Gartner and IDC analysts have pointed to CPU shortages as contributing to this past quarter's decline. But that just seems to be an excuse for reality: The PC simply isn't as in-demand as it once was. The top six vendors were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, Asus, and Acer, per Gartner.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's check-yo-self-before-you-wreck-yo-self department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: U.S. lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require large companies to audit machine learning-powered systems -- like facial recognition or ad targeting algorithms -- for bias. The Algorithmic Accountability Act is sponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), with a House equivalent sponsored by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY). If passed, it would ask the Federal Trade Commission to create rules for evaluating "highly sensitive" automated systems. Companies would have to assess whether the algorithms powering these tools are biased or discriminatory, as well as whether they pose a privacy or security risk to consumers.
The Algorithmic Accountability Act is aimed at major companies with access to large amounts of information. It would apply to companies that make over $50 million per year, hold information on at least 1 million people or devices, or primarily act as data brokers that buy and sell consumer data. These companies would have to evaluate a broad range of algorithms -- including anything that affects consumers' legal rights, attempts to predict and analyze their behavior, involves large amounts of sensitive data, or "systematically monitors a large, publicly accessible physical place." That would theoretically cover a huge swath of the tech economy, and if a report turns up major risks of discrimination, privacy problems, or other issues, the company is supposed to address them within a timely manner.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's unwarranted-hysteria department
RockDoctor writes: A common trope in "the world is going to end, maybe tomorrow" alarmism is the prospect of the earth undergoing one of its frequent (but aperiodic) magnetic field reversals. Popular conceptions have migrating birds falling out of the sky, satellites and GPS systems no longer working, and much other such silliness. Of course, geologists point out that it has literally all happened before, that there is no significant association of extinction with reversals, and that what evidence there is points to a reversal taking a number of centuries to millennia to achieve. And then the next story comes out and the same old "sky is falling" garbage comes out again.
Just for a change, an astronomer has thrown in his few cents worth. In a letter to The Astrophysical Journal (Warning: source paywalled; alternative source), Manasvi Lingam of Harvard University looks at the implications of a magnetic reversal, or of the "switching on" of the Earth's "dynamo" on the flux of radiation experienced by an organism living near the surface. Lingam deduces that during a reversal (or before the dynamo started) "neither the biological radiation dose rates [...] would vary by more than a factor of 2." Behind the "..." is a prospect which will appeal to those looking for ways to die, as "the atmospheric escape rate" is also somewhat affected by the strength of the magnetic field. As a theoretical astronomer, Lingam agrees with the geological record (yay!) that field reversals are unlikely to have major effects on life, or on the atmosphere, or really, on anything other than astronomers' and geophysicists' gauges and dials. None of this will even slightly slow down the overblown hysteria that accompanies the next twitch of the magnetic field.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's social-neuroscience department
"A growing cadre of neuroscientists is using sophisticated technology -- and some very complicated math -- to capture what happens in one brain, two brains, or even 12 or 15 at a time when their owners are engaged in eye contact, storytelling, joint attention focused on a topic or object, or any other activity that requires social give and take," reports Scientific American. "Although the field of interactive social neuroscience is in its infancy, the hope remains that identifying the neural underpinnings of real social exchange will change our basic understanding of communication and ultimately improve education or inform treatment of the many psychiatric disorders that involve social impairments." Here's an excerpt from the report: [T]he first study to successfully monitor two brains at the same time took place nearly 20 years ago. Physicist Read Montague, now at Virginia Tech, and his colleagues put two people in separate functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines and observed their brain activity as they engaged in a simple competitive game in which one player (the sender) transmitted a signal about whether he or she had just seen the color red or green and the other player (the receiver) had to decide if the sender was telling the truth or lying. Correct guesses resulted in rewards. Montague called the technique hyperscanning, and his work proved it was possible to observe two brains at once.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's understanding-the-evolution-of-human-cognition department
Scientists in southern China report that they've created several transgenic macaque monkeys with extra copies of a human gene suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence. "According to their findings, the modified monkeys did better on a memory test involving colors and block pictures, and their brains also took longer to develop -- as those of human children do," reports MIT Technology Review. "There wasn't a difference in brain size." From the report: The experiments, described on March 27 in a Beijing journal, National Science Review, and first reported by Chinese media, remain far from pinpointing the secrets of the human mind or leading to an uprising of brainy primates. Bing Su, the geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the effort, specializes in searching for signs of "Darwinian selection" -- that is, genes that have been spreading because they're successful. His quest has spanned such topics as Himalayan yaks' adaptation to high altitude and the evolution of human skin color in response to cold winters. [Instead of the FOXP2 gene famous for its potential link to human speech] Su was fascinated by a different gene: MCPH1, or microcephalin. Not only did the gene's sequence differ between humans and apes, but babies with damage to microcephalin are born with tiny heads, providing a link to brain size. With his students, Su once used calipers and head spanners to the measure the heads of 867 Chinese men and women to see if the results could be explained by differences in the gene.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's always-listening department
Amazon reportedly employs thousands of people around the world to help improve its Alexa digital assistant. "The team listens to voice recordings captured in Echo owners' homes and offices," reports Bloomberg. "The recordings are transcribed, annotated and then fed back into the software as part of an effort to eliminate gaps in Alexa's understanding of human speech and help it better respond to commands." From the report: The team comprises a mix of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who work in outposts from Boston to Costa Rica, India and Romania, according to the people, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program. They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon's Bucharest office, which takes up the top three floors of the Globalworth building in the Romanian capital's up-and-coming Pipera district. The modern facility stands out amid the crumbling infrastructure and bears no exterior sign advertising Amazon's presence. The work is mostly mundane. One worker in Boston said he mined accumulated voice data for specific utterances such as "Taylor Swift" and annotated them to indicate the searcher meant the musical artist. Occasionally the listeners pick up things Echo owners likely would rather stay private: a woman singing badly off key in the shower, say, or a child screaming for help. The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help parsing a muddled word -- or come across an amusing recording.
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's court-says-yes department
Freshly Exhumed writes: RCMP officers spotted a man driving with earbuds plugged into his iPhone. The phone was not in his hands nor on his lap, was not playing music or video, and the driver was not using it to talk to someone or navigate. The battery was, in fact, completely dead. Nonetheless, a judge has ruled that "by plugging the earbud wire into the iPhone, the defendant had enlarged the device, such that it included not only the iPhone (proper) but also attached speaker or earbuds," he wrote. "Since the earbuds were part of the electronic device and since the earbuds were in the defendant's ears, it necessarily follows that the defendant was holding the device (or part of the device) in a position in which it could be used, i.e. his ears." On the question of the battery, the judge said he relied on a 2015 precedent set in a Canadian provincial court, which says that holding an electronic device in a position where it could be used constitutes an offense, even if it is temporarily not working.Read Replies (0)