By EditorDavid from Slashdot's thinking-bad-thoughts department
An anonymous reader quotes Fast Company:
Although widely held, the belief that merit rather than luck determines success or failure in the world is demonstrably false. This is not least because merit itself is, in large part, the result of luck. Talent and the capacity for determined effort, sometimes called "grit," depend a great deal on one's genetic endowments and upbringing.
This is to say nothing of the fortuitous circumstances that figure into every success story. In his book Success and Luck, the U.S. economist Robert Frank recounts the long-shots and coincidences that led to Bill Gates's stellar rise as Microsoft's founder, as well as to Frank's own success as an academic. Luck intervenes by granting people merit, and again by furnishing circumstances in which merit can translate into success. This is not to deny the industry and talent of successful people. However, it does demonstrate that the link between merit and outcome is tenuous and indirect at best. According to Frank, this is especially true where the success in question is great, and where the context in which it is achieved is competitive. There are certainly programmers nearly as skilful as Gates who nonetheless failed to become the richest person on Earth. In competitive contexts, many have merit, but few succeed. What separates the two is luck.
In addition to being false, a growing body of research in psychology and neuroscience suggests that believing in meritocracy makes people more selfish, less self-critical, and even more prone to acting in discriminatory ways.
The article cites a pair of researchers who "found that, ironically, attempts to implement meritocracy leads to just the kinds of inequalities that it aims to eliminate.
"They suggest that this 'paradox of meritocracy' occurs because explicitly adopting meritocracy as a value convinces subjects of their own moral bona fides."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's human-centered department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mercury News: Amid a worldwide race for supremacy in artificial intelligence, Stanford University on Monday will unveil a new institute dedicated to using AI to build the best-possible future (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence is co-directed by Fei-Fei Li, a former chief scientist for AI at Google, now a Stanford computer science professor. The institute will take advantage of Stanford's strength in a variety of disciplines, including AI, computer science, engineering, robotics, business, economics, genomics, law, literature, medicine, neuroscience and philosophy, according to promotional materials. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at Monday's official launch.
Stanford's AI institute will work in partnership with a number of other university facilities and initiatives, including the Center on AI Safety, the Center for Ethics in Society, the Center for International Security and Cooperation, and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, plus AI4ALL, which aims to boost diversity in AI fields. The 78 faculty members assigned to the institute reflect the diversity of fields the university intends to cover in its research and teaching, coming from disciplines including computer science, medicine, law, business, economics, environmental science, linguistics, political science and philosophy. Although the institute highlights the importance of AI being "broadly representative of humanity" across gender, ethnicity, nationality, culture and age, its faculty also reflect the gender gap in technology -- only 18 percent are women. About three quarters of the faculty are white. Courses will include "The Politics of Algorithms," "Theoretical Neuroscience," "AI-assisted Health Care" and "Regulating Artificial Intelligence."Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's green-tech department
schwit1 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum: A team at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, or KU Leuven, says it has developed a solar panel that converts sunlight directly into hydrogen using moisture in the air. The prototype takes the water vapor and splits it into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. If it scales successfully, the technology could help address a major challenge facing the hydrogen economy. A small but growing number of facilities are producing "green" hydrogen using electrolysis, which splits water molecules using electricity -- ideally from renewable sources such as wind and solar. Other researchers, including the team in Belgium, are developing what's called direct solar water-splitting technologies. These use chemical and biological components to split water directly on the solar panel, forgoing the need for large, expensive electrolysis plants.
KU Leuven sits on a grassy campus in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern region of Belgium. Earlier this month, professor Johan Martens and his team at the Center for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis announced their prototype could produce 250 liters of hydrogen per day on average over a full year, which they claim is a world record. A family living in a well-insulated Belgian house could use about 20 of these panels to meet their power and heating needs during an entire year, they predict. The solar panel measures 1.65 meters long -- roughly the height of a kitchen refrigerator, or this reporter -- and has a rated power output of about 210 watts. The system can convert 15 percent of the solar energy it receives into hydrogen, the team says. That's a significant leap from 0.1 percent efficiency they first achieved 10 years ago.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's call-to-action department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Leading scientists have called for a global moratorium on the use of powerful DNA editing tools to make genetically modified children. The move is intended to send a clear signal to maverick researchers, and the scientific community more broadly, that any attempt to rewrite the DNA of sperm, eggs or embryos destined for live births is not acceptable. Beyond a formal freeze on any such work, the experts want countries to register and declare any plans that scientists may put forward in the future, and have these discussed through an international body, potentially run by the World Health Organization. Alongside technical debates about the possible benefits of creating genetically modified babies, the scientists said no decisions should be made to go ahead without broad public support. Eric Lander, founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, calls for the moratorium with 16 other experts in the journal Nature. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Feng Zhang, who helped discover and develop the most common gene editing tool, CRISPR, contributed to the article. The call comes four months after Chinese researcher He Jiankui used human embryos modified with CRISPR to create twin girls resistant to HIV.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's can-you-hear-me-now department
Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris has introduced legislation that would allocate millions of dollars for local government to create dedicated teams that could "update and rebuild" government systems. The Verge reports: The United States Digital Service, an office established in 2014 after the widespread failures of Healthcare.gov, provides IT support for the federal government, bringing technologists into the government to work on tools like federal websites. It's continued to operate under the Trump administration, and some states, Harris' office notes, have experimented with similar teams. Harris' bill, the Digital Service Act, would provide an annual $50 million to the federal service, but it also goes further, allocating $15 million per year to state and local governments to create similar teams.
Harris' bill, the Digital Service Act, would provide an annual $50 million to the federal service, but it also goes further, allocating $15 million per year to state and local governments to create similar teams. Under the plan, the national Digital Service would offer two-year grants, giving state and local governments between $200,000 and $2.5 million per year. Those governments would be required to take on 20 percent of costs and to spend at least half of the money on talent, rather than tech. The national Digital Service, under the proposal, would report bi-annually to Congress on the progress of the grantees. The bill would provide funding through 2027.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's what-in-the-world department
Police in Australia have arrested a man who allegedly made AU $300,000 (US $211,000) running a website which sold the account passwords of popular online subscription services including Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, PSN, and Origin. From a report: The 21-year-old man was arrested on Tuesday in Sydney, Australia, following an international investigation by the FBI and the Australian Federal Police into the website Wicked Gen. The Wicked Gen website bragged that it had over 120,000 users and almost one million sets of account details, offering monthly and yearly membership plans for those who wanted "access to thousands of premium accounts across a huge range of services." The account passwords, however, were not obtained via legitimate means. Instead the details were typically obtained through credential stuffing using swathes of usernames and passwords leaked through other data breaches, without the knowledge of their genuine owners.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's heads-up department
Researchers from Checkpoint Software have identified a massive adware campaign that invaded the Google Play Store with more than 200 highly aggressive apps that were collectively downloaded almost 150 million times. "The 210 apps discovered by researchers from security firm Checkpoint Software bombarded users with ads, even when an app wasn't open," reports Ars Technica. "The apps also had the ability to carry out spearphishing attacks by causing a browser to open an attacker-chosen URL and open the apps for Google Play and third-party market 9Apps with a specific keyword search or a specific application's page. The apps reported to a command-and-control server to receive instructions on which commands to carry out." From the report: Once installed, the apps installed code that allowed them to perform actions as soon as the device finished booting or while the user was using the device. The apps also could remove their icon from the device launcher to make it harder for users to uninstall the nuisance apps. The apps all used a software development kit called RXDrioder, which Checkpoint researchers believe concealed its abusive capabilities from app developers. The researchers dubbed the campaign SimBad, because many of the participating apps are simulator games.
"With the capabilities of showing out-of-scope ads, exposing the user to other applications, and opening a URL in a browser, SimBad acts now as an Adware, but already has the infrastructure to evolve into a much larger threat," Checkpoint researchers wrote. The top 14 apps were collectively downloaded a whopping 75 million times, with the No. 1 app receiving 10 million installs and the next 13 getting 5 million downloads each. The next 53 each received 1 million downloads. The remainder received 500,000 or fewer downloads each. Checkpoint has a full list of all the apps here.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's new-and-shiny department
Last night, Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveiled the company's brand new electric SUV, the Model Y. The car is only slightly larger than the Model 3 and shares 75% of its parts, leaving many people wanting more. But, as USA Today reports, "The ho-hum reaction to Tesla's new electric SUV is, oddly enough, exactly what the company needs. [F]or a company that needs a little less pizzazz and a little more substance to make good on its promise to become a sustainable force in the auto industry, the Model Y hit the right marks." From the report: It's essentially a crossover version of the Tesla Model 3 compact car, bearing the design hallmarks of a hatchback and sharing the same architectural platform as its car sibling. That Tesla devotees weren't rewarded with sizzling new features on the Model Y illustrates that the company is getting serious about selling vehicles. After all, a compact SUV is precisely what Americans want: a driveable vehicle that puts safety first and flash second. Versions with five and seven seats will be available, with starting prices ranging from $39,000 for the base version to $60,000 for a performance model. If Musk had tried to break new technological barriers or adopt outlandish styling on the Model Y, he would have risked making the vehicle too difficult to manufacture and unappealing to conventional SUV buyers.
< article continued at Slashdot's new-and-shiny department
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By BeauHD from Slashdot's no-longer-a-priority department
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: First Look Media announced Wednesday that it was shutting down access to whistleblower Edward Snowden's massive trove of leaked National Security Agency documents. Over the past several years, The Intercept, which is owned by First Look Media, has maintained a research team to handle the large number of documents provided by Snowden to Intercept journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald. But in an email to staff Wednesday evening, First Look CEO Michael Bloom said that as other major news outlets had "ceased reporting on it years ago," The Intercept had decided to "focus on other editorial priorities" after expending five years combing through the archive. "The Intercept is proud of its reporting on the Snowden archive, and we are thankful to Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald for making it available to us," Bloom wrote. He added: "It is our hope that Glenn and Laura are able to find a new partner -- such as an academic institution or research facility -- that will continue to report on and publish the documents in the archive consistent with the public interest." Poitras reprimanded First Look Media for its decision to shut down its archives, and lay off 4 percent of its staff who had maintained them. "This decision and the way it was handled would be a disservice to our source, the risks we've all taken, and most importantly, to the public for whom Edward Snowden blew the whistle," she wrote.
"Late Thursday evening, Greenwald tweeted that both he and Poitras had full copies of the archives, and had been searching for a partner to continue research," reports The Daily Beast.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's for-the-record department
An anonymous reader shares a report: Scientists in India observed the highest-voltage thunderstorm ever documented with the help of a subatomic particle you might not hear much about: the muon. The researchers operate the GRAPES-3 telescope, which measures muons, particles that are similar to electrons but heavier. Specifically, the Gamma Ray Astronomy at PeV EnergieS Phase-3 (GRAPES-3) muon telescope measures high-energy particles from outer space called cosmic rays. It typically picks up 2.5 million muons each minute, mapped on a 13-by-13 grid across the sky. But during thunderstorms, it experiences quick changes to the amount of muons it receives. The GRAPES-3 researchers added electric field monitors to the experiment, and devised a way to turn these muon fluctuations into measurements of the voltage of passing storms.
A storm on December 1, 2014, led to a relatively enormous 2 percent decrease in the amount of muons that the experiment received. According to their methods, published in Physical Review Letters, this would be equivalent to a 1.3-billion-volt electric potential in the thunderhead. This doesn't refer to a single lightning bolt, but rather the strength of the electric field caused by positively charged water molecules carried by convection to the top of the cloud while negatively charged ice remains lower down. For comparison, most lightning bolts have 100 million volts of electric potential between their ends. Subway tracks carry less than 1,000 volts.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: With help from outside researchers, Amazon's economists are working on a way to measure inflation using thousands of transactions across its own platform. Automatically analyzing product descriptions allows them to better assess the quality of a dress or a juicer or a bathmat, theoretically creating a more accurate, up-to-date index of how much things cost. That's just one way Amazon is using the squad of economists it has recruited in recent years. The company has turned so many businesses, from retailing to cloud computing, inside out. Now Amazon is upending the traditional role of economists within companies, as well as the field of economics.
Amazon is now a large draw from the relatively small talent pool of PhD economists, which in the United States grows by about only 1,000 new graduates every year. Although the definition of "economist" is fuzzy, the discipline is generally understood as the study of how people use resources and respond to incentives. In the past few years, Amazon has hired more than 150 PhD economists, making it probably the largest employer in the field behind institutions like the Federal Reserve, which has hundreds of economists on staff. It was the only company with a recruiting booth at the American Economics Association's annual conference in January, handing out free pens and logoed stress balls.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's marching-forward department
California was declared totally drought free for the first time in more than seven years this week, following unusually abundant winter rains and snowfall statewide, according to the government's weekly report on U.S. drought conditions. From a report: The U.S. Drought Monitor's latest survey reflected an astonishing turnaround - at least for now - from a severe, prolonged dry spell that reduced irrigation supplies to farmers, forced strict household conservation measures and stoked a spate of deadly, devastating wildfires. A relatively small swath of California's southern-most region, including most of San Diego County, remains labeled "abnormally dry" on the drought map index, as does a tiny patch at the state's extreme northern end along the Oregon border. But this week marks the first time since mid-December of 2011 that 100 percent of the state has been classified as being free of drought, defined as a moisture deficit severe enough to cause social, environmental or economic ills. Conditions were classified as normal across 93 percent of the state.Read Replies (0)