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Showing posts from August, 2017

Silicon Valley billionaires are the new robber barons

Silicon Valley billionaires are the new robber barons
By Victor Davis Hanson Published August 17, 2017
Progressives used to pressure U.S. corporations to cut back on outsourcing and on the tactic of building their products abroad to take advantage of inexpensive foreign workers.
During the 2012 election, President Obama attacked Mitt Romney as a potential illiberal "outsourcer in chief" for investing in companies that went overseas in search of cheap labor.
Yet most of the computers and smartphones sold by Silicon Valley companies are still being built abroad -- to mostly silence from progressive watchdogs.
In the case of the cobalt mining that is necessary for the production of lithium-ion batteries in electric cars, thousands of child laborers in Southern Africa are worked to exhaustion.
In the 1960s, campuses boycotted grapes to support Cesar Chavez's unionization of farm workers. Yet it is unlikely that there will be any effort to boycott tech companies that use lit…

Facebook, Airbnb Go on Offense Against Nazis After Violence

Facebook, Airbnb Go on Offense Against Nazis After Violence
Charlottesville attack a ‘moment of reckoning,’ SPLC says Companies in past have avoided becoming arbiters of morality
By Sarah Frier, Jeff Green, and Olivia Zaleski August 17, 2017, 2:00 AM PDT August 17, 2017, 8:42 AM PDT
When white supremacists plan rallies like the one a few days ago in Charlottesville, Virginia, they often organize their events on Facebook, pay for supplies with PayPal, book their lodging with Airbnb and ride with Uber. Technology companies, for their part, have been taking pains to distance themselves from these customers.
But sometimes it takes more than automated systems or complaints from other users to identify and block those who promote hate speech or violence, so companies are finding novel ways to spot and shut down content they deem inappropriate or dangerous. People don’t tend to share their views on their Airbnb Inc. accounts, for example. But after matching user names to posts on social-med…

Death of the Trucker? Charm Fades as Truck Driver Hiring Lags

‘Smokey and the Bandit’ Charm Fades as Truck Driver Hiring Lags
Struggle recruiting millennials risks worsening U.S. shortage Autonomous truck technology threatens to shake up industry
By Claire Ballentine August 17, 2017, 2:00 AM PDT August 17, 2017, 6:53 AM PDT
It’s been 40 years since Burt Reynolds starred in “Smokey and the Bandit” and made driving a rig on the open highway seem like a cool way to make a living. That same year, only “Star Wars” sold more tickets.
These days, “Star Wars” still fills theaters but trucking no longer captures the imagination of movie goers or, it turns out, the young and unemployed. Veteran drivers are leaving the profession, and young people entering the workforce are put off by long hours away from home and the profession’s low-brow image. The result is a U.S. trucking industry with high turnover and a dwindling number of new recruits.
“The question is where we’ll be in five or 10 years,” said Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Penn…

Smartphone separation anxiety is growing problem, says scientist

Smartphone separation anxiety is growing problem, says scientist
Do you use your phone constantly?
TOM BAWDEN Published: 17:39 Tuesday 15 August 2017
Smartphones are so central to our lives that being separated from them for any length of time can put people into a high state of anxiety – and the problem, it seems, is only going to get worse.
Researchers have been looking into the reasons for our ‘smartphone separation anxiety’ – known as nomophobia – and found that it has little to do with being unable to make or receive a call.
The main reason, they found, is to do with the key role our smartphones play in our overall identity by recording numerous memories that act as an extension of ourselves.
Social media scrapbooks
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provide huge streams of photographs and comments from friends, relatives and heroes which act as a vast and powerful scrapbook of our lives.
For many people, posting about their actions on social med…

End of the checkout line: the looming crisis for American cashiers

End of the checkout line: the looming crisis for American cashiers
Donald Trump is fixated on a vision of masculine, blue-collar employment. But the retail sector has long had a far greater impact on American employment – and checkout-line technology is putting it at risk
by Julia Carrie Wong Wednesday 16 August 2017 10.00 BST Last modified on Wednesday 16 August 2017 15.40 BST
The day before a fully automated grocery store opened its doors in 1939, the inventor Clarence Saunders took out a full page advertisement in the Memphis Press-Scimitar warning “old duds” with “cobwebby brains” to keep away. The Keedoozle, with its glass cases of merchandise and high-tech system of circuitry and conveyer belts, was cutting edge for the era and only those “of spirit, of understanding” should dare enter.
Inside the gleaming Tennessee store, shoppers inserted a key into a slot below their chosen items, producing a ticker tape list that, when fed into a machine, sent the goods traveling down a con…

A bot just annihilated one of the world's best video gamers

A bot just defeated one of the world's best video gamers
by Jackie Wattles   August 12, 2017: 3:36 PM ET  
An artificial intelligence program just annihilated its human competition at a world championship video game contest.
The AI win stunned the gaming community, because bots are generally considered inferior to expert human players. This one from Open AI -- a nonprofit artificial intelligence research firm known mainly for its backing by serial entrepreneur Elon Musk, of Tesla (TSLA) and SpaceX fame -- is a different story, and possibly a cautionary one.
Open AI says its mission is to promote "responsible" AI development.
Or, as Musk puts it, to ensure that AI doesn't grow unchecked and become the death of humanity.
Musk said Saturday via Twitter that AI is "more [of a] risk than North Korea."
To test out some harmless uses for AI, one Open AI team taught a bot to play Dota 2.
Dota 2, for those unfamiliar, is an online multi-player battle game. It works…

Is Alexa spying on us? We're too busy to care — and we might regret that

Is Alexa spying on us? We're too busy to care — and we might regret that
BY TIM JOHNSON AUGUST 10, 2017 1:56 PM
WASHINGTON  It’s an experience every computer or smart phone user has had. After downloading new software or an app, a window pops up with a legal agreement. At the bottom is an “I agree” button. One click, and it’s gone.
Most users have no clue what they’ve agreed to.
That single action can empower software developers to extract reams of personal information – such as contacts, location, and other private data – from the devices. They can then market the information.
Even as privacy erodes in the digital era, little outcry arises over the digital tracking and profiling of consumers. Only slight murmurs are heard on Capitol Hill.

But a handful of security researchers, lawyers and privacy watchdogs voice increasing concern that consumers might one day wake up in anger at the collection of data by software companies winning rights to do so through “end user license agreeme…

Google warns 700 publishers digital ads will be blocked by Chrome update

Google warns 700 publishers digital ads will be blocked by Chrome update
By Keith J. Kelly August 10, 2017 | 9:49pm
Google has warned about 700 publishers that their current digital ads would be blocked from reaching consumers under the new Chrome browser system set to be introduced next year that will have much tighter ad-blocking software.
Google is not expected to be the only one tightening its standards. Apple’s Safari, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox, according to one industry executive, all expected to tighten browser standards to keep out the most intrusive ads.
The Coalition for Better Ads, an umbrella organization that formed just over a year ago, has been trying to form standards that will enable the industry to self-regulate.
“One thing that everyone agreed on was that anything that was done [to clean up the ads] must be done under industry auspices,” noted Randall Rothenberg, head of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which is one of the founding membe…
Billionaire hoping to colonise Mars says AI is greater threat than North Korea
BILLIONAIRE Elon Musk has claimed that people should be more worried about Artificial Intelligence (AI) than the threat posed by North Korea.
By CHARLIE BAYLISS PUBLISHED: 04:19, Sat, Aug 12, 2017 | UPDATED: 14:54, Sat, Aug 12, 2017
The SpaceX founder, who is hoping to become the first man to establish a human colony on Mars, said humans should be “vastly” more concerned about robots taking over the world.
Mr Musk’s tweets come after Trump and Kim Jong-un continue to ratchet up fears of World War 3 with their foreboding rhetoric. The US President has threatened to unleash “fire and fury” upon Pyongyang, while the hermit kingdom has promised to strike the US-territory of Guam by mid-August.
Despite escalating world tensions, Mr Musk dismissed the imminent threat and tweeted: “If you're not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”
In his tweet, he included a image of …

Another tech titan joins Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg in supporting Universal Basic Income for Americans

Another tech titan joins Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg in supporting free cash handouts for Americans
By Catherine Clifford August 9, 2017
One by one, some of the biggest names in tech are publicly supporting the idea of giving cash handouts to all Americans.
The latest is self-made multimillionaire Stewart Butterfield, the CEO and co-founder of the workplace chat program Slack, which is reportedly in the process of raising $500 million at a $5 billion valuation. Butterfield also co-founded Flickr, which sold to Yahoo, reportedly for $35 million.
He joins Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Y-Combinator president Sam Altman, who all say society will both need and benefit from universal basic income (UBI), a guaranteed cash payment given to every resident irrespective of employment status.
Doesn't have to be much, but giving people even a very small safety net would unlock a huge amount of entrepreneurialism.
It "doesn't have to be much, but g…

'This is your computer speaking. We are now cruising at 580mph and an altitude of 36,000ft...'

'This is your computer speaking. We are now cruising at 580mph and an altitude of 36,000ft...'
By Alan Tovey 7 AUGUST 2017 • 3:10PM
“This is your computer speaking. We’re currently cruising at 580mph at an altitude of 36,000ft….”
It sounds incredible but airliners without a human at the controls could be flying passengers through the skies within a decade - saving airlines billions by doing away with pilots and cutting ticket prices for passengers.
Research by analysts at UBS claims the pilotless aircraft could generate $35bn a year in savings for airlines.
The money would come not only from eliminating highly paid pilots who require expensive training, but by making aircraft safer by having them controlled by computers which are less likely to make errors. US safety data attributes three quarters of accidents to human error.
Flights would also be more efficient because of the exacting nature of the way they would be flown digitally, meaning less fuel would be used, and aircr…

South Korea introduces world's first 'robot tax'

South Korea introduces world's first 'robot tax'
By Cara McGoogan 9 AUGUST 2017 • 12:54PM
South Korea has introduced what is being called the world's first tax on robots amid fears that machines will replace human workers, leading to mass unemployment.
The country will limit tax incentives for investments in automated machines as part of a newly proposed revision of its tax laws.
It is hoped the policy will make up for lost income taxes as workers are gradually replaced by machines, as well as filling welfare coffers ahead of an expected rise in unemployment, according to the Korea Times.
Experts predict robot workers will replace humans in numerous industries in the near future, with machines and artificial intelligence expected to take a third of British jobs by 2030.
The South Korean Government said it will reduce tax deduction benefits for investment in automation, which had been introduced to boost productivity. The proposal could come into force at the end of…

U.S. cable firms embrace former foe Netflix as TV viewing shifts

U.S. cable firms embrace former foe Netflix as TV viewing shifts
By Lisa Richwine and Anjali Athavaley August 5, 2017
(Reuters) - A growing number of U.S. cable operators are forming alliances with Netflix Inc, a shift that is helping the streaming pioneer add customers as its largest single market matures.
No. 3 distributor Charter Communications Inc is expected to make Netflix available through its set-top boxes, joining more than a dozen top U.S. pay television operators adopting a model first rolled out in Europe. Some U.S. providers could start selling the streaming service as part of their Internet and video packages.
Altice is trying that approach in France, and the company aims to extend the deal to the United States, two sources with knowledge of the matter said during the past three weeks. They requested anonymity because the discussions are private.
"Our whole model is about cooperation with many of the (streaming) providers," Altice USA Chief Executive Dexter Go…

Apple's China problem highlights conundrum for tech sector

Apple's China problem highlights conundrum for tech sector
Apple's removal of software allowing internet users to skirt China's "Great Firewall" from its app store in the country, the company confirmed has sparked criticism it is bowing to Beijing's tightening web censorship
August 6, 2017 by Glenn Chapman
Apple's decision to bow to Chinese officials by removing apps to sidestep online censorship underscores the dilemma faced by US tech companies seeking to uphold principles while expanding their business.
The iPhone maker is the latest from Silicon Valley to face a conundrum in balancing their value for human rights and free expression against a government intent on controlling online content.
Apple this week acknowledged it had removed applications for so-called VPNs or virtual private networks, despite objections.
"We would rather not remove the apps, but like in other countries, we obey the laws where we do business," Apple chief Tim Cook s…