posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: An artificial intelligence tool that has revolutionized the ability of computers to interpret everyday language has been shown to exhibit striking gender and racial biases. The findings raise the specter of existing social inequalities and prejudices being reinforced in new and unpredictable ways as an increasing number of decisions affecting our everyday lives are ceded to automatons. In the past few years, the ability of programs such as Google Translate to interpret language has improved dramatically. These gains have been thanks to new machine learning techniques and the availability of vast amounts of online text data, on which the algorithms can be trained. However, as machines are getting closer to acquiring human-like language abilities, they are also absorbing the deeply ingrained biases concealed within the patterns of language use, the latest research reveals. Joanna Bryson, a computer scientist at the University of Bath and a co-author, warned that AI has the potential to reinforce existing biases because, unlike humans, algorithms may be unequipped to consciously counteract learned biases. The research, published in the journal Science, focuses on a machine learning tool known as "word embedding," which is already transforming the way computers interpret speech and text.

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on slashdot
According to a survey conducted by Autolist, "used Tesla Model S sedans sell faster than luxury-car competitors do, and faster than other top-selling used vehicles from Motor Co. and General Motors Co.," reports MarketWatch. From the report: Used Model S sedans had the briefest time on the market of all vehicles included in the survey, taking, on average, 87 days to sell. That was about 5% quicker than the average for vehicles in the model's peer group, which included the Audi A7, the Porsche Panamera, the BMW 6 Series, the Mercedes-Benz CLS and the Lexus LS 460. The listing prices of used Tesla Model S sedans were between 3% and 5% above their peer-group average for the past year, after controlling for price differences among the models, Autolist.com said. "We would expect top-performing vehicles in a peer group to have prices [about] 2% above our adjusted expectations for the segment. But 3% to 5% above, and maintaining that level of performance over the past year? That's surprising," Alex Klein, Autolist.com's vice president of data science, said in emailed comments.

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Roku-enabled TVs will be receiving a new OS update that will listen to what show or movie you're watching via your cable or satellite set-top or over-the-air antenna, in order to suggest internet-streaming content. "Compatible TVs will use automatic content recognition (ACR) technology to identify the content and then suggest additional viewing options available on via streaming services like Netflix, Hulu or Vudu," reports Variety. From the report: It may seem vaguely Big Brother-ish, but Roku is being careful about ensuring consumer privacy: Users will be required to enable the feature via an opt-in prompt. In addition, the "More Ways to Watch" feature can be turned off at any time (although Roku says viewing information collected prior to the feature being turned off will not be deleted). For now, the "More Ways to Watch" feature is available only in the U.S., and only for Roku-enabled television sets available from Best Buy's Insignia, Sharp, Hisense and TCL. It will be coming first to conventional HDTV models first, followed by support for 4K Roku TV models later this summer.

Read More...
posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Researchers at New York University and Michigan State University have recently found that the fingerprint sensor on your phone is not as safe as you think. "The team has developed a set of fake fingerprints that are digital composites of common features found in many people's fingerprints," reports Digital Trends. "Through computer simulations, they were able to achieve matches 65 percent of the time, though they estimate the scheme would be less successful in real life, on an actual phone." From the report: Nasir Memon, a computer science and engineering professor at New York University, explained the value of the study to The New York Times. Modern smartphones, tablets, and other computing devices that utilize biometric authentication typically only take a snapshots of sections of a user's finger, to compose a model of one fingerprint. But the chances of faking your way into someone else's phone are much higher if there are multiple fingerprints recorded on that device. "It's as if you have 30 passwords and the attacker only has to match one," Memon said. The professor, who was one of three authors on the study, theorized that if it were possible to create a glove with five different composite fingerprints, the attacker would likely be successful with about half of their attempts. For the record, Apple reported to the Times that the chance of a false match through the iPhone's TouchID system is 1 in 50,000 with only one fingerprint recorded.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: In the United States, the past decade has been marked by booming cities, soaring rents, and a crush of young workers flocking to job-rich downtowns. Although these are heady days for pavement-pounding urbanists, a record 2.6% of American employees now go to their jobs without ever leaving their houses. That's more than walk and bike to work combined. These numbers come from a Quartz analysis of data from the U.S. census and the American Community Survey. The data show that telecommuting has grown faster than any other way of getting to work -- up 159% since 2000. By comparison, the number of Americans who bike to work has grown by 86% over the same period, while the number who drive or carpool has grown by only 12%. We've excluded both part-time and self-employed workers from these and all results. Though managers are the largest group of remote workers, as a percentage of a specific occupation computer programmers are the most over-represented. Nearly 8% of programmers now work from home, following a staggering increase of nearly 400% since 2000.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
A Nintendo representative has confirmed today that the company will be discontinuing the NES Classic Edition, "a plug-and-play console that became popular with collectors as soon as it launched last fall," reports Polygon. The last shipments of the consoles will hit stores this month. From the report: [Nintendo said in a statement to IGN:] "Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product." "NES Classic Edition wasn't intended to be an ongoing, long-term product. However, due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans," it told IGN.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
halfEvilTech writes: Last year, Microsoft announced they were planning on blocking OS updates on newer Intel CPU's, namely the 7th Generation Kaby Lake processors. Ars Technica reports: "Now, the answer appears to be 'this month.' Users of new processors running old versions of Windows are reporting that their updates are being blocked. The block means that systems using these processors are no longer receiving security updates." While Windows 7 has already ended mainstream support, the same can't be said for Windows 8.1 which is still on mainstream support until January of next year.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Allegro MicroSystems LLC is suing a former IT employee for sabotaging its database using a "time bomb" that deleted crucial financial data in the first week of the new fiscal year. According to court documents, after resigning from his job, a former sysadmin kept one of two laptops. On January 31, Patel entered the grounds of the Allegro headquarters in Worcester, Massachusetts, just enough to be in range of the factory's Wi-Fi network. Allegro says that Patel used the second business-use laptop to connect to the company's network using the credentials of another employee. While connected to the factory's network on January 31, Allegro claims Patel, who was one of the two people in charge of Oracle programming, uploaded a "time bomb" to the company's Oracle finance module. The code was designed to execute a few months later, on April 1, 2016, the first week of the new fiscal year, and was meant to "copy certain headers or pointers to data into a separate database table and then to purge those headers from the finance module, thereby rendering the data in the module worthless." The company says that "defendant Patel knew that his sabotage of the finance module on the first week of the new fiscal year had the maximum potential to cause Allegro to suffer damages because it would prevent Allegro from completing the prior year's fiscal year-end accounting reconciliation and financial reports."

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
NASA has new evidence that the most likely places to find life beyond Earth are Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's moon Enceladus. In terms of potential habitability, Enceladus particularly has almost all of the key ingredients for life as we know it, researchers said. From a report: New observations of these active ocean worlds in our solar system have been captured by two NASA missions and were presented in two separate studies in an announcement at NASA HQ in Washington today. Using a mass spectrometer, the Cassini spacecraft detected an abundance of hydrogen molecules in water plumes rising from the "tiger stripe" fractures in Enceladus' icy surface. Saturn's sixth-largest moon is an ice-encased world with an ocean beneath. The researchers believe that the hydrogen originated from a hydrothermal reaction between the moon's ocean and its rocky core. If that is the case, the crucial chemical methane could be forming in the ocean as well.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
From a report: Elon Musk just let us know when we'll get a look at the electric semi truck that he's teased in the past: The Tesla transport vehicle will be revealed in September, the CEO said on Twitter on Thursday, noting that the team has "done an amazing job" and that the vehicle is "seriously next level." Plans at Tesla for an electric semi truck have been in the works for a while now: The vehicle was first mentioned back in July of 2016, when Musk revealed part 2 of his fabled "master plan" for his electric vehicle company. The Tesla Semi, as Musk called it, is designed to help reduce the cost of cargo transportation, and improve safety for drivers, according to the CEO at the time.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Using a sample of first- and second-year college students at the University of Nevada-Reno in the US and Britain's Open University, a group of researchers analyzed students' cognitive performance throughout the day and found that the best learning happened in classes that began later in the morning. From a report: Since every person's chronotype, or sleep pattern, is slightly different, there isn't one universal start time to benefit everyone -- but according to students' survey responses as well as theoretical data on circadian rhythms parsed by the researchers, starting classes at 11am or later benefits the greatest number of students. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience this week, bolsters prior research indicating that teenagers learn better with late starts; it also extends the studied age group from high school students to college sophomores and freshmen.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
T-Mobile, Dish Network and cable giant Comcast emerged as the big winners in the government's wireless spectrum auction. From a report: The Federal Communications Commission announced the winners of its $19.8 billion spectrum auction Thursday. T-Mobile spent $8 billion in the auction and won the biggest number of licenses, according to the FCC. Dish Network was in second, committing $6.2 billion, and Comcast spent a total of $1.7 billion. Verizon, which had committed ahead of time to participating in the auction, did not bid, the FCC said. The broadcast incentive spectrum auction has been one of the agency's most complex and ambitious auctions to date. The auction, which began last year, was conducted over two major stages. A so-called backwards auction took place last year in which TV broadcasters agreed to give up wireless spectrum that the government later sold in a so-called forward auction to wireless providers.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Governments that cut off internet access to their citizens could find themselves refused new IP addresses under a proposal put forward by one of the five global IP allocation organizations. From a report: The suggested clampdown will be considered at the next meeting of internet registry Afrinic in Botswana in June: Afrinic is in charge of managing and allocating IP address blocks across Africa. Under the proposal, a new section would be added to Afrinic's official rules that would allow the organization to refuse to hand over any new IP address to a country for 12 months if it is found to have ordered an internet shutdown. The ban would cover all government-owned entities and others that have a "direct provable relationship with said government." It would also cover any transfer of address space to those entities from others. That withdrawal of services would escalate if the country continued to pull the plug on internet access. Under the proposal: "In the event of a government performing three or more such shutdowns in a period of 10 years -- all resources to the aforementioned entities shall be revoked and no allocations to said entities shall occur for a period of 5 years."

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Microsoft is finally planning to introduce refunds for digital content purchased from the Xbox Games Store and Windows Store, bringing those storefronts in line with popular digital retailers for PC games. From a report: The refund feature is included in the latest alpha release for the Xbox One Insider program. Refunds apply only for full games and paid apps, not downloadable content or season passes. These "self-service refunds" are designed to "provide a quick, simple way of returning a digital product," according to Microsoft. Microsoft says it has begun testing the feature with select users.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Facebook's top Snapchat clone Instagram Stories has hit 200 million daily active users, surpassing the last count of 161 million that Snapchat announced alongside its IPO. Instagram Stories launched in August, hit 100 million dailies in October, and 150 million in January, so it's hardly slowing as it grows. Meanwhile, Instagram is getting faster at copying even Snapchat's most technologically advanced features with a series of global iOS and Android updates. A report adds: Along with this announcement, Facebook is introducing new 'sticker' tools for Instagram, to make it a more appealing alternative to Snapchat, and more engaging for its users. Now Instagram's users can turn their selfies into stickers, which they'll be able to easily share, or pin within a video. The app is also launching new Geostickers for Chicago, London, Madrid and Tokyo to apply over photos. The stickers have been designed by artists from the respective cities, enabling users to tap to learn more about the art.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews: Ubuntu 17.04 "Zesty Zapus" is available for download. No, this is not an Alpha or Beta, but an official stable version of the Linux-based operating system. Unfortunately, the release is a bit tainted -- it uses Unity as the official desktop environment, which Canonical has announced will be killed. Not to mention, there has been some controversy regarding some comments by Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth. Just yesterday, the CEO of Canonical announced she is leaving the position. With all of the aforementioned controversy and chaos, it is understandably hard to get too excited for "Zesty Zapus," especially as this is not a long term support version. With that said, if you are an existing Ubuntu user that likes Unity, this is certainly a worthwhile upgrade if you are OK with the shorter support. Unity may no longer have a future, but version 7 will continue to be supported -- for a while, at least.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
In its quest to ensure Lyft remains in second place, Uber reportedly ran a program that exploited a vulnerability in its rival's system. From a report: According to The Information, the ride-hailing company's covert software-based program called "Hell" spied on its staunchest competitor's drivers from 2014 to early 2016. It's called Hell, because it served as the counterpart to "God View" or "Heaven," Uber's in-company app that tracked its own drivers and passengers. Unlike God View, which was widely available to corporate employees, only top executives along with select data scientists and personnel knew about Hell. The program apparently started when Uber decided to create fake Lyft rider accounts and fooled its rival's system into thinking they were in various locations around the city. Those fake riders were positioned in a grid to give Uber the entire view of a city and all of Lyft's drivers within it. As a result, the company can see info on up to eight of its competitor's nearest drivers per fake rider.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
The future of illegal torrent websites doesn't look good. As torrent websites continue to disappear, the founder of The Pirate Bay believes the trend is the just the beginning. From an article: While it might look like torrenters are are still fighting this battle, Sunde claims that the reality is more definitive: "We have already lost." [...] Take the net neutrality law in Europe. It's terrible, but people are happy and go like "it could be worse." That is absolutely not the right attitude. Facebook brings the internet to Africa and poor countries, but they're only giving limited access to their own services and make money off of poor people. [...] Well, I have given up the idea that we can win this fight for the internet. The situation is not going to be any different, because apparently that is something people are not interested in fixing. Or we can't get people to care enough. Maybe it's a mixture, but this is kind of the situation we are in, so its useless to do anything about it. We have become somehow the Black Knight from Monty Python's Holy Grail. We have maybe half of our head left and we are still fighting, we still think we have a chance of winning this battle.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
hypercard writes: Researchers from West Point recently presented research on a real-time passive analysis of Netflix traffic. The paper, entitled "Identifying HTTPS-Protected Netflix Videos in Real-Time" is based on research conducted by Andrew Reed, Michael Kranch and Benjamin Klimkowski. The team's technique demonstrates frighteningly accurate results based solely on information captured from TCP/IP headers. Even with the recent upgrade to HTTPS, their technique was effective at identifying the correct video with greater than 99.99 percent accuracy against their database of over 42,000 videos. "When tested against 200 random 20-minute video streams, our system identified 99.5 percent of the videos with the majority of the identifications occurring less than two and a half minutes into the video stream," the paper reads. However, there are important points to note. First, the attack described only applies to streams still using Silverlight. Additionally, an attacker would likely need significant resources and access to intercept, fingerprint and process the traffic in real time. Netflix has reacted positively to the team's research and acknowledged the issue as a known drawback to processing video streams with HTTPS.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
hackingbear quotes a report from TechCrunch: China is not only taking the spotlight in strong defense of global markets and free trade, filling a vacuum left by retreating Western capitalist democracies, China is quickly becoming a (if not the) global leader in intellectual property protection and enforcement. And there too, just as Western democracies (especially the United States) have grown increasingly skeptical of the value of intellectual property and have weakened protection and enforcement, China has been steadily advancing its own intellectual property system and the protected assets of its companies and citizens. In addition to filing twice as many patents as the U.S., China is increasingly being selected as a key venue for patent litigation between non-Chinese companies. Why? Litigants feel they are treated fairly. Reports indicated that in 2015, 65 foreign plaintiffs won all of their cases against other foreign companies before Beijing's IP court. And even foreign plaintiffs suing Chinese companies won about 81 percent of their patent cases, roughly the same as domestic Chinese plaintiffs. China's journey from piracy to protection models the journeys of other Western and Asian countries. While building its industrial economies, the U.S. and major European powers violated IP laws with no consideration. As reported by The Guardian, Doron Ben-Atar, a history professor at Fordham University, has noted that "U.S. and every major European state engaged in technology piracy and industrial espionage in the 18th and 19th century." It took Western economies a hundred or more years to change that behavior. China's mind-whipping change is happening over decades, not centuries.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Kristine Lofgren writes: Scientists have long suspected that the universe is woven together by a vast cosmic connector but, until now, they couldn't prove it. Now, for the first time ever, scientists have captured an image of a dark matter bridge, confirming the theory that galaxies are held together by a cosmic web. Using a technique called weak gravitational lensing, researchers were able to identify distortions of distant galaxies as they are influenced by a large, unseen mass -- in this case, a web of dark matter. In order to create a composite image that shows the dark matter web, scientists had to look at more than 23,000 galaxy pairs located 4.5 billion light-years away. "Results show the dark matter filament bridge is strongest between systems less than 40 million light years apart," reports Phys.Org. The findings have been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
schwit1 shares an excerpt from a report via MIT Technology Review: No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do. That could be a problem. Last year, a strange self-driving car was released onto the quiet roads of Monmouth County, New Jersey. The experimental vehicle, developed by researchers at the chip maker Nvidia, didn't look different from other autonomous cars, but it was unlike anything demonstrated by Google, Tesla, or General Motors, and it showed the rising power of artificial intelligence. The car didn't follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it. Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it's also a bit unsettling, since it isn't completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle's sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you'd expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected -- crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can't ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did. The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car's underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries. But this won't happen -- or shouldn't happen -- unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur -- and it's inevitable they will. That's one reason Nvidia's car is still experimental. schwit1 adds: "To be fair, we don't really understand how natural intelligence works, either."

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
the_newsbeagle writes: Elon Musk has set out to change the world with SpaceX's reusable rockets and Tesla's electric cars, and now he plans to change your brain. His new company, Neuralink, will reportedly build delicate brain implants called "neural lace" to help people with neuropsychiatric disorders and to give healthy people strange new mental abilities. But the news announcements about the company contained scant details about what kind of hardware Neuralink might actually build, and what engineering challenges the company will have to overcome in pursuit of miniaturized and safe brain implants. Here, five neuroscience experts describe those challenges, and give hints on what to expect from Musk's neural dust. One of the neuroscientists is Mary Lou Jepsen, founder of the Openwater startup, which is looking for ways to develop a noninvasive BCI for imaging and telepathy. Jepsen was also "an engineering executive at Facebook working on its Oculus virtual reality gear; before that she spent three years at Google X, running advanced projects on display technology," reports IEEE Spectrum. She says that Neuralink will likely face many medical hurdles, even if their process doesn't require splitting open patients' skulls. "The approach as I understand it (not much is published) involves implanting silicon particles (so called "neural lace") into the bloodstream. One concern is that implanting anything in the body can cause unintended consequences," says Jepsen. "For example, even red blood cells can clog capillaries in the brain when the red blood cells are made more stiff by diseases like malaria. This clogging can reduce or even cut off the flow of oxygen to the parts of the brain. Indeed, clogging of cerebral capillaries has been shown to be a major cause of Alzheimer's progression. Back to neural lace: One concern I would have is whether the silicon particles could lead to any clogging."

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
City of Portland and Multnomah County officials have announced this week that they are committed to 100 percent clean energy by the year 2050. "Getting our community to 100 percent renewable energy is a big goal," Ted Wheeler, City of Portland Mayor, said in a statement. "And while it is absolutely ambitious, it is a goal that we share with Nike, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Google, GM, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Walmart. We have a responsibility to lead this effort in Oregon." CNBC reports: Multnomah County is the most populous county in Oregon. Its Chair, Deborah Kafoury, welcomed the news. "This is a pledge to our children's future,'' she said. "100 percent renewables means a future with cleaner air, a stable climate and more jobs and economic opportunity.'' Portland is among a number of U.S. cities looking to embrace renewables. Wheeler noted that tackling climate change would need to be a collaborative effort. "We don't succeed addressing climate change by government action alone,'' he said. "We need our whole community: government, businesses, organizations and households to work together to make a just transition to a 100 percent renewable future.''

Read More...
posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Burger King unveiled a new advertisement earlier today designed to trigger users' Google Home devices. The ad specifically used the Google Home trigger phrase "Okay, Google" to ask "What is the Whopper burger?," thus triggering the Google Assistant to read off the top result from Wikipedia. But less than three hours after Burger King launched the ad, Google disabled the functionality. The Verge reports: As of 2:45PM ET, Google Home will no longer respond when prompted by the specific Burger King commercial that asks "What is the Whopper burger?" It does, however, still respond with the top result from Wikipedia when someone else (i.e., a real user) other than the advertisement asks the same question. Google has likely registered the sound clip from the ad to disable unwanted Home triggers, as it does with its own Google Home commercials.

Read More...