Robotics

Europe Divided Over Robot 'Personhood' (politico.eu) 246

Politico Europe has an interesting piece which looks at the high-stakes debate between European lawmakers, legal experts and manufacturers over who should bear the ultimate responsibility for the actions by a machine: the machine itself or the humans who made them?. Two excerpts from the piece: The battle goes back to a paragraph of text, buried deep in a European Parliament report from early 2017, which suggests that self-learning robots could be granted "electronic personalities." Such a status could allow robots to be insured individually and be held liable for damages if they go rogue and start hurting people or damaging property.

Those pushing for such a legal change, including some manufacturers and their affiliates, say the proposal is common sense. Legal personhood would not make robots virtual people who can get married and benefit from human rights, they say; it would merely put them on par with corporations, which already have status as "legal persons," and are treated as such by courts around the world.

Businesses

Netflix CEO: Why Even $8 Billion Investment in Content Isn't Enough (axios.com) 93

Netflix expects to spend about $8 billion on content this year. For Hollywood studios, that's a reasonable figure. But for Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, it's not enough. From a report: The company is competing against a range of traditional entertainment companies around the globe, and of course, against the need to work, sleep and do other things. Speaking at TED in Vancouver, Hastings noted that $8 billion is about what Disney spends. "That's spread globally," he said. "It's not as much as it sounds." Hastings noted that House of Cards wasn't really the company's first effort at original content. It had tried back in the days when it was still mailing out DVDs. "It didn't work out because we were sub-scale," he said.
Science

The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete (theatlantic.com) 152

James Somers, writing for The Atlantic: The scientific paper -- the actual form of it -- was one of the enabling inventions of modernity. Before it was developed in the 1600s, results were communicated privately in letters, ephemerally in lectures, or all at once in books. There was no public forum for incremental advances. By making room for reports of single experiments or minor technical advances, journals made the chaos of science accretive. Scientists from that point forward became like the social insects: They made their progress steadily, as a buzzing mass.

The earliest papers were in some ways more readable than papers are today. They were less specialized, more direct, shorter, and far less formal. Calculus had only just been invented. Entire data sets could fit in a table on a single page. What little "computation" contributed to the results was done by hand and could be verified in the same way.

The more sophisticated science becomes, the harder it is to communicate results. Papers today are longer than ever and full of jargon and symbols. They depend on chains of computer programs that generate data, and clean up data, and plot data, and run statistical models on data. These programs tend to be both so sloppily written and so central to the results that it's contributed to a replication crisis, or put another way, a failure of the paper to perform its most basic task: to report what you've actually discovered, clearly enough that someone else can discover it for themselves.

AI

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Innovation (nber.org) 64

Abstract of a paper [PDF] which was originally published last month: Artificial intelligence may greatly increase the efficiency of the existing economy. But it may have an even larger impact by serving as a new general-purpose "method of invention" that can reshape the nature of the innovation process and the organization of R&D. We distinguish between automation-oriented applications such as robotics and the potential for recent developments in "deep learning" to serve as a general-purpose method of invention, finding strong evidence of a "shift" in the importance of application-oriented learning research since 2009.

We suggest that this is likely to lead to a significant substitution away from more routinized labor-intensive research towards research that takes advantage of the interplay between passively generated large datasets and enhanced prediction algorithms. At the same time, the potential commercial rewards from mastering this mode of research are likely to usher in a period of racing, driven by powerful incentives for individual companies to acquire and control critical large datasets and application-specific algorithms. We suggest that policies which encourage transparency and sharing of core datasets across both public and private actors may be critical tools for stimulating research productivity and innovation-oriented competition going forward.

Intel

Intel SPI Flash Flaw Lets Attackers Alter or Delete BIOS/UEFI Firmware (bleepingcomputer.com) 46

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: Intel has addressed a vulnerability in the configuration of several CPU series that allow an attacker to alter the behavior of the chip's SPI Flash memory -- a mandatory component used during the boot-up process [1, 2, 3]. According to Lenovo, who recently deployed the Intel fixes, "the configuration of the system firmware device (SPI flash) could allow an attacker to block BIOS/UEFI updates, or to selectively erase or corrupt portions of the firmware." Lenovo engineers say "this would most likely result in a visible malfunction, but could in rare circumstances result in arbitrary code execution."
The Almighty Buck

How the Quakers Became Unlikely Economic Innovators by Inventing the Price Tag (aeon.co) 232

Belying its simplicity and ubiquity, the price tag is a surprisingly recent economic development, Aeon magazine writes. For centuries, haggling was the norm, ultimately developing into a system that required clerks and shopkeepers to train as negotiators. In the mid-19th century, however, Quakers in the US began to believe that charging people different amounts for the same item was immoral, so they started using price tags at their stores to counter the ills of haggling. And, as this short video from NPR's Planet Money explains, by taking a moral stand, the Quakers inadvertently revealed an inefficiency in the old economic system and became improbable pricing pioneers, changing commerce and history with one simple innovation.
Encryption

Former FBI Director James Comey Reveals How Apple and Google's Encryption Efforts Drove Him 'Crazy' (fastcompany.com) 348

An anonymous reader shares a report: In his explosive new book, A Higher Loyalty, fired FBI director James Comey denounces President Trump as "untethered to the truth" and likens him to a "mob boss," but he also touches on other topics during his decades-long career in law enforcement -- including his strong objection to the tech industry's encryption efforts. When Apple and Google announced in 2014 that they would be moving their mobile devices to default encryption, by emphasizing that making them immune to judicial orders was good for society, "it drove me crazy," he writes. He goes on to lament the lack of "true listening" between tech and law enforcement, saying that "the leaders of the tech companies don't see the darkness the FBI sees," such as terrorism and organized crime.

He writes, "I found it appalling that the tech types couldn't see this. I would frequently joke with the FBI 'Going Dark' team assigned to seek solutions, 'Of course the Silicon Valley types don't see the darkness -- they live where it's sunny all the time and everybody is rich and smart." But Comey understood it was an unbelievably difficult issue and that public safety had to be balanced with privacy concerns.

Windows

Microsoft Windows 10 Gains Linux/WSL Console Copy and Paste Functionality (betanews.com) 167

BrianFagioli writes: For better or worse, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) initiative seems to be moving full steam ahead. There are some very respectable distributions available in the Microsoft Store, such as Debian, Ubuntu, and Kali to name a few. Not to mention, Microsoft is trying to encourage even more maintainers to submit their distros with a new tool.

Apparently, some Windows 10 users have been clamoring for the ability to copy and paste both from and to WSL consoles -- a reasonable request. Well, as of Insider Build 17643, this is finally possible.

'As of Windows 10 Insider build #17643, you can copy/paste text from/to Linux/WSL Consoles!!! We know that this is a feature MANY of you have been waiting for -- our sincerest thanks for your patience and continued support while we untangled the Console's internals, allowing us to implement this feature. To ensure that we don't break any existing behaviors, you'll need to enable the 'Use Ctrl+Shift+C/V as Copy/Paste' option in the Console 'Options' properties page,' says Rich Turner, Microsoft.

Microsoft

Microsoft Engineer Charged In Reveton Ransomware Case (bleepingcomputer.com) 24

An anonymous reader writes: A Microsoft network engineer is facing federal charges in Florida for allegedly helping launder money obtained from victims of the Reventon ransomware. Florida investigators say that between October 2012 and March 2013, Uadiale worked with a UK citizen going online by the moniker K!NG. The latter would distribute and infect victims with the Reveton ransomware, while Uadiale would collect payments and send the money to K!NG, in the UK. Investigators tracked down Uadiale because this happened before Bitcoin became popular with ransomware authors and they used the now-defunct Liberty Reserve digital currency to move funds. Authorities from 18 countries seized and shut down Liberty Reserve servers in May 2013.
Encryption

Lawmakers Call FBI's 'Going Dark' Narrative 'Highly Questionable' After Motherboard Shows Cops Can Easily Hack iPhones (vice.com) 69

Joseph Cox, reporting for Motherboard: This week, Motherboard showed that law enforcement agencies across the country, including a part of the State Department, have bought GrayKey, a relatively cheap technology that can unlock fully up-to-date iPhones. That revelation, cryptographers and technologists said, undermined the FBI's renewed push for backdoors in consumer encryption products. Citing Motherboard's work, on Friday US lawmakers sent a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, doubting the FBI's narrative around 'going dark', where law enforcement officials say they are increasingly unable to obtain evidence related to crimes due to encryption. Politico was first to report the letter. "According to your testimony and public statements, the FBI encountered 7,800 devices last year that it could not access due to encryption," the letter, signed by 5 Democrat and 5 Republican n House lawmakers, reads. "However, in light of the availability of unlocking tools developed by third-parties and the OIG report's findings that the Bureau was uninterested in seeking available third-party options, these statistics appear highly questionable," it adds, referring to a recent report from the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General. That report found the FBI barely explored its technical options for accessing the San Bernardino iPhone before trying to compel Apple to unlock the device. The lawmaker's letter points to Motherboard's report that the State Department spent around $15,000 on a GrayKey.
Medicine

Researchers Find Genetic Cause For Alzheimer's, Possible Method To Reverse It (upi.com) 113

schwit1 quotes UPI: Scientists at an independent biomedical research institution have reported a monumental breakthrough: The cause of the primary genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, and a possible cure for the disease. Researchers at Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco identified the primary genetic risk factor for the disease, a gene called apoE4... Their findings were published this week in the journal Nature Medicine... By treating human apoE4 neurons with a structure corrector, it eliminated the signs of Alzheimer's disease, restored normal function to the cells and improved cell survival.
The study's senior investigator says he's already working with a San Francisco pharmaceutical startup to develop the approach and move towards clinical trials, adding that "we are working to accelerate the timeline as much as possible."
Social Networks

Is It Time To Stop Using Social Media? (counterpunch.org) 291

Slashdot reader Nicola Hahn writes: Bulk data collection isn't the work of a couple of bad apples. Corporate social media is largely predicated on stockpiling and mining user information. As Zuckerberg explained to lawmakers, it's their business model...

While Zuckerberg has offered public apologias, spurring genuine regulation will probably be left to the public. Having said that, confronting an economic sector which makes up one of the country's largest political lobbying blocks might not be a tenable path in the short term.

The best immediate option for netizens may be to opt out of social media entirely.

The original submission links to this call-to-action from Counterpunch: Take personal responsibility for your own social life. Go back to engaging flesh and blood people without tech companies serving as an intermediary. Eschew the narcissistic impulse to broadcast the excruciating minutiae of your life to the world. Refuse to accept the mandate that you must participate in social media in order to participate in society. Reclaim your autonomy.

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