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Submission + - The Machines Are Coming

HughPickens.com writes: Zeynep Tufekci writes in an op-ed at the NYT that machines can now process regular spoken language and not only recognize human faces, but also read their expressions. Machines can classify personality types, and have started being able to carry out conversations with appropriate emotional tenor. Machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who’s in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. It turns out that most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data. "Machines aren’t used because they perform some tasks that much better than humans, but because, in many cases, they do a “good enough” job while also being cheaper, more predictable and easier to control than quirky, pesky humans," writes Tufekci. "Technology in the workplace is as much about power and control as it is about productivity and efficiency."

According to Tufekci technology is being used in many workplaces: to reduce the power of humans, and employers’ dependency on them, whether by replacing, displacing or surveilling them. Optimists insist that we’ve been here before, during the Industrial Revolution, when machinery replaced manual labor, and all we need is a little more education and better skills but Tufekci says that one historical example is no guarantee of future events. "Confronting the threat posed by machines, and the way in which the great data harvest has made them ever more able to compete with human workers, must be about our priorities," concludes Tufekci. "This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another."
Transportation

Submission + - App Can Prevent Users from Texting While Driving

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Scientific American reports that while laws prohibit texting while driving in many states, many people still find it impossible to resist. Now researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are studying how software on a cell phone could analyze keystrokes to determine when that phone’s user is distracted while composing and sending text messages and combined with GPS and other data, determine when a texter is behind the wheel and shut off texting functions automatically. Such a feature could take the form of a mobile app for any phone—independent of the manufacturer, operating system and wireless service provider. The researchers programmed a cell phone to log keystroke dynamics using a common operating system as a means of determining if an individual was texting while driving, in particular, “keystroke entropy,” (pdf) when keys are struck at irregular intervals, as an indicator that the test subjects’ attention is divided between texting and driving. “The things that we are measuring, the data never needs to leave the person’s phone,” says Mike Watkins, developer of the algorithm. “But as a parent, you could require your child to have something like this on their cellphone as a way to protect them. Employers could use it as a way to mitigate their liability for accidents on work time. Even insurance companies could use it.”"
China

Submission + - NSA Director Says Cybercrime is 'Greatest Transfer of Wealth in History' (threatpost.com)

Trailrunner7 writes: The general in charge of the National Security Agency on Monday said the lack of national cybersecurity leglislation is costing us big and amounting to what he believes is "the greatest transfer of wealth in history."

U.S. Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander urged politicians to stop stalling on approving a much-needed cybersecurity law — of which various versions currently are circulating in Congress. At the same time, he implored private companies to better cooperate with government agencies, many of whom remain mum because of privacy concerns.

"We can do the protection of civil liberties and privacy and cybersecurity as a nation. Not only that we can, but I believe it's something that we must do," Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.

Canada

Submission + - Database and IP records tie election fraud to Canada's ruling Conservatives (theglobeandmail.com)

choongiri writes: Canada's election fraud scandal continues to unfold. Elections Canada just matched the IP address used to set up thousands of voter suppression robocalls to one used by a Conservative Party operative, and a comparison of call records found a perfect match between the illegal calls, and records of non-supporters in the Conservative Party's CIMS voter tracking database, as well as evidence access logs may have been tampered with. Meanwhile, legal challenges to election results are underway in seven ridings, and an online petition calling for an independent public inquiry into the crisis has amassed over 44,000 signatures. The Conservative Party still maintains their innocence, calling it a baseless smear campaign.

Submission + - Diamond particles discovered in candle flames (bbc.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: BBC News says on 17 Aug 2011:

Candle flames contain millions of tiny diamond particles, a university professor has discovered. Dr Wuzong Zhou, of St Andrews University, found about 1.5 million diamond nanoparticles are created in a candle flame every second it burns. The diamond particles are burned away in the process.

Is this even possible, energy-wise? I mean I thought extreme temperature and pressure was required to form the diamond lattice... If a candle flame produces nano-diamonds, wouldn't several other sources of hydrocarbons produce and burn it too, during combustion? Does anyone have a reference to an article about this from the actual scientist? or is this just another hoax?

Submission + - Will Google Ever Die? (thewebshowroom.com.au)

stephen1983 writes: "It seems a little sensationalist to question the livelihood of a company valued at almost $200bn and one that holds around 80% market share of worldwide search. But just over ten short years ago, prior to the Google revolution and the dot-com bubble of 2000, AltaVista like Google today, was the dominant player in search."
Security

Submission + - Mobile Scanners Not "Certified People Scanners" (epic.org)

OverTheGeicoE writes: The Electronic Privacy Information Center received more FOIA documents from the US Department of Homeland Security regarding mobile x-ray scanners (a.k.a. Z Backscatter Vans). We've discussed these devices before. Perhaps the most interesting part is slide #11 ("Disclaimer About Scanning People") on page 6 of this PDF explaining that the radiation output of these devices is too high to comply with ANSI N43.17. In other words, they output too much radiation even by TSA's questionable standards for airport body scanners. Regardless, the slide ends with the author stating that the ANSI standard "is not applicable to covert operations". What might that assertion have meant to the presentation's intended audience?
Science

Submission + - Evangelical Scientists Debate Creation Story 3

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe humanity descend from Adam and Eve but NPR reports that evangelical scientists are now saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account and that it is unlikely that we all descended from a single pair of humans. "That would be against all the genomic evidence that we've assembled over the last 20 years so not likely at all" says biologist Dennis Venema, a senior fellow at BioLogos Foundation, a Christian group that tries to reconcile faith and science. "You would have to postulate that there's been this absolutely astronomical mutation rate that has produced all these new variants in an incredibly short period of time. Those types of mutation rates are just not possible. It would mutate us out of existence." Venema is part of a growing cadre of Christian scholars who say they want their faith to come into the 21st century and say it's time to face facts: There was no historical Adam and Eve, no serpent, no apple, no fall that toppled man from a state of innocence. "There's nothing to be scared of here," adds Venema. "There is nothing to be alarmed about. It's actually an opportunity to have an increasingly accurate understanding of the world — and from a Christian perspective, that's an increasingly accurate understanding of how God brought us into existence.""
Space

Sweet Molecule Could Lead Us To Alien Life 72

Matt_dk writes "Scientists have detected an organic sugar molecule that is directly linked to the origin of life in a region of our galaxy where habitable planets could exist. The international team of researchers used the IRAM radio telescope in France to detect the molecule in a massive star forming region of space, some 26,000 light years from Earth."
Software

Virgin America Uses Linux to Entertain Inflight 117

anomalous cohort writes "CrunchGear has an interesting interview with the Director of Inflight Entertainment for the airline Virgin America, who discusses their adoption of Linux for the passenger's seat back computers. 'The ability to compose a music-video playlist is pretty cool and on the horizon. The READ section is also awesome in that it takes what is typically a bunch of wasted trees (excess newspapers, periodicals) and allows us to be more environmentally friendly and timely with things like news/event info/sports/entertainment etc.'"
Google

Submission + - Google turns out the lights for Earth Hour (google.ca)

ottawanker writes: "Google Canada (and others including Google United Kingdom, but not the main Google.com have turned out their lights for Earth Hour. On the Google Earth Hour webpage they write that while a black search page won't save power on most displays currently in use, they hope that it will raise awareness for Earth Hour.

"On Saturday, March 29, 2008, Earth Hour invites people around the world to turn off their lights for one hour — from 8:00pm to 9:00pm in their local time zone. On this day, cities around the world, including Copenhagen, Chicago, Melbourne, Dubai, and Tel Aviv, will hold events to acknowledge their commitment to energy conservation.""

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