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Submission + - TED's News Feed Is a Lot Different Than Facebook's (

mirandakatz writes: While most of our Facebook News Feeds have been filled with vicious political debates for the past five or six months, the annual TED conference in Vancouver offered up an entirely different News Feed. As Steven Levy writes at Backchannel, "the TED News Feed is in sync with Ezra Pound’s insufficiently famous quote that “literature is news that stays news.” In TED’s world, at least when it’s working well, the news that stays news is science—as well as the recognizable truths of who we are as a species, and what we are capable of, good or evil." Find out which thinkers brought the most innovative, truth-driven ideas to this year's annual summit—and which nonetheless managed to bring in their own brand of fake news.

Submission + - How Ajit Pai's Plan to Roll Back Net Neutrality Threatens Small-Town America (

mirandakatz writes: Yesterday, FCC Chair Ajit Pai announced his plan to roll back government oversight of internet access providers and undo the progress that the Obama administration made in declaring high-speed internet access a "Title II" service. At Backchannel, Susan Crawford unpacks one of the many ways in which this is a disastrous plan: It'll seriously threaten small towns all across America, where people are paying insane amounts of money for incredibly poor internet connections. As Crawford writes, "It just feels wrong. It feels un-American to them to be relegated to second-class status, no matter who they voted for last November. And they won’t see any help coming from Pai’s FCC."

Submission + - Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Discusses the Tweeting President (

mirandakatz writes: In a Q&A with Backchannel's Steven Levy, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey discusses how he's addressing Twitter’s harassment problem, what he is doing to make the company grow again, and—of course—Donald Trump. After 11 years of operation, Dorsey's pleased that Twitter has become a worldwide means of surfacing the zeitgeist in real time. He's much less pleased that it's been turned by some into a tool for harassment—and he never imagined that one day the President would use it to mock beauty queens, misrepresent his electoral victory, and offend international allies and foes alike. In this candid conversation, he lays out what to expect from Twitter in the months and years to come.

Submission + - The Myth of A Superhuman AI ( 1

mirandakatz writes: One of the most common questions about the future of artificial intelligence goes something like this: "I’ve heard that in the future computerized AIs will become so much smarter than us that they will take all our jobs and resources, and humans will go extinct. Is this true?" But the assumption that AI will render humans obsolete is serious hyperbole. As Kevin Kelly writes at Backchannel, "buried in this scenario of a takeover of superhuman artificial intelligence are five assumptions which, when examined closely, are not based on any evidence...If the expectation of a superhuman AI takeover is built on five key assumptions that have no basis in evidence, then this idea is more akin to a religious belief—a myth." Don't miss the full, impeccably argued debunking of this pervasive myth.

Submission + - Sheryl Sandberg's Accidental Revolution (

mirandakatz writes: When her husband died in 2015, Sheryl Sandberg didn't set out to grieve publicly—but in returning to work at Facebook shortly after her husband's death, she wound up doing just that. In her newly released book, Sandberg offers a guide for anyone confronting the kind of hardship that renders everything else temporarily meaningless—-a death; a sexual assault; cancer—but even more than Option B is a self-help tome, it’s a management book. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel draws from interviews with Sandberg and senior Facebook staff to explore how Sandberg’s grief became the catalyst for a new, emotionally honest management style at Facebook and beyond, ultimately creating a more open, honest environment where no one feels the need to hide their pain.

Submission + - Whoi is behind "Arkansas" trying to execute two inmates on Monday evening? (

Elixon writes: The state of Arkansas plans to execute two inmates on Monday. It will be the first U.S. state in 17 years to put a pair of convicts to death on the same day. With the recent appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch in may really happen.

I have noticed that everywhere in news we read the names of convicts and the other party is just named "Arkansas". But we all know that there are government bureaucrats — real people — hiding behind that label "Arkansas".

I am European with very different views on this and I would be really interested in learning who really are those people behind "Arkansas" going extra mile to have somebody killed (because of some product's expiration) and what is their agenda — what are their convictions and motives. I just want to understand why somebody with a good job paid from people's taxes shows that much effort to kill somebody else.

Does anybody know who are they and what is their story?

Submission + - Apple Is Losing Its Shine in China (

mirandakatz writes: Until recently, Apple led an unusually charmed existence in China: Where Google and Facebook were sent into exile and Uber conceded defeat to a Chinese rival after a long and costly battle, Apple seemed to be flourishing. But now the company is on the outs—and not because of Beijing’s meddling. Rather, it's because Apple has failed to innovate or pay attention to the desires of its Chinese users. At Backchannel, Jeremy Hsu unpacks the tech giant's decline in China, arguing that "the Cupertino company hasn’t been a victim to regulation so much as a victim of its own failure of imagination."

Submission + - How WeChat Spreads Rumors, Reaffirms Bias, and Helped Elect Trump (

mirandakatz writes: In the wake of the 2016 election, much of the conversation has centered on fake news spreading on Facebook and Google—but there's been little to no attention paid to the way that rumors and lies can circulate on WeChat, China's most popular messaging platform. At Backchannel, Eileen Guo takes a look at “The Chinese Voice of America," a WeChat page that aimed to influence Chinese-American voters to vote for Trump and quick amassed tens of thousands of followers. In a closed social network like WeChat, Guo writes, "The litmus test for truthfulness has moved from, 'is this argument supported by evidence?' to, 'is this argument shared by someone whose judgment I trust?'" And as messaging platforms grow increasingly popular worldwide, the danger of social media turning into an echo chamber moves from a potential to the norm.

Submission + - Is Google planning to include an ad blocker in Chrome? (

OffTheLip writes: According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is considering building an ad blocker into the Chrome browser. Ads that don't comply with the Coalition for Better Ads list of standards would be blocked. Chrome browser market share could force web sites to be more compliant and reduce the need for third party ad blockers such as Ad Block Plus which allow companies to pay their way onto an “Acceptable Ads” list. Is this another way for Google to force their version of standards on web advertising?

Submission + - South Indian Frog Oozes Molecule That Inexplicably Decimates Flu Viruses (

An anonymous reader writes: From the slimy backs of a South Indian frog comes a new way to blast influenza viruses. A compound in the frog’s mucus—long known to have germ-killing properties—can latch onto flu virus particles and cause them to burst apart, researchers report in Immunity. The peptide is a potent and precise killer, able to demolish a whole class of flu viruses while leaving other viruses and cells unharmed. But scientists don’t know exactly how it pulls off the viral eviscerations. No other antiviral peptide of its ilk seems to work the same way. The study authors, led by researchers at Emory University, note that the peptide appears uniquely nontoxic—something that can’t be said of many other frog-based compounds. Thus, the peptide on its own holds promise of being a potential therapy someday. But simply figuring out how it works could move researchers closer to a vaccine or therapy that could take out all flus, ditching the need for yearly vaccinations for each season’s flavor of flu.

Submission + - Inside the Glowing-Plant Startup That Just Gave up Its Quest (

mirandakatz writes: Back in 2013, the internet was abuzz over a startup that promised Kickstarter backers that it would create a plant that could grow brightly enough to one day replace street lights. The Kickstarter raised half a million dollars, and the controversy was great enough that Kickstarter wound up banning all future synthetic biology projects. But Taxa Biotechnologies was never able to create that much-hyped glowing plant—and last night, they announced that they're officially giving up on the dream. At Backchannel, Signe Brewster has a deep dive into what went wrong, and why biohacking is still such a fraught, complex realm.

Submission + - Our Machines Now Have Knowledge We'll Never Understand (

mirandakatz writes: Advances in computer software are enabling computers to generate their own models and rule sets that may not look much like what humans would create. Think about it: That's how Google’s AlphaGo program was able to defeat the third-highest ranked Go player in the world—and even the best AI researchers can't explain every decision it made as it came to secure that win. At Backchannel, technologist David Weinberger meditates on the implications of the fact that humans have now created an alien intelligence that calls into question our basic assumptions about knowledge. He writes that for the entire Western tradition, "We thought knowledge was about finding the order hidden in the chaos. We thought it was about simplifying the world. It looks like we were wrong. Knowing the world may require giving up on understanding it."

Submission + - The FCC Is Leading Us Toward Catastrophe (

mirandakatz writes: Trump's FCC Chair, Ajit Pai, is trusting cable companies and telecom giants to do the right thing—that is, protect consumers and ensure that everyone in the country gets world-class, open, nondiscriminatory internet access. That's bad news for anyone who wants accessible internet: It just won't happen. As Susan Crawford writes at Backchannel, "It’s a cataclysm for the country. A true, slow-moving disaster. It’s paradoxical, but everything we need to do as a nation depends on data transmission becoming something we never have to think about. It should just be there, when needed, as needed, for all of our businesses, students, policy changes—everything."

Submission + - Kimbal Musk's Tech Revolution Starts with Mustard Greens (

mirandakatz writes: Farmers have always had a tough time—and now they're facing new competition in the form of Brooklyn hipsters, growing crops in high-tech farms at a startup co-founded by Kimbal Musk, sibling to Elon and board member of Tesla and SpaceX. Square Roots is headquartered in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant, and is currently made up of 10 shipping container farms, each manned by an individual entrepreneur. At Backchannel, Steven Levy offers a deep look at Square Roots's mission to become "the Amazon of real food" and, in the process, overthrow Big Ag.

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