Businesses

If Data Is the New Oil, Are Tech Companies Robbing Us Blind? (digitaltrends.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Data is the new oil, or so the saying goes. So why are we giving it away for nothing more than ostensibly free email, better movie recommendations, and more accurate search results? It's an important question to ask in a world where the accumulation and scraping of data is worth billions of dollars -- and even a money-losing company with enough data about its users can be worth well into the eight-figure region. The essential bargain that's driven by today's tech giants is the purest form of cognitive capitalism: users feed in their brains -- whether this means solving a CAPTCHA to train AI systems or clicking links on Google to help it learn which websites are more important than others. In exchange for this, we get access to ostensibly "free" services, while simultaneously helping to train new technologies which may one day put large numbers of us out of business.

In an age in which concepts like universal basic income are increasingly widely discussed, one of the most intriguing solutions is one first put forward by virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. In his book Who Owns the Future?, Lanier suggests that users should receive a micropayment every time their data is used to earn a company money. For example, consider the user who signs up to an online dating service. Here, the user provides data that the dating company uses to match them with a potential data. This matching process is, itself, based on algorithms honed by the data coming from previous users. The data resulting from the new user will further perfect the algorithms for later users of the service. In the case that your data somehow matches someone else successfully in a relationship, Lanier says you would be entitled to a micropayment.

AI

Are Companies Overhyping AI? (hackaday.com) 178

When it comes to artificial intelligence, "companies have been overselling the concept and otherwise normal people are taking the bait," writes Hackaday: Not to pick on Amazon, but all of the home assistants like Alexa and Google Now tout themselves as AI. By the most classic definition, that's true. AI techniques include matching natural language to predefined templates. That's really all these devices are doing today. Granted the neural nets that allow for great speech recognition and reproduction are impressive. But they aren't true intelligence nor are they even necessarily direct analogs of a human brain... The danger is that people are now getting spun up that the robot revolution is right around the corner...

[N]othing in the state of the art of AI today is going to wake up and decide to kill the human masters. Despite appearances, the computers are not thinking. You might argue that neural networks could become big enough to emulate a brain. Maybe, but keep in mind that the brain has about 100 billion neurons and almost 10 to the 15th power interconnections. Worse still, there isn't a clear consensus that the neural net made up of the cells in your brain is actually what is responsible for conscious thought. There's some thought that the neurons are just control systems and the real thinking happens in a biological quantum computer... Besides, it seems to me if you build an electronic brain that works like a human brain, it is going to have all the problems a human brain has (years of teaching, distraction, mental illness, and a propensity for error).

Citing the dire predictions of Elon Musk and Bill Gates, the article argues that "We are a relatively small group of people who have a disproportionate influence on what our friends, families, and co-workers think... We need to spread some sense into the conversation."
AI

A New Zealand Company Built An AI Baby That Plays the Piano (bloomberg.com) 87

pacopico writes: A New Zealand company called Soul Machines has built a disturbingly lifelike virtual baby powered by artificial intelligence software. According to a Bloomberg story, the baby has learned to read books, play the piano and draw pictures. The work is built off the research of Mark Sagar, the company's CEO, who is on a quest to mimic human consciousness in a machine. Sagar used to work at Weta creating lifelike faces for films like King Kong and Avatar and is now building these very realistic looking virtual avatars and pumping them full of code that not only handles things like speech but that also replicates the nervous system and brain function. The baby, for example, has virtual dopamine receptors that fire when it feels joy from playing the piano. What could go wrong?
AI

Tesla Is Working With AMD To Develop Its Own AI Chip For Self-Driving Cars (cnbc.com) 49

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Tesla is getting closer to having its own chip for handling autonomous driving tasks in its cars. The carmaker has received back samples of the first implementation of its processor and is now running tests on it, said a source familiar with the matter. The effort to build its own chip is in line with Tesla's push to be vertically integrated and decrease reliance on other companies. But Tesla isn't completely going it alone in chip development, according to the source, and will build on top of AMD intellectual property. On Wednesday Sanjay Jha, CEO of AMD spin-off GlobalFoundries, said at the company's technology conference in Santa Clara, California, that the company is working directly with Tesla. GlobalFoundries, which fabricates chips, has a wafer supply agreement in place with AMD through 2020. Tesla's silicon project is bounding ahead under the leadership of longtime chip architect Jim Keller, the head of Autopilot hardware and software since the departure of Apple veteran Chris Lattner in June. Keller, 57, joined Tesla in early 2016 following two stints at AMD and one at Apple. Keller arrived at Apple in 2008 through its acquisition of Palo Alto Semiconductor and was the designer of Apple's A4 and A5 iPhone chips, among other things. More than 50 people are working on the initiative under Keller, the source said. Tesla has brought on several AMD veterans after hiring Keller, including director Ganesh Venkataramanan, principal hardware engineer Bill McGee and system circuit design lead Dan Bailey.
AI

Amazon Is Reportedly Working On Alexa-Enabled Smart Glasses (techcrunch.com) 32

According to the Financial Times (Warning: source paywalled), Amazon is working on building a pair of smart glasses to house its Alexa voice assistant. The report also mentions a home security camera that is in the works, capable of linking up to Amazon's existing Echo connected devices. TechCrunch reports: According to the FT, the smart glasses are intended to be purely an earbuds-free housing for Amazon's Alexa AI -- with a bone-conduction audio system that would enable the wearer to hear Alexa without the need to be wired in. The FT reports the glasses would wirelessly tether to a user's smartphone for connectivity. They are also apparently being designed to look like a regular pair of spectacles, so they could be worn comfortably and unobtrusively. The paper notes that Amazon hired Babak Parviz, founder of Google Glass, in 2014, and says he's been closely involved in the project. It also points to several other Glass researchers, engineers and designers having moved to Amazon's labs -- per analysis of their LinkedIn profiles.
Transportation

Is the World Ready For Flying Cars? (engadget.com) 251

An anonymous reader shares a report from TechCrunch, adding: "Is the world ready for flying cars? Sebastian Thrun, the supposed godfather of autonomous driving, and several other tech investors seem to think so." From the report: At TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017, Thrun talked a lot about flying cars and how that was the future of transportation. So did GGV's Jenny Lee, a prolific investor in China. And so did Steve Jurvetson, one of the original investors in SpaceX. The technical backbone for flying cars seems to be there already -- with drones becoming ever-present and advancements in AI and self-driving cars -- but the time is coming soon that flying cars will be the primary mode of transportation. "I can't envision a future of highways [and being] stuck in cars," Thrun said. "I envision a [future] where you hop in a thing, go in the air, and fly in a straight line. I envision a future where Amazon delivers my food in the air in five minutes. The air is so free of stuff and is so unused compared to the ground, it has to happen in my opinion."

Cars today are forced to move on a two-dimensional plane (ramps, clover intersections and tunnels set aside), and while self-driving cars would make it easier for cars to talk to each other and move more efficiently, adding a third dimension to travel would make a lot of sense coming next. Thrun pointed to airplane transit, which is already a "fundamentally great mass transit system." Jurvetson said he was actually about to ride in a flying car before he "watched it flip over" before arriving to talk about some of the next steps in technology onstage. So, there's work to be done there, but it does certainly seem that all eyes are on flying cars. And that'll be enabled by autonomous driving, which will probably allow flying cars to figure out the most efficient paths from one point to the next without crashing into each other.
Lee said that China is closely analyzing changes in transportation, which might end up leading to flying cars. "I do want to highlight that there's going to be huge disruption within the transportation ecosystem in China," Lee said. "Cars going from diesel to electric. China has about 200 million install base of car ownership. In 2016, only 1 million cars are electric. The Chinese government hopes to install 5 million parking lots that are electric... Even the Chinese OEMs are buying into flying taxis."
AI

You Might Use AI, But That Doesn't Mean You're an AI Company, Says a Founder of Google Brain (venturebeat.com) 73

As AI space gets crowded, there are a slew of businesses -- new and old -- looking to market themselves as "AI companies." But according to Andrew Ng, a founder of the Google Brain team and a luminary in the space, there's more to being an AI company than just using a neural net. From a report: In his view, while it's possible to create a website for a shopping mall, that doesn't make it an internet company. In the same way, just implementing basic machine learning does not make a standard technology company (or any other business) an AI company. "You're not an AI company because there are a few people using a few neural networks somewhere," Ng said. "It's much deeper than that." First and foremost, AI companies are strategic about their acquisition of data, which is used as the fuel for machine learning systems. Once an AI company has acquired the data, Ng said that they tend to store it in centralized warehouses for processing. Most enterprises have their information spread across multiple different warehouses, and collating that data for machine learning can prove difficult. AI companies also implement modern development practices, like frequent deployments. That means it's possible to change the product and learn from the changes.
AI

Google's AI Boss Blasts Musk's Scare Tactics on Machine Takeover (bloomberg.com) 130

Mark Bergen, writing for Bloomberg: Elon Musk is the most-famous Cassandra of artificial intelligence. The Tesla chief routinely drums up the technology's risks in public and on Twitter, where he recently called the global race to develop AI the "most likely cause" of a third world war. Researchers at Google, Facebook and other AI-focused companies find this irritating. John Giannandrea, the head of search and AI at Alphabet's Google, took one of the clearest shots at Musk on Tuesday -- all while carefully leaving him unnamed. "There's a huge amount of unwarranted hype around AI right now," Giannandrea said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco. "This leap into, 'Somebody is going to produce a superhuman intelligence and then there's going to be all these ethical issues' is unwarranted and borderline irresponsible."
AI

AI Just Made Guessing Your Password a Whole Lot Easier (sciencemag.org) 135

sciencehabit shares a report from Science Magazine: The Equifax breach is reason for concern, of course, but if a hacker wants to access your online data by simply guessing your password, you're probably toast in less than an hour. Now, there's more bad news: Scientists have harnessed the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to create a program that, combined with existing tools, figured more than a quarter of the passwords from a set of more than 43 million LinkedIn profiles.

Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, started with a so-called generative adversarial network, or GAN, which comprises two artificial neural networks. A "generator" attempts to produce artificial outputs (like images) that resemble real examples (actual photos), while a "discriminator" tries to detect real from fake. They help refine each other until the generator becomes a skilled counterfeiter. The Stevens team created a GAN it called PassGAN and compared it with two versions of hashCat and one version of John the Ripper. The scientists fed each tool tens of millions of leaked passwords from a gaming site called RockYou, and asked them to generate hundreds of millions of new passwords on their own. Then they counted how many of these new passwords matched a set of leaked passwords from LinkedIn, as a measure of how successful they'd be at cracking them. On its own, PassGAN generated 12% of the passwords in the LinkedIn set, whereas its three competitors generated between 6% and 23%. But the best performance came from combining PassGAN and hashCat. Together, they were able to crack 27% of passwords in the LinkedIn set, the researchers reported this month in a draft paper posted on arXiv. Even failed passwords from PassGAN seemed pretty realistic: saddracula, santazone, coolarse18.

Businesses

'Bodega' CEO Apologizes, Insists They'll Create More Jobs (cnn.com) 155

Remember those two ex-Googlers who started a company to replace mom-and-pop corner stores with automated vending kiosks? An anonymous reader writes: The company's CEO has now "apologized in the face of mounting outrage," according to CNN. CEO Paul McDonald had shared a vision with Fast Company of a world where centralized shopping locations "won't be necessary" because there'll be a tiny automated one every 100 feet. Within hours McDonald was writing a new apologetic essay insisting he's not trying to replace corner stores, which carry more items and include a human staff who "offer an integral human connection to their patrons that our automated storefronts never will." In fact, he added that "Rather than take away jobs, we hope Bodega will help create them. We see a future where anyone can own and operate a Bodega -- delivering relevant items and a great retail experience to places no corner store would ever open." Promising to review criticism, he added his hope was to "bring a useful, new retail experience to places where commerce currently doesn't exist."
Bodega's CEO sees it as a way to beat Amazon by offering immediate access to popular products, and TechCrunch reports the company has already raised $2.5 million, while Fast Company notes "angel" investments from executives at Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Dropbox.

The company has already begun testing 30 Bodega boxes over the last ten months, and unveiled 50 more boxes last week, with hopes to have over 1,000 by the end of next year.
AI

Artificial Intelligence Pioneer Says We Need To Start Over (axios.com) 175

Steve LeVine, writing for Axios: In 1986, Geoffrey Hinton co-authored a paper that, four decades later, is central to the explosion of artificial intelligence. But Hinton says his breakthrough method should be dispensed with, and a new path to AI found. Speaking with Axios on the sidelines of an AI conference in Toronto on Wednesday, Hinton, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and a Google researcher, said he is now "deeply suspicious" of back-propagation, the workhorse method that underlies most of the advances we are seeing in the AI field today, including the capacity to sort through photos and talk to Siri. "My view is throw it all away and start again," he said. Other scientists at the conference said back-propagation still has a core role in AI's future. But Hinton said that, to push materially ahead, entirely new methods will probably have to be invented. "Max Planck said, 'Science progresses one funeral at a time.' The future depends on some graduate student who is deeply suspicious of everything I have said."
Google

Social Media Site Gab Sues Google For Antitrust Violations Following Ban From Play Store (washingtonpost.com) 164

The social media site Gab.ai is accusing Google of violating federal antitrust laws when the tech giant booted Gab from the Google Play Store, according to lawsuit filed this week. From a report: The legal action is the latest salvo in an escalating battle between right-leaning technologists and leaders against Silicon Valley giants such as Facebook and Google. Gab alleges in the lawsuit that "Google deprives competitors, on a discriminatory basis, of access to the App Store, which an essential facility or resource." "Google is the biggest threat to the free flow of information," Gab chief executive Andrew Torba said in a statement. "Gab started to fight against the big tech companies in the marketplace, and their monopolistic conduct has forced us to bring the fight to the courtroom." Alternative source.
AI

Many Machine Learning Studies Don't Actually Show Anything Meaningful, But They Spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (theoutline.com) 98

Michael Byrne, writing for the Outline: Here's what you need to know about every way-cool and-or way-creepy machine learning study that has ever been or will ever be published: Anything that can be represented in some fashion by patterns within data -- any abstract-able thing that exists in the objective world, from online restaurant reviews to geopolitics -- can be "predicted" by machine learning models given sufficient historical data. At the heart of nearly every foaming news article starting with the words "AI knows ..." is some machine learning paper exploiting this basic realization. "AI knows if you have skin cancer." "AI beats doctors at predicting heart attacks." "AI predicts future crime." "AI knows how many calories are in that cookie." There is no real magic behind these findings. The findings themselves are often taken as profound simply for having way-cool concepts like deep learning and artificial intelligence and neural networks attached to them, rather than because they are offering some great insight or utility -- which most of the time, they are not.
The Almighty Buck

Chatbot Lets You Sue Equifax For Up To $25,000 Without a Lawyer (theverge.com) 111

Shannon Liao reports via The Verge: If you're one of the millions affected by the Equifax breach, a chatbot can now help you sue Equifax in small claims court, potentially letting you avoid hiring a lawyer for advice. Even if you want to be part of the class action lawsuit against Equifax, you can still sue Equifax for negligence in small claims court using the DoNotPay bot and demand maximum damages. Maximum damages range between $2,500 in states like Rhode Island and Kentucky to $25,000 in Tennessee. The bot, which launched in all 50 states in July, is mainly known for helping with parking tickets. But with this new update, its creator, Joshua Browder, who was one of the 143 million affected by the breach, is tackling a much bigger target, with larger aspirations to match. He says, "I hope that my product will replace lawyers, and, with enough success, bankrupt Equifax."

Not that the bot helps you do anything you can't already do yourself, which is filling out a bunch of forms -- you still have to serve them yourself. Unfortunately, the chatbot can't show up in court a few weeks later to argue your case for you either. To add to the headache, small claims court rules differ from state to state. For instance, in California, a person needs to demand payment from Equifax or explain why they haven't demanded payment before filing the form.

AI

Neural Networks Can Auto-Generate Reviews That Fool Humans (arxiv.org) 67

Fake reviews used to be crowdsourced. Now they can be auto-generated by AI, according to a new research paper shared by AmiMoJo: In this paper, we identify a new class of attacks that leverage deep learning language models (Recurrent Neural Networks or RNNs) to automate the generation of fake online reviews for products and services. Not only are these attacks cheap and therefore more scalable, but they can control rate of content output to eliminate the signature burstiness that makes crowdsourced campaigns easy to detect. Using Yelp reviews as an example platform, we show how a two phased review generation and customization attack can produce reviews that are indistinguishable by state-of-the-art statistical detectors.
Humans marked these AI-generated reviews as useful at approximately the same rate as they did for real (human-authored) Yelp reviews.
AI

America's Data-Swamped Spy Agencies Pin Their Hopes On AI (phys.org) 62

An anonymous reader quotes Phys.org: Swamped by too much raw intel data to sift through, US spy agencies are pinning their hopes on artificial intelligence to crunch billions of digital bits and understand events around the world. Dawn Meyerriecks, the Central Intelligence Agency's deputy director for technology development, said this week the CIA currently has 137 different AI projects, many of them with developers in Silicon Valley. These range from trying to predict significant future events, by finding correlations in data shifts and other evidence, to having computers tag objects or individuals in video that can draw the attention of intelligence analysts. Officials of other key spy agencies at the Intelligence and National Security Summit in Washington this week, including military intelligence, also said they were seeking AI-based solutions for turning terabytes of digital data coming in daily into trustworthy intelligence that can be used for policy and battlefield action.
AI

AI Can Detect Sexual Orientation Based On Person's Photo (cnbc.com) 350

ugen shares a report from CNBC: Artificial Intelligence (AI) can now accurately identify a person's sexual orientation by analyzing photos of their face, according to new research. The Stanford University study, which is set to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and was first reported in The Economist, found that machines had a far superior "gaydar" when compared to humans. Slashdot reader randomlygeneratename adds: Researchers built classifiers trained on photos from dating websites to predict the sexual orientation of users. The best classifier used logistic regression over features extracted from a VGG-Face conv-net. The latter was done to prevent overfitting to background, non-facial information. Classical facial feature extraction also worked with a slight drop in accuracy. From multiple photos, they achieved an accuracy of 91% for men and 83% for women (and 81% / 71% for a single photo). Humans were only able to get 61% and 54%, respectively. One caveat is the paper mentions it only used Caucasian faces. The paper went on to discuss how this capability can be an invasion of privacy, and conjectured that other types of personal information might be detectable from photos. The source paper can be found here.
Businesses

Google Is Apparently Ready To Buy Smartphone Maker HTC (cnbc.com) 102

According to a Taiwanese news outlet called Commercial Times, Google is in the final stages of acquiring all or part of smartphone maker HTC. CNBC reports: The report seems fishy, since Google has already been down this road, but there's a reason why Google might be interested in HTC. The Taiwanese company builds the Google Pixel, which means it could be a good fit for Google as it continues to cater to consumers with its "Pixel" smartphone brand. Here's where it sounds off base: Google acquired Motorola Mobility and then sold it off just a couple of years later. Why repeat that move? Commercial Times said HTC's poor financial position and Google's desire to "perfect [the] integration of software, content, hardware, network, cloud, [and] AI," is the driving force behind Google's interest. The news outlet said Google may make a "strategic investment" or "buy HTC's smartphone R&D team" which suggests that the VR team would exist as its own.
AI

IBM To Invest $240 Million To Develop AI Research Lab With MIT (bloomberg.com) 39

IBM will spend $240 million over 10 years to develop an artificial intelligence research lab with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pooling the organizations' resources as competition intensifies to produce breakthroughs in the field. Bloomberg reports: The MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab will fund projects in four broad areas, including creating better hardware to handle complex computations and figuring out applications of AI in specific industries, the Armonk, New York-based company said Thursday in a statement. While IBM has always conducted long-term research internally, it decided AI was such a vast field that it needed to reach out for talent and ideas, said John Kelly, the head of International Business Machines Corp.'s research and cognitive solutions groups, which includes Watson products. While researchers will focus on long-term innovations in artificial intelligence, IBM will also be looking for developments -- a new medical imaging algorithm, say -- that it can immediately plug into its existing products. Big Blue expects to see results that boost its Watson-branded AI business in the next year or two, Kelly said. The plan is to change the focus and number of teams as needed to produce results, he said. The partnership underscores IBM's focus on building a business selling AI software, a strategy that requires clients to adopt such products and the company to develop offerings that add actual business value and are competitive with juggernauts in artificial intelligence, including Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet. IBM and MIT will jointly own the intellectual property that results from the projects conducted together. The company also has the option to buy out MIT for full ownership, Kelly said.
AI

Executives Say AI Will Change Business, But Aren't Doing Much About It (axios.com) 76

American business executives expect artificial intelligence to have a large impact on their companies, but few are actually doing anything with AI, according to a new MIT- Boston Consulting Group survey. From a report: Key takeaways, per co-author and BCG senior partner Martin Reeves: Nearly 85% of the 3,000-plus executives surveyed expect AI will give them a competitive advantage But their adoption of AI isn't matching up: just 1 in 5 of the companies use AI in some way, and only 1 in 20 incorporate it extensively. "Less than 39% of all companies have an AI strategy in place," they wrote. The barriers for adoption include: access to data to train algorithms, an understanding of benefits to their business, a shortage of talent, competing investment priorities, security concerns, and a lack of support among leaders.

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