The Few, the Tired, the Open Source Coders

by David Solomonoff

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As a former Internet activist I can say this problem also affects a lot of tech related non-profits and activists who don’t write code.

The open source movement runs on the heroic efforts of not enough people doing too much work. They need help.

Open source revolution has been carried on the backs of some very weary people.

Studies suggest that about 9.5 percent of all open source code is abandoned, and a quarter is probably close to being so. This can be dangerous: If code isn’t regularly updated, it risks causing havoc if someone later relies on it. Worse, abandoned code can be hijacked for ill use. Two years ago, the pseudonymous coder right9ctrl took over a piece of open source code that was used by bitcoin firms—and then rewrote it to try to steal cryptocurrency.

No one’s quite sure what to do about open source burnout, but some think finding money for the coders might help.

Source: The Few, the Tired, the Open Source Coders | WIRED

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The intelligent monster that you should let eat you

by David Solomonoff

If one ever encountered a 'utility monster', it might pose an ethical dilemma (Credit: Getty Images)

Imagine a monster with a set of words so powerful you have to let it eat you. It might sound fanciful, but we’re on a trajectory to inventing one.

As we edge closer to the possibility of intelligent synthetic minds, we will need to weigh up how we design them, what we do and don’t allow them to do, and crucially, how to ensure their needs are aligned with our own.

If our demise meant their success, then by the basic utilitarian logic that we should maximise well-being in the world, they’d have an argument for metaphorically eating us.

Source: The intelligent monster that you should let eat you – BBC Future

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Way we train AI fundamentally flawed

by David Solomonoff

AI is increasingly used for critical applications: medical, legal, infrastructure maintenance, law enforcement and military, which can involve life or death decisions including deployment of deadly force. “Loss of trust,” referenced in article seems like an understatement.

Process used to build most machine-learning models today cannot tell which models will work in the real world and which ones won’t.

Models that should have been equally accurate performed differently when tested with real-world data.

Some stress tests are also at odds with each other: models that were good at recognizing pixelated images were often bad at recognizing images with high contrast, for example. It might not always be possible to train a single model that passes all stress tests.

Katherine Heller, who works at Google on AI for healthcare: “We’ve lost a lot of trust when it comes to the killer applications, that’s important trust that we want to regain.”

Source: The way we train AI is fundamentally flawed – MIT Technology Review

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Going beyond the anti-laser may enable long-range wireless power transfer

by David Solomonoff

Going Beyond the Anti-Laser May Enable Long-Range Wireless Power Transfer

Ever since Nikola Tesla spewed electricity in all directions with his coil back in 1891, scientists have been thinking up ways to send electrical power through the air. The dream is to charge your phone or laptop, or maybe even a healthcare device such as a pacemaker, without the need for wires and plugs. The tricky bit is getting the electricity to find its intended target, and getting that target to absorb the electricity instead of just reflect it back into the air—all preferably without endangering anyone along the way.

Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD), in collaboration with a colleague at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, have developed an improved technique for wireless power transfer technology that may promise long-range power transmission without narrowly focused and directed energy beams with an anti-laser.” In a laser, one photon triggers a cascade of many photons of the same color shooting out in a coherent beam. In an anti-laser, the reverse happens. Instead of boosting the number of photons, an anti-laser coherently and perfectly absorbs a beam of many precisely tuned photons. It’s kind of like a laser running backwards in time.

But instead of assuming directed beams traveling along straight lines into an absorption target, they picked a geometry that was disorderly and not amenable to being run backwards in time.

“This is a very general wave phenomenon. And the fact that it’s done in microwaves is just because that’s where the strengths are in my lab. But you could do all of this with acoustics, you could do this with matter waves, you could do this with cold atoms. You could do this in many, many different contexts.”

Source: Going beyond the anti-laser may enable long-range wireless power transfer

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Just what you didn’t know you needed – Politically correct software source code: Meet the Inclusive Naming Initiative

by David Solomonoff

Inclusive Naming Initiative’s mission to help companies and projects remove all harmful and unclear language of any kind and replace it with an agreed-upon set of neutral terms.

We’re looking to:

Provide a consistent set of language recommendations in projects
Recommend implementation paths for different use cases
Provide tooling to measure implementation success
Act as a platform for community recognition of organizations actively doing the work

Source: Inclusive Naming Initiative

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Biocomputing: DNA molecules yield biochemical random number

by David Solomonoff

ETH scientists have generated a huge true random number using DNA synthesis. It is the first time that a number of this magnitude has been created by biochemical means.

True random numbers are required in fields as diverse as slot machines and data encryption. These numbers need to be truly random, such that they cannot even be predicted by people with detailed knowledge of the method used to generate them.

“Compared with other methods, however, ours has the advantage of being able to generate huge quantities of randomness that can be stored in an extremely small space, a single test tube.”

Source: DNA molecules yield biochemical random number

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SEC gives OK to social media platform to issue stablecoin without registering as a security

by David Solomonoff

SEC gives OK to social media platform to issue stablecoin without registering as a security

Very unusual because cryptocurrencies that can be converted to real world fiat currencies are usually considered securities and regulated as such, could open door to less heavily regulated crypto:

Would “not recommend enforcement action” against avatar social platform IMVU who are issuing a digital currency capable of being converted to fiat.

“This no-action letter is meaningful because unlike the other two, this is the first time an ERC-20 token is being blessed by the SEC — it’s saying ‘hey, take it off platform,’” John Burris, IMVU Chief Strategy Officer said to Cointelegraph. “It’ll be allowed to go into the wild, so to speak.”

Burris theorized that the SEC’s decision was based on establishing a “real proof case” for the broader crypto and blockchain space:

“Our users are already very comfortable with the use case of using cash to purchase a digital currency and then spending that with each other on the platform. We’re very confident in adoption.”

Source: SEC gives OK to social media platform to issue stablecoin without registering as a security

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Joe Biden’s top state media transition lead supports “hate speech” laws and rethinking the First Amendment

by David Solomonoff

Richard Stengel, the head of the Joe Biden transition team for US state media outlets, is an outspoken supporter of “hate speech” laws, social media censorship, and other means that restrict or editorialize people’s speech.

Stengel was recently named on the Biden transition website as team lead for the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) – a US government-owned agency that’s responsible for operating several state-owned media outlets which include Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

He has also welcomed social media’s censorship of President Trump and the use of government propaganda.

While Stengel is a proponent of suppressing or editorializing speech to push back against statements that he deems to be hate speech, misinformation, or propaganda, he has a different perspective when he’s the one pushing the propaganda.

During his 2018 appearance at the CFR panel, Stengel discussed his role as President Obama’s Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs between 2014 and 2016 and described propaganda as something every country has to do:

“My old job at the State Department was what people used to joke as the chief propagandist job. We haven’t talked about propaganda. Every country does it and they have to do it to their own population and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”

Source: Joe Biden’s top state media transition lead supports “hate speech” laws and rethinking the First Amendment

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Scents of history: study hopes to recreate smells of old Europe

by David Solomonoff

Prof Matija Strlic smells a historical book in the National Archives of the Netherlands.

Researchers plan library of scents from plague repellents to early tobacco.

Scientists, historians and experts in artificial intelligence  announced they are teaming up for project labelled “Odeuropa” to identify and even recreate the aromas that would have assailed noses between the 16th and early 20th centuries.

First step in the three-year project, which is due to begin in January, will be to develop artificial intelligence to screen historical texts in seven languages for descriptions of odours – and their context – as well as to spot aromatic items within images, such as paintings.

Thenw ill work with chemists and perfumers to recreate smells of the past, and explore how the odours can be delivered – alongside insights into their significance – to enhance the experience of visitors to museums and other heritage sites.

Source: Scents of history: study hopes to recreate smells of old Europe | Science | The Guardian

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South Korea’s First AI-Powered News Anchor Looks Eerily Realistic

by David Solomonoff

South Korean television channel MBN recently introduced its viewer’s to the Asian country’s first ever AI-powered news anchor, an eerily realistic version of human anchor Kim Ju-ha.

Not only did it have the exact same look and voice of the popular presenter, but she also mimicked the small gestures that Kim sometimes makes, like fiddling with a pen while reporting the news.

AI news casters may be better suited to deal with natural disasters and other emergencies, as they are available at any time, day or night. The company also expects this new technology to help it cut labor and production costs.

Some experts are convinced that digital, AI-powered avatars will never fully replace human anchors. Yoo Seung-chul, a professor at the School of Communication & Media at Ewha Womans University, in Seoul, believes that the concept known as “uncanny valley” (the idea that an almost human-looking robot/digital avatar seems overly “strange” to some human beings, inducing a feeling of uncanniness) will help human anchors keep their job.

Source: South Korea’s First AI-Powered News Anchor Looks Eerily Realistic

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