×
Robotics

Killer Robots Will Only Exist If We Are Stupid Enough To Let Them (theguardian.com) 143

Heritype quotes the Guardian's science correspondent: The idea of killer robots rising up and destroying humans is a Hollywood fantasy and a distraction from the more pressing dilemmas that intelligent machines present to society, according to one of Britain's most influential computer scientists. Sir Nigel Shadbolt, professor of computer science at the University of Oxford, predicts that AI will bring overwhelming benefits to humanity, revolutionising cancer diagnosis and treatment, and transforming education and the workplace. If problems arise, he said, it will not be because sentient machines have unexpectedly gone rogue in a Terminator-like scenario.

"The danger is clearly not that robots will decide to put us away and have a robot revolution," he said. "If there [are] killer robots, it will be because we've been stupid enough to give it the instructions or software for it to do that without having a human in the loop deciding...."

However, Prof Shadbolt is optimistic about the social and economic impact of emerging technologies such as machine learning, in which computer programmes learn tasks by looking for patterns in huge datasets. "I don't see it destroying jobs grim reaper style," he said. "People are really inventive at creating new things for humans to do for which will pay them a wage. Leisure, travel, social care, cultural heritage, even reality TV shows. People want people around them and interacting with them."

Education

We're All Getting Dumber, Says Science (fastcompany.com) 550

dryriver shares a report from Fast Company: Researchers at Norway's Ragnar Frisch Center for Economic Research now have scientific proof of something we've long suspected -- we're all getting dumber. In their paper, "Flynn effect and its reversal are both environmentally caused," which was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Bernt Bratsberg and Ole Rogeberg report that IQ scores have been steadily dropping since the 1970s.

The study consisted of analyzing 730,000 IQ test results gleaned from young men entering Norway's compulsory military service from 1970 to 2009. They found that scores declined by an average of seven points per generation, a reversal of the so-called "Flynn effect" where IQ was seen to be rising during the first part of the 20th century. The decline may be due to environmental factors, but because the researchers couldn't find consistent trends among families, Bratsberg and Rogeberg discounted factors like parental education, family size, increased immigration, and genetics as significant causes.

Education

University of Chicago To Stop Requiring ACT and SAT Scores For Prospective Undergraduates (chicagotribune.com) 448

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, a debate has simmered at the nation's universities and colleges over how much weight should be given to standardized tests as officials consider students for admission -- and whether they should be required at all. A growing number, including DePaul University, have opted to stop requiring the SAT and ACT in their admissions process, saying the tests place an unfair cost and burden on low-income and minority students, and ultimately hinder efforts to broaden diversity on campus. But the trend has escaped the nation's most selective universities. Until now. The University of Chicago announced Thursday that it would no longer require applicants for the undergraduate college to submit standardized test scores. While it will still allow applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores, university officials said they would let prospective undergraduates send transcripts on their own and submit video introductions and nontraditional materials to supplement their applications.
Government

Two Quantum Computing Bills Are Coming To Congress (gizmodo.com) 76

Quantum computing has made it to the United States Congress. "Quantum computing is the next technological frontier that will change the world, and we cannot afford to fall behind," said Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) in a statement passed to Gizmodo. "We must act now to address the challenges we face in the development of this technology -- our future depends on it." From the report: The bill introduced by Harris in the Senate focuses on defense, calling for the creation of a consortium of researchers selected by the Chief of Naval Research and the Director of the Army Research Laboratory. The consortium would award grants, assist with research, and facilitate partnerships between the members. Another, yet-to-be-introduced bill, seen in draft form by Gizmodo, calls for a 10-year National Quantum Initiative Program to set goals and priorities for quantum computing in the US; invest in the technology; and partner with academia and industry. An office within the Department of Energy would coordinate the program. Another group would include members from the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy, the office of the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate research and education activity between agencies. Furthermore, the draft bill calls for the establishment of up to five Quantum Information Science research centers, as well as two multidisciplinary National Centers for Quantum Research and Education.
Cellphones

French School Students To Be Banned From Using Mobile Phones (theguardian.com) 136

The lower house of parliament in France has passed what it called a "detox" law for a younger generation increasingly addicted to screens. As a result, French school students will be banned from using mobile phones anywhere on school grounds starting in September. The Guardian reports: The new law bans phone-use by children in school playgrounds, at breaktimes and anywhere on school premises. Legislation passed in 2010 already states children should not use phones in class. During a parliamentary debate, lawmakers from Macron's La Republique En Marche party said banning phones in schools meant all children now had a legal "right to disconnect" from digital pressures during their school day. Some in Macron's party had initially sought to go even further, arguing that adults should set an example and the the ban should be extended to all staff in schools, making teachers surrender their phones on arrival each morning. But Macron's education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, brushed this aside, saying it wasn't necessary to extend the ban to teachers and staff.
Government

California City Tries Universal Basic Income Programs -- Including One Targeting Potential Shooters (latimes.com) 271

An anonymous reader quotes the Los Angeles Times: Mayor Michael Tubbs, a Stockton native and Stanford graduate who is all of 27 years old, wants to give at least $500 a month to a select group of residents. They'll be able to spend it as they wish, for 18 months, in a pilot program to test the impact of what's called guaranteed basic income... Workers in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco-Oakland area, driven out of the cuckoo housing markets in those communities, have snapped up cheaper properties in Stockton, accepting the bargain of killer commutes... But Stockton still suffers the crushing burdens of poverty, crime and now the rising rents and home prices that come with gentrification. For those who don't have the education or training to work 60 miles away on tech's front lines, Stockton still struggles to develop jobs that pay a living wage...

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Space X's Elon Musk have both pitched the idea in terms of inevitability, given the growing income gap and the threat of massive job losses because of automation... As small as the program will be, it's not going to dramatically affect many Stockton residents, but the goal is to get a sense of whether such an infusion on a broader scale can significantly alter lives and boost the economy.

The program will be funded by private and nonprofit sources, according to the article. And while it may not start until early next year, Stockton is already launching a similar program where the benefits are more targeted. Stockton is about to award stipends of up to $1,000 a month to residents deemed most likely to shoot somebody... The idea is that a small number of people are responsible for a large percentage of violence, and offering them an alternative path -- with counseling and case management over an 18-month period, along with a stipend if they stay the course -- can be a good investment all around.
Education

MIT Issued Blockchain Diplomas, But Doesn't Know If Employers Actually Use Them (techtarget.com) 38

dcblogs writes: Last summer, MIT ran a pilot program creating verifiable, tamper-proof "digital diplomas" for a small number of graduates. But they don't know how the pilot turned out, and there's a lot of experimentation underway. Eventually, all your credentials -- resume, employment history, occupational licenses, diplomas -- may be in a blockchain. The use of blockchain enabled digital credentials is growing. This could speed employment verification, and make lying on resumes harder.
The article points out that while a number of universities are exploring blockchain, MIT "has not heard of a case where a student's digital diploma was either consumed or accepted by an employer," although "Many certificates were verified..."

"MIT's pilot illustrates the state of blockchain in HR. It is in a beta, proof-of-concept, experimental phase. Blockchain verification is currently not a practical option for employers and recruiters."
AI

DeepMind Used YouTube Videos To Train Game-Beating Atari Bot (theregister.co.uk) 61

Artem Tashkinov shares a report from The Register: DeepMind has taught artificially intelligent programs to play classic Atari computer games by making them watch YouTube videos. Exploration games like 1984's Montezuma's Revenge are particularly difficult for AI to crack, because it's not obvious where you should go, which items you need and in which order, and where you should use them. That makes defining rewards difficult without spelling out exactly how to play the thing, and thus defeating the point of the exercise. For example, Montezuma's Revenge requires the agent to direct a cowboy-hat-wearing character, known as Panama Joe, through a series of rooms and scenarios to reach a treasure chamber in a temple, where all the goodies are hidden. Pocketing a golden key, your first crucial item, takes about 100 steps, and is equivalent to 100^18 possible action sequences.

To educate their code, the researchers chose three YouTube gameplay videos for each of the three titles: Montezuma's Revenge, Pitfall, and Private Eye. Each game had its own agent, which had to map the actions and features of the title into a form it could understand. The team used two methods: temporal distance classification (TDC), and cross-modal temporal distance classification (CDC). The DeepMind code still relies on lots of small rewards, of a kind, although they are referred to as checkpoints. While playing the game, every sixteenth video frame of the agent's session is taken as a snapshot and compared to a frame in a fourth video of a human playing the same game. If the agent's game frame is close or matches the one in the human's video, it is rewarded. Over time, it imitates the way the game is played in the videos by carrying out a similar sequence of moves to match the checkpoint frame.
In the end, the agent was able to exceed average human players and other RL algorithms: Rainbow, ApeX, and DQfD. The researchers documented their method in a paper this week. You can view the agent in action here.
Education

Face Recognition Is Now Being Used In Schools (theintercept.com) 206

Presto Vivace shares a report from The Intercept: Officials at the Lockport, New York, school district have purchased face recognition technology as part of a purported effort to prevent school shootings. Starting in September, all 10 of Lockport District's school buildings, just north of Buffalo, will be outfitted with a surveillance system that can identify faces and objects. The software, known as Aegis, was developed by SN Technologies Corp., a Canadian biometrics firm that specifically advertises to schools. It can be used to alert officials to whenever sex offenders, suspended students, fired employees, suspected gang members, or anyone else placed on a school's "blacklist" enters the premises. Aegis also sends alerts any time one of the "top 10" most popular guns used in school shootings appears in view of a camera. The district is spending most of its recent $4 million state "Smart School" grant on these and other enhancements to its security systems, including bullet-proof greeter windows and a mass notification system, according to the Niagra Gazette. Slashdot reader Presto Vivace adds: "This is why municipal elections are so important. Just because this stuff is on the market, does not mean your local school system has to buy it."

The report notes that "all the major school shootings in the last five years in the U.S. have been carried out by current students or alumnae of the school in question." These students wouldn't have their face entered into the face recognition system's blacklist. Furthermore, "Most shooters don't brandish their guns before opening fire; and by the time they do, an object-detection algorithm that could specify the exact type of weapon they're firing would not be of much use," reports The Intercept. "... the technology would give a school, at best, only a few extra seconds in response time to a shooting."
Windows

Windows 10 Pro Is a Dead End For the Enterprise, Gartner Says (computerworld.com) 218

A prominent Gartner analyst argues that Windows 10 Pro is a dead end for enterprises, citing recent changes by Microsoft to the Windows 10 support schedule. "[We] predict that Microsoft will continue positioning Windows [10] Pro as a release that is not appropriate for enterprises by reducing [...] support and limiting access to enterprise management features," Stephen Kleynhans, a research vice president at Gartner and one of the research firm's resident Windows experts, said in a report he co-authored. Computerworld reports: Last year, the Redmond, Wash. developer announced a six-month support extension for Windows 10 1511, the November 2015 feature upgrade, "to help some early enterprise adopters that are still finishing their transition to Windows as a service." In February, Microsoft added versions 1609, 1703 and 1709 -- released in mid-2016, and in April and October of 2017, respectively -- to the extended support list, giving each 24 months of support, not the usual 18. There was a catch: Only Windows 10 Enterprise (and Windows 10 Education, a similar version for public and private school districts and universities) qualified for the extra six months of support. Users running Windows 10 Pro were still required to upgrade to a successor SKU (stock-keeping unit) within 18 months to continue receiving security patches and other bug fixes.

Another component of Microsoft's current Windows 10 support strategy, something the company has labeled "paid supplemental servicing," was also out of bounds for those running Windows 10 Pro. The extra support, which Microsoft will sell at an undisclosed price, is available only to Enterprise and Education customers. Paid supplemental servicing adds 12 months to the 18 months provided free of charge.

United States

Walmart Offers To Foot College Tuition Bills for US Employees (bloomberg.com) 181

Walmart will begin offering to subsidize college tuition for its 1.5 million workers in the United States, joining a growing list of companies that are helping employees pay for higher education as a perk in a tight labor market. From a report: The retailer's 1.5 million employees can now pursue associate's or bachelor's degrees in business or supply-chain management at three nonprofit schools for $1 a day, according to a statement Wednesday. Walmart will subsidize tuition, books and fees and provide support with the application and enrollment processes. As many as 68,000 employees might sign up, Walmart executives estimated. "Many of our associates don't have the opportunity to complete a degree," said Drew Holler, Walmart's U.S. vice president of people innovation, in an interview. "We felt strongly that this is something that would improve their lives and help us run a better business." The tuition program -- offered to part-time staff as well as full-timers -- is the latest move by Walmart to improve employee retention and engagement. A handful of other companies, including Starbucks and Amazon, also offer tuition support.
AI

Why Thousands of AI Researchers Are Boycotting the New Nature Journal (theguardian.com) 62

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via The Guardian, written by Neil Lawrence, the founding editor of the freely available journal Proceedings of Machine Learning Research: Machine learning has demonstrated that an academic field can not only survive, but thrive, without the involvement of commercial publishers. But this has not stopped traditional publishers from entering the market. Our success has caught their attention. Most recently, the publishing conglomerate Springer Nature announced a new journal targeted at the community called Nature Machine Intelligence. The publisher now has 53 journals that bear the Nature name. Should we be concerned? What would drive authors and readers towards a for-profit subscription journal when we already have an open model for sharing our ideas? Academic publishers have one card left to play: their brand. The diversity and quantity of academic research means that it is difficult for a researcher in one field to rate the work in another. Sometimes a journal's brand is used as a proxy for quality. When academics look for promotion, having papers in a "brand-name journal" can be a big help. Nature is the Rolex of academic publishing. But in contrast to Rolex, whose staff are responsible for the innovation in its watches, Nature relies on academics to provide its content. We are the watchmakers, they are merely the distributors.

Many in our research community see the Nature brand as a poor proxy for academic quality. We resist the intrusion of for-profit publishing into our field. As a result, at the time of writing, more than 3,000 researchers, including many leading names in the field from both industry and academia, have signed a statement refusing to submit, review or edit for this new journal. We see no role for closed access or author-fee publication in the future of machine-learning research. We believe the adoption of this new journal as an outlet of record for the machine-learning community would be a retrograde step.

Education

Code.org Is Crowdsourcing Database of US K-12 Schools That Teach, Or Don't Teach CS 87

Longtime reader theodp writes: Nonprofit Code.org, which is bankrolled by the likes of Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Infosys, has teamed up with the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) and is "calling on all educators and parents" to "help us build a database of all schools that teach (or don't teach) computer science" (via direct responses and email advocacy tools). Called the K-12 Computer Science Access Report, Code.org says "the database will be a resource that everyone in the CS community can use." For what purposes, however, is not entirely clear, although the Code.org Medium post indicates the database will be used by the nonprofit and the CS community to "make our shared vision [for every school to teach computer science] a reality." The post cites a 2016 study conducted by Google and Gallup -- which took principals to task for being clueless about what constituted "computer science" and misgauging parental and student demand for CS -- and goes on to add that the new database will allow the organization to "be able to report more precisely which schools do or don't offer this opportunity to their students." As far as a timeframe for the naughty-or-nice K-12 CS school database goes, Code.org reports, "our goal is to gather data for 100% of US schools by the end of 2018." In earlier posts, Code.org has thanked its partners for their help in "changing [K-12 CS] education policies in forty states" (make that 43 states!) and claimed credit for "pressing lawmakers" into unlocking Federal funding for K-12 CS with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
China

High School in China Installs Facial Recognition Cameras To Monitor Students' Attentiveness (theepochtimes.com) 152

A high school in Hangzhou City, Zhejiang Province located on the eastern coast of China, has employed facial recognition technology to monitor students' attentiveness in class, local media reports. From the report: At Hangzhou Number 11 High School, three cameras at the front of the classroom scan students' faces every 30 seconds, analyzing their facial expressions to detect their mood, according to a May 16 report in the state-run newspaper The Paper. The different moods -- surprised, sad, antipathy, angry, happy, afraid, neutral -- are recorded and averaged during each class. A display screen, only visible to the teacher, shows the data in real-time. A certain value is determined as a student not paying enough attention. A video shot by Zhejiang Daily Press revealed that the system -- coined the "smart classroom behavior management system" by the school -- also analyzes students' actions, categorized into: reading, listening, writing, standing up, raising hands, and leaning on the desk.
AI

Eric Schmidt Says Elon Musk Is 'Exactly Wrong' About AI (techcrunch.com) 143

At the VivaTech conference in Paris, Alphabet CEO Eric Schmidt was asked about Elon Musk's warnings about AI. He responded by saying: "I think Elon is exactly wrong. He doesn't understand the benefits that this technology will provide to making every human being smarter. The fact of the matter is that AI and machine learning are so fundamentally good for humanity." TechCrunch reports: He acknowledged that there are risks around how the technology might be misused, but he said they're outweighed by the benefits: "The example I would offer is, would you not invent the telephone because of the possible misuse of the telephone by evil people? No, you would build the telephone and you would try to find a way to police the misuse of the telephone."

After wryly observing that Schmidt had just given the journalists in the audience their headlines, interviewer (and former Publicis CEO) Maurice Levy asked how AI and public policy can be developed so that some groups aren't "left behind." Schmidt replied that government should fund research and education around these technologies. "As [these new solutions] emerge, they will benefit all of us, and I mean the people who think they're in trouble, too," he said. He added that data shows "workers who work in jobs where the job gets more complicated get higher wages -- if they can be helped to do it." Schmidt also argued that contrary to concerns that automation and technology will eliminate jobs, "The embracement of AI is net positive for jobs." In fact, he said there will be "too many jobs" -- because as society ages, there won't be enough people working and paying taxes to fund crucial services. So AI is "the best way to make them more productive, to make them smarter, more scalable, quicker and so forth."

United Kingdom

FM Radio Faces UK Government Switch-Off As Digital Listening Passes 50 Percent Milestone (inews.co.uk) 99

The Amazon Echo and other smart speakers have helped push the audience for digital radio past that of FM and AM in the UK for the first time. According to Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR), digital listening has reached a new record share of 50.9%, up from 47.2% a year ago. This milestone will trigger a government review into whether the analog FM radio signal should be switched off altogether. iNews reports: The BBC said it would be "premature" to switch off the FM signal. It could cut off drivers with analogue car radios and disenfranchise older wireless listeners. Margot James, Digital minister, welcomed "an important milestone for radio." She confirmed that the Government will "work closely with all partners -- the BBC, commercial radio, (transmitter business) Arqiva, car manufacturers and listeners" before committing to a timetable for analogue switch-off.

James Purnell, BBC Director of Radio and Education, said: "We're fully committed to digital, and growing its audiences, but, along with other broadcasters, we've already said that it would be premature to switch off FM." Mr Purnell said that BBC podcast listening was up a third across all audiences since the same time last year, accounting now for 40,000 hours a week. But younger audiences have not inherited the habit of listening to "live" radio, even on digital.

Education

Scottish Students Used Spellchecker Glitch To Cheat In Literacy Test (bbc.com) 167

Thelasko shares a report from the BBC: Schools are to be given advice on how to disable a glitch that allows pupils sitting online spelling tests to right-click their mouse and find the answer. It follows the discovery by teachers that children familiar with traditional computer spellcheckers were simply applying it to the tests. The Scottish National Standardized Assessments were introduced to assess progress in four different age groups. A spokesman said the issue was not with the Scottish National Standardized Assessments (SNSA) but with browser or device settings on some machines.

Introduced in 2017, the spelling test asks children to identify misspelt words. However, on some school computers the words were highlighted with a red line. Pupils who right-clicked on the words were then able to access the correct spelling. The web-based SNSA tool enables teachers to administer online literacy and numeracy tests for pupils in P1, P4, P7 and S3, which are marked and scored automatically. Advice is being given to schools about how to disable the spellchecking function.

AI

NYC Announces Plans To Test Algorithms For Bias (betanews.com) 79

The mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has announced the formation of a new task force to examine the fairness of the algorithms used in the city's automated systems. From a report: The Automated Decision Systems Task Force will review algorithms that are in use to determine that they are free from bias. Representatives from the Department of Social Services, the NYC Police Department, the Department of Transportation, the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, the Administration for Children's Services, and the Department of Education will be involved, and the aim is to produce a report by December 2019. However, it may be some time before the task force has any sort of effect. While a report is planned for the end of next year, it will merely recommend "procedures for reviewing and assessing City algorithmic tools to ensure equity and opportunity" -- it will be a while before any recommendation might be assessed and implemented.
Youtube

Why Are the NBA's Best Players Getting Better Younger? YouTube (wsj.com) 72

An anonymous reader shares a report: This is happening across the entire league. The best NBA players are getting better younger. They were born with advantages that weren't available to older players and had access to more information than anyone before them in the history of basketball [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled]. Justin Tatum, a high-school basketball coach, could tell his son to watch clips with three words: "YouTube this guy." Which sounds totally normal until you remember it wasn't possible until very recently.

NBA players who grew up watching Michael Jordan couldn't even watch clips of Michael Jordan. LeBron James didn't have YouTube. He's been in the league for longer than YouTube has been a company. But today's young players have spent their entire lives watching basketball on demand. The extraordinary amount of knowledge at their disposal is one of the reasons they're entering the league with polished skills and making their influence felt immediately. YouTube allowed Kristaps Porzingis to admire Kevin Durant all the way from Latvia, Joel Embiid to emulate Hakeem Olajuwon and Tatum to geek out about Bryant.

Medicine

California Study To Examine the Influence of a Healthy Diet On Patients (nytimes.com) 242

"According to The New York Times, the state of California is funding an experiment through The Ceres Community Project to test the influence of a healthy diet on the recovery of state Medicaid patients with long-term serious illnesses," writes Slashdot reader MonteCarloMethod. From the report: Over the next three years, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford will assess whether providing 1,000 patients who have congestive heart failure or Type 2 diabetes with a healthier diet and nutrition education affects hospital readmissions and referrals to long-term care, compared with 4,000 similar Medi-Cal patients who don't get the food.

The California study will build on more modest and less rigorous earlier research. A study in Philadelphia by the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance retroactively compared health insurance claims for 65 chronically ill Medicaid patients who received six months' of medically tailored meals with a control group. The patients who got the food racked up about $12,000 less a month in medical expenses. Another small study by researchers at U.C.S.F. tracked patients with H.I.V. and Type 2 diabetes who got special meals for six months to see if it would positively affect their health. The researchers found they were less depressed, less likely to make trade-offs between food and health care, and more likely to stick with their medications.

Slashdot Top Deals