Daily Archives: September 27, 2019

Yes, There’s a "Pee Tape" and It’s Unclear If It’s a Deepfake – Futurism

Posted: September 27, 2019 at 7:50 am


There have long been rumors of a tape that shows Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, directing sex workers to urinate on each other, or possibly a mattress where predecessor Barack Obama once slept, in the presidential suite of Moscows Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Its slowly emerging that a video claiming to be the legendary pee tape surfaced in January. In it, a shadowy Trump-like figure sits in a chair as nude women cavort on the bed. After a torturous nine months of investigation, Slates Ashley Feinberg concluded that the tape is almost certainly a fake leaving fascinating questions, both political and technological, about how the video was created and why.

The (extremely not-safe-for-work) video has been posted and scrubbed from the internet several times since January, but as of this articles publication you can see it here. There are numerous problems with the video the dcor in the video doesnt match that of the hotel, for instance.

But one of the biggest remaining questions is whether the grainy videos elusive creator hired a Trump lookalike or used deepfake technology to edit his face onto someone elses body.

Deepfakes are getting pretty good, but theyre still not totally convincing. But its still unclear how this video was created, because the video itself appears to be a phone recording of a screen playing the actual video a sneaky trick that one forensics expert told Slate would be a clever way to make it harder to spot flaws in the clip.

With that much blur and the already inscrutable, uh, mood lighting, its all-but-impossible to tell whether were actually peering at Trumps face or that of an unfortunate actor.

READ MORE: The Pee Tape Is Real, but Its Fake [Slate]

More on Trump: Trump Tweet Accidentally Reveals Secrets About US Spy Satellites

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Amazon Is Writing Its Own Facial Recognition Bills – Futurism

Posted: at 7:50 am


Amazon, the online-retailer-turned-tech-giant, is currently drafting a set of potential federal laws to regulate facial recognition.

Its strikingly ironic that Amazon which develops oft-criticized facial recognition software currently in use by police is now attempting to write the federal laws that would dictate how its own tech can be deployed. But CEO Jeff Bezos says thats essentially the plan, according to Recode. Its a troubling sign of just how much influence one megacorporation could have over the safeguards meant to keep it in check.

Amazon has previously called for the government to impose regulations over facial recognition, possibly as a means to stave off criticism of its own Rekognition software and its numerous eyebrow-raising problem areas. But now Bezos is upping the ante.

Our public policy team is actually working on facial recognition regulations, Bezos said at Wednesdays Alexa gadget event, per Recode. It makes a lot of sense to regulate that.

In August, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders vowed to ban law enforcement agencies from using facial recognition software. That may be why Amazon is drafting some potential regulations: self-imposed rules would be preferable to losing all its police contracts.

Its a perfect example of something that has really positive uses, so you dont want to put the brakes on it, Bezos said at the event. But, at the same time, theres also potential for abuses of that kind of technology, so you do want regulations. Its a classic dual-use kind of technology.

READ MORE: Jeff Bezos says Amazon is writing its own facial recognition laws to pitch to lawmakers [Recode]

More on Amazon: Cops Are Using Amazons Facial Recognition Software Wrong

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Heres How We Could Feed a Million People on Mars – Futurism

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Century Club

If we want to colonize Mars, were going to need to figure out a way to feed ourselves there, and continuously sending food to the Red Planet isnt a sustainable plan.

But now, a team of researchers thinks its figured out a way to produce enough food on Mars to feed a million people and they say their plan to make Martian colonists self-sufficient would take just a hundred years to implement.

In an article published in New Space: The Journal of Space Entrepreneurship and Innovation, researchers from the University of Central Florida detail a modelthey created that takes into account the potential population growth on Mars, factoring in both people relocating to the planet and those born on it, as well as the colonists anticipated caloric needs.

The model also looked at how colonists might use the land on Mars and what sorts of foods humans could produce there.

Based on their research, the team determined that we could establish a system capable of feeding a million colonists within a century so long as theyre OK with a diet heavy on plants, insects, and food created from cells grown in petri dishes.

If that sounds like just the keto diet alternative youve been looking for, good news: the researchers have put together a website that tells you how to eat like a Martian right here on Earth.

READ MORE: How to Feed a Mars Colony of 1 Million People [Space.com]

More on Mars colonization: This Martian Greenhouse Concept Just Won a NASA Award

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Gasoline Fiends Blocked Every Single Tesla Charger in This Town – Futurism

Posted: at 7:50 am

Mass ICEing

On Sunday, gas guzzlers blocked every single Tesla Supercharger in Yorktown Heights, New York in an event they called a car show.

Blocking a Tesla charging dock with a vehicle is called ICEing short for internal combustion engine sometimes intended to troll electric vehicle owners. Its unclear what motivated the impromptu mass-ICEing in Yorktown, which was shared on a Tesla Facebook page, but the end result was the same: Tesla drivers in the area were effectively cut off from charging access.

ICEing often takes place because drivers want to use the charging stations as parking spaces, but sometimes its done as a bizarre protest against Tesla.

Its possible that the car show blockade was all a big misunderstanding its unclear whether anyone asked them to move or if some car aficionados simply capitalized on what appeared to be a parking lots worth of empty spaces.

Without access to the station, Tesla drivers looking to charge their cars at the Yorktown Heights Superchargers inexplicably listed as a California station on Teslas website would have had to drive eke out another 14 miles to a charging dock on Ossining, New York.

ICEing is often compared to blocking all the pumps at a gas station. But given the limited infrastructure in place to support electric vehicles, ICEing a Supercharger becomes much more of an inconvenience than losing any one gas station.

READ MORE: From Tesla Reporter Facebook page today. A car show ICEing every spot at Yorktown Heights Supercharger [Reddit]

More on ICEing: Teslas Anti-ICEing System Just Got an Upgrade

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Harvard Prof: The Moon Could Have Caught Alien Organisms, Tech – Futurism

Posted: at 7:50 am

Cosmic Mailbag

If scientists wantto find aliens, they may need to scour the Moon for evidence.

If any signs of extraterrestrial life, biological or mechanical, ever smacked into the Moon, theres a good chance that theyre still sitting there, waiting to be discovered. Thats according to Abraham Loeb, chair of astronomy at Harvard, who penned an op-ed in Scientific American to argue that lunar missions could be crucial for the field of astrobiology.

With a lunar research station, or at least regular missions, Loeb argues that we would have a real shot at detecting evidence of faraway alien civilizations if they ever actually existed in the first place.

With no atmosphere or geological activity to destroy ancient artifacts, anything that crashed into the Moon would still be there, waiting to be found.

Loeb, by the way, is the Harvard professor who made waves last year claiming that the interstellar object Oumuamua could be an alien probe.

It would be tantalizing to find microfossils of extraterrestrial forms of life on the moon, Loeb writes in SciAm. Even more exciting would be to find traces of technological equipment that crashed on the lunar surface a billion years ago, amounting to a letter from an alien civilization saying, We exist.'

READ MORE: The Moon as a Fishing Net for Extraterrestrial Life [Scientific American]

More on space: Crashed Moon Lander Splattered Live Organisms Onto Lunar Surface

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Scarborough’s South Bay observation wheel set to stay until November – The Scarborough News

Posted: at 7:50 am

Scarboroughs seafront observation wheel is set to remain in the town until November.

The 32-metre high wheel has been operating on the site of the former Futurist Theatre on Scarboroughs seafront since the end of July and, next week, Scarborough Council is set to grant it permission to stay.

LATEST NEWS: Proposed traffic lights at Crown Tavern roundabout criticised by Scarborough councillors

Observation Wheel UK was given a 28-day use of the site by the council with the option of making it longer via the planning process if it was deemed to have been a success.

Though the initial 28-day limit passed in August the council allowed it to continue to operate while its planning application was assessed as it was deemed the wheel was not causing an unacceptable impact.

The application will now go before the authoritys planning and development committee next Thursday (3rd) with councillors being recommended to allow the wheel to stay until November 10.

One objection from a resident who lives nearby has been received by the council, while others have also written to highlight issues with lights from the attraction and the loss of privacy from people on the wheel being able to see into windows on Blands Cliff.

One resident wrote: We do not want to have a precedent set that no-one objected to the wheel and therefore we may end up with more of these types of things on the site, becoming brighter and louder when Scarborough and we residents deserve better.

As a result, the authoritys planning officers have added a condition on the operator that the lights on the west-facing side of the wheel should remain switched off at all times.

The wheel, which can carry a maximum of 144 passengers with six people seated in each of its 24 enclosed gondolas, is a temporary feature on the seafront as the council examines its deal with Flamingo Land for the site. The company wants to build a 14m coastal attraction complete with rollercoaster and Cliffhanger tower where the Futurist once stood.

The theme park operator was given preferred bidder status for the Futurist site following its 4.5m demolition, though the leader of the council, Labours Cllr Steve Siddons, has now launched a review of the deal to ensure it was the best option for the borough and its taxpayers.

Scarborough's South Bay observation wheel set to stay until November - The Scarborough News

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Dozens of Countries Are Deploying Propaganda on Social Media – Futurism

Posted: at 7:50 am

Global Effort

At least 70 countries around the world have sponsored political disinformation campaigns, spreading propaganda across social media and other outlets, according to a new bombshell investigation.

Of those countries, 56 organized targeted propaganda campaigns on Facebook, The New York Times reports. If we want to wipe social media clean of fake news and propaganda, itll be an uphill battle when powerful governments are the culprits.

The inclination to shape public opinion through AI algorithms, big data, and other automated tools is becoming ubiquitous, according to the report, which was published Thursday by Oxford University researchers.

The researchers found thatpolitical parties or federal governmentsin 70 countries have used social media to spread propaganda and political disinformation at one point or another. In 2018, 48 countries did.

Most troubling, the Oxford researchers told the NYT, is the pace at which these propaganda techniques have proliferated around the world.

Social media technology tends to empower propaganda and disinformation in really new ways, reporter co-author Samantha Bradshaw of the Oxford Internet Institute told the NYT.

That means that Facebooks attempts to quell disinformation by focusing on microtargeted advertisements will only address one part of the problem. Facebooks entire structure could be facilitating the spread of misinformation so stronger actions may be needed to keep it down.

READ MORE: At Least 70 Countries Have Had Disinformation Campaigns, Study Finds [The New York Times]

More on disinformation campaigns: Ukraine-Run Pro-Trump Facebook Page Has Over 1.1 Million Followers

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Will There Be An AI Productivity Boom? – Forbes

Posted: at 7:49 am

Can artificial intelligence ever boost productivity of firms and industries the way the PC and ... [+] networking did in the '80s and '90s?

A big pastime of economists in the 1980s and 1990s was trying to gauge how much corporate and industrial productivity would benefit from the then-novel phenomena of personal computers, workgroup servers, and computer networking.

At first it was hard to see, but in time, economists did indeed find evidence that information technology contributed to boosting economic productivity.

Its too soon to expect to see data showing a similar boom from artificial intelligence, todays big IT revolution. The technology is just becoming industrialized, and many companies have yet to even try to use things such as machine learning in any significant way.

But its not too soon to speculate. Theres no question companies will increasingly use AI technologies of various sorts. AI is now well on its way to being part of how companies function. Every company has tons of data to analyze, and that analysis can benefit from even simple machine learning techniques. And companies have processes, from HR to accounting to sales, that can make use of automation that AI can bring.

Will all that show up in the numbers around output per employee and such, the measures of productivity?

Though it cant be ruled out, a couple big obstacles stand in the way of AI having an effect on productivity similar to the PC era.

One issue is that AI is dominated by the companies that are already among the most productive in the world. As MIT economist David Autor and colleagues have written, wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of what they term superstar firms, a situation of winner take most, where a small number of firms gain a very large share of the market, firms that are the more productive ones.

Those companies include Google and Facebook, and others that, Autor and colleagues show, are much more efficient in terms of their labor force. Many of the canonical superstar firms such as Google and Facebook employ relatively few workers compared to their market capitalization because their market value is based on intellectual property and a cadre of highly-skilled workers.

Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft, the largest tech companies in the world, the superstar firms, are precisely the ones that already dominate artificial intelligence globally, the companies at the forefront of deep learning and other forms of cutting-edge AI. In a sense, AI is being used to reinforce productivity that is already vastly above normal.

At the same time, something unfortunate has befallen all the non-superstar firms in the world. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, PCs and related technology were a broad global trend benefitting any company that bought PCs, servers and networking. Productivity was theoretically available to all.

With the death of Moores Law, the decades-long rule of progress in the semiconductor industry, there is less and less technology improvement thats broadly available in a direct way to every firm. Fundamental research has contracted across the technology industry, and much of what innovation happens is increasingly concentrated in the R&D labs of those same superstar firms.

As Carnegie Mellon researchers Hassan N. Khan, David A. Hounshell, and Erica R. H. Fuchs wrote in Nature magazine last year, as advances in semiconductors slow, and downstream firms increasingly pursue application- or domain-specific innovations, technological progress will be increasingly unevenly distributed.

That uneven distribution is in contrast to the industry-wide benefits of advances in the underlying transistor technology in prior decades.

With superstar firms dominating AI, and broad tech progress no longer evenly distributed, how will AI contribute to a boom? Perhaps it will happen indirectly, a process of trickle-down productivity, as ordinary firms adopt the AI technologies provided by Google and Microsoft and Amazon in the cloud.

Even if productivity doesnt immediately improve at every firm, improvements could still materialize inside of industries, and as a national or global phenomenon.

Its important to remember that productivity can take time to materialize. Back in 1987, Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Solow was the first scholar to point out the apparent absence of IT-led productivity growth. You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics, he famously wrote. It took another decade or so, but eventually the numbers did show progress.

An AI boom is possible; certainly, it shouldnt be ruled out. But market concentration and a slowdown in tech innovation broadly speaking will make it more challenging to achieve than was the case for technology revolutions of the past.

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Will AI really transform education? – The Hechinger Report

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The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.

For all the talk about how artificial intelligence could transform what happens in the classroom, AI hasnt yet lived up to the hype.

AI involves creating computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. Its already being experimented with to help automate grading, tailor lessons to students individual needs and assist English language learners. We heard about a few promising ideas at a conference I attended last week on artificial intelligence hosted by Teachers College, Columbia University. (Disclosure: The Hechinger Report is an independent unit of Teachers College.)

Shipeng Li, corporate vice president of iFLYTEK, talked about how the Chinese company is working to increase teachers efficiency by individualizing homework assignments. Class time can be spent on the problems that are tripping up the largest numbers of students, and young people can use their homework to focus on their particular weaknesses. Margaret Price, a principal design strategist with Microsoft, mentioned a PowerPoint plug-in that provides subtitles in students native languages useful for a teacher leading a class filled with young people from many different places. Sandra Okita, an associate professor at Teachers College, talked about how AI could be used to detect over time why certain groups of learners are succeeding or failing.

But none of these artificial intelligence applications are particularly wide-reaching yet, the transformation of every aspect of the traditional learning environment which will usher in a bold new era of human history that promoters have imagined.

There is also plenty of reason to worry about what might happen as tech developers accelerate efforts to bring artificial intelligence into classrooms and onto campuses.

Paulo Blikstein, an associate professor at Teachers College, drew laughs by talking about Silicon Valleys public relations coup in getting us so excited about technologys promise that we happily parted with our private data, only to learn much later of the costs. A handful of tech CEOs caused enormous harm to our society, he said. I dont want that to happen in education yet again. Stavros Yiannouka, chief executive of the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), a project of the Qatar Foundation, and a panel moderator, agreed that there are great risks in letting artificial intelligence loose in classrooms. He pointed out, You dont need to have sinister objectives or plans for world domination to get things horribly wrong. Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a Hechinger contributor, talked about how tech companies may cement racismand other biases into algorithms unless they employ diverse teams and consciously fight against inequities.

As Blikstein noted, AI educational applications come in two types tools that involve computers shaping how learning happens, and those that engage students in using AI to code and program. In a panel moderated by my colleague Jill Barshay, Stefania Druga, a PhD candidate at the University of Washington, discussed a platform shed created called Cognimates. It enables children to use artificial intelligence to train and build robots.

Druga talked about how kids first assumed the robots were super brainy. But once students learned how to train a robot, she said, their perception goes from, its smarter than me to, its not smart, significantly. We see that kids become not only more critical of these technologies but also more fluent.

She mentioned the creative and unexpected projects students wanted to tackle, including building a chatbot that gave back-handed compliments (a concept that Druga, who grew up in Romania, wasnt initially familiar with). We need more silly instead of smart technologies, Druga said, that puts the focus on people and allows people to do what they do best. In her evaluations of Cognimates, she found that students who gained the deepest understanding of AI werent those who spent the most time coding; rather, they were the students who spent the most time talking about the process with their peers. That left me thinking that its from other humans that we tend to learn the most and peers and teachers will always play a central role in education.

Editors note: This story led off this weeks Future of Learning newsletter, which is delivered free to subscribers inboxes every other Wednesday with trends and top stories about education innovation. Subscribe today!

This story about artificial intelligence was produced byThe Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused oninequality and innovation in education. Sign up forHechingers newsletter.

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Elon Musk tweets dire warning on AI and social media – Fox Business

Posted: at 7:49 am

Tesla founder Elon Musk warned that advanced artificial intelligence will be used to manipulate social media, if it hasn't been already.

"If advanced AI (beyond basic bots) hasnt been applied to manipulate social media, it wont be long before it is," Musk tweeted early Thursday.

Musk, whose automaking company has invested heavily in self-driving vehicle technology,has long predicted the dangers of artificial intelligence, even saying that a single firm that develops "god-like super intelligence" might achieve world domination.

At least when there is an evil dictator, that human is going to die," Musk said in the documentary "Do You Trust Your Computer?" For artificial intelligence,"there will be no death, it would live forever and then you have an immortal dictator from which we could never escape, Musk cautioned.

"Artificial intelligence isn't necessarily bad, but it will operate outside of human control," he said in September 2018."It's going to be very tempting to use AI as a weapon. It will be used as a weapon," Musk said. "The on ramp to serious AI will be more humans using it against each other. That will bethe danger.

Everyone who uses a big tech service is already helping to program artificial intelligence, he said at the time, whether they realize it or not.

"Theres sort of a collective AI in a Google search," Musk told the Joe Rogan Experience podcast. "We are all leaves on a big tree and we are feeding this network without questions and answers. We are all collectively programming AI.And Google, plus all the humans that connect to it, are one giant cybernetic collective. This is also true ofFacebook and Twitter and Instagram and the other social networks."



Elon Musk tweets dire warning on AI and social media - Fox Business

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