AI Will Create New Jobs But Skills Must Shift, Say Tech Giants ( 73

AI will create more jobs than it destroys was the not-so-subtle rebuttal from tech giants to growing concern over the impact of automation technologies on employment. Execs from Google, IBM and Salesforce were questioned about the wider societal implications of their technologies during a panel session here at Mobile World Congress. From a report: Behshad Behzadi, who leads the engineering teams working on Google's eponymously named AI voice assistant, claimed many jobs will be "complemented" by AI, with AI technologies making it "easier" for humans to carry out tasks. "For sure there is some shift in the jobs. There's lots of jobs which will [be created which don't exist today]. Think about flight attendant jobs before there was planes and commercial flights. No one could really predict that this job will appear. So there are jobs which will be appearing of that type that are related to the AI," he said. "I think the topic is a super important topic. How jobs and AI is related -- I don't think it's one company or one country which can solve it alone. It's all together we could think about this topic," he added. "But it's really an opportunity, it's not a threat." "From IBM's perspective we firmly believe that every profession will be impacted by AI. There's no question. We also believe that there will be more jobs created," chimed in Bob Lord, IBM's chief digital officer. "We also believe that there'll be more jobs created.

End of Flash? Its Usage Among Chrome Users Has Declined From 80% in 2014 to Under 8% as of Early 2018 ( 114

An anonymous reader writes: The percentage of daily Chrome users who've loaded at least one page containing Flash content per day has gone down from around 80% in 2014 to under 8% in early 2018. These statistics on Flash's declining numbers were shared with the public by Parisa Tabriz, Director of Engineering at Google, one of the Google bigwigs in charge of Chrome's security. Google plans to ship Flash disabled-by-default with Chrome 76 (July 2019) and remove it completely in Chrome 87 (December 2020).
The Internet

US House Passes Bill To Penalize Websites For Sex Trafficking ( 190

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Thomson Reuters Foundation News: The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed legislation to make it easier to penalize operators of websites that facilitate online sex trafficking, chipping away at a bedrock legal shield for the technology industry. The bill's passage marks one of the most concrete actions in recent years from the U.S. Congress to tighten regulation of internet firms, which have drawn heavy scrutiny from lawmakers in both parties over the past year due to an array of concerns regarding the size and influence of their platforms. The House passed the measure 388-25. It still needs to pass the U.S. Senate, where similar legislation has already gained substantial support, and then be signed by President Donald Trump before it can become law.

Several major internet companies, including Alphabet Inc's Google and Facebook Inc, had been reluctant to support any congressional effort to dent what is known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a decades-old law that protects them from liability for the activities of their users. But facing political pressure, the internet industry slowly warmed to a proposal that gained traction in the Senate last year, and eventually endorsed it after it gained sizable bipartisan support. The legislation is a result of years of law-enforcement lobbying for a crackdown on the online classified site, which is used for sex advertising. It would make it easier for states and sex-trafficking victims to sue social media networks, advertisers and others that fail to keep exploitative material off their platforms.


Google Releases Info On 2.4 Million 'Right To Be Forgotten' Requests ( 69

According to Google's latest transparency report, the company has received 2.4 million "right to be forgotten" requests since 2014, most of which came from private individuals. Engadget reports: Europe's biggest court passed the right to be forgotten law in 2014, compelling the tech titan to remove personal info from its search engine upon request. In the report, Google has revealed that it complied with 43.3 percent of all the requests it's gotten and has also detailed the nature of those takedown pleas. France, Germany and the UK apparently generated 51 percent of all the URL delisting appeals. Overall, 89 percent of the takedown pleas came from private individuals: Non-government figures such as celebrities submitted 41,213 of the URLs in Google's pile, while politicians and government officials submitted 33,937. As Gizmodo noted, though, there's a small group of law firms and reputation management services submitting numerous pleas, suggesting the rise of reputation-fixing business in the region.

Out of those 2.4 million requests, 19.1 percent are directory URLs, while news websites and social networks only make up 17.6 and 11.6 percent of them. Majority of the URLs submitted for removal are random online destinations that don't fall under any of the previous categories. As for the takedown's reasons, it looks 18.1 percent of the submissions want their professional info scrubbed, 7.7 percent want info they previously posted online themselves to be removed and 6.1 percent want their crimes hidden from search.

Education Celebrates 5th Anniversary, Success In Changing K-12 Education Policy ( 36

theodp writes: It's exactly five years since launched with the video What Most Schools Don't Teach ," noted in a Monday blog post entitled Dedicating Our 5 year Anniversary to our Partners. "Since then, tens of millions of students have begun learning computer science, hundreds of thousands of schools have begun teaching CS, tens of thousands of teachers have attended workshops to introduce CS in their classrooms, hundreds of school districts have added CS to their curriculum, and forty U.S. states and 25 countries have announced policies and plans to support CS in schools [...] We should start by thanking our amazing donors, particularly Amazon [$10+ million], Facebook [$10+ million], Google [$3+ million], Infosys [$10+ million], and Microsoft [$10+ million]. Whether it's corporate funders, foundations, or individual donors, without your generous funding, we wouldn't exist [...] Changing education policies in forty states wouldn't be possible without the help of Microsoft, College Board, Amazon, and every partner in the Advocacy Coalition [...] We're particularly fortunate and proud to have had the vocal support of Bill Gates [$4+ million] and Mark Zuckerberg [$1+ million] since day one." Hey, it takes a corporate village to raise a CS-savvy child!

Chrome OS Could Be Getting Containers for Running Linux VMs ( 57

Chromebook users may soon have a simpler way to run their favorite Linux distribution and applications on Google's Chrome OS hardware. From a report: As spotted by Chrome Unboxed, there's a newly merged commit in Chromium Gerrit describing a "new device policy to allow Linux VMs on Chrome OS." A related entry suggests support could come with Chrome OS version 66, which is due out in stable release around April 24, meaning Google might announce it at its annual IO developer conference, which starts on May 8. Developers can already use a tool called Crouton to install and run Linux on Chrome OS, but there is a security trade-off because Chrome OS needs to be switched to developer mode to use it. There's also a Crouton extension called Xiwi to enable using an OS in a browser window on Chrome OS. However, it too requires developer mode to be enabled. A recent commit suggests Chrome developers are working on a project called Crostini that may solve the developer mode problem by allowing Linux VMs to run inside a container.

Apple Confirms It Uses Google's Cloud For iCloud Services ( 46

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: A file that Apple updated on its website last month provides the first acknowledgment that it's relying on Google's public cloud for data storage for its iCloud services. The disclosure is fresh evidence that Google's cloud has been picking up usage as it looks to catch up with Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud infrastructure business. Some media outlets reported on Google's iCloud win in 2016, but Apple never provided confirmation. Apple periodically publishes new versions of a PDF called the iOS Security Guide. For years the document contained language indicating that iCloud services were relying on remote data storage systems from Amazon Web Services, as well as Microsoft's Azure. But in the latest version, the Microsoft Azure reference is gone, and in its place is Google Cloud Platform. Before the January update, Apple most recently updated the iOS Security Guide in March. The latest update doesn't indicate whether Apple is using any Google cloud services other than core storage of "objects" like photos and videos. The document also doesn't make it clear when Apple started storing data in Google's cloud.

Office 365 Growth Opportunity 'a Lot Bigger Than Anything We've Achieved', Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Says ( 153

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Monday suggested that Microsoft could grow more from its Office 365 line of cloud productivity apps than anything in the company's 43-year history. From a report: With business editions of Office 365, Microsoft faces competition from Google, as well as younger players like Box and Dropbox, in the race to get companies collaborating in apps running on remote cloud servers. "The growth opportunity for what is Office 365 is a lot bigger than anything we've achieved, even with our high penetration in the client-server world," Nadella said at the Morgan Stanley Technology Media and Telecom conference in San Francisco. When companies transition from Microsoft's traditional licensing business to cloud-based subscriptions, it's "not a one-for-one move," Nadella told Morgan Stanley analyst Keith Weiss at the event. Microsoft recently introduced the Microsoft 365 bundle, which includes Office as well as Windows, along with enterprise security and mobility services. Nadella also talked up the company's potential in the Azure public cloud infrastructure business, where it competes with Google as well as Amazon Web Services. "We had a good business in our server business, but this business is orders of magnitude bigger than what used to be a successful server business," he said.
Data Storage

Dropbox Shows How It Manages Costs By Deleting Inactive Accounts ( 29

Dropbox employs a somewhat unusual technique to lower its costs, the cloud software company revealed on Friday in its filing to go public . From a report: In a process the company calls "infrastructure optimization," Dropbox said it deletes users' accounts if they don't sign in for a year and don't respond to emails. That keeps the company from incurring storage costs for inactive users, a tactic Yahoo has used in the past. Dropbox said that the costs of revenue dropped 6 percent in 2017 to $21.7 million, mostly due to a $35.1 million reduction "in our infrastructure costs." As it prepares to lure public market investors, Dropbox is paying particularly close attention to its expenses. The company operates in an intensively competitive market against vendors including Apple, Amazon, Box, Google and Microsoft. Once reliant on Amazon Web Services , Dropbox has moved away from public cloud in recent years and has been building its own data center infrastructure to store the majority of user data. Another way it's managed costs is by making sure that there weren't too many copies of users' files on third-party infrastructure.

Dart 2: Google's Language Rebooted For Web and Mobile Developers ( 44

An anonymous reader quotes InfoWorld: Google's Dart language, once positioned a potential replacement for JavaScript in the browser, is being rebooted for client-side web and mobile development in Version 2 of the language. A beta version is now available. Dart 2 features a strengthened type system, a cleaned-up syntax, and a rebuilt developer tool chain.

Dart has a succinct syntax and can run on a VM with a just-in-time compiler, with the compiler enabling stateful, hot reload during mobile development. Developers also gain from fast development cycles where code can be edited, compiled, and replaced in apps running on a device. Compiling code ahead of time provides fast startup, Google said. Dart can be compiled to native code for ARM and x86 platforms. Google has used the language to build applications for iOS, Android, and the web.


Google's 'Bro Culture' Led To Harassment, Argues New Lawsuit By Software Engineer ( 290

An anonymous reader quotes the Mercury News: As a young, female software engineer at male-dominated Google, Loretta Lee was slapped, groped and even had a co-worker pop up from beneath her desk one night and tell her she'd never know what he'd been doing under there, according to a lawsuit filed against the Mountain View tech giant... Lee's lawsuit -- filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court -- alleges the company failed to to protect her, saying, "Google's bro-culture contributed to (Lee's) suffering frequent sexual harassment and gender discrimination, for which Google failed to take corrective action."

She was fired in February 2016 for poor performance, according to the suit... Lee started at the company in 2008 in Los Angeles and later switched to the firm's Mountain View campus, according to the suit, which asserts that she "was considered a talented and rising star" who received consistently "excellent" performance reviews. Lee claims that the "severe and pervasive" sexual harassment she experienced included daily abuse and egregious incidents. In addition to making lewd comments to her and ogling her "constantly," Lee's male co-workers spiked her drinks with whiskey and laughed about it; and shot Nerf balls and darts at her "almost every day," the suit alleges. One male colleague sent her a text message asking if she wanted a "horizontal hug," while another showed up at her apartment with a bottle of liquor, offering to help her fix a problem with one of her devices, refusing to leave when she asked him to, she alleges. At a holiday party, Lee "was slapped in the face by an intoxicated male co-worker for no apparent reason," according to the suit.

Lee resisted reporting an employee who had grabbed her lanyard and grazed her breasts -- and was then written up for being uncooperative. But after filing a report, "HR found her claims 'unsubstantiated,' according to the suit. 'This emboldened her colleagues to continue their inappropriate behavior,' the suit says.

"Her fear of being ostracized was realized, she claims, with co-workers refusing to approve her code in spite of her diligent work on it. Not getting her code approved led to her being 'labeled as a poor performer,' the suit says."

The College Board Pushes To Make Computer Science a High School Graduation Requirement 132

theodp writes: Education Week reports that the College Board wants high schools to make it mandatory for students to take computer science before they graduate. The call came as the College Board touted the astonishing growth in its Advanced Placement (AP) computer science courses, which was attributed to the success of its new AP Computer Science Principles (AP CSP) class, a "lite" alternative to the Java-based AP CS A course. "The College Board is willing to invest serious resources in making this viable -- much more so than is in our economic interest to do so," said College Board President David Coleman. "To governors, legislators, to others -- if you will help us make this part of the life of schools, we will help fund it."

Just two days before Coleman's funds-for-compulsory-CS offer, Education Week cast a skeptical eye at the tech sector's role in creating a tremendous surge of enthusiasm for K-12 CS education. Last spring, The College Board struck a partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative with a goal of making AP CSP available in every U.S. school district. Also contributing to the success of the College Board's high school AP CS programs over the years has been tech-bankrolled, as well as tech giants Microsoft and Google. The idea of a national computer programming language requirement for high school students was prominently floated in a Google-curated Q&A session with President Obama (video) following the 2013 State of the Union address.

Boston Dynamics Is Teaching Its Robot Dog To Fight Back Against Humans ( 146

Zorro shares a report from The Guardian: Boston Dynamics' well-mannered four-legged machine SpotMini has already proved that it can easily open a door and walk through unchallenged, but now the former Google turned SoftBank robotics firm is teaching its robo-canines to fight back. A newly released video shows SpotMini approaching the door as before, but this time it's joined by a pesky human with an ice hockey stick. Unperturbed by his distractions, SpotMini continues to grab the handle and turn it even after its creepy fifth arm with a claw on the front is pushed away. If that assault wasn't enough, the human's robot bullying continues, shutting the door on Spot, which counterbalances and fights back against the pressure. In a last-ditch effort to stop the robot dog breaching the threshold, the human grabs at a leash attached to the back of the SpotMini and yanks. Boston Dynamics describes the video as "a test of SpotMini's ability to adjust to disturbances as it opens and walks through a door" because "the ability to tolerate and respond to disturbances like these improves successful operation of the robot." The firm helpfully notes that, despite a back piece flying off, "this testing does not irritate or harm the robot." But teaching robots to fight back against humans may might end up harming us.

Former Google Employee Files Lawsuit Alleging the Company Fired Him Over Pro-Diversity Posts ( 308

According to court documents filed today, a former Google engineer is suing the company for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. "Tim Chevalier, a software developer and former site-reliability engineer at Google, claims that Google fired him when he responded with internal posts and memes to racist and sexist encounters within the company and the general response to the now-infamous James Damore memo," reports The Verge. From the report: Chevalier said in a statement to The Verge, "It is a cruel irony that Google attempted to justify firing me by claiming that my social networking posts showed bias against my harassers." Chevalier, who is also disabled and transgender, alleges that his internal posts that defended women of color and marginalized people led directly to his termination in November 2017. He had worked at Google for a little under two years. Notably, Chevalier's posts had been quoted in Damore's lawsuit against Google -- in which Damore sued the company for discrimination against conservative white men -- as evidence Google permitted liberals to speak out at the company unpunished. Chevalier's lawsuit alleges that his firing is, in fact, a form of punishment. The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court and Chevalier is seeking damages for lost wages, emotional distress, punitive damages, and injunctive relief against those alleged harmful acts. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Poland's Central Bank Accused of Paying YouTubers To Make Videos That Attack the Legitimacy of Cryptocurrencies ( 76

Poland's central bank has been accused of hiring YouTubers to "start a smear campaign" against cryptocurrencies in the country, Business Insider reports. From the story: According to Business Insider Poland, the Narodowy Bank Polski spent around 91,000 zloty ($27,300) on a marketing campaign designed to attack the legitimacy of cryptocurrencies. The money was spent on platforms including Google and Facebook, but was also used to pay a Polish Youtube partner network called Gamellon. The Gamellon network reportedly represents many of Poland's top YouTubers, including popular prankster Marcin Dubiel. In December, Dubiel published a video titled "STRACILEM WSZYSTKIE PIENIADZE?!" -- which loosely translates as "I LOST ALL MY MONEY?!" In the satirical video, Dubiel invests all his money in a fake cryptocurrency called Dubielcoin, gets rich, but then sees its value plunge and loses everything. It has racked up over 500,000 views.

uTorrent Client Affected by Some Pretty Severe Security Flaws ( 95

A Google security researcher has found multiple security flaws affecting the uTorrent web and desktop client that allow an attacker to infect a victim with malware or collect data on the users' past downloads, reports BleepingComputer. From the report: The vulnerabilities have been discovered by Google Project Zero security researcher Tavis Ormandy, and they impact uTorrent Web, a new web-based version of the uTorrent BitTorrent client, and uTorrent Classic, the old uTorrent client that most people know. Ormandy says that both uTorrent clients are exposing an RPC server -- on port 10000 (uTorrent Classic) and 19575 (uTorrent Web). The expert says that attackers can hide commands inside web pages that interact with this open RPC server. The attacker only needs to trick a user with a vulnerable uTorrent client to access a malicious web page. Furthermore, the uTorrent clients are also vulnerable to DNS rebinding -- a vulnerability that allows the attacker to legitimize his requests to the RPC server.

'Tech Companies Should Stop Pretending AI Won't Destroy Jobs' ( 344

Kai-Fu Lee, the founder and CEO of Sinovation Ventures and president of the Sinovation Ventures Artificial Intelligence Institute, believes that we're not ready for the massive societal upheavals on the way. He writes for MIT Technology Review: The rise of China as an AI superpower isn't a big deal just for China. The competition between the US and China has sparked intense advances in AI that will be impossible to stop anywhere. The change will be massive, and not all of it good. Inequality will widen. As my Uber driver in Cambridge has already intuited, AI will displace a large number of jobs, which will cause social discontent. Consider the progress of Google DeepMind's AlphaGo software, which beat the best human players of the board game Go in early 2016. It was subsequently bested by AlphaGo Zero, introduced in 2017, which learned by playing games against itself and within 40 days was superior to all the earlier versions. Now imagine those improvements transferring to areas like customer service, telemarketing, assembly lines, reception desks, truck driving, and other routine blue-collar and white-collar work.

It will soon be obvious that half of our job tasks can be done better at almost no cost by AI and robots. This will be the fastest transition humankind has experienced, and we're not ready for it. Not everyone agrees with my view. Some people argue that it will take longer than we think before jobs disappear, since many jobs will be only partially replaced, and companies will try to redeploy those displaced internally. But even if true, that won't stop the inevitable. Others remind us that every technology revolution has created new jobs as it displaced old ones. But it's dangerous to assume this will be the case again.


Slashdot Asks: Which Smart Speaker Do You Prefer? 234

Every tech company wants to produce a smart speaker these days. Earlier this month, Apple finally launched the HomePod, a smart speaker that uses Siri to answer basic questions and play music via Apple Music. In December, Google released their premium Google Home Max speaker that uses the Google Assistant and Google's wealth of knowledge to play music, answer questions, set reminders, and so on. It may be the most advanced smart speaker on the market as it has the hardware capable of playing high fidelity audio, and a digital assistant that can perform over one million actions. There is, however, no denying the appeal of the Amazon Echo, which is powered by the Alexa digital assistant. Since it first made its debut in late 2014, it has had more time to develop its skill set. Amazon says Alexa controls "tens of millions of devices," including Windows 10 PCs.

A new report from The Guardian, citing the industry site MusicAlly, says that Spotify is working on a line of "category defining" hardware products "akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles." The streaming music company has posted an ad for a senior product manager to "define the product requirements for internet connected hardware [and] the software that powers it." With Spotify looking to launch a smart speaker in the not-too-distant-future, the decision to purchase a smart speaker has become all the more difficult. Do you own a smart speaker? If so, which device do you own and why? Do you see a clear winner, or can they all satisfy your basic needs?

Why Decentralization Matters ( 93

Chris Dixon has an essay about the long-term promise of blockchain-based networks to upend web-based businesses such as Facebook and Twitter. He writes: When they hit the top of the S-curve, their relationships with network participants change from positive-sum to zero-sum. The easiest way to continue growing lies in extracting data from users and competing with complements over audiences and profits. Historical examples of this are Microsoft vs Netscape, Google vs Yelp, Facebook vs Zynga, and Twitter vs its 3rd-party clients. Operating systems like iOS and Android have behaved better, although still take a healthy 30% tax, reject apps for seemingly arbitrary reasons, and subsume the functionality of 3rd-party apps at will. For 3rd parties, this transition from cooperation to competition feels like a bait-and-switch. Over time, the best entrepreneurs, developers, and investors have become wary of building on top of centralized platforms. We now have decades of evidence that doing so will end in disappointment. In addition, users give up privacy, control of their data, and become vulnerable to security breaches. These problems with centralized platforms will likely become even more pronounced in the future.

Google Just Launched Another Answer To Apple Pay ( 138

Google launched its latest answer to Apple Pay on Tuesday. It's called Google Pay and replaces Android Pay, a previous solution that let Android users buy goods with their smartphones. From a report: It's also Google's answer to Apple Pay and Apple Pay Cash. Google Pay follows several failed attempts by Google to launch a widespread payment platform. The company launched Google Wallet several years ago before folding it and launching Android Pay. Google Pay combines features from both, including the ability to pay at checkout counters with a smartphone, and even the option to scan into transit systems in cities such as Kiev, London and Portland, initially.

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