AI

Is China Outsmarting America in AI? (nytimes.com) 55

An anonymous reader shares an NYTimes article: Beijing is backing its artificial intelligence push with vast sums of money. Having already spent billions on research programs, China is readying a new multibillion-dollar initiative to fund moonshot projects, start-ups and academic research (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), all with the aim of growing China's A.I. capabilities, according to two professors who consulted with the government on the plan. China's private companies are pushing deeply into the field as well, though the line between government and private in China sometimes blurs. Baidu -- often called the Google of China and a pioneer in artificial-intelligence-related fields, like speech recognition -- this year opened a joint company-government laboratory partly run by academics who once worked on research into Chinese military robots. China is spending more just as the United States cuts back. This past week, the Trump administration released a proposed budget that would slash funding for a variety of government agencies that have traditionally backed artificial intelligence research.
Businesses

India Tech Giant Warns Trump's 'Radical Shift' to Hurt Industry (bloomberg.com) 142

The vice chairman at Tech Mahindra, one of India's largest technology services companies warned that U.S. President Donald Trump's visa policies will damage the industry as his company reported weak earnings and his stock fell the most in almost two years. From a report: Tech Mahindra said net income was 5.9 billion rupees ($91 million) in the fourth quarter, compared with the average analyst estimate of 7.8 billion, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The U.S. is tightening the criteria for visa programs that Tech Mahindra and other outsourcing companies use to bring skilled foreign workers into the country. Trump and other politicians have criticized the programs for hurting American workers and allowing companies to use cheaper employees from abroad. Tech services companies, including Cognizant Technology Solutions, have been cutting positions in India. Some workers have blamed Trump for prompting the job losses and exacerbating problems in the industry.
Businesses

Apple Co-founder Thinks Apple Is Now Too Big a Company To Come Up With the Next Big Thing (9to5mac.com) 111

When it comes to the next great tech breakthroughs, Steve Wozniak isn't betting on the company he founded. Instead, he believes Tesla is at the forefront of anticipating the world to come. From a report: Interviewed by Bloomberg on what are likely to be the biggest tech breakthroughs in the coming years, and which companies are likely to make them, Woz didn't list Apple as a contender. He said, "look at the companies like Google and Facebook and Apple and Microsoft that changed the world -- and Tesla included. They usually came from young people. They didn't spring out of big businesses." Small businesses, he argued, take bigger risks -- and their founders create the products they really want, without the dilution that occurs with multiple decision-makers. "I think Tesla is on the best direction right now. They've put an awful lot of effort into very risky things. I'm going to bet on Tesla," he added.
United Kingdom

UK Tech Visas Quadruple After Applications Soar (telegraph.co.uk) 59

James Timcomb, writing for The Telegraph: Technology industry demands for special measures to let companies hire foreign workers after Brexit have been boosted by a surge in demand for technology visas. Tech City UK, the government organisation that processes applications for the dedicated "Tier 1 Exceptional Talent" visa, said successful applications had more than quadrupled in the last 12 months, with 260 endorsed in the last fiscal year. It follows fears in the British tech community that access to skilled computer coders would be hit by restrictions to freedom of movement when the UK leaves the EU. David Cameron introduced the tech visa scheme in 2014 in a bid to make London the technology capital of Europe and rival Silicon Valley as a destination for start-ups, and amid fears of a shortage of skilled coders in the UK. The "Tech Nation" visa scheme allows Tech City UK to endorse applications from non-EU workers, and lets successful applicants stay in the country for five years, after which they can apply to settle. Just a handful of visas were granted in its first few months, due to what were seen as onerous requirements, and the rules were relaxed in 2015. Applications have soared since then, and rose again after the Brexit vote.
Transportation

British Airways CEO Won't Resign, Says Outsourcing Not To Blame For IT Failure (bbc.com) 145

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz insisted he would not resign on Monday as he sought to draw a line under three days of chaos at the UK flag carrier after IT problems left tens of thousands of passenger stranded. In an interview -- the first since a global computer outage all but shut the airline down -- Cruz said he doesn't think "it would make much of use for me to resign." Separately, he also denied an outsourcing deal was to blame for the IT problems that hit on Saturday, causing the airline to cancel almost all its services over the weekend. From a report: A leaked staff email revealed Mr Cruz had told staff not to comment on the system failure. When asked about the email he told the BBC the tone was clear: "Stop moaning and come and help us." The airline is now close to full operational capacity after the problems resulted in mass flight cancellations at Heathrow and Gatwick over the bank holiday weekend. Questions remain about how a power problem could have had such impact, said the BBC's technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. One theory was that returning systems were unusable as the data had become unsynchronised. [...] Cruz told the BBC a power surge, had "only lasted a few minutes," but the back-up system had not worked properly. He said the IT failure was not due to technical staff being outsourced from the UK to India.
Government

US Senators Propose Bug Bounties For Hacking Homeland Security (cnn.com) 59

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: U.S. senators want people to hack the Department of Homeland Security. On Thursday, Senators Maggie Hassan, a Democrat and Republican Rob Portman introduced the Hack DHS Act to establish a federal bug bounty program in the DHS... It would be modeled off the Department of Defense efforts, including Hack the Pentagon, the first program of its kind in the federal government. Launched a year ago, Hack the Pentagon paved the way for more recent bug bounty events including Hack the Army and Hack the Air Force...

The Hack the DHS Act establishes a framework for bug bounties, including establishing "mission-critical" systems that aren't allowed to be hacked, and making sure researchers who find bugs in DHS don't get prosecuted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. "It's better to find vulnerabilities through someone you have engaged with and vetted," said Jeff Greene, the director of government affairs and policy at security firm Symantec. "In an era of constrained budgets, it's a cost-effective way of identifying vulnerabilities"... If passed, it would be among the first non-military bug bounty programs in the public sector.

Government

Silicon Valley Continues To Explore Universal Basic Incomes (siliconvalley.com) 315

A Silicon Valley Congressman "is pushing for a plan that has been described as a first step toward universal basic income...a long-shot $1 trillion expansion to the earned income tax credit that is already available to low-income families." An anonymous reader quotes the Mecury News: Stanford University also has created a Basic Income Lab to study the idea, and the San Francisco city treasurer's office has said it's designing pilot tests -- though the department told this news organization it has no updates on the status of that project... The problem is that giving all Americans a $10,000 annual income would cost upwards of $3 trillion a year -- more than three-fourths of the federal budget, said Bob Greenstein, president of Washington, D.C.-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Some proponents advocate funding the move by cutting programs like food stamps and Medicaid. But that approach would take money set aside for low-income families and redistribute it upward, exacerbating poverty and inequality, Greenstein said... Jennifer Lin, deputy director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, is skeptical that basic income can do much lasting good in Oakland. What the city needs is more high-paying jobs and affordable housing, she said... The idea, [Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator] said at the Commonwealth Club, tackles the question not enough people are asking: "What do we as the tech industry do to solve the problem that we're helping to create?"
This summer Y Combinator is expected to announce a larger Universal Basic Income program, though the article also describes "small pilot studies" in the 1960s and 1970s in Canada and in several U.S. states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa and Indiana, where "Some studies showed improvements in participants' physical and mental health, and found children performed better in school or stayed in school longer. But some also showed that people receiving a basic income were inclined to spend fewer hours working."
Books

Creative Commons Staff Members Release New Free eBook (creativecommons.org) 30

ChristianVillum writes: Creative Commons staff-members Sarah Hinchliff Pearson and Paul Stacey have now published Made With Creative Commons, the awaited book they successfully funded on Kickstarter in 2015. "Made With Creative Commons is a book about sharing," explains the book's description. "It is about sharing textbooks, music, data, art, and more. People, organizations, and businesses all over the world are sharing their work using Creative Commons licenses because they want to encourage the public to reuse their works, to copy them, to modify them... But if they are giving their work away to the public for free, how do they make money?

"This is the question this book sets out to answer. There are 24 in-depth examples of different ways to sustain what you do when you share your work. And there are lessons, about how to make money but also about what sharing really looks like -- why we do it and what it can bring to the economy and the world. Full of practical advice and inspiring stories, Made with Creative Commons is a book that will show you what it really means to share."

There's free versions in PDF, ePub, and MOBI formats for downloading from the Creative Commons site, and there's also an edit-able version on Google Docs. A small Danish non-profit publisher named Ctrl+Alt+Delete Books is also publishing print copies of the book under a Creative Commons license "to ensure easy sharing," and is making the book available on Amazon or through the publisher's own web site.
The Courts

The Lawyer Who Founded Prenda Law Just Got Disbarred (engadget.com) 62

Long-time Slashdot reader lactose99 writes: One of the original copyright trolls finally got their comeuppance. From TFA: "John L. Steele, a Chicago lawyer who pled guilty to perjury, fraud and money laundering resulting from alleged 'honeypot' schemes, has just been disbarred by an Illinois court." John L. Steele, as you may know, is one of the principals of Prenda Law, a notorious copyright troll who has been featured on /. several times. The article goes on to describe how the Prenda lawyers used honeypot-like tactics to trick people into downloads and then subsequently scammed them for copyright violations.
Their operation brought in $6 million in settlement fees, reports Engadget, adding "While it is illegal to download copyrighted files from file-sharing sites, it is also against the law to extort downloaders."
Earth

Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Others Ante Up Another $30 Million To Change.org the World (fortune.com) 60

theodp writes: Fortune reports that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is "leading a $30 million funding round in Change.org, a for-profit petition and fundraising website focused on social and political change." Joining Hoffman in this round, as well as an earlier $25 million round in 2014, is Bill Gates. Change.org, Hoffman explained in a Friday LinkedIn post, "helps enable a world where you don't need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you." He added, "In its decade of existence, Change.org petitions have resulted in more than 21,000 victories, i.e., instances in which a government agency, corporation, or other entity has changed a regulation or a policy in the face of a Change.org petition urging it to do so." Last year, Hoffman joined Gates and some of the biggest names in tech and corporate America who threw their weight behind a Change.org petition that tried to get Congress to fund K-12 Computer Science education. The Change.org petition fell short of its 150,000-signature goal despite claims of support from 90% of the parents of the nation's 58 million K-12 schoolchildren (based on a Google-funded survey of 1,685 parents), widespread press coverage (including a full-page ad in petition signer Jeff Bezos's Washington Post), lobbying efforts by the tech coalition that organized the petition (which counts LinkedIn and Microsoft among its members), and even some free PR from Change.org.
Google

Accused of Underpaying Women, Google Says It's Too Expensive To Get Wage Data (theguardian.com) 400

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women. Google officials testified in federal court on Friday that it would have to spend up to 500 hours of work and $100,000 to comply with investigators' ongoing demands for wage data that the DoL believes will help explain why the technology corporation appears to be systematically discriminating against women. Noting Google's nearly $28 billion annual income as one of the most profitable companies in the U.S., DoL attorney Ian Eliasoph scoffed at the company's defense, saying, "Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water."
Businesses

Comcast Customer Satisfaction Drops 6% After TV Price Hikes, ACSI Says (arstechnica.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast's customer satisfaction score for subscription TV service fell 6 percent in a new survey, putting the company near the bottom of rankings published by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Comcast's score fell from 62 to 58 on ACSI's 100-point scale, a drop of more than 6 percent between 2016 and 2017. The ACSI's 2017 report on telecommunications released this week attributed the decrease to "price hikes for Xfinity (Comcast) subscriptions." Satisfaction with pay-TV providers dropped industry-wide, tying the segment with Internet service (a product offered by the same companies) for last place in the ACSI's rankings. The ACSI summarized the trend as follows: "Customer satisfaction with subscription television service slips 1.5 percent to 64, tied with Internet service providers for last place among 43 industries tracked by the ACSI. Many of the same large companies offer service for Internet, television, and voice via bundling. The threat of competition from streaming services has done little to spur improvement for pay TV. Customer service remains poor, and cord-cutting continues to accelerate. More than half a million subscribers defected from cable and satellite TV providers during the first quarter of 2017 -- the largest loss in the history of the industry. Customers still prefer fiber optic and satellite to cable, putting FiOS (Verizon Communications) in first place with a 1 percent uptick to 71. AT&T takes the next two spots with its fiber optic and satellite services."
Businesses

Sean Parker Is Going To Great Lengths To Ensure 'Screening Room' Is Piracy Free, Patents Reveal (torrentfreak.com) 139

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has been working on his new service called Screening Room, which when becomes reality, could allow people to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters in their living room as soon as they premiere at the box office. This week we get a glimpse at the kind of technologies Parker is using to ensure that the movies don't get distributed easily. From a report: Over the past several weeks, Screening Room Media, Inc. has submitted no less than eight patent applications related to its plans, all with some sort of anti-piracy angle. For example, a patent titled "Presenting Sonic Signals to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" describes a technology where acoustic signals are regularly sent to mobile devices, to confirm that the user is near the set-top box and is authorized to play the content. Similarly, the "Monitoring Nearby Mobile Computing Devices to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" patent, describes a system that detects the number of mobile devices near the client-side device, to make sure that too many people aren't tuning in. The general technology outlined in the patents also includes forensic watermarking and a "P2P polluter." The watermarking technology can be used to detect when pirated content spreads outside of the protected network onto the public Internet. "At this point, the member's movie accessing system will be shut off and quarantined. If the abuse or illicit activity is confirmed, the member and the household will be banned from the content distribution network," the patent reads. [...] Screening Room's system also comes with a wide range of other anti-piracy scans built in. Among other things, it regularly scans the Wi-Fi network to see which devices are connected, and Bluetooth is used to check what other devices are near.
Businesses

Music Streaming Service Tidal Loses Third CEO In Two Years (cnet.com) 19

An anonymous reader shares an article: The music-streaming service Tidal is saying goodbye to yet another CEO. Jefffrey Toig, who became the company's CEO in December 2015, is leaving the company. This would make him the third CEO leaving Tidal after two years, following the departure of Andy Chen and Peter Tonstad. In a statement to CNET, Tidal said that it will announce a new CEO in the coming weeks. The Jay-Z-owned music service has relied heavily on star power and album exclusives, but its bet doesn't seem to be making any splashes. On top of that, the company was accused in January of lying about its 3-million subscriber-base. They were accused of creating fake accounts.
Businesses

80% of Millennials Say They Want To Buy a Home -- But Most Have Less Than $1,000 (cnbc.com) 574

An anonymous reader writes: Millennials aren't buying homes in the same numbers as previous and older generations, but it's not because they don't want to. The vast majority of millennials do indeed aim to buy someday, or would even like to now if they could. Unfortunately, the numbers don't look good. New data from Apartment List shows that, although 80 percent of millennials would like to purchase real estate, very few are in a good position to buy, largely because they have nothing saved. According to the report, '68 percent of millennials said they have saved less than $1,000 for a down payment. Almost half, or 44 percent, of millennials said they have not saved anything for a down payment.'
Businesses

The Gig Economy Workforce Will Double In Four Years (recode.net) 64

The number of workers in the so-called gig economy will grow substantially in the coming years, according to a study by Intuit and Emergent Research. By 2021, the study finds, 9.2 million people are going to be working the frontline jobs at companies like Uber and Lyft. That number is projected to be 4.8 million this year. From a report: The rise in on-demand workers has been fueled largely by startups like Uber, TaskRabbit and Airbnb. It has also helped companies like Intuit, which makes tax software QuickBooks and TurboTax. The company's stock surged to an all-time high yesterday thanks to the gig economy. For context, there are currently more gig workers than people employed in the entire information sector (which includes publishing, telecommunication and data processing jobs) and IT services combined, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also read: A recent piece on The New Yorker which talks about the lengths to which people are willing to go to survive in such jobs -- a horrifying culture that is often celebrated in those companies.
The Almighty Buck

With Nothing Left To Sell, RadioShack Is Selling Itself To People (theverge.com) 223

RadioShack, an almost 100-year-old American chain of wireless and electronics stores, had a hell of ride at retail. The cradle of building your own electronics at home, and an early participant in the PC revolution, is finally facing the end after a long, slow death at the hands of consumer disinterest, a dysfunctional marriage with Sprint. From a report: Tons of electronics stores have shuttered over the past decade, but few are as tragic as RadioShack, which filed for bankruptcy in 2015, appeared to be rescued by Sprint in agreement to co-share the stores, then got kicked to the curb and had to file for a second bankruptcy this past March. The new agreement means hundreds of RadioShack shops will officially close down and be replaced by Sprint stores, fizzling out dreams of the Maker movement. So while this is an end to another chapter of our American electronics retail culture, we do have to wonder: how are the folks at RadioShack doing? They have been selling the leftover stocks of electronics for a while, with only mostly store fixtures, ladders, and carpet tiles seemingly left on offer. This is what RadioShack posted earlier this month. The company has since been tweeting about the leftover stuff it has up on sale, though.
Businesses

Disney Chief Bob Iger Doesn't Believe Movie Hack Threat Was Real (hollywoodreporter.com) 27

You may remember Disney's boss revealing that hackers had threatened to leak one of the studio's new films unless it paid a ransom. Bob Iger didn't name the film, but it was thought to be "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales." But now Iger says: "To our knowledge we were not hacked." From a report: Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger confirmed Thursday that a hacker claiming to have stolen an upcoming Disney movie and demanding a ransom didn't appear to have the goods. "To our knowledge we were not hacked," Iger told Yahoo Finance. "We had a threat of a hack of a movie being stolen. We decided to take it seriously but not react in the manner in which the person who was threatening us had required." Iger continued, "We don't believe that it was real and nothing has happened." On May 15, as first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Iger told ABC employees at a town hall meeting in New York that someone claiming to have stolen an upcoming movie would release the film on the internet unless the company paid a ransom. Iger told staff that the studio wouldn't meet any such demands.
Businesses

Mark Zuckerberg Calls for Universal Basic Income in His Harvard Commencement Speech (fortune.com) 723

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the latest major tech figure to call for universal basic income as a solution for inequality, joining a growing chorus from Silicon Valley. From a report: "Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it's time for our generation to define a new social contract," Zuckerberg said during his commencement speech at Harvard University. "We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things," he said. Zuckerberg told the class of 2017 that he was able to pursue his passion in Facebook because he knew he had a safety net to fall back on.
The Almighty Buck

Messenger App Kik Debuts Its Own Digital Currency (bloomberg.com) 51

The messaging app Kik Interactive has decided to create its own digital currency. Kik's plans are for an "initial coin offering," a process by which it sells tokens that can be used to buy services on its platform. "The idea is that as more and more people use Kik, the value of those tokens, called 'Kin,' will rise in value," reports TechCrunch. From the report: Kik, which has raised about $120 million (in real money) from investors including Tencent Holdings Ltd., could serve to add a new layer of legitimacy to the process. "Kik will be the largest install base of cryptocurrency users in the world," Chief Executive Officer Ted Livingston said. "Kin, on day one will be the most-used cryptocurrency in the world." The move comes as Kik finally reveals how many people actually use its app regularly each month: 15 million. That's a far-cry from the 300 million total registered users number it was sharing around this time last year. Kik plans to gift a certain amount of Kin to each user. They'll be able use the new currency to buy games, live video streams and other digital products. The company's goal is to attract new merchants to sell on the platform, creating a snowball effect where Kin becomes more valuable and more sellers pile onto Kik, increasing its popularity.

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