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Artificial intelligence can contribute to a safer world

Artificial intelligence can contribute to a safer world

August 14, 2019

We all see the headlines nearly every day. A drone disrupting the airspace in one of the world’s busiest airports, putting aircraft at risk (and inconveniencing hundreds of thousands of passengers) or attacks on critical infrastructure. Or a shooting in a place of worship, a school, a courthouse. Whether primitive (gunpowder) or cutting-edge (unmanned aerial vehicles) in the wrong hands, technology can empower bad actors and put our society at risk, creating a sense of helplessness and frustration.

Current approaches to protecting our public venues are not up to the task, and, frankly appear to meet Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” It is time to look past traditional defense technologies and see if newer approaches can tilt the pendulum back in the defender’s favor. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can play a critical role here, helping to identify, classify and promulgate counteractions on potential threats faster than any security personnel.

Using technology to prevent violence, specifically by searching for concealed weapons has a long history. Alexander Graham Bell invented the first metal detector in 1881 in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the fatal slug as President James Garfield lay dying of an assassin’s bullet. The first commercial metal detectors were developed in the 1960s. Most of us are familiar with their use in airports, courthouses and other public venues to screen for guns, knives and bombs.

However, metal detectors are slow and full of false positives – they cannot distinguish between a Smith & Wesson and an iPhone. It is not enough to simply identify a piece …

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Competition among alternative protein players gets hot as companies beef up with new deals

Competition among alternative protein players gets hot as companies beef up with new deals

August 11, 2019

The competition for control of the burgeoning market for burger replacements (and other alternatives to animal proteins) continues to heat up.

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods the two leading contenders for top purveyor of plant-based patties (and other formulations) have spent most of the typically sleepy summer months jockeying for the position as top supplier to a food industry suddenly ravenous for alternatives to traditional meat product.s

As soon as the first Impossible Whoppers came off the flame broilers at Burger King, Beyond Meat was announcing a new fast food chain supply deal of its own with Subway.

Through that agreement the publicly traded provider of plant-based products will be grinding up meatless meatballs for Subway’s new vegetarian option to the classic meatball sub.

Subway will roll out meatless meatballs in 685 of its franchise locations in the U.S. and Canada starting in September.

Not to be outdone, Impossible Foods came swinging back with some a new partnership with the institutional food prep giant Sodexo. At roughly 1,500 Sodexo locations food slingers at healthcare facilities and corporate and university cafeterias will unveil new options like Impossible Foods-based sausage muffin sandwiches, sausage gravy and biscuits, steakhouse burgers and creole burgers.

Image courtesy of Sodexo

“Sodexo is committed to providing customers with more plant-forward and sustainable options as part of their diet,” said Rob Morasco, senior director culinary development, Sodexo, in a statement. “We are excited to expand our menu to include the Impossible Burger’s flavorful blend, which will be featured in several new products this fall.”

Set against this meatless horserace for national food service dominance, other plant-based providers have launched to take the startup direct-to-consumer approach to satisfy vegetarian cravings for other types of food substitutes.

It was partially in response to this furor over the vegetarian …

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Democratic Presidential nominees are ignoring the issue of our cybersecurity infrastructure

Democratic Presidential nominees are ignoring the issue of our cybersecurity infrastructure

August 11, 2019

With the long battle for the Democratic nominee for president in 2020 firmly underway, more than 20 political hopefuls are talking about spreading the fruits of a solid economy to millions of middle-class Americans who may have missed the good times, implementing Medicare for all to solve financial healthcare pitfalls, and free college education.

One would-be candidate – Jay Inslee, the governor of the state of Washington – is talking almost exclusively about the need to address climate change far more quickly and far more seriously.
But what has not been discussed by any of them, even briefly, is the stunning existential threat to our critical national security and the entire well-being of the U.S. posed by mounting and painful cyber breaches of infrastructure and other targets. If no would-be candidates can acknowledge the significance and magnitude of the cyber threat – let alone put forward a strategy and plan to defend against the threat – it’s hard to take them seriously as prospective national leaders.
I’m hardly the only one with this view. “When we think about existential threats, government has to understand that electricity doesn’t reside in its own silo and that if something happens to (companies like) us, it would have a potentially cataclysmic impact on finance as well,” utility Southern Company CEO Tom Fanning recently told Fox Business.
Specifically, consider just a few examples of what is going on every day:
 
Election malfeasance. We hear daily outrage about threats
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Reports say White House has drafted an order putting the FCC in charge of monitoring social media

Reports say White House has drafted an order putting the FCC in charge of monitoring social media

August 9, 2019

The White House is contemplating issuing an executive order that would widen its attack on the operations of social media companies.

The White House has prepared an executive order called “Protecting Americans from Online Censorship” that would give the Federal Communications Commission oversight of how Facebook, Twitter and other tech companies monitor and manage their social networks, according to a CNN report.

Under the order, which has not yet been announced and could be revised, the FCC would be tasked with developing new regulations that would determine when and how social media companies filter posts, videos or articles on their platforms.

The draft order also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when investigating or filing lawsuits against technology companies, according to the CNN report.

Social media censorship has been a perennial talking point for President Donald Trump and his administration. In May, the White House set up a tip line for people to provide evidence of social media censorship and a systemic bias against conservative media.

In the executive order, the White House says it received more than 15,000 complaints about censorship by the technology platforms. The order also includes an offer to share the complaints with the Federal Trade Commission.

As part of the order, the Federal Trade Commission would be required to open a public complaint docket and coordinate with the Federal Communications Commission on investigations of how technology companies curate their platforms — and whether that curation is politically agnostic.

Under the proposed rule, any company whose monthly user base includes more than one-eighth of the U.S. population would be subject to oversight by the regulatory agencies. A roster of companies subject to the

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Tech stocks walloped as China retaliates in the latest salvo of its trade war with the US

Tech stocks walloped as China retaliates in the latest salvo of its trade war with the US 5 (1)

August 5, 2019

All U.S. stock markets were down severely today, and tech stocks were hit especially hard, as China retaliated to increasing U.S. tariffs by halting imports on U.S. agricultural goods and finally acceded to market pressures by letting the yuan slide in value against the dollar.

At one point, the Dow was down nearly 900 points before staging a late afternoon rally to close off by roughly 760 points. The Nasdaq, the marketplace which is home to a number of technology stocks, saw its value drop by 3.4%, or 277.10 points.

Shares of Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and Twitter were all down for the day. Indeed, as CNBC reported, the biggest tech stocks — Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet — lost a combined $162 billion in market value.

Declines came as China allowed its currency to fall below what was once considered to be a red-line in the country’s currency peg against the dollar. That means that Chinese goods start to look more attractive globally as their prices decline in relation to the dollar. It could also trigger a wave of currency devaluations and protectionist measures across the globe — further putting downward pressure on global economic growth.

Stocks also continued to feel the pinch from the threat that President Donald Trump would make good on his threat to impose new tariffs on goods from China beginning September 1, 2019. Those tariffs are expected to take a bite out of every-day consumer goods and clothing, which adversely affects tech companies.

The big concern for these tech companies is the looming threat of that tariff expansion from the U.S. If those tariffs go into effect it would have significant consequences in these companies’ home market. 

“Assuming smartphones, tablets, smart watches, and computer systems …

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SoftBank pumps $2B into Indonesia through Grab investment, putting it head to head with Gojek

SoftBank pumps $2B into Indonesia through Grab investment, putting it head to head with Gojek

July 29, 2019

Grab — the on-demand transportation app worth $14 billion that is the Uber of Southeast Asia — today announced how it would be using some of the $7 billion or so that it has raised to date: $2 billion provided by SoftBank is being earmarked Grab’s operations in Indonesia — the biggest economy in Southeast Asia — over the next five years, to help it go head-to-head with local rival Gojek.

Specifically, Grab said it and SoftBank met with Indonesian government officials and have agreed to use the money to help modernise the country’s transportation infrastructure and economy with the development of an electronic vehicle “ecosystem”, new geo-mapping solutions, and the establishment of a second headquarters for Grab in Jakarta focused on R&D for Indonesia and the wider region, to sit alongside its existing HQ in Singapore.

Grab has confirmed that this investment news does not affect the company’s valuation as it’s not fresh funding — although it looks like it might lead to another, new SoftBank injection in Grab, too.

“I’d like to invest more… We would invest (in) Grab more, and also encourage to invest more in other companies,” SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a press conference earlier today. “We will create a second headquarters of Grab in Indonesia, and become 5th unicorn and also invest $2b through Grab. On top of that, we will invest more.”

Grab last raised money just four weeks ago, $300 million from Invesco as part of a larger, ongoing Series H that it wants to use in part for acquisitions. That round is already at around $4.5 billion, with SoftBank having already put in just under $1.5 billion. This $2 billion is on top of that previous round, the company said today.

The company’s last reported valuation from a …

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Elon Musk says next Hyperloop competition will be in a six-mile, curved tunnel

Elon Musk says next Hyperloop competition will be in a six-mile, curved tunnel

July 22, 2019

Elon Musk planning to change up the Hyperloop student engineering competition that his company SpaceX has run for the past four years. Next year’s competition will be done in a tunnel that’s over six miles long, the SpaceX CEO said on Twitter on Sunday, with a curve instead of being in a straight line like the current, 3/4-mile test tunnel at SpaceX’s Hawthorne HQ.

That’s a big change, and one that it’s unclear how and where SpaceX will make it happen, given that the current test tunnel can support likely an additional “200 meters” according to Boring Company President Steve Davis speaking at this year’s Hyperloop Pod Competition finals earlier on Sunday.

Davis and Musk discussed extending the tunnel on stage, but it sounded like they were planning a relatively minor extension next year, with Musk musing that they’d likely be able to build a longer, Boring company-dug tunnel about three years from now for use in the annual student challenge.

“I don’t think we’ll have a long enough, straight enough underground tunnel a year from now but I think three years from now we definitely will,” Musk said during a Q&A at the competition. “So figure three years from now, we’ll at least have a couple miles […] now then you can really move.”

Musk also entertained the possibility of starting a new engineering competition around The Boring Co’s main mission: Tunnelling.

“We could maybe do a tunnelling competition, that might be good,” Musk said. “We’ll consider a tunnelling competition,” he concluded after a few seconds of thought.

“I think a tunnelling thing would be pretty exciting,” Musk said later in response to a follow-up question by one …

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Team TUM wins SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition with record 288 mph top speed

Team TUM wins SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition with record 288 mph top speed

July 22, 2019

SpaceX hosted its fourth annual SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition finals on Sunday at the test tube it built outside its Hawthorne HQ. We were on site for the competition, and watched as Team TUM, from the Technical University of Munich, took home the win thanks to achieving the top speed overall of any team to run in the finals.

TUM (formerly known as team WARR Hyperloop in past competitions) is a repeat winner, and achieved a top speed of 288 mph in this year’s finals. That’s the fastest overall for a Hyperloop pod thus far – it beat its own record from last year of 284 mph set during the third SpaceX student run-off. It wasn’t without incident, however – near the end of its run, there was a spark and some debris appeared to fly off the craft, but it still survived the run mostly intact and satisfied SpaceX judges to qualify for the win.

TUM beat out three other finalist competitors, including Delft Hyperloop, EPFL Hyperloop, and Swissloop. Delft unfortunately had a communication error that cut their run short at just around 650 feet into the just over 3/4 mile SpaceX Hyperloop test track. EPFL managed a top speed of 148 mph and Swissloop topped out at 160 mph.

SpaceX Hyperloop Pod test track at its Hawthorne HQ. This is the end where student teams load in their test pod during the annual competition.

For the teams that did get to run on Sunday, the process involved loading their pod, which are roughly the size of bobsleds but little more than engines on wheels, onto the single track which runs the length of the interior of the Hyperloop test tube. The tube is then sealed and de-pressurized to near vacuum, which is essentially how Musk’s original Hyperloop concept …

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UnitedMasters releases iPhone app for DIY cross-service music distribution

UnitedMasters releases iPhone app for DIY cross-service music distribution

July 4, 2019

Alphabet-backed UnitedMasters, the music label distribution startup and record label alternative that offers artists 100 percent ownership of everything they create, launched its iPhone app today.

The iPhone app works like the service they used to offer only via the web, giving artists the chance to upload their own tracks (from iCloud, Dropbox or directly from text messages), then distribute them to a full range of streaming music platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and more. In exchange for this distribution, as well as analytics on how your music is performing, UnitedMasters takes a 10% share on revenue generated by tracks it distributes, but artists retain full ownership of the content they create.

UnitedMasters also works with brand partners, including Bose, the NBA and AT&T, to place tracks in marketing use across the brand’s properties and distributed content. Music creators are paid out via PayPal once they connect their accounts, and they can also tie-in their social accounts for connecting their overall online presence with their music.

Using the app, artists can create entire releases by uploading not only music tracks but also high-quality cover art, and by entering information like whether any producers participated in the music creation, and whether the tracks contain any explicit lyrics. You can also specify an exact desired release date, and UnitedMasters will do its best to distribute across services on that day, pending content approvals.

UnitedMasters was founded by former Interscope Records president Steve Stoute, and also has funding from Andreessen Horwitz and 20th Century Fox. It’s aiming to serve a new generation of artists who are disenfranchised by the traditional label model, but seeking distribution through the services where listeners actually spend their time, and using the iPhone as manage the entire process definitely fits with serving that customer base.

Source

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Higher Ground Labs is betting tech can help sway the 2020 elections for Democrats

Higher Ground Labs is betting tech can help sway the 2020 elections for Democrats

July 1, 2019

When Shomik Dutta and Betsy Hoover first met in 2007, he was coordinating fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign and she was a deputy field director for the campaign.

Over the next two election cycles the two would become parts of an organizing and fundraising team that transformed the business of politics through its use of technology — supposedly laying the groundwork for years of Democratic dominance in organizing, fundraising, polling and grassroots advocacy.

Then came Donald J. Trump and the 2016 election.

For both Dutta and Hoover the 2016 outcome was a wake up call against complacency. What had worked for the Democratic party in 2008 and 2012 wasn’t going to be effective in future election cycles, so they created the investment firm Higher Ground Labs to provide financing and a launching pad for new companies serving Democratic campaigns and progressive organizations.

As the political world shifts from analog to digital, we need a lot more tools to capture that spend,” says Dutta. “Democrats are spending on average 70 cents of every dollar raised on television ads. We are addicted to old ways of campaigning. If we want to activate and engage an enduring majority of voters we have to go where they are (and that’s increasingly online) and we have to adapt to be able to have these conversations wherever they are.”

Social media and the rise of “direct to consumer” politics

While the Obama campaign effectively used the Internet as a mobilization tool in its two campaigns, the lessons of social media and mobile technologies that offer a “direct-to-consumer” politics circumventing traditional norms have, in the ensuing years, been harnessed most effectively by conservative organizations, according to …

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