Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for March 23, 2020

in STEMGeekslast year

Jaron Lanier and Glen Weyl argue for data dignity, suggesting that human contributions to AI systems need to be accounted for; Microsoft Windows' Explorer and Start Menu may be getting a new look; Firefox continues its slow elimination of the unencrypted ftp protocol; Microsoft responds to allegations that the Edge browser is bad at privacy; and a Steem essay discussing Superworms that can survive by eating plastic


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  1. AI is an Ideology, Not a Technology - Subtitle: At its core, "artificial intelligence" is a perilous belief that fails to recognize the agency of humans.: In short, the article argues that any AI system relies on human knowledge and creativity, so it's a mistake to see it as a fully autonomous concept. Instead, it says that all intelligence - human or machine - depends on a social context for its value. From this, the conclusion is that industry should take a human-centric focus towards technology, see people as something to be enhanced, not replaced, by machines. Instead, the goal should be to recognize human contributions and ensure that they are compensated. The argument is summarized in this paragraph
    To be clear, we are great enthusiasts for the methods most discussed as illustrations of the potential of AI: deep/convolution networks and so on. These techniques, however, rely heavily on human data. For example, Open AI’s much celebrated text-generation algorithm was trained on millions of websites produced by humans. And evidence from the field of machine teaching increasingly suggests that when the humans generating the data are actively engaged in providing high-quality, carefully chosen input, they can train at far lower costs. But active engagement is possible only if, unlike in the usual AI attitude, all contributors, not just elite engineers, are considered crucial role players and are financially compensated.
    and it is reminiscent of the TED talk, Why you should get paid for your data | Jennifer Zhu Scott. That talk was previousy included in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 22, 2020. The authors are Glen Weyl and Jaron Lanier, whose calls for "data dignity" have previously been covered in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for January 8, 2020 and Curating the Internet: Science and technology micro-summaries for October 3, 2019 -h/t Communications of the ACM: Artificial Intelligence

  2. Panos Panay tease new File Explorer, Start Menu for Windows 10 - A recent Instagram post by Panos Panay celebrated 1 billion installations of Windows 10 and included footage of not-yet released aspects of the File Explorer and Start menu. The file explorer seems to be sporting a more elegant and streamlined look and feel, along with deep OneDrive integration. The start menu appears to have fewer live tiles and a "go back" button. These features haven't even been distributed to Insiders yet, so it seems likely that they won't be widely available until after 2020. -h/t OS news

  3. Firefox to burn FTP out of its browser, starting slowly in version 77 due in April - The unencrypted FTP protocol was discouraged but enabled starting in 2018, and a March 19 post announced that it's being eliminated. The plan is to have it disabled by default staring in May of 2020, and completely eliminated in early 2021.

  4. A professor says Edge is the worst for privacy. Microsoft isn't happy - Professor Douglas Leith from Dublin's Trinity College recently published a paper where he reported,
    We find that the browsers split into three distinct groups from this privacy perspective. In the first (most private) group lies Brave, in the second Chrome, Firefox and Safari, and in the third (least private) group lie Edge and Yandex.
    That was covered in Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for March 1, 2020. Today's article talks about Microsoft's response to the finding. Basically, they acknowledged that tracking is possible, but said that users can opt in to assist with debugging or opt out to protect their privacy. Microsoft also added that the debugging data that they collect is not used for tracking purposes.

  5. Steem @kralizec:Superworms That Eat Plastic - In this post, the author tells us about a type of work known as a Superworm or King worm that is capable of surviving on a diet of polystyrene. At present, humans produce approximately 360 million tons of plastic, and much of it winds up in particles of microplastic that are less than 5mm in diameter - so small that some can only be seen through a microscope. Because these particles are too small to be recycled reliably, there are concerns about their accumulation throughout the environment. This is further complicated because all efforts to date at creating biodegradable plastics have been unsuccessful. This species of worm beings hope, however, because nature has already made it suitable for digesting plastic through the use of bacteria in its digestive system. In fact, "The Superworm itself is capable of getting rid of four times more polystyrene than the larvae of the Mealworm." The next step for researchers is to try to harness the bacteria directly for plastic disposal. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @kralizec.)

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