Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 2, 2020

in rsslog •  2 months ago 

Japan is building a 60 foot tall humanoid gundam robot; An argument that it's important for AI designers to exhibit responsibility and transparency and to understand its proper uses; New attempts at extortion with data from the 2015 Ashley Madison data dump; Harvard's chemistry department chair has been arrested on financial charges; and a Steem essay reports that Avast is shutting down its data sales and argues for more privacy protections


Fresh and Informative Content Daily: Welcome to my little corner of the blockchain

Straight from my RSS feed
Whatever gets my attention

Links and micro-summaries from my 1000+ daily headlines. I filter them so you don't have to.

First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.

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  1. Japan Is Building a Giant Gundam Robot That Can Walk - A science fiction staple, Gundam robots "are bipedal humanoid robots controlled by a human who rides inside of them". Now, the Gundam Factory Yokohama is working on building a giant-sized Gundam robot that will be 18 meters (59 feet) in height and will weigh 25 tons. The plan is for the robot to have 24 degrees of freedom and to achieve gundam like motion through a combination of electronic and hydrolic actuators. Current plans also call for the robot to be open to the public by October, although the article notes that this is an ambitious target.

    Here is a simulation of the machine:



    And here is a 1/30 scale model of the robot and a docking facility that will also be built:


    And from the same site, here is the IEEE Spectrum's weekly selection of awesome robot videos, Video Friday: How Robots Are Helping to Fight the Coronavirus Outbreak. I'll probably watch some of those videos for tomorrow's links.


  2. AI Isn’t a Solution to All Our Problems - This article argues that the gradual insertion and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) shows that it is useful and destined to be a lasting component of our technology landscape, but that like any tool, it is not a cure-all, but instead has good and bad uses. In particular, the article notes that AI provides solutions to many common problems, but it also incorporates the values of its builders and the people who supply its data. By reflecting their creators and their users, the article suggests that AI systems necessarily mimic the flaws and imperfections that exist in humans. The article goes on to list numerous examples where AIs that were devised to solve problems wound up favoring one group and disadvantaging others. To solve the problem of irrational exuberance with regards to AI's potential, the authors suggest that AI systems need to be built responsibly, and with understanding of where it can be applied. Additionally, the authors suggest that AI systems must come with transparency. -h/t Communications of the ACM: Artificial Intelligence

  3. Dear Ashley Madison user. I know everything about you. Pay up or else. - With the tag-line, "Life is short. Have an affair.", the Ashley Madison web site is a place for married people to connect in extra-marrital relationships. In August of 2015, during a highly publicized cyber-intrusion, personal details for about 32 million Ashley Madison subscribers were dumped onto the Internet. Now, 4 1/2 years later, a hacking group has apparently resurrected an extortion scam that makes use of that leaked data. In a post on Friday, Vade Security reported that they detected a new email campaign a few weeks ago that is exploiting the 2015 data leak. The email from the extortionists provides personal details about the target, and a password protected PDF file that includes a price and BTC address to keep those details private - about $900 in bitcoin. A similar extortion campaign was launched just days after the 2015 breach and was followed by reports of at least two suicides. As the article and the post from Vade Security both point out, this illustrates the permanent nature of Internet data leaks. Despite the 2015 leak, external audits reveal that Ashley Madison grew by more than 400,000 users per month in 2018.

  4. A Harvard super chemist has been arrested over lying about secret China payments - Harvard chemistry department chair, Charles Lieber, was arrested Tuesday on charges arising from payments associated with the Thousand Talents Program, which is an effort by the Chinese to attract top researchers and scientists. According to charging documents from the FBI and DoJ, Lieber accepted more than $15 million in payments from the National Institutes for Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DoD) without disclosing that he was also receiving payments from a foreign source. According to the DoJ, the charges come as part of a crackdown on intellectual property theft by China. The DoJ alleges that Lieber received funding of up to $50,000 per month, plus expenses of more than $150,000, starting in 2011 when he was contracted to set up a lab at the Wuhan University of Technology. Lieber was the top cited chemist between 2000 and 2010 due to his description of a neural lace. which is the inspiration behind Elon Musk's company, Neuralink. The DoJ investigation is still ongoing, with the NY Times reporting that there are hundreds of open cases. Harvard reports that Lieber has been placed on indefinite leave and the university is cooperating with investigators.

  5. STEEM Avast Shuts Down its Data Sales Subsidiary Due to Privacy Backlash - An Avast subsidiary, Jumpshot, was recently caught repackaging and selling data from Avast's freemium security software. The outrage from users was instant, and in a matter of days, Avast's CEO announced that they were shutting down Jumpshot. In this post, @mrosenquist suggests that this sequence of events should lead us to suspect that, because of the difficulty of raising revenue under a Freemium model, other Freemium companies may be doing the same thing with their own users' data. The author goes on to propose that the security and privacy industry should organize formal inspections of Freemium software products. Arguing that Europe's GPDR and California's CCPA make a good, but insufficient start, the post also suggests that users should have an easy and obvious way to be informed about and opt out of such collection. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @mrosenquist.)


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