Ungrateful Google Plebes Somehow Not Excited to Work on Military Industrial Complex Death Machines

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“Don’t Be Evil” has been one of Google’s corporate maxims for over 15 years. But it’s recent dealings with the Department of Defense has put that ideal on ice. For some reason, Google’s workers aren’t psyched about this!

Over three thousand Google employees signed a recent public letter demanding CEO Sundar Pichai shut down Project Maven — a Department of Defense contract to create a “customized AI surveillance engine” — and publicize a clear policy that “neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.”

The letter’s got some pretty direct language, calling the company out on its loss of the aforementioned core value: “Google’s unique history, its motto Don’t Be Evil, and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart.” The commoditization of people’s personal data (ergo, their psyches) not withstanding, obviously.

Gizmodo reported on Project Maven earlier last month, when they described it as “using machine learning to identify vehicles and other objects in drone footage, taking that burden off analysts.” Google and the Pentagon fired back, stating that the technology wouldn’t be used to create an autonomous weapons system that can identify targets and fire without a human squeezing the trigger.

CEO Pichai spun the letter and public exchange with the company as “hugely important and beneficial” in a statement to the New York Times, but of course, didn’t refer to any plans to throw the brakes on the project. Pichai’s statement went on to say that the tech used by the Pentagon is available to “any Google Cloud customer” and reserved specifically for “non-offensive purposes.”

Thing is, Google’s far from the only tech industry player in cahoots with the military. Red flags immediately went up when news broke that a team of researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) was partnering up with weapons company Hanwha Systems — a company that produces cluster bombs, not exactly a popular form of warfare, as far as these things go. Fifty researchers from thirty countries called for an immediate boycott of the Korean institute.

Microsoft and Amazon both signed multi billion dollar contracts with the Department of Defense to develop cloud services. Credit where it’s due: At least the DOD isn’t trying to spin this as anything other than death machine-making. Defense Department chief management officer John Gibson didn’t beat around the bush when he said the collaboration was designed in part to “increase lethality and readiness.”

So that’s fun! And if Google’s recent advancements in AI tech faced a similar fate, think: Weaponized autonomous drones, equipped with private data, and a sophisticated AI. Not saying this is exactly how SkyNet starts, but, this is basically how SkyNet starts.

The counter to this argument, insomuch as there is one, is that these technological developments lead to better data, and better data leads to better object identification technology, which could also lead to more precise offensives, which could lead (theoretically) to less civilian casualties, or at least (again, theoretically) increased accountability on the part of the military (analog: the calculator should make it exponentially more difficult to get numbers “wrong” on your taxes, so the automated hyper-targeted death robots should make it exponentially more difficult to “accidentally” murder a school full of children).

All of which should go without saying that collaboration between the Department of Defense and various Silicon Valley tech companies is a dangerous game, and we have seen how quickly the balance can tilt in one direction. Having informed tech employees call out their CEOs publicly could hopefully lead to tech companies choosing their military contracts more carefully, or at least, more light being shed on who’s making what technologies, or rather, what technologies Silicon Valley coders are unknowingly working on.

More likely is that it just results in these companies being more discreet about the gobstoppingly shady (but profitable!) death machine work they’re doing. Good thing — like the rest of the world with a brain in their heads — we’re all ears.

The post Ungrateful Google Plebes Somehow Not Excited to Work on Military Industrial Complex Death Machines appeared first on Futurism.


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Tim Cook pays tribute to MLK 50 years after his death

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Tim Cook visited his home state of Alabama this week, and paid homage to American Baptist minister and activist Martin Luther King Jr. on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Cook also met with a group of Birmingham, AL high school and college students, and talked about the importance of the civil rights struggle, the […]

(via Cult of Mac – Tech and culture through an Apple lens)

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Death Count from Hurricane Maria Was Way Off. That Might Slow Puerto Rico’s Recovery.

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64. That was the official death count shortly after Hurricane Maria struck, devastating Puerto Rico just over six months ago.

But demographer Alexis Raul Santos found evidence for hundreds more that officials had missed. To be exact, 1,085 more deaths. That they didn’t count. And that’s just from September and October alone.

That’s a huge oversight that’s not only disrespectful to Puerto Ricans — it slow recovery from future events even worse by inhibiting governments and engineers from planning for them, according to a new study. 

Let’s go back to what happened with the death count numbers. It seems as though officials counted only people who died directly as a result of the high winds and immediate destruction caused by the storm, according to the New York Times. And while that might have indicated to Trump that his administration had handled the disaster well, it didn’t hold up to further assessment.

In a previous study, Santos, the director of the graduate program in applied demography at Penn State University, and his team looked at the relative amount of deaths in post-storm 2017 as compared to previous years.  found a 45 percent rise in deaths that occurred in nursing homes compared to 2016, and a similar 41 percent rise in emergency room deaths. The researchers also examined specific causes of death, noting a 47 percent rise in sepsis-related deaths in September 2017 compared to September 2016.

“This is not a vanity exercise,” Santos told the New York Times in December, when Puerto Rico ordered a review of the death count. “Effective assessment of climate disasters is the only way we can prevent loss of life in future events.”

That was the subject of Santos’ most recent study, published Monday in the journal Health Affairs. In it, Santos argued that statistics may be the best weapon for residents of the island, especially when facing the federal government’s slow and inadequate disaster relief effort.

Underestimating the damage and death toll caused by a storm like Maria will not only reduce the relief response — the amount of resources, the number of people shipped out to help — but it will also mean that people might not adequately prepare for future storms.

“There are a lot of things that can go wrong if you aren’t carefully gathering and analyzing data, particularly in your ability to convey the devastation of, in this case, an environmental disaster,” said Santos. He believes that underreporting damage caused by a storm may cause those who are in a position to help, such as politicians and other officials, to lose interest.

That kind of information is especially important when you consider that Puerto Rico doesn’t have the easiest time getting interest from those in power in the first place. Because Puerto Rico is a territory, its residents have fewer rights than Americans that live in the 50 states, like not being able to vote in presidential elections.

“Statistics are the only real voice Puerto Ricans have,” Santos said in a press release. “They don’t have votes. They can’t vote for a member of Congress, or the president of the United States. Their political power is diminished, so the only way you can create an effective strategy is to use data as your main tool for discussion.”

Santo hopes that his efforts to collect and improve data that reveal the reality of life on the island will speak for itself, giving the citizens who are still affected by Hurricane Maria (yes, still) the political power they may otherwise lack.

The post Death Count from Hurricane Maria Was Way Off. That Might Slow Puerto Rico’s Recovery. appeared first on Futurism.


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Instagram nixes native Apple Watch app, citing death of watchOS 1 SDK

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With its latest iOS update, Facebook’s Instagram has also killed its native Apple Watch app, once used to showcase the first-generation Watch that launched in 2015.
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SMG Studio’s co-op puzzle game ‘Death Squared’ is out

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SMG Studio’s Death Squared made the rounds for consoles and PC back in the beginning of 2017, and it was well received. Today it has released on the Play Store, which means Android users can finally see what all the fuss was about. There is no doubt that this is a well thought-out puzzle game that includes both a single-player and co-op experience for its main campaign, but the question remains, is it a good port?

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SMG Studio’s co-op puzzle game ‘Death Squared’ is out was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Arizona Bans Uber’s Autonomous Vehicles Following Pedestrian Death

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Uber’s autonomous vehicles are no longer welcome in Arizona.

That’s according to the state’s governor Doug Ducey.

Around 10 PM on March 18, one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles struck a woman as she crossed a road in Tempe, Arizona. She later died from her injuries at a local hospital. This was the first time an AV caused a pedestrian fatality.

Yesterday, Ducey sent a letter to Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi responding to the incident:

As governor, my top priority is public safety. Improving public safety has always been the emphasis of Arizona’s approach to autonomous vehicle testing, and my expectation is that public safety is also the top priority for all who operate this technology in the state of Arizona. The incident that took place on March 18 is an unquestionable failure to comply with this expectation…

In the best interests of the people of my state, I have directed the Arizona Department of Transportation to suspend Uber’s ability to test and operate autonomous vehicles on Arizona’s public roadways.

Immediately following the crash, Uber suspended all autonomous vehicle testing nationwide.

The Technologies That Power Self-Driving Cars [INFOGRAPHIC]
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But what’s remarkable is that Ducey restricted the penalty to the one company responsible: Uber. Waymo, General Motors, Mobileye, and various other AV manufacturers are also testing in the state; in the wake of the pedestrian death, Ducey could have chosen to ban all AV testing outright. Instead, he chose to allow  to continue their testing in the state.

In fact, the other companies still allowed soon be able to take those test to the next level. Less than three weeks before the Uber incident, Ducey signed an executive order giving companies permission to test their AVs without a human driver behind the wheel.

It’s still possible that other states will suspend Uber, or other AV testing. But so far, fears that the incident would hinder the maturation of autonomous vehicle technology seem to be unfounded.

The post Arizona Bans Uber’s Autonomous Vehicles Following Pedestrian Death appeared first on Futurism.


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Cute Co-Op Puzzler ‘Death Squared’ Is Launching on Android This Week, Alongside a Limited Time $3.99 Sale

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Death Squared [$ 6.99] is a perfect example of how I believe the Switch/Mobile dichotomy can positively affect the App Store. While at its heart a relatively straightforward puzzle caper, Death Squared exuded charm in every detail, and conjured up an impressive Portal-esque feel with its presentation and polish. However, while the game achieved significant success on the Switch, its premium mobile release has proven to be slightly less profitable. Even though its $ 6.99 price point was still a substantial saving on its console brother, Death Squared failed to make a splash when it launched on the App Store in February. In an attempt to reach an even greater audience with their latest creation, developer SMG Studios has announced that an Android version of Death Squared will launch this weekend, which will coincide with a $ 3.99 sale for the title across its mobile platforms.

I’m a huge fan of SMG’s content across all platforms, with the likes of Thumb Drift [Free] and One More Bounce [Free] nailing the compromise between a successful free-to-play monetisation with enticing and substantial gameplay. Death Squared really felt like a huge step up for the studio, and so seeing it not perform as well as the developers may have hoped is disappointing, if somewhat predictable. I really hope that SMG manage to keep up their impressive run of essential App Store titles in the future, even if they take a guise similar to their slightly older releases. The co-op puzzle action of Death Squared is a lot of fun, whether on iPhone, Switch or soon to be Android, and at a $ 3.99 price point I can definitely recommend giving the game a look, especially for anyone lamenting the steady demise of free-to-play mobile games. Check out Death Squared on Android later this week, and let us know your impressions of any version of the title on our forum thread.


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Baidu, Jaguar autonomous cars take to the road despite Uber death

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Jaguar and Baidu continue with self-driving cars tests despite Uber crash

Automotive group Jaguar Land Rover and Chinese technology giant Baidu are continuing with new self-driving car tests this week, despite an autonomous Uber car killing a pedestrian in Arizona last weekend.

Both Uber and Toyota halted driverless car tests in the wake of the Uber accident, with Toyota saying it was concerned about the emotional effect on its safety drivers – comments that were criticised as inappropriate.

Five Baidu cars took to the roads for the first time in Beijing yesterday – just four days after 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg was struck and killed by an Uber Volvo that was travelling autonomously in Tempe, Arizona.

The fatality occurred almost exactly a year after another autonomous Uber Volvo was involved in a three-vehicle collision, also in Tempe Arizona. The accident left that vehicle lying on its side.

Arizona police have released a video of Sunday’s fatal accident, which some experts say shouldn’t have happened, suggesting that the vehicle’s sensors had enough time to detect the pedestrian.

Despite the controversy, Beijing has given the go-ahead for Baidu to test driverless cars on 33 roads – the first time a company has been given permission to conduct open-road tests in the Chinese capital. The experimental programme will be over 65 miles of roads in Beijing’s less-populated suburbs.

“With supportive policies, we believe that Beijing will become a rising hub for the autonomous driving industry,” said Baidu VP Zhao Cheng. “We hope to work with more partners to pave the way for the full development of autonomous driving.”

Meanwhile, the UK’s biggest car manufacturer, Jaguar Land Rover – since 2008 a subsidiary of Indian conglomerate Tata – will continue its own autonomous car tests on roads in the Midlands. Among the new features being trialled this week include an emergency braking warning system, said the company.

The decision to begin new tests so soon after Sunday’s accident may alarm drivers and pedestrians in Beijing and in the Midlands.

However, at least one industry figure has come out strongly in support of the driverless car sector, saying that autonomous vehicles are the solution to the unacceptable road safety record of flesh and blood drivers, with 90 percent of car accidents caused by human error.

Chris Urmson, former CTO of Google’s autonomous vehicle division before co-founding Aurora Innovation, said: “Globally 1.2 million people die on the roads. In the US, it’s somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 people. That’s the equivalent of a 737 crashing every day.

“We wouldn’t accept that in air travel, and yet we do on the roads of America every day, so I think the big picture we have to focus on is that the status quo is not acceptable.

“I’ve been working in this space [driverless vehicles] for about 15 years and from the earliest time it was about saving lives,” he said at the Economist Innovation Summit.

Internet of Business says

Urmson is quite right to contrast the one fatality this year with the many that occur on roads every day throughout the world. Autonomous and connected vehicles may indeed be the solution to that problem.

However, two questions remain: was a catastrophic systems failure responsible for the Uber fatality? And if so, who – if anyone – is responsible for that failure?

This is the challenge inherent in all AI systems, and it is why we should remain concerned. In most road traffic accidents, people tend to be held responsible for their actions. But with driverless systems, what can the law do about it?




The post Baidu, Jaguar autonomous cars take to the road despite Uber death appeared first on Internet of Business.

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‘One Finger Death Punch 2’ will pummel its way into your heart

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At the GDC 2018 Indie Megabooth on Monday, Silver Dollar Games showed off One Finger Death Punch 2, the sequel to its popular 2013 brawler. Fans of the original — and fans of smash-em-ups in general — are not going to be disappointed.
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