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Travis Kalanick says Alphabet’s CEO was upset Uber was poaching self-driving talent

Kalanick and Larry Page: It’s complicated.

If former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s strategy was to be restrained and compliant on the first day of his testimony in Alphabet’s lawsuit against Uber, then the strategy on the second day was to play the chump.

Kalanick, who took the witness stand for the second time on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, has fielded much of the attention from Alphabet’s legal team. Alphabet is eager to convince the jury that the overly ambitious, often-competitive Kalanick worked with a former engineer, Anthony Levandowski, to bring over trade secrets from the company’s self-driving arm, Waymo.

Alphabet is suing Uber for allegedly conspiring with Levandowski to bring over self-driving trade secrets from Waymo to Uber to help accelerate Uber’s slow-to-develop autonomous efforts. The company filed the lawsuit after discovering Levandowski downloaded 14,000 files before leaving Waymo to start a self-driving trucking startup, Otto, which Uber later acquired.

Uber calls the lawsuit baseless and says no files ever made it to the company.

While Waymo works hard to point the finger at Kalanick specifically, saying his winner-take-all attitude fueled a burning desire to beat Google at all costs, Uber, on the other hand, is keen on painting Kalanick as an executive passionate about solving transportation problems, especially those related to self-driving.

“When we first got started, imagine like six people being around a table and that’s your whole team,” Kalanick said when Uber attorneys asked what it was like to be the CEO of Uber. “Day in and day out you just dream what Uber could be. But as it grew you just have this huge thing. 15,000 people in basically every city in the world. Your job goes from being the team of six in the trenches … to empowering literally thousands of teams of six.”

Kalanick, as he testified, was not the rapacious executive Waymo portrayed. Quite the contrary, he said. His was a story of betrayal on a number of fronts. He was betrayed by Alphabet CEO Larry Page and, eventually, by Levandowski, who he called “a brother from another mother.”

According to Kalanick, when it came to Alphabet — which is an investor in Uber — he was the slighted younger brother eager to work with his “big brothers,” Alphabet CEO Larry Page and chief legal counsel David Drummond.

Drummond served on Uber’s board before he stepped down over a conflict of interest in August 2016.

Kalanick says he wanted badly to work with Alphabet and Page on self-driving cars. Email evidence presented at the trial, indeed, shows Kalanick attempting to contact Page and set up a meeting with him about rumors he heard that Alphabet would be operating a competing ride-share service instead of working with Uber.

An email from Travis Kalanick to David Drummond about rumors he heard.

In fact, Kalanick testifies, it was Page, not him, whose decisions were fueled by a competitive nature. After making multiple attempts to work on a self-driving ride-hail network with Alphabet, Kalanick and Uber acquired a team of engineers from Carnegie Mellon University to start their own driverless efforts in 2015.

Page, Kalanick said, was “super unpumped” about that.

“Larry made it clear he was upset we were doing autonomy,” Kalanick said.

“Larry was upset we were doing his thing,” Kalanick also said.

That’s why Kalanick said he thought there was a possibility Alphabet might sue Uber over its acquisition of Otto, co-founded by a number of Waymo engineers, including Levandowski.

Page was “upset” Uber was poaching Alphabet engineers, Kalanick explained.

A big part of Uber’s strategy is to convince the jury that Waymo and Alphabet were upset Levandowski left and were also concerned over losing ground in the self-driving race to Uber. That, Uber is claiming, is really why they sued Uber — it wasn’t about files, it was about talent and competition.

“He kept saying, ‘You’re taking our people and you’re taking our IP,’” Kalanick tesified.

That raises an important question that will likely come up time and again as the trial continues: How do you ensure people are not bringing the ideas or intellectual property that they have in their head from their former employer to their current employer?

According to Kalanick, he conceded he was in fact recruiting Alphabet engineers, but said “people are not IP.”

It turns out Levandowski had a similar concern. As part of his agreement to sell his company to Uber, he and his co-founder Lior Ron required that Uber protect them against any litigation that came out of “bad acts” committed or other issues before the deal occurred.

But Kalanick says he had little knowledge of what either the acquisition agreement or the indemnification agreement said. After all, he was the busy executive of a 15,000-person company with little time to read through documents like the agreement to acquire Otto and the accompanying agreement to protect Levandowski and his team from any lawsuits.

That he didn’t read through important documents pertaining to a transaction that was valued at around $ 590 million is an odd admission to make under oath. Especially since, as Waymo’s attorney pointed out, Kalanick signed both those documents.

Kalanick said he trusted his legal team to handle the formal matters related to acquiring Otto. But, that’s not to say he didn’t deliver his own warning to Levandowski. According to a due diligence report cybersecurity firm Stroz Friedberg put together on Otto before Uber acquired it, Kalanick told Levandowski he didn’t want any information to get to Uber. Levandowski said he had discs with Waymo information on it, the report says, and Kalanick told him to destroy the discs.

Uber contends none of those files made it to Uber and eventually fired Levandowski for not cooperating with the suit a few months after Waymo filed it.

When asked how he felt about Levandowski now, Kalanick said: “Look, this has been a difficult process … This makes it not as great as what we thought it was at the beginning.”

Recode – All

Synthetic Rhino Horns Are Being Created to Flood Markets and Eradicate Poaching

Cheating the Black Market

Since 2007, instances of rhino poaching in South Africa have increased by 9,000 percent, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The non-profit conservation group Save the Rhino estimates that 1,054 of the animals were illegally killed in 2016. To battle this horrifying trend, biotech startup Pembient hopes to undermine black market sales by creating synthetic rhino horns that are practically indistinguishable from real horns, down to the molecular level.

Image credit: Eric Kilby/Flickr
Image credit: Eric Kilby/Flickr

Pembient CEO and co-founder Matthew Markus thinks flooding the market with these synthetic rhino horns will be more effective than simply trying to stop rhino poaching.

“If you cordon rhino horn off, you create this prohibition mindset,” he told Business Insider. “And that engenders crime, corruption, and everything else that comes with a black market.” He hopes that by increasing the overall supply of horns, his company’s synthetic horns will lower the incentive for poachers to kill rhinos for real ones.

Unintended Effect

In part, rhino horns are popular thanks to their perceived medical benefits. Practitioners of traditional Asian medicine use powdered rhino horn for everything from hangover cures to cancer treatments. However, rhino horns are composed primarily of keratin, the same substance that makes up the hair on your head. A tea made from the clippings found on the floor of your local barbershop likely has the same healing properties as one of these horns.

Despite the lack of evidence that rhino horns live up to the medicinal hype, however, they are still in demand, and while conservation groups acknowledge Pembient’s good intentions, some fear the startup’s plans to produce synthetic rhino horns may inadvertently drive up the price of genuine rhino horns, making them even more desirable as a luxury item.

“On paper, the idea of flooding the market with ‘easy access’ horns in order to reduce demand is a good one,” Sophie Stafford, Communications Manager for Rhino Conservation Botswana (RCB), told Futurism. Unfortunately, it may not work so well in practice.

“While it may well have a short-term impact on a proportion of the consuming public, we know that discerning buyers in China and Vietnam are having rhino horn DNA tested,” said Stafford. “There will always be some people who will buy untested products, but demand for the ‘genuine article’ will drive up the price of authentic rhino horn.”

Furthermore, Stafford said the market is just too large: “Even if just one percent of the human population of east Asia wants real rhino horn and can afford it, that’s still more than 10 million people consuming rhino horn. That’s enough to drive rhinos to extinction.”

The dire circumstances of rhino conservation have led to solutions with serious ethical complications — some conservationists have even taken to poisoning rhino horns to make any humans who ingest the horns sick.

Even if such a drastic solution was effective, it would only deter the portion of the illegal market using the horns in medicine. It would do nothing to quell the continued sale of rhino horns for use as status symbols, either displayed whole or made into ornate artifacts and jewelry.

Conservationists are embracing the advent of new technologies to help them more effectively preserve these at-risk animals. Some are embedding rhino horns with cameras and GPS implants to deter or catch poachers. A more lofty venture will place robotic rhinos within herds to protect the population.

Any potentially helpful technologies that make it easier to protect rhinos from poachers should be considered. Still, conservationists will also want to make sure that any proposed changes do not have unintended consequences that will embolden these deplorable markets.

The post Synthetic Rhino Horns Are Being Created to Flood Markets and Eradicate Poaching appeared first on Futurism.


London Zoo turns to IoT to tackle global poaching menace

London Zoo turns to IoT to tackle global poaching menace

Non-profit tech organisation Digital Catapult has announced it is working with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), keepers of London Zoo, to develop next-generation, IoT-enabled anti-poaching technology.

Through Digital Catapult, ZSL has engaged with UK-based technology companies to develop new components with a view to building a sensor and satellite network that conservationists will use to monitor wildlife and deal with poachers both on land and at sea in some of the world’s most remote national parks.

As part of the project, Digital Catapult has installed an LPWAN [low-power, wide area network] base station at ZSL’s headquarters at ZSL London Zoo. Here, prototypes will tested and validated.

This base station extends the UK capital’s growing LPWAN network, Things Connected, which is available for the UK’s tech entrepreneurs and developers to test IoT innovations in the real world.

London Zoo penguins brush up on their IoT skills
London Zoo penguins brush up on their IoT skills

Animals at risk

Poaching is one of the most serious issues facing wildlife worldwide.  Up to 35,000 African elephants were killed by poachers last year, while black rhino and mountain gorilla populations continue to suffer, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.

Digital Catapult and ZSL believe that IoT technologies have the potential to play a key role in beating the poachers, by enabling sensors to communicate with each other reliably over long distances, using very little power.

These connected sensors will be able to detect human activity close to wildlife populations, raising real-time alerts for conservationists monitoring the area.

“We’re devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats, and this LPWAN network will add an additional technological edge to our work,” said Sophie Maxwell, conservation technology lead at ZSL. “The Internet of Things has exciting potential to make wildlife conservation more efficient than ever before and we’re pleased to see Digital Catapult provide the support to make this happen.”

Read more: IoT, drones could save rhinos from poaching in South Africa

Things Connected

Things Connected, meanwhile, aims to establish the UK as a pioneer of LPWAN technology, with the instalment of some 50 base stations across London. This network, claims Digital Catapult, will offer a free testbed to organizations developing IoT solutions, streamlining prototyping and enabling them to bring products and services to market faster.

“Connectivity is critical today – for tackling threats such as poaching, but also for developing next-generation solutions across sectors. The greater connectivity provided by this base station deployment will aid other organizations that want to bring IoT solutions to market, enabling the UK to further capitalize on a multi-billion-pound industry,” said Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult.

Read more: Ocean Alliance deploys drones to gather whale data

The post London Zoo turns to IoT to tackle global poaching menace appeared first on Internet of Business.

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