The ‘plant messiah’ on what it takes to save the world’s rarest species

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A fifth of all the world’s plants are in danger of extinction, and Carlos Magdalena is traveling the world to save them. Magdalena, a botanical horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is popularly known as the “plant messiah.” He’s gone to countries like Australia, Peru, and Mauritius to find the world’s endangered species and learn how to cultivate them before they go extinct.

Magdalena’s memoir, aptly titled The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World’s Rarest Species, will be out from Doubleday on April 10. The Verge spoke to Magdalena about the importance of plant conservation, why he considers himself a “codebreaker,” and what it takes to save the plants.

The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for…

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Fetch launches world’s first autonomous AI smart ledger

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Fetch.AI has announced the launch of what it claims is the world’s first adaptive, self-organising smart ledger technology for decentralised transactions.

Fetch is described as a next-generation protocol that enables autonomous economic agents (AEAs) to perform proactive economic activities. The technology allows AIs on both sides of an economic transaction to interface with each other, said the company in an announcement today.

In other words, the system enables AIs to buy and sell digital assets autonomously, from or to another AI, with contracts, payments, and execution all handled automatically.

The company says that corporations can interface their closed, internal networks with the Fetch network without exposing their proprietary IP.

According to the company, Fetch’s distributed ledger system also generates tokens that can be exchanged for utility value on the network, which provides an incentive for operating a node. In this sense, the system includes concepts ported over from cryptocurrency mining.

So how does it all work?

Removing the blocks from the chain

Fetch combines artificial intelligence, machine learning, and distributed ledger technologies to deliver what the company describes as a self-organising framework.

The underlying smart ledger combines elements of blockchain and directed acyclic graph technologies with built-in AI, a consensus mechanism, and a data architecture that “can support millions of agents transacting together”.

Together, the technologies can scale to millions of transactions per second at near zero cost, claimed the company today.

The new consensus mechanism is called Useful Proof of Work. Unlike traditional blockchains, the Proof of Work computations needed to secure the network aren’t abstract, according to Fetch. Instead, they are “redeployed to perform the machine learning tasks that give the ledger its intelligence”.

Using this new system, developers can build autonomous agents that might act on consumers’ or companies’ behalf, and which can be designed to address “almost any task”.

Who’s onboard?

Founded in 2016 and operating in stealth mode until today, the Fetch team includes original pioneers from DeepMind, the AI company subsequently acquired by Google, as well as economics and cybersecurity professors from Cambridge and Sheffield universities.

CTO Toby Simpson – who was part of the initial DeepMind team – said, “Autonomous economic agents are set to revolutionise commerce. They’re digital entities that can transact independently of human intervention and can represent people, machines, or themselves.

“Imagine a world that connects anything to anything, and everything to everything, where data, services, and information get up on their own two feet and deliver themselves with incredible precision.

“The Fetch digital world acts as the ultimate value exchange dating agency: each AI agent sees a space optimised in real time just for them, where the important things are right there.

“Autonomous agents can work together, or alone, to build solutions to complex problems by joining a disparate array of potentially useful data and services into one seamless experience.” 

Economic inefficiency

According to co-founder and CEO Humayun Sheikh – who was a founding investor in DeepMind – this radical approach is necessary to address what he called the “inefficiency inherent in today’s economy”.

“Today’s centralised systems and marketplaces result in silos and there isn’t a means to enable complex economic activity,” he said.

“For the first time, Fetch delivers a self-organising digital world that enables the discoverability of data for decision-making, the trading of excess capacity, energy, and computation, or the storage, transfer, and transportation of digital or physical assets.

“When you have  a decentralised collective intelligence and AI operating in the right environment, which our open network provides, an autonomous system like Fetch can solve problems before they even arise.”

The company provides a number of working examples. In the travel sector, Fetch says it is working to reduce the burden of planning complex journeys by using expert autonomous agents to organise trips, predict missed connections, and dynamically reroute journeys, rearrange travel plans, and rebook reservations without intervention.

In the energy sector, Fetch said it is working to deliver the most effective energy solutions to households without the friction of switching suppliers, potentially analysing each appliance’s unique energy demands.

And in the supply chain, Fetch says it is working to help the trillion-dollar steel sector to self-manage and optimise its supply chain “autonomously and collaboratively”, from raw material to finished product, including stock management, transport, financing, and insurance.

Jamie Burke, CEO of VC firm Outlier Ventures explained why he has been backing Fetch since 2016: “For the first time we can genuinely say we have not smart contracts, but instead a smart ledger.

“To date, blockchains haven’t been capable of even rudimentary intelligence and anyone wanting to use today’s dumb ledgers for anything complex, dynamic or predictive has been left severely wanting.” 

Fetch plans to provide code on GitHub and announce a range of corporate partnerships over the coming months. Fetch will be providing a comprehensive SDK allowing the development of agents in languages such as C++ and Python, as well as a set of frameworks to allow Web developers to design, configure, and author agents.

Internet of Business says

A fascinating and innovative technology, developed by an impressive team. It’s early days in this new launch, of course, and we plan to bring you deeper analysis and an interview with the Fetch team shortly.

In the meantime, questions must arise around transparency, antitrust concerns, distributed resources, and the risk of such a system automating unorthodox activities. We hope to bring you answers to those questions soon. CM

Read more: Fintech firm launches blockchain platform for legal contracts

Read more: Blockchain: Lose the block and chain to be useful, Capacilon MD | Q&A

Read more: Blockchain: “not solution to 90 percent of problems”, warns expert

Read more: IoT 101: How blockchain transforms manufacturing, supply chains

Read more: Bitcoin blockchain contains porn, say researchers. Not news, say coders

The post Fetch launches world’s first autonomous AI smart ledger appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact give you the World’s Best Battery Performance of the Leading Premium Smartphones*

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Here at Sony we know you don’t just use your Xperia for calls, it’s all about entertainment on the move, keeping up-to-date with the latest news and scouring social media. This means you need a device that keeps you going throughout the day.

Well now you don’t have to worry as our new Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact have been certified as having the best battery performance of the leading premium smartphones* – the result of increased battery capacity and improved power consumption & energy efficiency, with the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 845 Mobile Platform.So whether you’re in the market for a new phone or just looking to treat yourself, pre-order the new Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact here.

*Based on the results of battery performance testing Sony’s Xperia XZ2 and Sony’s Xperia XZ2 Compact, Apple iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9, LG G6, Huawei P10 and Oppo R11 (being the “Leading Premium Smartphones” as defined by Strategy Analytics as top selling smartphones globally). Research was conducted by Strategy Analytics from 15th – 20th February and 20th – 21st March 2018. For more information, go to: www.sonymobile.com/testresults/

The post Xperia XZ2 and XZ2 Compact give you the World’s Best Battery Performance of the Leading Premium Smartphones* appeared first on Sony Xperia Blog.

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Clean Air Is Now a Status Symbol in the World’s Most Polluted Cities

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The Cordis hotel in Shanghai boasts proximity to railways and the airport, a beautiful pool, and double-filtered air. Indeed, air quality seems to be a selling point for this luxury hotel — each of its 396 rooms is equipped with a pollution monitor, The Guardian reports.

Breathing clean air is the new cool in super-polluted cities such as Shanghai, Beijing or Delhi. And it’s just another way that the rich can afford to distinguish themselves from the poor, who are forced to constantly choke on sickening, polluted air.

In 2014, the WHO quantified the effects of toxic air. It is, in short, thought to cause around 7 million premature deaths per year and is responsible for an array of medical conditions including lung cancer and heart attacks.

Governments have tried to downplay the issue. But Asia’s megacities, the pollution crisis became too severe to ignore — the Chinese government was forced to take action or risk undermining its popularity among families worried for their children’s health.

Putting a literal price on clean air might not have been part of the plan, but it seems to be a natural result; the private sector has jumped on the opportunity to make a profit in the face of crisis. From expensive schools in Delhi, attended by the children of the local elite or of rich expats, to luxury hotels like the Cordis, those who can afford it are making clean air a commodity.

“I think back to the days when everyone used to charge for the internet,”  John O’Shea, managing director of the Cordis, told The Guardian. “Now the internet’s like hot water – if you don’t have high speed, fast, easy-access internet for free, then it’s over. The indoor air quality is going to be like that too – if you can’t guarantee your customers much better air quality than the competitors, it’s going to be a fait accompli. It’s already getting that kind of importance.”

In many parts of the world, wealth equals health (or, at least, gives you much more access to it). Prohibitive healthcare costs mean that, if you’re not wealthy, treating your diabetes or cancer may not be an option.

The pollution divide, too, may soon become the new normal.

Countries will undoubtedly continue efforts to clean up their air, but this will likely happen slowly. In the meantime, people who can’t afford to breathe better air will keep suffering from asthma, lung cancer and heart conditions.

The post Clean Air Is Now a Status Symbol in the World’s Most Polluted Cities appeared first on Futurism.

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Waymo and Jaguar announce world’s first premium electric self-driving SUV

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At a press conference today in New York, Waymo CEO John Krafcik announced the world’s first premium electric self-driving car. The first collaboration of a planned long-term partnership with British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover, the Jaguar I-PACE will form part of Waymo’s autonomous car fleet in 2020 after testing begins later this year.

Krafcik started by talking about different use cases for its self-driving cars, and how they can improve people’s lives.

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ExaDrive DC100 Is The World’s Largest 3.5-Inch SSD With 100TB Capacity

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SSD capacities are continuing to grow and we now have a new king in that regard, with the world’s largest SSD now clocking in at an amazing 100TB. Here are the details.

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Amazon now world’s second most valuable company after Apple

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Amazon is now the world’s second most valuable company, overtaking Google’s parent Alphabet.

The retail, technology, Web services – and soon delivery – company has added $ 350 billion to its market capitalisation over the past year, according to the FT.

Amazon’s stock market value today stands at $ 766 billion – $ 1 billion more than Alphabet’s, but still a long way behind Apple, whose market capitalisation (the value of all its shares on the market) is currently just over $ 883 billion.

Of course, all of that may change tomorrow, but the news has helped restore some of Wall Street’s faith in technology stocks in the wake of the scandal over Facebook data being used by Cambridge Analytica to micro-target US voters.

• While AI and analytics provider Cambridge Analytica might claim that is was simply providing a form of rarefied psychometric profiling to its high-spending clients, Channel 4 reports this week have revealed an underlying political motivation across all of its actions.

Read more: Cambridge Analytica vs Facebook: Why AI laws are inadequate

Facebook, Twitter, and other social platform providers have all been hit by the controversy, although Twitter saw an even higher slump in value than Facebook.

As a data-focused and advertising-driven organisation at heart, Google/Alphabet has not been not immune from the social sell off: its stocks declined in value by 3.5 percent this week.

But why is all this important?

Internet of Business says

Although short term and inconclusive in themselves, these stock movements indicate that companies that provide a quantifiable service beyond connecting people are currently more valuable, and investors see greater long-term value in them.

Amazon’s diversification into the Internet of Things, smart home devices, connected technology, automated distribution, and even delivery services suggest that it is the king in waiting, matched only by Alibaba in China, perhaps – in these value terms at least.

Read more: Amazon takes on UPS and FedEx – and catches Theresa May’s eye

Read more: Alexa for Business: Amazon’s voice getting louder in enterprise, it claims

The world’s most valuable company, Apple, also lives in a technological walled garden, but its premium hardware and ecosystem of lifestyle products and apps mean that it has limited room for manoeuvre into services that are all about end-user convenience, cost-savings, and speed. This is where Amazon can play.

Much of what Apple does may be beautifully designed – iTunes aside – but it can never pile hardware high and sell it cheap to encourage its customers into a data- and loyalty-based retail relationship, as Amazon can.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that being the world’s most valuable company is not the same as being the world’s biggest company by revenue. By this measure, only Apple makes the top 10 out of all the tech giants.

By revenue, another company easily dominates: US retail giant Walmart, with revenues of $ 485 billion, followed by three Chinese companies: State Grid ($ 315 billion), oil and gas giant Sinopec ($ 267.5 billion), and China Natural Petroleum ($ 262.6 billion). Toyota and Volkswagen make up the rest of the top five, in a top 10 that is dominated by oil and energy providers.

Apple languishes at number nine, with revenues of $ 215.6 billion – $ 10 billion more than Exxon Mobil, but only one-quarter of its world-leading market cap.

This disparity between one measure of Apple’s size in the real-world (its revenue) and its perceived value (market capitalisation) is interesting. And the same applies to all technology companies.

That the top 10 largest companies in the world is a completely different list to the top 10 most valuable companies reveals something simple: the former is a list dominated by old economy giants, and the latter by new economy behemoths. Bricks versus clicks; commodities versus bits.

This should serve as a reminder that while technology stocks may be investors’ darlings, and while data is often described as “the new oil”, the old oil still dominates the world of real-world money exchange.

(Of course, news that Volkswagen is refocusing its entire business on electric vehicles represents a culture shift away from oil, but energy generation remains the bit of the old economy that technology can’t exist without.)

News that Walmart is taking out a number of patents in robotics technology – in agriculture and other areas – should make Amazon sit up and take notice, therefore. As should news that Walmart is moving into deliveries and planning to vertically integrate many aspects of its business.

Walmart the new technology giant? Don’t bet your shirt against it uniting the old and new worlds.

Read more: Bee smart: Walmart files patents on automating agriculture

Read more: Walmart testing autonomous shelf-scanning robots

Read more: DHL US trials robots, AI, AR & crowdsourcing to beat Amazon

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Bitcoin Will Become World’s Single Currency Within 10 Years, Says Twitter CEO

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Speaking of the current cryptocurrency king, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey said that he believes Bitcoin will become the world’s single currency within the next ten years.

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Nimbus Data unveils the world’s largest SSD: 100TB of flash storage

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The world’s largest SSD comes in a surprisingly casual package – Nimbus Data’s ExaDrive DC100, a 100TB solid state drive, is packed up in a familiar 3.5″ SATA drive form factor. The focus of this drive is efficiency, not speed. It is power efficient (0.1W/TB) and space efficient too. Nimbus says that data centers can reduce their spending for electricity, cooling and rack space by 85%, compared to other large SSDs (like Samsung’s 30.72TB SSD). Nimbus estimates that the total cost (drive and all) over a 5-year period will be 42% less per terabyte compared to such drives. The drive…

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World’s largest SSD capacity now stands at 100TB

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That didn't take long — just a month after Samsung released a record-setting 30TB SSD, a rival has claimed the throne. Nimbus Data has unveiled the ExaDrive DC100, which crams 100TB of 3D flash memory into a standard 3.5-inch SATA form factor. For c…
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