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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Jan 2018

Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama AP Images

 

  • A Facebook employee has made a blog post about the company's response to the latest allegations about Russian meddling in Western democracy. 
  • He has admitted that Facebook should have done better. 
  • Another test on social medias role in elections is coming up in March with Italy's national elections.


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc warned on Monday that it could offer no assurance that social media was on balance good for democracy, but the company said it was trying what it could to stop alleged meddling in elections by Russia or anyone else.

The sharing of false or misleading headlines on social media has become a global issue, after accusations that Russia tried to influence votes in the United States, Britain and France. Moscow denies the allegations.

Facebook, the largest social network with more than 2 billion users, addressed social media's role in democracy in blog posts from a Harvard University professor, Cass Sunstein, and from an employee working on the subject.

"I wish I could guarantee that the positives are destined to outweigh the negatives, but I can't," Samidh Chakrabarti, a Facebook product manager, wrote in his post.

Facebook, he added, has a "moral duty to understand how these technologies are being used and what can be done to make communities like Facebook as representative, civil and trustworthy as possible."

Contrite Facebook executives were already fanning out across Europe this week to address the company's slow response to abuses on its platform, such as hate speech and foreign influence campaigns.

U.S. lawmakers have held hearings on the role of social media in elections, and this month Facebook widened an investigation into the run-up to Britain's 2016 referendum on EU membership.

Chakrabarti expressed Facebook's regrets about the 2016 U.S. elections, when according to the company Russian agents created 80,000 posts that reached around 126 million people over two years.

The company should have done better, he wrote, and he said Facebook was making up for lost time by disabling suspect accounts, making election ads visible beyond the targeted audience and requiring those running election ads to confirm their identities.

Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google and YouTube have announced similar attempts at self-regulation.

Chakrabarti said Facebook had helped democracy in ways, such as getting more Americans to register to vote.

Sunstein, a law professor and Facebook consultant who also worked in the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama, said in a blog post that social media was a work in progress and that companies would need to experiment with changes to improve.

Another test of social media's role in elections lies ahead in March, when Italy votes in a national election already marked by claims of fake news spreading on Facebook.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Jan 2018

Britain's Kyle Edmund stunned third seed Grigor Dimitrov to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open.

Edmund was playing in the last eight of a major for the first time but showed few nerves in a 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4 win.

The world number 49 becomes only the sixth British man to reach the last four at a Grand Slam in the Open era.

He will play sixth seed Marin Cilic on Thursday for a place in the final.

"It's an amazing feeling," said Edmund.

"With these sort of things, you're emotionally engaged and you don't take it in. At the end of a hard match, I just tried to enjoy the moment.

"It's my first match on this court and it was very special."

Edmund joins list of British 'idols'

Andy Murray, Greg Rusedski, John Lloyd, Roger Taylor and Tim Henman - who was watching from the front row on Rod Laver Arena - are the only other British men to have reached Grand Slam singles semi-finals since tennis turned professional in 1968.

Edmund has long looked the most likely to join that list, but few would have predicted it would happen at this year's Australian Open.

Ranked 49th and without an ATP final to his name, let alone a title, logic suggested there were several more steps to make before becoming a major contender.

However, the 23-year-old Yorkshireman's huge forehand is already one of the biggest shots in the game, and marked improvements on serve and return in the off-season appear to have fast-tracked him.

"It's great," added Edmund. "You don't think of those things when you play but it's something to be proud of.

"As a kid you're growing up looking at your idols and when you're here progressing in the best tournament in the world, it's amazing."

'I prayed that last ball was out'

Kyle Edmund

Kyle Edmund hit 46 winners to Grigor Dimitrov's 32

Dimitrov, 26, had won a much-anticipated match against Nick Kyrgios to reach the last eight, but his form had been patchy before then and he failed to impose himself on the powerful Edmund.

The Bulgarian dropped serve in the opening game with a loose backhand and, despite levelling at 3-3, it was a fair reflection of the play when Edmund hammered a forehand return to break again at 5-3.

The serve he had worked so hard on came to his rescue in seeing off three break-back points, and after 42 minutes the outsider was a set up.

A scrappy second set slipped away from Edmund at the start as Dimitrov raced into a 3-0 lead and held on, despite an edgy seventh game that included three double faults.

Inspired to play tennis?

Rafael Nadal

Find out how to get into tennis in our special guide.

Dimitrov's athleticism was on show with some brilliant defence early in the third set but the more experienced man was the one to crack.

A loose forehand offered up two break points and a seventh double fault of the day gifted Edmund the chance to serve out the set.

When Dimitrov hooked a wild forehand wide to drop serve midway through the fourth set there appeared no way back, but the tension took hold as Edmund handed it straight back with a poor service game.

Again there was an opening for the world number three to take charge, but once more it was Edmund who looked the calmer with victory in his sights.

He pressed for the break in game seven and then upped the pressure in game nine, opening with a hooked forehand winner followed by a backhand arrowed down the line.

Grigor Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov won the ATP Finals in London in November but is yet to reach a Grand Slam final, losing in the semi-finals to Rafael Nadal in Melbourne in 2017

A first break point slipped way, but Edmund got his racquet on a good serve to float back a return on the second, and a desperate Dimitrov slammed his forehand into the net.

With Swedish coach Fredrik Rosengren a bundle of nerves in the stands, the Briton was thankful for a Dimitrov error at 15-30 and followed up with an ace.

There was one final moment of drama on match point when Edmund was made to wait - before Hawkeye eventually confirmed that Dimitrov had sent the ball long.

"He's played hard matches, especially against Nick Kyrgios, and I knew it was going to be tough," said Edmund.

"I had a bit of a dip and I was playing quite poor tennis at times. But I held my nerve and prayed that last ball was out."

Analysis - Edmund shows 'perfect timing'

BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

That was Edmund's 12th attempt to beat a top five player, so he has shown perfect timing as well as the game to beat the world number three.

For a man making his Grand Slam quarter-final debut, on his first appearance in the Rod Laver Arena, Edmund played a hugely impressive first set. And even during the second set, which Dimitrov won, there were signs that all was not well with the Bulgarian's game.

His first serve virtually deserted him in the third set, and again, Edmund was there to take advantage.

The British player out-served Dimitrov, hit a healthy number of forehand winners, and profited handsomely when moving forward to the net.

Edmund is yet to reach a final at tour level. Thursday night would be a handy time to break his duck.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 23rd Jan 2018

Bitcoin miningImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionProducing or mining crypto-coins uses lots of computers to do complicated maths

Booming interest in crypto-currencies has been blamed for pushing up the prices of graphics cards.

The cards are popular because they speed up the process of minting or "mining" crypto-coins.

Keen miners are buying graphics cards in large quantities and running them in parallel to boost their coin-producing efforts.

Their actions have led some makers and sellers of graphics cards to limit how many people can buy at any time.

Writing on PC Gamer, Jarred Walton said: "Right now is the worst time in the history of graphics cards to buy or upgrade this all-important gaming component."

Gamers only

Many websites that cover the PC and computer component industry are reporting that top-end video cards are selling for far more than the price seen on a manufacturer's site.

For instance, Nvidia's GTX 1080 Ti is priced at £679 on the firm's store but the same card costs more than £900 on almost every well-known electronic retailer's site - though on one, the price is closer to £2,000. It is being offered for similar prices by smaller stores and auction sites.

Surging demand has also meant that many stores have sold out of the best-performing cards.

In response to the high demand, Nvidia has asked firms that sell its hardware to try to vet buyers so cards end up in the hands of gamers rather than crypto-coin enthusiasts, German tech news Codebase.de has reported.

"For Nvidia, gamers come first," said a statement given to the news site.

As well as issuing these instructions Nvidia has put a limit on the number of video cards people can buy from its store.

Computer motherboardImage copyrightDAMIEN MEYER

Image captionThe higher prices are making it tricky for people who like to build or upgrade their PC

Retailers Scan, Overclockers and Ebuyer have followed suit and, for many Nvidia and AMD cards, will only let people buy one at a time.

"The crypto-currency boom has had a dramatic effect on the cost and supply of some PC gaming graphics cards," said Ben Hardwidge, editor of magazine Custom PC, which gives advice on building computers from scratch and upgrading hardware.

"The retailers I've spoken to about this issue describe it as unprecedented," Mr Hardwidge told the BBC. "It's usually not individuals buying up the cards, but organised firms buying bulk loads of cards to set up a graphics processing farm."

He said the effect had been seen across many different cards, and rising prices across the board meant relatively low-powered components now commanded premium prices.

Really powerful cards tended to use a lot of power, he said, which might mean less room for the profits miners hope to make as they mint and trade coins.

"It's often the mid-range graphics cards that offer the best bang-per-buck for currency mining," he said. "That's where we've really seen the effects of the crypto-currency boom hit the hardest."

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 22nd Jan 2018

mark zuckerberg facebook ceo sadMark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • Facebook says it will start prioritizing news from outlets that its users think are "trustworthy."
  • The change comes amid criticism that the social network helps to spread misinformation.
  • Facebook's CEO said the company wasn't "comfortable" deciding for itself whether a news outlet is reliable.


Facebook says it will start sorting news sources by how "trustworthy" its users think they are — a major change as the social media giant continues to come under fire over the spread of misinformation on its platform.

On Friday, the California tech giant announced in a blog post that it would alter the algorithm for picking news to show in its News Feed based on whether the news is considered "trustworthy," whether it is "informative," and whether it is "relevant to people's local community."

Facebook won't be assessing the trustworthiness of news outlets itself. Instead, users are being polled on which outlets they believe to be trustworthy, and that data will be used to rank outlets, said Adam Mosseri, Facebook's head of News Feed.

He wrote in the blog post: "We surveyed a diverse and representative sample of people using Facebook across the US to gauge their familiarity with, and trust in, various different sources of news. This data will help to inform ranking in News Feed."

But there are concerns that this could prioritize partisan sources of information. For example, a right-leaning user Facebook polls might consider CNN extremely untrustworthy but rate a right-wing blog far higher — even if CNN is, in reality, a more accurate source of information about current affairs.

 

Myles Udland@MylesUdland

This literally reinforces biased outlets. https://twitter.com/DeItaOne/status/954452695015919618 …

8:37 PM - Jan 19, 2018

Twitter Ads info and privacy

 

In short: "Trustworthy" is not the same as "accurate."

Earlier this month, Facebook announced major changes to the News Feed to prioritize updates from friends and family while de-emphasizing news and brands, a move aimed at fostering what CEO Mark Zuckerberg called "meaningful interaction."

Meanwhile, Facebook — and the broader tech industry — has come under a barrage of criticism over its impact on society, from its role in spreading Russian propaganda and misinformation during the 2016 US presidential election to its effects on the mental health of children.

"We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being," Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post last week.

In a post on Friday outlining the latest change and the rationale for it, the CEO said that Facebook wasn't "comfortable" assessing the trustworthiness of news outlets itself and that asking outside experts wouldn't be "objective." So it views community feedback as the most suitable method.

He wrote: "The hard question we've struggled with is how to decide what news sources are broadly trusted in a world with so much division. We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that's not something we're comfortable with. We considered asking outside experts, which would take the decision out of our hands but would likely not solve the objectivity problem. Or we could ask you — the community — and have your feedback determine the ranking.

"We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective."

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 22nd Jan 2018

Digital Interruption found the flaw in 'digital fantasy' app SinVR

Poor security left 20,000 porn-watchers exposed

SinVR creates digital versions of popular characters

​​​​​​​Sharing data with adult websites has always been a risk. As if it's not bad enough to have your personal details in the hands of cyber criminals, knowing that they came from a naughty source also adds an element of embarrassment. Although not on the same level as the 37 million customers exposed by the Ashley Madison leak, the 20,000 customers potentially exposed by a fault in a new VR porn app probably feel the same way.

Cysec firm Digital Interruption discovered the vulnerability in the SinVR app, which has more than 300 backers on Patreon. True to its name, it aims to enable backers to live out their private fantasies; some of the characters on the Patreon page are modelled after Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen and Jessica Rabbit.

Digital Interruption reverse-engineered the app, which uses the .NET library, and found a number of vulnerabilities ‘and deviations from security best practice'. One of these, a function called ‘downloadallusers', predictably can be used to access a list of all customers with an account. This includes names, email addresses and devices used to access SinVR. Another similar function did the same for the list of customers who had paid using PayPal.

 

The security firm says that it went public after trying to contact SinVR's parent company, InVR, with its findings and receiving no response. SinVR itself wrote in a post on Patreon that it began fixing the issue ‘right away' after being informed about the hole.

Although credit card and payment details were not able to be lifted, an attacker could certainly use the data to identify customers and use the information for blackmail.

SinVR added, ‘Moving forward, we are confident in our ability to prevent security holes and will keep using a professional security service to audit our system.  We are making sure that all ‘back door' intrusions are fully consensual'.

Source: v3.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 22nd Jan 2018

MinecraftLinard/dancsa222

  • Microsoft-owned "Minecraft" continues to be a massive success.
  • The monthly player count is at 74 million, an increase of nearly 20 million players across 2017.
  • Nearly 150 million copies of the game have sold — a staggering sales number for any single video game. 


"Minecraft" continues to be one of the most popular games ever made. 

The creation/survival indie game that Microsoft purchased back in 2014 for $2.5 billion has now sold 144 million copies, and enjoys a monthly userbase of 74 million players. The latest numbers were revealed in an interview with Helen Chiang, the new head of Microsoft's "Minecraft" group, at PopSugar.

Those numbers are exceptional, even by "Minecraft" standards.

The game has been a notoriously explosive phenomenon since early in its life; "Minecraft" started as a work-in-progress game, made by a single man (Markus "Notch" Persson). It had rudimentary graphics and controls. It was only available on PC. It was prone to breaking, because it was an unfinished game being made by a single person. 

And yet, millions of people bought and played that early version of "Minecraft." When Microsoft bought the game back in 2014, the tech world was surprised and confused by the purchase. Persson did not join Microsoft.

But clearly that early success has persisted under Microsoft's care. Just to compare, more people play Minecraft on a monthly basis than the populations of France, UK, Italy, or South Korea.

But why is it so popular? We're talking about a game that looks like this:

minecraft nintendo switch"Minecraft" is available on nearly every game platform available, including the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo

Think of "Minecraft" as virtual LEGO.

It's a system for fitting pieces together to create something — sometimes amazing somethings— from nothing. "Minecraft" provides endless building blocks and a blank canvas. It's up to you to create something incredible, or silly, or referential, or whatever, using the tools it provides. The tools are blessedly user-friendly, as are the systems for employing those tools.

With that in mind, it's not hard to understand why "Minecraft" has been such a hit. That it's graphically rudimentary and simple to play just makes it all the more accessible to a large audience — nearly 75 million people every month, apparently.

Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 22nd Jan 2018

 

Mustafa Suleyman 1831_preview (1)Mustafa Suleyman is cofounder and head of applied AI at Google DeepMind.DeepMind

 

  • Mustafa Suleyman is a 33-year-old entrepreneur and activist. 
  • He sold his artificial intelligence company DeepMind to Google for £400 million in 2014. 
  • Suleyman dropped out of university and worked as an activist before getting involved in artificial intelligence. 


Mustafa Suleyman is one of the three cofounders of DeepMind, an artificial intelligence (AI) lab in London that was acquired by Google in 2014 for a reported £400 million — the search giant's largest acquisition in Europe to date. 

Listen to a few of Suleyman's talks on YouTube and you'll quickly realise that he's a left-leaning activist who wants to make the world a better place for everyone as opposed to an elite few. He differs from many of today's tech founders in that he genuinely seems to care about the welfare of everyone on the planet.

The 33 year old — affectionately known as "Moose" internally at DeepMind and amongst his friends — lives in Peckham, South London, with his artist fiancée. He can often be seen on Twitter making his thoughts known on issues like homelessness, diversity, and inequality, and also once retweeted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

DeepMind may be owned by one of the largest companies in the world but Suleyman strongly believes capitalism is failing society in a number of areas. He explained this during a talk at a Google event last May. 

"We believe today that in some sense, capitalism in many ways has delivered so much for us over the last couple of centuries," Suleyman said at a Google ZeitgeistMinds event in London. "We've delivered so much progress. No other construct or idea has been able to distribute benefits so broadly and so rapidly. And yet in many areas, capitalism is currently failing us. We actually need a new kind of set of incentives to tackle some of the most pressing and urgent social problems and we need a new kind of tool, a new kind of intelligence, that is distributed, that is scaled, that is accessible, to try and make sense of some of the complexity that is overwhelming us."

DeepMind's not-so-simple mission is to solve intelligence and then to use that to solve everything else. The company is building complex algorithms that can learn for themselves using techniques similar to those seen in the human brain. Ultimately, it hopes to end up with something that works like an artificial hippocampus — the part of the brain that is mainly associated with memory, and long-term memory in particular. 

Since its incorporation in 2011, DeepMind has been aggressively hiring some of the smartest computer scientists, neuroscientists, mathematicians, and physicists around the world. Today it employs around 700 people across offices in the UK (London), Canada (Edmonton and Montreal), and the US (Mountain View). The vast majority of DeepMind's staff (over 500 people) are currently located across two floors in Google's main office in London's King's Cross. 

Unlike his cofounders, Suleyman does not have a background in science. As a result, he is more focused on the business side of the company and today he is trying to find applications for DeepMind's technology both inside and outside of Google while also ensuring that the company's work in AI remains safe and ethical.  

Suleyman grew up in North London and developed a passion for philosophy

The CallyCaledonian Road.Flickr/Matt Brown

 

Suleyman grew up just off Caledonian Road in North London where he lived with his parents and his two younger brothers. His father was a Syrian-born taxi driver and his mother was an English nurse in the NHS.

Suleyman went to Thornhill Primary School (a state school in Islington) followed by the free, but selective, Queen Elizabeth boys school in Barnet.

Suleyman read widely as a child, according to a Wired feature on DeepMind from June 2015, developing an early love for philosophy. He also had a passion for business and entrepreneurship from an early age and he wasn't afraid to try to hustle his fellow students on the school playground.  

When I started secondary school at 11, me and my best friend started selling sweets in the playground.

 

"Ever since I was a kid I was always starting small businesses and dreaming they would one day grow like crazy," Suleyman told Business Insider.

"When I started secondary school at 11, me and my best friend started selling sweets in the playground. We would go to the wholesaler and buy in bulk and rent people’s lockers to store them in. We started hiring other kids out at break-times to sell for us. It got pretty big before the teachers shut it down."

Suleyman moved from selling sweets in the playground to exploring how he could help the disabled in his spare time. 

"A few years later, a team of us got together and spent a summer visiting restaurants and attractions across London in a wheelchair we borrowed to review their accessibility for disabled people," he said. "Based on that, we published an 80-page guide to London for young disabled people.

"It's part of the reason why I believe so strongly that if we rewrite the incentives for businesses today to include social responsibility in addition to fiduciary duties, plenty of leaders will jump at the chance to redirect their energies toward building a better, fairer world."

As a straight A student, Suleyman could afford to be fairly selective about where he went to university. He chose to go to Oxford — one of the top (and most elite) universities in the world — to read philosophy and theology. Interestingly, Suleyman joined Oxford's Mansfield College, which is leading the charge on anti-elitism at the university; nine in 10 of the students it admitted in 2017 came from state schools.

"Philosophy and theology is an interesting course and I thought it was a nice combination," Suleyman said. "Mansfield is an amazing place to study theology, and my tutor was one of the leaders in the field."

Oxford Uni bridge of sighsThe University of Oxford.pettifoggist/Flickr

 

But Suleyman realised that he didn't want to focus on education in his late teenage years.

Young and eager to get out into the world and use his intelligence to have an impact, he dropped out of the centuries-old institution at 19 because he didn't feel like his degree was practical enough. 

"Throughout my life, I've always been focused on maximizing social impact with everything I do," said Suleyman. "At the time, I was enjoying studying philosophy and theology but it felt so abstract and impractical to me.

"Like many teenage activists I guess I was restless and angry at what I saw as such widespread injustice and inequality. And I felt compelled to do something to help people directly in the wider world."

Suleyman dropped out of Oxford to set up a counselling service for young Muslims

After dropping out, Suleyman and his university friend Mohammed Mamdani set up a telephone counselling service called the Muslim Youth Helpline which went on to become one of the largest mental health support services of its kind in the UK. 

"I wanted to broaden my scope to tackle social challenges affecting all of society, not just a specific subgroup," Suleyman said. "At the Helpline I realised that the problems many of our service users were facing were actually rooted in the wider systemic inequalities and prejudices present in broader society."

At 22, Suleyman left Muslim Youth Helpline after realising non-profit organisations are held back by multiple factors. 

"After three or four years, I realised in some sense the fundamental limitations of charities," Suleyman told The Financial Times. "It was really difficult to scale the organisation and to raise funds in a sustainable way." 

Ken LivingstoneFormer London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

 

He went on to work for former London mayor Ken Livingstone. 

"When I got an offer to work for Mayor Ken Livingstone on human rights policy, it seemed like a brilliant opportunity to to fight the systemic injustices that create so much of the suffering I saw first hand at the Helpline." 

He left City Hall when he realised that government wasn't the vehicle to promote radical systemic change either. "It was pretty challenging and despite all of the high-minded principles it was actually really difficult to get practical things done on a day-to-day basis," Suleyman told the FT. 

Suleyman worked with the UN, the US government, and Shell

Following his stint in politics, Suleyman helped to cofound a consultancy called Reos Partners, which aims to help drive change on global issues like food production, waste, and diversity. 

"[Through Reos Partners] I ended up working for a whole bunch of different organisations including the UN, the US government, the Dutch government, WWF, Shell," he told the FT. His work for Shell was on sustainability-related projects. "We worked all over the world, ended up growing [Reos Partners], which is still going today, to about five or six offices around the world — specialising in large scale conflict resolution and negotiation."

Suleyman left Reos Partners in 2010 after a year-long piece of facilitation work at the Copenhagen climate negotiations left him feeling frustrated. "There was a very natural alignment back in late 2009, early 2010 when I had just sort of finished the climate negotiations, which of course were at the time a massive disaster and everybody was really broken hearted" he told the FT. 

He added: "Traditional vehicles for addressing climate change — the various meetings and minds, grassroots campaigning, high level political negotiations, waiting for spontaneous market driven outcomes — were, to put it bluntly, just not working fast enough. Time and again we found ourselves failing to come to grips with a dizzyingly complex world, with groups of the smartest experts struggling to make sense of the relationship between cause and effect.

"Of course climate change is just one of many strands of a complex, interdependent, and dynamic set of problems that we currently face as a species. If we don't tackle these problems, the future of humanity and the planet is at best uncertain. At worst, it's an extremely grim prognosis." 

DeepMind was born in London in 2009

Realising the potential that technology and AI have to benefit the world, Suleyman set up DeepMind around the end of 2009 with his childhood friend Demis Hassabis and a New Zealander called Shane Legg.  

DeepMind foundersDeepMind founders: Mustafa Suleyman (left), Demis Hassabis (centre), and Shane Legg (right).DeepMind

 

Before incorporating DeepMind, Suleyman and Hassabis (who were friends through Hassabis's younger brother) had many deep discussions and debates about how to improve the world. They typically approached the matter from different angles but they both say they're fundamentally motivated by the opportunity to alleviate human suffering at scale, and they've talked about how best to do that endlessly.

"Demis and I grew up in the same neighborhood and his younger brother and I were — and still are — best friends," said Suleyman. "We often had conversations about how to improve and impact the world — from solving inequality to malnutrition. He felt the solutions would come through simulations that could model the complex dynamics in the world causing these problems, while I would always emphasize more near-term practical change efforts.

"Building and applying general purpose learning systems combined our two different approaches. And after working in many different arenas — from government to think tanks and the charity sector — trying to tackle our most intractable social challenges, it was clear to me that we needed new institutions, creativity and knowledge in order to navigate the growing complexity of our social systems. Reapplying existing human knowledge was not going to be enough. Starting a new kind of organisation with the single purpose of building AI and using it to solve the world's toughest problems was our best shot at having a transformative, large scale impact on society’s most pressing challenges."

Suleyman is well-liked across DeepMind and the UK tech sector. Many people said they liked the fact that he's humble and down to Earth, and they respect the fact that he's willing to talk about difficult issues like equal pay and capitalism in a way that many other tech leaders aren't. He's seen by some as a revolutionary and whether he realises it or not, may people are more than willing to sign up to his mission and his way of thinking.

In the company's early days, Suleyman made several trips to Silicon Valley and successfully convinced billionaires like Peter Thiel and Elon Musk to invest in DeepMind, telling them that he and his cofounders planned to hoover up as much brain power in Europe as they could and get these smart young people working on the most advanced AI systems on the planet.

Frank Meehan, an early investor in DeepMind and a former board member on virtual assistant startup Siri, which was acquired by Apple in 2010, said he first met Suleyman when DeepMind employed about six or seven people and was based out of a tiny office in London's Russell Square.

"Mustafa is a key part of the whole thing," Meehan told Business Insider. "He's confident, he's energetic, and he stays on top of things," said Meehan. "He's focused and he gets things done."

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), former head of the No 10 Policy Unit, and an independent reviewer of DeepMind Health, described Suleyman as an "open" and "rounded" leader, adding that he respects his willingness to talk about the big issues facing the world's tech giants.

"Everyone thinks if Mustafa is running the world it would be a pretty amazing place, to be honest," Taylor told Business Insider.

Taylor said that if he were to take a cynical view of DeepMind, "the question is whether or not he is someone inside the system genuinely transforming the culture of Google, or, if you were cynical, is he the kind of acceptable face for an industry that knows it has its issues but is actually going to plough on regardless?"

But he later clarified on Twitter that he has a "very positive" view of Suleyman and the company.

Commenting on his relationship with Suleyman, Hassabis said: "Mustafa is a fantastic cofounder — we were family friends growing up together in North London and we share a deep belief in the potential of scientific and technical advances for positive social change. He brilliantly leads our applied and commercial efforts including spearheading our work in healthcare and energy, as well as being a respected thought leader on the ethical and societal impact of AI."

Suleyman is leading DeepMind's health projects

DeepMind's algorithms have been used by Google to reduce the amount of energy used in its vast fleet of enormous data centres by 15%. "Anything that we can do to reduce the amount of energy required to deliver the same service is fantastic for the planet and has a very significant dollar impact at the bottom line, which is also good," Suleyman said in July 2016. Google has also used DeepMind's  WaveNet neural network to generate the Google Assistant voices for US English and Japanese.

DeepMind StreamsDeepMind's Streams app.Google DeepMind

 

Looking outside Google, Suleyman, who oversees a growing DeepMind Health team, has convinced several NHS trusts to work with DeepMind on projects including a patient monitoring app for clinicians and an AI system that can learn to spot early signs of cancer.

DeepMind's work with the NHS didn't get off to the best start and Suleyman found himself under the spotlight when a freedom of information request from New Scientist revealed the extent of a data sharing agreement with the Royal Free Trust in North London, which was DeepMind's first NHS deal.

The deal — which was later deemed illegal by the Information Commissioner's Office, the UK's top data regulator — gave DeepMind access to 1.6 million NHS patient records to help it build a kidney monitoring app called Streams. 

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said in a statement at the time: "There's no doubt the huge potential that creative use of data could have on patient care and clinical improvements, but the price of innovation does not need to be the erosion of fundamental privacy rights. Our investigation found a number of shortcomings in the way patient records were shared for this trial. Patients would not have reasonably expected their information to have been used in this way, and the Trust could and should have been far more transparent with patients as to what was happening."

But that's the only major setback that the company has had since it was acquired by Google. 

Looking ahead, DeepMind is keen to work with the National Grid to see how it can cut energy consumption across the UK in the same way that it's helped Google in its data centres.

Beyond that, Suleyman is also one of the founding members of the Partnership on AI — an organisation set up in September 2016 to ensure that AI is developed safely, ethically, and transparently — along with Facebook's AI head Yann LeCun, Microsoft Research director Eric Horvitz, and several others.

Suleyman accepts there are very real concerns about the future of AI

While AI clearly has great potential, academics, philosophers, and technologists have warned that AI may be humanity's biggest downfall if it is programmed incorrectly or harnessed for wrong doing. 

Renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon last November: "Success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don't know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it." 

When it comes to DeepMind's research, Suleyman and his cofounders realise that there are two sides to the coin.

The DeepMind leaders allowed their startup to be acquired by Google on the condition that Google set up an internal AI ethics board to oversee AI developments across the entire organisation.

Little is known about the mysterious ethics board but Suleyman said at a Bloomberg conference in 2015 that he wanted Google to disclose the board members. He's been asked about the board several times since then but remained tight lipped. 

"Getting these things right is not purely a matter of having good intentions," Suleyman wrote in Wired this month. "We need to do the hard, practical and messy work of finding out what ethical AI really means. If we manage to get AI to work for people and the planet, then the effects could be transformational. Right now, there's everything to play for."

SULEYMAN'S 3 FAVOURITE BOOKS

  • Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society," a penetrating commentary on the shortcomings of institutionalised education. Illich accomplishes that most difficult of feats, complementing his critique with a set of practical and creative proposals for alternative approaches.
  • "Inventing the Future" by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams tackles the likely ramifications of intensified automation for the future of work, and the prospects for policies like UBI. The book distinguishes itself by taking absolutely seriously the difficult and contentious political dimensions to this debate.
  • "Transparency and the Open Society" by Roger Taylor and Tim Kelsey is a timely and detailed inquiry into the complexities that surround greater openness, together with a framework for thinking through transparency as effective policy.
Source: uk.businessinsider.com
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 16th Jan 2018

 

Woman kicking doughnutsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionCan apps and fitness trackers helps us kick bad habits into touch?

January is a peak time for downloading health and fitness apps and putting those Christmas present fitness trackers to work. But do they actually help you stay motivated?

After the Christmas self-indulgence comes the inevitable New Year's resolution to get fit, lose weight, and eat more healthily.

But while 65% of us make resolutions, only 12% successfully keep to them, polling firm ComRes finds. Can tech help?

When Sarah, 34, a law professor from Australia, wanted to lose weight last year, she took the unusual approach of placing bets that she would achieve her exercise goals.

Breast cancer had stopped her exercise routine, and she'd gained weight during a year which included three operations, she says.

"I was returning to exercise by hiking and trying to lose some of the weight I'd put on while being sedentary," she says.

Sarah SteeleImage copyrightSARAH STEELE

Image captionSarah bet that she would reach her fitness goals after treatment for breast cancer

She began a new exercise routine eight weeks after finishing breast reconstruction surgery. With a wearable activity tracker, she monitored the steps she took each day and the calories she burned.

But she also motivated herself with an app, Step Bet, that let her wager whether she would achieve her exercise goals.

"I did three one-month bets and three six-month bets, and lost 7kg [15 lbs] - 10% of my body weight," says Sarah.

She also says she made £358 [$458; €403].

"I like losing fat. I don't like losing money. The effect? Motivation!" she explains.

For the data-minded, tracking your progress with reams of measurements is enough to stay motivated.

Arshia Gratiot, who is 40 and originally from Bangalore, has been using a fitness tracker for a year, "to measure biometrics such as my heart rate, associated with my level of fitness," she says.

In 2016, she founded a technology start-up with offices in Finland, India, and London.

Arshia GratiotImage copyrightARSHIA GRATIOT

Image captionEntrepreneur Arshia Gratiot says exercising was "the only way I could stay sane"

Frequently travelling across time zones made her decide to go running each evening - sometimes in the middle of the night - while listening to podcasts.

"It was either lie in bed like a zombie, totally jet-lagged, or hit the road. It was the only way I could stay sane," she says.

Tracking her heart rate and metabolism offered "a visual way to track progress over time" and encouraged her, says Ms Gratiot.

But it's how we use such data that matters, argues Anil Aswani, an assistant professor in industrial engineering and operations research at the University of California, Berkeley.

"Personalized goal setting is a very important aspect of these apps," he says

The better exercise apps learn from how you've done in the past to tailor your goals, he argues. And doing this builds a sense of achievement, which behavioural psychologists say is important in altering your habits.

"If you're effective at meeting goals today, it boosts your confidence and makes you more likely to meet your goals in the future," says Prof Aswani.

Joseph Laws in uniform sitting on a rockImage copyrightJOSEPH LAWS

Image captionJoseph Laws used his military and Google experience to create a fitness app that adapts

In his own research, one group of test subjects was given a changing number of steps as a goal each day, based on their previous progress. Another was assigned the same number of steps every day.

The group given adaptive goals averaged about 1,000m more each day, he says.

Joseph Laws, a former US army Ranger who served in Afghanistan and afterwards worked as a software engineer at Google, has developed his own way of setting adaptive goals.

Based on his army experience, he began developing fitness routines for friends and family. Later, he started developing machine learning algorithms to find out which exercises best built fitness, based on age, sex, height, and weight.

Mr Laws released the official version of his app, Optimize, six months ago.

The challenge was "developing a model of fitness, and mapping those equations to actual exercises," he says.

Once he had the model in place, his algorithms could learn and improve each time a person exercised. The workouts would then adapt to the person's past performance.

Around 90% of users who make it to their fourth workout continue to use it for the next two months, he says. Most of the data comes from people "20 to 50 years old", he says, so the next challenge is gathering more data from older exercisers, and other non-typical groups, such as people with injuries.

Other fitness start-ups are trying to apply machine learning to calorie counting.

Charles Teague's app, Lose It!, began by asking users to log everything they ate, then keeping track of their calories and nutrients, he says.

This, as everyone knows who's tried it, is a bit of a faff.

"So wouldn't it be great if you could just take a picture of your food, and it was just logged?" he asks.

A year ago, he introduced a feature called Snap It, which is learning how to identify food on a plate.

Screengrab of avocado on phoneImage copyrightLOSEIT!

Image captionThe LoseIt! app aims to count your calories by recognising snaps of your food

"The data we've accumulated today would do things like recognise that's pasta, that's an apple, that's a banana," says Mr Teague.

But more data is needed if the app is to discern spaghetti bolognese from fettuccine alfredo, for example.

At the moment, users train the algorithm as they use it, by selecting the precise type of food in front of them from options the algorithm identifies. So it will take time before the app becomes sufficiently clever to recognise most food variants.

With the World Health Organisation saying obesity is now more common than under-nutrition, researchers agree apps based on health and psychological research have the potential to transform how we eat and exercise.

But of 29,000 apps relating to weight loss and fitness, only 17 were based on verifiable scientific research, a 2016 study at the Catholic University of Louvain found.

Despite this, the global mobile fitness app market grew from $1.8bn in 2016 to $2.2bn, says research firm Statista, while the fitness wearables market was worth $6.1bn in 2017, a figure expected to reach $7.5bn by 2022.

So as well as thinking about what you eat and how far you run, it's worth checking out the credentials of the fitness app or tracker first before committing your hard-earned cash.

What works for you will depend largely on your personality and what pushes your motivational buttons.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 16th Jan 2018

Panicking couple in officeImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionMany firms are panicking as cyber-attacks and regulatory fines threaten profits

With cyber-attacks increasing in frequency and severity, many companies are turning to insurance to cover their mounting losses. But can insurers quantify the risk accurately and could insurance lead to corporate complacency?

Many firms feel like they're under siege.

Cyber-attacks are coming thick and fast and the tools at the hackers' disposal seem to be getting more, not less, powerful.

Estimated annual losses from cyber crime now top $400bn (£291bn), according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And the cost in lost productivity of last year's WannaCry ransomware attack alone was estimated at $4bn.

So many businesses are buying cyber insurance "in a mad panic", warns Char van der Walt of SecureData, a cyber-security company.

"Unfortunately this will mean that businesses of all sizes will seek out the minimum cyber-security investment laid out by insurers, government, and regulators, rather than going above and beyond to protect their own, and their customers', data."

Ransomware attacks, whereby criminals break in to your network, encrypt all your data, then demand money in return for the decryption key, are particularly virulent. Firms have even been stocking up on Bitcoins - the hackers' cryptocurrency payment of choice - to pay the ransoms.

 

Media captionTechnology explained: what is ransomware?

And it's not just the immediate ransom costs they have to worry about. There are the costs of investigating and closing the breach, legal and public relations costs, the damage to your share price as consumers and clients lose confidence, and the loss of business resulting from a damaged reputation.

There are also potential regulatory fines to pay - particularly when the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in May. Under the new rules your firm could be fined up to 4% of turnover or €20m, whichever is the greater, if regulators think you haven't protected customers' personal data adequately.

The average cost of a cyber breach was $349,000 in 2017, according to NetDiligence, whose data is based on actual cyber insurance claims. For a big company the average cost was $5.9m.

But US retailer Target, which had more than 40 million customer credit card details stolen in 2013, had to fork out $279m in total as a result of the breach, says specialist insurance market Lloyd's of London in a report compiled with consultancy KPMG and international law firm DCA Beachcroft.

Around $100m of that was on lawsuits.

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionIf this is your firm's attitude to the rising cyber threat, you may be in trouble

Telecoms company TalkTalk suffered losses of nearly $100m after its breach in 2015, says Lloyd's, and this included a £400,000 fine from the UK Information Commissioner's Office.

So it's perhaps little surprise that interest in cyber insurance has spiked recently.

The number of insurers offering cyber insurance via Lloyd's of London has leapt to more than 70, nearly double the number a few years ago. And insurance giant Allianz predicts that global cyber insurance premiums will grow to $20bn by 2025, up from around $3-4bn now.

One insurer, Hiscox, says it has been enjoying robust growth in its cyber insurance business, particularly following the TalkTalk breach and as GDPR approaches.

"We're seeing annual growth of around 40% in cyber," says Gareth Wharton, chief executive of cyber at the insurer. "We expect to have taken around $100m in premiums in 2017."

Gareth WhartonImage copyrightSUKI DHANDA

Image captionGareth Wharton from insurer Hiscox admits that it's difficult to assess the value of lost data

But how do insurers know how to assess cyber risk accurately and set the right premium levels?

"Cyber isn't like car or house insurance where the risks are known and the products haven't changed that much," says Mr Wharton. "The types of risk are changing all the time and there's no easy way of quantifying the cost of stolen data."

So it's up to the insurer to make sure the client is an acceptable risk, he says.

"Firstly we need to understand how seriously the board takes cyber-security," says Mr Wharton. "Does it have a disaster recovery plan and how often does it test it?"

The firm checks obvious security measures, too, such as the presence of antivirus and firewall protection, the frequency of software updates and data back-ups, and whether critical data is encrypted, he says.

"We're trying to be a partner with our clients, not just a seller of insurance, so we offer free cyber security training as well. We have a responsibility to drive up standards and encourage better practice."

While there are several recognised ISO [International Organisation for Standardisation] standards covering various aspects of information security, there isn't one catch-all standard that global businesses can adopt to help insurers assess their cyber risk.

The UK government insists that any company it does business with has to conform to the Cyber Essentials standards set by the National Cyber Security Centre. That's a start at least.

"One of the biggest issues in cyber insurance is how to price it effectively and cover indirect as well as direct costs a company suffers following a cyber-attack," says Nik Whitfield, chief executive of Panaseer, a cyber risk assessor.

He anticipates companies like his offering cyber risk assessment services to insurers. Firms seeking insurance would be happy to be assessed in the hope of securing lower premiums, he argues.

"Such a service would be the equivalent of a telematics box in your car which tells the insurance company how well you're driving," says Mr Whitfield.

But if firms see cyber insurance merely as an excuse to skimp on their cyber-security defences, they could find themselves in trouble, he warns.

"Businesses must understand that cyber insurance is not a silver bullet - you don't get car insurance and drive like a maniac," he says.

Source: bbc.co.uk
 
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 15th Jan 2018

Facebook is vetting local publishers that appear in this section.

Chris Hyde / Getty

Facebook wants to make it easier for people to find local news from vetted sources.

The social network is testing a new section inside its app called “Today In,” a feed made up entirely of local news, events and announcements.

The test is running in just six cities for now: New Orleans, La.; Little Rock, Ark.; Billings, Mont.; Peoria, Ill.; Olympia, Wash.; and Binghamton, N.Y. Facebook users who self-identify as living in those areas will be able to visit the new section to see local information, like stories from local publishers or emergency updates from local authorities.

Facebook is using machine-learning software to surface content in this new section. Local news publishers who appear there will all be approved and vetted by the company’s News Partnerships team, which is overseen by former NBC news anchor Campbell Brown, according to a company spokesperson.

Facebook has anew local section of its app for news and events. Facebook

The company says this is all part of Facebook’s Journalism Project initiative, which Facebook launched shortly after last year’s U.S. presidential election in which so-called fake news spread on the service, leading many to point to Facebook as part of the reason for Donald Trump’s surprising victory.

The company has tested and launched a handful of other news-related features this year as part of the effort, including a breaking news label for publishers and a label identifying stories disputed by outside fact-checkers. (It stopped using the “disputed” tags in December.)

All of this plays into the company’s broader efforts to cleanse the service of false information; hand-selecting local publishers to appear inside this new section of the app should (theoretically) help keep fake news to a minimum.

The question is whether or not the section will benefit local publishers. It’s possible that being part of a separate, local section of the app will help drive more traffic back to publishers’ stories and websites where they can make money through advertising, but there is no way for publishers to make money off the new local section at launch.

Even generating that extra traffic will depend on whether or not Facebook users frequent the new section. Facebook plans to alert people in the six test cities that the new feature exists, but after that, “Today In” will appear in the menu (☰) where Facebook has dozens of other lesser-used sections of the app that you might easily forget about.

Eventually, Facebook wants to roll this out to more cities. And users will eventually be able to follow local cities that they don’t currently live in (a childhood hometown, for example), according to a company spokesperson.

“Local” has been a bit of a theme for Facebook over the past 18 months. It started surfacing more posts from local politicians last fall and is expanding Marketplace, its Craigslist-style platform for people to sell used goods to their neighbors.

In November, Facebook also rebranded its standalone events app, calling it “Facebook Local,” which shows users where to find restaurants and nearby events. That app is completely separate from this new local news section, according to a company spokesperson.

 

 

Source: recode.net
 
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