News for nerds, stuff that mattersUpdated: 36 min 1 sec ago3 hours 25 min agoWired's founding executive editor Kevin Kelly wrote a 5,000-word takedown on "the myth of a superhuman AI," challenging dire warnings from Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking, and Elon Musk about the potential extinction of humanity at the hands of a superintelligent constructs. Slashdot reader mirandakatz calls it an "impeccably argued debunking of this pervasive myth." Kelly writes: Buried in this scenario of a takeover of superhuman artificial intelligence are five assumptions which, when examined closely, are not based on any evidence... 1.) Artificial intelligence is already getting smarter than us, at an exponential rate. 2.) We'll make AIs into a general purpose intelligence, like our own. 3.) We can make human intelligence in silicon. 4.) Intelligence can be expanded without limit. 5.) Once we have exploding superintelligence it can solve most of our problems... If the expectation of a superhuman AI takeover is built on five key assumptions that have no basis in evidence, then this idea is more akin to a religious belief -- a myth Kelly proposes "five heresies" which he says have more evidence to support them -- including the prediction that emulating human intelligence "will be constrained by cost" -- and he likens artificial intelligence to the physical powers of machines. "[W]hile all machines as a class can beat the physical achievements of an individual human...there is no one machine that can beat an average human in everything he or she does."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.5 hours 30 min agoAn anonymous reader wants to start a grassroots effort to build a self-organizing global radio mesh network where every device can communicate with every other device -- and without any central authority. There is nothing in the rules of mathematics or laws of physics that prevents such a system. But how would you break the problem up so it could be crowdfunded and sourced? How would you build the radios? And what about government spectrum rules... How would you persuade governments to allow for the use of say, 1%, of the spectrum for an unlicensed mesh experiment? In the U.S. it would probably take an Act of Congress to overrule the FCC but a grassroots effort with potential for major technology advances backed by celebrity scientists might be enough to tilt the issue but would there be enough motivation? Is this feasible? Would it amass enough volunteers, advocates, and enthusiastic users? Would it become a glorious example of geeks uniting the world -- or a doomed fantasy with no practical applications. Leave your best thoughts in the comments. Could we build a global wireless mesh network?
Read more of this story at Slashdot.6 hours 9 min agoLong-time Slashdot reader MarcoPon writes: I created a thing: SeqBox. It's an archive/container format (and corresponding suite of tools) with some interesting and unique features. Basically an SBX file is composed of a series of sector-sized blocks with a small header with a recognizable signature, integrity check, info about the file they belong to, and a sequence number. The results of this encoding is the ability to recover an SBX container even if the file system is corrupted, completely lost or just unknown, no matter how much the file is fragmented.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.6 hours 40 min ago"After seven unsuccessful attempts NASA has launched a stadium-sized balloon in Wanaka," reports the New Zealand Herald, adding that the super-pressure balloon will collect data from "near space" over the next 100 days. Reuters reports: The balloon, designed by NASA to detect ultra-high energy cosmic particles from beyond the galaxy as they penetrate the earth's atmosphere, is expected to circle the planet two or three times. "The origin of these particles is a great mystery that we'd like to solve. Do they come from massive black holes at the centre of galaxies? Tiny, fast-spinning stars? Or somewhere else?" Angela Olinto, a University of Chicago professor and lead investigator on the project, said in a statement.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.7 hours 45 min agoAn anonymous reader quotes Computerworld: Revenue generated by Microsoft's Surface hardware during the March quarter was down 26% from the same period the year before, the company said yesterday as it briefed Wall Street. For the quarter, Surface produced $831 million, some $285 million less than the March quarter of 2016, for the largest year-over-year dollar decline ever... The revenue decline "indicates that the aging product needs a refresh badly," Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, wrote in a note to clients today. "Price cutting and competing vendors' products will continue to create declines until new product is released, rumored for later this year." Microsoft threw cold water on any significant changes to the Surface line before June, forecasting that the current quarter will also post a revenue decline.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.8 hours 50 min agoAn anonymous reader quotes the security editor at Ars Technica: On Wednesday, large chunks of network traffic belonging to MasterCard, Visa, and more than two dozen other financial services companies were briefly routed through a Russian government-controlled telecom under unexplained circumstances that renew lingering questions about the trust and reliability of some of the most sensitive Internet communications. Anomalies in the border gateway protocol -- which routes large-scale amounts of traffic among Internet backbones, ISPs, and other large networks -- are common and usually the result of human error. While it's possible Wednesday's five- to seven-minute hijack of 36 large network blocks may also have been inadvertent, the high concentration of technology and financial services companies affected made the incident "curious" to engineers at network monitoring service BGPmon. What's more, the way some of the affected networks were redirected indicated their underlying prefixes had been manually inserted into BGP tables, most likely by someone at Rostelecom, the Russian government-controlled telecom that improperly announced ownership of the blocks.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.9 hours 54 min agoSmartAboutThings writes: The Pentagon is set to complete its Windows 10 transition by the end of this year, but nearly 75% of its control system devices still run Windows XP or other older versions, including Windows 95 and 98. A Pentagon official now wants the bug bounty program of the top U.S. defense agency expanded to scan for vulnerabilities in its critical infrastructure. DefenseOne raises the possibility of "building and electrical systems, HVAC equipment and other critical infrastructure laden with internet-connected sensors," with one military program manager saying "A lot of these systems are still Windows 95 or 98, and that's OK -- if they're not connected to the internet." Windows Report notes that though Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP, "the Defense Department is paying Microsoft to continue providing support for the legacy OS."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.11 hours 45 sec agoAn anonymous reader quotes The Wall Street Journal: Eighteen months ago, Beepi Inc. was rapidly expanding its online used-car business to 16 U.S. cities where people could buy cut-rate vehicles adorned with giant shiny bows. Beepi doesn't exist anymore. After burning through more than $120 million in capital, the startup failed to raise more cash and shut down in February. Its roughly 270 employees cleared out of the cavernous Mountain View, California headquarters, leaving behind the ping-pong table and putting green. Beepi's rapid demise offers a glimpse into the changing fortunes of Silicon Valley startups, many of which have struggled to adjust since a two-year investment frenzy came to an end. In 2014 and 2015, mutual funds, hedge funds and other investors pumped billions into companies that they now see as overvalued, and unlikely to pull off an initial public offering. As venture capitalists became more discerning, investment in U.S. tech startups plummeted by 30% in dollar terms last year from a year earlier. The article also points out that "much of the money still being invested is pouring into the upper echelon of highly valued start-ups like Airbnb and WeWork or younger ones with clear paths to profit," leaving "scores" of previously well-funded startups now struggling to survive.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.12 hours 5 min agoBruce66423 brings word that a terrorist's WhatsApp message has been decrypted "using techniques that 'cannot be disclosed for security reasons', though 'sources said they now have the technical expertise to repeat the process in future.'" The Economic Times reports: U.K. security services have managed to decode the last message sent out by Khalid Masood before he rammed his high-speed car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and stabbed to death a police officer at the gates of Parliament on March 22. The access to Masood's message was achieved by what has been described by security sources as a use of "human and technical intelligence"... The issue of WhatsApp's encrypted service, which is closed to anyone besides the sender and recipient, had come under criticism soon after the attack. "It's completely unacceptable. There should be no place for terrorists to hide. We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other," U.K. home secretary Amber Rudd had said. Security sources say the message showed the victim's motive was military action in Muslim countries, while the article adds that though ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, "no evidence has emerged to back this up."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.13 hours 3 min agoNine hours ago, Ilgaz wrote: The Turkey Blocks monitoring network has verified restrictions affecting the Wikipedia online encyclopedia in Turkey. A block affecting all language editions of the website [was] detected at 8:00AM local time Saturday 29 April. The loss of availability is consistent with internet filters used to censor content in the country. stikves added Access to Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey as a result of "a provisional administrative order" imposed by the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (BTK)... Turkey Blocks said an administrative blocking order is usually expected to precede a full court blocking order in coming days. While the reason for the order was unknown early on Saturday, a statement on the BTK's website said: "After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651, ADMINISTRATION MEASURE has been taken for this website (wikipedia.org) according to Decision Nr. 490.05.01.2017.-182198 dated 29/04/2017 implemented by Information and Communication Technologies Authority." The BBC adds reports from Turkish media that authorities "had asked Wikipedia to remove content by writers 'supporting terror.'"
Read more of this story at Slashdot.14 hours 15 min agoBig Hairy Ian quotes the BBC: Engineer Harry Huskey, who helped build many of the first ever computers, has died aged 101. Dr. Huskey was a key member of the team that built the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) which first ran in February 1946. ENIAC is widely considered to be one of the first electronic, general purpose, programmable computers. Dr. Huskey also helped complete work on the Ace -- the Automatic Computing Engine -- designed by Alan Turing. U.C. Santa Cruz also remembers Huskey's work on the Bendix G-15 in 1954, "a 950-pound predecessor to today's laptops" which is sometimes hailed as the first personal computer (since it didn't require a separate technician to run) -- though each one cost over $50,000. The idea of an "electronic brain" was still so new, it led Huskey to an appearance on Groucho Marx's radio show You Bet Your Life, where Groucho warned him that "They're pretty tricky those machines! I wouldn't trust 'em... They'll turn on your like a mad dog, doctor!"
Read more of this story at Slashdot.15 hours 49 min agoAn anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Milan tax police have told Amazon they believe the world's largest online retailer has evaded around 130 million euros ($142 million) of taxes in Italy, a source close to the matter said on Friday. The allegedly unpaid taxes refer to the period between 2011 and 2015, when Amazon made revenues of around 2.5 billion euros in Italy, the source said. The tax police's findings have been handed to Milan prosecutors, the source added. Amazon issued a statement denying it had evaded any taxes, and said its profits in Italy, on which taxes are paid, had been low due to its considerable investments in the country.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.18 hours 49 min agosciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Your wireless router may be giving you away in a manner you never dreamed of. For the first time, physicists have used radio waves from a Wi-Fi transmitter to encode a 3D image of a real object in a hologram similar to the image of Princess Leia projected by R2D2 in the movie Star Wars. In principle, the technique could enable outsiders to "see" the inside of a room using only the Wi-Fi signals leaking out of it, although some researchers say such spying may be easier said than done. Their experiment relies on none of the billions of digital bits of information encoded in Wi-Fi signals, just the fact that the signals are clean, "coherent" waves. However, instead of recording the key interference pattern on a photographic plate, the researchers record it with a Wi-Fi receiver and reconstruct the object in a computer. They placed a Wi-Fi transmitter in a room, 0.9 meters behind the cross. Then they placed a standard Wi-Fi receiver 1.4 meters in front of the cross and moved it slowly back and forth to map out a "virtual screen" that substituted for the photographic plate. Also, instead of having a separate reference beam coming straight to the screen, they placed a second, stationary receiver a few meters away, where it had a direct view of the emitter. For each point on the virtual screen, the researchers compared the signals arriving simultaneously at both receivers, and made a hologram by mapping the delays caused by the aluminum cross. The virtual hologram isn't exactly like a traditional one, as researchers can't recover the image of the object by shining more radio waves on it. Instead, the scientists used the computer to run the radio waves backward in time from the screen to the distance where wave fronts hit the object. The cross then popped out.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.21 hours 29 min agoLast week there were reports that the EPA climate change website was set to be taken down, though later the EPA denied that. On Friday evening, however, the Environmental Protection Agency announced its website would be "undergoing changes" to better represent the new direction the agency is taking, triggering the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information (paywalled; alternative source). From a report on The Washington Post: One of the websites that appeared to be gone had been cited to challenge statements made by the EPA's new administrator, Scott Pruitt. Another provided detailed information on the previous administration's Clean Power Plan, including fact sheets about greenhouse gas emissions on the state and local levels and how different demographic groups were affected by such emissions. The changes came less than 24 hours before thousands of protesters were set to march in Washington and around the country in support of political action to push back against the Trump administration's rollbacks of former president Barack Obama's climate policies.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.21 hours 49 min agoSergio Canavero, the Italian surgeon who plans to perform the world's first human head transplant within the next year, says he is preparing to reawaken cryogenically frozen brains and transplant them into someone else's skull. "In an interview with a German-language magazine, Canavero says he will attempt to bring the first brains frozen in liquid nitrogen at an Arizona-based cryogenics bank back to life 'not in 100 years,' but three years at the latest," reports National Post. From the report: Transplanting a brain only -- and not an entire head -- gets around formidable rejection issues, Canavero said, since there will be no need to reconnect and stitch up severed vessels, nerves, tendons and muscles as there is when a new head is fused onto a brain-dead donor body. Canavero allows that one "problematic" issue with brain transplants, however, would be that "no aspect of your original external body remains the same." "Your head is no longer there, your brain is transplanted into an entirely different skull," he told OOOM magazine, published by the same company that handles the Italian brain surgeon's public relations. The flamboyant neuroscientist who some ethicists have decried as "nuts" rattled the transplant world when he first outlined his plans for a human head transplant two years ago in the journal, Surgical Neurology International. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan called Canavero's latest proposal to merge head transplants with "resurrecting" the frozen dead beyond ridiculous. "People have their own doubts about whether anything can be salvaged from these frozen heads or bodies because of the damage freezing does," said Caplan, head of ethics at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York City. "Then saying that he has some technique for making this happen, that has never been demonstrated in frozen animals, is absurd."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Fri, 2017-04-28 22:30An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In an executive order signed on Friday, President Trump directed his secretary of the interior to review current rules on offshore drilling and exploration. This review is likely to result in a relaxation of the strict protections the previous administration put on offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and in the Arctic. According to the Washington Post, a review of the rules is likely to "make millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing." At the same time, Trump's executive order directed the secretary of commerce to cease designating new marine sanctuaries or expanding any that already exist. According to USA Today, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is also "directed to review all designations and expansions of marine monuments or sanctuaries designated under the Antiquities Act within the last 10 years." The Post says this "includes Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which Obama quadrupled in size last year, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off Massachusetts." Although these reviews could take some time to complete, they put in motion a bid to favor extraction industries like oil and gas mining. "Today, we're unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying energy jobs," Trump reportedly told the Associated Press.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Fri, 2017-04-28 21:05Kristine Lofgren writes: Home building hasn't changed much over the years, but leave it to MIT to take things to the next level. A new technology built at MIT can construct a simple dome structure in 14 hours and it's powered by solar panels, so you can take it to remote areas. MIT's 3D-printing robot can construct the entire basic structure of a building and can be customized to fit the local terrain in ways that traditional methods can't do. It even has a built-in scoop so it can prepare the building site and gather its own construction materials. You can watch a video of the 3D-printing robot in action here.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Fri, 2017-04-28 20:25An anonymous reader writes: "Mobile applications that open ports on Android smartphones are opening those devices to remote hacking, claims a team of researchers from the University of Michigan," reports Bleeping Computer. Researchers say they've identified 410 popular mobile apps that open ports on people's smartphones. They claim that an attacker could connect to these ports, which in turn grant access to various phone features, such as photos, contacts, the camera, and more. This access could be leveraged to steal photos, contacts, or execute commands on the target's phone. Researchers recorded various demos to prove their attacks. Of these 410 apps, there were many that had between 10 and 50 million downloads on the official Google Play Store and even an app that came pre-installed on an OEMs smartphones. "Research on the mobile open port problem started after researchers read a Trend Micro report from 2015 about a vulnerability in the Baidu SDK, which opened a port on user devices, providing an attacker with a way to access the phone of a user who installed an app that used the Baidu SDK," reports Bleeping Computer. "That particular vulnerability affected over 100 million smartphones, but Baidu moved quickly to release an update. The paper detailing the team's work is entitled Open Doors for Bob and Mallory: Open Port Usage in Android Apps and Security Implications, and was presented Wednesday, April 26, at the 2nd IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy that took place this week in Paris, France."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Fri, 2017-04-28 19:45As part of an agreement with California regulators, Airbnb will allow the government to test for racial discrimination by hosts. The Guardian reports: The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced Thursday that it had resolved a complaint it filed against Airbnb with an agreement that forces the company to permit the state to conduct "fair housing testing" of certain hosts. That means that for the first time the San Francisco-based company is giving a regulatory body permission to conduct the kind of racial discrimination audits that officials have long used to enforce fair housing laws against traditional landlords. The DFEH's original complaint -- which had not previously been disclosed -- was based on research and a growing number of reports suggesting that hosts regularly refuse to rent to guests due to their race, a problem exposed last year under the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Fri, 2017-04-28 19:05An anonymous reader quotes a report from Seattle Times: Harvesting Washington state's vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States. That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market. The robotic pickers don't get tired and can work 24 hours a day. FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years. Members of the $7.5 billion annual Washington agriculture industry have long grappled with labor shortages, and depend on workers coming up from Mexico each year to harvest many crops. While financial details are not available, the builders say the robotic pickers should pay for themselves in two years. That puts the likely cost of the machines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars each. FFRobotics is developing a machine that has three-fingered grips to grab fruit and twist or clip it from a branch. The machine would have between four and 12 robotic arms, and can pick up to 10,000 apples an hour, Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics, said. One machine would be able to harvest a variety of crops, taking 85 to 90 percent of the crop off the trees, Kober said. Humans could pick the rest. Abundant Robotics is working on a picker that uses suction to vacuum apples off trees.
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