August 11, 2014

When Robots Take All the Work, What’ll Be Left for Us to Do?
Humans will continue to be useful workers, the argument goes, because of things like empathy, creativity, judgment, and critical thinking. Consider the all-too-common experience of calling customer service reps whose employers force them to follow a script—a kind of pseudo-automation. When made to follow a decision tree the way a computer would, all four of those qualities are sucked out of the interaction—no opportunity to exercise creativity, empathy, judgment, or critical thinking—and the service provided tends to stink. “Detecting complaints is an AI problem. Sending the complaints to the correct customer service entity is an AI problem,” said one unnamed Pew respondent described as a university professor and researcher. “But customer service itself is a human problem.”

We cannot do modern science unless it's open
No one will write code for a competitor but many will write to interoperate with a collaborator. We got to know each other, and in 2005 most of us met at the American Chemical Society (ACS) under the blue obelisk in San Diego. I suggested we form a close, informal community under the label Blue Obelisk and that we adopt the mantra: open data, open standards, open source (ODOSOS). We have a mailing list and at intervals I buy Blue Obelisks as awards for publicly valuable contributions. There's a communal agreement to interoperate but no downwards control. It just happens in its own way and at its own speed. We reviewed 5 years on and had 20 groups authoring the paper, which is a remarkable achievement for a very conservative discipline (chemistry) where established companies are more valued than innovation.

When Payment Processing Becomes A Commodity
A catalyst for a commoditization of payment processing is the introduction of cryptocurrencies and new payment protocols like bitcoin and Ripple, which renders clearing obsolete and dramatically lowers the transaction cost for merchants. As a comparison, the transaction cost for payments through Visa/Mastercard/PayPal is ranging between 3-5 percent depending on the transaction size. The transaction cost for bitcoin on the other side is as low as 1 percent with continuing efforts to reduce transaction fees from the bitcoin community. To accelerate the development Bitpay recently announced removed the transaction fees on the starter plan, offering free unlimited payment processing to merchants accepting BitCoin.

New devices run on Wi-Fi signals alone
To find out exactly how the Wi-Fi backscatter devices work, Crave contacted Bryce Kellogg, a doctoral student in electrical engineering and co-author on the research, which will be published at the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Data Communication's annual conference this month in Chicago. He explained that the gadgets function by either reflecting or not reflecting the Wi-Fi signal running between say, a router and a laptop. That interruption in the signal can be then be read by software on the laptop much in the same way binary code is interpreted.

When Data Joins The Dark Side
"Sometimes data goes dark because we're simply too busy to deal with it, so we push it to the side and ignore it," Colgan said. "Maybe we don't have the right tools to address the scale or speed, or to shine a light on the data." Alternatively, data can go dark when it's trapped in a repository -- a legacy archive, for instance -- that renders it difficult to access or analyze. "We have a lot of customers interested in migrating off legacy archives," said Colgan. "They're doing so for a couple of reasons: One, a number of archives are at end of life, and (customers) want to go to a more modern platform; two, they want to migrate to the cloud."

Enterprise Security: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
Each year there are more than 50 million cyber attacks in the UK alone and this number is rising. It’s fast becoming evident that old security technologies are diminishing in effectiveness and holes are opening up in corporate security networks. In the paragraphs below I explore the good, the bad and the ugly to dispel some of the common myths around the enterprise security armoury. ... It’s become commonplace for employees to access corporate email via a mobile device. Often this is not a standard work-issue device and IT managers are challenged with managing multiple devices all with different operation systems.

The Latest Strategy in the Fight Against Offensive Social Media Content
Possibilities include using natural language filters to pick out tweets that are likely to be offensive and then quarantining the authors. Another is a peer review model in which people rate the offensiveness of tweets and those responsible for the content deemed most offensive are quarantined. But these approaches raise all kinds of practical questions: where should the cut-off lie between people who should be quarantined versus those who should not; how long should individuals be quarantined for and so on. And what of users simply reregister under another name?

15 Technologies Changing How Developers Work
A long time ago, developers wrote assembly code that ran fast and light. On good days, they had enough money in their budget to hire someone to toggle all those switches on the front of the machine to input their code. On bad days, they flipped the switches themselves. Life was simple: The software loaded data from memory, did some arithmetic, and sent it back. That was all. ...  The work involved in telling computers what to do is markedly different than it was even five years ago, and it's quite possible that any Rip Van Winkle-like developer who slept through the past 10 years would be unable to function in the today's computing world. Everything seems to be changing faster than ever.

Mobile chips face lockdown to prevent hacks
A well-designed system can provide multiple layers to prevent malicious attacks and injection of rogue code, said Chandra, adding that the hardware, security subsystem and software on mobile hardware need to work together. Besides ARM, chip makers like Intel and AMD are working to bring more security features so mobile devices are shielded from attacks. The companies are knitting together hardware and software to work more cohesively in a system, and also establishing hypervisors, secure boot layers, and segmented areas -- much like sandboxes -- in which code could be executed without compromising a system.

The Importance of Putting People First
Undaunted, the new CEO (the founder’s son) explains that he may be new but the one thing he knows is that “Burridge’s is its staff,” and he intends to look out for their welfare. He sends the manager to make the call. A bit patrician perhaps (the series is set in the 1950s, after all), but it’s a reminder that there can be a human connection between employer and employee. It is in this light that I began to consider the recent announcement that Starbucks had forged an alliance with Arizona State University to make 40 online degree programs affordable for its employees.

Quote for the day:

"Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier." -- Charles F. Kettering

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