Big Tech &
Amazon debuts Showroom, a visual shopping experience for home furnishings (2 minute read)
Amazon has launched Showroom, a visual design tool that lets you put furniture and decorations into a virtual living room. You can tweak the wall color, flooring, and any of the items in the room. When you're done you can add all of the items to your cart in one click. Amazon says "The result is a photorealistic rendering of a room that answers the question: 'How will this all look together?'"
Apple is putting iTunes on Samsung TVs (1 minute read)
Apple is partnering with Samsung to allow Samsung's 2018 and 2019 TVs to access and play your iTunes movie and TV library directly. The new iTunes Movies and TV Shows app is the first time Apple has allowed third party devices outside of Windows to access iTunes. AirPlay 2 will also allow videos, photos, music, and podcasts to be streamed from Apple devices directly to Samsung TVs.
Blacklisted in China—Misbehaving Scientists Poised for "Social" Punishment (3 minute read)
Following reports of a rogue Chinese scientist birthing CRISPR-edited babies last month, China is rolling out harsh social penalties for scientific misconduct. Misbehaving scientists may be barred from getting a loan or running a company, their faces may be projected onto billboards for public shaming, and they may no longer be allowed on planes or high-speed rails. One scientist says "I have never seen such a comprehensive list of penalties for research misconduct elsewhere in the world." These measures are an extension of China's "social credit" system which will roll out nationwide in 2020.
Inside Facebook's suicide algorithm: Here's how the company uses artificial intelligence to predict your mental state from your posts (5 minute read)
Facebook's suicide algorithm scans every post on Facebook to create a suicide risk score for each user. They pass high scores to law enforcement. Facebook points out that they have caused numerous successful interventions but many advocacy groups are worried about false positives. They also worry about Facebook's history of being hacked; if Facebook leaks your mental health score it could potentially be Googled by future employers etc. Facebook says they do not classify the information they make as sensitive health information, and while they delete low scores after 30 days, they did not respond when asked how long higher suicide risk scores would be stored. The EU has already banned Facebook's suicide algorithm under their GDPR law.
Programming, Design & Data Science
DeepTraffic (Github Repo)
DeepTraffic is a deep reinforcement learning competition run by MIT. There are 20 vehicles on a 7-lane road, with your algorithm controlling some of the vehicles while the game controls others. Your goal is to get a vehicle through the traffic as quickly as possible. There's a leaderboard for the people who manage to drive their car through the fastest. Looks like a fun way to apply deep reinforcement learning.
Tilt (GitHub Repo)
Tilt is an open source project that makes it really easy to run Kubernetes locally, and gives you visibility into problems with your builds, yaml files, etc. It's a simplified alternative to kubectl, you can just run "tilt up" and your app will go live at http://localhost. There's a one minute demo video in the repo.
The Dark Overlord Decrypts More 9/11 Insurance Files (3 minute read)
A hacker group called "The Dark Overlord" is crowdfunding efforts to decrypt 9/11 insurance files it stole from a law firms and government agencies. Conspiracy theorists in particular are interested in these documents as they hope it will reveal a conspiracy around the attacks. The group says "We've said it before, and we'll say it again: we're financially motivated, and you (the public) has spoken to us in our language (internet money, specifically Bitcoin)." They have received about $11,000 in Bitcoin so far and say they will continue to drip release the documents as they receive more and more donations.