Big Tech &
Bedbugs are giving Airbnb users headaches… and itchy bites (12 minute read)
Some tenants have reported bedbugs while staying in Airbnb homes, but apparently, the company doesn't support the hosts well enough to fix the problem. There are no company procedures for handling outbreaks except that it suspends listings until hosts can provide evidence that the issue has been fixed. Airbnb takes an up to 20 percent cut of rental prices and is currently valued at $31 billion. Bedbugs can be introduced to properties by guests, attaching themselves to luggage when traveling. They are difficult to get rid of and can take a large financial and psychological toll on people. A typical extermination costs between $1,000 and $2,500.
Facebook also hired human contractors to listen to audio from its Messenger app (2 minute read)
Facebook hired third-party contractors to review and transcribe audio clips from users to ensure that conversations were being correctly transcribed in the Messenger app. The feature to transcribe voice clips to text in Messenger is turned off by default. Only those who had opted in to use the feature and the people who they were talking to while using voice to text translation had their anonymized audio clips reviewed for accuracy. According to the support page, the feature uses machine learning to transcribe audio. There is no mention of other human beings as part of the transcribing process. It was recently discovered that other companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have been using human contractors to review audio from customers without their explicit consent. Amazon has since allowed users to opt-out, Apple has completely stopped the practice, and Google continues to defend the use of contractors.
Scientists unlock secrets of gender within sperm for first time in major breakthrough (4 minute read)
Japanese researchers have developed a method for separating sperm bearing 'X' chromosomes from sperm containing 'Y' chromosomes, which allowed them to produce litters of the chosen sex in mice studies. The chemical trigger used in the study causes sperm with the 'X' chromosome to slow down. When the scientists implanted the faster sperm, it produced litters that were 90 percent male, and when the slower sperm was used, it created litters that were 81 percent female. The technique has been used successfully in cattle and pigs. Farmers have been attempting sex skewing in livestock for a while now, but current methods are laborious, expensive, and can damage the sperm. The new technique appears to not affect the health of the sperm. If the technique can be applied to humans, it has the potential for unpredictable and disruptive social consequences.
The DOE Announces El Capitan, World's New Fastest Supercomputer Will Hit 1.5 ExaFLOPS (5 minute read)
El Capitan is a new exaFLOP-scale supercomputer that is planned to be operational by 2023. It will be faster than the current top 100 supercomputers in the world, able to complete 1.5 quintillion calculations per second. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, it will be able to conduct 3D simulations at an unprecedented scale and speed at resolutions that are impossible with existing supercomputers. Cray has been awarded a $600 million contract to build the system with its Shasta architecture, Slingshot interconnect, and software platform.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Internships (GitHub Repo)
This repository contains a database of mainly 2020 summer tech internships. The information can easily be sorted as a spreadsheet on a website, as a markdown file, as a CSV file, or by adding to Trello. Users are encouraged to contribute to the list and instructions for contributions are provided.
GitHub stars won’t pay your rent (20 minute read)
After launching a custom browser designed for developers, Kitze looked at the statistics for his software and found that while over 7,000 people were using the software every month, it had only made $93 in 2.5 years despite the donation link being clearly visible everywhere. After exploring a few options and jobs, Kitze redeveloped a paid version of the app and removed the GitHub repository. The app launch was successful and Kitze was able to build and expand a business.
Spotify’s pitch to podcasters: valuable listener data (4 minute read)
Podcasters will be able to view listener data with the new Spotify for Podcasters dashboard which is coming out of beta today. The dashboard will display listeners' music taste, age, gender, location, and how long they listened to a particular episode. It could potentially be used as a place to handle ad insertion if Spotify wanted to become an ad network. Spotify's other podcast-creation technologies, Anchor and SoundTrap, are kept separate from the dashboard. Around 100,000 podcasts have signed up for Spotify's platform since its beta rollout last October, and Spotify has more than 450,000 shows as part of its catalog.