Big Tech &
Facebook gets into the meme-making biz with experimental Whale app (1 minute read)
Facebook has quietly launched a meme-making app called Whale on the Canadian App Store. It was developed by Facebook's New Product Experimentation team. The NPE was set up so Facebook could set the expectation that these apps could change quickly or be shut down. Facebook's app experiments come during the meteoric rise of TikTok. TikTok is on its way to having 1.5 billion users in total. It has been criticized for censoring criticism of the Chinese government. Bytedance, TikTok's parent company, is being investigated by US lawmakers for its links to Beijing.
Google is putting an algorithmic audio news feed on its Assistant (3 minute read)
A new service called 'Your News Update' is coming to Google Assistant. It will turn an algorithmically determined news feed into an audio stream. These news bites will be similar to the hourly news updates that can be heard on the radio. Before, users had to ask for the news and then choose from specific news sources. Now, users will hear individual, topic-specific news bites. Users will be able to choose to stay on the old system if they want. Google has licensed audio from a variety of news sources and local radio stations. It has paid its partners to create stories that work with Your News Update.
"Biologically inspired" A.I can beat the world's strictest internet censorship (2 minute read)
Authoritarian governments are known for strictly censoring what their citizens can see on the internet in order to control their people and protect those in power. A new tool called Geneva uses AI to automatically detect bugs and gaps in a country's censorship system so users can view uncensored content. It uses a biologically inspired form of machine learning. Geneva tries different randomized algorithms to beat censorship algorithms. It keeps the effective algorithms and dumps the ones that don't work. Geneva allowed researchers to browse the internet uncensored in China, India, and Kazakhstan. Russia's system is more complicated, and researchers have not yet gained enough access to probe its censorship systems the same way they have in other countries. Geneva can be detected by looking for randomized data being transmitted that doesn't look like it was created by normal human activity.
Bill Gates backs startup using sunlight to create 1,000C-plus heat (2 minute read)
Heliogen is a company that has created a system to concentrate sunlight in order to reach temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees Celsius. The system represents a technological leap forward in tackling the emissions that make up 75% of the world's carbon footprint. Heliogen uses a large array of mirrors to reflect sunlight at a target. Its system can generate temperatures high enough to manufacture cement without fossil fuels. Cement is the world's third-largest source of emissions behind oil and coal. Bill Gates, along with other private equity investors and entrepreneurs, is backing Heliogen's efforts to replace fossil fuels.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Kaolin (GitHub Repo)
Kaolin is a PyTorch library for accelerating 3D deep learning research. It provides efficient implementations of differentiable 3D modules for use in deep learning systems. Kaolin can load and preprocess several popular 3D data sets which can be manipulated, mitigating the need to write boilerplate code. It supports an array of loss functions and evaluation metrics and can provide visualization functionality to render the 3D results. A curated model zoo comprising of many state-of-the-art 3D deep learning architectures is provided to serve as a starting point for future research endeavors.
Self driving cars are fun! (3 minute read)
Self-driving cars have reached Level 2 autonomy. Tesla has been developing and shipping Level 2 driver assistance systems. It takes 70,000 GPU hours to train Tesla's Autopilot system with all its neural networks. Tesla's Autopilot is a system of 48 neural networks. Simpler models can be made with self-generated driving data, data from external datasets, and a high-end mobile phone.
Private Equity Is Going to Ruin the .Org Domain System and Screw Nonprofits (3 minute read)
The Public Interest Registry, the agency that manages the .org domain, announced last week that it will be selling itself to private equity firm Ethos Capital. Internet experts and activists are concerned about the sale despite the Internet Society stating that the deal is a good thing for the future of .org. The deal will provide funding and resources for the Internet Society to continue to make the internet more open, accessible, and secure. ICANN has recently made the controversial decision to lift .org fee price caps. PIR had previously stated that it would not raise prices unreasonably and that it had no specific plans to impose rate hikes. However, the new owners are free to make price changes as they see fit.