Big Tech &
Visa to acquire Plaid, the fintech powering Venmo and other banking apps, in $5.3 billion deal (3 minute read)
Visa is buying Plaid in a deal worth $5.3 billion. Plaid's API software is used by many companies to connect to users' bank accounts. One in four people in the United States with bank accounts has used Plaid's services. Visa was an early investor in the start-up, along with Mastercard, Citi, American Express, and Goldman Sachs. Plaid has seen a compound annual growth rate of roughly 100% since 2015. Its customer base doubled from 2017 to 2018 and has expanded to the UK and Canada. Visa has estimated that the deal could add up to 100 basis points to the company's net revenue growth by 2021.
Microsoft is replacing Edge with its new Chromium browser next week (2 minute read)
Microsoft's Edge browser will be upgraded to the Chromium-based version on January 15. Windows 10 users will be automatically transitioned to the new version. The launch date was announced last month, but it wasn't clear if existing users would be pushed to the new version. Enterprise customers will have a choice to stay on the Edge version. The new version will look mostly the same, but it will be able to support all Chrome's extensions. Web developers will no longer have to test for both Edge and Chrome versions of their websites, as they will now share the same rendering engines. Apple was briefly rumored to have considered changing Safari to a Chromium base. Microsoft has customized its version of the Chromium browser to include more privacy features.
'Smile with your eyes': How to beat South Korea's AI hiring bots and land a job (3 minute read)
Top Korean firms are rolling out artificial intelligence in hiring, and job seekers are learning how to beat the bots. Career consultants are now offering classes on how to handle recruitment screening by computers. These systems use facial recognition technology to analyze potential employees, so job seekers have to learn techniques, such as smiling with their eyes, in order to deal with the AI. Nearly a quarter of the top 131 corporations in Korea currently use or have plans to use AI in hiring. AI video interviews analyze people's emotional responses to questions and also their performance in a certain set of tasks. Some tests don't really have a correct answer, as the goal is only to analyze behavior. Many students are feeling disheartened with the introduction of AI as they feel like they are underprepared for these types of interviews, and they are concerned because the systems can easily detect if they make something up.
Scientists use stem cells from frogs to build first living robots (3 minute read)
US-based researchers have created living machines from cells cultured from African claw frogs. The machines are less than 1mm long and can be programmed. When damaged, the robots can heal themselves, and when their tasks are done, they can die and decay. These features make them ideal for tasks like cleaning up microplastic pollution in the oceans, locating and digesting toxic materials, drug delivery in the body, or removing plaque from artery walls. The robots are designed by an evolutionary algorithm that runs on a supercomputer. It runs tests in virtual environments to see which designs are the best, and then after about 100 generations, a design is chosen to be built in the lab. They have blood vessels, nervous systems, and sensory cells. Some groups have raised concerns over the ethics of the creation and use of these robots.
Programming, Design & Data Science
CleverCSV (GitHub Repo)
CSV is a great format, but it has too many different variations with its formatting and it can get messy dealing with CSV files of different types all the time. CleverCSV is a Python package that can automatically detect the format of CSV files and load it without the need for inspection. It is 97 percent accurate for dialect detection. CleverCSV has been designed to be a drop-in replacement for the built-in CSV module with extra functionality.
Why “No Code”? (8 minute read)
The movement to 'no code' has gained momentum over the last couple of years. No code is an ideal where business logic, and even entire applications, can be written without having the training of a software developer. Software developers can be expensive, and the work that is outputted is usually slow, highly variable, and requires ongoing maintenance. The need for software is clear, but developing it is expensive and risky. While the idea of being able to create software using business logic in plain language form sounds great, there are some fundamental flaws with the concept. Programming languages have been attempting to simplify programming since early in the industry, but the reality is that abstract code is required for many applications. Simple syntax removes a lot of expression and flexibility. Many programs can change 'coding' into a series of configurations, but these programs have very specific applications and are not suitable for general use. They also take away a lot of flexibility with the logic. 'No code' will still have its uses, such as putting together proof-of-concepts for projects, but it is likely that software developers will still be needed for most software development scenarios.
Iran’s Insoluble Paradox of Cutting Off the Internet (5 minute read)
Recent unrest in Iran has resulted in internet blackouts over the weekend. The Iranian government has denied a cover-up after an airliner was shot down last week. There was a drop in Iran's international internet access on Saturday and Sunday, and a drop in connectivity at Tehran's Sharif University on Monday ahead of any new demonstrations. Iran has used internet blackouts as a form of control during other periods of civil unrest. There is a high cost to the country's economy every time the internet is disconnected. Iran lost $1.5 billion within four days during a blackout in November. The blackouts are causing more Iranians to be aware of their oppression from their government and the power of the internet.
Instacart workers are organizing national boycott to reinstate a default 10 percent tip (2 minute read)
Instacart workers will be holding a protest against the company next week in order to push for the reinstatement of a 10 percent default tip on all orders. They plan to start a social media campaign to encourage customers to #DeleteInstacart until the company restores the 10 percent tip. Workers claim that Instacart has lowered pay steadily over the last few years, reducing the default tips from 10 percent to 5 percent in 2016. It introduced an earnings structure in 2018 that resulted in less pay for most of its laborers. Workers' tips were being factored into their minimum payments, but Instacart reversed the policy after widespread criticism. Instacart later eliminated its bonus program. An IPO may be on the horizon for Instacart, which had a valuation of around $8 billion last year.