Big Tech &
Facebook tests Forecast, an app for making predictions about world events (5 minute read)
Forecast is a social polling app from Facebook's NPE Team that allows users to ask questions about what might happen in the future. The app is currently only available to invited participants in the US and Canada on iOS. Users can vote on what they think will happen, as well as explain the reasoning behind their choices. The predictions and related discussions are public on the Forecast website, which is linked in the article. Facebook was testing the app internally with a small set of employees but has now started inviting members of the health, research, and academic communities to make predictions about the pandemic and its impact on the world. Questions are moderated and sometimes edited for clarity before posted.
Spotify is testing interactive podcast ads so you never have to remember a promo code again (2 minute read)
Spotify will be testing a new feature that allows podcasts to embed a link on their episode pages that leads directly to an advertiser's webpage. The system will load pages with promo codes automatically inserted to remove the work from users. Spotify is looking for more ways to create more of a direct funnel for brands. Streaming Ad Insertion was introduced in January for Spotify's exclusive shows. The technology targets users based on their demographics and other data points in real-time and then inserts ads into podcasts as they are being listened to.
Scientists Used Dopamine to Seamlessly Merge Artificial and Biological Neurons (8 minute read)
Scientists have been able to connect an artificial neuron with a biological one, getting them to communicate with dopamine. Previous attempts at hybrid neural circuits only focused on electrical computing. Chemical computing would bring brain-machine interfaces closer to reality. It is theoretically possible to use these neuromorphic chips as replacement parts for damaged brains. The chips demonstrated the ability to learn. A lot more research is still required before the technology can be used for any practical applications.
Researchers propose AI system that reverse-engineers black box apps (2 minute read)
Researchers at DeepMind and the CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security have proposed an AI system capable of reverse-engineering the black-box functions of programs written in Karel. Karel was chosen as it uses structures that make reverse-engineering applications more difficult. Given access only to the inputs and outputs of an application, the system was able to eventually create a functionally equivalent copy of the original program with a 78% success rate.
Programming, Design & Data Science
What I learned from looking at 200 machine learning tools (13 minute read)
This article looks at the history and landscape of the field of machine learning. It discusses the problems facing the field, such as data quality, the size of ML algorithms, and many others. There are now many tools and startups that provide machine learning services. While machine learning has been a hot field in the past few years, the demand for ML researchers has lessened. Engineering for ML tools will become more in demand as companies start bringing their ML into production.
Elevator.js is a script for a 'back to the top' button that adds elevator music to create a soothing effect when being scrolled to the top of the screen. The webpage is a demo of the script in action. A link to the repository is available.
I Just Hit $100k/yr On GitHub Sponsors (14 minute read)
GitHub Sponsors is a way for developers to get funding from sponsors. It is available to developers in 32 regions, but there is currently a waitlist. GitHub takes zero fees, so developers get 100% of the funds. Caleb Porzio was accepted into the GitHub Sponsors program on December 12th, 2019, and has since grown his revenue to an estimated over $100,000 per year. Porzio developed a 'sponsorware' concept where sponsors would receive early access to software until a certain number of sponsors was reached, at which point the project would then be open-sourced to the world. He then created a series of educational products with exclusive bonuses for sponsors, which eventually accounted for most of his sponsor income. Developers should be comfortable with accepting money for their work especially if it adds value to other people's lives.
NASA simulation shows kaleidoscope of sunsets on other worlds (3 minute read)
Geronimo Villaneuva, a planetary scientist from NASA, created a collection of sunset simulations while making a computer modeling tool for a possible future mission to Uranus. The simulation can display the known sky colors of Uranus, Earth, Venus, Mars, and Titan, showing the Sun setting from the perspective of someone standing on these worlds. The simulations have been implemented into the Planetary Spectrum Generator, an online tool that helps scientists replicate how light is transferred through the atmospheres of planets, exoplanets, moons, and comets. Videos of the simulations are available in the article.