Big Tech &
Former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia (1 minute read)
Two men who had worked at Twitter were charged for monitoring accounts on the behalf of the Saudi government. A third man, who didn't work for Twitter, was also charged for spying. The trio obtained personal info for more than 6,000 accounts. One of the spies was paid a minimum of $300,000, plus a gift, for the espionage work. Another was granted a director position in the Crown Prince's private office. Twitter stated that those employees with access to sensitive information were trained and vetted and that there were tools in place to protect users' privacy. Only one of the three men are currently in the US. The others are in Saudi Arabia, where there is no extradition treaty with the US. This is the first time Saudi Arabia has ever been accused of spying within the US.
YouTube’s homepage redesign means people will see bigger thumbnails and fewer videos (1 minute read)
YouTube will launch a new homepage design today that includes bigger thumbnails, meaning users will see fewer videos on the homepage. Extra details about videos will be available, and creators will be able to use longer titles. The aim of the redesign is so users can view all the video information at a glance, rather than requiring them to hover their cursor over a video or click through to see more. Categories like News and Music will no longer be placed on the front page. Desktop users will now be able to tell YouTube to stop recommending channels that the user is not interested in. They can also now add videos to a queue.
In 2020, Some Americans Will Vote On Their Phones. Is That The Future? (4 minute read)
The US is experimenting with Internet voting as a means to increase turnout. While there are some concerns, advocates claim that the project is necessary as the current voting system is outdated. Each state has the freedom to choose how voting is conducted, including choosing what voting technologies are used. Some states have been experimenting with voting apps for overseas and military voters. The main concern for online voting is security. Voting technology is usually owned by private companies and kept secret, and this lack of transparency may decrease trust in the voting process. The difficulty of the current voting system has been blamed for low voter turnout. Mobile phone voting will encourage more people to vote, and also help those who can't physically vote.
OpenAI has published the text-generating AI it said was too dangerous to share (2 minute read)
OpenAI has released the full version of GPT-2, a text-generating AI system. When it was first announced, there were concerns that it could be misused to spread fake news, spam, and disinformation. OpenAI has since released smaller versions of GPT-2, but has seen no strong evidence of misuse. GPT-2 can generate coherent text from minimal prompts, for example, it can create an article from just a headline. Its limitations include having trouble with long-term coherence, for example, sticking to a single subject in a news article. There is an ongoing debate with AI researchers about the ethics of releasing cutting-edge AI tools that can enable malicious actors. OpenAI has created systems that can spot GPT-2's output with around 95 percent accuracy. A link to a web version of GPT-2 is available.
Programming, Design & Data Science
Cardboard SDK (GitHub Repo)
Cardboard SDK provides everything required to create VR experiences for Google Cardboard. It supports VR features such as motion tracking, stereoscopic rendering, and user interaction via the viewer button.
React Query (GitHub Repo)
React Query provides hooks for fetching, catching, and updating asynchronous data in React. It features transport, protocol, and backend agnostic data fetching, parallel and dependent queries, load-more pagination and scroll recovery, and more. Full documentation is provided along with examples.
We Asked People Around the World How They Feel About Artificial Intelligence. Here’s What We Learned (3 minute read)
A survey was conducted on 66,800 people, asking them how they felt about artificial intelligence. Over half of the respondents had some knowledge of AI, with around 10 percent of people feeling that they were well educated about the topic. Younger people tended to report feeling more knowledgable. People were split between feeling concerned, curious, and hopeful about AI. Most people reported wanting AI to eventually become smarter than them. There were concerns about the future of AI, with most people thinking of '1984' when asked which movie best described the future of AI. People in the survey were open-minded and aware that they need to pay attention to AI.