The U.S. Wants the World to be Wary of Huawei

The race to 5g is already being won by Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications company. The capabilities of 5g range from instant downloads of movies, to automating surgery and highway transportation, but the risk is that with more devices using the internet, the more room there is for security breaches. 

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In 2019 the National Security Council discussed building the new internet/5g framework from scratch with cyber-security as a primary objective, but the Trump administration repealed those requirements for 5g.

The accusations of Huawei being a means through which the Chinese government can keep tabs on the world, and the efforts of the Trump admin to slow the implementation of Huawei’s tech have basically failed as countries in Europe and Asia are showing interest in Huawei’s 5g.

The article ends with a quote by former Senior Director of the N.S.C. Richard Spalding; “What is existential to democracy is allowing totalitarian regimes—or any government—full knowledge of everything you do at all times because the tendency is always going to be to want to regulate how you think, how you act, what you do. The problem is that most people don’t think very hard about what that world would look like.”

I found that quote very interesting because sometimes I think that’s how I think about media in the US. With the patriot act and our phones seemingly always listening and maybe even seeing what we’re doing, does the idea of 5g still scare people? Maybe the US in some sense regulates how we think/act and what we do- do people feel differently if it’s the Chinese gov’t controlling our media messages?

https://www.newyorker.com/news/annals-of-communications/the-terrifying-potential-of-the-5g-network

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Learning About Shapes Today, Ruling Over Humankind Tomorrow

By now we have all heard the term AI or Artificial Intelligence used, and we’ve probably heard that big names like Microsoft, Google and Elon Musk are all in the AI game. A name we probably haven’t heard before is Covariant.ai, a developer of AI technology for warehouse robots. In an article from Wired.com by Will Knight, he brings this startup to our attention and explains how what they’re doing is innovative.

Knight begins by introducing how the winners of this year’s Turing Prize Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio, as well as other big names, such as Jeff Dean head of AI at Google, Fei-Fei Lin director of the AI Lab at Stanford, and Daniela Rus head of the Computer Science and AI Lab at MIT have all invested in Covariant.ai versus other companies that develop AI for use in warehouse or industrial context. 

The reason these well-versed ‘AI Luminaries’ decided to invest in this company is because of they are focused on AI’s learning capabilities. In 2017 when Covariant.ai was founded, they pioneered the application of machine learning to robotics. Now they’re beginning to make a name for themselves by leading the game of teaching warehouse robots how to grab and sort unfamiliar items through Reinforcement Learning and Imitation Learning. Reinforcement Learning boils down to an algorithm that trains itself through trial and error, similar to how animals learn through positive or negative feedback and Imitation Learning is learning by observing and an algorithm that runs simulations based on the information observed and already learned information. Pretty cool. 

Reinforcement Learning as well as Imitation Learning used to be considered unrealistic options due to the amount of computer/computing power required. But as technology continues to advance, the once seemingly insurmountable computer capacity and electricity needed to power the AI tech and corresponding programs has become more realistic, and is even showing success in Covariant.ai’s case.

As demand for robots in warehouse and/or industrial settings continues to increase (prediction of 12% increase in robot production between 2020-2022), companies like Covariant.ai’s fancy AI technology may not be needed to efficiently complete warehouse or industrial tasks, but as their AI quite literally continues to learn and grow, I can see a future of automated or AI technology running our planet. 

https://www.wired.com/story/ai-helps-warehouse-bots-pick-new-skills/

DOT to Make Auto Industry Tech & Features Speak the Same Language

An article by Aarian Marshall from Wired.com brings up how terms like Automatic Emergency Braking, Collision Imminent Braking, Autonomous Emergency Braking, Collision Intervention, Autonomous Braking, and Dynamic Brake system all actually mean the same thing and are just some examples of the different words and phrasing that automaker’s marketing teams come up with to make their technology of automatic emergency braking systems to seem unique and appealing. 

As of a week ago, the Department of Transportation is supporting efforts to educate the entire auto industry- drivers, dealers, manufacturers and marketers on the approved language surrounding new technology in personal vehicles. The list of approved terms was released a year prior and states that when operating a vehicle, “the driver is responsible for the primary task of driving”, whether it be a Tesla using their ‘Autopilot’ feature or a Ford with ‘Pre-Collision Assist and Automatic Emergency Braking’. 

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Studies by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety show that drivers overestimate the range of capabilities in features like ‘Autopilot’ or ‘Adaptive Cruise Control’ as well as automatic emergency braking systems. A review by AAA showed that in the U.S. automaker marketers use 20 different terms for adaptive cruise control and 19 different terms for blind-spot warning systems. Another study done by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety looked at police report data and insurance claim data to find that vehicles with front collision warning features were involved in 27% less front-rear accidents than those without and vehicles with front collision warning features and automatic emergency braking systems were involved in 50% less front-rear accidents. 

The list of approved terms released last year by the Department of Transportation won’t fix the issues of vague or confusing marketing in the auto industry but they will lead to a list of mandated terms of which manufacturers can use to describe their technological features. The list, as stated before, aims to educate drivers (consumers) about the reality of the capabilities of the features in their vehicles, but also will shape the future for regulation on informing consumers of what the fancy marketing terms actually mean. 

https://www.wired.com/story/auto-safety-features-speak-same-language/

Mind Reading Technology: No Longer So Futuristic

Source: roadtovr.com

In the CNBC article, “Mind-reading technology lets you control tech with your brain — and it actually works” by Julia Boorstin, Boorstin discusses the recent developments in mind-controlled technologies, ranging from video games to TV, to prosthetics. This category of companies is known as “Brain-Computer Interface”. These products use sensors attached to the scalp to interpret brain signals into specific actions.

One of the major players in this industry is Next Mind. The CEO, Sid Kouider explains “Your vision is in your brain, and we analyze your vision in your brain and we can know what you want to act upon and then we can modify that to basically create a command.” The author of the article sampled the technology herself and was able to use the sensors to select specific keys on a TV, functionally replacing a TV remote. She could also manipulate the settings such as channel and volume. While this may sound like science fiction, the industry is projected to make over $1.5 billion this year alone. This technology has wide-reaching applications, from entertainment to medicine and prosthetics. Another company, BrainCo, has been masterminding a wearable prosthetic which will retail for $10,000-$15,000, almost half of the current prosthetics on the market. What makes this even more revolutionary, the system operates on muscle signals, which can be learned over time to increase functionality and dexterity.

While much of this technology is not yet available to consumers, companies like Next Mind are offering developer kits in hopes that others companies will be inspired to create extensions and applications to better the technology.

Article Link: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/10/ces-2020-mind-reading-technology-lets-you-control-gadgets-and-games.html

Mind Reading Technology (It Really Works!)

Mind reading technology is the latest gadget that is going to blow your mind. With this new possibility, “the future is now” has a whole new meaning. With a growing number of companies beginning to focus on “Brain-Computer Interface”, this industry is expected to reach around $1.5 Billion by the end of this year.

The devices use sensors to record brain signals on the scalp. By tracking where the eyes are focusing, the devices can control an object without physically moving. A company such as NextMind has created a prototype that can create commands on objects. NextMind CEO, Sid Kouider, says the eyes are only used to see, but the vision process and interpretation is in the brain. Brain-Computer Interface uses that information in the brain to process what commands to make. For instance, a subject was able to change the color of a lamp only using her thoughts. Another example is how a subject was able to mute, change channels, or change the volumes only by focusing her eyes on a certain part of a screen.

As this device is still in its beginning phases, companies using this technology are already focusing on what could come next. As E-Sports and gaming communities have skyrocketed over the past few years, there are unlimited amount of possibilities in how Brain-Computer Interface systems can be used.

NextMind’s technology is not available to the public yet, but a developer kit is being sold to other companies who can add applications to the product. Contributing ideas and technologies in order to release the best product they can offer.

Another company such as BrainCo focuses on the frontal cortex of the brain. While the technology is similar, BrainCo has used the technology on VR games. In one game, the harder the player focuses on the rocket ship, the faster the rocket ship moved. Different colors light up on the front of the headband depending on how hard the user is focusing. This technology can be brought into education, because it can train kids on how to focus better.

Brain-Computer Interface can be very effective in prosthetics as well. It can enhance the response and reaction of controlling a prosthetic limb. As the user builds a connection with the prosthetic limb through Brain-Computer Interface, it can begin to learn habits of brain signals and respond even quicker.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/10/ces-2020-mind-reading-technology-lets-you-control-gadgets-and-games.html

Facebook Says They Are Able To Locate Users Who Decline Tracking

It seems like every week there is something new involving facebook and privacy. The company had admitted in a letter to two US senators that they able to locate someone even after they opt out of precise location tracking. Facebook had stopped tracking location data when users specifically opt out of the service, but there are other forms of information and data that they are able to use to piece together where someone is. The company says that there are several benefits as to why they need your location for advertisements and to fight hackers and battle misinformation but that is still crazy. There really is no privacy any more it seems like and all these big companies are simply sharing our data for money. That is pretty concerning to me and im sure a lot of other Americans that we can check the option to not have our location tracked but it still is. I wonder how many other options and services that I decline from, but are still being done without my knowledge…

Game of Streams – ViacomCBS

Viacom and CBS Corp. are officially joining forces after 14 years since their split. Viacom and CBS first merged in 1999 and split in 2005. Since the two merged, ViacomCBS is now a massive media empire with a collection of cable channels, broadcast networks, and film and publishing divisions. The company celebrated its partnership with a ceremonial ringing of the opening bell at the Nasdaq Market Site in New York’s Times Square. The company’s Nasdaq ticker symbol is VIAC.

The two companies bring a lot of content to each other. Viacom has the right to BET, Comedy Central, MTV, and Paramount movie studios. CBS properties include the CBS Television Network, CBS News and 15 CBS-owned TV stations, as well as the cable network Showtime and the publisher Simon & Schuster. ViacomCBS is valued at an estimate of $30 billion when the merger was announced in August. The company has a lot of competition. Between recent streaming platforms like AppleTV, Disney+ and Netflix, there is a lot of pressure to not only come with good content but how will ViacomCBS make streaming distinct for them.

 

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According to CBSNews, Both CBS Corp. and Viacom have long been controlled by Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari through their family’s privately owned company, National Amusements. This company operates in movie theaters in the U.S., U.K. and Latin America. Shari Redstone is the president of National Amusements and has served as vice-chairwoman of CBS and Viacom before their merger. Shari has recently become chair of the combined ViacomCBS board.

The two companies have a history of trying to merge; they have tried several times in recent years but their management teams could never see eye to eye. Last year, CBS’s board went through a lot go change following the departure of longtime CEO Leslie Moonves over misconduct allegations. This helped make room for the merger. Hopefully, Viacom’s content can help create a bigger name within the streaming platform. It will be interesting to see what content they will make specifically for their platform.

Companies That Turned 10 Years Old

Sometimes I think we forget how much has changed in past 10 years and we take the certain things for granted so when I came across an article called 30 Companies Worth At Least $1 Billion That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago, I knew it was the perfect article to dive into for more information. The four companies that we are constantly using that didn’t exist 10 years ago that stuck out to me are: DoorDash, WeWork, Instacart, and Lyft.

DoorDash is a food delivery service that is valued $13 billion and as the company is continuing to grow, they plan to launch new products and expand the service of the app. WeWork is the workspace that employers never thought they needed until a few years ago and it was called revolutionary because it was a business model that we had never been introduced to in the past. Instacart is your own personal grocery shopper that deliveries the food directly to your door through using an app. Lastly, Lyft which is one of the new forms of taxis has been valued at $29 billion and its one of the things in our lives that we never knew we needed until we got it.

“The tech landscape looks completely different today than it did at the beginning of the decade.” – Meira Gebel, Business Insider

For me to even think that some individuals that are in lives, have never seen life without these perks is crazy. These companies in particular have become a part of our everyday life and a lot of us couldn’t imagine life without them anymore.

Justice Department to abolish anti-trust laws from the 1940’s

With the new release of Apple Tv + and Disney + the world has entered the streaming age. More and more movies and shows are turning to streaming platforms today and leaving the old ways of movie theaters behind. The cinematic landscape is changing and old antitrust laws over movie distribution are becoming obsolete and now hurting the industry they were designed to protect. In 1949 Congress passed the Paramount act that limited the eight largest movie studios from buying and owning movie theaters which stops them from controlling the entire movie distribution system. The Paramount act also made it illegal for studios to limit the number of theaters in one area that could play a movie. The Act also made it illegal for theaters to use “block booking” which was a practice that movie studios used. “Block booking” was when movie studios forced theaters to show their bad movies before they showed the good movies. 

These laws were very important during the time when cities and towns had one theater with one screen and showing one bad movie would waste everyone’s time and money all so the movie studios would not lose any money. Today however most cities and towns have multiple movie theaters and those theaters now have multiple screens which show many movies at the same time. With the changing landscape in today’s film industry and increases in technology these antitrust laws are now becoming obsolete mostly because now there are 3 movie theater companies who control more than half of all screens in the US. 

Removing the Paramount Act would not hurt these giant companies because they are too big now. Smaller, independent, theaters are the ones that are going to be hurt by the removal of this act. If movie distributors are allowed to block book again movie theaters would be crowded with just movies that would bring in a crowd. By removing this Act you are hurting not just small indie movie theaters but also the entire film industry by giving these companies the ability to control the distribution.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/18/business/media/movie-distribution-rules.html

Google Buys Fitbit and its Data

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Article: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/17/people-getting-rid-of-fitbits-after-google.html

Image: https://www.gadgetbytenepal.com/google-fitbit-acquisition-privacy-at-risk/

Fitbit is one of the biggest smartwatch companies in the US with their main competitor being Apple and their line of watches. On November first, Fitbit was acquired by Google which means all the health data that Fitbit recorded, will belong to Google. Many users are uncomfortable with this merger because they fear Google will sell their health data to insurance companies or other companies. Jennifer Elias of CNBC wrote an article about Fitbit users getting rid of their devices in lieu of this merger. She wrote about how Fitbit was bought for $2.1 billion and backlash from users and privacy advocates, the concerns may possibly stop the acquisition. Elias wrote about how users were fine with Google buying Nest Labs and integrating Google to home assistants and security. Their concerns are now that Google has access to all the data from the cameras in people’s homes and whatever data is collected from Google Home and health data. Elias quoted from a Fitbit user, “I like your product and have enjoyed it many years, but I value my privacy much, much more. The aggregation of data possible makes me extremely uncomfortable” (Elias, 2019). Elias used multiple tweets from users about the discomfort they feel having their data moved to Google. Many users are now considering using Apple’s watches because they feel more comfortable that Apple won’t sell their data or send it to insurance companies.

I found this article interesting because of the rise of privacy. More and more people are becoming concerned about where their data is going and who has access to it. Facebook has been dealing with a lot of backlash from users demanding better privacy and various lawsuits. Google has also been paying violation fees for Europe when the EU changed their privacy policies. It could be dangerous for Google to have people’s health information because these large companies don’t always keep their promises on privacy and data use. If I had a Fitbit, I would probably get rid of my device as well. I’ve been weary about the smart watches because I never wanted a company to have the ability to track my movement throughout the day and track how I sleep. It made me uncomfortable because these companies aren’t always transparent about what they plan to do with my data and I wouldn’t want an insurer to be able to up-charge me because they somehow have access to my health records from my phone. I also found it interesting that users from this article are completely fine with Google being in their home and recording their property, but health data is where they draw the line. I agree that one company having all that data is dangerous because they can build a profile on you that knows more about you than you do. I wonder if this merger will go through or if users and privacy advocates can stop it.