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F5 Acquired NGINX For $670M

Slashdot - Nie, 2019-03-17 15:04
Long-time Slashdot reader skdffff quotes ZDnet: F5 Networks on Monday announced that it will acquire NGINX, which provides popular open-source software of the same name, for $670 million. The deal advances F5's aim of capitalizing on the trend toward multi-cloud deployments. F5 plans to enhance NGINX's current offerings with F5 security solutions and will integrate F5 cloud-native technology with NGINX's software load balancing technology. This should accelerate F5's time to market of application services for containerized applications. Meanwhile, NGINX will benefit from F5's global salesforce, channel infrastructure and partner ecosystem. The acquisition adds "the power of NGINX's open source innovation to F5's ADC leadership and enterprise reach," NGINX CEO Gus Robertson said in a statement

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Are Large Cloud Providers a Threat To Open Source Vendors?

Slashdot - Nie, 2019-03-17 14:34
Stephen O'Grady, co-founder of the industry analyst firm RedMonk, asks whether open source vendors are marching towards an inevitable and damaging war with big cloud providers: In the last twelve to eighteen months...a switch has been flipped. Companies have gone from regarding cloud providers like Amazon, Google or Microsoft as not even worth mentioning as competition to dreadful, existential threat. The fear of these cloud providers has become so overpowering, in fact, that commercial open source vendors have chosen -- against counsel, in many cases -- to walk down strategic paths that violate open source cultural norms, trigger massive and sustained negative PR and jeopardize relationships with developers, partners and customers. Specifically, commercial open source providers have increasingly turned to models that blur the lines between open source and proprietary software in an attempt to access the strengths of both, with the higher probability outcome of ending up with their weaknesses instead. That commercial open source providers took these actions having been advised of these and other risks in advance says everything about how these businesses view their prospects in a world increasingly dominated by massive providers of cloud infrastructure and an expanding array of services that sit on top of that. The strategic decisions inarguably have major, unavoidable negative consequences, but commercial open source providers -- or their investors, at least -- believe that a lack of action would be even more damaging.

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After 40 Years 'Dungeons & Dragons' is Suddenly Popular

Slashdot - Nie, 2019-03-17 10:34
CNBC reports Dungeons and Dragons "has found something its early fans never expected: Popularity." The days of hiding away in a basement rolling dice and playing "Dungeons and Dragons" in darkness is over. More than 40 years after the first edition of "Dungeons and Dragons" hit shelves, video platforms Twitch and YouTube are leading a renaissance of the fantasy roleplaying board game -- and business is booming. "DnD has been around for 45 years and it is more popular now than it has ever been," said Greg Tito, senior communications manager, at Wizards of the Coast. In each of the last five years, sales of "Dungeons and Dragons" merchandise has grown by double digits. The company, owned by toymaker Hasbro, attributes this massive sales boom to the launch of the fifth edition of the game in 2014 and to "Critical Role," a weekly show on live streaming video platform Twitch that features voice actors from TV shows and video games playing "Dungeons and Dragons...." "When a new edition for a game like this releases, there is that flurry of activity, people get really excited about it and then, historically, that excitement has waned," he said. "The fifth edition has completely blown that model out of the water. With the release in 2014, it has grown and only continued to grow. Every kind of statistical model we've been able to to use from the history of 'Dungeons and Dragons' has been broken at this point. So, we are in uncharted territory...." "Critical Role" has become so popular that when it launched a Kickstarter last week to create an animated special based on the characters from the first campaign, it was funded within one hour. The team behind the web series had wanted $750,000 to fund the endeavor. With 33 days remaining in the crowdfunding campaign, "Critical Role" has raised more than $7.3 million from 53,000 backers. It is now the most-funded film/video project in Kickstarter history. Over the years Dungeons & Dragons -- and the people who played it -- have usually been played for laughs in TV sitcoms like Freaks and Geeks, several episodes of Community, and an episode of Big Bang Theory with William Shatner, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Smith, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

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Are Online Activists Silencing Researchers of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Slashdot - Nie, 2019-03-17 07:34
Zorro (Slashdot reader #15,759), shares Reuters' report about Michael Sharpe, a medical researcher studying chronic fatigue syndrome, "a little-understood condition that can bring crushing tiredness and pain." Eight years after he published results of a clinical trial that found some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome can get a little better with the right talking and exercise therapies, the Oxford University professor is subjected to almost daily, often anonymous, intimidation... They object to his work, they said, because they think it suggests their illness is psychological. Sharpe, a professor of psychological medicine, says that isn't the case. He believes that chronic fatigue syndrome is a biological condition that can be perpetuated by social and psychological factors... Sharpe is one of around a dozen researchers in this field worldwide who are on the receiving end of a campaign to discredit their work. For many scientists, it's a new normal: From climate change to vaccines, activism and science are fighting it out online. Social media platforms are supercharging the battle. Reuters contacted a dozen professors, doctors and researchers with experience of analysing or testing potential treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome. All said they had been the target of online harassment because activists objected to their findings. Only two had definite plans to continue researching treatments. With as many as 17 million people worldwide suffering this disabling illness, scientific research into possible therapies should be growing, these experts said, not dwindling. What concerns them most, they said, is that patients could lose out if treatment research stalls. Sharpe says he's no longer researching treatments, because "It's just too toxic." And he tells Reuters that other researchers appear to be reaching the same conclusion. "Of more than 20 leading research groups who were publishing treatment studies in high-quality journals 10 years ago, Sharpe said, only one or two continue to do so."

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How Debian Almost Failed to Elect a Project Leader

Slashdot - Nie, 2019-03-17 04:34
Five candidates now are running to be Debian's project leader for the coming year. But earlier this week, Slashdot reader Seven Spirals shared LWN's story about what a difficult election it's been: This year, the call for nominations was duly sent out by project secretary Kurt Roeckx on March 3. But, as of March 10, no eligible candidates had put their names forward... There is nobody there to do any campaigning. This being Debian, the constitution naturally describes what is to happen in this situation: the nomination period is extended for another week... Should this deadline also pass without candidates, it will be extended for another week; this loop will repeat indefinitely until somebody gives in and submits their name... In the absence of a project leader, the chair of the technical committee and the project secretary are empowered to make decisions -- as long as they are able to agree on what those decisions should be. Since Debian developers are famously an agreeable and non-argumentative bunch, there should be no problem with that aspect of things... One might well wonder, though, why there seems to be nobody who wants to take the helm of this project for a year. The fact that it is an unpaid position requiring a lot of time and travel might have something to do with it. If that were indeed to prove to be part of the problem, Debian might eventually have to consider doing what a number of similar organizations have done and create a paid position to do this work.

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Google's Bad Data Wiped Another Neighborhood Off the Map

Slashdot - Nie, 2019-03-17 02:34
Medium's technology publication ran a 3,600-word investigation into a mystery that began when a 66-year-old New York woman Googled directions to her neighborhood, "and found that the app had changed the name of her community..." It's just as well no one contacted Google, because Google wasn't the company that renamed the Fruit Belt to Medical Park. When residents investigated, they found the misnomer repeated on several major apps and websites including HERE, Bing, Uber, Zillow, Grubhub, TripAdvisor, and Redfin... Monica Stephens, a geographer at the University at Buffalo who studies digital maps and misinformation, immediately suspected the geographic clearinghouse Pitney Bowes. Founded in 1920 as a maker of postage meters -- the machines that stamp mail with proof it's been sent -- Pitney Bowes expanded into neighborhood data in 2016 when it bought the leading U.S. provider, Maponics. In its 15-year run, Maponics had supplied neighborhood data to companies from Airbnb to Twitter to the Houston Chronicle. And it had also just acquired a longtime competitor, Urban Mapping, which has previously supplied Facebook, Microsoft, MapQuest, Yahoo, and Apple. Though Pitney Bowes is far from a household name, the $3.4 billion data broker is "a huge company at this point," says Stephens, with enough influence to inadvertently rename a neighborhood across hundreds of sites... In the early 2000s, Urban Mapping offered new college grads $15 to $25 per hour to comb local blogs, home listings, city plans, and brochures for possible neighborhood names and locations. Maponics, meanwhile, used nascent technologies such as computer vision and natural language processing to pull neighborhoods from images and blocks of text, one former executive with the company said... I visited the Buffalo Central Library to find the source of the error... Sure enough, one of the librarians located a single planning office map that used the "Medical Park" label. It was a 1999 report on poverty and housing conditions -- long since relegated to a dusty shelf stacked with old binders and file folders... Somehow, likely in the early 2000s, this map made its way into what is now the Pitney Bowes data set -- and from there, was hoovered into Google Maps and out onto the wider internet. Buffalo published another map in 2017, with the Fruit Belt clearly marked, and broadcast on the city's open data portal. For whatever reason, Pitney Bowes and its customers never picked that map up. This is not the first time Google Maps has seemed to spontaneously rename a neighborhood. But for Fruit Belt the reporter's query eventually prompted corrections to the maps on Redfin, TripAdvisor, Zillow, Grubhub, and Google Maps. But the article argues that when it comes to how city names are represented online, "the process is too opaque to scrutinize in public. And that ambiguity foments a sense of powerlessness." Pitney Bowes doesn't even have a method for submitting corrections. Yet, "In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Google defended its use of third-party neighborhood sources. 'Overall, this provides a comprehensive and up-to-date map,' the spokesperson said, 'but when we're made aware of errors, we work quickly to fix them.'"

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19-Year-Old WinRAR Vulnerability Leads To Over 100 Malware Exploits

Slashdot - Nie, 2019-03-17 00:34
"Last month it was discovered that WinRAR, software used to open .zip archive files, has been vulnerable for the last 19 years to a bug that's easily exploited by hackers and malware distributors," writes SlashGear. Slashdot reader Iwastheone quotes their report: Check Point, the security researchers that revealed the WinRAR bug, explain that the software is exploited by giving malicious files a RAR extension, so that when opened they can automatically extract malware programs. These programs are installed in a PC's startup folder, allowing them to start running anytime the computer is turned on, all without the user's knowledge. Once the bug was disclosed, however, hacker groups really began using it to their advantage, with various nations becoming the target of state-backed cyber-espionage campaigns attempting to collect intelligence. The latest comes from McAfee, the software security firm, which notes that it has identified over 100 unique exploits that use the WinRAR bug, most of them targeting the U.S. WinRar 5.70, released in late January, patches the behavior, but "it must be manually downloaded and installed from the website, leaving most users unaware of the critical update," the article warns. It also estimates that during the last 19 years WinRar has been downloaded over 500 million times.

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Says Labor Shouldn't Have To Fear Automation

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 23:34
Munky101 tipped us off to some interesting comments from New York's activist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. TechCrunch reports: It's impossible to discuss the seismic shift toward automation without a conversation about job loss. Opponents of these technologies criticize a displacement that could someday result in wide-scale unemployment among what is often considered "unskilled" roles. Advocates, meanwhile, tend to suggest that reports of that nature tend to be overstated. Workforces shift, as they have done for time immemorial. During a conversation at SXSW this week, New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offered another take entirely. "We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work," she said in an answer reported by The Verge. "We should be excited by that. But the reason we're not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don't have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem... We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in," The Verge quoted Ocasio-Cortez as saying. "Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage." And Ocasio-Cortez cited Bill Gates' suggestion (first floated in a presentation on Quartz) that a robot tax might be a way to make that vision real. "What [Gates is] really talking about is taxing corporations," she reportedly said. "But it's easier to say: 'tax a robot.' " Science fiction writer William Gibson called her comments "shockingly intelligent" for a politician. Fast Company adds that robots "have put half a million people out of work in the United States, and researchers estimate that bots could take 800 million jobs by 2030" -- then quotes Ocasio-Cortez's assessment of the unfair state of labor today. "We should be working the least amount we've ever worked, if we were actually paid based on how much wealth we were producing, but we're not," she said. "We're paid by how little we're desperate enough to accept. And then the rest is skimmed off and given to a billionaire."

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Was Venezuela's 5-Day Blackout Caused By Cyberattacks -- or Wildfires?

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 22:34
What caused a devastating five-day blackout in Venezuela? Two engineers with expertise in geospatial technologies believe the answer lies in images from a NASA weather satellite showing thermal activity, which they superimposed onto Google Earth, the AP reports: Within hours of the attack, the government of embattled President Nicolas Maduro began accusing the U.S. of a cyberattack. Maduro has stuck to that narrative, saying hackers in the U.S. first shut down the Guri Dam and then delivered several "electromagnetic" blows. Engineers have questioned that assertion, contending that the Guri Dam's operating system is on a closed network with no internet connection. Several consulted by The Associated Press speculated that a more likely cause was a fire along one of the electrical grid's powerful 765-kilovolt lines that connect the dam to much of Venezuela. The transmission lines traverse through some of Venezuela's most remote and difficult to access regions on their way toward Caracas, making it difficult to obtain any first-hand information that could back up or pinpoint the location of a fire. Working with an expert at Texas Tech University's Geospatial Technologies Laboratory, Jose Aguilar, an expert on Venezuela's electrical grid, said satellite data indicates that on the day of the blackout there were three fires in close proximity to the 765-kilovolt lines transmitting power generated from the Guri Dam, which provides about 80 percent of Venezuela's electricity... Engineers have warned for years that Venezuela's state-run electricity corporation was failing to properly maintain power lines, letting brush that can catch fire during Venezuela's hot, dry months grow near and up the towering structures.

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Chicago To Shutdown Composting Business Because Regulations Don't Cover Worms

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 21:34
schwit1 shared an article from Reason's "Volokh Conspiracy" blog: Nature's Little Recyclers is a father-son business that does composting on empty residential lots, transforming organic waste into nutrient-rich soil. Last year, the business's worms processed 10 tons of banana peels and cups from the Chicago Marathon that would otherwise have gone to a landfill. But Chicago officials are going to shut the business down -- and not because the city doesn't think composting is a good thing (the city's sustainability website directs people to Nature's Little Recyclers). Rather, the city's business and zoning regulations weren't designed to accommodate small and innovative operations like Nature's Little Recyclers. "None of these operations met the criteria for garden composting or an on-site organic waste composting operation," said Anel Ruiz, spokesperson for the Department of Public Health, in a statement to Block Club Chicago, adding "Further, these sites are not properly zoned for commercial composting." But another perspective was shared by lawyer Amy Hermalik, associate director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago. "The city will unofficially imply there's wiggle room, saying it only enforces certain ordinances against 'bad operators,' but that leaves businesses subject to shifting political winds or personal whims, Hermalik said. 'They [the city] have an incredible amount of power to do as they please.'"

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VR Company Co-Founder Spends an Entire Week in a VR Headset

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 20:34
An anonymous reader quotes PC Gamer: Not too long into a 168-hour VR marathon session, Jak Wilmot admits the monotony got to him. Wilmot, who is the co-founder of Disrupt VR, also says this experiment is "quite possibly the dumbest thing" he's ever done. So, why do it? For science, of course. I can't imagine immersing myself in a virtual world for a full week, nonstop night and day. Wilmot did it, though, for the most part -- he allowed himself 30 seconds to switch VR headsets when needed, and 30 seconds without a headset on to eat, if required. Other than those small breaks, he spent every other moment in VR... There doesn't seem to be some big takeaway from this experiment (aside from, perhaps, don't drink coffee while playing VR), though one thing I also found interesting was his integration back into the real world when the experiment was over. "I have never appreciated the smell of outside air so much. One thing we cannot replicate is nature. We can do it visually and auditorally, but there is something about the energy of outside that is amazing," Wilmot observed. PC Gamer calls it "probably at least partially a publicity stunt. But it's still interesting to see how donning a VR headset for an extended period of time and essentially living in virtual worlds can mess with the mind." Wilmot wore VR gear while working -- and even while showering (with the VR gear protected by plastic), blacking out his windows so he couldn't tell day from night, calling it "a week in the future..." "I almost feel like I'm in my own 500-suare-foot spaceship," he says at one point, "and I'm really missing earth, and I'm missing nature." Early on he also reported some mild claustrophobia. You can watch the moment where after seven days he removes the headset and returns to conventional reality, joking "Oh my gosh, the graphics are so good." He reports a slight disorientation as his eyes catch up with real ilfe, and says it changed his perspective on people in the real world, seeing them as "individuals in one collection, one environment -- as avatars."

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Las Vegas Approves The Boring Company's Underground Loop

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 19:34
The Boring Company's tunnel project in Chicago is "in doubt" (according to the Chicago Tribune), while a project connecting Washington to Baltimore "is waylaid in the environmental-review process." But it looks like Las Vegas will officially get a tunnel from Elon Musk, CNET reports, "perhaps within this year." The billionaire's Boring Company on Tuesday got the approval from the 14-member board of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) to build and operate an underground loop that would carry people in autonomous electric vehicles at the city's convention center. Musk has responded to the approval in a tweet, saying he'll make the tunnel "operational by end of year," even though the convention center's expansion won't be done until 2021, according to LVCVA's release... A LVCVA spokeswoman said in an email that the underground loop will be ready in 2021 if the contract with the Boring company is approved at LVCVA's board meeting on June 11. The Las Vegas Sun has more details, pointing out that travellers would be carried in electric vehicles moving through two parallel tunnels, one running in each direction. And that fleet of electric vehicles "could include Tesla's Model X and Model 3 and a vehicle with capacity for about 16 people â" all manufactured by Musk. All the vehicles would be fully autonomous, meaning they won't have backup drivers, and would move at speeds of up to 50 mph." The mayor of Las Vegas, also a member of the board, actually voted against the tunnel, calling the Boring Company "exploratory at this time" and warning that "we are considering handing over the reins of our most important industry."

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Is Amazon's AWS Approaching 'War' for Control of Elasticsearch?

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 18:34
Long-time Slashdot reader jasenj1 and Striek both shared news of a growing open source controversy. "Amazon Web Services on Monday announced that it's partnering with Netflix and Expedia to champion a new Open Distro for Elasticsearch due to concerns of proprietary code being mixed into the open source Elasticsearch project," reports Datanami. "Elastic, the company behind Elasticsearch, responded by accusing Amazon of copying code, inserting bugs into the community code, and engaging with the company under false pretenses..." In a blog post, Adrian Cockcroft, the vice president of cloud architecture strategy for AWS, says the new project is a "value added" distribution that's 100% open source, and that developers working on it will contribute any improvements or fixes back to the upstream Elasticsearch project. "The new advanced features of Open Distro for Elasticsearch are all Apache 2.0 licensed," Cockroft writes. "With the first release, our goal is to address many critical features missing from open source Elasticsearch, such as security, event monitoring and alerting, and SQL support...." Cockroft says there's no clear documentation in the Elasticsearch release notes over what's open source and what's proprietary. "Enterprise developers may inadvertently apply a fix or enhancement to the proprietary source code," he wrote. "This is hard to track and govern, could lead to breach of license, and could lead to immediate termination of rights (for both proprietary free and paid)." Elastic CEO Shay Banon responded Tuesday to AWS in a blog post, in which he leveled a variety of accusations at the cloud giant. "Our products were forked, redistributed and rebundled so many times I lost count," Banon wrote. "There was always a 'reason' [for the forks, redistributions, and rebundling], at times masked with fake altruism or benevolence. None of these have lasted. They were built to serve their own needs, drive confusion, and splinter the community." Elastic's commercial code may have provided an "inspiration" for others to follow, Banon wrote, but that inspiration didn't necessarily make for clean code. "It has been bluntly copied by various companies and even found its way back to certain distributions or forks, like the freshly minted Amazon one, sadly, painfully, with critical bugs," he wrote.

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3-5 Degree Rise in Arctic Temperatures Called 'Inevitable'

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 17:34
An anonymous reader quotes the Guardian: Sharp and potentially devastating temperature rises of 3C to 5C in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement, research has found. Winter temperatures at the north pole are likely to rise by at least 3C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century, and there could be further rises to between 5C and 9C above the recent average for the region, according to the UN. Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming. Scientists fear Arctic heating could trigger a climate "tipping point" as melting permafrost releases the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, which in turn could create a runaway warming effect. "What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic," said Joyce Msuya, the acting executive director of UN Environment... Even if all carbon emissions were to be halted immediately, the Arctic region would still warm by more than 5C by the century's end, compared with the baseline average from 1986 to 2005, according to the study from UN Environment. That is because so much carbon has already been poured into the atmosphere. The oceans also have become vast stores of heat, the effect of which is being gradually revealed by changes at the poles and on global weather systems, and will continue to be felt for decades to come. The findings were presented at the UN Environment assembly Wednesday, where a report written by 250 scientists and experts from over 70 countries also warned that "damage to the planet is so dire that people's health will be increasingly threatened unless urgent action is taken."

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Linux Foundation Launches New Tools Supporting The Open Source Community

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 16:34
"The Linux Foundation is launching a new platform designed to sustain open-source communities," reports SD Times: CommunityBridge was announced at this week's Open Source Leadership Summit. The Linux Foundation plans to launch a number of tools to the open-source community throughout the next two years. The platform is currently being released with Community Bridge Funding to help developers raise and spend funding; CommunityBridge Security for potential vulnerabilities and fixes; and CommunityBridge People for networking and making connections with mentors and mentees. "In making the announcement, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said on stage at the conference that the Linux Foundation would match funding for any organization that donated funds to CommunityBridge projects," reports FierceTelecom. "Following up on those announcements, Microsoft-owned GitHub said it would donate $100,000 to CommunityBridge and invited maintainers of CommunityBridge projects to take part in GitHub's maintainer program."

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Is Believing In Meritocracy Bad For You?

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 15:34
An anonymous reader quotes Fast Company: Although widely held, the belief that merit rather than luck determines success or failure in the world is demonstrably false. This is not least because merit itself is, in large part, the result of luck. Talent and the capacity for determined effort, sometimes called "grit," depend a great deal on one's genetic endowments and upbringing. This is to say nothing of the fortuitous circumstances that figure into every success story. In his book Success and Luck, the U.S. economist Robert Frank recounts the long-shots and coincidences that led to Bill Gates's stellar rise as Microsoft's founder, as well as to Frank's own success as an academic. Luck intervenes by granting people merit, and again by furnishing circumstances in which merit can translate into success. This is not to deny the industry and talent of successful people. However, it does demonstrate that the link between merit and outcome is tenuous and indirect at best. According to Frank, this is especially true where the success in question is great, and where the context in which it is achieved is competitive. There are certainly programmers nearly as skilful as Gates who nonetheless failed to become the richest person on Earth. In competitive contexts, many have merit, but few succeed. What separates the two is luck. In addition to being false, a growing body of research in psychology and neuroscience suggests that believing in meritocracy makes people more selfish, less self-critical, and even more prone to acting in discriminatory ways. The article cites a pair of researchers who "found that, ironically, attempts to implement meritocracy leads to just the kinds of inequalities that it aims to eliminate. "They suggest that this 'paradox of meritocracy' occurs because explicitly adopting meritocracy as a value convinces subjects of their own moral bona fides."

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Stanford Unveils New AI Institute, Built To Create 'A Better Future For All Humanity'

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 14:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mercury News: Amid a worldwide race for supremacy in artificial intelligence, Stanford University on Monday will unveil a new institute dedicated to using AI to build the best-possible future (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source). The Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence is co-directed by Fei-Fei Li, a former chief scientist for AI at Google, now a Stanford computer science professor. The institute will take advantage of Stanford's strength in a variety of disciplines, including AI, computer science, engineering, robotics, business, economics, genomics, law, literature, medicine, neuroscience and philosophy, according to promotional materials. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at Monday's official launch. Stanford's AI institute will work in partnership with a number of other university facilities and initiatives, including the Center on AI Safety, the Center for Ethics in Society, the Center for International Security and Cooperation, and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, plus AI4ALL, which aims to boost diversity in AI fields. The 78 faculty members assigned to the institute reflect the diversity of fields the university intends to cover in its research and teaching, coming from disciplines including computer science, medicine, law, business, economics, environmental science, linguistics, political science and philosophy. Although the institute highlights the importance of AI being "broadly representative of humanity" across gender, ethnicity, nationality, culture and age, its faculty also reflect the gender gap in technology -- only 18 percent are women. About three quarters of the faculty are white. Courses will include "The Politics of Algorithms," "Theoretical Neuroscience," "AI-assisted Health Care" and "Regulating Artificial Intelligence."

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Facebook's WhatsApp Explores Using Google To Fight Misinformation

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 13:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: WhatsApp is working on a major new feature to tackle the spread of misinformation on its service. The Facebook-owned chat app is internally testing a new option that would allow a user to quickly verify the legitimacy of images they have received on WhatsApp by checking if those images had ever appeared on the web before. [...] The unnamed feature relies on Google's reverse image search function to let WhatsApp users upload an image and find where it has appeared on the web. This is a clever solution by WhatsApp, which protects all messages and media content on its platform with end-to-end encryption. While hugely beneficial to end users, using encryption also significantly curtails WhatsApp's ability to scan the content of messages and media on its platform. In emerging markets, users are exhibiting a growing appetite for sharing information through images. In places like India, WhatsApp's largest market and where the service is grappling with the spread of false information, the feature could potentially help many users quickly verify facts and get more context about the image they have received.

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Solar Panel Splits Water To Produce Hydrogen

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 11:00
schwit1 shares a report from IEEE Spectrum: A team at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, or KU Leuven, says it has developed a solar panel that converts sunlight directly into hydrogen using moisture in the air. The prototype takes the water vapor and splits it into hydrogen and oxygen molecules. If it scales successfully, the technology could help address a major challenge facing the hydrogen economy. A small but growing number of facilities are producing "green" hydrogen using electrolysis, which splits water molecules using electricity -- ideally from renewable sources such as wind and solar. Other researchers, including the team in Belgium, are developing what's called direct solar water-splitting technologies. These use chemical and biological components to split water directly on the solar panel, forgoing the need for large, expensive electrolysis plants. KU Leuven sits on a grassy campus in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern region of Belgium. Earlier this month, professor Johan Martens and his team at the Center for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis announced their prototype could produce 250 liters of hydrogen per day on average over a full year, which they claim is a world record. A family living in a well-insulated Belgian house could use about 20 of these panels to meet their power and heating needs during an entire year, they predict. The solar panel measures 1.65 meters long -- roughly the height of a kitchen refrigerator, or this reporter -- and has a rated power output of about 210 watts. The system can convert 15 percent of the solar energy it receives into hydrogen, the team says. That's a significant leap from 0.1 percent efficiency they first achieved 10 years ago.

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'Halo Drive' Would Use Black Holes To Power Spaceships

Slashdot - Sob, 2019-03-16 08:00
A new study from researchers at Columbia University in New York suggests future spaceships could use black holes as powerful launch pads to explore the universe. The study "envisions firing laser beams that would curve around a black hole and come back with added energy to help propel a spacecraft to near the speed of light," reports Space.com. "Astronomers could look for signs that alien civilizations are using such a 'halo drive,' as the study dubs it, by seeing if pairs of black holes are merging more often than expected." From the report: Study author David Kipping, an astrophysicist at Columbia University in New York, came up with the idea of the halo drive through what he calls "the gamer's mindset." Using what he called a "halo drive" -- named for the ring of light it would create around a black hole -- Kipping found that even spaceships with the mass of Jupiter could achieve relativistic speeds. "A civilization could exploit black holes as galactic waypoints," he wrote in a study accepted by the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society and detailed online Feb. 28 in the arXiv preprint server. The major drawback of a halo drive would be that "one has to travel to the nearest black hole," Kipping said. "It's akin to paying a one-time toll fee to ride the highway system. You have to pay some energy to reach the nearest access point, but after that, you can ride for free as a long as you like." The halo drive works only in close proximity to a black hole, at a distance of about five to 50 times the black hole's diameter. "This is why you have to travel to the nearest black hole first and [why you] can't simply do this across light-years of space," Kipping said. "We still first require a means to travel to nearby stars to ride the highway system. Kipping is now investigating ways to exploit other astronomical systems for relativistic flight. Such techniques "may not be quite as efficient or fast as the halo-drive approach, but these systems possess the deep energy reserves needed for these journeys," Kipping said.

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