Tech Corner

Emerging Technologies – Business, Labor & Education

Why you should be concerned about governments shutting down the Internet

Governments are turning off the internet to silence dissenters at an ‘exponential’ rate—and threatening civil society, says the chief operating officer of Google’s Jigsaw project.

Deliberate internet shutdowns enacted by governments around the world are increasing in frequency and sophistication, according to a recent report. The study, published by Google’s Jigsaw project with the digital rights nonprofit Access Now and the censorship measurement company Censored Planet, says internet shutdowns are growing “exponentially”: out of nearly 850 shutdowns documented over the last 10 years, 768 have happened since 2016.  ∞ India’s government has shut off the Internet more than any other—109 times in 2020 alone—and data shows that shutdowns are most common around elections and times of potential civil unrest, leading to claims that it has become a tactic to suppress dissent. But while they are becoming more prevalent, shutdowns are also getting more subtle, using tactics like throttling a URL to dramatically slow its function, blocking particular internet addresses, and restricting the use of mobile data. 

MIT Technology Review sat down with Dan Keyserling, the chief operating officer of Jigsaw, to discuss the growing phenomenon. . . .

Full story here at MIT Technology Review

Emerging Tech: Technology Entrepreneurs Address Plastics Pollution & Recycling – 8-12-21

High-Tech In-Store Machine developed by an entrepreneur from Apple and an aerospace engineer Incentivizes Recycling. Being introduced in Northern California Safeway Stores First.

What if recycling of plastic, glass, and metal beverage containers was done at supermarket to make it convenient?  And what if the recycling machine was so easy to use and loaded with high-tech components so that it was more like a large, attractive device?

Who knew recycling could be so simple and look so sleek? It really should encourage people to recycle more. Such an elegant solution was engineered by Olyns, a leader in technology-centric recycling solutions, which announced July 28 the launch of its new bottle collection machine designed for high-traffic, indoor locations. To increase recycling of plastics, the innovative solution provides a convenient way for consumers to redeem bottle deposits while earning rewards through a mobile app. The approach also helps break down barriers surrounding the collection and transportation of recyclables. A single Olyns machine can deliver more than one and a half metric tons of clean recycled PET per year.

click here for full article


Uber and Lyft argue treating drivers as employees would wreck their business

Stock in Uber is down more than 6 percent after President Joe Biden’s new labor secretary, Marty Walsh, told Reuters that drivers are employees under US labor law. Stock in Lyft, whose business is more concentrated in the United States, is down 11 percent. DoorDash, which heavily uses contract workers for food deliveries, saw its stock fall by 8 percent.

The legal status of workers driving for these companies has become a controversial issue around the world. Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash argue that the contractor model allows them to not only operate more efficiently but also offer drivers increased flexibility. The companies argue that if they were forced to pay drivers by the hour, they’d have to not only raise fares but also restrict drivers’ hours to make sure drivers only work at times when there are enough customers to keep them busy.

But those arguments haven’t always persuaded policymakers. In 2019, California’s legislature passed legislation classifying gig workers as employees—though that law was overturned by a voter initiative last November. A New York federal judge ordered Uber to pay unemployment . . . . full story in Ars Technica


Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in his final letter to shareholders as CEO that the e-commerce giant has to “do a better job for our employees.” The letter comes amid ongoing reports of untenable conditions for Amazon workers. And it outlines a strategy that seems odd for a company that has been accused of treating workers like robots: a robotic scheme that will develop new staffing schedules using an algorithm. . . . . 

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union that led the Bessemer unionization drive, said in a statement Thursday that the impact of the union drive, regardless of the outcome, has been “devastating” for Amazon’s reputation. 

“We have initiated a global debate about the way Amazon treats its employees,” Appelbaum wrote. “Bezos’s admission today demonstrates that what we have been saying about workplace conditions is correct. But his admission won’t change anything, workers need a union  not just another Amazon public relations effort in damage control.”  full story here at Verge

His Invention For Renewable Energy Inspired by the Physics of Northern Lights Just Won the 2020 Dyson Prize

While renewable energy uptake and solutions continue to grow, many can only generate electricity in the right environmental conditions. For example, solar panels can only capture and convert visible light into renewable energy and must be facing the sun to do so. What is more, solar farms are only built horizontally, never vertically and are often placed on prime arable farmland.

The solution? Invented by 27-year-old Carvey Ehren Maigue from Mapua University in the Philippines, AuREUS System Technology is a material that can be attached to a pre-existing structure or surface. Utilizing the natural scientific principles behind the northern and southern lights, it harvests UV light and convert this into visible light to generate electricity. 

Using ultraviolet rays, the sun could be shining, or it could be cloudy: Carvey’s material will still generate electricity.  full story here

Tech companies are ending leases and consolidating offices as remote work is here to stay – Due to Pandemic

Key Points:

Start-ups across the country are letting leases expire and preparing for an extended period of remote work.

Credit Karma closed its San Francisco office earlier than expected, and will eventually move all Bay Area employees to its new Oakland office, though some will be able to work from home permanently.

“About eight weeks ago, companies said to us that once things reopen, people will want to go to work but no one wants to go to work five days a week,” Industrious CEO Jamie Hodari said

full story

Future of Technology & Entertainment: Jobs, Business Potential and Policy Questions

As the epicenter of digital entertainment creation and entertainment jobs, keeping up with tech and entertainment is part of our mandate. With the dawn of AI and the rise of social media, technology is scarier — and more exciting — than ever. Here’s how it’s changing music, TV, sports and more.

Virtual reality is going hyper-real. CGI is bringing back the old stars. A recent concert used no less than 157,000 multidirectional speakers to send the music to its audience! One car company is doing away with speakers and simply turning. the entire car body into a speaker. Machine made music, anyone? AI songwriting is gaining traction. Several artists using a songwriting algorithm called Flow Machines already have appeared in Spotify.

But in addition to innovations and job potential, there are policy questions in need of addressing when it comes to entertainment technology, just as there are in other tech fields. For instance, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, ” Taylor Swift fans mesmerized by rehearsal clips on a kiosk at her May 18, 2019 Rose Bowl show were unaware of one crucial detail: A facial-recognition camera inside the display was taking their photos. The images were being transferred to a Nashville “command post,” where they were cross-referenced with a database of hundreds of the pop star’s known stalkers, according to Mike Downing, chief security officer of Oak View Group, an advisory board for concert venues including Madison Square Garden and the Forum in L.A. “Everybody who went by would stop and stare at it, and the software would start working,” …. Despite the obvious privacy concerns — for starters, who owns those pictures of concertgoers and how long can they be kept on file? — the use of facial-recognition technology is on the rise at stadiums and arenas, and security is not the only goal. . . . “ full article

Looking to Network in Technology? Join Pasadena’s Women in Tech Meet-up Group

Next Meet-up: Tuesday November 12, 2019

Link: PWiT – Hosted by ADP – Tue, Nov 12

Pasadena Women in Technology
6:00 PM ; Location: ADP Innovation Center, 4th floor, 55 South Lake, Pasadena, CA

More Public and Government Education Re Facial Recognition Needed?

Most Americans are fine with cops using facial recognition on them

new report from Pew Research shows that more than half of Americans trust law enforcement to use facial recognition—it’s the private tech companies they’re suspicious of….

The backlash: More and more US cities are voting to ban their local government from using facial recognition. San Francisco was first, and places like Oakland, California, and Somerville, Massachusetts, have followed. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called for banning police departments from using facial recognition, and lawmakers are planning to introduce a similar federal bill

Surprise finding: The Pew report found that 56% of Americans actually do trust law enforcement with facial recognition. More specifically, 59% of adults thought it was okay for law enforcement to use the technology to assess security threats in public (though the figure was lower for younger adults, Democrats, and black and Hispanic people). 

Private technology companies and advertisers, on the other hand, have people worried—and they aren’t covered by the legal bans that have been passed or mooted so far. Only 30% of respondents said it’s okay for companies to use the technology to track whether employees are coming to work, and only 15% thought it was okay to use it to see how people respond to advertising. About 36% thought it was okay to require facial recognition to enter apartment buildings.

This is real life: The examples in the survey aren’t theoretical. Facial recognition databases used by law enforcement include over 117 million Americans. Police frequently use the technology, even though it’s often less accurate for people of color. It has been used in schools, and Walgreens has tested it on in-store coolers to help target ads. Tenants in Brooklyn, meanwhile, are fighting against facial recognition in their apartment building

Apple, Amazon, and Facebook all use it too. Apple was sued by a teen who said its facial recognition in stores had misidentified him and led to his false arrest. Amazon has been criticized for selling the technology to law enforcement, but despite the backlash, in May shareholders overwhelmingly voted to continue the practice. Just this week, Facebook rolled out facial recognition for all its users, but said they would be able to opt out

Across the pond: A national survey of attitudes toward the technology in the United Kingdom, also out this week, found that 46% of the public thought they should be able to consent to or opt out of the technology. Meanwhile, a court in the UK ruled that police use of the systems does not violate privacy and human rights. The decision can be appealed, and Britain’s top privacy regulator said the debate over facial recognition is far from settled. That goes for the US as well.

From MIT Tech review front page – expander Sept 6, 2019

Why some cities are banning facial recognition

There are cameras everywhere now, even in billboards you pass. Every time you ID yourself or a friend on Facebook, you have added facial identity information to the cloud. Most airports are using it on all patrons. Security cameras employ it. Facial recognition may make police work faster and easier. But knowing that everyone’s face is being tracked 24/7, which is possible in the near future, could have a detrimental effect on people’s decisions about what they will say, where they will go (think churches, community centers, rallies . . . . ). So, not only does facial recognition have an impact on our rights of privacy, it could impact our rights of assemblage, speech and more. In addition, it is notoriously inaccurate on faces of color and women. This is something that society needs to be addressing together, while there is still time, rather than allowing a free-for-all in use by police, military, commercial security companies, advertising agencies and more. A few cities have banned their use (including San Francisco and Oakland), but there are currently no state or federal laws regulating facial recognition. Watch the video, then consider if policy intervention is needed.

Link to Wired Video Interview

8 Technologies We Owe to the Apollo Space Program

SPACE WEEK 2019: The innovations of the Apollo program didn’t stop at the Moon. Many technologies were created, or innovated into what they are today, thanks to the space program

Athletic shoes, cordless power tools, fire retardant clothing and even Zooming and Enhancing – all originated with the NASA Space Program. Click here to see all eight technologies!

London Police Face Recognition Gets it Wrong 81% of the time

The first independent evaluation of the Metropolitan police’s use of face recognition warned it is “highly possible” the system would be ruled unlawful if challenged in court.

The news: London’s police force has conducted 10 trials of face recognition since 2016, using Japanese company NEC’s Neoface technology. It commissioned academics from the University of Essex to independently assess the scheme, and they concluded that the system is 81% inaccurate (in other words, the vast majority of people it flags for the police are not on a wanted list). They found that of 42 matches, only eight were confirmed to be correct, Sky News Reports.

Police pushback: The Met police insists its technology makes an error in only one in 1,000 instances, but it hasn’t shared its methodology for arriving at that statistic.

Rising fears: As face recognition becomes more ubiquitous, there’s growing concern about the gender and racial bias embedded into many systems. With that in mind, San Francisco banned its use by public agencies last month. That doesn’t do anything to stop it from proliferating in the private sector, but at least it might mean it can’t be wielded by authorities with the power to arrest you. 

French Parliament Approves Digital Sales Tax, U.S. Orders Inquiry

The French parliament has just approved a 3% digital sales tax aimed at closing the loopholes big tech companies use to bring down their tax bills.  

The plan: The tax on sales generated in France will apply to companies with global revenues over €750 million ($849 million) or French revenues over €25 million. It is expected to raise about €500 million a year.

A backlash: Inevitably, most of the companies affected are based in the US. It’s for that reason that the US government has ordered an inquiry into the new tax, with the potential to implement tariffs on French goods in retaliation.

First of many: The low tax yield from wealthy global tech firms is controversial far beyond France. The UK, Spain, Italy, and Austria are considering similar sales taxes, raising the question of how the US will respond if they take effect. Perhaps it might even prompt countries to finally agree on some common tax rules.

source: MIT Technology Review and Wall Street Journal

Tech Policy Conversation Starter: “I Left The Ad Industry Because Our Use Of Data Tracking Terrified Me”

Richard Stokes is the founder and CEO of Winston Privacy.

It was a little over two years ago that I realized the ad-tech industry had gone too far. I was an executive at a global advertising company, watching a demo from a third-party data provider on how they could help with ad targeting. Their representative brazenly demonstrated how he could pull up his own personal record and share with us his income, his mortgage details, where he worked, what kind of car he drove, which political party he was likely to vote for, and his personal interests (craft beer, of course). It was everything, all in one place. Not to be outdone, another startup projected a map of San Francisco with a red line tracking a real, anonymous person throughout their day. He challenged us to infer what we could about her. She left the house at 7 a.m. Went to Starbucks. Went to a school. Went to a yoga studio. Went back to the school. She was a mother with at least one child, and we knew where she lived. We knew this because this woman’s cell phone was tracking her every move. As does every other cell phone, including the one in your pocket right now.

Advertising had ceased to be about connecting with consumers—it was now about finding novel ways of extracting evermore personal information from computers, phones, and smart homes. [We have] come to accept that our every move is being tracked and used to manipulate what we read, what we buy, how we vote, and how we see the world. By using ‘smart’ devices, we have invited a vast network of big tech companies, advertisers, data brokers, governments, and more into our homes and pockets. These companies have been extracting our personal data without permission and making fortunes with it. And now, with every post, click, and purchase, we have become the product. I didn’t agree to that, and I bet you didn’t either.  Full article

The Evolution of Entertainment Tech & Engineering: Automated theatrical productions, immersive entertainment experiences, & controls aboard America’s Cup all use computer control technology

Computer controls are continuing to make a mark on entertainment applications. The platform has a long history of providing performance and flexibility, but is now also evolving to bring additional technology for productions such as Hamilton, lobby theaters for resorts, and controls used in the America’s Cup.

link to article

Steps to keep your iPhone private

Everything — your contacts, your location, your photos, your emails, your texts, and even your bank account — can often be found on the smartphone in your pocket. It’s an unparalleled collection of things that, taken in the aggregate, make you you. And, if you’ve been paying attention, you know that a seemingly never-ending combination of unscrupulous companies and data breaches mean that you are perpetually on the edge of being put on permanent display. 

No one is suggesting you throw your phone into the ocean and wash your hands of the entire thing. There are some small, privacy-focused steps you can take to mitigate your risk without having to go live in the woods. Here are 7 privacy steps you can take right now . . . .

TEch alert: avoid online skimmers

More than 100 e-commerce sites around the world are infected with malicious code designed to surreptitiously skim payment card data from visitors after they make purchases. Among those infected are US-based websites that sell dental equipment, baby merchandise, and mountain bikes.

There’s no easy way for people to know for sure if an e-commerce site they’re browsing is infected. Malwarebytes and many other endpoint security programs will block the best-known campaigns, but new ones pop up so often that these products can’t be expected to catch all of them. People should never use debit cards when making online purchases. Credit card users should be sure to check their statements each month for fraudulent charges. People may also want to consider using temporary cards that have small, fixed lines of credit.

R.E.D Talk: Investment in Technology and Automation Across Industry in LA County

Technological innovations like artificial intelligence and automation are impacting how businesses are looking to the future investments in their organizations, and their industries as a whole.  Software robotics (i.e. RPA = Robotic Process Automation), and data analytics technology are permeating just about every aspect of business going forward, and companies are seeking answers for where they should be investing in the rapidly changing environment happening around them.

We will be taking a close look at how industries like transportation, aerospace, trade & logistics, manufacturing, and banking are adapting to this new horizon and the impact on businesses in the future.

for more information and to register ($25 general, $15 LAEDC members)

A Post-Product World

The manufacturing plant of the future will produce not products but experience. If you take the new the robots for mobility – self-driving cars – they’re connected machines. Where does the value come from – the chassis and four wheels – or does it come from the connected services? Those connected services are what we call the experience.

The customer seeks the service, not the product. The value to the customer is coming from the experience of using the car, not from the car itself. Those who succeed in the 21st Century will be those who provide change by offering a new type of experience. This is what makes the 21st Century different from the 20th Century. Millennials Are Ready for a Post-Product World.To some extent, the post-product world is a generational issue. Millennials get the notion that products are essentially experience. For Gen Xers and Boomers, the concept takes some getting used to. Many Millennials used shared rides during their college years. They understand the positive economics of not owning a car.The diminishing sales of CDs is another example of experience over products. My Millennial kids are perfectly content not owning any of the music they listen to, and they’ve taught their Boomer old man that CDs are a clunky way to consume music. I now have countless albums in my Amazon Prime collection. I pay a monthly fee for access, it’s far less than I used spend buying CDs. full article 

AI (Artificial Intelligence) As Job Helper Rather Than Job Usurper

There’s a fear that AI is going to take over our jobs – and with the advent of everything from self-driving cars to artificial customer service agents, it’s a valid concern. It’s especially fair when McKinsey, one of the most trusted global management consulting firms, predicts that as many as 800 million full-time employees could have their work displaced by 2030 due to automation

Yet, that data point alone is not reality. In fact, with the following statistics next to it, we can paint a much better picture for the future of work. According to the same McKinsey report: 

  • Less than 5 percent of occupations consist of activities that can be fully automated
  • In about 60 percent of occupations, only one-third of tasks could be automated 

IT professionals are certainly up for it. Because while their jobs are becoming more complex and time consuming, their numbers in business are not increasing to balance this growth. The principal value of AI in IT is that it can help predict problems rather than just react to them – i.e. prevent problems rather than just attempt to mitigate them. more at Forbes

Prepping the workforce for smart automation

Companies can ensure successful deployment of automation by getting buy-in from the workforce and offering retraining. Without the buy-in, workers won’t use the technology.

Companies can reduce the friction of new technology deployment by using collaborative approaches that can produce an abundance of opportunities for the existing workforce. The solution involves a number of strategies, including, gaining buy-in from the company’s workforce, making the new technology familiar, repositioning the workforce infrastructure, and creating retraining programs.

Craig Salvalaggio, VP of Applied Manufacturing Technologies will discuss these strategies in the session, Leading the Change: Digital Transformation & the Workforce of the Future, at the Pacific Design and Manufacturing show in Anaheim on Feb. 5, 2019.

Link to article at Design News:

Robots Will Take Jobs From Men, The Young and Minorities

THERE’S NO DOUBT technology is shaking up the American workplace. Amazon employs more than 100,000 robots in its US warehouses, alongside more than 125,000 human workers. Sears and Brookstone, icons of brick and mortar retailing, are both bankrupt. But as machines and software get ever smarter, how many more workers will they displace, and which ones?

Economists who study employment have pushed back against recent predictions by Silicon Valley soothsayers like Elon Musk of an imminent tidal wave of algorithmic unemployment. The evidence indicates US workers will instead be lapped by the gentler swells of a gradual revolution in which jobs are transformed piecemeal as machines grow more capable. Now a new study predicts that young, Hispanic, and black workers will be most affected by that creeping disruption. Men will suffer more changes to their work than women.

The analysis from the Brookings Institution suggests that just as the dividends of recent economic growth have been distributed unevenly, so too will the disruptive effects of automation. In both cases, nonwhite, less economically secure workers lose out.  full article

Technology, jobs & the future of work – The McKinsey report

Automation, digital platforms, and other innovations are changing the fundamental nature of work. Understanding these shifts can help policy makers, business leaders, and workers move forward.

The world of work is in a state of flux, which is causing considerable anxiety—and with good reason. There is growing polarization of labor-market opportunities between high- and low-skill jobs, unemployment and underemployment especially among young people, stagnating incomes for a large proportion of households, and income inequality. Migration and its effects on jobs has become a sensitive political issue in many advanced economies. And from Mumbai to Manchester, public debate rages about the future of work and whether there will be enough jobs to gainfully employ everyone. more

The Ten Most Intriguing Inventions of 2018

From programmable pills to power-generating boots, here are some of the most unusual technological innovations of 2018 – including electric planes with no moving parts, programmable pills, seeing through walls with Wi-Fi and edible electronics. more

AI Now Research institute Examines the Social Implications of Artificial Intelligence.

Link to their website ;The AI Now 2018 Report: Link

After a Year of Tech Scandals, AI Now’s 10 Recommendations for Artificial Intelligence Let’s begin with better regulation, protecting workers, and applying “truth in advertising” rules to AI: Link

What is a Bot?

Technically speaking, bots are automated programs designed to perform a specific task, like tweet every new word that appears in the New York Times, colorize black and white photos on Reddit, or connect you with a customer service agent. There are bad ones, good ones, and countless more in between. A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate human conversation. Bots are often associated with sites like Twitter, but there are many other types.

Read article at WIRED magazine

2018 Glendale Technology Job Fair


A cyber-skills shortage means students are being recruited to fight off hackers

There aren’t enough cybersecurity workers out there—and things are getting worse. According to one estimate, by 2021 an estimated 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs will be unfilled. And of the candidates who apply, fewer than one in four are even qualified.

That’s why many large corporations are investing in longer-term solutions like mobile training trucks and apprenticeship programs. But the Texas A&M University System has found a way to solve its labor shortage in the short term. It’s pairing student security beginners with AI software.

click here for full article

Students Lacking Internet Access

A 2017 survey of 400,000+ K-12 students, teachers, librarians, and administrators found that lack of in-home internet access is an enormous problem for students in all 50 states; 17.5 % of children in grades 6 to 12 can’t do school work due to no internet access.

full story here

12 new tech terms you need to understand the future: From crowdturfing to brainjacking, BBC Future Now explores the unusual and intriguing vocabulary emerging from technology advances this year.

click here for link

Microsoft Argues Facial-Recognition Tech Could Violate Your Rights

From Yahoo Finance News: On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) provided a good reason for us to think carefully about the evolution of facial-recognition technology. In a study, the group used Amazon’s (AMZN) Rekognition service to compare portraits of members of Congress to 25,000 arrest mugshots. The result: 28 members were mistakenly matched with 28 suspects.

The ACLU isn’t the only group raising the alarm about the technology. Earlier this month, Microsoft (MSFT) president Brad Smith posted an unusual plea on the company’s blogasking that the development of facial-recognition systems not be left up to tech companies.

Saying that the tech “raises issues that go to the heart of fundamental human rights protections like privacy and freedom of expression,” Smith called for “a government initiative to regulate the proper use of facial recognition technology, informed first by a bipartisan and expert commission.”
But we may not get new laws anytime soon. The nuances are complex, while Congress remains as reluctant as ever to regulate privacy. We may find ourselves stuck struggling to agree on norms well after the technology has redefined everything from policing to marketing.
full article

10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2018 – MIT’s Annual List

image: Artificial Embryo, University of Cambridge
Artificial Embryo, University of Cambridge

Every year since 2001 MIT Tech Review has listed their 10 Breakthrough Technologies. Some of their picks haven’t yet reached widespread use, while others may be on the cusp of becoming commercially available. What they are really looking for is a technology, or perhaps even a collection of technologies, that will have a profound effect on our lives.

For this year, a new technique in artificial intelligence called GANs is giving machines imagination; artificial embryos, despite some thorny ethical constraints, are redefining how life can be created and are opening a research window into the early moments of a human life; and a pilot plant in the heart of Texas’s petrochemical industry is attempting to create completely clean power from natural gas—probably a major energy source for the foreseeable future. These and the rest of our list will be worth keeping an eye on.

See full article and list.

photo Solar Panels UCI-Parking Structure
Solar panels on top of a parking structure at the University of California Irvine (Image source: UCI

Solar and Wind Could Meet 80% of US Energy Needs, Study Finds

A new energy study determines that up to 80% of U.S. electricity needs could be met with solar and wind energy, if significant investment is made in new transmission lines and large scale battery storage.
About 80% of the U.S. electricity demand could be reliably met with solar and wind power, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California Irvine, the California Institute of Technology, and the Carnegie Institute for Science.
To understand the variability of solar and wind energy, U.S. weather data from 36 years, spanning 1980 to 2015 was analyzed by the research team and compared to electricity demands over the same period. “What we found,” said Steven Davis, associate professor of Earth system science and co-author of the study, “is that we could reliably get around 80 percent of our electricity from these sources by building either a continental-scale transmission network or facilities that could store 12 hours’ worth of the nation’s electricity demand.” The research team estimated the cost of new transmission lines required could be hundreds of billions of dollars, while storing electricity with the cost of today’s batteries would likely cost more than a trillion dollars.
The work was published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science under the title “Geophysical constraints on the reliability of solar and wind power in the United States,” by Matthew R. Shaner, Steven J. DavisNathan S. Lewis, and  Ken Caldeira.

Automating the Port: It cuts jobs, but cleans the air – a worthwhile trade-off or not?

Automating the Port - photo
Automating the Port

The Long Beach Container Terminal, which opened in April 2016, is an exception. It requires two-thirds fewer workers than traditional terminals. And that frightens the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which controls all the jobs at the docks.

But viewed from another perspective, automation is part of the solution to one of Southern California’s most vexing environmental problems: the worst air pollution in the country.   read full article

Impatient with Colleges, Employers Design their own Courses

. . . . the massive problem of conventional higher-education institutions that largely operate at a 19th-century pace trying to keep up with the fast-changing demands of 21st-century employers — and an example of how tech companies and some businesses in other industries, impatient with the speed of change, are taking matters into their own hands by designing courses themselves.

. . . . “The industry would be very satisfied if higher education was taking care of it . . . I don’t think there’s a desire to get into this space, other than that it’s not.”

. . . . 1.8 million new tech jobs will be created between 2014 and 2024, many of them requiring people with data and computer-science credentials. Retiring baby boomers will leave countless additional positions open. But colleges and universities are turning out only about 28,000 computer-science graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees per year, based on the most recent figures from 2015, according to the consulting firm Deloitte.

. . . . ‘We need people with X, Y and Z skills and [colleges are] not providing that.’

While 96 percent of chief academic officers at higher-education institutions say they’re effectively preparing students for work, only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree, the polling company Gallup found.

. . . . “There’s just a giant gap there,” said Sean Gallagher, executive director of the Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy at Northeastern University. Fewer graduates are emerging from the pipeline than are needed, he said. “I think that’s why the tech sector has been the place where these alternative models are being pioneered.”

Tired of waiting, Microsoft, Linux and other employers have teamed up with edX, a collaboration started by Harvard and MIT to provide online education that is much easier than brick-and-mortar programs to keep up to date and to disseminate to vast numbers of students simultaneously.

The courses employers have been helping to create don’t just teach skills students need to work for Microsoft, Amazon or Google, like the highly specialized training classes that are longtime industry standards — Linux System Administration, for example, or Office 365 Fundamentals. Instead, the companies are working with edX and others to provide what they say are the educations that all of their employees require in common, including such abilities as critical thinking and collaboration.

And the pace with which they’re intervening has been picking up. . . . read full article here.

Artificial Intelligence and Image Recognition Challenges

Example of AI Image Recognition Process - Patterns
Example of AI Image Recognition Process – Patterns

Everything’s Coming Up Roses!

One of the methods used by image recognition algorithms is to “see” things by recognizing patterns within the image. This can be very effective, but can also create challenges for AI. In the tea animation here for example, watch how the AI software is seeing the numerous roses in the bouquet, noting that rose pattern, and then assuming there must be other roses in the picture – when there are actually not!

So, the end of the folded napkin becomes a rose. Rose patterns are seen in the blank back wall. And even the lavender bouquet decoration on the tea pot becomes a rose.

While this might make an interesting surrealist work of art, we certainly would not want our autonomous car seeing roses where, in fact, there is a dog, or other vehicle, or fallen tree – or nothing!

VWDB Tech White Papers

Artificial Intelligence – AI – is here, is everywhere, is leading business and job and education growth in LA’s Creative and Manufacturing economy as elsewhere. Education, Autonomous Cars, Image Recognition, Moblie Apps, Data Analysis . . . Speakers from Honda, IBM, Netflix, UC Berkeley and USC. (see animation on home page)
LA County Economic Development Corporation Future Forum – Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Robotics – click text for pdf white paper


Ways to encourage more girls / women  to study technology and science:

Pair female engineering students for projects and they flourish. 

Female first-year students earn a higher grade when paired with at least one other female for group projects in introductory college engineering classes, according to new research by a Wake Forest University professor. Those students also are more likely to declare an engineering major at the end of their first year — another step toward the national goal of getting more women to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). . . . more

Cybersecurity tips & news

Avoiding Ransomware

Five years ago, few had even heard of the Ransomare threat; today it is the threat of our time. Hackers get into your computer or network, encrypt your data, and hold it hostage until you pay them their asking price. What started as a threat to grandparent’s computer stored photos has now evolved to a multi million dollar threat to hospitals, businesses and government agencies. Here are some tips to avoid becoming a ransomware casualty:

1. Don’t forget to install the latest software and operating system security updates.  Security updates often contain patches for the latest vulnerabilities, which hackers are looking to exploit. Many people put off installing updates, and this is how most hacks happen! And if your computers are working 24/7 in a business, you must schedule enough downtime to do a security download of any updates.

2. Don’t open anything suspicious you receive through email.  Delete dubious emails from your bank, ISP, or credit card company. Check the actual return address: a malware email purportedly from Amazon last week was actually from some other email address. Never click on any links or attachments in emails you’re not expecting. Never give your personal details if asked via email.

3. Back up all your data.  Back up your data in an alternate device (and/or in Cloud) and keep it unplugged and stored away. Backing up data regularly is the best way to protect yourself.

5. Close pop-up windows safely.  Ransomware developers often use pop-up windows that warn you of some kind of malware. Don’t click on the window – instead, close it with a keyboard command or by clicking on your taskbar.

6. Use strong passwords and do not store your passwords on your computer.  Perhaps the most basic requirement for any online account setup is using strong passwords, and choosing different passwords for different accounts. Weak passwords make it simple for hackers to break into an account. A strong password has a minimum of 12 characters, and includes a strong mix of letters, numbers and characters. Forget the “memorable” password idea. If it’s in the dictionary, a hacker has software to find it in a matter of seconds!

topical labor Statistics

Amazon’s Impact on Retail Jobs

Estimated jobs lost among brick-and-mortar stores because of Amazon sales by the end of 2015: 295,000 1

Number of U.S. workers Amazon employed at the end of 2015: 146,000

Percentage of temporary workers employed by Amazon: Roughly 40 percent of the people working in Amazon warehouses are temporary employees who lack job benefits and security.

Wages at Amazon as Percentage of Prevailing Wages: In 11 metro areas Amazon pays an average of 15% less than the prevailing wage for comparable work. In Atlanta, for example, where Amazon has 3 large facilities, Amazon’s wages are 19% lower than the prevailing warehouse wage, and 29% below the living wage for the region.

Number of robots working in Amazon warehouses at the end of 2014: 15,000 2

At the end of 2016: 45,000

Number of items a warehouse worker is expected to retrieve in a 10-hour shift: 1,200

Pounds of carrying capacity of one Amazon Kiva robot: 700

  1. The Institute for Local Self Reliance
  2. Business Insider

The Future of Retail? –  Stores: No Employees!

In China a Swedish company is establishing stores where you use an app and your phone to pay – and no staff works there. 24 hour convenience stores. Eventually they will have a holographic assistant made of AI to help you. Coming soon to 7/11s?