Tech Corner

Emerging Technologies – Business, Labor & Education

2018 Report From The AI Now Institute

AI Now is a research institute examining 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

Answers to your business’s questions about technology today.

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
VWDB & VJC Tech Job Fair 2018

Next Glendale Tech on Tap – Public Welcome! -November 28, 2018 from 5 – 7 PM, at the Glen Arden Club, 357 Arden Avenue, Glendale, CA. for our next Tech on Tap. This month, we’re featuring George Bandarian and topic is “Built to Sell: 8 Things that Can Build or Destroy Your Company’s Value”

Whether you’re a CEO preparing to sell or a new startup planning for the future, this month’s meeting offers steps you can take to maximize your company’s value and ensure you’re on track to exit at top dollar.

Over his 10 years of experience working with founders, CEOs, startups, and small businesses, business coach and exit strategist George Bandarian has seen companies fetch up to three times more than the average price for companies in their industry. He will offer tips for how to find strategic buyers for your business, boost your company’s cash flow, accelerate the pace of positive word-of-mouth for your business.

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?