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Hitting the Books: How can privacy survive in a world that never forgets?

Engadget - Sun, 2022-08-21 11:00

As I write this, Amazon is announcing its purchase of iRobot, adding its room-mapping robotic vacuum technology to the company's existing home surveillance suite, the Ring doorbell and prototype aerial drone. This is in addition to Amazon already knowing what you order online, what websites you visit, what foods you eat and, soon, every last scrap of personal medical data you possess. But hey, free two-day shipping, amirite?  

The trend of our gadgets and infrastructure constantly, often invasively, monitoring their users shows little sign of slowing — not when there's so much money to be made. Of course it hasn't been all bad for humanity, what with AI's help in advancing medical, communications and logistics tech in recent years. In his new book, Machines Behaving Badly: The Morality of AI, Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at the University of New South Wales, Dr. Toby Walsh, explores the duality of potential that artificial intelligence/machine learning systems offer and, in the excerpt below, how to claw back a bit of your privacy from an industry built for omniscience.

Machines Behaving Badly CoverLa Trobe University Press

Excerpted from Machines Behaving Badly: The Morality of AI by Toby Walsh. Published by La Trobe University Press. Copyright © 2022 by Toby Walsh. All rights reserved.

Privacy in an AI World

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that the total entropy of a system – the amount of disorder – only ever increases. In other words, the amount of order only ever decreases. Privacy is similar to entropy. Privacy is only ever decreasing. Privacy is not something you can take back. I cannot take back from you the knowledge that I sing Abba songs badly in the shower. Just as you can’t take back from me the fact that I found out about how you vote.

There are different forms of privacy. There’s our digital online privacy, all the information about our lives in cyberspace. You might think our digital privacy is already lost. We have given too much of it to companies like Facebook and Google. Then there’s our analogue offline privacy, all the information about our lives in the physical world. Is there hope that we’ll keep hold of our analogue privacy?

The problem is that we are connecting ourselves, our homes and our workplaces to lots of internet-enabled devices: smartwatches, smart light bulbs, toasters, fridges, weighing scales, running machines, doorbells and front door locks. And all these devices are interconnected, carefully recording everything we do. Our location. Our heartbeat. Our blood pressure. Our weight. The smile or frown on our face. Our food intake. Our visits to the toilet. Our workouts.

These devices will monitor us 24/7, and companies like Google and Amazon will collate all this information. Why do you think Google bought both Nest and Fitbit recently? And why do you think Amazon acquired two smart home companies, Ring and Blink Home, and built their own smartwatch? They’re in an arms race to know us better.

The benefits to the companies our obvious. The more they know about us, the more they can target us with adverts and products. There’s one of Amazon’s famous ‘flywheels’ in this. Many of the products they will sell us will collect more data on us. And that data will help target us to make more purchases.

The benefits to us are also obvious. All this health data can help make us live healthier. And our longer lives will be easier, as lights switch on when we enter a room, and thermostats move automatically to our preferred temperature. The better these companies know us, the better their recommendations will be. They’ll recommend only movies we want to watch, songs we want to listen to and products we want to buy.

But there are also many potential pitfalls. What if your health insurance premiums increase every time you miss a gym class? Or your fridge orders too much comfort food? Or your employer sacks you because your smartwatch reveals you took too many toilet breaks?

With our digital selves, we can pretend to be someone that we are not. We can lie about our preferences. We can connect anonymously with VPNs and fake email accounts. But it is much harder to lie about your analogue self. We have little control over how fast our heart beats or how widely the pupils of our eyes dilate.

We’ve already seen political parties manipulate how we vote based on our digital footprint. What more could they do if they really understood how we respond physically to their messages? Imagine a political party that could access everyone’s heartbeat and blood pressure. Even George Orwell didn’t go that far.

Worse still, we are giving this analogue data to private companies that are not very good at sharing their profits with us. When you send your saliva off to 23AndMe for genetic testing, you are giving them access to the core of who you are, your DNA. If 23AndMe happens to use your DNA to develop a cure for a rare genetic disease that you possess, you will probably have to pay for that cure. The 23AndMe terms and conditions make this very clear:

You understand that by providing any sample, having your Genetic Information processed, accessing your Genetic Information, or providing Self-Reported Information, you acquire no rights in any research or commercial products that may be developed by 23andMe or its collaborating partners. You specifically understand that you will not receive compensation for any research or commercial products that include or result from your Genetic Information or Self-Reported Information.

A Private Future

How, then, might we put safeguards in place to preserve our privacy in an AI-enabled world? I have a couple of simple fixes. Some regulatory and could be implemented today. Others are technological and are something for the future, when we have AI that is smarter and more capable of defending our privacy.

The technology companies all have long terms of service and privacy policies. If you have lots of spare time, you can read them. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University calculated that the average internet user would have to spend 76 work days each year just to read all the things that they have agreed to online. But what then? If you don’t like what you read, what choices do you have?

All you can do today, it seems, is log off and not use their service. You can’t demand greater privacy than the technology companies are willing to provide. If you don’t like Gmail reading your emails, you can’t use Gmail. Worse than that, you’d better not email anyone with a Gmail account, as Google will read any emails that go through the Gmail system.

So here’s a simple alternative. All digital services must provide four changeable levels of privacy.

Level 1: They keep no information about you beyond your username, email and password.

Level 2: They keep information on you to provide you with a better service, but they do not share this information with anyone.

Level 3: They keep information on you that they may share with sister companies.

Level 4: They consider the information that they collect on you as public.

And you can change the level of privacy with one click from the settings page. And any changes are retrospective, so if you select Level 1 privacy, the company must delete all information they currently have on you, beyond your username, email and password. In addition, there’s a requirement that all data beyond Level 1 privacy is deleted after three years unless you opt in explicitly for it to be kept. Think of this as a digital right to be forgotten.

I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. My many youthful transgressions have, thankfully, been lost in the mists of time. They will not haunt me when I apply for a new job or run for political office. I fear, however, for young people today, whose every post on social media is archived and waiting to be printed off by some prospective employer or political opponent. This is one reason why we need a digital right to be forgotten.

More friction may help. Ironically, the internet was invented to remove frictions – in particular, to make it easier to share data and communicate more quickly and effortlessly. I’m starting to think, however, that this lack of friction is the cause of many problems. Our physical highways have speed and other restrictions. Perhaps the internet highway needs a few more limitations too?

One such problem is described in a famous cartoon: ‘On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.’ If we introduced instead a friction by insisting on identity checks, then certain issues around anonymity and trust might go away. Similarly, resharing restrictions on social media might help prevent the distribution of fake news. And profanity filters might help prevent posting content that inflames.

On the other side, other parts of the internet might benefit from fewer frictions. Why is it that Facebook can get away with behaving badly with our data? One of the problems here is there’s no real alternative. If you’ve had enough of Facebook’s bad behaviour and log off – as I did some years back – then it is you who will suffer most. You can’t take all your data, your social network, your posts, your photos to some rival social media service. There is no real competition. Facebook is a walled garden, holding onto your data and setting the rules. We need to open that data up and thereby permit true competition.

For far too long the tech industry has been given too many freedoms. Monopolies are starting to form. Bad behaviours are becoming the norm. Many internet businesses are poorly aligned with the public good.

Any new digital regulation is probably best implemented at the level of nation-states or close-knit trading blocks. In the current climate of nationalism, bodies such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization are unlikely to reach useful consensus. The common values shared by members of such large transnational bodies are too weak to offer much protection to the consumer.

The European Union has led the way in regulating the tech sector. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the upcoming Digital Service Act (DSA) and Digital Market Act (DMA) are good examples of Europe’s leadership in this space. A few nation-states have also started to pick up their game. The United Kingdom introduced a Google tax in 2015 to try to make tech companies pay a fair share of tax. And shortly after the terrible shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, the Australian government introduced legislation to fine companies up to 10 per cent of their annual revenue if they fail to take down abhorrent violent material quickly enough. Unsurprisingly, fining tech companies a significant fraction of their global annual revenue appears to get their attention.

It is easy to dismiss laws in Australia as somewhat irrelevant to multinational companies like Google. If they’re too irritating, they can just pull out of the Australian market. Google’s accountants will hardly notice the blip in their worldwide revenue. But national laws often set precedents that get applied elsewhere. Australia followed up with its own Google tax just six months after the United Kingdom. California introduced its own version of the GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), just a month after the regulation came into effect in Europe. Such knock-on effects are probably the real reason that Google has argued so vocally against Australia’s new Media Bargaining Code. They greatly fear the precedent it will set.

That leaves me with a technological fix. At some point in the future, all our devices will contain AI agents helping to connect us that can also protect our privacy. AI will move from the centre to the edge, away from the cloud and onto our devices. These AI agents will monitor the data entering and leaving our devices. They will do their best to ensure that data about us that we don’t want shared isn’t.

We are perhaps at the technological low point today. To do anything interesting, we need to send data up into the cloud, to tap into the vast computational resources that can be found there. Siri, for instance, doesn’t run on your iPhone but on Apple’s vast servers. And once your data leaves your possession, you might as well consider it public. But we can look forward to a future where AI is small enough and smart enough to run on your device itself, and your data never has to be sent anywhere.

This is the sort of AI-enabled future where technology and regulation will not simply help preserve our privacy, but even enhance it. Technical fixes can only take us so far. It is abundantly clear that we also need more regulation. For far too long the tech industry has been given too many freedoms. Monopolies are starting to form. Bad behaviours are becoming the norm. Many internet businesses are poorly aligned with the public good.

Digital regulation is probably best implemented at the level of nation-states or close-knit trading blocks. In the current climate of nationalism, bodies such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization are unlikely to reach useful consensus. The common values shared by members of such large transnational bodies are too weak to offer much protection to the consumer.

The European Union has led the way in regulating the tech sector. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the upcoming Digital Service Act (DSA) and Digital Market Act (DMA) are good examples of Europe’s leadership in this space. A few nation-states have also started to pick up their game. The United Kingdom introduced a Google tax in 2015 to try to make tech companies pay a fair share of tax. And shortly after the terrible shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, the Australian government introduced legislation to fine companies up to 10 per cent of their annual revenue if they fail to take down abhorrent violent material quickly enough. Unsurprisingly, fining tech companies a significant fraction of their global annual revenue appears to get their attention.

It is easy to dismiss laws in Australia as somewhat irrelevant to multinational companies like Google. If they’re too irritating, they can just pull out of the Australian market. Google’s accountants will hardly notice the blip in their worldwide revenue. But national laws often set precedents that get applied elsewhere. Australia followed up with its own Google tax just six months after the United Kingdom. California introduced its own version of the GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), just a month after the regulation came into effect in Europe. Such knock-on effects are probably the real reason that Google has argued so vocally against Australia’s new Media Bargaining Code. They greatly fear the precedent it will set.

Why Return of the Jedi's Last Scene is Darker Than It Seems

SlashDot - Sun, 2022-08-21 10:34
Slashdot reader alaskana98 writes: You may remember it — at the end of Return of the Jedi: Special Edition, a rare glimpse of Coruscant — the seat of the galactic empire — is shown in a celebratory state as news of the empire's defeat at Endor reverberated throughout the patchwork of worlds that make up the Star Wars universe. One might imagine that most viewers at that time might have thought — "Oh, cool, so that's what Coruscant looks like" — then went on with their lives rarely to think about that scene ever again. In a recent ScreenRant article ,they take a deeper dive into what happened on Coruscant... Yes, it turns out that both the later movies and licensed books revealed that Darth Vader's Galactic Empire survived: [C]itizens who set off fireworks, toppled statues of the Empire, and attacked stormtroopers were met with violent retaliation from Imperial forces, resulting in numerous extrajudicial killings and executions of civilians. Coruscant continued to serve as an Imperial stronghold until its liberation by the New Republic, which happened a year later in canon and two years later in Legends.... [T]he X-Wing novels mention that the Empire brutally quelled this initial uprising, and the Star Wars: Mara Jade — By the Emperor's Hand comic series showed Stormtroopers executing civilians via firing squad. Aftermath similarly describes civilians fighting against Imperial security forces after toppling a statue of Palpatine....

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Will the World's Lithium Suppliers Slow Production of Electric Vehicles?

SlashDot - Sun, 2022-08-21 07:34
Slashdot reader atcclears quotes the Wall Street Journal: Hailed as the Saudi Arabia of lithium, this California-sized chunk of terrain [in Salar de Atacama, Chile] accounts for some 55% of the world's known deposits of the metal, a key component in electric-vehicle batteries. As the Chinese EV giant BYD Co. recently learned, tapping into that resource can be a challenge. Earlier this year, after BYD won a government contract to mine lithium, indigenous residents took to the streets, demanding the tender be canceled over concerns about the impact on local water supplies. In June, the Chilean Supreme Court threw out the award, saying the government failed to consult with indigenous people first.... Similar setbacks are occurring around the so-called Lithium Triangle, which overlaps parts of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. Production has suffered at the hands of leftist governments angling for greater control over the mineral and a bigger share of profits, as well as from environmental concerns and greater activism by local Andean communities who fear being left out while outsiders get rich. At a time of exploding demand that has sent lithium prices up 750% since the start of 2021, industry analysts worry that South America could become a major bottleneck for growth in electric vehicles. "All the major car makers are completely on board with electric vehicles now," said Brian Jaskula, a lithium expert at the U.S. Geological Survey. "But the lithium may just not be enough." Meanwhile, a chemical engineering professor at Indiana's Purdue University has spent years looking for an alternative to lithium batteries, and their researchers are now testing sodium carbonate and the possibility of sodium ion batteries.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Pixel 6A vs. Samsung Galaxy A53 vs. Nothing Phone: Which Is the Midrange Star? - CNET

CNET News - Sun, 2022-08-21 06:00
These three phones are superb affordable options, but which one truly deserves your money? Let's find out.

A Robot Quarterback Could Be the Future of Football Practice

SlashDot - Sun, 2022-08-21 03:34
Here's an interesting story from the Washington Post. (Alternate URL here...) When the Green Bay Packers walked onto the practice field this week, they were greeted by an unusual new teammate: a robot. In videos on Twitter, a 6-foot tall white robotic machine simulates a punter, kicking balls at a rapid pace to players downfield. The robot, which holds six balls in a revolving cartridge, could also imitate a quarterback's style including the speed, arc and timing of a throw. The Seeker is a robotic quarterback, kicker and punter rolled into one. It's a modern day version of a piece of football equipment, called a JUGS machine, that's been used to simulate throws and kicks to football players for decades. The Seeker, company officials say however, is a more accurate thrower and runs software to let players practice more advanced gameplay scenarios. he robot, created by Dallas-based Monarc Sport, is starting to gain adoption. Top college football programs, such as Louisiana State University, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Iowa, all count the Seeker as part of their training strategy. The Green Bay Packers are the first team in the National Football League to try the technology. The Seeker's software allows players to customize how they practice with it. Athletes can catch balls from close to the machine to improve hand-eye coordination. They can also program the robot to throw a ball to a spot on the field, or simulate more-lifelike conditions by over or underthrowing a ball. Players wear a pager-like tag which allows the robot to track their location on the field, and throw a ball accurately within inches. "It gives so much opportunity for our guys to get reps without the need of having a quarterback there," said Ben Hansen, the director of football administration at Iowa, where the technology was first tested. "That's a huge plus...." One of the most helpful parts of the technology, he said, is being able to program it to throw passes that simulate game day conditions. Unlike the JUGS machine, he said, which doesn't have software to pass in random patterns, the Seeker can purposefully throw passes that aren't perfect.... A case study published in April by Microsoft, which provides the software ecosystem for the robot, noted that West Virginia University's dropped passes rate fell to four percent in 2021, down from 53 percent the past season after introducing the robot into training. The university's senior athletic director said the robot deserved a "share of the credit" for that outcome.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Problem of Nuclear Waste Disposal - and How Finland Solved It

SlashDot - Sat, 2022-08-20 23:34
"Even if all nuclear power plants were shut down today, there's a mountain of radioactive waste waiting to be disposed of," reports Ars Technica. "Yet only Finland has an approved solution for nuclear waste disposal, while projects in the US, UK, and Germany have failed for decades, and progress is also slow in other countries." So how did Finland construct a safe nuclear waste repository? Ars Technica asked Antti Mustonen, who's a research manager with Posiva, the organization in charge of the Finnish repository: Finland has a lot of hard crystalline bedrock and many places that are potentially suitable for a repository. The country eventually chose an island on the Baltic coast for its Onkalo repository, and it hopes to seal off the first tunnel of nuclear waste sometime around 2025.... Even after it has cooled in ponds for decades, spent nuclear fuel gives out heat by radioactive decay, raising the temperature near the waste canisters. This heat could potentially corrode the canisters, compromise the bentonite, or even crack the rock face. Therefore, the Finnish and Swedish designs separate individual waste canisters in their own disposal shafts to avoid excessive heat buildup.... Posiva is currently conducting a long-term, full-sized demonstration using heaters in dummy canisters surrounded by bentonite and temperature probes. After three years, the temperature at the canister boundary is about 70Â C, Mustonen said. A similar test in Switzerland lasted 18 years and found that bentonite "remains suitable as a sealing material" up to at least 100Â C.... But to project how the rock and groundwater will affect humans living near the site in future millennia, the scientists must model that numerically using the tests and data as the starting point. "We have modeled to that million years... with different scenarios and what the likely releases [are], and it seems that the releases are acceptable," Mustonen told me.... Scientists then project what will happen to the waste over the next million years, assuming everything works as planned. They also model for several "what if" scenarios. This projection includes looking at the stresses and groundwater pressures caused by possibilities like being buried deep under a future ice sheet and then having that ice sheet melt away, sea level changes, changes in groundwater chemistry, and failures of canisters. At Onkalo, even in the worst case, scientists calculate that the maximum dose released to humans would be one-tenth of the regulatory limit, which itself is about a hundredth of the normal dose that Finns receive every year.BR> But the article also asks what Finland's experience can teach other countries. One person who worked on America's unsuccessful Yucca Mountain project was Dr. Jane Long, former associate director for energy and environment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Long tells the site that "They should have set requirements for an inherently safe site and then investigated whether the site met the requirements instead of choosing the site for political reasons and then trying to show the site was suitable." And they seem to agree in Finland: "More than the geology, I think it's socio-economic aspects" that determine if a project can go ahead, Mustonen told me. A key lesson is that the top-down designation of sites for nuclear waste disposal has generally failed. The UK failed in 1987, 1997, and 2013. In the US, politicians campaigned against the Yucca Mountain project, characterizing its authorization as the "Screw Nevada Bill...." Yucca Mountain's wasted $15 billion pales in comparison to the roughly $50 billion in damages that American taxpayers have had to pay to nuclear utilities because the government was unable to honor its commitment to receive nuclear waste by 1998. Meanwhile, more waste is piling up. Thanks to Slashdot reader atcclears for submitting the story.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

$2M Coachbuilt Mulliner Batur Previews Bentley's EV Design Future - CNET

CNET News - Sat, 2022-08-20 23:00
While this coupe uses Bentley's W12 engine, its styling is a look into the brand's upcoming EVs.

Bentley Mulliner Batur Coupe Was Inspired by Crouching Tigers - CNET

CNET News - Sat, 2022-08-20 23:00
This W12-powered coachbuilt fastback previews the future of Bentley's electric car designs.

Do Inaccurate Search Results Disrupt Democracies?

SlashDot - Sat, 2022-08-20 21:34
Users of Google "must recalibrate their thinking on what Google is and how information is returned to them," warns an Assistant Professor at the School of Information and Library Science at UNC-Chapel Hill. In a new book titled The Propagandists' Playbook, they're warning that simple link-filled search results have been transformed by "Google's latest desire to answer our questions for us, rather than requiring us to click on the returns." The trouble starts when Google returns inaccurate answers "that often disrupt democratic participation, confirm unsubstantiated claims, and are easily manipulatable by people looking to spread falsehoods." By adding all of these features, Google — as well as competitors such as DuckDuckGo and Bing, which also summarize content — has effectively changed the experience from an explorative search environment to a platform designed around verification, replacing a process that enables learning and investigation with one that is more like a fact-checking service.... The problem is, many rely on search engines to seek out information about more convoluted topics. And, as my research reveals, this shift can lead to incorrect returns... Worse yet, when errors like this happen, there is no mechanism whereby users who notice discrepancies can flag it for informational review.... The trouble is, many users still rely on Google to fact-check information, and doing so might strengthen their belief in false claims. This is not only because Google sometimes delivers misleading or incorrect information, but also because people I spoke with for my research believed that Google's top search returns were "more important," "more relevant," and "more accurate," and they trusted Google more than the news — they considered it to be a more objective source.... This leads to what I refer to in my book, The Propagandists' Playbook, as the "IKEA effect of misinformation." Business scholars have found that when consumers build their own merchandise, they value the product more than an already assembled item of similar quality — they feel more competent and therefore happier with their purchase. Conspiracy theorists and propagandists are drawing on the same strategy, providing a tangible, do-it-yourself quality to the information they provide. Independently conducting a search on a given topic makes audiences feel like they are engaging in an act of self-discovery when they are actually participating in a scavenger-hunt engineered by those spreading the lies.... Rather than assume that returns validate truth, we must apply the same scrutiny we've learned to have toward information on social media. Another problem the article points out: "Googling the exact same phrase that you see on Twitter will likely return the same information you saw on Twitter. "Just because it's from a search engine doesn't make it more reliable."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

I Redesigned the iPhone 14 Camera So Apple Doesn't Have To - CNET

CNET News - Sat, 2022-08-20 20:00
Commentary: The iPhone 14's camera needs to be the best one around. Here's how Apple can do it.

After Signing US Climate Bill, Biden Plans More Executive Actions to Cut Emissions

SlashDot - Sat, 2022-08-20 19:54
Senior White House officials say even more action is coming on climate change. They're telling the New York Times that U.S. President Joe Biden plans "a series of executive actions to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help keep the planet from warming to dangerous temperatures." Biden is on track to deploy a series of measures, including new regulations on emissions from vehicle tailpipes, power plants and oil and gas wells, the officials said. In pushing more executive action, Mr. Biden is trying to make up for the compromises his party made on climate measures to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes the largest single American investment to slow global warming. Democrats had to scale back some of their loftiest ambitions, including by agreeing to fossil fuel and drilling provisions, as concessions to Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, a holdout from a conservative state that is heavily dependent on coal and gas. Gina McCarthy, the White House climate adviser, said that regulatory moves, combined with the new legislation and action from states, could help Mr. Biden meet his promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by the end of the decade. The climate bill, she said, was "a starting point." "The president has not chosen to just look at Congress, he's chosen to recognize that he has presidential authorities and responsibilities under the law to keep moving this forward," she said. "And he's going to continue to use those." [...] Ms. McCarthy noted the E.P.A. still has "broad authority" to regulate emissions from electricity generation. She also said the government is forging ahead with new regulations on soot and other traditional air pollutants, which will have the side benefit of cutting carbon emissions.... Mr. Biden has the executive authority to issue regulations through federal agencies, and under the Clean Air Act of 1970 can establish rules to address air pollution.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

After Mockery, Mark Zuckerberg Promises Better Metaverse Graphics, Posts New Avatar

SlashDot - Sat, 2022-08-20 18:54
What do you when people hate your $10 billion selfie? "Mark Zuckerberg, in response to a torrent of critical memes mocking the graphics of Meta's newest project, has heard his critics — and changed his selfie," reports CNN: Zuckerberg debuted Horizon Worlds, a virtual reality social app, in France and Spain earlier this week, sharing a somewhat flat, goofy digital avatar in front of an animated Eiffel Tower and la Sagrada Família. The internet immediately jumped in, mocking what many users viewed as (hopefully) preliminary graphics for a venture that Meta has spent at least $10 billion in the last year. New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose compared the graphics to "worse than a 2008 Wii game" on Twitter. Slate used the term " buttcheeks." Twitter was less kind: "eye-gougingly ugly" and "an international laughing stock" popping up. Many compared it to early 90's graphics and pointed out how lifeless and childish the Zuckerberg selfie looked. It quickly won the designation "dead eyes." Well, Zuckerberg has apparently seen the memes, because on Friday he announced there are major updates coming — along with new avatar graphics. In a CNBC report on how Zuckerberg "is getting dragged on the internet for how ugly the graphics of this game are," they'd actually quoted a Forbes headline that asked, "Does Mark Zuckerberg not understand how bad his metaverse is?"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

After Mockery, Mark Zuckerberg Promises Better Metaverse Graphics, Post New Avatar

SlashDot - Sat, 2022-08-20 18:54
What do you when people hate your $10 billion selfie? "Mark Zuckerberg, in response to a torrent of critical memes mocking the graphics of Meta's newest project, has heard his critics — and changed his selfie," reports CNN: Zuckerberg debuted Horizon Worlds, a virtual reality social app, in France and Spain earlier this week, sharing a somewhat flat, goofy digital avatar in front of an animated Eiffel Tower and la Sagrada Família. The internet immediately jumped in, mocking what many users viewed as (hopefully) preliminary graphics for a venture that Meta has spent at least $10 billion in the last year. New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose compared the graphics to "worse than a 2008 Wii game" on Twitter. Slate used the term "buttcheeks." Twitter was less kind: "eye-gougingly ugly" and "an international laughing stock" popping up. Many compared it to early 90's graphics and pointed out how lifeless and childish the Zuckerberg selfie looked. It quickly won the designation "dead eyes." Well, Zuckerberg has apparently seen the memes, because on Friday he announced there are major updates coming — along with new avatar graphics. In a CNBC report on how Zuckerberg "is getting dragged on the internet for how ugly the graphics of this game are," they'd actually quoted a Forbes headline that asked, "Does Mark Zuckerberg not understand how bad his metaverse is?"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

'Black Myth: Wukong' gets two new trailers but not a release date

Engadget - Sat, 2022-08-20 18:10

Every August for the past two years, Chinese developer Game Science Studio has released new gameplay footage from its upcoming action RPG Black Myth: Wukong. Not one to miss a beat, it has done the same this year. On Friday, the studio shared a new eight-minute gameplay trailer and six-minute in-game cutscene. Much like last year’s Unreal Engine 5 reveal, the former is partly a showcase for NVIDIA’s DLSS AI-powered upscaling tech, and you can see what a difference it – and a year of additional work – has meant for the game’s framerate. Compared to last year’s trailer, the action is smoother and there are fewer framerate drops.

We also see Game Science Studio iterate on From Software’s Souls formula in a few interesting ways. One of my favorites involves a plant the protagonist goes to pick up about a third of the way through the clip. When they go to pull it from the ground, the plant turns out to be an enemy that can root the player in place, leaving them vulnerable to its hard-hitting sweep attacks. It’s a fun twist on From Software’s mimic chests that should force you always to be on your toes. As for the cinematic trailer, it offers a fresh look at Wukong’s Journey to the West-inspired tale. It’s hard to say how the scene we see will fit into the broader story Game Science hopes to tell, but the studio obviously has a talent for animation.

Unfortunately, neither trailer ends with a release date for the game. Back in 2020, Game Science Studio said it was hoping to bring Black Myth: Wukong to PC and consoles by 2023.

Has the Webb Telescope Disproved the Big Bang Theory?

SlashDot - Sat, 2022-08-20 17:54
"The very first results from the James Webb Space Telescope seem to indicate that massive, luminous galaxies had already formed within the first 250 million years after the Big Bang," reports Sky and Telescope. "If confirmed, this would seriously challenge current cosmological thinking." Shortly after NASA published Webb's first batch of scientific data, the astronomical preprint server arXiv was flooded with papers claiming the detection of galaxies that are so remote that their light took some 13.5 billion years to reach us. Many of these appear to be more massive than the standard cosmological model that describes the universe's composition and evolution. "It worries me slightly that we find these monsters in the first few images," says cosmologist Richard Ellis (University College London).... Before the community accepts these claims, the reported redshifts have to be confirmed spectroscopically. Mark McCaughrean, the senior science adviser of the European Space Agency (a major partner on Webb) commented on Twitter: "I'm sure some of them will be [confirmed], but I'm equally sure they won't all be. [...] It does all feel a little like a sugar rush at the moment." Ellis agrees: "It's one thing to put a paper on arXiv," he says, "but it's quite something else to turn it into a lasting article in a peer-reviewed journal." Since 1991, science writer Eric Lerner has been arguing that the Big Bang never happened. Now 75 years old, he writes: In the flood of technical astronomical papers published online since July 12, the authors report again and again that the images show surprisingly many galaxies, galaxies that are surprisingly smooth, surprisingly small and surprisingly old. Lots of surprises, and not necessarily pleasant ones. One paper's title begins with the candid exclamation: "Panic!" Why do the JWST's images inspire panic among cosmologists? And what theory's predictions are they contradicting? The papers don't actually say. The truth that these papers don't report is that the hypothesis that the JWST's images are blatantly and repeatedly contradicting is the Big Bang Hypothesis that the universe began 14 billion years ago in an incredibly hot, dense state and has been expanding ever since. Since that hypothesis has been defended for decades as unquestionable truth by the vast majority of cosmological theorists, the new data is causing these theorists to panic. "Right now I find myself lying awake at three in the morning," says Alison Kirkpatrick, an astronomer at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, "and wondering if everything I've done is wrong...." Even galaxies with greater luminosity and mass than our own Milky Way galaxy appear in these images to be two to three times smaller than in similar images observed with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), and the new galaxies have redshifts which are also two to three times greater.This is not at all what is expected with an expanding universe, but it is just exactly what I and my colleague Riccardo Scarpa predicted based on a non-expanding universe, with redshift proportional to distance.... [T]he galaxies that the JWST shows are just the same size as the galaxies near to us, if it is assumed that the universe is not expanding and redshift is proportional to distance..... Big Bang theorists did expect to see badly mangled galaxies scrambled by many collisions or mergers. What the JWST actually showed was overwhelmingly smooth disks and neat spiral forms, just as we see in today's galaxies. The data in the "Panic!" article showed that smooth spiral galaxies were about "10 times" as numerous as what theory had predicted and that this "would challenge our ideas about mergers being a very common process". In plain language, this data utterly destroys the merger theory.... According to Big Bang theory, the most distant galaxies in the JWST images are seen as they were only 400-500 million years after the origin of the universe. Yet already some of the galaxies have shown stellar populations that are over a billion years old. Since nothing could have originated before the Big Bang, the existence of these galaxies demonstrates that the Big Bang did not occur.... While Big Bang theorists were shocked and panicked by these new results, Riccardo and I (and a few others) were not. In fact, a week before the JWST images were released we published online a paper that detailed accurately what the images would show. We could do this with confidence because more and more data of all kinds has been contradicting the Big Bang hypothesis for years.... Based on the published literature, right now the Big Bang makes 16 wrong predictions and only one right one — the abundance of deuterium, an isotope of hydrogen. Thanks to Slashdot reader magzteel for sharing the article.

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Best Open Wireless Earbuds - CNET

CNET News - Sat, 2022-08-20 17:00
Looking for a set of true-wireless earbuds that don't have silicone tips that you have to jam in your ears? Here are your best options.

Sony is reportedly making a ‘Days Gone’ movie

Engadget - Sat, 2022-08-20 16:44

Days Gone may never get a proper sequel, but its post-apocalyptic story could eventually make its way to the silver screen. According to Deadline, Sony’s PlayStation Productions unit is developing a film adaptation of the 2019 game. Outlander actor Sam Heughan is reportedly set to star in a script penned by Up in the Air and X-Men: First Class writer Sheldon Turner. Deadline reports Turner envisions the final film being a “love ballad to motorcycle movies.”

After greenlighting adaptations of critically acclaimed games like The Last of Us and Ghost of Tsushima, Days Gone may seem like an unusual choice from Sony. After all, while the game has sold 9 million copies to date, it’s one of the company’s least well-received first-party titles in recent memory. However, since Sony decided to port Days Gone to PC, it has enjoyed newfound success. Search for the game on YouTube, and you’ll find countless videos trying to answer the question of whether you should play Days Gone in 2022. Almost every video on the subject agrees: it’s an experience worth your time. Steam reviews tell much the same story. Across 26,146 submissions, it has a “Very Positive” rating. If there's a project for Sony to take a risk on, it's Days Gone.

Free, Secure, and Open-Source: How FileZilla is Making an Old School Protocol Cool Again

SlashDot - Sat, 2022-08-20 16:35
It's a free and open-source, cross-platform FTP application that allows secure file transfering — and it's making an old-school protocol cool again, according to a recent blog post. Started about 21 years ago — and downloaded by millions each year — FileZilla remains "committed to their role in liberating technology, by making it accessible, open and also secure," according to the blog post. But it also explains how FileZilla has beefed up that security through a collaboration with the internet freedom nonprofit, the Open Technology Fund (or "OTF"): Over the past year, FileZilla has utilised support from OTF to undertake two activities that enhanced and ensured the security of their tools. The first was integrating FileZilla Server with Let's Encrypt, a free, automated, and open source certificate authority that ensures secure communication between the two end-points sending or receiving a file via FileZilla.... Secondly, FileZilla ran a penetration test, a service offered by OTF's Red Team Lab. A team of independent researchers attempted to force access to the FileZilla server to see if they could gain control. These researchers were highly skilled, and the testing was extensive. The team conducting the test only found very minor security vulnerabilities that FileZilla were able to fix immediately. As a result of this process, anyone wanting to use the FileZilla software can trust that it has been cross-scrutinised by a third party and found to be secure.... FileZilla respects users' confidentiality: they do not track your behaviour, nor sell your data to other companies. While they do have advertisements on their website, they are posted exactly as advertisements would be posted in a newspaper. Nobody knows that you are reading the advertisements, or that you decided to call or connect to the advertised website. The advertisement has simply been attached to the webpage, without any underlying tracking.... . "Our mission hasn't changed in over 20 years: design, develop, maintain and enhance free tools to securely transfer files with ease and reliability," said Tim Kosse, FileZilla Lead Developer. This decision was a political one taken by FileZilla, to always preserve the freedom of their tools, and of their users. "We aren't the typical commercial open-source venture that starts doing things for free, and over time, closes this and that to make money" said Roberto Galoppini, FileZilla Director of Strategy. "While you might not see FileZilla listed at the NYSE [New York Stock Exchange] any time soon, the freedom of our tools will never be questioned...." [I]f you work in an industry that requires the secure transfer of sensitive files, or if you simply have personal photographs or videos you want to keep confidential, using proprietary platforms to share or store them can put your information at risk of being exposed.... FileZilla offers an alternative that is secure and private. Their tools are developed by a team that is deeply invested in protecting users' confidentiality, and liberating technology is central to their work and decision-making.... At the same time, projects like FileZilla remind us that there exists a global community of technologists, activists, coders, bloggers, journalists, software developers, and mindful internet users making internet freedom a lived reality and daily practice. Supporting, experimenting with and using free and open source tools, such as the FileZilla client and server, enables us to disinvest from the capitalist pursuit of corporate control of technology and unchecked surveillance of our data. Rather, we can step into alignment with an alternative, parallel narrative being created by a community of resistance that is grounded in principles of cooperation, solidarity, commons and openness.

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Bask in the Ludicrousness of the McLaren Solus GT - CNET

CNET News - Sat, 2022-08-20 15:30
One quick look at the body is all you need to realize that it's not exactly road legal.

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