Tech Friday

  • Chinese railway police use facial recognition glasses to identify travelers:
    • The glasses are similar to Google Glass and is linked to a database that can match travelers with criminal suspects
    • The glasses have already helped identify seven alleged criminal suspects at train stations in Zhengzhou since the beginning of 2018 
    • The people identified include those suspected of crimes ranging from traffic infringements to human trafficking
    • Chinese residents are required to use identity documents for train travel. An additional 26 people were banned from travel for using fake identity documents
    • This technology is widely used by police in general, but this is the first instance of Chinese officials using glasses to implement facial-recognition
    • Wu Fei, the CEO of LLVision Technology, developer of the glasses, told The Wall Street Journal during testing the system could identify faces from a database of 10,000 in 100 milliseconds
    • China is building a system that will recognize any of its 1.3 billion citizens in 3 seconds or less
    • Programs such as this have been condemned by human-rights groups that say it infringes on people's right to privacy
    • "Chinese authorities seem to think they can achieve 'social stability' by placing people under a microscope, but these abusive programs are more likely to deepen hostility towards the government" said Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch. 
    • Richardson also said "Beijing should immediately stop these programs, and destroy all data gathered without full, informed consent."
  • Tech titans are accused of turning kids into technology addicts:
    • Several former tech industry employees are concerned about the addictive nature of the technology they helped build and are disconnecting from it
    • The designers, engineers and product managers who have built these technologies that seem to be the most concerned
    • Justin Rosenstein, the engineer who created the Facebook "like" button, says likes are "bright dings of pseudo-pleasure"
    • Rosenstein is one of a growing number of Silicon Valley alumni who are warning about the rise of the so-called "attention economy" and pressuring these tech titans to make their products less addictive, especially for kids
    • Rosenstein said, "It is very common for humans to develop things with the best of intentions and for them to have unintended, negative consequences."
    • Nir Eyal, author of "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products", consults with companies to teach them techniques to build addictive products
    • Eyal said "The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions. It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later."
    • Eyal notes that our obsession with the latest, like, post or comment is exactly what the designers intended
    • Former Googler Tristan Harris is now a well-known critic of the tech industry. Harris said "All of us are jacked into this system. All of our minds can be hijacked. Our choices are not as free as we think they are"
    • Harris explains how the best designs are based variable rewards which is what makes gambling so addictive
    • These powerful platforms can be tailored to each individual to maximize the effect and keep users coming back for more
    • Loren Brichter, creator of the pull-to-refresh feature found in most apps, said "Smartphones are useful tools, but they’re addictive. Pull-to-refresh is addictive. Twitter is addictive. These are not good things."
    • Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook, has said that he and other executives created a "social-validation feedback loop" to make Facebook psychologically addictive
    • Early Facebook executive and former vice president of growth, Chamath Palihapitiya, also accused Facebook of creating "short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops" that are "destroying how society works"
    • The massive amounts of data captured by these platforms is generating huge amounts of revenue for these companies, so there is little incentive to change
    • Common Sense Media and the non-profit Center for Humane Technology are behind "The Truth About Tech" which seeks to raise awareness about the issue
    • "They've created the attention economy and are now engaged in a full-blown arms race to capture and retain human attention, including the attention of kids. Technologists, engineers, and designers have the power and responsibility to hold themselves accountable and build products that create a better world" said Tristan Harris
    • Common Sense has reported that teens average nine hours of media a day, and tweens average six. Half of teens say they feel addicted to their mobile devices, and 60% of parents say their kids are addicted
    • Common Sense Media and the non-profit Center for Humane Technology recently held a conference to explain the techniques used to hook kids and the potential harm it causes including include attention and cognition disorders, stress and anxiety
  • Advances in technology makes fake videos possible and hard to detect: 
    • What used to take a Hollywood production company lots of time and money may soon be accomplished in seconds by anyone with the right software
    • Advances in computer power and machine learning have lead to technology that will make it hard to believe your own eyes 
    • New algorithms can take a single photo of someone and create a video that is completely fabricated and very, very realistic
    • Pinscreen is a Los Angeles start-up that has created the technology
    • They believe these renderings will become so realistic that it will be virtually impossible to determine what is real
    • Hao Li, a leading researcher on computer-generated video at USC, founded Pinscreen in 2015. "With further deep-learning advancements, especially on mobile devices, we'll be able to produce completely photoreal avatars in real time"
    • University of Washington researchers recently demonstrated a similar technique to move President Obama's mouth to match a fake script
    • There are many possible applications for this technology and many of them are malicious
    • Imagine the capability to use fake videos for blackmail, revenge or propaganda
    • Videos known as "Deep Fakes" have surfaced where celebrities' faces have been carefully inserted into pornographic videos 
    • This technology could have a devastating impact on the use of video for evidence in court cases
    • "This goes far beyond 'fake news' because you are dealing with a medium, video, that we traditionally put a tremendous amount of weight on and trust in," said David Ryan Polgar, a writer and self-described tech ethicist
    • Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at Dartmouth College, said watching for blood flow in the face can sometimes determine whether footage is real. He also said slight imperfections at the pixel level may reveal fakes
    • Farid said that over time he expects artificial intelligence to be able to overcome these issues, making it very difficult to spot a fake
    • Pinscreen's photo-realistic avatar software is not publicly available yet
Brian Thomas

Brian Thomas

Based in Cincinnati, OH, the Brian Thomas Morning Show covers news and politics, both local and national, from a conservative point of view. Read more


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