5 Things Facebook Is Doing With Artificial Intelligence

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A Possible Fix for the Grave Threat of Increased Cyber Crimes

A startup that touts itself as the first decentralized antivirus marketplace says that it has raised $23.1 million to date through a pre-sale and current public sale of its “Nectar (NCT)” tokens. The company is called PolySwarm and has roughly 2 weeks left to meet its goal of raising a total of $50 million.

The problems that PolySwarm’s founders seek to solve are the upwards of $3 trillion in costs related to cyber crime, that approximately 70% of threats go undetected, response time is slow and that cyber crime is only predicted to grow over the next few years, at quite an alarming rate. So PolySwarm wants to create a competitive atmosphere where anti-malware experts will compete to best detect and destroy threats, compensating them for timely and accurate malware identification.

Based on Ethereum smart contract and blockchain technology, PolySwarm claims that it will lower the barrier to entry, provide better coverage options, and encourage experts to investigate the latest cyber crime threats, attempting to outperform their competition.

The described need for PolySwarm is based on a theory that current anti-virus “solutions” do not focus on the most pressing problems, instead caring more about simply matching their competitors’ offerings. This is something that PolySwarm’s founders relate to the classic tragedy of the commons scenario — where traditional anti-virus companies are behaving primarily in preserving their standing for self-interest reasons and acting contrary to the common good of their customers.

Perhaps the most interesting premise of PolySwarm is the theory that its platform will convert intelligent security workers from potentially using their talents for evil and instead deploying them for good. Essentially, PolySwarm’s founders believe that some security experts currently develop ransomware, operate bots or use their skills for other types of evil; however, if compensated (which PolySwarm intends to accomplish), these same individuals would prefer to accomplish honest work and make the Internet a safer place.

PolySwarm’s Alpha version is not expected to be delivered, as a prototype for the end-to-end workflow, until April 30, 2018, after the conclusion of the token sale. Its first, full stable release is not anticipated until Q4 2018. U.S. citizens and residents are prohibited from participating in the token sale.

Washington Becomes First State to Enact Its Own Net Neutrality Rules

Setting up a likely legal fight with the Trump administration, Washington has become the first state to enact its own net-neutrality requirements after U.S. regulators repealed Obama-era rules designed to keep the internet an even playing field.

“We know that when D.C. fails to act, Washington state has to do so,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Monday before signing the bipartisan measure that banned internet providers from blocking content or interfering with online traffic.

The new law also requires internet providers to disclose information about their management practices, performance and commercial terms. Violations would be enforceable under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

The Federal Communications Commission voted in December to gut U.S. rules that meant to prevent broadband companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon from exercising more control over what people watch and see on the internet. The regulations also prohibited providers from favoring some sites and apps over others.

Because the FCC prohibited state laws from contradicting its decision, opponents of the Washington law have said it would lead to lawsuits. Inslee said he was confident of its legality, saying “the states have a full right to protect their citizens.”

As he has done frequently over the past year, Inslee took aim at President Donald Trump’s administration, saying the decision by the Federal Communications Commission was “a clear case of the Trump administration favoring powerful corporate interests over the interests of millions of Washingtonians and Americans.”

While several states introduced similar measures this year seeking to protect net neutrality, so far only Oregon and Washington have passed legislation. But Oregon’s measure wouldn’t put any new requirements on internet providers.

It would stop state agencies from buying internet service from any company that blocks or prioritizes specific content or apps, starting in 2019. It’s unclear when Oregon’s measure would be signed into law.

Washington state was among more than 20 states and the District of Columbia that sued in January to try and block the FCC’s action. There are also efforts by Democrats to undo the move in Congress.

Governors in five states — Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Montana and Vermont — have signed executive orders related to net-neutrality issues, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Montana’s order, for instance, bars telecommunications companies from receiving state contracts if they interfere with internet traffic or favor higher-paying sites or apps.

Big telecom companies have said net neutrality rules could undermine investment in broadband and introduce uncertainty about what are acceptable business practices. Net-neutrality advocates say the FCC decision harms innovation and make it harder for the government to crack down on internet providers who act against consumer interests.

The FCC’s new rules are not expected to go into effect until later this spring. Washington’s law will take effect in June.

Ron Main, executive director of the Broadband Communications Association of Washington, which opposed the bill, said the cable companies his group represents have already pledged not to block legal content or engage in paid prioritization.

He said that because the internet is an interstate service, only Congress can pass legislation “that gives all consumers and internet services providers the clarity and consistency needed for a free and open internet.”

“There should not be a state-by-state patchwork of differing laws and regulations,” he said in a written statement.

–The Associated Press

How This Company Competes Against the Likes of Spotify and Pandora

There is no lack of music-related websites and applications for the audiophile and regular listener alike. In fact, it was just recently reported that one of the more popular music listening applications, Spotify, is preparing for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the future.

But that is not stopping a new effort from launching in the space. It is a platform by Audials AG called Music Zoom and promises to leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make music discovery more interesting and enjoyable.

I spoke with Audials AG’s CEO Hannes Prokoph about what makes his project special in a cluttered music environment among other things.

Why is there a need for something like this when platforms like Spotify, Pandora and Tidal exist?

Prokoph: With Audials Music Zoom you can listen to music in the best sound quality for free, without registration and free of commercials. All you need is to download the app.This app breaks through the traditional representation of a playlist and displays artists in a universe that can be explored by zooming to discover more and more artists, and allows to find not only hits from favorite musicians but also new music. Moreover, you get many more artist suggestions, since all artists are part of the app (not like Spotify where Taylor Swift or Jay Z have withdrawn their music from). Searching for and listening to music becomes an entertaining experience by visualizing it.

How does artificial intelligence work as part of the platform to distinguish it from existing music-related companies?

Prokoph: Audials scans 50,000 of the world’s most important radio stations every day and recognizes what is being played using so-called audio fingerprints. Based on these several 100 million signals a month, a new Artificial Intelligence powered technology creates the world’s most extensive map of all artists and their music. The position of an artist or genre on the music map and the relation among artists and those being put close to one another in the music universe are supported by AI.

How does the company plan to make money?

Prokoph: Audials Music Zoom is offered as freeware. However, the Music Zoom feature has also been integrated into the paid software Audials One or Audials Music Rocket. The paid software allows not only to listen to music in the best quality, but additionally recording it. Audials has a range of paid software for finding, recording, converting and managing music, movies, series, audiobooks or online radio from streaming services and websites.

What were your major legal considerations when building out this platform?

Prokoph: Audials Music Zoom retrieves the data from legal music video services such as YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Veoh and so on. It is therefore only a meta search engine that helps users find their favorite artists faster and listen to the songs in the best quality. Listening to content from legal streaming services involves no legal issues.

How One Facebook Group is Tackling Tech Inclusion

In 2014, several major technolog

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y employers in Silicon Vally, including Google, Facebook and Twitter, began reporting on the diversity of their workforce. Two years later, 33 tech companies gathered at the White House, pledging to “recruit, retain and advance underrepresented talent, to publish data annually on the demographics of their workforce, and to invest in partnerships that would build a larger pipeline of diverse candidates.” The number of companies pledging greater transparency and effort around inclusivity issues grew to 80 by 2017.

But the tech landscape today is still much like it was in 2014, according to the Leaky Tech Pipeline, a new report released by Kapor Center for Social Impact. 90% of employees at Google and and Microsoft are white or Asian, and less than one in four employees at Intel, Cisco or Microsoft are female. Women and leaders of color are still far less likely to hold positions of leadership, 

That is not to say that these efforts have not led to a greater awareness for the need to be proactive in hiring a more diverse workforce. A growing number of today’s startups like Chime, a banking startup focused on the millennial market, are looking to diversify.

Chime is in growth mode after closing on $18 Million Series B about six months ago, and Chime’s leaders are actively seeking resources to help identify qualified talent from a more diverse pool of candidates.

Says Rahul Gupta, an engineering manager at Chime, “It’s my responsibility to build teams that will effectively collaborate to solve problems by offering solutions from different perspectives. A diverse engineering team gets us closer and closer to making the best decisions.”

But finding a more diverse pool of candidates isn’t always easy for someone based in Silicon Valley. To increase a broader range of candidates, Gupta reached out to an online Facebook community managed by Tech Inclusion, an initiative using conferences, workshops and events around the globe to bring more visibility to the issue. 

Founded by Wayne Sutton and Melinda Briana Epler, Tech Inclusion’s Facebook group has grown to over 2200 members.

“As a woman executive in the entertainment, engineering and tech industries, I reached the glass ceiling and dealt with daily obstacles simply because of my gender. At one point, I had enough and decided that the greatest impact I could make in this world is to use my skills in change management to change the tech industry,” says Epler. “So I left my job as an executive to start Change Catalyst and our Tech Inclusion programs with Wayne Sutton.”

The Facebook group has quickly grown into an easy online platform where members can share information, ask questions, or engage with other members. 

Gupta’s request for help garnered immediate responses from many who are focused on helping employers find more diverse employees, including

Circle of Opportunities

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Moms Can: Code


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Gupta says the resources are helpful to his team since inclusion is equally important for making sure his company is appealing to their targeted audience.

“Just as important: two-thirds of Chime members are millennials. If we aren’t able to diversify our teams we run the risk of developing the wrong product. Our banking products impact the daily lives hundreds of thousands of Americans — very time an employee can see what we’re building and identify a blind spot, we win as an organization.”

3 Huge Trends That Make the Future of the World Look Bright

Reading today’s news, one might think that our world is “headed in the wrong direction” — even in America women feel the need to demonstrate for equality, religious fundamentalism continues to brutalize multiple societies, and we hear reports of oppression in so many places. Despite these problems, however, the future actually looks quite positive in many ways. Here are three of my predictions:

1. The future is female.

While today’s world is clearly male-dominated, the age-old reasons for men enjoying disproportionate power and influence are quickly disappearing, and factors that favor the success of women are increasing. In the information age, brute strength — once critical for survival — is becoming far less important than a good mind.

Likewise, modern women can increasingly work during pregnancy, and face orders-of-magnitude less danger when reproducing than their forebears did for nearly all of human history. Women are free to pursue their dreams — women who do not marry and “produce heirs” for their spouses are not treated as misfits and abused as they once were.

At the same time, jobs often dominated by males due to the need for physical muscle are disappearing and are often the first to be cut during downturns. During the 2008 recession, for example, men lost far more jobs than did women.

Consider how many jobs disproportionately held by men in factories, warehouses, and shipping facilities will be replaced by robots within the next 20 years. As just one example, 95 percent of US truck drivers are male. How many of them will be employed when self-driving trucks become the norm?

Meanwhile, the information economy is creating a tremendous increase in the number of jobs requiring creativity and the collaborative working of minds — items much harder to automate than routine tasks and, which studies show, favor women over men. 

The Western world is also increasingly less religious in the orthodox sense, and, in the West, far fewer Millennials and Gen Zers — the generations of the future — accept any form of “God-ordained sexism” than did their predecessors at any other time in modern history.

Couple this with the fact that, in the 1950s, women comprised only about a third of the American workforce and now make up almost half of it (even possibly, for the first time in history, having become, at least temporarily, a majority of the US workforce), and, the with fact that women now earn significantly more college and graduate degrees than men – and it is obvious that women will dominate in the future. Even fields that suffer from terrible sexism (including the technology sector and Hollywood) are changing.

While there will be blips along the way — and the third world certainly faces major challenges in evolving towards egalitarianism — the trend is clear. In short, the reasons that men became the dominant sex politically and economically are disappearing, and factors that favor women are increasing — these factors will create a very different looking world for future generations.

2. The future is automated.

The era of automation has dawned, and daylight is arriving far faster than many want to believe. 

Take self-driving trucks and cars, for example. Besides changing our thoughts about car ownership and transportation, they will dramatically change the speed at which we travel, as well as many aspects of rest stops, fuel stations, auto insurance, and many other dependent businesses. How many people will be needed to staff factories, the trucking industry, construction, and other industries involving physical labor 20 years down the road?

We already see improved automated logistics and robot-inhabited warehouses allowing stores like Amazon to sell all goods over the country with extreme efficiency. Recently, Amazon even opened a cashier-less store in Seattle. How many cashier jobs will exist in 20 years versus now? (Ironically, automated store-checkout technology is one advancement that will likely impact more women than men.)

Sadly, our politicians seem be stuck in the past. In my own town, for example, it is illegal for local stores to sell many products on a Sunday, yet Amazon can process same-day delivery for the same items, all while elected officials don’t seem to notice higher numbers of vacant storefronts. How often do they argue about minimum-wage laws instead of about how to retrain minimum-wage earners for new roles once automation permanently kills many of their jobs? Successful societies must transform themselves for the era of automation — what we see today is only the tip of the iceberg.

3. The future is free.

Despite the continued presence of terrible brutality in some parts of the world, the world as a whole is actually far more peaceful than ever before. Even with all of our problems, free countries continue to lead the world in almost every positive aspect — from per person productivity, to medical advancement, to technological revolutions and innovation. Technology — such as ubiquitous handheld devices that can keep people busy while they might otherwise have been causing trouble — has also helped lower crime in much of the Western world – which also makes people more free. Even blockchain is a sign of greater freedom: People can organize currencies and systems of trust without a government or major corporation overseeing them.

As women increase their influence around the globe, and as technology unites the world in terms of communications about quality of life and the availability of advanced technologies, the world will become freer. Freedom and free economies create economic prosperity, but also create challenges: America must prepare for the day when its population will compete with billions more people living in free societies. The impact of globalization that we have seen to date is tiny compared to what will come when the world is freer — and that may come sooner than we expect.

On the topic of the future, I have some personal news to announce: This article will be my last for Inc. Starting tomorrow I will be publishing my articles on my personal website, and you can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I have greatly enjoyed sharing this journey with you over the past six years, and am thankful for both the attention that you have given to my writing, and for engaging in discussions with me via social media and email; I look forward to staying in touch.

Study that Said Uber and Lyft Drivers Made $3.37 an Hour Was Way, Way Off

A recently MIT study stating that median profit for Uber and Lyft drivers was $3.37 an hour caused a stir. Many people have driven for either or both, whether to make some extra money, to develop a side hustle, or to go all in and make a business of it.

Lord knows, financial issues have been large for the companies. Neither has hit a profit yet. Last fall Uber needed even more investment after the first $11.6 billion it had raised. Turnover has been high among rideshare drivers and income, not as juicy as people had thought — or led to believe. However, it turns out things aren’t close to as grim as the study suggested.

In a painfully embarrassing move (Lyft sent a letter directing attention to it), Dr. Stephen Zoepf, executive director of the Center for Automotive Research at Stanford University and lead author of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) paper, walked back the study’s results.

Uber Chief Economist Jonathan Hall had addressed some methodology problems that he saw in the study. A question in which drivers were asked how many hours they worked in a month was ambiguous: “How many hours per week do you work on average? Combine all of the on-demand services that you work for.” If, as many do, the drivers worked part time on the side but provided all their hours of work, including those at a separate main job, the money per hour would be lower than it might actually be. Hall claimed there were also some significant flaws in how researchers calculated the final figures that led to invalid results.

Hall did write: “It is important to note that we do not take issue with the paper’s estimation of costs. They are very much in line with previously-reported costs associated with driving.”

According to Zoepf’s post, Hall had some valid points, so Zoepf recalculated the results using two different methods. The first method in a recalculation showed median profit (revenue minus costs) for the drivers was $8.55 an hour, not the originally reported $3.37. Only 8 percent of drivers lost money rather than 30 percent. And the number of drivers making less than their state’s minimum wage was 54 percent, not 74 percent.

With the second method, median profit was $10 an hour. Forty-one percent of drivers made less than their state’s minimum wage and 4 percent lost money.

Lyft sent a statement that read in part, “While the revised results are not as inaccurate as the original findings, driver earnings are still understated.”

Zoepf wrote “unequivocally that this work is mine” and that the MIT connection happened from his time as a post-doc at CEEPR, which published the report as a working draft with the assumption that there could feedback.

For someone looking to run a side hustle, however, the profit levels should be much higher. Even $15 an hour is not a lot when you own the business and are responsible for all aspects of it.