Ix Digest

Weekly tech dose and other fascinating insights curated by Ionixx Technologies

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  • Climate change may wreck economy unless we act soon, federal report warns | ARS Technica

    The ever-worsening climate crisis is already causing waves of human suffering—both internationally and here in the United States. And now, a new report from a US financial regulator finds that climate change is also poised to do major damage to some of the institutions with the most power to help mitigate it: Wall Street banks and investors. Climate change "poses a major risk to the stability of the US financial system and to its ability to sustain the American economy," the report (196-page PDF) from the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) begins. Regulators "must recognize that climate change poses serious emerging risks to the US financial system, and they should move urgently and decisively to measure, understand, and address these risks."

  • Inside China’s unexpected quest to protect data privacy | MIT Tech Review

    Over the last few years the Chinese government, seeking to strengthen consumers’ trust and participation in the digital economy, has begun to implement privacy protections that in many respects resemble those in America and Europe today. Even as the government has strengthened consumer privacy, however, it has ramped up state surveillance. It uses DNA samples and other biometrics, like face and fingerprint recognition, to monitor citizens throughout the country. Can a system endure with strong protections for consumer privacy, but almost none against government snooping? The answer doesn’t affect only China. Its technology companies have an increasingly global footprint, and regulators around the world are watching its policy decisions.

  • Everything you need to know about Palantir, the secretive company coming for all your data | Recode

    In the earlier days of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of the country’s public health departments, still reliant on fax machines, were woefully unprepared for the massive amounts of data they needed to process. Looking for a tidy private-sector solution to a messy government problem, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) paid a shadowy Silicon Valley company with ties to the Trump administration to build something new. That company is called Palantir Technologies, and if you don’t know much about it, that’s by design. A lot of that could change in the coming months, however: Palantir is about to go public.

  • I Tried Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. The Earth Never Seemed So Real. | NY Times

    Microsoft’s latest version of Flight Simulator is so realistic that it suggests a new way of understanding the digital world.Microsoft has just released a new version of Flight Simulator, an institution in the gaming world that made its debut in 1982, back in the primordial age of video games. The update was released this week, and Microsoft provided it to some journalists and Flight Sim enthusiasts as a preview version weeks ago. It’s meant to show off the what’s possible in computing — in particular, how the increasing fidelity of virtual worlds might alter how we understand the “real” one.

  • Android is now the world’s largest earthquake detection network | Ars Technica

    Back in 2016, Ars reported on an interesting use for the bundle of sensors we carry around every day in our smartphones—earthquake detection. The accelerometers in your phone make a passable-enough seismometer, and together with location data and enough users, you could detect earthquakes and warn users as the shocks roll across the landscape. The University of California-Berkeley, along with funding from the state of California, built an app called "MyShake" and a cheap, effective earthquake detection network was born, at least, it was born for people who installed the app. What if you didn't need to install the app? What if earthquake detection was just built in to the operating system? That's the question Google is going to answer, with today's announcement of the "Android Earthquake Alerts System." Google is going to build what it calls "the world’s largest earthquake detection network" by rolling earthquake detection out to nearly every Google Play Android phone.

  • The quest for quantum-proof encryption just made a leap forward | MIT Review

    Many of the things you do online every day are protected by encryption so that no one else can spy on it. Your online banking and messages to your friends are likely encrypted, for example—as are government secrets. But that protection is under threat from the development of quantum computers, which threaten to render modern encryption methods useless.

  • Facebook’s ‘Red Team’ Hacks Its Own AI Programs | Wired

    Facebook depends heavily on moderation powered by artificial intelligence, and it says the tech is particularly good at spotting explicit content. But some users found they could sneak past Instagram’s filters by overlaying patterns such as grids or dots on rule-breaking displays of skin. That meant more work for Facebook's human content reviewers. Facebook’s AI engineers responded by training their system to recognize banned images with such patterns, but the fix was short-lived.

  • The massive Twitter hack could be a global security crisis | The Verge

    Whatever Twitter eventually comes to say about the events of July 15th, 2020, when it suffered the most catastrophic security breach in company history, it must be said that the events were set in motion years ago.Among the hacked accounts were President Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, the Apple and Uber corporate accounts, and pop star Kanye West.Within the first hours of the attack, people were duped into sending more than $118,000 to the hackers. It also seems possible that a great number of sensitive direct messages could have been accessed by the attackers.

  • How to hack your brain to remember almost anything | Wired

    Many people complain about having a terrible memory. Shopping lists, friends’ birthdays, statistics for an exam – they just don’t seem to stick in the brain. But memory isn’t as set in stone as you might imagine. With the right technique, you may well be able to remember almost anything at all. Nelson Dellis is a four-time USA Memory Champion and Grandmaster of Memory, says that anyone can improve their memory by following these 5 steps.

  • Seriously, Just Wear Your Mask | New York Times

    As the nation plunges for a second time into the depths of this brutal pandemic, officials worry we’ll soon have as many as 100,000 new cases every day. Summer won’t save us. Neither will bluster or bleach. So, Seriously, just wear your Mask. Almost any mask will do, really. N95, surgical, spandex, homespun cotton. For people who aren’t front-line health care workers, what matters is whatever you can get your hands on that fits over your nose and mouth.

  • If AI is going to help us in a crisis, we need a new kind of ethics | MIT Review

    Jess Whittlestone at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge and her colleagues published a comment piece in Nature Machine Intelligence this week arguing that if artificial intelligence is going to help in a crisis, we need a new, faster way of doing AI ethics, which they call ethics for urgency. Read the experts to know how AI will be quicker to deploy when needed if it is made with ethics built in.

  • 32 Proven Tips For Working From Home | People Managing People

    During the COVID-19 crisis, millions of people found themselves working from home for the first time. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey went so far as to tell employees that they could work from home permanently. What most people don’t realize, however, is that working from home is significantly different than working in an office. You can’t take what you did at the office and simply transfer it to your home. New skills and routines are needed—a new approach to managing your teams during crisis, and managing your own work, too. This article provides you with 32 proven, time-tested tips for succeeding while working from home.

  • 9 ways to focus a wandering mind | Creative Bloq

    Your mind has a tendency to wander at the best of times – not least while working from home. From Netflix and WhatsApp, to checking the contents of the fridge (again), it's hard to stay vigilant against the thousands of distractions begging for our attention. A wandering mind isn't always a bad thing for creatives, we might add, but if you need some focus right now, you're in luck. Not only is there an abundance of scientific research into how to avoid distraction, but a handy infographic (below) translates the science into nine easy steps to follow to help you stay focused.

  • How to protect yourself online from misinformation right now | The Hindu

    There wasn’t a communications blackout in Washington, DC, on Sunday, but #dcblackout trended on Twitter anyway, thanks to some extremely distressing tweets telling people that, mysteriously, no messages were getting out from the nation’s capital. The tweets, Reddit posts, and Facebook messages about the “blackout” got thousands of shares, fueled by pleas to spread the information widely and ominous warnings about what would happen next to protesters.

  • A brewing storm: On Trump vs Twitter | The Hindu

    As political ironies go, U.S. President Donald Trump’s tirade against social medial platforms is a class apart. After Twitter flagged two of his posts as factually inaccurate, the President threatened to “strongly regulate” or “close down” all social media platforms. Like most of his statements, this one too appeared on Twitter where he has 80.4 million followers. When Mr. Trump entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015, critics scorned him as a mere, inconsequential Twitter handle, for his acerbic posturing on the platform.

  • Sundar Pichai on Managing Google through the pandemic - The Interview | The Verge

    Like all big tech companies, Google and Alphabet are playing an outsized role in our lives as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Whether it’s helping people find reliable information in search, working with the government on testing, building an exposure-tracking system into Android and iOS in partnership with Apple, or battling misinformation on YouTube, Google’s capability — and responsibility — has never been greater. Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, in this interview, talks about the challenges Google faces during this time, including a shift in its core ad business and the challenges of managing the company remotely. Pichai is himself adapting to remote work; he’s actively blocking out more time on his calendar to read and think, something he used to do during his commute.

  • How We Can Get the Next Phase of the Coronavirus Right | New York Times

    Heading into our pandemic summer, biggest worry is that in the effort to flatten the coronavirus curve, nobody prepared the country for what comes next. In late February “flatten the curve” became our collective refrain — stay home, save lives. Charts showing how social distancing can reduce the spread of the virus and protect hospitals from overcrowding were simple to interpret and they became a meme.

  • Why time feels so weird right now | Vox

    March was 30 years long and April was 30 minutes long. What gives? We talked to a time philosopher to find out. Wait. What happened to April? If you’re at all like me, you might have flipped over your wall calendar to May (because if you’re at all like me, you have several wall calendars) and felt a perplexing confusion. How is it that a whole month could have disappeared into the gaping maw of quarantine, especially after March felt like it dragged on for (conservatively) 72 years.

  • The antidote: your favourite weekend reads beyond coronavirus

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed by coverage of the pandemic, try The Guardian’s list of non-coronavirus articles that the readers spent the most time with over the weekend.

  • No Time like The Present

    You don’t know what day it is, do you?Writer, Performer and Musician- Robert Burke Warren digs into ‘the Oddball Effect’ and fascinating brain data that may help explain why.

  • 10 ways to take care of yourself during the COVID outbreak | Reachout.com

    The world is pretty topsy-turvy right now, because of the global panic around coronavirus (COVID-19). If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed by it all, be reassured that this is a very normal response. However, it’s important to go easy on yourself and to take time for self-care. We’ve put together this list of self-care activities that you can do from home. They’ll help you feel a little better and give you a sense of control during a very uncertain time.

  • Build Your Resilience in the Face of a Crisis | HBR.org

    As the spread and far-reaching impacts of Covid-19 dominate the world news, we have all been witnessing and experiencing the parallel spread of worry, anxiety, and instability. Indeed, in a crisis, our mental state often seems only to exacerbate an already extremely challenging situation, becoming a major obstacle in itself. Why is this and how can we change it?. Mental resilience, especially in challenging times like the present, means managing our minds in a way that increases our ability to face the first arrow and to break the second before it strikes us. Resilience is the skill of noticing our own thoughts, unhooking from the non-constructive ones, and rebalancing quickly. Visit the link to read three effective strategies to nurture your skills and get trained.

  • The Dos and Don’ts of ‘Social Distancing’ |The Atlantic

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidelines for “community mitigation strategies” to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, which include recommendations for “social distancing”—a term that epidemiologists are using to refer to a conscious effort to reduce close contact between people and hopefully stymie community transmission of the virus.

  • How to work from home, the right way | BBC

    Google, Microsoft, Twitter. Hitachi, Apple, Amazon. Chevron, Salesforce, Spotify. From the UK to the US, Japan to South Korea, these are all global companies that have, in the last few days, rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies amid the spread of Covid-19.Whether you’re a newbie or WFH veteran, here’s what you need to do to stay productive.

  • Nine out of 10 people found to be biased against women |The Guardian

    It’s nearly International Women’s Day! Here’s a new survey by - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) analyzed data from respondents from 75 countries. More than half of them feel men are better political leaders, some 40% believe men are better business executives, and a third believe that it’s fine for a man to beat his wife. Despite progress in closing the equality gap, 91% of men and 86% of women hold at least one bias against women in relation to politics, economics, education, violence or reproductive rights.

  • 5G will transform smartphones—but it won’t stop there |Fortune

    Though the coronavirus outbreak forced the cancelation of Mobile World Congress, one of the technology industry’s biggest annual events, in Barcelona next week, mobile innovation marches onward. Today we stand on the cusp of 5G, the new generation of mobile broadband rolling out globally. 5G smartphones will allow consumers to download a movie in less than one minute, browse the web 10 times faster, experience life-like virtual and augmented reality, and stream 4K video the same way users stream audio today. But while 5G smartphones will be remarkable, focusing only on the 5G smartphone user experience is limiting the technology’s true potential.

  • The Left’s Search for the ‘Right’ Cash | US News

    THEY NEED IT, BUT THEY resent that they need it. They've acquired it, but are almost embarrassed by it. They rail against it, but end virtually every speech or debate closing remarks asking people to please give it to them.
    The Democratic presidential contenders have a love-hate relationship with money, which is essential to running a presidential campaign but which – among Democrats at least – carries a sort of dirty quality that has contenders competing not just for dollars but for dollars they claim are cleaner than everyone else's.

  • The WIRED Guide to the Internet of Things | Wired

    How many engineers does it take to change a lightbulb? Depends on whether or not that lightbulb is connected to Wi-Fi. Lightbulbs, along with refrigerators, coffee makers, microwave ovens, baby monitors, security cameras, speakers, televisions, and thermostats have, in the past few decades, transformed from ordinary objects into conduits for the future.

  • Loneliness is a national crisis. But there is a way to tackle it | The Guardian

    A desire for social connection is fundamentally hardwired into our psychology, and so being deprived of it has devastating mental and physical consequences. Yet we live in a society which has become ever more fragmented and atomised. From pubs to factories, the spaces where we socially connect are in decline. Thankfully there’s a group bringing local people together. Click on the link to read more.

  • Here's what I learned at DAVOS 2020 | WEF.org

    Climate change and its financial impact dominated conversations this year. Beneath the noise, I came away with even higher conviction that climate risk analysis of companies and portfolios is moving out of a specialised niche and into the mainstream. The Trumpification of global trade, the side effects of QE Infinity and the continued rally in tech stocks were also hotly debated. Europe hardly got a look in as investors and policymakers were focused on more vibrant growth and technology plays in the US and Asia.

  • Australian bushfires didn’t just destroy specific species, but entire ecosystems | The Next Web

    The sheer scale and intensity of the Australian bushfire crisis have led to apocalyptic scenes making the front pages of newspapers the world over. An estimated 10 million hectares (100,000 sq km) of land have burned since 1 July 2019. At least 28 people have died. And over a billion animals are estimated to have been killed to date. Of course, the actual toll will be much higher if major animal groups, such as insects, are included in these estimates.The scientific evidence shows that human-caused climate change is a key driver of the rapid and unprecedented increases in wildfire activity. What is particularly worrying is the extent to which this is eroding the resilience of ecosystems across wide regions. Yes, it is plausible to expect most plants and animals that have adapted to fire will recover.

  • Conversational AI Can Propel Social Stereotypes | Wired

    Alexa, Siri, Watson, and their talking AI siblings serve to make our lives easier, but they also reinforce gender stereotypes. Polite, subservient digital secretaries like Alexa and Siri are presented as female. Assertive, all-knowing Jeopardy! champion Watson is most often referred to as “he.” New generations of AI are coming that will make this problem more significant, and much harder to avoid. As the field expands, designers need to ensure they’re creating a more expansive world, and not replicating a close-mindedly gendered one. Linguists can help them get there.

  • Australia is blazing into the Pyrocene - The Age of Fire | Wired

    Huge bushfires have torched 14.5 million acres since September, killing at least 18. Vast plumes of smoke are pouring into major cities along the east coast, imposing a dire respiratory health hazard on millions of people. And Australia’s fire season is just getting started.

  • Why the Fires in Australia Are So Bad | New York Times

    This fire season has been one of the worst in Australia’s history, with at least 15 people killed, hundreds of homes destroyed and millions of acres burned. And summer is far from over. This week, thousands of residents and vacationers in southeastern Australia were forced to evacuate to shorelines as bush fires encircled communities and razed scores of buildings. Military ships and aircraft were deployed on Wednesday to deliver water, food, and fuel to towns cut off by the fires.

  • 2019’s Year in Pictures | NBCnews.com

    The beginning of the end of the decade began with chaos at the U.S. border and “yellow vest” protests in Paris. A photograph of a drowned migrant and his daughter shocked the world, and a teen climate activist gained global attention. Sometimes tragic, sometimes thrilling, sometimes amusing, take a look at the images that captivated photo editors in 2019.

  • India Awakens to Fight for Its Soul | NY Times

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government have deployed propaganda very successfully since coming to power in 2014. So much so that numerous egregious decisions the government has made — demonetization, electoral bonds allowing secret donations to political parties, a flawed citizens registry in the state of Assam, revoking the autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir — were accepted by a majority of people. But over the past few days, India seems to have risen up in countrywide mass protests. A growing awareness of what the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act means for the country seems to have jolted people, bringing them into the streets.

  • The greatest threat to Indian democracy today | Telegraph

    A friend, demoralized by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s emphatic victory in May, said ruefully that Narendra Modi could now write Annihilation of Caste, given how decisively his party swept Uttar Pradesh despite the subaltern caste mosaic pieced together by Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav. Having suggested in print on the eve of the election that the mahagathbandhan might be the fulcrum on which India’s politics might turn, I could only nod. The National Register of Citizens and the citizenship bill are part of the BJP's agenda to institutionalize discrimination opines Historian Mukul Kesavan.

  • Who is Kamala Harris and why did she drop out of the 2020 election race | The Week

    Kamala Harris was the perfect presidential candidate for the institutional Democratic Party in 2019. By which I mean that she talked, looked, and acted like she was grown in a top-secret high-tech lab deep in the bowls of the Democratic National Committee. A graduate of Howard University and the Hastings College of Law in the University of California system, she had elite credentials without seeming too elite. Her law career was spent in the public sector prosecuting criminals — first for the office of the San Francisco District Attorney, then as the DA herself, and finally as Attorney General for the state of California, before finally winning the Senate seat vacated by a retiring Barbara Boxer in 2016. A tough-as-nails, law-and-order black woman to take down President Trump: What could be better than that?

  • How Technology Is Improving The Future Of Home Service Installations | Forbes

    As winter sets in, a warm home is important. In the U.K., home heating is almost exclusively done with a boiler, which conjures images of cantankerous elderly equipment that fails at the worst moment. If you think that home heating is a relic of the analog world and technology wants nothing to do with it, think again.

  • The climate crisis leaders' debate: what did we learn? | The Guardian

    Zoe Williams, Guardian Journalist, Alice Bell, Co Director - Climate charity possible, John Vidal, Former Environment Editor and Eli o Maegan, Environment journalist respond on how the leaders of main parties, minus Boris Johnson addressed the biggest issue of our times. Read this insight to know more.

  • Every Tech Company Wants to Be a Bank—Someday, At Least | WIRED

    Most tech companies seem to be treading more carefully than Facebook. That’s why you’re seeing cooperation, not a competition, with banks—things like cobranded credit cards and checking accounts. The big tech firms get the consumer lock-in and business benefits they want, without the regulatory headaches. Caesar Sengupta, a Google payments executive, told The Wall Street Journal that the search giant plans to partner with banks to get its products off the ground—a somewhat pointed statement, one month after Zuckerberg was hauled into Congress after failing to do just that.

  • The Extraordinary Impeachment Testimony of Fiona Hill | The New Yorker

    Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council official who testified at the impeachment hearings on Thursday, was born in Bishop Auckland, a hardscrabble former coal town in County Durham, in the northeast of England. Her father was a miner; her mother was a nurse. As she noted in her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, her modest roots and working-class accent would have been a career handicap in the Britain she grew up in, but in the late nineteen-eighties she escaped. After attending the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, she applied for a graduate scholarship to Harvard and was called for an interview. “I was so nervous, I walked into a broom closet by accident,” she later recalled.