Monthly Archives: January 2019

E-Cigarettes, the best way to quit smoking?

Ever since e-cigarettes were introduced to the market and got really popular, there has been a heated debate about their influence on smoker’s health. Although most of the health researchers agree that they are definitely less harmful than regular cigarettes. New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine points out its positive use,  when it comes to quitting smoking in general.

It seems that people who are ‘pro e-smoking’, are winning the battle right now. Research that has been published in New England Journal of Medicine indicates that people, who tried quitting smoking by using e-cigarettes rather than usual nicotine replacements were almost twice more likely to quit smoking. Frankly, I’d say that these results are quite ridiculous (in a good way), but let’s go over how this study was conducted.

Almost 900 smokers that had gone to ‘quit-smoking’ centers were randomly split in half and were treated with two different approaches. The first group was given three months worth of supplies such as nicotine patches or gums, accordingly to their preference. On the other hand, the second group was give a ‘vaper starter kit’, which contained a e-cigarette and some e-juices. Apart from that both of the groups had free weekly counselling in order to make the change in their lifes more likely. Also to truly know, whether they really quit smoking or not, all of the participants had their carbon monoxide level in breathing air, regularly checked.

Just in the first few weeks, there has been a noticeable change in the second group, most of the participants didn’t feel that urge to smoke a cigarette, they also weren’t so irritated and didn’t have any issues with focusing. This are some really good news, as these factors are concerned as hardest for smokers to overcome, when it comes to quitting.

This trial research was conducted for a year and by the end of it, they had some surprising results. It turned out that 10% of people in first group successfully quitted smoking, whereas in the second one the percentage came out to be 18%, which is quite shocking.

Although we can’t just talk about the positives of e-cigarettes. They are still hazardous for our health as they also contain harmful substances that can be found in regular cigarette smoke, but on lower levels. Moreover, in e-juice there are also high levels of nicotine which is really addictive. There was also research done in California, that indicated that average e-smoker consumes more nicotine than regular smokers.

As for now, according to multiple health organisations like FDA (US), e-cigarettes aren’t formally yet the ‘approved’  way to quit smoking. They are not regarded as ‘standard cessation treatment’. Although with other trials in the future like the one described in this article, this can change.

What’s your stance on e-cigarettes ? What do you think about this kind of treatment? 

 

Reference list:

  1. null. (null). What We Know About Electronic Cigarettes. https://smokefree.gov/quit-smoking/ecigs-menthol-dip/ecigs
  2. Richter, L. (2018, October).  Can E-Cigarettes Help You Quit Smoking?. https://www.centeronaddiction.org/e-cigarettes/tobacco-replacement/can-e-cigarettes-help-you-quit-smoking
  3. Cara, E. (2019, January 31). E-Cigarettes Really Can Help You Quit Smoking, Large New Study Finds. https://gizmodo.com/e-cigarettes-really-can-help-you-quit-smoking-large-ne-1832212221
  4. null. (2015, December 22). Using e-cigarettes to stop smoking. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/using-e-cigarettes-to-stop-smoking/
  5. Freedman, M. and Burke, G.M. (2018, February 1). High-nicotine e-cigarettes lead to more smoking and vaping. http://www.contemporarypediatrics.com/adolescent-medicine/high-nicotine-e-cigarettes-lead-more-smoking-and-vaping

Photos:

  1. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/health-risks-e-cigarettes-emerge
  2. https://www.menstylefashion.com/men-switching-smoking-vaper/

Is telepathy becoming a reality?

MIT’s (Massachusett’s Institute of Technology) Lincoln Laboratory has developed a technology that uses lasers to vibrate moisture in someone’s ear, resulting in a whispered message. This works based on a “photo-acoustic effect in which water vapour in the air absorbs the laser’s emission causing it to vibrate at an audible frequency”. This has been tested to be the first laser that is harmless for both the skin and eyes. It has so far proven to work from several meters in distance, and directs the information directly into someone’s ear. There has already existed technology that sends sounds in a narrow field with the use of speakers or ultrasound, but this method requires the listener to be a short distance from the source. On the other hand, technology based on a laser provides an advantage that it can be utilised at a much longer distance.

The possibilities of this technology are boundless. This includes private uses like being able to communicate with someone privately and efficiently, but also for government and army uses which require very secure channels for transmitting confidential information. In the future in may provide opportunities for disabled people who are blind, mute, deaf or suffer from other diseases that may be restricting. However, this laser also has both drawbacks for all people, and advantages for companies. It is said that this will be utilised for sending advertisements directly into people’s ears. It may seem like a very effective method to be used commercially, but for the receiver, that would be annoying and something unavoidable. Nowadays ads are everywhere: YouTube, Spotify, games, newspapers, TV, social media, etc. and now it might be taking a step directly into our brains. How will this be regulated, controlled, or avoided? Me personally, I detest ads and I always skip them when I have a possibility or I simply find ways to avoid them. These days they have become extremely persistent with them turning on during every video that I play on YouTube, when I watch TV, go to the cinema, read news online, or play a game on my phone. Companies always find newer and more effective way to advertise, but for something like this to enter into a person’s ear unannounced would be completely out of hand.

The idea of talking to someone using telepathy sounds cool, but I don’t think that it’s worth it if it’s commercial use is the consequence for this. Although this is not exactly telepathy, but it is the closest that humanity has gotten to that, and one day in the near future, it may become a reality.

Sources:

https://www.sciencealert.com/new-tech-from-mit-uses-lasers-to-beam-whispers-only-you-can-hear

MIT Has Created Special Lasers That Are Able To Broadcast Secret Whispers For Your Ears Only

Boom! Comeback of supersonic flights

The history of the first supersonic flights dates back to the 60s of the last century. However, until nowadays technology and regulations allow to use their potential.

Boom Technology, an American startup is working on the construction of the new supersonic plane. Their mission is to bring back the supersonic travel and make it widely affordable.

Supersonic flight has existed for over 50 years, but the technology to make it efficient and mainstream has only recently been accepted by regulators. We’re combining materials and technologies proven on other passenger aircraft into a breakthrough new design, giving passengers and airlines a revolutionary speedup.

Supersonic aircraft is able to fly faster than a speed of sound which is Mach 1. Aircraft presented by Boom Technology should reach the speed Mach 2.2. This technology allows shortening the flight time by half.

„If we can fly twice as fast, the world becomes twice as small, turning far off lands into familiar neighbours.” – Blake Scholl, founder and CEO of Boom Technology

Will supersonic flights become a norm? 

Until now, supersonic aircrafts have been used mainly for military purposes. Boom tries to make a supersonic flight a new standard for business class passengers. The company presents an idea of the business class airliner – Overture

Overture has 55 premium seats with large personal window. Places are designed in a way that guarantees privacy, convenience and conducive to productivity. The overhead storages are removed and replaced with locker located under the seat which allows easier access to the luggage.

What is the most important, Overture significantly reduces flight time in comparison to currently available air connections. Flight to London from New York can last 3h 15 min instead of 7h and from Sydney to Los Angeles 6h 45 min instead of 15h. Moreover, the cost of such a flight is to be similar to the flights offered by subsonic business class flights.

The company has already built the one-third scale, two-seat supersonic demonstrator called XB-1 Baby Boom. Boom Technology claims that “XB-1 is the first independently developed supersonic jet and history’s fastest civil aircraft.”. During the flight test in 2019 form, Mojave Air & Space Port in Southern California Baby Boom should maintain March 2.2.

An era of supersonic flights is almost here. It has not been possible on a massive scale to cover huge areas and such a short time. Soon it will be standard available for everyone. What will be the next step in improving travel quality?

 

Continue reading

Fake Faces with Nvidia

Recently Nvidia (one of the biggest chip producers) created a project using GANs neural network.

Basically, the programme generates new faces of people, who never existed. It uses data which was fed initially into it and uses it to create a new face. The face features elements of chosen age, skin color or even details like freckles. The video below shows how the faces are generated using sample photos.

Personally I’m amazed with the technological progress which happened within the last 3 years. This technology will definitly be used in video games in the upcoming years. What’s more, the use of GANs neural networks is still at its very beginning but it will have more usage with time. I think it will be used for example to replace interior decorators in the spectrum of the next 5 years. On the other hand it will also boost the quality of deep fakes and will definitly be used to manipulate data. What do you think? Let me know what are your thoughts?Personally i’m amazed with the technological progres which happend within last 3 years. This technology will definitly be used in video games in few years, What’s more the use of GANs neural networks is still at its very begining but it will have more usage with time, for example i think it will be used to replace interior decarators in the time of 5 years. On the other hand it will also boost the quality of deep fakes with will definitly be used to manipulete data.

What do you think let me know.

refference:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612612/these-incredibly-real-fake-faces-show-how-algorithms-can-now-mess-with-us/?utm_campaign=the_algorithm.unpaid.engagement&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8kxzmyRmbG-8kGLZmbD-jZcUEpJidf6MnVsJOK62S0aVm88ioDTuQC2FPFAnkZQDBiqBw7

Apple knew about the FaceTime eavesdropping bug already a week ago

Recently a post went viral on 9to5mac about a FaceTime breach which allowed you to listen and see the person you were calling without them knowing or accepting the call.  But this post is not about the bug itself, it’s about Apple’s response.

On 19th January Michele Thompson’s 14 year old son made this discovery and a day later his mom tried reporting the bug to Apple. She sent a video, emailed, faxed them, made posts about it on Facebook and Twitter, but to no avail. Apple decided to disable Group FaceTime calls after more than a week after the report made by Michele T, on Monday 28th of January. They announced to have it fixed later this week.

The bug is now branded as FacePalm and got pretty popular so beware what you say when someone calls you. On top of that, a lawsuit have been filed towards Apple by a Houston Texas-Based Lawyer who claims that the exploit enabled an unknown entity to eavesdrop on his private conversation with a client.

This puts Apple in a pretty bad light, since they are pretty good at boasting how secure their products are and how they care about their customers. During the CES 2019 Conference Apple put up a poster which said:

Whatever happens in you iPhone, stays in your iPhone.

If an exploit like that went through testing and got released it makes me wonder how many more infectious bugs can be out there to discover and used for a wrong cause.

sources:

https://www.gadgetsnow.com/tech-news/apple-knew-about-facetime-eavesdrop-issue-since-last-week-faces-a-lawsuit-because-of-the-bug/articleshow/67773411.cms

https://www.nytim es.com/2019/01/29/technology/facetime-glitch-apple.html?ref=oembed

https://9to5 mac.com/2019/01/29/apple-facetime-eavesdropping-lawsuit/

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Facebook pays teens to install an app that spies on them

Once again Facebook finds itself in a position no company should end up in. It was reported that they have been secretly paying teenagers and adults to install a VPN  app that allows them to collect all the data on how they use their smartphones.

“Project Atlas”

It all began in 2016 with the so-called “Facebook Research” app where some of the users were being paid 20$ a month for permission to gather all kinds of data from their device. It enables Facebook to view web searches, location information, private messages on social media apps, and a lot of other activities. What is more, Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page. To mask its involvement in everything, the program is said to be administered through beta testing services like Applause, BetaBound and uTest and is referred to as “Project Atlas.”

Violation of policies

The app was also available on iOS, however, since it can decrypt and analyzy users phone activity it was a violation of Apple policy. After the report on the app, Facebook stated that it would shut down the iOS version of its app. In this case, Apple was quicker and had already blocked the “Facebook Research”  on their system.

“We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization. Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.” – statement from Apple spokesperson

Not a bright future

Facebook has had a rough couple of years now, especially after it was revealed that the data of 87 million users had been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. It is also scandalous, that ads for this app that ran on Instagram and Snapchat specifically asked for participants to be 13 to 17 years old. Who knows what we will find out in the future, but if you have any thoughts what can also be wrong with Facebook feel free to share it in the comments.

 

Sources:

  1. https://www.marketplace.org/2019/01/30/tech/facebook-has-been-paying-teens-data-what-does-mean-calls-regulate-company
  2. https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/29/facebook-project-atlas/
  3. https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/1/30/18203803/facebook-research-vpn-minors-data-access-apple
  4. https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/3070119/facebook-has-been-paying-teens-for-unfettered-access-to-their-data
  5. https://www.techzim.co.zw/2019/01/facebook-was-paying-teens-20-month-for-all-of-their-data/

 

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The trolley problem of self-driving cars

The infamous trolley problem is constantly in our lives. Imagine that you are standing next to some tram tracks and you see a train speeding straight towards five people who are tied to the track. However, you can change the direction of trolley by pushing the lever but there is one person tied to track. What do you do?

It may or not surprise you that the answer differs according to nationality, gender, age and whether the decision is just hypothetical or actually involves real lives. So, would you pull the lever, leading to one death but saving five? 

A famous ethical dilemma was recently applied by MIT researchers to the self-driving cars world. In 2014 they created an experiment called Moral Machine. 

The idea was to create a game-like platform that would crowdsource people’s decisions on how self-driving cars should prioritize lives in different variations of the “trolley problem.” In the process, the data generated would provide insight into the collective ethical priorities of different cultures.

After four years they got millions of answers and they did not expect such major feedback. The analysis of collected data can be found in new paper ’Nature’.

If autonomous vehicles will become our day to day reality, society will have to deal with brand new issue about which lives to prioritize in case of a crash. The Moral Machine tested different variants similar to trolley problem: humans or pets, more lives or fewer, pedestrians or passengers, young or old, fit or sickly, women or men, higher social status person or lower.

How the decision is affected by the cultural background of decision-making person?

Studies showed that countries in which the culture is more individualistic are more likely to spare young over old. For example, people from countries like Taiwan and China. Participants in Latin America countries, were more likely to spare the young, the fit and the higher status individuals. Across the globe were few trends which are repeatable, save humans over animals, more lives over fewer. 

In the last few years more people had thought about the ethics of AI. It can lead to various consequences on different cultural groups. Of course there is no „correct” answer to the given question. However, it is undoubtedly problem in self-driving cars and crashes. What are your thoughts about it? How would you solve this dilemmas?


https://www.insidescience.org/news/moral-dilemmas-self-driving-cars

https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/infrastructure/a24222017/trolley-problem-self-driving-cars/

https://www.iflscience.com/brain/the-trolley-problem-has-been-tested-in-real-life-and-the-results-are-surprising/

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612341/a-global-ethics-study-aims-to-help-ai-solve-the-self-driving-trolley-problem/

 

 

 

 

Who should mete out justice? The judge or an algorithm?

An algorithm will decide whether a suspect should be detained during a legal case.

The new justice system will apply in California in October 2019. Cash bail [*] will be replaced by an algorithm, which qualifies people to three groups – low, medium and high risk of committing a crime. Based on a recommendation made by an algorithm the judge will decide whether a person should be detained during a legal case.

The aim of a new tool is to reduce a bias and a personal prejudice of judges, who pass judgements. The decision should be driven by data-driven recommendations rather than person’s gut feeling.

The second argument pro is that algorithms and databases can be helpful in allocating resources in the future. The government could decide which districts or groups of people should be under control of police to prevent future crimes.

How does it work?
An algorithm uses historical crime data and statistics in order to find a correlation and pattern. Based on machine learning it can predict a likelihood of committing a crime by every individual.

But…
As we know algorithms are not perfect and some of them make mistakes. In this case people spotted, that an algorithm is much more rigorous for a dark-skinned individuals. According to analysis made by reporter Julia Angwin “Blacks are almost twice as likely as whites to be labeled a higher risk but not actually re-offend,” and “{an algorithm} makes the opposite mistake among whites: They are much more likely than blacks to be labeled lower-risk but go on to commit other crimes”. In July more than 100 organisations (such as ACLU, NAACP) protested against using such tools during lawsuit and signed a statement against it.

“Distribution of defendants across risk categories by race. Black defendants reoffended at a higher rate than whites, and accordingly, a higher proportion of black defendants are deemed medium or high risk. As a result, blacks who do not reoffend are also more likely to be classified higher risk than whites who do not reoffend.”

However, the algorithm takes into consideration 100 factors (such as: age, sex and criminal history). It is worth mentioning that race factor is not used. Another factor which increases a probability of signing to higher risk group (almost as much as race factor) is being in low income bracket.

“If an algorithm found, for example, that low income was correlated with high recidivism, it would leave you none the wiser about whether low income actually caused crime. But this is precisely what risk assessment tools do: they turn correlative insights into causal scoring mechanisms.”

In my opinion a history of the USA have a huge impact on its citizens. Because of it they are very sensitive to race discrimination. A created algorithm works on data influenced by long-lasting unequal access to education, work and social system and all consequences of this inequality. A social inequality, lack of education and bad financial situation are factors which cause a higher rate of crimes all around the world. Summarising, I think that the result of an algorithm’s work is rather a consequence of the USA history rather than a mistake of an algorithm or current race discrimination in this country.

[*] cash bail – payment of money or pledge of property to the court which may be refunded if suspects return to court for their trial, bail practice vary in the USA from state to state (source: Wikipedia)

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612775/algorithms-criminal-justice-ai/

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/01/equivant-compas-algorithm/550646/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/10/17/can-an-algorithm-be-racist-our-analysis-is-more-cautious-than-propublicas/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.fe323d9431cb

https://www.eff.org/pl/deeplinks/2018/11/if-pre-trial-risk-assessment-tool-does-not-satisfy-these-criteria-it-needs-stay

https://www.statista.com/topics/1750/violent-crime-in-the-us/

https://www.eff.org/pl/deeplinks/2018/11/if-pre-trial-risk-assessment-tool-does-not-satisfy-these-criteria-it-needs-stay

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bail_in_the_United_States

Photo: http://www.sjsu.edu/justicestudies/degrees/graduate-degrees/index.html

Sensor that works underwater BOOM!

One of the most knowable events in techno industry that is called CES was held this month. During the event we were presented lots of new upcomings, and most of them we won’t see in the next years. During this event a new display hardware was presented.

Sensel has introduced a new presure-sensetive display that can work under the water. It has developed technology based on force touch. It identifies not only where you press your phone but also the power of pressing. Moreover, it can measure a lot of touches at the same time.

During the event it was shown how it reacted to paintbrush. It easily detected it! And when it was pressed harder lines, wich it drew, bacame thicker. We also know that every top segment smartphone, that is produced nowadays, has waterproof technology, so it won’t drown, but we still can’t work with it while it is wet. Sensel’s display solves this issue and gives you the capacity to use it. That can indeed solve a lot of problems like:

1. Using it during cooking process. You must be rid of when you are cooking a dish, cleaning some tableware and accidentally someone is calling you or writing you a massage, so you are tying to answer, but your hands are wet so your phone dosen’t obey you and waits till you use a towel.
2. Wearing gloves. With this technology you don’t need to buy special gloves with completly ridiculous prices or to take off your gloves every time you want to change your music. It really makes your life better.
3. Making a selfee under the water.
Although it has a lot of features that are usefull, there is one thing you should take into consideration. In my opinion, it will defenetly react on rain, that is why, this screen almost completly unables compfortable usage under the rainfall. But if they envisage it, the display must be a perfect solution for all top sensoric gadgets in the world!

 

 

Facebook is merging WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram

Logos for WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram

Facebook has announced that they plan to merge its three largest apps – Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. According to their statement from 25thof January apps are going to stay separate, but their messaging system will be combined.

Together Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp have more than 2.6 billion users. It’s worth remembering that Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1 billion and WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion. Mr. Zuckerberg, at that time, promised WhatsApp and Instagram plenty of autonomy from Facebook… But now, he has changed his mind. These two apps have gained many users since Facebook bought them and Mr. Zuckerberg believes that integrating services will make them even more successful.

Mr. Koum, co-founder and previous CEO of WhatsApp is deeply concerned about this idea and stated that “If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it.” Several WhatsApp employees have already left the company.

“We want to build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private”

“We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks”  The Facebook’s spokesperson said.

We should ask ourselves a question – why is Facebook doing it? The most logical reason would be gathering more data. At the moment, using WhatsApp does not require providing name or any other personal information besides phone number. Combining WhatsApp with Messenger and Instagram will most probably force users to give more data about themselves. Currently only WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption by default.

“We don’t know how the users’ data will be spread across the apps. As you would expect, there is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work,” said Facebook in the statement.

Tim Mackey, data privacy expert, claims that “Merging personal information and privacy configurations from three significant applications won’t be trivial”. He underlines that Facebook had problems with user privacy before.

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania mark zuckerberg merge instagram

Mr. Zuckerberg explains his decision saying that there is a need to keep users engaged inside the company’s ecosystem. He wants to be one step ahead of any other messaging services like those offered by Google or Apple. Moreover, he sees potential in increasing advertising sales and creating new profit-generating services after the merge. Instagram produces revenue, but WhatsApp almost not at all at the moment.

Facebook plan to introduce this merge by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

Do you think that the merge is going to make communication easier or it is going to be a brutal attack on our data?

References:

http://goingdeepmag.com/2019/01/26/facebook-merges-instagram-messenger-whatsapp-one-platform/

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/facebook-instagram-whatsapp-messenger-app-merger-download-a8746376.html?utm_source=reddit.com

https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/25/18197228/facebook-instagram-whatsapp-merge-messaging-services-mark-zuckerberg

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-47001460

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