AI

Stanford Trains AI To Diagnose Pneumonia Better Than a Radiologist In Just Two Months (qz.com) 72

A new paper from Stanford University reveals how artificial intelligence algorithms can be quickly trained to diagnose pneumonia better than a radiologist. "Using 100,000 x-ray images released by the National Institutes of Health on Sept. 27, the research published Nov. 14 (without peer review) on the website ArXiv claims its AI can detect pneumonia from x-rays with similar accuracy to four trained radiologists," reports Quartz. From the report: That's not all -- the AI was trained to analyze x-rays for 14 diseases NIH included in the dataset, including fibrosis, hernias, and cell masses. The AI's results for each of the 14 diseases had fewer false positives and false negatives than the benchmark research from the NIH team that was released with the data. The paper includes Google Brain founder Andrew Ng as a co-author, who also served as chief scientist at Baidu and recently founded Deeplearning.ai. He's often been publicly bullish on AI's use in healthcare. These algorithms will undoubtedly get better -- accuracy on the ImageNet challenge rose from 75% to 95% in just five years -- but this research shows the speed at which these systems are built is increasing as well.
United States

Foreign Students Have Begun To Shun the United States (axios.com) 726

In a potential threat to future U.S. innovation, new international enrollment at U.S. colleges is down for the first time in more than a decade, according to a new report. From the report: It is the first hard sign that the Trump administration's rhetoric may be frightening away some of the world's best and brightest who traditionally have been drawn to settle and work in the U.S. Why it matters: "The Chinese whiz kid, if he can find a way to America, he'll come here. If you're good, you can make a lot of money," Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, tells Axios. "That whole set of incentives has always been tied to the immigrant stream, and we're severing that connection." By the numbers: The findings are from the Institute of International Education's annual Open Doors report and its smaller joint "snapshot" report on international enrollment. It found that new international student enrollment dropped by 3.3% for the 2016-2017 academic year, and by a far higher 6.9% in the Fall 2017 semester.
Education

Is American English Going To Take Over British English Completely? (scroll.in) 520

Paul Baker, writing for The Conversation: Brits can get rather sniffy about the English language -- after all, they originated it. But a Google search of the word "Americanisms" turns up claims that they are swamping, killing and absorbing British English. If the British are not careful, so the argument goes, the homeland will soon be the 51st State as workers tell customers to "have a nice day" while "colour" will be spelt without a "u" and "pavements" will become "sidewalks." My research examined how both varieties of the language have been changing between the 1930s and the 2000s and the extent to which they are growing closer together or further apart. So do Brits have cause for concern? Well, yes and no. On the one hand, most of the easily noticeable features of British language are holding up. Take spelling, for example -- towards the 1960s it looked like the UK was going in the direction of abandoning the "u" in "colour" and writing "centre" as "center." But since then, the British have become more confident in some of their own spellings. In the 2000s, the UK used an American spelling choice about 11% of the time while Americans use a British one about 10% of the time, so it kind of evens out. Automatic spell-checkers which can be set to different national varieties are likely to play a part in keeping the two varieties fairly distinct. [...] But when we start thinking of language more in terms of style than vocabulary or spelling, a different picture emerges. Some of the bigger trends in American English are moving towards a more compact and informal use of language. American sentences are on average one word shorter in 2006 than they were in 1931. Americans also use a lot more apostrophes in their writing than they used to, which has the effect of turning the two words "do not" into the single "don't." They're getting rid of certain possessive structures, too -- so "the hand of the king" becomes the shorter "the king's hand." Another trend is to avoid passive structures such as "a paper was written," instead using the more active form, "I wrote a paper."
Education

Digital Technology Can Help Reinvent Basic Education In Africa (qz.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: African countries have worked hard to improve children's access to basic education, but there's still significant work to be done. Today, 32,6 million children of primary-school age and 25,7 million adolescents are not going to school in sub-Saharan Africa. The quality of education also remains a significant issue, but there's a possibility the technology could be part of the solution. The digital revolution currently under way in the region has led to a boom in trials using information and communication technology (ICT) in education -- both in and out of the classroom. A study carried out by the French Development Agency (AFD), the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), Orange and Unesco shows that ICT in education in general, and mobile learning in particular, offers a number of possible benefits. These include access to low-cost teaching resources, added value compared to traditional teaching and a complementary solution for teacher training. This means that there's a huge potential to reach those excluded from education systems. The quality of knowledge and skills that are taught can also be improved.
Earth

More Than 15,000 Scientists From 184 Countries Issue 'Warning To Humanity' (www.cbc.ca) 405

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBC.ca: More than 15,000 scientists around the world have issued a global warning: there needs to be change in order to save Earth. It comes 25 years after the first notice in 1992 when a mere 1,500 scientists issued a similar warning. This new cautioning -- which gained popularity on Twitter with #ScientistsWarningToHumanity -- garnered more than 15,000 signatures. William Ripple of Oregon State University's College of Forestry, who started the campaign, said that he came across the 1992 warning last February, and noticed that this year happened to mark the 25th anniversary. Together with his graduate student, Christopher Wolf, he decided to revisit the concerns raised then, and collect global data for different variables to show trends over the past 25 years. Ripple found: A decline in freshwater availability; Unsustainable marine fisheries; Ocean dead zones; Forest losses; Dwindling biodiversity; Climate change; Population growth. There was one positive outcome, however: a rapid decline in ozone depletion. One of the potential solutions is to stabilize the population. If we reduce family size, consumption patterns don't rise as much. And that can be done by empowering girls and women, providing sexual education and education on family planning.
Education

Magazine For Museums Publishes Its 2040 Issue -- 23 Years Early (aam-us.org) 40

A nonprofit founded in 1906 is now offering a glimpse at 2040, according to an anonymous reader: The Alliance of American Museums has just published an ambitious Nov/Dec 2040 issue of Museum, the Alliance's magazine. The columns, reviews, articles, awards, and even the ads describe activities from a 2040 perspective, based on a multi-faceted consensus scenario.
Besides virtual reality centers (and carbon-neutral cities), it envisions de-extinction biologists who resurrect lost species. It also predicts a 2040 with orbiting storehouses to preserve historic artifacts (as well as genetic materials) as part of a collaboration with both NASA and a new American military branch called the US Space Corps. And of course, by 2040 musuems have transformed into hybrid institutions like "museum schools" and "well-being and cognitive health centers" that are both run by museums.

It also predicts for-profit museums that have partnered with corporations.
Google

Google Wants Google Doodles Taught In Public School, Warns Kids They Best Behave 145

theodp writes: Well, this year's Hour of Code is almost upon us, and if Google has its way, K-12 schoolchildren across the nation will be learning computer science by creating Google Doodles with Scratch (lesson plan). Curiously, the introductory video for the Create Your Own Google Logo Hour of Code activity from the Google Computer Science Education Department sternly warns kids, "While it is okay to use the Google logo for your personal Doodle, it is not okay [emphasis Google's] to use it anyplace else or outside this activity." In addition to respecting its intellectual property, Google instructs kids that they are to follow the Scratch Community Guidelines when they create Google logos: "Please stay positive, friendly, and supportive towards others in the Scratch Community. Help us keep Scratch a place where people of different backgrounds and interests feel welcome to hang out and create together."
Transportation

Uber Commits $5 Million To Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Prevention (gizmodo.com) 78

Uber announced on Sunday that it's taking new steps toward preventing sexual assault and domestic violence, starting with a $5 million donation to its partners -- Raliance, National Network to End Domestic Violence, No More, Women of Color Network, Casa de Esperanza, A Call to Men, and The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs -- along with an employee training program and in-app messaging to educate riders and drivers. Gizmodo reports: "As a result of this ongoing collaboration we have begun to make important changes internally and will commit to use Uber's scope and visibility to help drive awareness, education, and prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence to millions globally," said Uber's announcement. Uber wrote on its blog that its technology "enhances safety for riders and drivers in ways that weren't possible before such as GPS tracking, the ability to share a trip with family and friends, and 24/7 support through the app." But the company has failed to adopt measures like more rigorous driver background checks, despite urging by lawmakers. The ride-sharing service left Austin altogether last year (along with Lyft) because it refused to fingerprint its drivers. Uber has argued that mandated fingerprinting is too burdensome. Advocates for fingerprinting argue that it helps ensure rider safety.
Youtube

'Something Is Wrong On the Internet' (medium.com) 365

"Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level," writes James Bridle. From the article: To begin: Kid's YouTube is definitely and markedly weird. I've been aware of its weirdness for some time. Last year, there were a number of articles posted about the Surprise Egg craze. Surprise Eggs videos depict, often at excruciating length, the process of unwrapping Kinder and other egg toys. That's it, but kids are captivated by them. There are thousands and thousands of these videos and thousands and thousands, if not millions, of children watching them. [...] What I find somewhat disturbing about the proliferation of even (relatively) normal kids videos is the impossibility of determining the degree of automation which is at work here; how to parse out the gap between human and machine. The New York Times, last week: Parents and children have flocked to Google-owned YouTube Kids since it was introduced in early 2015. The app's more than 11 million weekly viewers are drawn in by its seemingly infinite supply of clips, including those from popular shows by Disney and Nickelodeon, and the knowledge that the app is supposed to contain only child-friendly content that has been automatically filtered from the main YouTube site. But the app contains dark corners, too, as videos that are disturbing for children slip past its filters, either by mistake or because bad actors have found ways to fool the YouTube Kids algorithms. In recent months, parents like Ms. Burns have complained that their children have been shown videos with well-known characters in violent or lewd situations and other clips with disturbing imagery, sometimes set to nursery rhymes.
United States

The Disappearing American Grad Student (nytimes.com) 268

There are two very different pictures of the students roaming the hallways and labs at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering. At the undergraduate level, 80 percent of the students are United States residents. But that number, The New York Times reports, falls below the 20 percent mark when you move to the graduate level (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled). From the report: The Tandon School -- a consolidation of N.Y.U.'s science, technology, engineering and math programs on its Brooklyn campus -- is an extreme example of how scarce Americans are in graduate programs in STEM. Overall, these programs have the highest percentage of international students of any broad academic field. In the fall of 2015, about 55 percent of all graduate students in mathematics, computer sciences and engineering were from abroad, according to a survey by the Council of Graduate Schools and the Graduate Record Examinations Board. In arts and humanities, the figure was about 16 percent; in business, a little more than 18 percent. The dearth of Americans is even more pronounced in hot STEM fields like computer science, which serve as talent pipelines for the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft: About 64 percent of doctoral candidates and almost 68 percent in master's programs last year were international students, according to an annual survey of American and Canadian universities by the Computing Research Association. In comparison, only about 9 percent of undergraduates in computer science were international students (perhaps, deans posit, because families are nervous about sending offspring who are barely adults across the ocean to study).
AI

'We Can't Compete': Universities Are Losing Their Best AI Scientists (theguardian.com) 268

The Guardian shares the story of a PhD student at Imperial College London who abruptly stopped coming to the facility, even as he had one-year of studies left. From the story: Eventually, the professor called him. He had left for a six-figure salary at Apple. "He was offered such a huge amount of money that he simply stopped everything and left," said Maja Pantic, professor of affective and behavioural computing at Imperial. "It's five times the salary I can offer. It's unbelievable. We cannot compete." It is not an isolated case, the report says. Adding: Across the country, talented computer scientists are being lured from academia by private sector offers that are hard to turn down. According to a Guardian survey of Britain's top ranking research universities, tech firms are hiring AI experts at a prodigious rate, fuelling a brain drain that has already hit research and teaching. One university executive warned of a "missing generation" of academics who would normally teach students and be the creative force behind research projects. The impact of the brain drain may reach far beyond academia. Pantic said the majority of top AI researchers moved to a handful of companies, meaning their skills and experience were not shared through society. "That's a problem because only a diffusion of innovation, rather than its concentration into just a few companies, can mitigate the dramatic disruptions and negative effects that AI may bring about."
Education

'Daylight Savings' Is Grammatically Incorrect (qz.com) 312

A reader shares a report: We talk about time like it's money, and that may explain why we say "Daylight Savings Time," capitalizing the concept to emphasize its awesomeness. After all, who wouldn't want to be able to save hours like cash? The phrase "Daylight Savings Time," though commonly used in Australia, Canada, and the US, is technically incorrect. Time and Date, a website devoted to all things chronological, posits that the plural "savings" became popular because it's used in everyday contexts, like "savings account." The grammatically correct usage is "daylight saving time." The expression is singular and not capitalized, according to the US Government Publishing Office style guide. The GPO provides the guidance, "d.s.t., daylight saving (no 's') time."
Education

Many Junior Scientists Need To Take a Hard Look at Their Job Prospects (nature.com) 152

In its careers section this week, science journal Nature surveyed more than 5,700 early-career scientists worldwide who are working on PhDs. Three-quarters of them, they told the journal, think it's likely that they will pursue an academic career when they graduate. How many of them will succeed? The editorial board of the journal wrote in a column published on Wednesday. Most PhD students will have to look beyond academia for a career, the editorial board added. From the article: Statistics say these young researchers will have a better chance of pursuing their chosen job than the young footballers. But not by much. Global figures are hard to come by, but only three or four in every hundred PhD students in the United Kingdom will land a permanent staff position at a university. It's only a little better in the United States. Simply put, most PhD students need to make plans for a life outside academic science. And more universities and PhD supervisors must make this clear. That might sound like an alarmist and negative attitude for the International Weekly Journal of Science. But it has been evident for years that international science is training many more PhD students than the academic system can support. Most of the keen and talented young scientists who responded to our survey will probably never get a foot in the door. Of those who do, a sizeable number are likely to drift from short-term contract to short-term contract until they become disillusioned and look elsewhere.
Businesses

San Francisco Just Took a Huge Step Toward Internet Utopia (wired.com) 226

Susan Crawford, writing for Backchannel: Last week, San Francisco became the first major city in America to pledge to connect all of its homes and businesses to a fiber optic network. I urge you to read that sentence again. It's a ray of light. In an era of short-term, deeply partisan do-nothing-ism, the city's straightforward, deeply practical determination shines. Americans, it turns out, are capable of great things -- even if only at the city level these days. [...] San Francisco's dilemma is a compact form of the crisis in communications facing the rest of the country: Although fiber is the necessary infrastructure for every policy goal we have -- advanced healthcare, the emergence of new forms of industries, a chance for every child to get an education, managed use of energy, and on and on -- the private sector, left to its own devices, has no particular incentive to ensure a widespread upgrade to fiber optic connections. Comcast dominates access in the city, but has no plans to replace its cable lines -- great at downloads, not so great at uploads, no opportunity to scale to the capacity of fiber thanks to the laws of physics, and expensive to subscribe to -- with fiber. And its planned enhancements to its cable lines have, in other cities, resulted in a product costing $150 per month. AT&T will say it's upgrading to fiber in San Francisco, but so far its work in many other US cities has been incremental, confined to areas where it has existing business customers to serve or where it already has fiber in place. Other, smaller providers similarly have no plans to do a city-wide upgrade, leaving San Francisco with a deeply uneven patchwork of connectivity. Just as in the rest of the country, poorer and less-well-educated San Franciscans tend not to subscribe to a wire at home, but instead rely wholly on smartphone data plans -- no substitutes, given their expense and throttled capacity, for what's possible using a wired connection.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Where Do Old Programmers Go? 481

New submitter oort99 writes: Barreling towards my late 40s, I've enjoyed 25+ years of coding for a living, working in telecoms, government, and education. In recent years, it's been typical enterprise Java stuff. Looking around, I'm pretty much always the oldest in the room. So where are the other old guys? I can't imagine they've all moved up the chain into management. There just aren't enough of those positions to absorb the masses of aging coders. Clearly there *are* older workers in software, but they are a minority. What sectors have the others gone into? Retired early? Low-wage service sector? Genuinely interested to hear your story about having left the field, willfully or otherwise.
Education

42% of Americans Under 8 Have Their Own Tablet (axios.com) 221

A reader shares an Axios report: A whopping 42% of children ages 0-8 have their own tablet device, up from less than 1% in 2011, according to Common Sense Media's newest national "Media Use by Kids" census. Families with young children are now more likely to have a subscription video service such as Netflix or Hulu (72%) than they are to have cable TV (65%). 10% of kids age 8 or under own a "smart" toy that connects to the internet and 9% have a voice-activated virtual assistant device available to them in the home, such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home.
AI

Tech Giants Are Paying Huge Salaries For Scarce AI Talent (santafenewmexican.com) 156

jmcbain writes: Machine learning and artificial intelligence skills are in hot demand right now, and it's driving up the already-high salaries in Silicon Valley. "Tech's biggest companies are placing huge bets on artificial intelligence (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source)," reports the New York Times, and "typical AI specialists, including both Ph.D.s fresh out of school and people with less education and just a few years of experience, can be paid from $300,000 to $500,000 a year or more in salary and company stock." The New York Times notes there are several catalysts for rocketing salaries that all come down to supply and demand. There is competition among the giant companies (e.g. Google, Facebook, and Uber) as well as the automative companies wanting help with self-driving cars. However, the biggest issue is the supply: "Most of all, there is a shortage of talent, and the big companies are trying to land as much of it as they can. Solving tough A.I. problems is not like building the flavor-of-the-month smartphone app. In the entire world, fewer than 10,000 people have the skills necessary to tackle serious artificial intelligence research, according to Element AI, an independent lab in Montreal."
Education

Stephen Hawking's Thesis Crashes Cambridge Site After It's Posted Online (bbc.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Demand for Stephen Hawking's PhD thesis intermittently crashed part of Cambridge University's website as physics fans flocked to read his work. Prof Hawking's 1966 thesis "Properties of expanding universes" was made freely available for the first time on the publications section of university's website at 00:01 BST. More than 60,000 have so far accessed his work as a 24-year-old postgraduate. Prof Hawking said by making it available he hoped to "inspire people." He added: "Anyone, anywhere in the world should have free, unhindered access to not just my research, but to the research of every great and enquiring mind across the spectrum of human understanding. It's wonderful to hear how many people have already shown an interest in downloading my thesis -- hopefully they won't be disappointed now that they finally have access to it!" The 75-year-old's doctoral thesis is the most requested item in Cambridge University's library. Since May 2016, 199 requests were made for the PhD -- most of which are believed to be from the general public rather than academics. The next most requested publication was asked for just 13 times. The Cambridge Library made several PDF files of the thesis available for download -- a high-resolution "72 Mb" file, digitized version that's less than half the size, and a "reduced" version that was even smaller -- but intense interest overwhelmed the servers. Here's the first paragraph of Hawking's introduction: "The idea that the universe is expanding is of recent origin. All the early cosmologies were essentially stationary and even Einstein whose theory of relativity is the basis for almost all modern developments in cosmology, found it natural to suggest a static model of the universe. However there is a very grave difficulty associated with a static model such as Einstein's which is supposed to have existed for an infinite time. For, if the stars had been radiating energy at their present rates for an infinite time, they would have needed an infinite supply of energy. Further, the flux of radiation now would be infinite. Alternatively, if they had only a limited supply of energy, the whole universe would by now have reached thermal equilibrium which is certainly not the case. This difficulty was noticed by Olders who however was not able to suggest any solution. The discovery of the recession of the nebulae by Hubble led to the abandonment of static models in favour of ones which were expanding."
Education

Bill Gates Tries A(nother) Billion-Dollar Plan To Reform Education (washingtonpost.com) 288

theodp shared this article from the Washington Post: Bill Gates has a(nother) plan for K-12 public education. The others didn't go so well, but the man, if anything, is persistent. Gates announced Thursday that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would spend more than $1.7 billion over the next five years to pay for new initiatives in public education, with all but 15 percent of it going to traditional public school districts and the rest to charter schools... He said most of the new money -- about 60 percent -- will be used to develop new curriculums and "networks of schools" that work together to identify local problems and solutions, using data to drive "continuous improvement." He said that over the next several years, about 30 such networks would be supported, though he didn't describe exactly what they are...

Though there wasn't a lot of detail on exactly how the money would be spent, Gates, a believer in using big data to solve problems, repeatedly said foundation grants given to schools as part of this new effort would be driven by data. "Each [school] network will be backed by a team of education experts skilled in continuous improvement, coaching and data collection and analysis," he said, an emphasis that is bound to worry critics already concerned about the amount of student data already collected and the way it is used for high-stakes decisions. In 2014, a $100 million student data collection project funded by the Gates foundation collapsed amid criticism that it couldn't adequately protect information collected on children.

"In his speech, Gates said that education philanthropy was difficult, in part because it is easy to 'fool yourself' about what works and whether it can be easily scaled," according to the article. It also argues that big spending on education by Gates and others "has raised questions about whether American democracy is well-served by wealthy people pouring so much money into pet education projects -- regardless of whether they are grounded in research -- that public policy and funding follow."

By 2011 the Gates' foundation had already spent $5 billion on education projects -- and admitted that "it hasn't led to significant improvements."
Education

Code Bootcamp Fined $375K Over Employment Claims and Licensing Issues (arstechnica.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes Ars Technica: [O]ne of the most prominent institutions, New York's Flatiron School, will be shelling out $375,000 to settle charges brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office. The AG said the school operated for a period without the proper educational license, and it improperly marketed both its job placement rates and the salaries of its graduates. New York regulators didn't find any inaccuracies in Flatiron's "outcomes report," a document the company is proud of. However, the Attorney General's office found that certain statements made on Flatiron's website didn't constitute "clear and conspicuous" disclosure.

For instance, Flatiron claimed that 98.5 percent of graduates were employed within 180 days of graduation. However, only by carefully reading the outcomes report would one find that the rate included not just full-time employees, but apprentices, contract workers, and freelancers. Some of the freelancers worked for less than 12 weeks. The school also reported an average salary of $74,447 but didn't mention on its website that the average salary claim only applied to graduates who achieved full-time employment. That group comprised only 58 percent of classroom graduates and 39 percent of those who took online courses.

The school's courses last 12 to 16 weeks, and cost between $12,000 and $15,000, according to a statement from the attorney general's office [PDF]. (Or $1,500 a month for an onine coding class). Eligible graduate can claim their share of the $375,000 by filing a complaint within the next thee months.

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