This was the subject of a fascinating talk delivered by Tamar Mitts, an assistant professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, at a “data science day” hosted by the school on Wednesday. Mitts studied the efficacy of Twitter-disseminated propaganda supporting the self-identified Islamic State, or ISIS, in 2015 and 2016. To avoid the “obvious ethical issues” which attend to subjecting humans analysts to ISIS propaganda, Mitts said she used machine learning algorithms to identify and sort messages and videos into various categories, such as whether they contained violence. Then she parsed her dataset to uncover trends.
Mitts’ results were a revelation. Even though people tend to associate ISIS propaganda with heinous acts of brutality—beheadings, murder, and the like—Mitts found that such violence was, more often than not, counterproductive to the group’s aims. “The most interesting and unexpected result was that when these messages were being coupled with extreme, violent imagery, these videos became ineffective,” Mitts said. In other words, the savagery for which ISIS became famous did not appeal to the majority of its followers; positive messaging found greater success.
There’s a caveat though: Anyone who was already extremely supportive of ISIS became even more fanatical after encountering a piece of propaganda featuring violence. So, while violent acts turned off newcomers and casual sympathizers, they nudged ideologues further down the path of radicalization. Extremism begets polarity.
Perhaps Mitts’ discoveries could help society to avoid repeating history’s darkest moments. My appreciation for her work grew after I finished reading In the Garden of Beasts, a gripping journalistic endeavor by Erik Larson, which details the rise of Nazi Germany through the eyes of an American ambassador and his family living in Berlin. Afterward, I watched a YouTube video—an innocuous one—recommended by the author: Symphony of a Great City, a 1927 film that documented the daily life of ordinary Berliners at that time. It amazes me to think how, within a few years, these souls would come under the sway of Hitler’s bloodthirsty regime.
While the Internet makes zealotry easier than ever to incite, today’s tools also make it easier to study.
Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.
Time passes quickly and the WiFi is spotty here in Trāyastriṃśa, so I apologize for taking so long to check out how you’ve been doing with our company.
Of course, truth be known, Apple was already on that trajectory when I handed you the company, but props anyway.
Beyond that, though, I feel I must ask: Is that ALL you could manage with that money and talent? Seriously?
OK… Let me calm down… Deep breath… Nam Myoho Renge Kyo… Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.. That’s better.
Look, Tim, I don’t want to go all heavy on your case, but here’s what you need to do to make Apple great again:
1. Invest in new technology.
You let our cash on hand get all the way up to $245 billion??? Earning maybe 3% interest? Are you out of your mind?!?! With those deep pockets, we should be making huge investments and acquisitions in every technology that will comprise the world of the future. You’ve let that upstart Musk make us look like IBM. That’s just plain wrong.
2. Attack and cripple Google.
Google is our new nemesis, remember? They attacked our core business model with that Android PoC. But, Tim, c’mon… Google is weak. They can’t innovate worth beans and most of their revenue still comes from online ads, which are only valuable because they constantly violate user privacy. You could cut their revenues in half if you added a defaul 100% secure Internet search app to iOS and Mac OS. Spend a few billion and make it faster and better than Google’s ad-laden wide-open nightmare. This isn’t brain surgery.
3. Make the iPad into a PC killer.
WTF? The iPad was supposed to be our big revenge on Microsoft for almost putting us out of business. All it needed was a mouse and could have killed–killed!–laptop sales. Sure, it would have cut into MacBook sales, but that’s the way our industry works. I let the Macintosh kill the Lisa, remember? And the Lisa was my personal pet project. The iPad could have been the next PC… and it still might not be too late.
4. Give our engineers private offices.
I get it, Tim. You’re not a programmer. You built your career in high tech but it was always in sales and marketing, which are the parts of the business where a lot of talking and socializing make sense. But if you’d ever designed a product, or actually written code, you’d know engineering requires concentration without distractions. Programmers and designers don’t belong in an open plan office. Give them back their private offices before it’s too late.
5. Don’t announce trivial dreck.
A credit card? Seriously? Airbuds with ear-clips? A me-too news service? Is that best you can do? And what was with Oprah And Spielberg at the event? Hey, the year 2007 called and wants its celebrities back. Look, when you gin up the press and the public up for a huge announcement and it’s just meh tweaks to existing products or me-too stuff, it makes us look lame and out of touch. If we don’t have anything world-shaking, don’t have an announcement!
6. Stop pretending we’re cutting edge.
There was a time–I remember it well–when people would line up for hours just to be the first to get our innovative new products. Heck, we even had “evangelists” who promoted our products to our true-believers. But that’s history. Until we come out insanely great new products that inspire that kind of loyalty, dial down the fake enthusiasm.
7. Make Macs faster, better, cheaper–more quickly.
I’m honestly embarrassed what you’ve done with the Mac. You’ve not released a new design in years. Sure, MacBooks were cool back in the day, but now they’re just average. And where’s our answer to the Surface? Tim, you actually let Microsoft–Microsoft again!–pace us with a mobile product. That’s freakin’ pitiful.
8. Diversify our supply chain out of Asia.
Tim, Tim, Tim… I love Asia, but you’ve bet our entire company on the belief that there will never be another war (shooting or trade) there. Meanwhile, China has become more aggressive and there’s a madman with nuclear weapons perched a few miles from our main supplier for iPhone parts. Wake up! We need to sourcing our parts in geographical areas where war is less likely.
9. Fix our software, already.
This was the one that surprised me the most. I knew that iTunes, iBooks, Music, and AppStore was a crazyquilt but I figured we could fix that in a future release. But here we are, ten years later, and we’re still asking people to suffer through this counter-intuitive bullsh*t? And what’s with the recent instability with our operating systems? And that wack Facetime security hole?
LAS VEGAS (Reuters) – As movie theater owners converge on Las Vegas for their annual convention, one topic that keeps coming up is how they contend with a company that has resisted their traditional business model: Netflix Inc.
FILE PHOTO: The Netflix logo is seen on their office in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 16, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
The world’s most successful streaming service sends some movies to theaters but has insisted on making them available on Netflix at the same time, or just a few weeks later. That has upset big movie chains, which refuse to show Netflix films and want a longer “window” of time to play films exclusively.
The issue of how Netflix fits into, or threatens, the theater business dominated a press conference on Tuesday at CinemaCon, the theater industry trade show.
“All of your questions from the first 17 minutes or whatever are about Netflix,” grumbled John Fithian, president and chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners.
He insisted that Netflix and theaters can happily co-exist, citing data that showed the biggest consumers of streaming video visit theaters more often. He also said Netflix had helped revive interest in documentaries, which had helped draw people to theaters to see them.
Earlier, Fithian told a crowd in a Caesars Palace theater that films reached their full potential only with a “robust theatrical release.” He spoke just after “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu said his film would not have had as big an impact if it had debuted on a streaming service.
Some members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the group that hands out the Oscars, have been debating whether films must play in theaters for a specific length of time to compete for the awards, which could exclude Netflix or force the company to agree to longer exclusive theatrical runs.
Hollywood publication Variety reported on Tuesday that the Department of Justice had weighed in on the issue.
Antitrust chief Makan Delrahim sent a letter to the academy warning that any changes that limited eligibility for the industry’s highest honors “may raise antitrust concerns,” according to Variety.
An academy spokesperson confirmed it had received the letter and said any rule changes would be considered at an April 23 meeting. A source close to Netflix said the company was not involved with or aware of the Justice Department’s letter.
Netflix is a member of the Motion Picture Association of America, the trade association for Walt Disney Co, AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros. and other movie studios.
“We are all stronger advocates for creativity and the entertainment business when we are working together … all of us,” MPAA CEO Charles Rivkin said on the CinemaCon stage.
Both Rivkin and Fithian noted that box office receipts hit a record $11.9 billion in the United States and Canada in 2018 even as Netflix released dozens of original movies.
Mitch Neuhauser, managing director of CinemaCon, also was asked to address the issue when he wandered into a work room for reporters.
“Streaming is not a problem!” he exclaimed, noting that there are limits to how much people can stand to stay at home with all of the modern conveniences including grocery delivery.
“We’ve got to get out of the house. We are talking about becoming a society of hermits!”
Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Las Vegas; Additional reporting by Kenneth Li in New York and Jill Serjeant in Los Angeles; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall
In doing so, it has cut its on-site hardware footprint from 24U to 4U, slashed equipment and licensing costs, and reduced data restore times from hours or days to minutes.
The move also gives Cranfield peace of mind in disaster recovery by gaining the ability to run all operations from any location using virtual servers running in Azure, should the entire site become unavailable.
The entire project is a drive towards simplifying Cranfield’s on-site physical infrastructure in a move that encompasses cloud as a site for storage (and compute in case of outages).
Cranfield is a leading research establishment in science, industry and technology, with 1,600 staff and 4,000 postgraduate students.
Its IT stack is based around Microsoft and Linux servers with Microsoft and Oracle-based applications. It is effectively 100% virtualised on VMware, with 400-600 virtual machines running at any one time.
Its existing backup infrastructure was based on Veeam backup software and Data Domain hardware, with replication to a third party-hosted Data Domain box.
That setup had reached end of life and was showing the signs, said head of IT infrastructure Edward Poll.
“Data Domain did what it was supposed to do, but it was time to refresh things and we wanted to reduce costs, management time and complexity, and increase performance,” he said.
“The major issue with Data Domain had become restores. It ingests well, but recovering was more problematic. It would be fine for one restore, but if we’d had to restore multiple – 50, 100 or 150 – servers, we would have struggled.”
Cranfield’s IT department had already started a journey towards cloud by using StorSimple appliances – with about 80TB on site and 0.5PB in the Azure cloud – and had discovered how cost-effective it can be.
“Azure was a good fit and we started by thinking we could use Veeam and Data Domain instances in the cloud, but it was suggested to us, ‘why not get rid of a layer of software?’, and we looked at using Rubrik appliances,” said Poll.
Rubrik is part of an emerging category of backup appliances that come as nodes that build into clusters in a similar way to hyper-converged infrastructure.
Rubrik’s software appliance can come on approved server hardware from Cisco, HPE or Dell with flash and spinning disk inside. Capacities for a minimum four-node cluster are in the 64TB-160TB range, depending on the hardware.
Customers can set policies to specify how long data should be retained as a backup and which can be accessed for production use from Rubrik hardware. Rubrik backup data is seen as an NFS file share before being sent to an in-house physical archive or the cloud.
Cranfield has deployed eight Rubrik R348S nodes with a total of about 80TB of storage on site, with flash and SAS spinning disk tiers of storage inside. Data is ingested, then copied off to the Azure cloud.
The key benefits for Poll’s team are the substantially better restore times, plus the ability to potentially restore virtual machines in the cloud, allowing staff to work from any location in the event of a disaster.
Rubrik’s CloudOn enables rapid recovery to allow for business continuity in the event of a disaster, said Poll. “If our on-prem site is down, we can quickly convert our archived VMs into cloud instances, and launch those apps on-demand in Azure,” he added.
“We don’t notice any difference in data ingest, but performance on restores is very much better.”
In cost terms, Cranfield had been spending £50,000 a year on off-site hosting. It now spends about £25,000 a year with Microsoft Azure.
Meanwhile, time spent managing backup is down from about half a day a week to five minutes a day.
In terms of physical space and equipment savings, Poll said the university had turned off 42U of storage and backup devices, of which backup servers and Data Domain comprised 24U.
“Overall, it has given us a simpler, faster and more reliable backup service,” he said. “It is more easily integrated with a department that is moving towards a DevOps model, and when it comes to data recovery, we are down to minutes rather than many hours.”
The storage and backup refresh – with the move towards hyper-converged infrastructure – forms part of a wider plan to rationalise IT by making use of contemporary devices’ formats with a smaller physical footprint, as well as the cloud.
Poll added: “The university masterplan is to knock down the IT department and to no longer have two large datacentres on site. Instead, there will be one datacentre, a ‘resiliency room’ for redundancy of network equipment, and the cloud.”
While millions of Americans were enjoying a warm spring weekend, Facebook employees were hard at work responding to an avalanche of news about their company. After an already busy week for the social media platform—including a lawsuit from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as a policy change regarding white nationalist and separationist content—five major Facebook stories broke over the last few days, including a Washington Postop-ed in which CEO Mark Zuckerberg calls for the social network to be regulated. Here’s what you need to know to get caught up.
Facebook Explores Restricting Who Can Livestream
The torrent of Facebook news began Friday, when COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company was “exploring restrictions on who can go Live depending on factors such as prior Community Standard violations.” The decision came less than three weeks after a terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, that killed 50 people was livestreamed on Facebook. The social network, as well as other companies like YouTube, struggled to stop the shooter’s video from being reuploaded and redistributed on their platforms.
In 2016, Zuckerberg said that live video would “create new opportunities for people to come together.” Around the same time, the company invested millions of dollars to encourage publishers like Buzzfeed to experiment with Facebook Live. The feature provided an unedited, real-time window into events like police shootings, but it was also repeatedly used to broadcast disturbing events. After the Christchurch attack, Facebook is now reexamining who should have the ability to share live video, which has proven difficult for the company to moderate effectively.
Sandberg also said Facebook will research building better technology to “quickly identify edited versions of violent videos and images and prevent people from re-sharing these versions.” She added that Facebook had identified over 900 different variations of the Christchurch shooter’s original livestream. Sandberg made her announcement in a blog post published not to the Facebook Newsroom but to Instagram’s Info Center, indicating Facebook wants its subsidiaries to appear more unified.
Old Zuckerberg Blog Posts Disappear
Also on Friday, Business Insider reported that years of Zuckerberg’s public writings had mysteriously disappeared, “obscuring details about core moments in Facebook’s history.” The missing trove included everything the CEO wrote in 2007 and 2008, as well as more recent announcements, like the blog post Zuckerberg penned in 2012 when Facebook acquired Instagram.
Facebook said that the posts were mistakenly deleted as the result of technical errors. “The work required to restore them would have been extensive and not guaranteed, so we didn’t do it,” a spokesperson for the company told Business Insider. They added that they didn’t know exactly how many posts were lost in total.
This isn’t the first time Zuckerberg’s content has gone missing from Facebook. Last April, TechCrunch reported that some of the CEO’s messages were erased from people’s private inboxes. (Facebook later extended an “unsend” feature to all Facebook Messenger users.) And in 2016, “around 10” Zuckerberg blog posts also disappeared from the social network. The deletion was similarly blamed on a technical error, but in that case the blogs were later restored.
Zuckerberg Calls for Regulation in Four Areas
In an interview with WIRED last month, Zuckerberg said, “There are some really nuanced questions … about how to regulate, which I think are extremely interesting intellectually.” On Saturday, the Facebook CEO expanded on that idea in an opinion piece published in The Washington Post. “I believe we need a more active role for governments and regulators,” Zuckerberg wrote, calling for new regulation in four particular areas: harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability.
In the piece, Zuckerberg acknowledged that he believes his company has too much power when it comes to regulating speech on the internet. He also mentioned Facebook’s new independent oversight board, which will decide on cases where users have appealed the content decisions made by Facebook’s moderators. (On Monday, Facebook announced it was soliciting public feedback about the new process.)
Zuckerberg also said the rest of the world should adopt comprehensive privacy legislation similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation that went into effect last year. There’s currently no modern privacy law in the United States, though California passed a strong privacy bill last summer, which Facebook originally opposed. Now a number of lawmakers, and lobbyists, are jockeying to get a federal privacy law in place before the state-level rules take effect next year.
The op-ed arrives as Facebook faces a looming Federal Trade Commission investigation over alleged privacy violations. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also recently expressed an interest in regulating or even breaking up the social media giant. Zuckerberg’s op-ed provides a sketch of the kind of regulation that his company would be comfortable adopting. Some critics have also argued that legislation like GDPR can strengthen the dominant position of companies like Facebook and Google.
Facebook Opens Up About How News Feed Works
How Facebook chooses what content to feature in the News Feed has consistently remained mostly a mystery. As Will Oremus wrote last week in Slate, “For all of Facebook’s efforts to improve its news feed over the years, the social network remains as capricious and opaque an information source as ever.”
But on Sunday evening, Facebook quietly announced that it will begin revealing more about why users see one post over another when they scroll through their feeds. The company will soon launch a “Why am I seeing this post?” button, similar to the one it launched in 2014 for advertisements. It will begin rolling out this week and will be available for all Facebook users by the middle of May, according to Buzzfeed.
“This is the first time that we’ve built information on how ranking works directly into the app,” Ramya Sethuraman, a product manager at Facebook, wrote in a blog post. The new feature might tell users, for example, that they’re seeing a post because they are friends with someone on Facebook or because they joined a specific group. But the button will also provide more granular information, such as telling users they’re seeing a specific photo because they’ve “commented on posts with photos more than other media types.”
Facebook is also making updates to its preexisting “Why am I seeing this ad?” button. It will now tell users when an advertiser has uploaded their contact information to Facebook. In addition, it will show users when advertisers work with third-party marketing firms. For example, an ad for a shoe company might reveal the name of the marketing agency it hired to sell its new sandals.
Pivot to Paying Publishers?
On Monday morning, Zuckerberg suggested he might create a new section of Facebook dedicated to “high-quality news.” Details are scarce, but it may feature content Facebook pays publishers directly to share. The remarks were made during an interview Zuckerberg did with European media executive Mathias Döpfner, which the CEO posted to his personal Facebook page. The announcement comes a year after Facebook said it would begin deprioritizing news stories in its News Feed in favor of content from friends and family.
Last week, Apple announced it was launching a $10 per month paid news aggregation service called News+ (it features content from WIRED). But unlike Apple, Facebook doesn’t appear to be getting into the subscription business. “We’re coming to this from a very different perspective than I think some of the other players in the space who view news as a way that they want to maximize their revenue. That’s not necessarily the way that we’re thinking about this,” Zuckerberg said in the interview.
Facebook’s earlier attempts to partner with media organizations have been a mixedbag. The social network also previously explored creating a dedicated feed for publishers but abandoned the project. Without knowing more, it remains to be seen what, if anything, is going be different this time.
The coins sold by small companies in Initial Coin Offerings are often compared to penny stocks. Like penny stocks, they’re cheap. Penny stocks cost less than five bucks; a new coin released at an ICO can literally cost a penny or less. They also have the potential for huge returns. Monster Beverage, a drinks company, was selling at around 60 cents a share at the start of 2005. It’s now worth nearly $60 a share. If you had bought $100 of those shares fourteen years ago, you’d now be sitting on nearly $10,000. That’s not as high as the returns earned by early Bitcoin investors but it’s still worth having. There are some important differences between penny stocks and cheap coins from ICOs though. Here are four of them:
An ICO Doesn’t Give You a Company
Penny stocks might be cheap but they’re still stocks. They give you a share of a company, possibly with voting rights. An ICO only releases a product whose value you hope will rise. It’s like a new casino raising funds by selling its unique poker chips cheaply. If the casino is popular those chips could be worth a lot of money. But if the casino is never built, you’ll be left with a pile of useless discs.
You Can Research the People Behind the ICO
One reason that a penny stock is such a high risk is that there’s often very little information about the company or the people behind it. You might not know who the managers are, what they did before they launched the company or whether they’re serious. You might know no more than the price of the stock and the name of the business. The rest is a shot in the dark.
Before launching an ICO, cryptocurrency firms release white papers. Those white papers will explain the background of the people launching the firm. You can often contact them on Telegram and ask them questions. That doesn’t mean that you can find all the information you want, or always get the answers you need. There will always be gaps and risks. But ICOs can provide details about the people behind them.
You Can Research the Business Idea
The white paper should also explain what the company is doing and how it plans to do it. Again, that doesn’t mean that the company will actually do what it says. It doesn’t mean that the managers have the skill or the competence to do what they intend. But you should be able to assess their idea and decide for yourself whether or not you think it has legs. A bet on an ICO is a bet on a business idea.
Coins Are Easier to Buy and Sell than Penny Stocks
Penny stocks are usually bought and sold through brokers. The markets are illiquid, the commissions are high and the process isn’t straightforward. The products of ICOs aren’t always sold on major cryptocurrency exchanges but you can usually buy them directly from the companies and if the coin is a success, you can expect it to be listed in the future.
“Easier” isn’t the same as “easy” though. Trading volumes will still be small. Not all coins will be listed on an exchange and those that are listed, often find themselves on small exchanges.
Like penny stocks, buying a small coin at an ICO is a high risk venture. But you can keep your losses low, and who knows, you might just strike it big!
MongoDB, a database software provider whose stock has been on a tear recently, just hired its first-ever chief information security officer. The appointment, which came Friday, signals that the company plans to take security more seriously even as it faces stiffened competition from the likes of Amazon and other tech giants.
The new boss is Lena Smart, a Glaswegian cybersecurity professional. Smart formerly held the same title at IPO-bound Tradeweb, a financial services firm that supplies the technology behind certain electronic trading markets. Prior to Tradeweb, she headed security at the New York Power Authority, where she worked for more than a decade. A cellist in her spare time, Smart told me in her Scottish brogue that her priority in the new job will be “knowing what the crown jewels are—that’s our customer data—and making sure that’s always protected.”
People leaving MongoDB and other databases unsecured on the web has been a persistent source of data-leaks over the years. Just this month, a security researcher discovered one such sieve that exposed to public view a trove of sensitive information, including location data, on millions of people in China. The misconfigured repository appears to have originated from SenseNets, a Shenzhen-based company that is likely providing the Chinese government with crowd-surveilling, facial recognition technology to track the country’s muslim Uyghur population. This is just the latest leak example; there are innumerable others.
Despite the frequency of these leaks, the situation seems to be improving. Most of these inadvertent leaks have sprung, in fairness, from people using outdated instances of the company’s so-called community edition software, a free, barer-bones version of the database product. Mark Wheeler, a MongoDB spokesperson, conceded that the 12-year-old company “struggled in its early years to find the right balance with security.” But he avers that updates to the default settings of MongoDB’s software over the past few years, plus key security team hires—including guardians Davi Ottenheimer, Kenn White, and now Smart—are changing the equation.
As Smart’s scope involves securing the totality of MongoDB’s business, the data-spillage issue ultimately falls to her. She says she’ll continue educating customers in best practices when it comes to security. She says she will also aim to imbue the company’s product development process with security, quality assurance, and testing from the earliest stages. “If we can get in at the very start” of the software development lifecycle, Smart says, it will “save us time and money and make our products more reliable and secure.”
The leaky database issue is one that extends well beyond MongoDB. It’s also a problem for rivals such as Amazon, particularly its S3 buckets, Elastic, and others. Like so many companies, these database-makers are looking now to shore up their software in the hopes of turning a historical weakness—cybersecurity—into a competitive strength. As Dev Ittycheria, MongoDB’s president and CEO, tells Fortune: making the company’s products as secure as possible “is critical to our business.”
Indeed, it’s critical to MongoDB and, increasingly, every business.
The robots are coming! What once seemed like a dystopian novel is seeming more like reality by the day.
A quarter of jobs in the U.S. stand to be disrupted by artificial intelligence, a recent report from the Brookings Institution found. Kai-Fu Lee, a leading A.I. researcher, investor, and computer scientist estimates that in the next 15 years, up to 40 percent of jobs could be replaced by algorithms, robots, and other types of artificial intelligence.
Lee offers a multi-question quiz on his website to determine if your job might be at risk. But really, it can all be boiled down into one simple question.
How repetitive is your day-to-day work?
In A.I. in 60 Seconds, Lee explains that A.I. is limited to doing the same things over and over again. “Within a single domain, A.I. is able to take tasks from our everyday jobs that are routine and repetitive and do them in a better way than we humans can do.”
The more repetitive and routine your work, the more likely it will be taken over by A.I. Here’s another way to look at it, from a New Yorker piece titled Are Robots Competing For Your Job?: “If your job can be easily explained, it can be automated,” Anders Sandberg, of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, tells Oppenheimer. “If it can’t, it won’t.”
What can you do that A.I. can’t?
While A.I. can do many things well, Lee reminds us that there are many things it can’t do so well. Your human brain give you a competitive advantage.
A.I. isn’t creative. It can’t think strategically. It doesn’t plan. And above all, it can’t have compassion or emotional intelligence. If you’re worried about your job being taken over by robots, Lee encourages you to zero in on how you can enhance and improve the skills that A.I. will never be able to gain. Try to figure out how to stop doing low value work or automate that work yourself.
Economist Richard Baldwin agrees. He advises that instead of trying to compete with A.I., let the robots do their thing. Focus your attention on building your in-person human skills, such as improving communication, developing insights, and effectively collaborating with other people at work. “Realize that humanity is an edge not a handicap,” he told the New Yorker.
Creativity is one of the most in-demand soft skills.
LinkedIn recently analyzed 50,000 professional skills that appear in its job postings. It used the data to determine the most in-demand job skills employers are looking for.
Creativity was the top soft skill that appeared again and again in job postings. Across hard skills and soft skills, it was still number two overall.
“It’s no stretch to say creativity is the single-most important skill in the world for all business professionals today to master,” LinkedIn concluded.
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s communications watchdog threatened on Thursday to block access to popular VPN-services which allow users to gain access to websites which have been outlawed by Moscow.
Russia has introduced tougher internet laws, requiring search engines to delete some results, messaging services to share encryption keys with security services and social networks to store users’ personal data on servers within the country.
But VPN (virtual private network) services can allow users to establish secure internet connections and reach websites which have been banned or blocked.
Russia’s communications regulator Roskomnadzor said it had asked the owners of 10 VPN services to join a state IT system that contains a registry of banned websites.
If the VPN services link to the system, their users would not be able to reach websites which had been blocked or be able to use the banned Telegram messenger service.
The internet censor said that it had sent notifications to NordVPN, Hide My Ass!, Hola VPN, Openvpn, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, IPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection and VPN Unlimited, giving them a month to reply.
“In the cases of non-compliance with the obligations stipulated by the law, Roskomnadzor may decide to restrict access to a VPN service,” the watchdog said in a statement.
Reporting by Anton Zverev. Writing by Andrey Kuzmin; Editing by Alexander Smith
“There’s no reason to be afraid,” my spouse scolded, as my 1-year-old and 4-year-old shrieked at the top of their lungs. You would’ve thought they were being roasted alive, instead of merely strapped into the Burley Encore X as their parents gingerly hauled it down a small, steep hill to the beach.
For a minute, the stroller was poised over a three-foot drop. I held the roll bar from the top and lowered it to my spouse as I braced my feet on a tree root and thought, “Hey, I might start shrieking, too.” You can’t blame toddlers for tantruming when the tantrum makes perfect sense.
Our kids are used to this. Ever since my son has been big enough to hold his head up on his own, we’ve been hauling them around in the active parents’ bike trailer of choice, a Thule Chariot. The Chariot has different iterations at different price points, but each iteration can be modified for jogging, biking, or cross-country skiing.
This year, Burley released a series of new, rugged child bike trailers. While the the Eugene, Oregon-based company is known for super-safe designs, it’s hoping that the new Cub X, D’Lite X, and Encore X will get more Burley trailers off the streets and onto the sand, snow, and dirt.
I opted to test the Encore X performance sport stroller-trailer. It has suspension, in comparison to the more affordable Encore, but fewer of the luxury features of the D’Lite model. After a few weeks of testing, I still prefer our Chariot. But Burley’s many fans will find plenty of reasons to love the Encore X.
And It Was All Yellow
The Encore X is easy to assemble and use. Like Burley’s jogging stroller, the Solstice, the manipulable parts are set off in bright yellow plastic, so you know exactly which parts you are supposed to wrestle with and which ones you should leave alone.
At 31 inches across, it’s narrow enough to fit through our front door—just barely—and at 24.7 pounds, it’s lighter than our Chariot Cheetah, which weighs 26.5 pounds. It comfortably fits my two kids, but it’s worth noting that its total capacity is only 100 pounds. I’m probably only going to be able to carry both children in it for another year or so.
I might be able to use it for a little longer if I can resist packing it full of stuff. The Encore X has an awe-inspiring cargo capacity. It’s hard not to start tossing random things into the 60-liter cargo bin, like picnic blankets, tennis rackets, or dog food. You can also remove the seats to convert it to a cargo trailer.
It also comes with a one-wheel stroller conversion kit. To use it, screw the Burley hitch on your rear axle. When you want to bike, hook up the trailer hitch with by sliding in the pin and locking it; flip small front wheel up and you’re ready to go. When you want to convert it to a stroller, unhook the pin and flip the front wheel down. The transition is quick and easy, and unlike the Chariot, you don’t have to worry about finding a way to carry or store the hitch bar. Some convertible strollers, like the Thule Chariot, do have a sturdier ball-and-socket attachment in addition to a pin.
Finally, the Encore X comes with all the standard features that help make the company’s trailers so beloved among biking baby-havers: it comes with a skid guard to protect the bottom of the trailer, and the wheels have guards and are easy to switch out with the pop of a big, yellow button.
And the suspension works! I biked two kids and all their stuff on everything from dirt trails, to sand and gravel paths, and no one protested or cried (except for that one time).
Not so Burly
As a bike trailer, the Encore X is nearly perfect. For two weeks, I towed my children to and from school. A sunshade and UV-protective panels protected my kids from the sun, and the big storage container meant that I didn’t have to attach panniers to my bike rack to carry all their backpacks and jackets. I could throw in a friend’s skateboard in the back when he wanted to walk with us, or a basketball to play at the park.
When I took it on more adventurous excursions, cracks began to show. The Encore X meets ASTM F1975-09 safety standards and survived extensive drop- and crush-testing thanks to its heat-treated aluminum roll frame, but I have some concerns with its durability.
The first flaw is that the trailer’s handlebar doesn’t lock into place. When I picked up the bike trailer an inch or two to pull it around a gate or over a curb, the handlebar popped out, rotated, and plonked my children on the ground. When we had to lift the trailer over a log on the trail, my spouse and I picked the stroller up by its frame and ignored the handlebar altogether; it was just easier.
Burley assured me that you can tighten the clamp to lock the handlebar in place. However, in order to do so, you need to pop out the barrel nut that holds the handlebar in place. And if you tighten it too much, you might snap the handlebar’s cinch lever. As I pondered this conundrum, I couldn’t help but think that a sport trailer should be a little hardier than this.
I also wonder how long the Encore X will hold together. The fabric is made from tough 600-dernier polyester, but after a mere two weeks of being folded up and shoved in the back of my car, it has already started to wear through. The damage isn’t covered by the three-year warranty. Burley suggests a little Tenacious Tape might do the trick, but I’ve owned the Thule Chariot for three years and put it through similar paces, and its only signs of wear are fading from the sun.
The Thule Chariot’s accessories also just make more sense. For example, the Chariot’s two-wheel stroller kit is included in the base price, whereas with the Burley, the two wheel stroller kit is an add-on. The one-wheel stroller conversion kit might be more convenient in some ways, but I missed having two wheels. They make the stroller smaller and easier to maneuver, and I wouldn’t want to pay extra for them.
I was excited to test Burley’s sand- and gravel-riding kit, but I found that the big, fat, 16-inch tires were unnecessary. If you want to bike to the beach and push the stroller through sand, you have to buy the $149 jogger kit on top of the $199 fat tires. Without the jogger kit, the puny front tire sunk into the sand, tipping the stroller forward.
If you pick the Encore X, my advice is to skip the sand kit and stick with the ski kit for snow. Opt for the jogger kit if you want to go on sand or trails, or the two-wheel kit if you live in a city.
If you want a one-and-done bike trailer that you can also hoist over a tree root without your children screaming, my vote would still be for one of the Thule Chariots like the one I recommended in our Best Strollers guide. Still, I found it to be a surprisingly difficult decision.
The Encore X has many admirable qualities, especially if you don’t go off-roading very much. It’s lighter and narrower, with much better storage options. With a few refinements to improve its durability, and a little Tenacious Tape, I might see a lot more of these on the roads and trails this summer.
BERLIN (Reuters) – German used-car dealing platform Auto1 said it could seek a public offering in future but a 2018 cash infusion from Japan’s Softbank means it has no immediate need for extra funding of its European growth plans.
FILE PHOTO: A worker loads a second hand car on a car transporter truck at the Auto1.com company grounds in Zoerbig, Germany January 28, 2017.REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch /File Photo
Last year’s Softbank’s deal valued Berlin-based Auto1 at 2.9 billion euros ($3.27 billion), making it one of Germany’s top so-called tech unicorns.
It is virtually unknown to consumers except through its used car buying arm Wir Kaufen dein Auto (We Buy Your Car) in Germany and similar names elsewhere. It operates from Finland to Romania to Portugal, 30 countries in all.
Revenues rose by 32 percent to 2.9 billion euros last year, and although it is profitable in Germany, investments in other markets have led to a loss on group level.
“Currently, an initial public offering is not a topic for us,” Auto1 co-founder Christian Bertermann told Reuters, adding this could change in future.
Auto1 buys cars using its vehicle pricing database to calculate an offer within minutes and then sells the vehicles on to one of its roughly 35,000 dealerships for a commission.
Its platforms helped 540,000 vehicles change hands in 2018.
The company will now also start a retail platform to compete with Scout24’s Autoscout unit or Ebay’s Mobile.de offering, Bertermann said.
He confirmed a Reuters report about Auto1’s talks with Scout24 about an acquisition of Autoscout, adding that these would not lead to a takeover.
Scout24 in February agreed to be acquired by buyout groups Hellman & Friedman and Blackstone.
Auto1 was set up in Berlin by entrepreneur Christian Bertermann after having trouble selling two old cars owned by his grandmother, along with Koc, who previously worked at Rocket Internet-backed firms Zalando and Home24.
Reporting by Nadine Schimroszik,; Writing by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Alexandra Hudson
DUBAI (Reuters) – Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, plans to roll out a commercial 5G mobile network by June, partly using Huawei technology despite the United States’ concerns the Chinese telecom giant’s equipment could be used for spying.
FILE PHOTO: Logos of Huawei are pictured outside its shop in Beijing, China, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo
Washington has warned countries against using Chinese technology, saying Huawei could be used by Beijing to spy on the West. China has rejected the accusations.
VIVA Bahrain, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian state-controlled telecom STC, last month signed an agreement to use Huawei products in its 5G network, one of several Gulf telecoms firms working with the Chinese company.
“We have no concern at this stage as long as this technology is meeting our standards,” Bahrain’s Telecommunications Minister Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed told Reuters on Tuesday when asked about U.S. concerns over Huawei technology.
The U.S. embassy in Bahrain did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. Fifth Fleet uses its base in Bahrain, a Western-allied island state off the Saudi coast, to patrol several important shipping lanes, including near Iran.
Bahrain expects to be one of the first countries to make 5G available nationwide, Mohammed said, although he cautioned it would depend on handset and equipment availability.
Early movers like the United States, China, Japan and South Korea are just starting to roll out their 5G networks, but other regions, such as Europe, still years away and the first 5G phones are only likely to be released in the second half of this year.
Bahrain’s state controlled operator Batelco is working with Sweden’s Ericsson on its 5G network, while the country’s third telecom Zain Bahrain is yet to announce a technology provider.
No foreign company is restricted by the government from providing equipment for Bahrain’s 5G network, Mohammed said, adding that the mobile operators chose who they worked with.
Australia and New Zealand have stopped operators using Huawei equipment in their networks but the European Union is expected to ignore U.S. calls to ban the Chinese company, instead urging countries to share more data to tackle cybersecurity risks related to 5G networks.
Mohammed said the rollout of the 5G network was an “important milestone” for Bahrain, which is hoping investments in technology will help spur the economy which was hit hard by the drop in oil prices.
“It is something we are proud to have,” he said.
Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Kirsten Donovan
Techno-optimist prognosticators will tell you that driverless trucks are just around the corner. They will also gently tell you—always gently—that yes, truck driving, a job that nearly 3.7 million Americans perform today is perhaps on the brink of extinction. At the very least, on the brink of uncomfortable change.
A startup called Peloton Technology sees the future a bit differently. Based in Mountain View, California, the eight-year-old company has a plan to broadly commercialize a partially automated truck technology called platooning. It would still depend on drivers sitting in front of a steering wheel but it would be more fuel efficient and, hopefully, safer than truck-based transportation today.
The company employs ten professional truck drivers to help refine its tech, and I’m about to meet two of them out on Peloton’s test track in California’s Central Valley. Michael Perkins is tall, thin, and has been driving very big trucks for about 20 years. Jake Gregory is shorter and picked up truck driving in college, before taking a detour to the FBI.
We hit the highway first, because the rain has suddenly cleared. (Here’s an unfortunate reality about Peloton’s driver assistance tech: It doesn’t work great in the rain. Or snow. It’s a safety issue. More on that later.) Out on Interstate-5, Perkins’ long, white semitrailer cruises along in front of me. I’m on board the second, identical truck behind it, with Gregory behind the wheel. A small screen mounted on Gregory’s dashboard shows a camera view of what’s happening in front of Perkins’ rig. It’s like their trucks are connected. Which, in fact, they are about to be.
Perkins radios in that he’s ready to go; Gregory says he is too. Inside the two truck cabs, each driver hits a button. Three ascending tones—la, la, la—means Peloton’s automated system has authorized the trucks to platoon on this stretch of highway. A dedicated short range communications (DSRC) connection is now established between the two vehicles. It’s like WiFi but faster and easier to secure. Now, whatever the front truck does, the back truck in will near-simultaneously “know”—and react accordingly.
Then Gregory speeds up, pulling his truck up so it’s tailgating about 70 feet from the leader. Sounds risky! But right now, the two trucks are platooning. Ours is on a kind of hopped-up cruise control, which means Gregory’s feet aren’t actually controlling the brakes or accelerator. At the same time, Gregory maintains control of his steering wheel. If Perkins were to brake, hard, Gregory’s truck would, too, faster than a human could. The robots have taken over. Kind of? Not really? More like, they’re collaborating, with some human oversight.
Peloton’s name, a reference to bicycle racing, helps explain how this platooning works. Just as the riders in the peloton, or main group of racing cyclists, preserve energy by drafting off of those around them, the following trucks in the truck platoon reduce their aerodynamic drag by drafting off the ones in front of it. The lead truck, meanwhile, get a little push. This saves fuel, according to Pelton—up to 10 percent for the following car and 4.5 percent for the first one, depending on the road and weather conditions and the following distance. It might also prevent crashes, since this tech has much faster reaction times (about 30 milliseconds) than puny humans (about 1 to 1.5 seconds).
Other companies in Europe, China, Japan, and Singapore are seriously experimenting with truck platooning. The American military has hosted platooning demonstrations. Just this week, the US Department of Transportation gave out $1.5 million in grants to universities studying the tech. And Peloton has tested in a bunch of US states: Arizona, California, Michigan, Florida, and Texas, where Peloton has immediate plans to run the majority of its routes.
Right now, the company says it does have paying customers, though it won’t reveal their names until later this year. According to Josh Switkes, the company’s CEO, some pair of US truck drivers are running a route while platooning on a Peloton-enabled truck every day.
And testing continues, on the software in its office, on its test track, and on actual highways, where it confirms the technology’s reliability. “The highway or field is not for testing,” Switkes says. “The goal of testing is to find failures, and you don’t want those failures to be on public roads.” In a report released today, the company lays out this approach to safety for regulators and interested industry parties alike. It borrow from automotive processes more than Silicon Valley-style software ones, amounting to something like, easy does it.
It turns out, the linking-up move Perkins and Gregory just performed on I-5 is one of the most safety-critical parts of truck platooning, says Switkes. The moment when the following truck has to move faster than the one in front of it is the most dangerous part.
To make sure drivers like Perkins and Gregory don’t crash into each other, or anyone else, Peloton needs to make sure that the platooning drivers know how the tech works. (Right now, the company’s driver training process takes about a half a day.) It also needs to understand exactly how heavy the trucks are when they start platooning, how their brakes are working, and how their tires function. For this reason, the company says, it has carved out partnerships with its suppliers, which means its trucks are built from the ground up with platooning in mind.
This is also why Peloton doesn’t platoon in the rain right now, or in the snow: The company can’t yet gauge exactly how tires deteriorate over time, which means it can’t quite predict how they’ll react in a hard-braking situation. Worn tires might slide in the moisture, leading to a domino chain of truck crashes. So no platooning in the Midwest in the winter, or anywhere during a rainy spring. “On certain routes, it’s a significant limitation,” says Switkes. “But we’re erring on the side of safety.”
And if that seems a little dull, Switkes would tell you that’s the point. His favorite word is “pragmatic,” and he doesn’t believe driverless trucks will prowl the highways any time soon. The technology is too complicated, he argues, and developers will have to go through years of safety testing before they’re ready for the roads—and before the public feels safe riding in their own bitty cars around 50,000-pound robot trucks. So Peloton is going all in on making human-based driving both safer and more efficient. With a bit of tech boost.
Not all manufacturers agree: In January, Daimler announced it would stop its platooning development to focus on autonomous trucking. Tests showed that “fuel savings, even in perfect platooning conditions, are less than expected,” the German company wrote in a press release. “At least for U.S. long-distance applications, analysis currently shows no business case for customers driving platoons with new, highly aerodynamic trucks.”
Platooning advocates disagree, but even the most supportive believe finding a market for this trucker assistance isn’t simple. Steven Shladover is researcher with the California Partners for Advanced Transportation Technology program at UC Berkeley. He has studied platooning for two decades, and points out that the truck industry would need to execute a fair bit of choreography to pull off platooning. Fleet operators would have to coordinate deliveries, matching up trucks heading in the same direction at the same time. “Does the truck industry see enough of a benefit in platooning to fit it into their operational strategies?” he says.
While everyone in trucking waits to find out, Perkins and Gregory head back to Peloton’s test track and proceed to show off a few, freakier moves: some hard braking, some driving side-by-side to prove that the trucks can still “talk” to each other in that position. At one point, another company employee in a white Toyota Tundra cuts into the 55-foot space between the two trucks, and they smoothly part to make room for him. Maybe platooning will improve life for truckers—too bad it can’t fix the problem of everyday reckless drivers, too.
PagerDuty took the next step forward to a planned IPO, joining a windfall of startups expected to go public this year. But the cloud-based software company’s debut will be an exception among the tech IPO wave—it’s one of the few enterprise companies run by a woman, CEO Jennifer Tejada.
Founded in 2009, San Francisco-based PagerDuty acts as a watchdog for technical issues. The operations management software identifies problems in real time and directs engineers to the root of the problem, an alert system that’s attracted 10,800 customers in 90 countries.
In 2018, PagerDuty scored unicorn status after a $90 million round led by T. Rowe Price Associates and Wellington Management. Its first nine months of revenue last year rose 48% from the period to $84 million. However, the company took a $34.5 million loss during that time,up $4.7 million from 2017. It didn’t reveal data on the full year.
The company’s institutional investors own more than half of its shares, including early investor, Andreessen Horowitz, which owns the largest share of the company at 18.4%, followed by Accel and Bessemer Venture Partners. PagerDuty’s cofounders, Baskar Puvanathasan, Andrew Miklas and Alex Solomon, each hold 7.1%.
PagerDuty landed a spot in the top 50 on the Forbes Cloud 100 list in 2017, just a year after Tejada took over as CEO. “It was a neat brand, even though it’s a small company,” Tejada told Forbes back in July 2016. Tejada owns over four million shares of the company.
(Reuters) – U.S. federal prosecutors are conducting a criminal investigation into data deals Facebook Inc struck with some of the world’s largest technology companies, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
A grand jury in New York has subpoenaed records from at least two prominent makers of smartphones and other devices, the newspaper reported, citing people familiar with the requests and without naming the companies.
Both companies are among the more than 150, including Amazon.com Inc, Apple Inc and Microsoft Corp, that have entered into partnerships with Facebook for access to the personal information of hundreds of millions of its users, according to the report.
Facebook is facing a slew of lawsuits and regulatory inquiries over its privacy practices, including ongoing investigations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and two state agencies in New York.
In addition to looking at the data deals, the probes focus on disclosures that the company shared the user data of 87 million people with Cambridge Analytica, a British consulting firm that worked with U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign.
Facebook said it was cooperating with investigators in multiple federal probes, without addressing the grand jury inquiry specifically.
“We’ve provided public testimony, answered questions, and pledged that we will continue to do so,” Facebook said in a statement.
Facebook has defended the data-sharing deals, first reported in December, saying none of the partnerships gave companies access to information without people’s permission.
A spokesman for the United States attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, which The New York Times reported is overseeing the inquiry, said he could not confirm or deny the probe.
Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru and Katie Paul in San Francisco; Editing by Richard Chang and Leslie Adler
When an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX 8 jet crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday morning, killing all 157 people aboard, observers quickly noted that the circumstances resembled those of another flight. In October, Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea, killing all 181 passengers and eight crew. Both flights plummeted a few minutes after takeoff, in good weather. And both were on 737 MAX 8 jets, the plane Boeing started delivering in 2017 to replace the outgoing 737 as the workhorse of the skies. Since 2017, Boeing has delivered 387 MAX 8s and 9s. It has taken orders for 4,400 more, from more than 100 customers.
As of Tuesday evening, various foreign aviation regulators and airlines had decided that after the two crashes, the plane shouldn’t be in the air. Officials in the European Union, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates have all grounded the planes. Of the 59 operators that fly the new 737, at least 30 have parked it.
In the US, though, Boeing’s plane is free to fly. American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines are still putting their 737 MAX jets—74 in total—in the air. (So is Air Canada.) And the Federal Aviation Administration—the agency that oversees American airspace—says that’s just fine.
Which might seem strange, since the FAA is notoriously safety-conscious. Planes in search of an airworthiness certificate must meet stringent standards; the certification process usually takes years. And it gets results: Just one person has died in American airspace on a commercial airplane since 2009. But, it seems, the agency has not yet found reason to ground the new 737.
In a statement Tuesday, acting FAA administrator Daniel Elwell said the agency is looking at all the available data from 737 operators around the world, and that the review “thus far shows no systematic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding aircraft.” Elwell said the FAA “would take immediate appropriate action” should such problems be identified. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board both have teams at the crash site outside Addis Ababa to investigate and collect data.
“We have full confidence in the safety of the 737 MAX,” Boeing said in its own statement Tuesday. “Based on the information currently available, we do not have any basis to issue new guidance to operators.”
A number of senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Dianne Feinstein of California, have called for the US to ground the aircraft. But it’s the FAA chief who has final say. (Elwell has been the acting administrator since January 2018, though Politico reports that the Trump Administration is close to nominating Delta Air Lines executive Steve Dickson as administrator.) He doesn’t make that decision alone, says Clint Balog, a flight test pilot and human factors expert with the College of Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle University. Any grounding goes through a “semi-formal” process, full of discussions with experts on the specific aircraft and crash situation, both in- and outside the federal government.
“The FAA looks at all of this information and decides, ‘OK, if it’s just likely that there’s a significant problem here, it doesn’t matter what the cost to the traveling public is—we have to put safety first and ground this aircraft,’” Balog says. “However, if they look and say, ‘Well, jeez, grounding this aircraft is going to be a monumental cost to the world and we simply don’t have enough information to know what the risk really is with this aircraft, do we really want to ground it at this point in time?’”
The FAA has grounded aircraft before. In 1979, the FAA grounded all McDonnell Douglas DC-10s (and forbid the aircraft from US airspace) after a crash in Chicago killed 273 people. An investigation found the problem was maintenance issues, not the aircraft design, the FAA lifted the prohibition just over a month later.
In early 2013, the FAA grounded Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, after two lithium ion-battery related fires in the aircraft. “We are issuing this [directive] because we evaluated all the relevant information and determined the unsafe condition described previously is likely to exist or develop in other products of the same type design,” the FAA wrote in its emergency airworthiness directive. It didn’t let the jet take to the sky again until Boeing found and corrected its design issues. (That happened in April.)
So far, though, we have little concrete information on whatever might be going on with the 737 MAX. The investigation into the Ethiopia crash is in its earliest stages. Indonesia’s civil aviation authority has released a preliminary report on the Lion Air crash, but has not issued any findings on what caused it.
Based on its directives, the FAA hasn’t “seen any red flags that are significant enough” to ground the aircraft, Balog says. So he’d have no problem getting on a 737 MAX-8. “More importantly, I would have no problem having my family get on a 737 MAX-8 at this point.”
Elon Musk will not go quietly. On Monday night, lawyers representing the Tesla CEO submitted a filing to a federal judge in New York arguing that she should deny the Securities and Exchange Commission’s request to hold Musk in contempt of court for—what else?—a tweet. Musk’s legal team argued the SEC overreached in its request, and claimed the agency is trying to violate his First Amendment right to free speech.
If the judge, Alison Nathan of the Southern District Court of New York, does hold Musk in contempt of court, she would decide the penalty. “If the SEC prevails, there is a good likelihood that the District Court will fine Mr. Musk and that it will put him on a short leash, with a strong warning that further violations could result in Mr. Musk being banned for some period of time as an officer or director of a public company,” Peter Haveles, a trial lawyer with the law firm Pepper Hamilton, told WIRED last month.
This latest chapter in Musk’s ongoing legal spat with the SEC dates back to the evening of February 19, 7:15 pm Eastern Time to be exact, when Musk wrote on Twitter, “Tesla made 0 cars in 2011, but will make around 500k in 2019.” About four and a half hours later—at 11:41 pm ET—Musk corrected himself, tweeting, “Meant to say annualized production rate at the end of 2019 probably around 500k, i.e. 10k cars/week. Deliveries for the year still estimated to be around 400k.”
Musk is the head of a publicly traded company, so making a mistake about his business on Twitter—which investors treat as a valid source of news like any other—is already less than ideal. But Musk and Tesla also reached a settlement with the SEC in September over another tweet containing misinformation about the electric carmarker’s operations. That was after Musk tweeted that he planned on taking Tesla private, and that he had the “funding secured.” He soon revealed he did not have that funding secured, and Tesla announced it would stay public.
In the ensuing deal with the SEC, Musk gave up his role as Tesla’s chairman for at least three years. He and Tesla each paid a $20 million fine. And Musk and Tesla agreed that the CEO’s tweets about the carmaker would be truthful, and reviewed by a team of Tesla lawyers before sending. According to the filing, Tesla’s general counsel and an assigned “disclosure counsel” are in charge of approving Musk’s Tesla tweets. The lawyers write that “the disclosure counsel and other members of Tesla’s legal department have reviewed the updated controls and procedures with Musk on multiple occasions.”
In December, Musk said on CBS’s 60 Minutes that he does not respect the SEC, and that the only tweets of his that require pre-approval are those that can affect Tesla’s stock price. Asked how Tesla could know which tweets would do that, Musk said, “Well, I guess we might make some mistakes. Who knows?” The SEC cited that interview in its motion for a contempt of court charge, writing that “Musk has not made a diligent or good faith effort to comply” with the terms of his settlement.
Now, though, Musk and the SEC are debating what that “pre-approval” actually means. Tesla’s lawyers say nobody pre-approved the tweet in question, but that it shouldn’t matter, because it had already made public the information about those production numbers: in an earnings call, in end-of-year financial results, and in an SEC filing submitted on the day Musk sent out the tweets in question. Musk did not receive pre-approval before sending that tweet because it “was simply Musk’s shorthand gloss on and entirely consistent with prior public disclosures detailing Tesla’s anticipated production volume,” according to the filing.
Moreover, the Musk team argues, the SEC’s attempt to limit Musk’s tweeting is a violation of his First Amendment rights to free speech.
The Musk legal team also argues that the CEO has really worked very hard since the SEC settlement to be careful about his tweeting behavior. It wrote that Musk’s less frequent tweeting about Tesla “is a reflection of his commitment to adhering the Order and avoiding unnecessary disputes with the SEC.” In fact, it says the correction tweet, the one sent four-and-a-half hours later, “is precisely the kind of diligence that one would expect from someone who is endeavoring to comply with the Order.”
On Sunday, the DNA testing company 23andMe revealed a new genetic analysis that it says will tell its customers if they have an elevated risk of developing the most common, and preventable, form of diabetes. The report—which has not been cleared by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose type 2 diabetes—arrives as the disease is becoming an intractable public health crisis in the US. One in four healthcare dollars goes to treating diabetes and its related complications. The situation is especially dire for African Americans and Native American populations, where obesity is rampant and one out of every seven or eight people has the disease.
Which is why it’s a little disappointing that 23andMe’s test is tuned to be most useful for skinny white people.
Unlike 23andMe’s other health reports, which inspect one or two genes for mutations with big, well-understood effects, its new diabetes test uses something called a polygenic risk score. It’s calculated by summing together each of the small risk contributions made at thousands of locations across a person’s genome. Alone, each one might increase your chances of getting a disease about as much as walking through a body scanner at the airport—but taken together, or in certain combinations, the risk can start to add up.
The algorithms that calculate polygenic risk scores aren’t new—they were largely pioneered in the mid-2000s. What’s new is the ability to derive them using huge genetic databases like 23andMe’s. Those databases, however, are overwhelmingly white. Because polygenic scores perform best for people with the same ethnic background as the DNA data used to train the algorithms, 23andMe’s new diabetes test isn’t as accurate for folks of non-European ancestry. It performs especially poorly for black Americans—barely better than a coin flip.
On its new diabetes test, the company used a machine learning trick called Platt scaling to recalibrate the polygenic score it had created in a European cohort for its other ancestry groups. “It’s a common shortcut, but it smashes down the level of risk you can convey to people,” says Ali Torkamani, a geneticist at the Scripps Research Translational Institute who studies polygenic risk scores and health outcomes. For the Hispanic, east and south Asian groups, he says it shouldn’t make too much of a difference. “For users of African American descent that score is not at all relevant.” Would such a shortcut be safe for a clinical test—one that people use to make decisions about their health? “No, not for an African American individual,” says Torkamani.
Because of these limitations, many of the polygenic risk tests already on the market are race-restricted. A test for Alzheimer’s developed by scientists at UC San Diego, for example, carries language advising you to only use it if you’re of European ancestry. In 2017, Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics added a polygenic “riskScore” to its physician-ordered breast cancer test, which more than 200,000 women have since taken, all of them of European ancestry.
Jerry Lanchbury, Myriad’s chief medical officer, says that adding the polygenic risk score sharpens the test’s performance for high-risk women. “If you’re in that high-risk category you may qualify for enhanced screenings or even surgical preventative offerings, so it’s a big deal,” says Lanchbury. To make it available to women of other ethnicities, the company has recruited 14,000 women of Hispanic descent and shown it can generate a risk score for that group, which it hopes to offer later this year. Recruiting is underway for an African American cohort as well.
The Bay Area’s Color Genomics also recently announced a plan to enroll 100,000 volunteers from historically underrepresented groups to better assess the risk of heart attack.
Starting Monday, qualified 23andMe customers will be able to access their polygenic risk score for diabetes—a single number that represents their chances of getting diabetes based on age, ethnicity, and DNA. It also determines if a user gets labeled as having a ‘typical’ or ‘increased’ likelihood of getting diabetes as compared to other users in the database. 23andMe drew that line where the amount of risk carried in a person’s DNA exceeded the diabetes risk associated with being overweight—the single biggest risk factor for the disease. The company expects that about 22 percent of 23andMe research participants—roughly one million current customers—will learn they have an increased likelihood for developing diabetes at some point in their lives. (The new number will only be available to customers who have compatible DNA chips—roughly those who joined in the last two years.)
If 23andMe’s customer base reflected the US population, two-thirds of them would be overweight or obese and already at an increased risk for diabetes. It should come as no surprise to them that they need to avoid sugary, processed foods and get regular exercise. That’s why Torkamani says the new genetic test will be most useful for the small subset of people who don’t have any clinical risk factors—they look lean and healthy, they exercise, they’re under the age of 45. “If they don’t know anything about how their blood glucose levels are responding to food, they may have no idea of an underlying issue that could devolve into type 2 diabetes later on,” says Torkamani.
The trouble is, if you already have a healthy lifestyle, there’s not much you can do with that information. It’s not like heart disease, where you can start taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Torkamani says one thing would be to start getting regular blood tests. Among other things, 23andMe suggests you sign up for a digital coaching program through the company’s newest partner, Lark. In January, 23andMe customers got the option to integrate their genetic information with Lark’s AI-powered chatbots for an additional fee. One of those bots delivers a CDC-recognized diabetes prevention program, which some insurance companies cover.
Unlike its other genetic health risk tests, 23andMe developed its diabetes report under the FDA’s guidelines for low-risk general wellness devices, products that promote a healthy lifestyle—which can be beneficial for all people regardless of their genetic disposition. ”Like all of our reports, we hold this report to high scientific standards,” said a 23andMe spokesperson, who also noted that a type 2 diabetes test was one of the reports most often requested by customers. “It’s built using data from 2.5 million individuals, which we believe to be the largest cohort ever used to develop a genetic model for type 2 diabetes.”
Other experts express skepticism of such actions. “There’s so little value in these scores that I have no idea what people should do with it,” says Cecile Janssens, an epidemiologist at Emory University who studies how genomics enters health practice. “You might as well just look in a mirror, that’s as good a predictor for diabetes as all your genes put together.”
She started looking at polygenic risk scores in the early 2000s, right after the Human Genome Project wrapped up and before 23andMe was even a “Google for DNA” in Anne Wojcicki’s eye. But Janssens says she got bored with the field because there hadn’t been any real progress in close to a decade. Then all of a sudden, in the last two years polygenic risk scores started popping up again. This time, they included millions of variants with effects so tiny that earlier studies on only a few thousand people couldn’t detect them. “The only trouble is they don’t add anything to the predictions,” she says. “Diseases like type 2 diabetes don’t become more heritable just because we’ve got better technology.”
The resurgence of polygenic risk scores has reignited old party lines in the research community and drawn some new ones. Depending on one’s side, polygenic risk scores are either going to revolutionize complex disease prevention by creating more precise pools of risk (the Torkamani camp), or they’re mostly rubbish (Janssen). The scientific validity of polygenic risk scores is still up for debate, but with 23andMe bringing it back to the mainstream, the discussion is becoming more urgent. Because if there’s one thing researchers know, it’s that no amount of tiny type at the bottom of the page will dissuade people from making decisions on risk scores in their grasp, however uncertain they might be.