Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

After Nice, France Fights Fear With Social Media

France-Fights-Fear

Driving a truck, full speed into Nice’s busy promenade on Bastille Day one Tunisian man inflicted the “worst tragedy” in the modern history of the Cote d’Azur’s capital city. After November’s deadly Paris attacks and the linked March bombings in nearby Belgium, such tragic scenarios have become sadly familiar to the people of France.

With that familiarity, France’s people have set up their own crisis protocols. Sylvain Lapoix, journalist and now social media activist knows this better than most. Within less than an hour of the truck ploughing into Nice’s crowded Promenade des Anglais on Thursday Sylvain Lapoix’s hashtag #PorteOuverte (Open Door) was the top trend in France. Its purpose was to bring together those fleeing the site of attacks with those willing to give them temporary accommodation until it was safe to go outside.

“I came back to my flat on Thursday night after having a drink and I saw those tweets from Nice about what had happened,” Lapoix says. “Then someone sent me a direct message that just read ‘Go Sylvain, Go!’ and I jumped in.”

Via the hashtag, Lapoix, and some of his friends and followers, retweet every request for shelter near the site of an attack and every offer for shelter, in the hope that one click on the trending phrase will be able to connect anyone stranded in the chaos with someone offering them an “open door” nearby.

“Something I have learned in crises like these are that as a civilian there are two ways to help online. The first way to help is just not making things worse. Don’t spread hate online, don’t spread false information or speculation,” Lapoix says. “The second way to help is just to share something useful like shelter or even just a positive word.”

Since November Lapoix has inadvertently become a kind of spokesman for the phrase which he coined but says he did not technically create. “With #PorteOuverte I was the first one to come up with that particular term, but the solidarity was already there,” Lapoix says.

The hashtag was set up during the Paris attacks by Lapoix as numerous attacks began hitting cafes and places of leisure in the city, leaving many without an apartment nearby, afraid to stay outside and afraid to go indoors. Lapoix was cooking in his Paris flat when the first reports of a blast in the Stade de France stadium came in. He logged on to Twitter to find out what was happening, frantically checking his texts and messenger apps to make sure his loved ones were OK.

Within 20 minutes, shooting and explosions had been reported in five sites in central Paris, including the Bataclan concert venue where the largest part of the carnage took place.

“After the attack I was invited on a news TV show to talk about it and the host asked me how I felt that this needed to be done, that it would become something huge,” Lapoix says. “I didn’t feel anything. I just saw one-person tweet that they are lost and they gave their address and then I saw someone else on my feed, writing ‘if you are in this place, you can get in my house for safety.’ They happened to be near and I just thought here are two people who will never meet if they do not have the same newsfeed as I do.”

“There is demand for shelter and there is an offer and they cannot meet,” Lapoix says. “I just coined a phrase and put them in touch. That is all I did. And the host of the show was looking at me like I had some sort of epiphany. I just coined a term and then it got out of my hands in a very good way because everyone started doing the same.”

The hashtag was used during the Brussels attacks, and in Nice, although no follow-up attack occurred, it was not only used but became the top trend within minutes of the reports of the attack, thanks to people across France and abroad understanding how it works.

“There is one very specific thing that makes a huge difference between what happened during the Nice attack and Paris and Brussels,” Lapoix says. “For the first time the hashtag was eventually used by local authorities. Nice Matin, one of the biggest local papers coined the local hashtag #PortesOuvertesNice, which was then relayed by the Nice local authorities.”

Lapoix’s hashtag had become shorthand for civilian crisis response. And it was not the only one. Before long, #RechercheNice became an emerging hashtag, with people posting images of loved ones they had been separated from in the chaos of the events at the promenade. The national Gendarmerie, now aware many were likely looking to their phones, tablets and computers for answers, began tweeting instructions in five languages. With the death toll varying drastically from reports and a hoax video of the Eiffel Tower on fire spreading, speculation was rife. Even Parisian police kept an eye on Nice social media space, quickly debunking that an attack had hit the capital's landmark on Twitter. What had been learned from Paris and Brussels was being implemented swiftly.

“Sadly, people are now used to the threat but they also realise the importance of social media and they are more demanding for information,” Lapoix says. “There were complaints that the Safety Check feature on Facebook was too slow to activate,” he says referring to the social media’s site’s tool, asking anyone in the vicinity of an attack or disaster, indicate they are safe. The feature was widely used and praised during the Paris attacks.

“The taxi companies pretty much decided to give free rides but the news didn’t flow through the prefecture or the mayor. The companies communicated it on social media,” he adds.

Beirut-born Joseph Ayoubm, 27, was among those offering shelter in Nice. He was living in Paris during the Paris attacks and says he was impressed with how quickly the Cote d’Azur city mobilized.

“Once the information was official, the response from everyone was quite impressive,” Ayoubm says. “I think it is because we were preparing for something like this to happen, with France hosting the Euro football championship. We saw what happened in Paris and we already lived this once. People knew what was effective and what wasn't.”

Ayoubm and his girlfriend were quick to offer shelter via #PortesOuvertesNice, but nobody called on them, as there were several hotels nearby including hotel Mercure. He became a French citizen five years ago and believes the country will outlast the violent threat that has shed blood across the continent’s big cities.

“I grew up knowing we have to live with that in Beirut,” he says. “Now it feels like we're going also to live with that in France. I'm a positive person, so you cry for one night, and you move forward. It's easy to say and hard to do. But it's not a couple of fanatics who are going to teach us how to live.”

Alizée, 17, also joined the campaign, offering shelter. “If I was in the same situation I would love to see people involved like I was and to offer some help to me,” she says. “I was so impressed, that night and I was wondering If someone would do this hashtag, like during the attack in Paris. I agree that French people are very united (now) but the government need to do their job too.”

The investigation into why the Nice attack happened is ongoing and the French government is already faced with much pressure from the opposition to explain how they allowed another attack to end in the death of innocent civilians in the middle of a French metropolis. According to Lapoix however, people are creating their own crisis response.

“I am proud of coming up with a positive word in the middle of this mess. The real heroes are the ones offering help and shelter,” Lapoix says. “Emotionally you can never prepare for this unless you’re a Special Force agent, a navy seal or Jack Bauer. But practically you can learn what to do,” he adds.

“What I have learned is that people are truly amazing sometimes. Just give them the right tool and they can make anything happen,” Lapoix says.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

In times of crisis such as this, the human spirit can be truly amazing though tasks the need to be accomplished may be depressing. Not surprisingly, there are many a harsh word in the comments.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) And Global Geopolitics

AI-And-Global-Geopolitics

Artificial Intelligence (AI), a top priority for the ubiquitous American tech companies, for Industry 4.0 or digital China, is already reshaping global business, but this major scientific and technological disruption will also deeply impact the relations between powers.

While narrow AI has moved from the labs to our daily lives, informed personalities like Stephen Hawking, Nick Bostrom, Bill Gates or Elon Musk have rightly raised concerns about the risks inherent to a strong AI capable of equaling or even surpassing human intelligence.

Anticipating the emergence of an even more powerful and increasingly autonomous AI reinforced by quantum computing, these engaged voices are asking for a collective reflection upon what could constitute an external challenge to mankind, a technology which could dominate its creator.

The recent win of the AlphaGo computer program over the Korean Go champion Lee Sedol was indeed a strong signal of the rapid development of machine learning at the intersection of computer science and neuroscience.

However, a more immediate danger connected with the advancement of intelligent machines is an AI fracture enlarging what is already known as the digital divide. While AI’s algorithms and big data increase the productivity of a small segment of the global village, half of the world population still does not have access to internet. “Don’t be evil” can be Google’s slogan, but exponential technologies carry with them the risks of unprecedented inequalities.

While AI’s social and political effects are often discussed the geopolitical implications of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” have been surprisingly absent from the public debates.

How AI could affect the Sino-Western relations and, more specifically, the Sino-American relations, the major determinant of today’s international order? For decades, nuclear weapons stood as the frightening symbols of the Cold War, will AI become the mark of a 21st century Sino-Western strategic antagonism?

For humanity, the atomic age has been a time of paradoxes. In the aftermath of the 1945 Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings an arms race involving the most lethal weapons defined the U.S.-Soviet relations in what constituted also a permanent existential threat to human civilization. But, analysts will also argue that it is the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine acting as a deterrent among rational actors which prevented a direct conflict between the two superpowers.

As the 2015 Plan of Action for Iran’s nuclear program demonstrates, 70 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, world powers actively collaborate to avoid nuclear proliferation even if North Korea appears to be a counter example of this dominant trend.

But the Sino-Western convergence of views on the issue of nuclear proliferation does not apply in the cyberspace. Despite a certain level of interconnection between some private Chinese and American internet companies and financial institutions, the overall Sino-American relations in the cyberspace are characterized by strategic mistrust.

Besides, in space science and in the exploration of the universe, the U.S. and China are unfortunately following two separate courses. While China prepares to operate her own modular space station, the International Space Station (ISS) shows that in this strategic field the West can work with Russia but that Sino-Western synergies are almost impossible to reach.

Any responsible approach to AI has to take into account the combined lessons of the atomic age, of the digital dynamics and of the space exploration. Should a Western AI and a Chinese AI develop on two separate trajectories one would dangerously increase the risks of creating an irreversible Sino-Western strategic fracture for AI does not increase power in a limited quantitative manner but it modifies its nature.

In this context and following the appreciation of the interactions between AI and global politics an International Artificial Intelligence Agency should be established inspired by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It is in the “Atoms for Peace” address to the United Nations General Assembly that U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) proposed in 1953 the creation of the IAEA. Today, our actions must be guided by the spirit of “AI for Mankind”.

A United Nations International Artificial Intelligence Agency involving academics, private businesses, the world civil society and, of course, the governments should at least give itself the following four objectives.

  • First, it has to create the conditions for AI’s awareness across our societies and for a debate to take place on AI’s ethical implications. Scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, legal experts, philosophers, economists have to analyze AI from all possible angles, its future(s), its potential effects for humanity.
  • Second, this international body should take all possible actions to prevent an AI fracture which would dangerously enlarge the digital divide. One can’t accept to have, on one side, a tiny segment of humanity making use of a series of Human Enhancement Technologies (HET) and, on the other side, the vast majority of the world population becoming de facto diminished, what transhumanism revealingly abbreviates as H+ can’t be a plus for a few and a minus for all the others.
  • Third, the agency should ask for transparency in the AI research at both the governmental and the company level. The issue of nuclear proliferation and therefore the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) followed the secretive Manhattan Project and the use of nuclear bombs to end the war in the Pacific, if humanity really wants to protect itself from the military use of strong AI and its tragic consequences it has to define a set of rules and policies which would maintain research within reasonable and collectively accepted limits. The IAEA imperfectly manages an existing threat; the AI agency would aim at preventing the realization of what could be an even greater danger.
  • Fourth, an international AI body should encourage knowledge sharing and international cooperation. Elon Musk’s OpenAI initiative is certainly a constructive force encouraging openness and collaboration but the “AI for Mankind” ideal cannot depend only on a group of private entrepreneurs.

Artificial Intelligence, more than any other technology, will impact the future of mankind, it has to be wisely approached on a quest toward human dignity and not blindly worshiped as the new Master of a diminished humanity, it has to be a catalyst for more global solidarity and not a tyrannical matrix of new political or geopolitical divisions.

Read Article (David Gosset | huffingtonpost.com | 06/29/2016)

Make no mistake, the era when AI and the Quantum Computer initiate their combined evolution, they will pose the greatest challenge to humanity it has yet experienced. Humanity’s approach to this era is truly “A child playing with a bomb”.

There are those of us that have been screaming warnings and developing platforms for preparation, but at this moment society appears to be fixated on watching digital evolution become self-aware right in front of them. And do nothing!

To act after the fact, is basically an exercise in futility.

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Technology is the most important School Investment

Important-Investment

But educators in poorer schools also need basic supplies. Teachers want more technology in their classrooms — and fast.

A new study from DonorsChoose.com, a nonprofit organization that lets teachers request items for their classes so donors can fulfill their requests, found that teachers rank technology as the most important expenditure for schools, followed by school supplies and books.

In recent years, DonorsChoose says, teachers’ requests for tablets have increased dramatically on the site — and educators say they’re the piece of technology they need the most.

However, not all teachers request technology products to the same degree. Those who work in schools with more affluent students are more likely to request help with bringing technology to their students. Teachers who work in lower-income schools are more desperate for basic school supplies.

After books, tablets are the next most-requested item in low-poverty school districts, while paper and “paper crafts” are the next most-requested item. The disparity in student access to technology could have dire consequences, contributing to the achievement gap and widening digital divide between rich and poor students.

Overall, only about 6 percent of teachers have a tablet for every student, and only about 5 percent have a desktop computer for every student. Forty-five percent of teachers say their school is outfitted with technology that is too outdated to be helpful, the report found.

Exposure to technology in school can be especially important for students without access to computers or the internet at home. In 2013, about 75 percent of households reported internet use, according to the U.S. Census.

The most affluent schools are being outfitted with the fastest internet connections. About 39 percent of schools with an affluent student population have high-speed internet, compared to 14 percent of schools with a low-income student population.

Since 2000, over 600,000 teachers have made requests for help with classroom projects and items on DonorsChoose.org.

In March, Iowa educator Tera Sperfslage said she raised $3,500 through the site to buy classroom supplies, including reading games and number charts, for her first-grade class.

“Our students are hungry. They come hungry for food, and hungry for love and affection, and hungry to learn,” Sperfslage told The Huffington Post at the time. “They need us to make school entertaining for them and engaging. They have so many other things on their minds and plates.”

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

Clearly, the efforts of volunteers, family or friends and whoever, to teach others to use high-tech mobile devices and the Internet, have only slowed the growth of the digital divide. But it’s still growing and we will keep asking for your help in addressing this growing issue.

For some odd reason, many are under the delusion that the divide is miraculously closing or are just in denial. But the sooner this is addressed the easier it will be to contend with the millions left behind.

A mobile device and the Internet are capable of so much more than just communication and entertainment.

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Is the CFAA Masking Systematic Discrimination?

Masking-Discrimination

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging a key computer crime law, arguing that it violates the Constitution and specifically prevents researchers from identifying systemic discrimination, such as those related to housing and job searches.

The group is backing several anti-discrimination researchers and First Look Media — publishers of the Intercept — in a legal challenge filed Wednesday. At issue is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This law, among other things, makes it a jailable offense to break the terms of service of any Internet company. (That means that, technically, using a pseudonym on Facebook or lying to let a 12-year-old create a Google account breaks the law.)

The researchers and journalists say that breaking those rules can be necessary for research, and argue that simply violating websites' rules shouldn't carry such a heavy penalty. In particular, the lawsuit says that those looking to investigate whether housing and job sites discriminate against applicants often must create several fake accounts to test how sites' algorithms view similar candidates.

"The law has long protected such socially useful misrepresentation in the offline world," the complaint reads.  "In the online world, however, conducting the same kind of audit testing generally violates websites’ terms of service," the filing notes, which in turn violates the CFAA.

The complaint also argues that researchers must be able to scrape sites — using tools to pull massive amounts of information from them — to collect the datasets they need to conduct their research. Companies tend not to like this, as it pulls what they may consider proprietary data from the businesses they've built.

The researchers and the ACLU argue that the CFAA, as written, violates the First and Fifth amendments by preventing news organizations and researchers from conducting their investigations without fear of harsh punishment. They also argue that the law puts too much power in the hands of companies, which can change their terms at any time — and, in doing so, criminalize any number of behaviors.

The CFAA has been sharply criticized in the past for being overly broad, poorly defined and disproportionately harsh. The debate came to the fore after the 2013 suicide of noted programmer Aaron Swartz, who was facing jail time for scraping information from the academic site JSTOR.

A reform law, called Aaron's Law, was introduced some months later, and proposed that those who violate terms of service should be punished for any damage caused, rather than simply for breaking the rules. The bill has languished in Congress ever since.

By highlighting how the CFAA specifically prevents further research into housing and job discrimination, the ACLU and researchers have found a way to use the government's own priorities against itself. The Obama administration has repeatedly called for close study of whether companies use big data in a discriminatory way. The Federal Trade Commission, for example, asked explicitly whether the use of big data is inclusive or exclusive. And the White House itself released a major report last month cautioning that, used poorly, big data can perpetuate damaging stereotypes.

"Without deliberate care, these innovations can easily hardwire discrimination, reinforce bias, and mask opportunity," the report's authors — including U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith — said in a blog post.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

Agreements or contracts are binding to both parties. But it appears that companies are exempt from penalties of violating said agreements or contracts. To quote a comment of the article: “If breaking the terms of service is a crime, then when an Internet company does not fulfill their 'unlimited speed' or bandwidth agreement, their CEO should also go to jail.”

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Ineffective EHRs and Inaccurate Wearable Gadgets

Ineffective-Health-Records

If there was a wearable that could alert you and your doctor if you were in danger of having a heart attack, would you want it? I sure would. But apparently, not everyone feels the same way, just because most current wearables are not accurate enough.

Take Dr. James Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association, for example. Earlier this month, he took time to explain how inaccurate wearable devices are overrunning healthcare in his speech at the AMA annual meeting in Chicago.

“From ineffective electronic health records (EHR), to an explosion of direct-to-consumer digital health products, to apps of mixed quality,” said Madara, according to his prepared remarks, "this is the digital snake oil of the early 21st century.”

Certainly, much of the U.S. healthcare system now has electronic health records. And it’s largely ineffective.

According to a survey released early this year by HIMSS, a health IT trade group, only 29% of physicians report positive benefits from electronic health records. And an AMA survey found that nearly one-half of physician’s report implementing the technology has resulted in a higher cost, lower productivity and reduced efficiency.

So it’s not hard to understand why many healthcare providers have a jaundiced view of the technology, and why they bristle at the notion of funneling oceans of remote patient monitoring data into the system.

Caregivers resist

To the extent that electronic health records have been ineffective, I believe it’s due more to a failure of our system of care than it is of the technology. Because while most facilities met their obligation to install electronic health records, few have embraced it.

I can tell you that from personal experience.

Recently, I got an email from an outpatient facility asking me to input my medical data into their system. This was weeks ahead of a planned arthroscopic procedure. I dutifully took the time to gather the information and enter it into the portal. So I was surprised a couple weeks later when, during my pre-op appointment, the doctor asked me what meds I was taking. And then, just after surgery, he gave me pictures from the procedure and told me to bring them to my follow-up appointment so they could explain to me what they did.

So much data. So little access. I’d have to agree, that’s pretty ineffective. It’s also pretty common.

I do understand why some healthcare providers resist electronic health records. Change is difficult. And time consuming. They already have taxing jobs. They’re busy, stressed. And they may have a bad taste in their mouths from previous forays into technology.

But guess what? Sooner or later, they will have to take the plunge, and incorporate the technology into their workflow. And they will have to incorporate remote patient monitoring devices into the records. Because wearables, connected scales, glucometers and blood-pressure cuffs will be what give healthcare professionals the insight they need to make better decisions.

The practice of medicine urgently needs to make better decisions. Because the $3 trillion US healthcare system is beginning to bow under the weight of an aging population that needs increasing care and attention. It will only get worse if they don’t get better.

Think about this: the meteorologist on the Weather Channel has far better tools at her disposal to forecast whether it will rain on your upcoming trip to Boston than your doctor does to assess whether you might need medical attention while you’re away.

Let that sink in for a second. The meteorologist has sophisticated, self-adjusting computer models, fed by streams of data from satellites, weather balloons and weather stations that detail temperatures, atmospheric pressure and the state of approaching systems.

And your doctor? All she has to go on are a few bloodwork reports, a few sets of vital signs recorded during your office visits and some insight you’ve chosen to share in the examination room – accurate or no. In climatic terms, it would be like forecasting rain armed with little more than yesterday’s highs and lows.

To make the best medical decisions, physicians need insight gleaned during the eleven months, 29 days and 22 hours you’re not in their office each year. Insight akin to what meteorologists have. Fortunately, that’s starting to come.

It’s coming in the form of stick-on patches, injectable biosensors and smart clothing, They’re typically paired with companion hardware, smartphones apps and cloud services to monitor the steady stream of data, make suggestions for improving the results and notify caregivers at the first hint of a problem.

In the past few weeks alone:

  • Medtronic and Qualcomm announced they are partnering on next-generation continuous glucose monitors, or CGMs. A CGM pairs a monitoring patch with a device that constantly records blood sugar levels, giving diabetics and their caregivers much finer control over their condition.
  • Startup VitalConnect unveiled VitalPatch, a stick-able device that continuously monitors heart patients’ condition. The device has been tested in Europe and is beginning trials in the US this summer.
  • Startup Profusa announced the Lumee, an injectable biosensor that sits in the tissue just underneath the skin and a companion reader to collect measurements from the device. The first product is called the Lumee Oxygen Sensing System, which will be available in Europe later this year to help monitor recovery after vascular surgery.

Devices like these, I believe, will prove to be the Doppler Radar of medicine. Because what they bring to the practice of healthcare is a healthy injection of insight.

That’s not snake oil. It’s science. And it’s long overdue.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

First, let’s set the record straight about these devices the marketing strategist author talks about. There are two groups of medical devices available, one group has been through trial testing with proven published results. The other group has not gone through trail testing and has no proven published results. (Snake oil)

Meteorologist use devices from the first group, proven electronics with published results. It’s no secret that unproven devices are not accurate enough for doctors to rely upon their data, yet. Some manufacturers are finally starting to provide the needed testing results that will garner that trust, which is needed to accurately diagnose a person’s health.

Many of the devices from these startups will go down the same path as lumosity and for the same reason, unproven technology.

Wearables have many downsides other than accuracy such as limited functions or no cellular connection.

A paid lobbyist is no substitute for trial testing and published results.

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